9 Things You Should Know About Pope Benedict XVI

As head of the Catholic Church Pope Benedict is the spiritual leader to more than one billion people around the globe. But today the 85 year old announced he will resign on February 28 because of his advanced age. Here are nine things you should know about the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

1. Benedict is the 265th pope and the first to resign in over 600 years.

2. Benedict XVI was elected pope at the age of 78. He is the fifth oldest person to have been elected pope (the other four were 79 at the time of their election).

3. Born Joseph Ratzinger, he was six years old when the Nazis came to power in his native land of Germany. Although his family was staunchly anti-Nazi, he briefly was forced—like all German teens—to join the Hitler Youth. In 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer (air force child soldier) though he deserted two years later without having fired a shot. In 1945, after his desertion, he was recognized as a German soldier by the Americans and sent to a prisoner of war camp near his hometown. He was released a few months later and returned to seminary.

4. After being ordained as a Catholic priest in 1951, Ratzinger became an academic theologian. He had a long career as an academic, serving as a professor of theology at several German universities, before being appointed a cardinal in 1977. Prior to the promotion Ratzinger had relatively little pastoral experience.

5. In 1976, he suggested that the Augsburg Confession, the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Lutheran reformation, might possibly be recognized as a Catholic statement of faith. He later backed off this position because of differences between Catholics and Lutherans on the understanding of justification.

6. In 2001, Ratzinger convinced John Paul II to put Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—the Vatican office that Ratzinger oversaw—in charge of all investigations and policies surrounding sexual abuse in order to combat such abuse more efficiently. According to John L. Allen, Jr.,

By all accounts, Ratzinger was punctilious about studying the files, making him one of the few churchmen anywhere in the world to have read the documentation on virtually every Catholic priest ever credibly accused of sexual abuse. As a result, he acquired a familiarity with the contours of the problem that virtually no other figure in the Catholic church can claim.

Driven by that encounter with what he would later refer to as “filth” in the church, Ratzinger seems to have undergone something of a “conversion experience” throughout 2003-04. From that point forward, he and his staff seemed driven by a convert’s zeal to clean up the mess.

Of the 500-plus cases that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dealt with prior to Benedict’s election to the papacy, the substantial majority were returned to the local bishop authorizing immediate action against the accused priest — no canonical trial, no lengthy process, just swift removal from ministry and, often, expulsion from the priesthood. In a more limited number of cases, the congregation asked for a canonical trial, and in a few cases the congregation ordered the priest reinstated.

7. During his time as a cardinal, Ratzinger’s liberal Catholic critics dubbed him “God’s Rottweiler” because of conservatives positions and actions such as his denunciation of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, his disciplining of Latin American liberation theologians, and his censure of Asian priests who viewed non-Christian religions as part of God’s plan for humanity.

8. Ratzinger is the author of 66 books. His first book was published in 1966 and his most recent in 2012.

9. Ratzinger didn’t really want to be pope. In 1997, at the age of 70, he asked Pope John Paul II for permission to become an archivist in the Vatican Secret Archives and a librarian in the Vatican Library, but the pope refused. At the time of his election to pope, Ratzinger had hoped to retire peacefully and said that “At a certain point, I prayed to God ‘please don’t do this to me’ . . . Evidently, this time He didn’t listen to me.”

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  • Chuck Summers

    The Augsburg Confession? A most protestant confession deemed a Catholic statement of faith? Amazing. Did he change his view of this?

    • Joe Carter

      Yes he did. I updated the post to make that clear. Thanks.

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  • http://theoldadam.com/ theoldadam

    I’m happy for him. Now maybe he can relax a bit and enjoy the rest of his life a little bit more.

    And because he’s quitting, the Roman Church will save a few bucks not having to shell out unemployment money. :)

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  • http://adam4d.com Adam Ford

    There is something so odd about all of this.

    • http://carmenisabelgonzalez.wordpress.com/ valentina


  • Spencer Cummins

    I’m not sure this article gave full weight to impact Benedict had on both theological matters and social ethics. His work on Jesus is a prime example of a scholar who skillfully navigated the waters of historical critical scholarship while staying true to the divine authority of the Scriptures. Benedict also continuously maintained a firm position on matters of life amidst a culture which seeks to promote the ending of life. While Protestants, especially Reformed still should maintain a distinction between key doctrinal issues from the Catholic positions, we should be quick to point out the positive legacy of Benedict.

  • David Guzik

    I would respectfully object to the first on the list of things to know.

    Surely, we non-Roman Catholics do not acknowledge a continuous line of 256 “popes” stretching back to the time of the Apostle Peter. Just because Roman Catholics claim it does not mean that we need to state it without qualification.

    Suggested revision: “Roman Catholics acknowledge Benedict as the 256th pope….”

    • Michael Mason

      Is your faith challenged by the possibility of its truth ;)

    • Alastair Donaldson

      I can see where you’re coming from David although the article only says ‘he is the 265th Pope’. It doesn’t mention ‘continuous’ or ‘St Peter’!

    • Joe Carter

      The term “pope” was originally just general term used to refer to all bishops. It was only in the 6th century that the title began to be used particularly of the “Bishop of Rome.” Referring to the head of the Catholic Church as the “pope” is merely a polite concession to their usage. Since the term doesn’t have any real theological meaning I don’t think there is any reason Protestants can use it to refer to the Roman Catholic pontiffs.

      • L. Evans

        And most of us protestants do use the expression. :) Nothing to get riled up about, David.

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  • Aaron

    Joe Carter,
    Where is the “bad stuff” about him? Remember how you treated MLK Jr and wanted to “educate” people on his flaws? You said that you weren’t just “some white guy trying to educate whoever will listen” on the flaws of MLK and that you do that for every person you highlight. Say it aint so Joe! Come on man… as i suggested last time maybe there are some “issues” that are underlying that need to be considered? Great write up though!

    Grace and Peace,

    • http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/ Joe Carter

      ***Where is the “bad stuff” about him?***

      Well, if it helps, you can add this for #10: Pope Benedict subscribes to Catholic theology.”

      ; )

  • Neil

    Reformed theology still teaches the ‘pope’ as the antichrist (WCF). On GC FB I read that Ratzinger needs the gospel of Christ for salvation. What say you Joe? Is the pope an antichrist or the antichrist? Does Ratzinger need the protestant gospel understanding of justification by faith to be truly saved?? Joe – would you regard Ratzinger as a brother in Christ?

    • Joe Carter

      ***On GC FB I read that Ratzinger needs the gospel of Christ for salvation. What say you Joe? ***

      I wholeheartedly agree. We all need the gospel of Christ for salvation. Ratzinger is certainly no exception.

      ***Is the pope an antichrist or the antichrist?***

      I agree with the WCF that, “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof;” If the Pope—or anyone else—considers themselves to be in the place of Jesus as the head of the church, then they are certainly worthy of the title antichrist.

      ***Does Ratzinger need the protestant gospel understanding of justification by faith to be truly saved?***

      Let’s clarify, as I’m sure you agree, that the Protestant *understanding* of justification is not necessary for salvation. We are saved by faith alone through grace alone through Christ alone. But as Tim Keller once said, “It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.” And as Paul told the Phillipian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.

      I believe the Catholic Church gets this understanding wrong. But I also believe there are many in the Catholic Church who will be saved because, contrary to their church’s teachings, they were saved by by faith alone through grace alone through Christ alone.

      ***would you regard Ratzinger as a brother in Christ?***

      It depends on what is mean by the phrase “brother in Christ.” In one sense, yes I would: In general I accept those who profess faith in Christ to be my brothers and sisters in the visible church. Anyone who can say the Nicene Creed is a fellow believer. But does that mean that they are “true believers” or that they believe the true gospel and are part of the invisible church? Unfortunately, it does not. So while I may say that someone is my brother in Christ, our Lord may say that they are not his. I don’t have the power to determine to determine who belongs to the Father, though, so I try to err on the side of caution.

      • Ben DeBono

        “***Is the pope an antichrist or the antichrist?***

        I agree with the WCF that, “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof;” If the Pope—or anyone else—considers themselves to be in the place of Jesus as the head of the church, then they are certainly worthy of the title antichrist.”

        Statements like this cause strain between Catholics and Protestants and hinder meaningful dialogue. In your response you both misrepresent the Catholic position (no true Catholic claims that the Pope is replacing Christ) and restate the same, slanderous lie that the Pope is an anti-christ.

        I don’t expect Protestants like yourself to agree with Catholic doctrine but accuracy and respect would go a long, long way toward strengthening our bond as brothers in Christ despite our doctrinal disagreements.

  • http://truthxchange.com Joshua Gielow

    It will be interesting to see if the next Pope pushes Vatican II. Remember, critics despised him for not following in that train of thought. We may get a more liberal and pagan pope.

    • Christopher Lake

      Joshua, Pope Benedict XVI was actually at Vatican II and helped to write a number of its documents, as did Pope John Paul II.

      When some Catholics and Protestants say things such as that Benedict did not “push Vatican II,” they often (at least in my experience) say this without actually having carefully read any of the *documents* of the Second Vatican Council. Unfortunately, this is true with even some Catholic and Protestant clergy.

      Vatican II did not change any of the *definitive teachings* of the Catholic Church. For the major reason as to why many people have mistaken understandings of Vatican II (other than due to simply not having read the *actual documents* of the Council), see this recent address by the Pope: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2013/02/pope-benedict-xvis-renunciation-of-the-petrine-office/#comment-46512

      As for the next Pope possibly being more “liberal and pagan,” I highly doubt that, in terms of his public teaching as Pope. The Catholic Church officially holds that the Holy Spirit protects the Pope from publicly teaching heresy (i.e. anything contradicting the definitive teachings of the Church, such as “liberal” or “pagan” thought).

      This editorial by a female lay Catholic presents, in a forthright way, the Church’s official view on “changing” its definitive teachings: http://www.washingtonpost.com/guest-voices/post/the-catholic-church-cant-change/2013/02/13/a0b1933a-75fe-11e2-95e4-6148e45d7adb_blog.html

      To be clear, some *practices* and *disciplines* of the Church may change, such as celibacy for priests in the Latin rite of the Church. Eastern Catholic priests are already allowed to be married, and they are just as much a part of the worldwide Catholic Church as Latin-rite priests are.

      However, the official, definitive *teachings* of the Church cannot change. There can be legitimate development in the *understanding* that the Church has of these teachings, but they cannot change.

  • God Seeker

    Joe Carter,

    Actually the term “Pope” was a special reference in the Council of Chalcedon (451) and it was not born at this point. Leo was called the “papa” bishop.

  • Lisa V.

    I’m in no way trying to be smart. But what was the point or aim of this blog post? I feel like I finished a story half done.

    • Joe Carter

      ***But what was the point or aim of this blog post?***

      The aim is mostly to provide some interesting context and background on a world leader who will be in the news a lot this week. For a lot of us evangelicals, the response to “The pope resigned” is to shrug and say, “What should I care?” So I thought it would be helpful to provide some context that shows Ratzinger is an interesting character, even if we have no connection to him as a spiritual leader.

      • MarieP

        It’s interesting that he penned 66 books…

        The Spirit of the true infallible Head of the Church did the same ;-)

  • http://www.mycatholicblog.com/ Erin Pascal

    Thank you for sharing this. May we all be blessed with the heart and understanding to accept the decision that has been made by our Pope. I believe it is one that he has truly pondered upon and prayed for.

  • http://involutedgenealogies.wordpress.com hiram diaz

    Why should Christians know these things about a man who is completely opposed to Christians?

    • Neil

      What a tragic statement Hiram! Maybe, just maybe even the pope is even a Christian, maybe , maybe with some errors in his theology… even Joe errs on the side of caution on pontificating on this one!

    • Eugene

      As leader of the Catholic system, he would be the person most opposed to Christianity, and to Christ. Christ is the head of the church. Popes do not believe that.

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  • zilch

    I hope no one minds if I share a personal reminiscence. A coworker of mine for several years was a schoolgirl in a cloister in Bavaria. On a Church holiday, the then- Archbishop Ratzinger visited her school, and she was given the honor of serving him. At the end of the meal, when she was clearing his plate, he told her “Du bist ein braves Mädel, kauf’ dir damit ein Eis” (“You’re a good girl, buy yourself an ice cream cone”) and gave her a ten pfennig piece. At that time, an ice cream cost about ten times that. My coworker’s commentary: “Nice, but rather estranged from the real world”. That about sums it up for me too.

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  • Aaron

    I don’t share your wink Joe… You have to at least think about the heart behind the MLK post in conjunction with this post. He is the Pope! And yet nothing about his flaws but MLK? Unfortunate brother. I am done with commenting but really unfortunate that you don’t see the biased nature and that you are unwilling to deal with this. Peace!

    • Joe Carter

      ***And yet nothing about his flaws but MLK? ***

      What “flaws” did I mention about MLK other than point out that he was a theological liberal?

  • http://limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

    “He later backed off this position because of differences between Catholics and Lutherans on the understanding of justification.”

    In other words, he rejected justification by faith alone.

    And yet Mr Carter you are unsure if he is a Christian or not?

    Here’s some of the inspired evaluations of St Paul on those who teach justification by works (the Judaizers in the Apostolic age, the Roman Catholic Church today, etc.):

    “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be ACCURSED.” Gal 1:8

    “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” 5:4

    It may sound “humble” and “gracious” to say that you don’t want to “judge” the pope, but in reality you are refusing to confess what Scripture teaches.

    You also say, “If the Pope—or anyone else—considers themselves to be in the place of Jesus as the head of the church, then they are certainly worthy of the title antichrist.”

    This first word – “if” – is shocking. Because anyone who genuinely wants to know will found out in a matter of minutes, if they don’t already know, that the Pope claims to be the “vicar of Christ on earth”, the supreme representative of Christ over the whole church.

    Finally, such a cowardly position is to tread underfoot the blood of thousands of faithful martyrs who gave their lives because they believed in justification by faith alone and that this was denied by Rome.

    They were murdered because the Council of Trent declared anathema on anyone who believes justification by faith alone.

    This anathema has not, to this day, been rescinded.

    • Neil

      This is the type of straightforward answer I was expecting from Joe Carter.

    • Dave Graham

      I don’t think Joe’s just trying to sound gracious and humble. Like all sensible Christian thinkers who read Church history, (not simply Reformed history), he realizes that we ought never to become overconfident in our particular formulations of the faith, as if we have reached doctrinal perfection.

      You construe the division between Protestants and Rome as a simple willingness vs. unwillingness to confess Scripture. You thereby fail to appreciate the extent to which both sides have been,if not in the sixteenth century than at least in the past century, trying to be faithful to the whole of Scripture. I agree that Protestants embrace Paul more unequivocally, but I would also admit that Protestant exegesis of James, for example, is often evasive and unsatisfying. (Luther was much more honest than most Protestants in his repugnance of the letter.)

      You also exemplify a profound ignorance about Rome’s doctrinal development. Trent has not been rescinded, but this doesn’t justify ignoring the concessions Catholics have made. To simply quote Paul against what you call the Catholic doctrine of “justification by works” is just self-gratifying silliness. It’s no more fair than the accusation that all Protestants are blatantly antinomian.

      Enough of the sectarian antics already. Can’t we just appreciate the good things Benedict has done, if not as a brother in Christ then as a human being?

      • http://www.limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

        Dave Graham:

        Instead of interacting with Scriptural arguments, you move to childish name-calling and accuse me of historical ignorance, “sectarianism” and “self-gratifying silliness”. This is the tactics of those who cannot engage in biblical arguments. And it is the height of pride to ignore someone’s Scriptural arguments and reply by calling them “proud” for using Scripture.

  • God Seeker

    Manuel Kuhs,

    Thank you for your inputs. Having read your statements regarding the Pope, I agree with some of the responses that have been attempts to disagree with you. However, I wish to provide you with some engagement.

    First, you have to understand what the Bishops of Trent understood when they said “faith”. When the Tridentine doctors said that we are not “justified by faith alone”, what they understood this to mean is that you cannot just have “mental ascent” or “agreement” or “embrace” of the truth, and yet remain morally unchanged, and yet still be “justified”. This will be very difficult for a bible reading protestant who is constantly engaged into the greek, or even the english text, of the Pauline corpus. The bishops at Trent were not really writing about “faith” as Paul spoke about faith. When trent was denying “justification by faith alone” you must understand that their terminology was equivalent to the protestant who says that you cannot live in sin and have saving faith. Therefore, you must be willing to understand the Tridentine bishops on their own terminology, otherwise you are arguing against something that they are not even arguing for.

    Secondly, as I was a former evangelical, I would spend hours, weekly, going door-to-door evangelizing, some times I would open air preach, marketplace evangelize, or just go up to people at work, school, or wherever, to bring the gospel to them. After speaking with protestants, Catholics, non-demoninationals, you end up running into people who really do “believe” in Jesus, they are passionately sure that He is “real” and that he “died for their sins”, but they are living in sin, confessedly. Living with their girlfriend, going out to get drunk, associating with the works and habit of darkness….just overall not a repentant lifestyle. How do you deny that they “believe”? You really can’t deny that they believe. But as an evangelical protestant, I would go into great efforts to explain to the person that they do not have “saving faith”, that they do not have the “faith that saves” or that they are comparable to demons, or that “true faith, saving faith will inevitably produce a radically changed life”. So I would not be able to prove to them that they do not “believe” in the sense of accepting and believing the facts of Christianity, but I would try to convince them they did not have the right “kind” of faith.

    Gather this material of thought together and you will begin to understand what the bishops of Trent were understanding from Luther and the german reformers. Whether the bishops were wrong or right, stupid or smart, on point or clueless, you must understand that when they denied “justification by faith alone”, they were pictorially describing a denial of someone who says that they can have “faith”, and yet remain unchanged morally, they do not have to repent, or turn away from evil to do good. If you are not willing to read them in their own meaning, then your condemnations to them remain meaningless.

    Third, evangelical protestants, when describing “saving faith”, always must add a moral quality to this faith, that it is a “type” of faith which is a good-works-faith. In other words, the evangelical, subconsciouly knows that “faith alone” can be misunderstood to mean that someone can just have “faith” and that’s it, and so they have spent 500 years now coming up with one new way after the next (but it retains the same argumentation) to moralize the faith that saves, such that you cannot have it and remain a slave to sin and wickedness. Well, logically, this is all that the Tridentine bishops do when they describe that works are involved in the justification process. No doubt you will take issue with this, and I know exactly the line of thought you will have. But you should at least step back and wonder why it is that you have to footnote “faith” all the time in order to fill it with the inevitability of good works. If you want to argue that God changes the person simultaneously, but that this operation is quite distinct and separate from the justification process, you must still admit that it is equally necessary for this to happen for the package of salvation to be successfully shipped to the person. And if it is equally as necessary, then even though it is distinct from the “justification process”, it becomes an equally binding thing in order for someone to say that they are, in fact, “saved”.

    Fourthly, James does not speak about a “kind” of faith, or a “type” of faith. We speak of “kinds” or “types” when we are speaking of the variety which is in some things in the world, such as “what type of Ice Cream to you want”? or “what kind of car do you like”? This is the context of “kinds” and “types”. However, when something is “dead” or “alive”, the distinction between these two states is not a “kind” or “type” as if we could ask “What kind of cat is it? Dead or Alive?”. No this is not the right question. The question is, “Is the cat in a state of life or in a state of death?”, you see? Therefore, James understands faith in this “death” or “life” state, and the death-state is when it does not have works that are right alongside and the life-state is when there is good works that are right alongside it. This is why James understands that, in another sense than Paul, that we are justified by works, as Abraham was. Of course, I know exactly the line of reasoning that will be in response to this argumentation, and well, we can deal with that then if you’d life.

    Fifth, when Paul says “justification by faith alone”, he has a slightly different assumption when he speaks of “faith”. For Paul, “faith” is the overarching instrument through which justification, the new-birth, regeneration, the co-resurrected state with Christ, the overall life of a Christian. When Paul speaks of “faith”, he is always assuming a “new-creation” operation. “Faith” is opposed to “works” in the sense that Christic-new humanity-co-resurrected believers have in distinction between Adamic-old humanity-co-dead in sin unbelievers. What Paul is contrasting is God’s sovereign grace in applying resurrection power (Rom 1:16; Eph 1:5-26) to bring Adamic human beings into the new humanity versus man’s effort in bringing this all about by works, particularly the strict principles of Judaism. If you cannot see that this is the distinction that Paul has in mind in his writings, then you will never understand the Catholic position.

    Sixth, when Paul speaks of “justification”, he most of the time has in mind the “forgiveness of sin”. Catholics have always believed that “justification” is a life-long process, but that it always begins with the complete washing away of original sin and actual sin at the moment of faith in the sacrament of baptism. Therefore, as oppossed to the instantaneous and complete act of justification as protestants see it, Catholics understand that there is a true sense in which we have been (past tense) “justified”, but that this is speaking of the “forgiveness of sin” that one receives in conversion. Moreover, Catholics believe that the process of becoming “righteous” can also be called “justification” or even “sanctification”, all while in the state of grace and forgiveness. And then the final day of judgement, as Paul himself shows, there will be an examination of the life of faith which each disciple lived, and those who practiced unrighteousness and sin, or were hypocrites, will be cast into the eternal fires of hell, whereas those who did the will of God will enter the kingdom of God. And so this final “justification”, it can logically be called, is what Catholics call the end of the process of justification. Therefore, you must understand the terms and meanings that Catholics have in their minds when they are speaking or writings. Protestants do not have much of a different scheme on the whole thing, though they vehemently want to separate “sanctification” from “justification”, they can never avoid the fact that “good works” are necessary in the Christian life, and that a failure to have them will end up in someone being declined from entering the kingdom of God, and so there are all types of ways protestants go about fulfilling these conditions of “good works” and “final judgement good works” while all the while still keeping the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in the beginning (even from eternity past) and that such an imputation is really, after all is said and done, all that is necessary for salvation. This is just a confusion of biblical categories and an over-extreme reading of certain texts. More can be said about this, but I cannot continue to go on right now.

    Finally, I appreciate the hard work you do, however, in trying to be faithful to Christ. You have a lot of people who don’t care, or just say we should all get along, but what we believe definitely has consequences, sometimes that being excommunication

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  • God Seeker

    I thought I might add some more information with the time. Given that you have not responded yet, it may be that everyone gave up on the discussion. So here goes nothing.

    When St. Paul speaks of “but to him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom 4:4), it is especially clear that Paul, in some sense, views “works” and “faith” as totally, not partially, antithetical and contradictory ways of being “justified”. Catholics do not overlook this fact, and I think many protestants simply read this and immediately condemn anyone who even suggests a justification by works.

    But let’s re-examine what St. Paul means here. We know that he teaches that if someone lives a life of sin, no matter who they are or what they have done, they will go to hell. I get this from Galatians 5, where it is said that he who sows to the flesh will of this reap everlasting corruption. Similarly, those who practice sin will not inherit the kingdom of God (Eph 4; 1 cor 6:9-10).

    To not practice sin, for Paul, is not neutrality, but necessitates that one is living a righteous life, one that is according to the Spirit (Rom 8), and this would involve the performance of “good works” (Titus 3). Therefore, St. Paul understands that “works” are a binding requirement on the path to heaven. For those who would suggest that “good works” are not necessary but only inevitable, it should be noted here that such a thing is illogical, at best confusing. To say that “good works” are inevitable, but not necessary, would make the following verses simply meaningless:

    “Not everyone who says to me Lord Lord shall enter the kingdom of God, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me in that day and say ‘Lord Lord’……and I will say to them ‘depart from me , I never knew you'” (Matthew 7:21).

    To have “faith”, and to suppose that “works” will automatically or inevitably follow, and then to suggest that because these “good works” are inevitable, they are not necessary, it simply just not a reasonable line of thought. If Christ is only welcoming men and woman who did the will of God in their life, then this is the criterion for entering the kingdom of God. And if it the criterion, then it is a required necessity.

    Therefore, you cannot take Paul’s “But to him who does not work but believes” and expand this to the overall picture of Salvation, the Christian life, the Eschatological judgement of God, the beginning and end of salvation,etc,etc. You cannot immediately make this verse the lens through which all statements in the Scripture are read. Paul explicitly teaches that “good works” are necessary to stand in the final judgement, and so justification by faith alone must be referring to a specific or unique reference.

    I believe that “justification” in Paul is the initial entering of the state of Grace (Rom 6:14) which involves both the total remission of sin (Rom 4:7-11) and the inner renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:7). To enter into the realm of the Spirit, one cannot begin to put works as a condition. It is faith, repentance, and baptism which usher one into the life of the Holy Spirit, not works of the Law.

    • http://limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

      Dear God Seeker,

      Many thanks for taking so much time to reply to me and thank you also for engaging in proper discussion as opposed to mere name-calling. I will seek to reply in a similar spirit. My apologies for taking so long to reply.

      I know that the Tridentine Bishops defined “justification” differently to the Protestants. I am also aware that this difference remains to this day.

      However, I most emphatically do NOT misunderstand the Canons of Trent. They are a response to and condemnation of the Protestant Reformation. That was the occasion of the calling of this Synod. That was its purpose.

      The Canons of Trent – WHICH REMAIN OFFICIAL UNTO THIS DAY – also include anathemas on those who:
      * reject the apocrypha as Scriptural
      * teach that good works are a result of justification and not a partial cause of it
      * rejects the 7 sacraments of the Roman Church
      * deny that water baptism is necessary to salvation
      * rebaptise adults who were baptised as children
      * deny transubstantiation
      * deny the power of the Roman Catholic priesthood

      All of which describe all or most Protestants.

      The anathema against all those who “teach justification by faith alone” was directed at the Protestants. And nor did it arise from the Bishops misunderstanding Luther. They understood very well the principal thing – that we Protestants believe with all our hearts that our righteousness before consists solely and exclusively in the righteousness of Christ without even the tiniest consideration of our own works. And that exactly is what Trent condemned. That is exactly how the Roman Catholic Church for the next centuries interpreted it. And that difference is the reason why Pope Benedict had to withdraw his position on the Augsburg Confession.

      You bring up the age-old accusation (although you phrase it very mildly) that our doctrine of justification will lead to a lack of good works.

      Before going any further in response, I would like to point out with as much self-control as possible that it is laughable for the Roman Catholic Church to talk about “good works”. I live in Ireland, I know. Beginning in the Middle Ages and continuing in the Western world unto today, a large (in my experience, vast majority) number of Roman Catholics are open fornicators, drunkards, blasphemers and even adulterers, the grosses of public sins. In Ireland in the past 50 years there were hundreds of known terrorists who bombed innocent people who were members of the Roman Catholic Church and were NEVER disciplined or excommunicated. It is an undisputable fact that in most European parishes you can openly commit any gross moral sin and continue to be a member of the Roman church without fear of discipline today. As far as I know, one of the only things that excommunication is actually carried out in the Western Roman Church is for priests who attempt to ordain women. Or let’s talk about the Popes. It is admitted even by Roman Catholic historians that many Popes were shamefully immodest. Many of them were known to have several children, whom they even gave offices in the church! And never mind the world-wide phenomena of child abuse by homosexual priests which was covered up by the church for as long as possible.

      I live in Ireland. I see every single day the gross immorality of the majority of Irish Roman Catholics. In fact nearly all of them laugh at our (faithful Protestants) holy living and put pressure on us to sin with them!

      Now I am under no illusions that modern Protestantism is the same. However, that is because modern Protestantism is no longer real Protestantism. I am sure you know that.

      Neither am I under the illusion that in faithful Protestant churches there is no adultery, fornication, blasphemy, etc. – but the difference is that in our churches people who do such things are actually excommunicated if they don’t repent.

      So now that it has been made clear that the Roman Catholic Church of all denominations has no right to talk about “good works” (Jesus says take the log out of your own eye before removing the splinter from the eye of another), let’s return to your point about the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone and good works. It is simply historically wrong to say that the Protestants struggled with where to put good works. Martin Luther’s Liberty of the Christian and his On Good Works, both written at the very beginning of his ministry, and the first even being one of the books for which he was excommunicated, both teach very clearly, that:
      (a) a faith that does not produce good works is a dead faith, and that
      (b) only those who are justified by faith alone can do real good works.

      Furthermore, all the Reformed Confessions of the Reformation have no problem with good works. For example Belgic Confession Article 24, says among other things:

      “Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man.”

      You can find similar statements in the Heidelberg Catechism and in the Westminster Confession of Faith, for example.

      Furthermore Reformed churches practice church discipline for those who refuse to do good works. When does Rome ever discipline people for fornicating or stealing or even murdering? If it happens, it does not happen regularly but as a rare exception.

      So it is simply untrue that we have spent 500 years trying to figure out how to relate faith and good works.

      However, it is true that compromising, liberal and apostatising “Protestant” churches have spent 500 years trying to find a way to re-formulate justification by faith alone so that they can return to Rome without looking like they are in fact completely forsaking the Reformation. Perhaps this is what you are referring to. And there I would agree with you.

      I agree that James “in another sense to Paul” teaches that we are justified by works. However, the context clearly shows this difference to be the following: Justification (the biblical word meaning “declare as righteous” and since that is the biblical meaning of the word then that is the correct one) before God is only by faith (Paul), but justification before men is by works (James) – because men cannot know if faith is alive or dead except by its fruit. But God does know this without needing to see fruit, because God sees the heart.

      Finally, let me appeal to you in the words of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians, and warn you out of love, that if you trust even in the tiniest part in your own works for your righteousness before God, and refuse to trust ONLY in the righteousness of Christ which He performed 2,000 years ago on the cross, then you will perish:

      “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” 2:16
      “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, [it is] evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” 3:10-11
      “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Gal. 5:4

      I implore to consider the only possibility of salvation, again found in the words of Paul in this epistle:

      “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” 2:16
      “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, [doeth he it] by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness…So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” 3:6-9
      “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:” vs 13

      I beg you to consider that “and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6) and that, even though we think otherwise, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Rom. 3:10-11

      And so I beg of you to trust only in Christ alone, and not anything you do, or in anything a saint or Mary does, to save you.


      • God Seeker


        Thank you so much for commenting. I appreciate the effort you put in to your response. However, I hope you share the same effort in understanding exactly what I am now to respond to you. Moreover, I pray you do not take this the wrong way, I am simply going to try and correct your misunderstandings; while at the same time sympathizing with you on a number of concerns that you do have.

        1) You did not interact with any of my argumentation, which makes your response less credible. Never once did I pose the “age-old” accusation that the protestant dogma of sola fide does not lead to good works; which is what you accused me of doing. In fact, I happen to think that many protestants, especially reformed baptists, harp more on good works than anyone, almost to the point that you find many falling into despair and the non-assurance of any grace from God, constantly going in and out of the “feeling” of God’s acceptance. Even when there is a huge emphasis on the “objective” nature of God’s justification of sinner in Christ Jesus, there is always that subjective question is one if exhibiting enough good works in order to prove their election. This comes up now and again, really no matter how many good books one reads on assurance and the grace of God. And I am thinking in particular of protestants books by guys such as Sinclair Ferguson, RC Sproul, Paul Washer, John Macarthur, etc,etc….. But anyhow, the main point in #1 is that you must respond according to my arguments, otherwise you have no reason to have your arguments respected.

        2) I was born and raised into a nominal and hypocritical (mostly ignorant) Roman Catholic family, and then spent years in a reformed baptist Church, where I was heavily involved and eventually was being trained to be a pastor/teacher. I went through all types of literature written by guys such as D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, and such theologians. I have all the arguments, just like you have now, against Roman Catholicism.

        3) With regard to discipline; I was in a church that practiced church discipline on a regular basis. There was a family excommunicated for not properly disciplining their child “enough”, another was excommunicated for wanting to marry too soon, another was excommunicated because he had a personal conviction that his wife should not wear high-heels, another was excommunicated for gambling (which I think is wrong), another was excommunicated for simply wanting to leave the Church, and eventually the Pastor himself was excommunicated. Every week, there was “accountability” questions such as “Did you slander anyone this week?”, etc,etc. The control over the people was high pressure, and it was all done in the motivation of trying to maintain the purity of Christ’s flock. What ended up happening was many people never had the assurance of salvation, they were afraid of the leaders because of the power of excommunication, they were always seeking help from outside authors on assurance of salvation from guys such as John Piper, Martyln Lloyd Jones, Charles Spurgeon,etc,etc… Many of the excommunicates simply went to another local reformed baptist Church who held to the same teachings and recommended the same theologians (D.A. Carson, Spurgeon, The Puritans, etc,etc) but exhorted the excommunicates that the previous church was abusing their authority and were not exercising good leadership, but were spiritually abusing the people, and so relaxed their consciences from submitting to the discipline. Here you have two churches nearby, who are both reformed baptist, but who cannot share fellowship, because one believes that their excommunicating powers are valid and the other accepts people who are excommunicated under the teaching that the excommunicating church’s authority is not valid, and therefore does not require submission. They both believe the same things, and yet there is no authority. Of course, this does not thereby mean that local churches should not disciple or excommunicate, it just means that so many different churches have so many different ideas, so many different reasons for excommunicating, that one wonders which church truly has the “power” and “authority” of the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”. In the protestant world, there are countless excommunications, and many of the churches within the same denomination will just “accept” the excommunicate. Have you heard of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas? They excommunicate anyone who does not believe what they believe! Yet, a baptist church down the road calls them too “legalistic”, and so teaches that the Westboro baptist Church does not validly hold the “keys of the kingdom”, and therefore cannot validly “bind and loose” the sins of man. But….by doing this, this little nearby baptist church must also claim they have the valid possession of the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”, and yet again another reformed baptist Church down the road, who disagrees with Westboro baptist (calling them a cult), thinks the 2nd baptist church is too lenient because they ask people to “pray the sinners prayer” and so try to evangelize people out of that Church too!! Please, you are not here speaking to someone who is ignorant of these kinds of situations. Even with all the “unity” which occurs among reformed protestants, especially on thegospecoalition, there is SO MUCH “disunity” when the practice of the ministry runs counter to each other, in specific situations, with specific people. This is all to say, YES there is a catasrophe in the discipline of many (if not most) catholics churches, and it is a reason to bundle up and cry. But, do not even begin to think that it is not so, especially in reformed protestant churches.

        4) Thankfully, the Catholic Church has a Catechism, and it has it’s official teachings held within it. The Catholic Catechism teaches (if you want specific reference let me know) that if someone is baptized into the body of Christ but thereafter commits a mortal sin, which would include the sins you mentioned by many more, they are immediately cut off from Christ, no matter what presence they have in the Church. The Catholic Church, for centuries, was faithful in excommunicating these kinds of hypocrites and offenders. I would recommend reading the history of ecclesiastical discipline in the Church of the first 7 centuries before thinking that protestants are the only ones who have ever done this. I recommend starting with the following http://www.amazon.com/The-Penitential-Discipline-Primitive-Church/dp/B00B76B6NQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361149229&sr=8-1&keywords=penitential+discipline+church . Anyhow, these hypocrites who offend Christ by their evil works are cut off from him and are thereby not in anyway participants in the salvation of God unless they repent and are restored to the Church. This is official church teaching, whether millions of Catholic bishops and priests obey it or not.

        5) You have to realize that the Catholic Church has a universal imputation of it’s faults, whereas individuals reformed protestant churches, especially non-denominational churches, only have a local imputation of it’s faults. In other words, when Benny hinn commits a crazzy immoral sin, only his church (or at worst the charismatic movement) is imputed with the stain of that sin. Small, little churches, here and there, when their baptist pastor commits child molestation, the stain of that sin only reaches so far and stops at the border of that particular local church, and so there is not much hype about the whole thing. I would recommend just typing in google, “Baptist pastor child molestation”. The same goes for the presbyterians, mehodists, episcopalians, and (gasp) even the reformed baptist pastors, when there is a scandal of adultery or even rape of a child. Such things stop at the local level, with very few ears getting the word. However, if someone goes wrong in the Catholic Church, both the general world population, and especially the Media, have a way of knowing and catch the word, and thereby the Church gets the universal stain of that wickedness. Consider these words, and be wise.

        6) You are misinterpreting James. You are providing the classic interpretation of James 2 from protestants. However, your argument can be simply refuted by two simple facts. 1) James says that Abraham was justified at the moment of his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, in the historical moment, not when the Scripture was later written by Moses ..2) Abraham was only witnessed (really) by Isaac. These two facts mitigate against the classic protestant interpretation that this is merely a “justification” before men, and in no way a “justification” before God. Additionally, if you read the account in Genesis, it jumps out at you that God justifies Abraham. God said “I now know you fear God and are willing to even sacrifice your son. And because you have done this, I shall bless you….”. Disobedience to the commands of God, specifically with regard to the sacrifice of Isaac, would have rendered the “blessing” as forfeited. God repeatedly honors Abraham throughout old testament history out of the “obedience” of Abraham, which came from faith. Secondly, Paul in both Romans and Galatians is speaking of the dispute that arose between the Jewish Christians and the arising Gentile Christians. The Jewish Pharisees believed that Gentiles could not just become heirs of the promises without becoming Jews. Paul believes that the grace of being an heir (justification) comes through faith alone. Faith, understood, as the “obedience of faith”, rather than the “works of the Law” which are done in the “flesh” (Romans 7). If you want to target specify the debate to this issue, I am more than willing to do that, as such a topic carries much more information than what has been provided.

        • http://www.limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

          Hi God Seeker (why not your real name?)

          “Never once did I pose the “age-old” accusation that the protestant dogma of sola fide does not lead to good works”
          My apologies, indeed you did not do this. I am beginning to understand now that you are part of the new Roman Catholics who are attempting to breach the differences created by the Reformation (as opposed to the older Catholics who simply condemned the Reformation).

          “Never once did I pose the “age-old” accusation that the protestant dogma of sola fide does not lead to good works”
          You are right that I responded only to a small part of what you said (I picked what I considered most important). I think I have done this. However, please let me know (due to time constraints on my part) which part(s) of your response you consider most important and I will make an effort to respond.

          It is interesting that you mention modern Reformed Baptists and others such as RC Sproul. Their doctrine of assurance is actually a serious deviation from the Reformation’s doctrine of assurance (with which I agree). Assurance is part of justification by faith alone – justification is about how God declares to us IN OUR CONSCIENCE (i.e. assurance) that we are righteous in His sight. If you know the story of Luther, you will know that the Reformation began because of Luther’s quest for assurance – which quest was successful in his discovery of justification by faith apart from works. The reason he never had assurance was because he looked to his works. For the same reason many Puritans and Reformed Baptists tragically also struggle with assurance.

          Interestingly, the Council of Trent also condemned with anathema those who teach that assurance is a normal part of faith (again condemning a standard Reformation doctrine).

          It sounds like the Reformed Baptist church was overly zealous in its excommunication. It reminds me of the Early post-apostolic church.

          It is also a shame how if you are disciplined in one Reformed Baptist church you can simply run to another and be accepted there.

          However, I am not Reformed Baptist. I belong to the Protestant Reformed Churches of America. There we have faithful discipline, and you cannot run from one PRC church to another to escape discipline. The difference is that these Reformed Baptist churches are in different denominations and do not accept each other’s discipline.

          This is where the RCC is different – you are all one denomination. But the truth is that the RCC leadership is not willing to attempt to enforce discipline for fornication, adultery, murder, etc because they know this would result in a large number of Catholics leaving the church – which they are not willing to do. They prefer numbers to faithfulness to Christ.

          This is why the comparison with “baptist pastor child molestation” is false. Let me tell you, if my denomination covered up or refused to fully discipline a minister in our denomination who did such a wicked thing, I would leave that denomination. The difference is, the RC Church authorities had the official authority to excommunicate and discipline – and didn’t. Instead, guilty priests were simply moved to different parishes and everything covered up.

          “The Catholic Church, for centuries, was faithful in excommunicating these kinds of hypocrites and offenders. I would recommend reading the history of ecclesiastical discipline in the Church of the first 7 centuries before thinking that protestants are the only ones who have ever done this.”

          You show your lack of knowledge with regards to the true Protestants. The first 7 centuries of the Catholic Church is NOT the same as the Roman Catholic Church. The RCC developed out of the Early Church. The Reformation was a RETURN (which was why the Reformers continuously showed that they were returning to the teachings of the early church fathers) to the purity of the Early Church and a rejection of the many heresies adopted since the 7th century which eventually resulted in the “Catholic Church” becoming thoroughly apostate, necessitating the Reformation.

          “James says that Abraham was justified at the moment of his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, in the historical moment, not when the Scripture was later written by Moses”

          Before going any further, please define justification as it is used by James in this chapter (I have already defined what I understand by it).

          ” Faith, understood, as the “obedience of faith”,”
          Faith, and the obedience of faith, are clearly two different things. It is like a car and the fumes of a car. To argue that “car” is really just “the fumes of the car” is obviously incorrect.

          • God Seeker


            Thank you for your response. I can sense that you are extremely hostile towards Catholicism, as you also have disagreements with other reformed protestants. This makes for a very difficult discussion, as you have all kinds of presuppositions which are simply wrong, and you lack the years of study without a prejudice.

            Each of the numbers here are the most important issues that you need to respond to. I would appreciate if you interacted with the argumentation, rather than just give what you believe.

            1) When reformed protestants look at the issue of justification, they are thinking of God’s eternal plan to effectually call an individual through the gospel of the Christ crucified to the effect that the individual is gifted with “saving faith” (since this faith is rooted in God’s eternal operation) and that this “faith” is the empty, non-working, non-meritorious, self-emptying, and God-Cross-glorifying means of instantaneously (and permanently) receiving the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, understood not merely as the “remission of sin” or “pardon” but also the “life-long obedience of the 2nd Adam”, in which he obeyed God from a pure heart. The problem with this is no so much in what it is trying to achieve as it’s thinking that this is what St. Paul was thinking, and for that, the rest of the apostolic teaching. For starters, let’s define justification. Justification is the act whereby a human being is brought into a right-relationship with God. Does this require the guilt of sin to be removed? Absolutely. Can I remain a slave to sin? Absolutely not! Protestants and Catholics agree with both the question and answer. Yet they go about explaining this very differently. For the protestant, one is simultaneously “justified” by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and spiritually re-created in the image of God so that they are inevitably going to chance, convert, and bear the fruits of righteousness. For the Catholic, since both one cannot be both enslaved to sin while forgiven, justification must consist in both the remission of sins and in the inner renewal of the person (which is really just what Protestants call repentance and conversion). For Catholics, this inner renewal is not perfection or the binding obligation to be morally perfect, rather it is a new disposition towards godliness. Moreover, for Catholics, this would be initial justification, because there are more conditions for eternal life other than “faith” (isolated from any other saving work of God).

            For example, when Catholics cit Titus 3:7 “….he saved us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs of the hope of eternal life”, they understand that justification consists in the “washing of regeneration” which is the remission of sin and the crucifixion of the old man together with the inner snctifying renewal of the inner man created by the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the Protestant, if justification was this “washing of regeneration” and the “renewing of the Holy Spirit”, it would automatically mean that “works” are then a condition for God’s grace. For the protestant, he must rely on outside definitions, which he isolates from the rest of Scripture, particularly from Romans/Galatians, and then inserts it back into Titus 3:7 just to isolate the whole meaning of justification from regeneration and sanctification ONCE AGAIN. Or, the protestant understands “washing of regeneration” as the union with the 2nd Adam through which we, after having been united, as receptors of His righteousness. Either way, it is exegetical non-sense.

            For Paul, both the inner sanctification of the fallen creature and the complete remission of sin are rooted in God’s grace. It is not as if the remission of sin alone is attributed to God’s grace, and that any transformational work thereafter must be admixed with human works and God’s grace. Rather, both the forgiveness of sin and the interior renewal are rooted ALONE in God’s mercy and grace. For the protestant, he can only envision grace being properly sustained if “justification” is wholly distinct from transformational categories, and that it must remain sola the instantaneous and permanent imputation of Christ’s righteousness (somehow together with his death). However, Paul does not see that such a thing is necessary just to sustain God’s grace. No, both the initial forgiveness of sin (which is what Paul means by the imputation of righteousness- SEE Romans 4:6-11 and debate accordingly) and the simultaneous resurrection of fallen humanity are both wholly rooted in God’s saving mercy and grace, and therefore to understand “justification” as these 2 saving events does not necessitate that the one with such understanding is thereby attributing “works” as a condition for eternal life, either together with or apart from God’s grace.

            2) Any human being who lives in sin will go to hell. Sorry for the simplicity, but this is just for the clarity. In Galatians 5, Paul teaches that if one (particularly those in Galatia) practicing sin or sows to his flesh, he will not inherit eternal life or the kingdom of God. This truth bears upon all people, whether they are within or without. Therefore, if it is true that the condition for going to hell is the practice of sin, then it must also mean that the condition for going to heaven is the practice of righteousness. Which, in fact, is exactly what St. Paul goes on to say. Only those who sow to the Spirit, which is to practice the fruits of the Spirit, which is to practice obedience to the commands of God, are those who enter the kingdom of God. The reformed protestants look at this and even still maintains that all that is necessary for salvation is the instantaneous imputation of Christ’s righteousness and that any description or condition of obedience or works for entering the kingdom must fall under the category of necessary “evidence” or inevitable works “flowing from” the justification, which alone is the condition for entering the kingdom. Such logic is simply not right.

            3) We have to ask ourselves exactly what Paul was referring to when he was writing about the issue of justification. In the first place, we should recognize that Paul’s arguments for justification are coming from the problem that the early Church experienced with Gentile conversions. If you deny this, then there really is no point in even moving forward in this debate. However, since, I believe, that the justification-contexts (Pauline) are contextually linked to this polemic of gentile conversion, than the book of Acts is a helpful guide and a practical example playing out the letters of Romans and Galatians.

            If you read the book of Acts, very carefully all the way up to chapter 15, you will see that the Pharisees were not content to allow any Gentile into the community of the “saved”, even if they repented, had faith, were baptized, and were exhibiting a morally virtuous life. When Paul and Barnabas made it to Antioch and Jerusalem, they were telling all the people about the great work of God among the gentiles which they had seen for the past YEAR. Therefore, within this year, the gentiles must have already “repented” (for this is clearly an apostolic condition for entering the Church) they must have already “believed” (which is another apostolic condition for entering the Church) they must have already been baptized (which is another apostolic condition for entering the Church), and they must have already been faithful practicing the doctrine of the apostles FOR A YEAR. And when the Pharisees hear about these gentile converts, WHO HAVE BEEN CONVERTED ALREADY FOR A YEAR (AT LEAST), they say “It is necessary that they must be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15). In other words, the Jewish Pharisees did not care how much the Gentiles were morally virtuous and repentant over their past life, THEY WERE STILL NOT BENEFICIARIES OF THE COVENANT UNTIL THEY OBEY TO MOSAIC LAW (which would be all the outward laws of the covenant, without excluding the binding requirements of perfect obedience to the moral commands). Do you see what was happening? This is why Paul was so frustrated! He had seen massive conversions of gentiles! These people were saved out of paganism! They became blood-bought slaves to God! loving each other! serving each other!!! AND YET THE PHARISEES WOULD NOT CONSIDER THEM PART OF THE COVENANT!!! This is the context of Paul’s argumentation for justification.

            4) Therefore, for Paul, the forgiveness of sin and the sanctification of the Spirit were both sufficient graces for one’s enjoyment of being part of the covenant with Abraham. This is what Paul means when he says justification. Now, before you go back into the text and start bringing out all the general legal meanings such as judgement before God, all mankind are condemned, etc,etc,etc,etc. Please do not think that I mean that justification is merely a covenantal community concept, such as what the New pespectives are coming out with. I do not agree with this. The New Perspectives on Paul has actually done alot of good, but they are still missing some major elements. Justification really does have to do with sin and guilt. Justification really does have to do with one’s legal standing before God. But justification also has to do with one’s participation in the covenant of Abraham, and this is where many reformed protestants have simply misunderstood Paul.

            5) Justification in James has the same basic definition as in Paul, precisely because they both use Genesis 15:56 in their arguments. It would be very difficult to sustain an argument which attempts to distinguish the definitions of “righteousness” “justified” and “faith” in the James 2 and the epistles of Romans and Galatians. For goodness sake, they both quote Genesis 15:6, which contains the same words as dikasiosune and pistoeWs . The major problem with protestants is they cannot have justification happening twice, and therefore this poses a theological problem for them. It may be helpful to realize that the author of Hebrews believed that Abraham was justified before Genesis 15:6 when Abraham obeyed to come out of the land of Ur. Abraham already had “saving faith” in Genesis 12. Subsequently, Abraham’s faith is accounted for righteousness in Genesis 15, and later on Abraham is justified by works on the mountain where he was willing to sacrifice Isaac. This simply means that justification is not a one-time thing! For Paul, his context is the initial entering into the covenant hopes and promises. In other words, Paul’s justification is COVENANT ADMISSIONS. Whereas James is speaking about the general justification, which all jews would have been familiar (including Jesus), which is the judgement according to works. God will really and truly repay each one according to their works. This principle was never let go of in the redemptive historical shift of the covenants. Both Jesus and Paul believed that all people, elect and non-elect, will be under the judgement of God on the final day.

            • God Seeker

              Just to continue on this issue of the Pauline justification, I will work off the argument that I proposed in the previous post, namely, that no matter how morally virtuous the gentile converts were, they would not be welcomed by any Pharisee or Judaizer because for them, submitting to the Mosaic stipulations of the Old Administration, one which was circumcision, other included the Jewish feast days, new moons, etc,etc….WAS obligatory.

              Paul’s response to all of this is that a “man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”, which means that God’s grace is so free to all who would seek him such that any conditions such as the mosaic law are not required. And “faith” for Paul is a conduit for regeneration. listen to Colossians 2:12 where Paul speaks about the circumcision of Christ, which is another way of speaking about justification (participation in the covenant), which is baptismal regeneration, which takes place through faith.

            • http://limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

              My apologies for the late reply.

              I think defining justification is key, and before I respond further I would like to ensure that I have understood you correctly (please bear with me – I have actually been doing several hours’ reading in response to your last post, which is part of the reason it has taken me so long to reply).

              I find your definition too ambiguous, so I will go with that of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Par. 1992:

              “[Justification] conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.”

              We Protestants understand justification to be God legally declaring us righteous because He has legally imputed the righteousness of Christ to our account – the “alien” righteousness of someone else outside us, as Luther said. It is distinct from making us righteous in ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit, which we call sanctification.

              Compared to this, you and Roman Catholicism understand justification to be the actual making holy of a person by the power of the Holy Spirit so that they actually produce good works. I.e. you argue that justification is not God legally DECLARING someone righteous, but God MAKING someone righteous by infusing them with righteousness.

              Am I correct?

  • stephanie

    I admired him for his strong beliefs in the area of environmental responsibility. It’s true that he was not only the head of the Catholic Church but also an intellectual with an extensive knowledge of a variety of subjects and above all one of the greatest defenders of the protection of the environment who spoke openly about the threats such as global warming and other challenges we’ll have to face in the years to come. I live in a city whose inhabitants care a lot about the environment, famous for projects like the so-called Greenest City 2020 Action Plan whose aim is to eliminate the negative impact that our actions often have on the environment and I have to say Pope Benedict was never afraid to raise his voice to oppose the disastrous results of such actions. I think politicians could be inspired by his beliefs and ideas in this particular area and that’s why he will definitely be missed by many here in Canada.

    • http://www.limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

      Stephanie, respectfully, the green-ness of your ecology will not decide your eternal destiny.

      What will decide your eternal destiny is this: Do you trust alone in the righteousness of Christ to save you, or do you trust even for 1% in your own good works (perhaps wrought in you by God)? If the latter then you are on your way to hell and I implore you to reconsider.

      For this reason, all the Pope’s promotion of green energy is in vain – for he teaches men to trust not in Christ alone and therefore is leading them away from heaven.

      • Jonathan

        Manuel, you’re still confused about what Catholics believe.

        We trust 100% in God’s grace to save us.

        But to be saved means not just getting to heaven, but also to be freed of sin. It would be misery to spend eternity as a slave to sin. That is, in fact, the definition of Hell.

        So to be saved means two things:
        1. To be forgiven of our sins
        2. To be healed of sin and given a new life that is free from sin.

        Christ’s life, death, and resurrection not only atoned for our sin, but also poured out God’s mercy on the world in the form of the Holy Spirit, which saves us from sin by changing our hearts so that we can love Him above all else.

        God does indeed leave us free to reject this gift, but this great mercy is a free gift to all who don’t reject it.

        • http://limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

          Respectfully, I’m not. My wife is an ex-Catholic. I live in one of the most Catholic countries in the world (Ireland). I know more about Roman Catholicism than almost all the priests I know.

          Also, you clearly do not understand the Protestant doctrine of salvation, which teaches that all who are truly justified will inevitably produce good works. And in true Protestant (not liberal) churches you see this in action, in that the members lead godly lives. Unlike Roman Catholicism, where, at least in the Western world, countless church members lead openly immoral lives – in fact, here in Ireland, which is almost 90% difficult, it is almost impossible to find an outwardly righteous Roman Catholic – they are almost all open drunkards, fornicators, adulterers, blasphemers. And the priests don’t care or join in. And don’t get me started on pedophilia and homosexuality of priests in Ireland and how “concerned” the Roman Catholic Church was to carry out “church discipline” (i.e. hide the truth and protect the wicked priests)…

          “We trust 100% in God’s grace to save us.”
          Only if you redefine “grace”.

          According to Scripture, Rom 11:
          “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

          If your salvation consists in even 1% your own, the saints’ or Mary’s works (merits), then it is 0% grace according to Scripture.

          For example, if you believe in any of the following, you believe in salvation by works and therefore by 0% grace:
          * purgatory (where sins are paid by the suffering saints themselves)
          * indulgences (where sins are paid by the merits/works of dead saints)

          I hope you will consider the testimony of Scripture that salvation is fully accomplished by Christ and that we can add nothing to it but can only receive it by faith. I have done this and so has my wife and we have true peace and full assurance, and we are so thankful for this that we are offering our lives as sacrifices of thanks. I hope you will join us.

          “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8-9

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  • God Seeker


    In America you have openly wicked Protestants. So what standard are we to judge by? You cannot go by such a small perspective. Most people who travel the world will be able to tell you that you cannot use this as a standard of judgement over which is true, Protestantism or Catholicism. Because you have righteous Catholics and Protestants, just like you have wicked in both.

    Secondly, with just a simple opening up of the pages of the Catholic Catechism, these “Catholics” who are openly immoral are self-excommunicates and have no salvation in them. Shame on the lack of discipline, but even you said shame on the over-excessive discipline of some protestant churches. There are some protestants who excommunicate if you do not hold the doctrines of Calvin! And they shun the person forever, call them lost and of the devil. You have Pharisees in the Protestant Church just like you have no good silly Priests in Catholicism, and vice versa.

    Third, when you dichotomize grace and works, you are taking Paul to mean God’s works and man remains completely inactive. This is really what you want us to accept? But the Scripture teaches that they overlap, and it is still God’s grace. Man works because God chose him to work, and works in Him to work. But the will is still valid in the decisions to be holy. Otherwise you are saying we are computer programs with the press of a button, faith alone.

    Finally, since God raises us to new life and works in us to do good, the good works we do are not our own, they are His. This is grace.

  • http://limerickreformed.com Manuel Kuhs

    “In America you have openly wicked Protestants.” This is a straw man defence which I’ve already refuted:

    It is exactly because most Protestant churches refuse to carry out church discipline that I refuse to fellowship with these churches. And I have zero authority in these churches to carry out church discipline.

    The Pope, on the other hand, has 100% power to carry out church discipline over the 1 BILLION Catholics.

    And does he carry out church discipline? Does he even threaten it on those who divorce and even remarry?


    In fact, just last week Vice President Joe Biden, a huge supporter of abortion, was allowed partake of the mass in the presence of the Pope.

    The truth, which no amount of talk about “good works” can deny, is that the Roman Catholic Church, as embodied in the Pope and bishops, do not care about true good works and morality of the church members (or even, in many cases, of Priests). It only cares about the good name of “The Church”.

    The Roman Catholic Church refuses to follow the command of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians to excommunicate adulterers and all who live in open sin.

    “when you dichotomize grace and works” – it is I that “dichotomizes” the two, it’s the Apostle Paul in Romans 11. Your problem I think is with him.

    The “works” that are opposed to “grace” are anything that a man does which contributes in any way to his righteousness in the eyes of God. Even if one claims those works are worked by God. Although you show that you do not believe they are 100% the work of God since you think they depend on our will.

    There are good works which are truly good. But these come after a man is declared righteous and are a result of this declaration, being worked by the Spirit.

    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

    Note what this passage teaches: We are not saved by “works”, but we still do good works – after we are “saved through faith”.

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