Thursday, November 9, 2017
Most of our readers are probably familiar with the old adage, “He can’t see the forest for the trees.” This is generally understood as overlooking or missing what you’re searching for, while that very thing is staring you right in the face!
This seems to be the case with Catholic apologist Tim Staples in a particular article he wrote. Tim Staples is a mega-popular Catholic speaker and apologist who is very intelligent and articulate. He is also the Director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers.
Tim’s article that we refer to is titled “Are Good Works Necessary for Salvation?” and it is attempting to refute the Protestant idea of “Sola Fide,” or “Faith Alone.” The article can be found here:
On to the Article
In his article, Tim quotes three passages that Protestants normally use to support the “Faith Alone” doctrine:
Romans 3:28 – “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.”
Romans 4:5 – “And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteous.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast.”
And then he says:
“On the surface, these texts may sound problematic, but once we examine their respective contexts, the problems go away rather quickly.”
No, sorry Tim, but the problems (for the Catholic) don’t just “go away.” In fact, with these verses, the problems for the “faith plus works” doctrine are here to stay. And yes, we absolutely agree that you should study the context; in fact, we insist! Context is the key to understanding this issue.
The First Passage – Romans 3:28
Ok, so Tim first tackles the context of Romans 3:28 and says:
“St. Paul had already made very clear in Romans 2:6-7 that good works are necessary for eternal life, at least in one sense. “For [God] will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life…”
But notice that Tim actually jumps out of the context of Romans 3:28 here when he refers to Romans 2:6-7. For starters, we must recognize that the context of Romans chapter 1 is about the guilt and sinfulness of the Gentiles, since they do not follow the dictates of their consciences, nor the laws that they know are right. The context of Romans chapter 2 (including v. 6-7 that Tim used) is about how even the Jews stand guilty and condemned because, although the Law was given to them, they did not keep the Law either; thus indicating a universal condemnation of man, where NONE have been able to keep the Law as he should. But starting at about Romans 3:19, the context changes, and Paul begins to give the solution, the antidote, to man’s sin problem. In this new context, Paul relates how a man is justified, or made right with God, and explains again and again, that this happens through faith and it is apart from the merit of any work other than that of Jesus Christ on the cross. And this continues through to the beginning of chapter 5. It is a new context, different than that of 2:6-7. Just because 2:6-7 happens to be nearby doesn’t mean that it is part of the same context. So, appealing to the context of Romans 3:28 does not help Tim Staples’ argument at all; in fact, it backfires on him.
The Second Passage – Romans 4:5
Farther down, Tim addresses Romans 4:5. He doesn’t get very far into the context, but admits that this passage is in the same context as the previous one (Romans 3:28). In this case, he is absolutely right, but this doesn’t help him at all, since the context works against his argument, as we demonstrated just above.
The Third Passage – Ephesians 2:8-9
And toward the end of the article, Tim tells us that the context of Ephesians 2:8-9 is talking about the “initial grace of salvation or justification,” which is “entirely and absolutely unmerited.”
We agree that it is speaking of justification and we agree that it is “entirely and absolutely unmerited.” What we don’t agree with is the Catholic belief that after this “initial” response, that one can then start meriting his salvation with works! We see Tim expressing this idea when he says:
“St. Paul is in no way eliminating works in any sense, to be necessary for salvation; he is simply pointing out what the Catholic Church has taught for 2,000 years: there is nothing anyone can do before they enter into Christ that can justify them. But once a person enters into Christ… it’s a whole new ballgame (see Phil. 4:13; Rom. 2:6-7; Gal. 6:7-9, etc.).”
First of all, none of the contexts of these verses he gives here at the end of this quote are about how to be justified. So, these passages don’t help him. Secondly, it is true that there is nothing (no works) one can do before he enters into Christ to be justified, but there is also nothing one can do to contribute to his salvation / justification AFTER he enters into Christ. There is no “whole new ballgame” with works that now save. From beginning to end, it is faith in Jesus’ work alone. Ironically, Tim even quoted the verse that totally disproves his argument:
“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh…” (Galatians 3:2-3)
According to this verse, it is clear that there is no point in the Christian life that works will save.
In other words, Paul is telling the Galatians that they entered into Christ by faith apart from works; and that is exactly how they will CONTINUE in, and keep, their salvation. They entered in through faith and they walk by faith. Good works will certainly be there in the true Christian’s life, but if good works are ever done with the intent to achieve salvation through them, this is walking “in the flesh.” (Galatians 3:3) Tim is missing what this verse is actually saying, and guilty of the proverbial “missing the forest for the trees.”
The Ultimate Justification Passage
It certainly seems that Catholics will always try to downplay Romans 3-5 when discussing justification, but we’re glad that Tim mentions Romans 3 in his article. It is important because Romans chapter 3 through 5 is the longest continuous passage in all of Scripture that specifically deals with the doctrine of justification, or how a man is made right with God. And over and over in this passage, Paul makes it obvious and presses the point that our salvation is apart from works. This is the go-to passage for justification. All other passages that mention justification or salvation revolve around this one. To try and say otherwise is to turn this passage on its head. One cannot use verses that simply mention justification, in passing, to override this main, clear, and dominant passage.
By the way, Catholics will often say that this passage is only dealing with works of the Mosaic Law. But if this is true, then why is Abraham even mentioned in this context (Romans 4:1-3)? Moses didn’t come along until about 430 years after Abraham (Galatians 3:16-17). Until then, there was no Mosaic Law. No, in the context of Romans 3-5, Paul was addressing the inadequacy of the works of those before the Mosaic Law (e.g., Abraham – Romans 4:1-3), those during the Mosaic Law (e.g., David – Romans 4:6), and those who came after the Mosaic Law (e.g., the Christians to whom he is writing the epistle of Romans). So, Paul was dealing with any and all works. None of them save.
And of course, like any good Catholic, Tim mentions James 2:24:
“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”
But by this time, Tim seems to have forgotten his emphasis on context, since he ignores the context in James 2 in order to promote his works-based salvation. As we’ve said many times, the context in James 2 is NOT “How is a man made right with God?” but rather, “How do we really know that one is a Christian?” It is about the demonstration of one’s true faith by his works. It is not faith apart from the presence of works, but faith apart from the merit of works.
One more insurmountable problem for those who believe in a works-based salvation is the fact that if works do determine a person’s salvation, then he would have to do those works and the whole Law perfectly in order to be saved (Galatians 3:10-11; 5:3; James 2:10). But that’s just not possible (Acts 15:10).
As stated earlier, Tim mentions Romans 2:6-7, and tries to imply here that Paul is speaking of a salvation by works. But the apostle Paul is simply referring to the Judgment scene. In biblical Judgment scenes (for example, Matthew 7:21-23; 16:24-27; 25:31-46; Romans 2:5-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10, etc.) these scenes are speaking in general concerning those judged. They are not specifically giving a list of things that would have caused a person to be saved. Again, these scenarios are DE-scriptive, not PRE-scriptive – they are describing the type of people who are saved. They are not prescribing a list of works for salvation.
Yes, in the Judgment, God will give to every Christian according to his works. But if salvation is by faith, then why is he judged according to his works? Because his works are the demonstration and proof to everyone of the state of his soul. No one will be able to say, “But God, I really DID have faith! Why are you sending me to Hell?” Because the person’s works will be the proof; his works are the evidence of what was already in his heart. So, in the Judgment, the saved will be proven and exposed as true believers by their works, but they will not be saved by them. The Judgment scene is never used as a “how to get saved” guide in Scripture.
In the article, Tim also mentioned the “Judaizer” heresy and says:
“Those attached to this sect taught belief in Christ and obedience to the New Covenant was not enough to be saved. One had to keep the Law of Moses, especially circumcision, in order to merit heaven.”
Yes, this was the basic belief of the Judaizers, but Paul’s anger toward the Judaizer heresy was not just because they were accepting Old Testament laws that were “passed away,” but because they were adding to the finished work of his Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross by accepting this “faith plus works” concept! In essence, they were minimizing Christ’s suffering and work on the cross and saying that it was “just not enough”! They must add something. This is what provoked Paul to call this heresy “another gospel” and say that those preaching it were accursed (Galatians 1:8-9)!
Amazingly, Tim alludes to this same idea when he later says:
“When the ‘Judaizers’ were insisting a return to the Old Covenant was necessary for salvation, they were, in essence, saying Christ and the New Covenant are not enough. And in so doing, they were ipso facto rejecting Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.”
Tim doesn’t realize that he is guilty of the same error as the Judaizers! This is the “forest” that he cannot see staring him in the face! The error of the Judaizers (and many today) is that they are guilty of adding ANY kind of work to the cross! See this article on the Judaizers:
What About Works of the New Law?
Tim thinks that works done “in Christ,” or under the “new law,” can save, but works done “in Christ” are still… works… whether done “under grace” or not. We should indeed strive to do good works with the right attitude, but the Bible never says that works mixed with the right attitude can save.
The apostle Paul, who also wrote the epistle to Titus, tells us that salvation is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done…” (Titus 3:5). Let us ask some questions: Is baptism a work of righteousness? Indeed it is. Is helping your neighbor a work of righteouness? Giving to the poor? Abstaining from greed, theft or sexual sin? Following the Ten Commandments? Absolutely. These are all works of righteousness, but Titus 3:5 says these are NOT how we are saved. And this lines up perfectly with Romans 3-5.
To prove the point, let’s look at Abraham. Romans 4:9-11 clearly says that Abraham’s circumcision did NOT save or justify him. But why? Does anyone doubt that Abraham did his circumcision with the right attitude? Was not his circumcision also a God-ordained work of obedience? Of course it was. Then why did his circumcision, his work of godly obedience, NOT save him? Simply because it was a WORK, and Paul’s whole emphasis in Romans 3-5 is salvation by faith, apart from works. Again, even works of righteousness cannot save, as we just saw in Titus 3:5.
We want to make it absolutely clear that “Faith Alone” does not mean that Christians can or should avoid good works, since we are called to do them (Ephesians 2:10). But we do them because we are already saved, and because we want to please God – we never do them to gain justification / salvation. They will not bring us to Heaven, but they will bring us rewards once we are in Heaven.
In the Catholic view of salvation, there is room for boasting, but God will not allow it (Romans 3:27; 4:2; Ephesians 2:8-9). That’s why the “faith plus works” doctrine is dangerous – it allows for pride. It allows for one’s works to somehow contribute to his salvation. It says, “Lord, You did Your 99%, and I did my 1%. I earned my way (at least partially) through my works.” But this is blasphemy.
The “Faith Alone” doctrine strips man of his own accomplishments and will not allow him to boast in his righteous works. It demands that he surrender to God and come to Him with empty hands. It tells the Savior, “You, Lord, are the only one who gets credit for my salvation!”
So, we see in several places in his article that Tim actually walks directly over, stumbles upon, and crashes into, verses (and their contexts) that scream “Faith Alone” (i.e., salvation by faith apart from works). But he just doesn’t see the forest for the trees. But you see, Tim is a faithful Catholic, and “Mother Church” will not allow him to recognize the truths with which he is colliding.
Monday, October 23, 2017
“… likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand… and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:26-27)
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it…” (Psalm 127:1)
This article has a lot to do with precedent. Precedent can be a good thing or a very bad thing. What is a “precedent”? According to dictionary.com, it is:
“Any act, decision, or case that serves as a guide or justification for subsequent situations.”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as:
“Something done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind.”
You get the picture. What happens today will be the example, teaching, or law of tomorrow.
But as you may know, some terrible things have developed in our world due to bad precedents. For example, the Roe v. Wade decision to legalize abortion in 1973 was definitely an evil precedent. Every Catholic knows this. Another tragic example of a bad precedent is the reversing of our First Amendment right to freedom of religion in America. It is a shame that some of our highest courts have betrayed us. See this article:
But there is another bad precedent that we find within the Catholic Church, and it has to do with its teachings on the papacy (i.e., the office of the pope). This precedent has disturbing implications for Catholics. The truth is that there have been some forgeries of documents in history that have greatly affected the shape of the modern day papacy, and they have made it what it is today. One of those forgeries is called the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, to which later were added other forgeries (the Donation of Constantine and the Liber Pontificalis). These were later mixed with yet another forgery provided by a monk named John Gratian. These, taken all together, came to be known as Gratian’s Decretum, which created a historical precedent, greatly influencing the Catholic teaching of “papal primacy.” See this article for details:
Now, Catholics will admit that these documents we mentioned (and some others) were indeed forgeries. But some Catholics will try to downplay the effects of these forgeries. They’ll say yes, these were forgeries, but it’s not a big deal, since they didn’t have much of an influence or impact on the Catholic teaching on papal authority. They’ll say that the earliest church taught this same thing, but in seed form, and that it just naturally “developed” into what we see in the papacy today.
But there are others who are painting a very different historical picture. Please carefully read these accounts of Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic historians, scholars, and theologians who have a different take on the influence that these forgeries had on the doctrine of the papacy...
Richard W. Thompson
Former teacher, lawyer, judge, and U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Richard W. Thompson (who was reported to be Catholic, but we have not been able to confirm this) in his study of Catholic forgeries and their influence on the papacy, observed:
“Such times as these were adapted to the practice of any kind of imposture and fraud which the popes and clergy considered necessary to strengthen the authority of the papacy… But they were unsuited to these times, in that they did not furnish a sufficient shelter for the corruption and imperialism of the popes, and did not sufficiently lay the foundation for their claim of dominion over the world. Something more was necessary; and the means for supplying this were not wanting. It consisted of the False Decretals, which are now universally considered to have been bold and unblushing forgeries. Yet, forgeries as they were, they constitute the cornerstone of that enormous system of wrong and usurpation which has since been built up by the papacy…” (The Papacy and the Civil Power, Page 372 – emphasis added)
He further stated:
“… but all that he [Pope Innocent III] did was prompted by but one motive – that of raising the papacy above all the thrones and governments of earth. This, with him, was an all-absorbing and controlling passion. The canon law, founded, as it then stood, mainly upon the pseudo-Isidorian, Gregorian, and Gracian forgeries, had already been constructed and construed with this end in view; and, therefore, the personal interest, no less than the ambition of Innocent III., led him to preserve all these forgeries with care, so that, in the course of time, the ‘pious fraud’ might become sanctified by time, because perpetrated in the name of St. Peter! The result he hoped and sought for has been accomplished.” (Ibid. page 419, emphasis added)
Philip Schaff (Protestant)
Well known historian and theologian, Philip Schaff, wrote:
“… and the later notorious Pseudo-Isidorian decretals. The popes, to be sure, were not the original authors of these falsifications, but they used them freely and repeatedly for their own purposes.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 2, page 288)
“… in the middle of the ninth century, a mysterious book made its appearance, which gave legal expression to the popular opinion of the papacy, raised and strengthened its power more than any other agency, and forms to a large extent the basis of the canon law of the church of Rome. This is a collection of ecclesiastical laws under the false name of bishop Isidor of Seville… hence called the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals’.” (Ibid., Volume 4, page 268, emphasis added)
Everett Ferguson (Protestant)
Author, scholar, historian, and Professor emeritus at Harvard, Everett Ferguson, writes concerning the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals:
“There were other forgeries of a similar kind at this time, but this collection became the most influential forgery in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. It became the basis of the claims for the papal monarchy in the later Middle Ages.” (Church History, Volume One: From Christ to the Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context – pages 379-380 – emphasis added)
“The Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals had been firmly woven into canon law by the eleventh century…” (Ibid. page 403 – emphasis added)
Aristeides Papadakis (Orthodox)
This Orthodox historian and Professor of Byzantine history writes:
“Although the Orthodox may not have known that
Gregorian teaching was in part drawn from the forged decretals of pseudo-Isidore (850’s), they were quite certain that it was not based on catholic tradition in either its historical or canonical form.” (The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy, page 166)
Gregorian teaching was in part drawn from the forged decretals of pseudo-Isidore (850’s), they were quite certain that it was not based on catholic tradition in either its historical or canonical form.” (The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy, page 166)
Abbe Guette (Orthodox)
Former Catholic priest, Abbe (Rene-Francois) Guettee who converted to the Orthodox faith, wrote about the impact of the false decretals and the change they caused in the Catholic papacy in his book, The Papacy:
“The false decretals make as it were the dividing point between the Papacy of the first eight and that of the succeeding centuries. At this date, the pretentions of the Popes begin to develop and take each day a more distinct character.”
[Note: This was a major reason that the Eastern (Orthodox) Church split from the Western (Roman Catholic) Church in 1054 A.D. According to Protestant historian William Webster, “The Eastern [Orthodox] Church never accepted the false claims of the Roman Church and refused to submit to its insistence that the Bishop of Rome was supreme ruler of the Church. This they knew was not true to the historical record and was a perversion of the true teaching of Scripture, the papal exegesis of which was not taught by the Church fathers.”]
Paul Bede Johnson (Catholic)
Paul Johnson, author, journalist and church historian writes:
“Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries played a major role in the evolution of the related ‘Power of the Keys’ theory.” (A History of Christianity, emphasis added)
See the online version here:
Richard McBrien (Catholic)
Catholic priest, professor of theology, scholar, and author, McBrien, says:
“The ‘Donation of Constantine’ was included in the False Decretals… and Gratian’s Decretals… compiled by the monk John Gratian. By the middle of the fifteenth century, the document’s authenticity was questioned… but in the meantime this document and the other spurious sources exercised enormous influence on medieval thought.” (Lives of the Popes, page 58 – emphasis added)
Peter De Rosa (Catholic)
A former Catholic priest who had access to the Vatican’s library records, De Rosa had this to say in his book:
“… the documents forged in Rome at this time were systematized in the mid-1100s at Bologna by Gratian, a Benedictine monk. His Decretum, or Code of Canon Law, was easily the most influential book ever written by a Catholic. It was peppered with three centuries of forgeries and conclusions drawn from them, with his own fictional additions. Of the 324 passages he quotes from popes of the first four centuries, only eleven are genuine.” (Vicars of Christ, The Dark Side of the Papacy, page 60 – emphasis added)
Concerning the “Index of Forbidden Books,” De Rosa writes:
“The forgeries which had contributed to creating the papal system, such as the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, the fabricated texts that fooled Gratian and Thomas Aquinas, were protected by the Index, at least until 1660 when a French scholar started telling the truth about them. Naturally, he, too, was put on the Index.” (Ibid., page 174 – emphasis added)
“[Pope] Gregory [VII] went way beyond the Donation of Constantine. He had a whole school of forgers under his very nose, turning out document after document, with the papal seal of approval, to cater for his every need… Many earlier documents were touched up to make them say the opposite of what they said originally. Some of these earlier documents were themselves forgeries. Hildebrand’s school treated all papers, forged or genuine, with a completely impartial dishonesty… This instant method of inventing history was marvellously successful, especially as the forgeries were at once inserted into canon law. By innumerable subtle changes, they made Catholicism seem changeless. They turned ‘today’ into ‘always was and always will be’, which even now, contrary to the findings of history, is the peculiar stamp of Catholicism.” (Ibid., page 59 – emphasis added)
Johann Joseph Ignaz von Dollinger (Catholic)
Outspoken Catholic priest, theologian, and church historian, von Dollinger was a brilliant and gifted speaker. In his book on the papacy, he writes:
“But in the middle of that century – about 845 – arose the huge fabrication of the Isidorian decretals, which had results far beyond what its author contemplated, and gradually, but surely, changed the whole constitution and government of the church. It would be difficult to find in all history a second instance of so successful, and yet so clumsy a forgery.” (The Pope and the Council, page 94 – emphasis added)
“But that the Pseudo-Isidorian principles eventually revolutionized the whole constitution of the Church, and introduced a new system in place of the old,-- on that point there can be no controversy among candid historians.” (Ibid. page 97-98 – emphasis added)
“The pseudo-Isidorian forgery of the middle of the ninth century has been already mentioned. Rome, as we have seen, had no part in that, though she afterwards took full advantage of it for extending her power, the substance of these forgeries being incorporated into the canonical collections of the Gregorian party.” (Ibid. page 142 – emphasis added)
“The most potent instrument of the new Papal system was Gratian’s Decretum… His work displaced all the older collections of canon law, and became the manual and repertory, not for canonists only, but for the scholastic theologians, who, for the most part, derived all their knowledge of Fathers and Councils from it. No book has ever come near it in its influence in the Church, although there is scarcely another so chokefull of gross errors, both intentional and unintentional. (Ibid. page 142-143 – emphasis added)
“Up to the time of the Isidorian decretals no serious attempt was made anywhere to introduce the neo-Roman theory of Infallibility. The popes did not dream of laying claim to such a privilege. Their relation to the Church had to be fundamentally revolutionized, and the idea of the Primacy altered, before there could be any room for this doctrine to grow up; after that it developed itself by a sort of logical sequence, but very slowly, being at issue with notorious historical facts.” (Ibid. page 76-77 – emphasis added)
“For the first thousand years no pope ever issued a doctrinal decision intended for and addressed to the whole Church… They only became a standard of faith after being read, examined, and approved at an Ecumenical Council.” (Ibid. page 78)
And of Thomas Aquinas, von Dollinger wrote:
“St. Thomas, who knew no Greek, and, being educated in the Gregorian system, derived all his knowledge of ecclesiastical antiquity from Gratian, found himself at once in possession of this treasure of most weighty testimonies from the early centuries, which left no doubt in his mind that the great Councils and most influential bishops and theologians of the fourth and fifth centuries had recognized in the Pope an infallible monarch, who ruled the whole Church with absolute power. He therefore did what the scholastics had never done before: he introduced the doctrine of the Pope and his infallibility, as he got it from these spurious passages, and often in the same words, into the dogmatic system of the Schola, - a step the gravity and momentous results of which can hardly be exaggerated.” (Ibid. page 265-266 – emphasis added)
In all these quotes from historians, scholars, theologians, priests and teachers, there is a common thread - and it is that these forgeries have greatly affected the evolution of the papacy.
Much, much more can be said about individual popes and the wicked and corrupt lifestyles that some lived, and their power-hungry endeavors. But that is not the purpose of this article. Our purpose here is not to expose individual popes, but rather to demonstrate the effects and the impact that these forgeries had on the papacy. And these forgeries have indeed caused the worldwide church’s view of Catholicism in general (and the papacy, in particular), to be far too exalted. But the modern day concept of the papacy is not supported by Scripture, and now we can see that history is not on their side, either.
With all the Catholic talk about Peter being the solid “foundation” of the church and its “rock,” the papacy is actually built upon years of forgeries and lies; it is built upon a foundation of sand. (Matthew 7:24-27)