Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is Francis Beckwith Saved?

In another thread, Truth Unites... and Divides asked about the salvation of Francis Beckwith. Since the subject of whether individuals are saved comes up a lot, and an Evangelical revert to Catholicism is an example of a case that can be hard to judge, I thought I'd post my response in a new thread. Hopefully, some readers will find my assessment helpful in thinking through these issues. This post isn't meant to be exhaustive, but rather to help people understand some of the issues involved and to help them sort through those issues. Much more could be said than I'll be saying below.

A case like Francis Beckwith's involves multiple lines of evidence pointing in different directions. And I'm ignorant of a lot of the relevant information. I appreciate his material on abortion and other topics and have sometimes read or otherwise used his material, but I haven't studied his writings on Roman Catholicism much. I'm using him as an example here because I was asked about him and because he's an example of a case that seems difficult to judge, not because I'm highly knowledgeable about his circumstances. Other people could make a better judgment than I can.

When somebody has a high degree of exposure to the gospel, as Americans do, and has at some point professed Christian faith in the context of Evangelicalism, as Beckwith did, those are significant factors that increase the plausibility of an individual's salvation.

He seems to live by high moral standards. That reflects well on him and is a relevant factor in evaluating a person's profession of faith.

He clearly accepts the large majority of the most important truths of the gospel (Jesus' Messiahship, the resurrection, etc.). That's significant.

People who are Christians sometimes later become unfaithful to the gospel temporarily, as we see with Peter and the Galatians in the New Testament. (And Paul anticipated such unfaithfulness as a possibility with the Corinthians, as we see in 2 Corinthians 11.) People are often inconsistent. They hold inconsistent beliefs at the same time or change beliefs from one period of their life to another. They contradict themselves knowingly, as they waver between two views, or unknowingly. A person can throw himself entirely on the mercy of God, like the tax collector of Luke 18, without having a high level of knowledge about doctrines like justification through faith alone and imputed righteousness. Even though he's seeking justification through faith alone, he isn't giving that fact and its implications much thought. People can have a mixture of good and bad motives, wanting to defend a bad decision they've made (such as reverting to Catholicism), even though, at the same time, they want to be right with God and understand a doctrine like justification correctly. They have conflicting desires.

John Duncan is said to have remarked, regarding some elements in Charles Wesley's hymns that seemed inconsistent with Wesley's Arminianism, "Where's your Arminianism now, friend?". I think a similar question can be asked of many people who profess to reject justification through faith alone. It's so obvious that we have to approach God like the tax collector in Luke 18, without works, and people are surrounded with reminders of that fact in a nation like the United States, where there's such easy access to Bibles, Evangelical churches and other Evangelical ministries, etc. Many people who profess some form of justification through works at some point in their life are brought to a more realistic view of things by something they experience later in life. The absurdity of justification through works is difficult to live with, and many people who profess belief in such a false gospel could be asked, in a time of difficulty or on their deathbed, "Where's your works righteousness now, friend?". Thankfully, the gospel is, in that sense, easy to understand and appealing. There's reason to think that more people accept justification through faith alone than explicitly say so, especially in a nation like the United States. Where a person lives is under God's sovereignty, and we ought to take it into account when judging the likelihood of a person's salvation and what God has planned for that individual's life.

On the other hand, sin blinds people. Even something that should be easily understood and appealing is often not understood or is rejected. People living in a nation like the United States can be, and often are, ignorant of the gospel or reject it. And Francis Beckwith has a significant level of knowledge about the relevant issues. He's an adult. He's well-educated. He has access to a lot of sources with relevant information. He made a decision to return to Catholicism and has remained Catholic after being reminded of the false nature of the Catholic gospel many times and by many people. His decisions to revert to Catholicism and remain Catholic under such circumstances are evidence against his profession of Christian faith. And his unfaithfulness to the gospel is worse than Peter's and the Galatians' in some ways. (Peter's error seems to have been less explicit, the Galatians apparently accepted Paul's correction, whereas we don't know whether Beckwith will change his position in the future, etc.).

He has some things in his favor that other Catholics don't have, such as a background in Evangelicalism. And he's not just an unnamed Catholic. He's a specific individual about whom I have some significant information. I have a general idea of what his beliefs and moral conduct are, so the situation is somewhat different than asking about the salvation of a Catholic I know less about. He's clearly not in the same category as some other Catholics, such as those who think all non-Catholics are lost or are more hostile to Evangelicalism in some other way.

Then there are the less objective factors. What do you do with a vague impression about somebody's salvation? That sort of impression doesn't give other people much reason to agree with my assessment, but it is part of what I would take into account in forming my own opinion.

What conclusion does the balance of evidence point to? I'm too ignorant of the relevant facts, and have given the subject too little thought, to reach a confident conclusion. I'm not Francis Beckwith's father, spouse, or best friend. I don't know him nearly as well as some other people do or as well as he knows himself. But I think it makes sense for somebody coming from my perspective to at least conclude that his salvation is a reasonable possibility. I hope he's saved or will be in the future, and I would be glad to meet him in Heaven. My sense is that his salvation is probable, though by a small margin, due partly to my limited knowledge. However, his errors are serious, and they deserve criticism and some degree of separation from him, even if one is confident that he's saved. He's in a category similar to that of Peter and the Galatians at best. If he's saved, it's by an Evangelical gospel (the Biblical gospel), in spite of the false gospel he's currently associated with.

84 comments:

  1. HA!

    So he is probably saved but by only a small margin.

    Whew. Somebody should tell him.

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  2. Blogahon wrote:

    "So he is probably saved but by only a small margin."

    That's not what I said. I was referring to the limits of my own knowledge, not the degree by which Beckwith was saved.

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  3. Jason Engwer: "Since the subject of whether individuals are saved comes up a lot, and an Evangelical revert to Catholicism is an example of a case that can be hard to judge, I thought I'd post my response in a new thread. Hopefully, some readers will find my assessment helpful in thinking through these issues."

    Thank you. I found your assessment helpful.

    "My sense is that his salvation is probable, though by a small margin, due partly to my limited knowledge."

    My sense is the same as yours. And my knowledge is even more limited than yours.

    Pax.

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  4. Jason -His decisions to revert to Catholicism and remain Catholic under such circumstances are evidence against his profession of Christian faith. And his unfaithfulness to the gospel is worse than Peter's and the Galatians' in some ways.

    Vytautas- From the above you it would follow that that person is not saved. A denial of the gospel would show that. Yet there is a chance that Beckwith is saved, since he believes in the fundamentals of the faith. But would good is that in light of his denial of justification?

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  5. Jason Engwer: "If he's saved, it's by an Evangelical gospel (the Biblical gospel), in spite of the false gospel he's currently associated with."

    This is a common refrain, one that I've held to, by and large, for quite some time, and now I'm giving it more careful thought, qualification, and nuance, much in the same way as Jason's post does here with the question of Francis Beckwith's salvation.

    What I'm pondering (by no means a finished product and in the initial exploratory phase) are these thoughts and questions:

    (1) What's the appropriate operational definition of the term "false gospel"?

    To me, in my humble tentative preliminary opinion, the teaching of a "false gospel" necessarily damns each and every person who abides by it. To me, it's logically consistent to say that all Judaizers are damned to Hell (like Rhology said in a previous comment thread) with their "false gospel."

    (2) BUT there are folks, however many, who are saved in the RCC and EOC despite the RCC's and EOC's false gospels. So their "false gospel" didn't necessarily damn per the tentative preliminary opinion proffered in (1) above. So that must not be a good operational definition of "false gospel". Which leads to #3.

    (3) Perhaps then it would be better to think of degrees of a "false gospel." I.e., the term needs to be more nuanced and qualified.

    Here's an initial start. Let's take Hinduism and Scientology. Now these are what I call a False Gospel per my (1) above. Each and every person who abides by the tenets in those religions are gonna be damned to Hell (as far as my limited fallible human understanding of the Bible can tell).

    So then, the "false gospel" of Hinduism and Scientology must be distinguished from the "false gospel of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Because in some Religious systems, their False Gospel damns all the time, but in the RCC and EOC, their False Gospel doesn't damn their members all the time.

    Anyways, these are some preliminary thoughts that I'm pondering, and any feedback would be appreciated.

    Pax.

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  6. This is without a doubt the most depressing and ridiculous discussion I've seen in a very long time.

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  7. Vytautus wrote:

    "From the above you it would follow that that person is not saved. A denial of the gospel would show that."

    Why? A person can believe the gospel, then be unfaithful to it, as Peter and the Galatians were. If you're going to say that the unfaithfulness can only go so far, and that Beckwith or somebody else has gone past that limit, then where are you getting that limit?

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  8. Here's my response:
    http://romereturn.blogspot.com/2009/12/i-may-be-saved.html

    By the way, when you finally discover my posthumous fate, please tell me. I've been dying to know.

    Merry Christmas.

    FJB

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  9. Blogahon wrote:

    "This is without a doubt the most depressing and ridiculous discussion I've seen in a very long time."

    I agree that your contribution has been ridiculous, but you'll have to make an argument for that assessment of the rest of the thread.

    Surely you don't disagree that there are contexts in which people should make judgments about the salvation of others. And surely you don't deny that factors like a person's moral behavior and theology are relevant to such evaluations. Such subjects can be difficult to discuss and difficult to discern at times, yet still be worth addressing. What's your alternative? Ignoring the issues? Adopting some sort of ecumenism that you haven't given us any reason to accept? Should we just assume that every human being is saved, so as to avoid being "depressing" and "ridiculous"?

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  10. I am fairly certain that a bunch of self righteous young guys sitting around and staring at their navels while publicly questioning a man's salvation, a man who bends the knee at the name of Jesus, isn't the proper context.

    I am certain that I am not the only person who finds this display vomit inducing.

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  11. Truth Unites... and Divides wrote:

    "So then, the 'false gospel' of Hinduism and Scientology must be distinguished from the 'false gospel of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Because in some Religious systems, their False Gospel damns all the time, but in the RCC and EOC, their False Gospel doesn't damn their members all the time."

    Hinduism and Scientology are further from the truth, so you could say that they're more false. But I think you're misunderstanding what Paul wrote in Galatians. The context suggests that Paul has in mind people who never accepted the true gospel. All they've accepted is a false gospel. He's addressing those who have a false gospel without any qualification. But if you add the qualification that a person accepted the true gospel previously, then Paul's response would be qualified accordingly. That's why he doesn't treat the Galatians the same way he treats the false teachers who were misleading them.

    Some alternatives would be to maintain that Paul allows for the salvation of the Galatians because they weren't teachers or because they didn't do anything to advance the false gospel in question. But neither seems likely. The Galatians would have had teachers, just as other churches do (bishops, deacons, etc.). And it's doubtful that they remained silent about the false gospel influencing them. How would Paul and others find out about the Galatians' acceptance of a false gospel if the Galatians were silent about the issue? I think the most natural reading of Galatians is that at least a majority of the Galatians accepted the false gospel, which probably would have included at least some members of their leadership, and they communicated their acceptance of that false gospel to other people. Paul had reason to believe that they had accepted the true gospel previously, though, so he approaches them differently than he would approach a Judaizer who had never accepted the gospel.

    This may be relevant to what Vytautas was asking as well. I agree with you, Vytautas, that a person must come to God through faith alone in order to be justified, as illustrated in Luke 18:10-14. I wasn't suggesting that somebody like Francis Beckwith should be considered a Christian without such evidence. Rather, I'm suggesting that there can be evidence that somebody accepted the true gospel, then departed from it later in life. A later departure would be evidence that the person was never justified to begin with, but not conclusive evidence. It would be possible for a person to be unfaithful to the gospel after accepting it, as we see with Peter and the Galatians and elsewhere in scripture. Similarly, even though behavior like idolatry, murder, or adultery would be evidence against a person's salvation, we still think somebody like David or Solomon could have been saved in spite of such sins, because of mitigating factors.

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  12. Blogahon wrote:

    "I am fairly certain that a bunch of self righteous young guys sitting around and staring at their navels while publicly questioning a man's salvation, a man who bends the knee at the name of Jesus, isn't the proper context. I am certain that I am not the only person who finds this display vomit inducing."

    In other words, you can judge us to be "self-righteous" and propose your own criterion for judging others' salvation ("bending the knee at the name of Jesus"), but we shouldn't make judgments based on our criteria. That makes no sense.

    Do you think the Judaizers were orthodox as long as they "bent the knee at the name of Jesus"? Since you're a Catholic, do you find Catholic documents like the decrees of Trent "vomit inducing", since they anathematize people for errors other than not "bending the knee at the name of Jesus"? If that's the only relevant criterion, then why have church fathers, Popes, councils, and other sources you supposedly would hold in high regard judged other people's salvation by criteria other than your own?

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  13. Judging this to be a self righteous display, which it is, is not even remotely like me saying that you are going to hell.

    I am certain there are many self righteous individuals in heaven, by the grace of God.

    Several guys sitting around their computers and postulating is not an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church.

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  14. Jason, in addition to the church in Galatia, would the churches and the people in those churches which are referenced in Revelations 2 and 3 be additional data points for consideration and discussion about true and false gospels, and true and false churches, and saved people and damned people?

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  15. Blogahon wrote:

    "Judging this to be a self righteous display, which it is"

    Because you say so? Where's your argument?

    You go on:

    "Several guys sitting around their computers and postulating is not an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church."

    Which doesn't change the fact that the council I cited, Trent, utilized different standards than you suggested in your earlier post. If you want to follow Trent, then you'd better expand your criteria beyond "bending the knee at the name of Jesus".

    And just as you claim that Trent gives you criteria by which to make these judgments, I claim that scripture gives me my criteria. Your objection is absurd. Every one of your posts in this thread so far has been irrational.

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  16. Truth Unites... and Divides wrote:

    "Jason, in addition to the church in Galatia, would the churches and the people in those churches which are referenced in Revelations 2 and 3 be additional data points for consideration and discussion about true and false gospels, and true and false churches, and saved people and damned people?"

    We'd have to make case-by-case judgments. Some errors are minor. Some are moderate. Some are major, but not a matter of essential importance. And others are essential. You have to look at the issues involved, the language used, and the other relevant evidence in each case.

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  17. I imagine that many medieval RCs might have been saved precisely because they were ignorant rustics and did not know enough to be really corrupted by Romish additions to the gospel - additions that more knowledgeable city slickers would have known better. Such types would have just had childlike trust in Christ and His work.

    My point is that "the only good Roman Catholic is a "bad" Roman Catholic", a person who does not consistently believe all that his religion teaches.

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  18. Whereas Beckwith might be damned just by his great knowledge - as he is "sinning against the light."

    To whom much has been given, much is required, knowledgeable servants shall gets many stripes, and teachers shall receive greater condemnation than others, like that favorite RC book of James says.

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  19. Augustine was a brilliant thinker, but he erred badly on Justification, and he laid the theological foundation for torture and the inquisition.

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  20. BLOGAHON SAID:

    “I am fairly certain that a bunch of self righteous young guys…”

    Considering the fact that I turned 50 this year, I’ll take that as a compliment.

    “Sitting around and staring at their navels…”

    Since it’s too cool in mid-December for me to go around topless, my navel is presently out of sight.

    “Several guys sitting around their computers…”

    Didn’t you type this comment on a computer keyboard? Didn’t Beckwith type his comment on a computer keyboard?

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  21. Francis J. Beckwith said...

    “By the way, when you finally discover my posthumous fate, please tell me. I've been dying to know.”

    When a gentleman sporting a van dyke and whistling "Le veau d'or" shows up at your deathbed waving a contract in your face and demanding his cut, that will be your cue.

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  22. Wow..thank you so much for that.
    I was really struggling with this myself.

    Because he couldn't have been ever chosen to perservere to the end, so he was a fake or perhaps a anti-christ! Maybe an Arminian!!!
    No, he was that horror of horror..a gospel hating, Scripture hating Catholic!!

    But thankfully Our Lord has given you the gift of authority over men's souls and also to discern who is saved and who is not. Clearly you do a wonderful job for the Body of Christ.

    You are sad and to be pitied. You don't even know the "good news" that gives you joy and unites you with Christ. The gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ was not Calvinist, etc.

    I will pray for you because the truth is...you and all of the other haters of Catholic faith can persecute, bear false witness, and spend all day blogging about your own goodness...but at the end of the day it does no good.

    Just because you all pick all of the flowers in every field...you can never stop Spring from coming....

    May the peace of Christ penetrate your heart and mind completely,
    Teri

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  23. "When a gentleman sporting a van dyke ....."

    Yikes!:

    http://samuelatgilgal.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/john-calvin.jpg

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  24. At the risk of stating the horribly, glaringly obvious:

    "For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be The Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: "'As surely as I live,' says The Lord, 'every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.'"

    "So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another." (Romans 14:1-13)

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  25. Thankfully, the church of Rome, unlike those judgmental Prots, is distinguished by its history of tolerance.

    Trent

    So great has been the calamitousness of these times, and such the inveterate malice of the heretics, that there has been nothing ever so clear in our statement of faith, nothing so surely settled, which they, at the instigation of the enemy of the human race, have not defiled by some sort of error. For which cause the holy Synod hath made it Its especial care to condemn and anathematize the principal errors of the heretics of our time, and to deliver and teach the true and Catholic doctrine; even as It has condemned, and anathematized, and decreed.

    http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct25.html

    Pope Boniface VIII

    We declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/b8-unam.html

    Pope Pius IX

    Hence, if anyone shall dare -- which God forbid! -- to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should dare to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he thinks in his heart.

    http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pi09id.htm

    Pope Pius XII

    Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.
    It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19501101_munificentissimus-deus_en.html

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  26. Kissaguard wrote:

    "At the risk of stating the horribly, glaringly obvious: 'For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be The Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: ''As surely as I live,' says The Lord, 'every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.'' 'So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.' (Romans 14:1-13)"

    I hope you realize that the passage you've cited supports what I've done rather than opposing it. How would you know who your "brother" is without making a judgment about who qualifies as such? How do you marry only a Christian if you never make judgments about who is and isn't a Christian? Are you suggesting that we ignore the issue of whether a man is a Christian before appointing him to a church office, such as to be an elder or deacon? After all, we wouldn't want to "pass judgment on one another". If a Buddhist wants to pastor our church, who are we to judge that he isn't a Christian?

    Romans 14 is a passage about relatively minor disagreements that can't be resolved in this life. It's also about having "contempt" for other believers (Romans 14:10). But we are called to make judgments about the salvation of other people elsewhere, even though there are some things we can't know about a person's salvation. We can judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), even though our probability judgments are fallible. We should be careful and should recognize our limitations and fallibility, and we shouldn't attempt to take God's role in judgment upon ourselves. But making a probability judgment about the salvation of another person, particularly one as heavily qualified as mine above, is acceptable. That sort of thing is common practice in the New Testament and in everyday Christian life. We couldn't function in the Christian life without doing it.

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  27. I have a question for those who are offended by my comments about Francis Beckwith. Are you also offended when a more ecumenical Evangelical judges Beckwith to be a Christian without the more negative qualifications that I added? If somebody like Timothy George or Chuck Colson were to refer to Beckwith as a Christian, would you object? Would you rebuke George or Colson for making a judgment about something he can't know? (By the way, does citing Romans 14 against me qualify as an improper act of judging another person? Or is there a double standard? Are you allowed to judge me, but I can't judge somebody else?)

    I suspect that I would have been criticized no matter how I had responded to the question that was asked by Truth Unites... and Divides. If I had ignored the question, I would have been criticized for that. If I had answered, but had been more positive in my evaluation of Beckwith, I would have been criticized for it. Or if I'd been more negative, I would have been criticized for that.

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  28. Ah yes, Matthew 7 . . . that's the one that begins so very clearly, isn't it? Something about judging, and getting the plank out of your eye? ;)

    Really, though, I'm sorry I posted. The best response to this sort of thing is Dr. Beckwith's: laughter.

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  29. So right, kissaguard.

    Here's another insertion of levity: http://romereturn.blogspot.com/2009/12/positively-judgment-street.html

    Enjoy!

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  30. Dear Sir:

    I am Catholic too, and having read your post now find myself in a terribly uncertain state of mind...and soul. If you have time, could you provide a checkup for me as well. Do I need to send you anything for you to complete your analysis...blood sample, Social Security number, IQ test, recitation of the books of the Bible (with or without Apocryphal books???), etc.

    Please help me!!! I anxiously await your response.

    Sincerely...or not ;-)

    K Branson

    P.S. - Have you considered distilling your salvation determination technology into one of those test at home kits, you know, kind of like the pregnancy test strip that you, well, you know. Because I think lots of people might be very interested in...Oh, I better shut up.

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  31. Kissaguard wrote:

    "Ah yes, Matthew 7 . . . that's the one that begins so very clearly, isn't it? Something about judging, and getting the plank out of your eye?"

    Why are you judging me, then?

    I distinguish between righteous and unrighteous judgment (John 7:24), so I'm not being inconsistent by considering judgment an acceptable practice. But if you're going to object to all forms of judgment, then what basis do you have for issuing the sort of judgments against me that you've included in your posts? Or if you don't object to all forms of judgment, then why not explain what you mean? Citing Romans 14 and Matthew 7 and assuming your own interpretation without arguing for it, while ignoring what people write in response to you, doesn't accomplish much.

    You write:

    "Really, though, I'm sorry I posted."

    You say that as you prepare a second post.

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  32. journeytorome wrote:

    "Oh, I better shut up."

    I agree.

    And concerning that judgment kit you refer to, I got it from the same place every Christian does when he's judging whether a potential spouse is a Christian, whether another person is "of the household of the faith" (Galatians 6:10), etc.

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  33. Since it’s too cool in mid-December for me to go around topless, my navel is presently out of sight.

    Hmmm...where could I have possibly learned about staring at navels???

    Oh, I remember. It was from this very blog!

    Imagine that.

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  34. Jason Engwer raises the question of whether Francis Beckwith is saved, and his Catholic fanboys wax indignant. I think they need to brush up on their Tridentine theology:

    ****************

    No one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.

    If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.

    If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.

    http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html

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  35. I actually think that Jason is in principle correct. There's nothing wrong with making judgments. But, as he rightly implies, they have to been done in a fashion consistent with the letter and spirit of Scripture.

    As far as judging me, I'm not worried. I believe in God's sovereignty, and trust his judgment, which is really the only one that matters when it is all said and done. To quote from the Master, Thomas Aquinas:

    Some have said that none could be blotted out of the book of life as a matter of fact, but only in the opinion of men. For it is customary in the Scriptures to say that something is done when it becomes known. Thus some are said to be written in the book of life, inasmuch as men think they are written therein, on account of the present righteousness they see in them; but when it becomes evident, either in this world or in the next, that they have fallen from that state of righteousness, they are then said to be blotted out. And thus a gloss explains the passage: "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living." But because not to be blotted out of the book of life is placed among the rewards of the just, according to the text, "He that shall overcome, shall thus be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life" (Apocalypse 3:5) (and what is promised to holy men, is not merely something in the opinion of men), it can therefore be said that to be blotted out, and not blotted out, of the book of life is not only to be referred to the opinion of man, but to the reality of the fact. For the book of life is the inscription of those ordained to eternal life, to which one is directed from two sources; namely, from predestination, which direction never fails, and from grace; for whoever has grace, by this very fact becomes fitted for eternal life. This direction fails sometimes; because some are directed by possessing grace, to obtain eternal life, yet they fail to obtain it through mortal sin. Therefore those who are ordained to possess eternal life through divine predestination are written down in the book of life simply, because they are written therein to have eternal life in reality; such are never blotted out from the book of life. Those, however, who are ordained to eternal life, not through divine predestination, but through grace, are said to be written in the book of life not simply, but relatively, for they are written therein not to have eternal life in itself, but in its cause only. Yet though these latter can be said to be blotted out of the book of life, this blotting out must not be referred to God, as if God foreknew a thing, and afterwards knew it not; but to the thing known, namely, because God knows one is first ordained to eternal life, and afterwards not ordained when he falls from grace.

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  36. Blogahon,

    You seem to have the same Blogger profile as Sean and Stephanie. Are you the same person (or that person's spouse, child, etc.)? If you're the same person, why are you now posting under a different screen name? You claimed that you were leaving. You said:

    "Since I became an adult about 15 years ago I feel like I have already paid my dues playing childish schoolyard games. You guys can have the playground to yourselves."

    But, apparently, you're still posting here, and your posts resemble "childish schoolyard games".

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  37. Francis Beckwith wrote:

    "I believe in God's sovereignty, and trust his judgment, which is really the only one that matters when it is all said and done."

    I agree. I addressed the subject because somebody asked me to and because I wanted to outline some principles that Christians should apply when making such judgments, which they often have to do (in contexts like the ones I mentioned above). But my judgment is fallible and far less significant than God's.

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  38. Jason,

    9:31 PM. Yes, the Mrs is a zealous believer in internet anonymity and changes it fairly often. You're right I did say that I would leave the school yard.

    Its kind of like watching a train wreck. You know it isn't good for you but its hard to peel away.

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  39. Except when I watch a train wreck my ego and pride aren't getting involved in the process so that it makes me keep coming back to watch again and again all the while telling everyone around me and myself that I'm actually above it all.

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  40. Interesting thread. I commended Jason for his charity in my post on this:

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/12/anti-catholic-protestant-apologist.html

    His heart is right but (as with all anti-Catholics) his thinking is off, in the profound error this position entails.

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  41. FWIW, here's my humble opinion of the history and motivation of this post by Jason Engwer. I would like to offer this as background and as defense against crude attacks upon Jason Engwer.

    (1) There's considerable discussion among conservative Protestants about signing and supporting the Manhattan Declaration.

    I'm a joyful signer of the MD. And I argue (ala Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Niel Nielson, Scot Klusendorf, Andrew Sandlin, and Steve Hays' post "Witch-Burners for Christ") that signing the Manhattan Declaration is overall a good thing.

    (2) Anti-MD'ers say it compromises the Gospel. Calling RC's and EO's brethren in Christ might would lead to the possibility that unbelievers will interpret all 3 Faith-Traditions as having nearly the same Gospel, and this is a fatal MD flaw according to the anti-MD'ers.

    (3) An oft-used passage by anti-MD'ers is Galatians and the Judaizers. Jason has a post about "Making Judaizers Orthodox."

    (4) I queried whether all Judaizers are damned to Hell in the (3) thread above. This lead to Steve Hays' post "Who Is My Brother?"

    (5) In the "Who Is My Brother?" comment thread I posted a quote from Dr. Beckwith and asked whether Steve and Jason would regard Dr. Beckwith as a brother in Christ.

    FWIW, in that thread I was asking for the history of when Protestants began to say that Catholics and EO's are not Christians. Or conversely, when did Protestants stop calling Catholics and EO's non-Christians? And/or when did it recover the doctrinal position that Catholics and EO's aren't Christians?

    Such questions have bearing on the anti-MD charge that the MD compromises the Gospel and that conservative Protestants signing the MD have compromised the Gospel by referring to RC's and EO's as brethren in Christ.

    (6) Jason answered my inquiry about his assessment of Dr. Beckwith's salvific status with this post. I did not know that he would make it a separate blog post.

    I hope this background is helpful and that it would cause attacks against Jason Engwer to cease and desist.

    Pax.

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  42. Several non-Catholic scholars, by the way, hold that the Judaizers were Christians, not Jews. For example:

    "A party of Christians in the early church who thought it was necessary that Gentile converts to Christianity should be circumcised and observe the Jewish law -- in fact that they should become Jews in order to become Christians."

    (The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by J. D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978, "Judaizers", p. 554)

    "In the early Church a section of Jewish Christians who regarded the OT Levitical laws as still binding on Christians. They tried to enforce on the faithful such practices as circumcision and the distinction between clean and unclean meats. Their initial success brought upon them the strong opposition of St. Paul, much of whose writing was concerned with refuting their errors."

    (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, second edition, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1983, "Judaizers" [complete], p. 763)

    "Some Jewish Christians were so conservative that they demanded, in effect, that Gentiles had to become Jews in order to be true Christians. They insisted on circumcision and other Jewish legal requirements, and frowned on social contact with 'unclean' Gentiles. These 'Judaizers' appealed to the Jerusalem church . . . But Paul refused to tolerate any demands imposed on Gentile converts . . ."

    (Eerdmans Handbook to The History of Christianity, editor: Tim Dowley, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977, "What the First Christians Believed," by consulting editor David F. Wright, 97)

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  43. Dave,

    The Judaizers were professing Christians, albeit Jewish-Christians or Messianic Jews. How do you think that identification undercuts Engwer's point, exactly? Indeed, wouldn't that reinforce the parallels between the Pauline anathemas and their application to Catholicism?

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  44. I worded it wrong. Lemme try again:

    It undercuts the attempted anti-Catholic polemical parallelism between Catholics and Judaizers, if you concede that the Judaizers were Christians, while our system is not. There goes your parallelism between the two. What fellowship hath darkness and light?

    I'm not here to debate this question or anything else. I simply brought up a relevant point.

    And while I'm here I'll state that I don't believe that the true Jewish faithful, even in the first century, believed they were saved by works, anymore than we Catholics do. Both charges are distortions of Protestant polemics. N. T. Wright and other Protestant scholars have argued this; no one need take my word on it.

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  45. Moreover, if the Judaizers are Christians, despite having a different understanding of the relationship of faith and works, or the Jewish Law and the New Covenant, then by the same token, Catholics should also still be considered Christians, since we believe in sola gratia as you do, but reject sola fide as an unbiblical innovation.

    The fact remains that works are profoundly involved in the salvation (ultimately by grace) in some sense:

    St. Paul's Teaching on the Organic Relationship of Grace / Faith and Works / Action / Obedience (Collection of 50 Pauline Passages)

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/08/st-pauls-teaching-on-organic.html

    More "Catholic Verses" and Biblical Defenses of Catholicism: On Sanctification as Part of Salvation, and Merit and "Doing Something For Salvation"

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/12/more-catholic-verses-and-biblical.html

    They are even central to the criteria of how God will decide who is saved and who isn't, as I have proven from no less than 50 Bible passages:

    Final Judgment in Scripture is Always Associated With Works And Never With Faith Alone

    http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/02/final-judgment-and-eternal-destiny-in.html

    We interpret all this in a non-Pelagian fashion. We incorporate all of Scripture, not just our favorite pet verses. You guys simply ignore this data or act as if it is only in the realm of sanctification and has nothing whatever to do with salvation, which is absurdly simplistic and unrealistic in the face of the overwhelming data showing otherwise.

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  46. DAVE ARMSTRONG SAID:

    "I worded it wrong. Lemme try again: It undercuts the attempted anti-Catholic polemical parallelism between Catholics and Judaizers, if you concede that the Judaizers were Christians, while our system is not. There goes your parallelism between the two. What fellowship hath darkness and light?"

    Fatally equivocal. "Christian" in what sense? Nominal Christians? Professing Christians? Or genuine Christians?

    In fact, the Judaizers, like many heretics, not only make a profession of faith, but claimed to be the true believers. That's the problem.

    "And while I'm here I'll state that I don't believe that the true Jewish faithful, even in the first century, believed they were saved by works, anymore than we Catholics do. Both charges are distortions of Protestant polemics. N. T. Wright and other Protestant scholars have argued this; no one need take my word on it."

    i) No one's argument that the "true Jewish faithful" believed they were saved by works. The argument, rather, is that a certain percentage of 2nd Temple Jews subscribed to works-righteousness.

    ii) Needless to say, the New Perspective on Paul is hotly contested.

    iii) If, for the sake of argument, you subscribe to the New Perspective on Paul, then that simply undercuts traditional Catholic theology in another direction.

    "Moreover, if the Judaizers are Christians, despite having a different understanding of the relationship of faith and works, or the Jewish Law and the New Covenant..."

    Same fatal equivocation.

    "...then by the same token, Catholics should also still be considered Christians, since we believe in sola gratia as you do, but reject sola fide as an unbiblical innovation."

    You don't subscribe to sola gratia. You may bandy that slogan, but Catholic soteriology is synergistic. You affirm the necessity of grace, but you disaffirm the sufficiency of grace.

    "The fact remains that works are profoundly involved in the salvation (ultimately by grace) in some sense."

    The question at issue is not whether works are "involved" in "salvation" in "some sense"–all of which is hopelessly vague.

    The question, rather, is whether works are justificatory. Salvation is a broader category than justification.

    Protestants don't argue that we're *saved* by faith alone, just that we're *justified* by faith alone. Are you too ignorant to even know the difference?

    "You guys simply ignore this data or act as if it is only in the realm of sanctification and has nothing whatever to do with salvation."

    Once again, you're very sloppy with your use of categories. Both justification and salvation have "something to do with" salvation. This doesn't mean sanctification contributes to justification.

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  47. In Dave Armstrong's post about Jason Engwer, I asked him to define the term "Anti-Catholic." He responded with a number of previous posts he had written. In this link I found the following excerpt which is somewhat germane to this thread discussion:

    "Christian Research Institute, founded by Protestant anti-cult researcher Dr. Walter Martin; review of Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism, in the Christian Research Journal, by Kenneth R. Samples (current President of CRI is Hank Hanegraaff, the "Bible Answer Man"):

    How should evangelicals view Roman Catholicism? This is an extremely controversial question, and often emotionally charged. The spectrum of opinion among conservative Protestants generally ranges from those who see the Catholic church as foundationally Christian (but with many doctrinal deviations), to those who dismiss Catholicism outright as an inherently evil institution. It would seem, however, that those of the latter persuasion ("anti-Catholics") are in the ascendancy. . . .

    An additional criticism is that the book does not always distinguish carefully enough between anti-Catholics and those who are merely critical of Catholic doctrine. If this distinction is not made, then all Protestants become anti-Catholic. By the same reasoning, all Catholics become anti-Protestant. In Keating's defense, however, I do believe he normally makes this distinction."

    This part (which I bolded) stood out for me:

    "The spectrum of opinion among conservative Protestants generally ranges from those who see the Catholic church as foundationally Christian (but with many doctrinal deviations)...".

    So Kenneth Samples notes that some conservative Protestants at whatever time in whatever location and for however long a period saw "the Catholic church as foundationally Christian (but with many doctrinal deviations.")

    This might account on why I was never taught to view Catholics as non-Christians in the various churches, ministries, and parachurch ministries I was involved in.

    (cross-posted from the "Who is my brother?" thread)

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  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  49. Dave Armstrong writes:

    "Moreover, if the Judaizers are Christians, despite having a different understanding of the relationship of faith and works, or the Jewish Law and the New Covenant, then by the same token, Catholics should also still be considered Christians, since we believe in sola gratia as you do, but reject sola fide as an unbiblical innovation."

    The Judaizers can be professing Christians without being true Christians. In previous discussions on this blog related to the Manhattan Declaration, we've argued that the Judaizers shouldn't be considered a truly Christian group (Paul argues that their gospel isn't actually a gospel, etc.).

    It's doubtful that they denied the necessity of God's grace. The concept that justification would be gracious was commonly accepted, as it is today by a wide variety of groups that teach that works are a means of justification. Ancient Judaism and Christianity both had a high view of God and a low view of man, suggesting the need for grace. It's doubtful that Paul's opponents would be arguing that they had no need for the grace of God. Thus, Paul can respond to his opponents by arguing that their grace isn't true grace, that their gospel would cause one to fall from grace, etc. If they had no concern about grace, why respond to them in that manner? Where does Paul say that they didn't even profess to need God's grace?

    Paul's focus in Galatians is on the means by which justification is attained (Galatians 3:2), not whether justification is attributed to grace. The idea that one can seek justification through a combination between faith and works, as long as the process is attributed to grace, is a contradiction of what Paul taught. If works are absent from Genesis 15:6, Acts 10:44-46, Galatians 3:2, and other relevant passages, then saying that the works are preceded by and accompanied by grace doesn't make sense. There are no works for grace to accompany in such passages. To make this a matter of whether the works are attributed to grace is to get the gospel fundamentally wrong. There's no need to discuss whether non-existent works are works of grace or graceless works. The gospel shuts us up to faith, not to a combination between faith and gracious works (Galatians 3:21-25).

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  50. To make this a matter of whether the works are attributed to grace is to get the gospel fundamentally wrong.

    Then why are works always central in every discussion of the final judgment that I could find in Scripture (50 passages: linked to above)?

    Why is this the case if God is supposedly wanting to completely separate any notion of works or acts from salvation itself?

    I agree with what C. S, Lewis said: asking one to choose between faith and works is as senseless as saying which blade of a pair of scissors is more important.

    It's an organic relationship. Actually, Catholics and Protestants, rightly understood, are not far apart on this in the final analysis. It's mostly mutual misunderstandings and unfortunate semantic confusion.

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  51. Dave Armstrong wrote:

    "Then why are works always central in every discussion of the final judgment that I could find in Scripture (50 passages: linked to above)?"

    The final judgment involves more than the means by which the justified attained that justification. It also involves the means by which the unregenerate are condemned, the vindication of the justified, and the non-justificatory rewarding of those individuals. I wouldn't expect the final judgment to not involve works.

    In the post you're responding to, I cited some examples of passages that are about how we attain justification. They don't just exclude graceless works. They exclude works of any type. Many other such passages could be cited, as I discuss here and here.

    You write:

    "Why is this the case if God is supposedly wanting to completely separate any notion of works or acts from salvation itself?"

    We wouldn't have to know why works are excluded in order to know that they're excluded. But it's a good question, and I addressed it in a post last year.

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  52. I wouldn't expect the final judgment to not involve works.

    Good. That's part of the common ground I alluded to.

    But then my question would be: why is the aspect of faith (let alone faith alone so glaringly absent in these 50 accounts of judgment (I think only one mentioned it at all, in my list), if in fact it is THE central, fundamental consideration, according to Protestantism?

    It's just not plausible. The Bible doesn't at all read as it should, were Protestant soteriology true, and Catholic soteriology false. I contend that it would read much differently indeed. As it is, it appears to overwhelmingly favor the Catholic positions.

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  53. I see no emphasis on faith alone or separation of faith and works (or monergism) in the following Pauline passages (RSV):

    Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."

    Romans 2:6-7 For he 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; (cf. 2:8; 2:10)

    Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (cf. James 1:22-23; 2:21-24)


    Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

    Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

    Romans 8:13 for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. (cf. 2 Cor 11:15)

    Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel; for Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?"

    Romans 15:17-18 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed,

    1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. (cf. 3:8; Mk 16:20)

    1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

    2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.

    Galatians 5:6-7 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

    Galatians 6:7-9 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.

    Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;

    Colossians 3:23-25 Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

    2 Thessalonians 1:8 inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

    1 Timothy 6:18-19 They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.

    Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed.

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  54. (An un-nuanced observation. Take it for what it's worth. Likely not much.)

    I googled the term "Judaizer". Did a quick scan of the wikipedia article on it. Looked at three or four google pages, picking random articles to read.

    (1) Judaizers are Jewish Christians.

    (a) Are all Judaizers damned? (See previous threads)

    (b) Don't know whether these Judaizers were (fake) professing Christians, nominal Christians, or genuine, but errant Christians.

    (2) Catholics have articles about the Judaizer heresy. So it's obvious that they don't see themselves as Judaizers.

    (3) So I'm guessing it must have been Luther who must have identified or popularized the notion that the Roman Catholic Church is analogous to the Judaizers in the Book of Galatians.

    So is the Catholics = Judaizers a 500 year-old argument?

    FWIW, I don't have an issue with that argument, I just want to know when and who originated it. And whether all Judaizers are damned to Hell.

    (4) So let's say not all Judaizers are damned to Hell. So then I'm thinking about all this and how it relates to all the bluster and noise about the Manhattan Declaration.

    Claim: We have a False Gospel that doesn't damn all its members to Hell.

    Claim: And on the flip side, there are false converts in Protestantism who are going to Hell. (I've read criticisms about Charles Finney or criticisms about the Federal Vision or whatever bad teaching in Protestantism).

    So Protestants have a True Gospel that doesn't always save its members or adherents. (which is no surprise whatsoever to the T-blog readership).

    (5) So we have a situation whereby the anti-MD critics would stipulate (I think they would) that there is a "Church" (EO and RC) with a False Gospel but they do have some/few Genuinely Saved Christians, and then there is Protestantism with all its churches and denominations which possess the True Gospel but they do have some False, Damned-to-Hell professing "Christians".

    And the anti-MD'ers seem to be saying that conservative Protestants should de facto regard RC's and EO's as non-Christians, but that fellow Protestants are to be de facto regarded as brothers and sisters in Christ. Because fellow Protestants are assumed to have the True Gospel.

    That seems to be the position of the anti-MD Protestants. I have read comments suggesting that Protestants should come up their own version of the Manhattand Declaration and restrict it to Protestants only. That way, they could keep the fellow brethren language in and keep the Gospel language in without the Gospel being obscured and blurred.

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  55. Dave Armstrong wrote:

    "But then my question would be: why is the aspect of faith (let alone faith alone so glaringly absent in these 50 accounts of judgment (I think only one mentioned it at all, in my list), if in fact it is THE central, fundamental consideration, according to Protestantism?"

    Central to what? All that the judgment involves? No. The unjustified are condemned for their sins, so works are relevant to their judgment. And the justified are reconciled to God through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) for good works (Ephesians 2:10). The works evidence the faith (vindication), and the works determine non-justificatory rewards. Mentioning works is an effective way of summarizing the judgment, since it brings together so many of the relevant themes.

    Even when a passage only mentions works with regard to the judgment, we have to keep the nearby context in mind. The original authors (or speakers) didn't expect their audience to take their comments in isolation, ignoring the context. Those who hear Jesus speak of works in Matthew 25:31-46 know that He was carrying out a ministry in which He forgave, pronounced peace, and healed people upon their coming to faith (see here). Those who heard Jesus speak of works in John 5:29 would also have known that He spoke of reconciliation through faith and avoidance of condemnation as a result of that faith in John 5:24. Those who believe are assured of the future resurrection of life (John 11:25-26). When Paul says that men will be judged by his gospel (Romans 2:16), he doesn't expect his audience to ignore everything he said about justification through faith and think only of works. Works are relevant, for reasons explained in my last paragraph, but nobody reading Paul in context would think that summarizing statements that only mention works are meant to exclude what Paul said about faith. To ignore the role of faith in his gospel would cause a major distortion of his message. Paul speaks of deliverance from future wrath through Jesus' blood (Romans 5:9) after having said that the deliverance through that blood was received through faith (Romans 5:1). Etc.

    And I point out, again, that citing passages on the final judgment doesn't explain the line of evidence I mentioned earlier. As we see over and over again in Jesus' ministry and Paul's, people are justified through faith alone, as illustrated in the paradigm case of Abraham in Genesis 15:6. There is no issue of whether the works involved are works of grace or graceless works, since works of both types are absent.

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  56. Truth Unites... and Divides,

    In previous discussions about the Manhattan Declaration, you didn't respond to some of the arguments we raised relevant to the issues you just mentioned again. You're repeating some points you made before, but without interacting with what we've already said in response.

    The issue of the history of condemnations of Roman Catholicism's gospel is significant, but isn't the most important issue involved. The Council of Trent disallowed some views of justification that had previously existed and been allowed within regions of the world that we would later identify with Catholicism. And the issue of when Roman Catholicism, as we define it today, came into existence is a disputed point. So, the question of when people began condemning the Roman Catholic gospel as a false gospel needs to take such factors into account.

    Concerning the situation that existed prior to the Reformation, you might want to see here and read my recent Seeds Of The Reformation post. See, also, here.

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  57. Hi Jason,

    Sorry, I’m coming a bit late to the discussion, but I keep thinking over what you said here.

    First, I was a bit surprised by your conclusion that “My sense is that his salvation is probable, though by a small margin”. I understand your reasoning, but yet I disagree in this case. Someone who has defected so prominently from Protestantism to Catholicism does not give me great hope.

    But what you said about the comparison to Peter had me thinking, and here also I am not sure I agree with your comparison. You said “People who are Christians sometimes later become unfaithful to the gospel temporarily, as we see with Peter and the Galatians in the New Testament.” I guess I don’t see Peter’s slip-up in the same way as someone like a Beckwith.

    What I see in Galatians is Peter’s difficulty with breaking with his Jewish background as seen elsewhere. In the book of Acts we see Peter struggling with his Jewish roots and interaction with the Gentiles. Now, if Peter had started to spread the Judaizer’s message, I think you would have a point about people like Beckwith. But all I see in Galatians is Peter withdrawing from the Gentiles and hanging out with the Judaizers, which certainly could give the appearance of approval of their message, but isn’t quite the same as becoming a Judaizer.

    If anything, I would compare the error of Peter with those Protestants who promote Catholicism as true Christians. They aren’t becoming Catholics as they see the errors, but they still see Catholicism as a whole as legitimate denomination. This is kinda where the argument against signing the MD comes in – as Paul needed to correct Peter about his associations, we also need to be very careful about our own associations and the appearance they might give.

    But even if your comparison of Peter in Galatians to someone like Beckwith is legitimate, I would still expect the confusion to be temporary and a bit shallow. I have certainly met people online who had briefly fallen into the error of becoming RC/EO, yet they remained uncomfortable about many aspects and eventually corrected themselves.

    Anyway, I appreciate your caveat that “However, his errors are serious, and they deserve criticism and some degree of separation from him, even if one is confident that he's saved.” Although I disagree with some of what you said, I think you did a very nice job of navigating the difficulties of this topic and as I said, it made me re-think a few things.

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  58. You said, “A person can throw himself entirely on the mercy of God, like the tax collector of Luke 18, without having a high level of knowledge about doctrines like justification through faith alone and imputed righteousness.”

    If a man walked into your church and stated that he in all sincerity “beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner,’” would you accept that as a credible profession of faith?

    Thanks.

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  59. Latitude,

    If a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness were to utter those words, would that constitute a credible profession of faith?

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  60. Hi Jason,

    Thanks very much for your reply, and especially for sticking directly to the issues. I think you have answered well from within your own paradigm, and it is interesting to learn how you answer the question I asked. I truly do appreciate it.

    I disagree, of course, but as I said, I didn't come here to debate. Let me conclude, if I may, by briefly clarifying that the Catholic position is not saying to ignore faith or grace (the content of your entire long second paragraph). Our position is that salvation is by grace alone, through faith, which is not alone, and includes works by its very nature.

    So all your warnings about "ignoring" faith are non sequiturs, as far as Catholicism is concerned, and a rather large straw man, if you are intending to target Catholic soteriology there.

    The point of my paper and question about it is not to stake out some "works alone" position (which would, of course, be a Pelagianism that Catholics totally reject as heresy), but to note that it is rather striking that only works are mentioned in the judgment passages, and never faith alone (and faith at all only once out of 50). In another paper I mentioned here I cite 50 passages from Paul that exhibit the threefold scenario of grace-faith-works.

    We also get accused of believing in "sola ecclesia" when in fact our position on authority is the three-legged stool of Scripture-Tradition-Church. It's simply Protestant either/or thinking applied to us.

    Thanks again, and I will record your complete reply in a post I'll make on the topic. You or anyone else is always welcome to comment on my site about anything.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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  61. Steve wrote, "If a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness were to utter those words, would that constitute a credible profession of faith?"

    Perhaps you should ask Jason. He is the one who said, "A person can throw himself entirely on the mercy of God, like the tax collector of Luke 18, without having a high level of knowledge about doctrines like justification through faith alone and imputed righteousness.”

    Perhaps he would say that JWs and Mormons don't have a high level of knowledge about doctrines like justification through faith alone and imputed righteousness.

    If a Jew were to state that he threw himself entirely on the mercy of God, would that constitute a credible profession of faith? Do you reject the tax collector of Luke 18 as an example of saving faith today?

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  62. Carrie,

    I agree that what Francis Beckwith has done is worse than what Peter did in some ways. (The reason why I say "in some ways" is because Peter did something worse in other ways. He fell from a higher position, for example. He was an apostle who had lived with Jesus, knew that he would be highly influential as an apostle, etc.) I made a distinction between Peter and Beckwith in the fourth-to-last paragraph of my original post.

    I think something people often underestimate is the significance of a person's background in Evangelicalism. Partly because of examples like David, Peter, the Corinthians, and the Galatians, I think there can be a high degree of sin in the life of a believer, even though that isn't the norm. Sin is evidence against salvation, but I think some people give it inordinate weight, while neglecting evidence pointing in the opposite direction, when they make judgments on matters like these. Just as we assign a lot of weight to the positive attributes in David's life prior to and after his times of sin, we ought to assign a lot of weight to a person's background in Evangelicalism if the person seems to have lived well in that context.

    You commented that "even if your comparison of Peter in Galatians to someone like Beckwith is legitimate, I would still expect the confusion to be temporary and a bit shallow". I agree that sin acquires more weight as evidence against a person's salvation the further the sin goes. We haven't been given any time limit at which we can draw a line, but I agree with the general principle you're referring to.

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  63. latitude wrote:

    "If a man walked into your church and stated that he in all sincerity 'beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner,’' would you accept that as a credible profession of faith?"

    Only if your example carries with it the sort of assumptions that Jesus' example surely carried. It's doubtful that Jesus would have thought that the tax collector would be justified if he defined "God" as one of the Egyptian deities, for example. Jesus was speaking primarily to first-century Jews, after all, and was one Himself. Does the man in your example accept the other essentials of the faith, such as what Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4?

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  64. Dave Armstrong wrote:

    "The point of my paper and question about it is not to stake out some 'works alone' position (which would, of course, be a Pelagianism that Catholics totally reject as heresy), but to note that it is rather striking that only works are mentioned in the judgment passages, and never faith alone (and faith at all only once out of 50)."

    I realize that the Catholic view involves grace and faith as well, which is why I previously referred to faith rather than "a combination between faith and gracious works" in reference to Galatians 3:21-25, for example. The second paragraph in the post you're responding to was meant to be an explanation of the intention of the Biblical authors, not a response to Catholicism.

    I don't see how some of the passages I mentioned in my last post, such as John 11:25-26 and Romans 5:1-9, can be exempted from an examination of judgment passages. When people are assured of a future in Heaven, the resurrection of life, the avoidance of God's wrath in the future, etc. on the basis of faith, why wouldn't such passages be relevant to the subject you're addressing?

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  65. Sin is evidence against salvation, but I think some people give it inordinate weight, while neglecting evidence pointing in the opposite direction, when they make judgments on matters like these.

    In this type of case I wasn't thinking so much about sin, but about knowledge. I have a difficult time understanding how a true believer (with a sola fide-like faith) could go on to accept the gospel of Rome.

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  66. They are thematically related insofar as they are also soteriological, but my 50 passages had specifically to do with final judgment, God's wrath, and eschatological salvation.

    That came about because I was asked in debate with Matt Slick (the big cheese at CARM) what I would say if I got to heaven and God asked me why I should be let in. I replied that we had biblical data as to what God would actually say at such a time, and it was all about works, not faith alone at all. And I found that quite striking (after studying it in greater depth), though it never surprises me to find profound biblical support for Catholicism. I always do whenever I study the Bible.

    Romans 5:9 does mention God's wrath, but it is a generalized, proverbial-like statement (such as often found in, e.g., 1 John), rather than particularistic and eschatological, which is what I was talking about in my paper.

    John 11:25-26 is of the same nature, and moreover, if we look at it closely, we see that the Greek for "believe" is pistuo, which is considered the counterpart of "does not obey" (apitheo) in John 3:36). 1 Peter 2:7 also opposes the two same Greek words. In other words, "believe" in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works). Hence, "little Kittel" observes:

    "pisteuo as 'to obey.' Heb. 11 stresses that to believe is to obey, as in the OT. Paul in Rom. 1:8; 1 Th. 1:8 (cf. Rom. 15:18; 16:19) shows, too, that believing means obeying. He speaks about the obedience of faith in Rom. 1:5, and cf. 10:3; 2 Cor. 9:13."

    (p. 854)

    Jesus joins faith ("belief" / pistuo) and works together, too, when He states:

    John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.

    So even if one grants that these passages have to do directly with judgment and eschatological salvation (as I do not), it is still the case that the "belief" mentioned in them is (through cross-referencing) seen to include obeying and works, and we're back to the Catholic organic relationship between the two, rather than the Protestant ultra-abstraction of the two into the justification and sanctification categories.

    "Faith alone" is tough to verify from Scripture once everything is taken into account and not just the garden-variety Protestant passages that are always utilized.

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  67. Dave Armstrong writes:

    "In other words, 'believe' in the biblical sense already includes within it the concept of obedience (i.e., works)."

    I agree that faith is obedience, but it can be obedience without being work in any relevant sense. That's why we're told that people can believe without working (Romans 4:5-6), that justifying belief occurs in the heart (Acts 15:7-11, Romans 10:10), that works demonstrate faith (James 2:14-26), etc. Different terms are used to refer to faith and works, because they're different concepts. They can have obedience in common without having some other things in common.

    A reference to faith can't be assumed to include outward action, much less a specific outward action like baptism. That's why we often see baptism and faith distinguished, for example (Acts 8:12-13, 18:8, etc.). The fact that faith is obedience wouldn't lead us to the conclusion that other forms of obedience can be included in references to faith.

    The term "faith" and its synonyms aren't all that are relevant here. When we read of a paralytic being lowered into a house, a man visiting a Jewish temple, a crucified man, or a man listening to the gospel being preached, we don't define what that person is doing solely by a term like "faith". Rather, we also take into account the evidence provided by the surrounding context. It would make no sense to conclude that a paralyzed man being lowered into a house or a man visiting a Jewish temple was being baptized simultaneously or that a man nailed to a cross or a man listening to Peter preach the gospel was giving money to the poor at the same time. We judge how these individuals were justified partially through the surrounding context, not just a reference to faith or some related term. Part of the problem with the Catholic gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, but the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren't involved.

    You write:

    "So even if one grants that these passages have to do directly with judgment and eschatological salvation (as I do not)"

    How can a passage about resurrection life and never dying (John 11:25-26) not be directly relevant? Passages of a similar nature use other phrases that are likewise relevant to future judgment and salvation, such as "on the last day" in John 6:40. Your article includes John 5:26-29, so I don't see a problem with including verse 24 as well. Themes of resurrection and judgment are already being discussed in verses 21-22. Yet, your article only cites verses 26-29.

    Similarly, Romans 5:1-9 repeatedly brings up themes of hope for the future and deliverance from future wrath.

    And I want to remind the readers of something I said earlier. The coming judgment is primarily a judgment of works even from the perspective of justification through faith alone. The unregenerate are condemned by their works, and the regenerate are justified in order to do (Ephesians 2:10), vindicated by, and rewarded for their works. The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn't tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification. The dispute isn't about whether works are relevant to the judgment, but rather the type of relevance they have.

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  68. Thanks for the continuing excellent discussion. Just one point:

    the regenerate are justified in order to do (Ephesians 2:10), [be] vindicated by, and rewarded for their works. The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn't tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification.

    This is classic Protestantism, of course: works are relegated to post-justification status, as part of a separate sanctification and the realm of differential rewards of those already saved. I used to believe the exact same thing, so I'm very familiar with it.

    The problem is that Scripture doesn't teach such a view. The disproofs are already in my paper, in many passages that directly connect or associate salvation with the works that one does: therefore, works are not unrelated to either justification or eschatological salvation, as you claim they are:

    Matthew 25:34-36 (RSV) Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; FOR I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'

    The "for" shows the causal relationship: "you are saved because you did all these works." That's what the text actually asserts, before false Protestant presuppositions and eisegesis are applied to it in the effort to make sure works never have to do directly with salvation (no matter how much faith and grace is there with them, so that we're not talking about Pelagianism).

    If Protestantism were true, the Bible should have had a passage something like this (RPV):

    "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Then He will also say to those on His left, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for you did not believe in Me with Faith Alone." These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous who believed with Faith Alone into eternal life."

    But alas, it doesn't read like that, does it?

    John 5:28-29 . . . the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

    A direct correlation: the ones who do good works are saved; the ones who do evil are damned.

    Romans 2:6-8, 13 For he will render to every man according to his works: To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. . . . For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

    Again, works are directly tied to eternal life and justification; they are not portrayed as merely acts of gratefulness that will lead to differential rewards for he saved; no, the differential reward is either salvation or damnation. Paul totally agrees with Jesus.

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  69. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

    Note that simply believing the gospel and knowing God is not enough for salvation. One has to also "obey the gospel" (and that involves works).

    Revelation 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

    If we don't do the works, we can lose our salvation; therefore works have to do with salvation; they are not separated from that by abstracting them into a separate category of sanctification, that is always distinguished from justification. That ain't biblical teaching. That is the eisegesis and false premises of Melanchthon and Calvin and Zwingli.

    Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.

    Same thing again. Obviously, St. John, St. Paul, and our Lord Jesus need to attend a good Calvinist or evangelical seminary and get up to speed on their soteriology. They don't get it. The passage should have been written something like the following:

    ". . . and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to whether they had Faith Alone. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to whether they had Faith Alone."

    Perhaps we should get together a council and rewrite the Bible so that it doesn't have so many "Romish" errors throughout its pages . . . :-) The King James White version or sumpin' . . . :-)

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  70. Part of the problem with the Catholic gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, but the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren't involved.

    I can easily flip that around, based on the biblical data I have been highlighting:

    "Part of the problem with the Protestant gospel is that not only do so many of the relevant passages mention works without mentioning faith (and especially not faith alone), but also the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that faith alone isn't involved."

    Since the Catholic believes in the triumvirate of GRACE--->faith--->works as the criteria for salvation, passages dealing with faith pose no problem. The more the merrier. We are saying that faith alone is the unbiblical doctrine, not faith. We're not against faith at all, but rather, a false definition of faith, that restricts and confines it in a way that the Bible doesn't do.

    But since your position is faith alone (in terms of salvation itself) then you have to explain away or rationalize all passages suggesting an important place of works in the equation, in a way that we're not required to do (given our position) with all the passages about faith that you produce.

    So you claimed, for example, that "The emphasis on works in judgment passages doesn't tell us, though, whether works are a means of justification." I have now produced six, plain, clear passages that DO do just that. And that has to be explained from your paradigm.

    I'm sure you will attempt some sort of explanation for your own sake (if even just in your own mind), because if you fail to do so, you would be forced to give up Protestant soteriology. The stakes are high.

    But in any event, bringing out ten, twenty, fifty passages that mention faith does nothing against our position, because we don't reject faith as part of the whole thing.

    The problem for your side remains: how to interpret the centrality of works in the judgment / salvation passages like the six I dealt with in my last two postings, in a way that preserves the "faith alone" doctrine.

    I contend that it is impossible. To do so does violence to the Bible and what it teaches. We must base our teaching squarely on biblical theology and not the arbitrary, self-contradictory traditions of men (folks like Calvin), who eisegete Holy Scripture and substitute for biblical thought, their own traditions.

    Sometimes it's easy to confuse those traditions with biblical teaching itself. But by examining Holy Scripture more deeply and over time, I think anyone can eventually see that it supports the Catholic positions every time.

    That's why we continue to see folks who study the issues deeply moving from Protestantism to Catholicism (such as Francis Beckwith: the original subject of this post).

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  71. Your article includes John 5:26-29, so I don't see a problem with including verse 24 as well. Themes of resurrection and judgment are already being discussed in verses 21-22. Yet, your article only cites verses 26-29.

    Fair point. I love discussions of context. Protestants too often ignore context, but you don't, and I respect that and commend you for it. I have explained my criterion for inclusion in my article on final judgment and works: it depends on how exactly one decides to categorize; how one determines which is a directly eschatological passage or one having to do with judgment. Reasonable folks can differ on that, as there is a subjective element. Not every systematic theologian cuts off the passages they employ at the same exact point.

    But as I have been saying, a consideration also of the larger context of John 5 does nothing to harm the Catholic case. You wrote:

    many of the relevant passages mention faith without mentioning works, . . . the surrounding context gives us further reason to believe that the relevant works aren't involved.

    Using John 5 as an example (since you brought it up), we see that this doesn't apply. You say 5:21-22 mention resurrection and judgment. Fine; indeed they do. But what they don't do is give the criteria for these judgments and who is resurrected. That has to come by reading on (further context). You want to highlight 5:24:

    ". . . he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."

    I have explained that this is a generalized statement: one could perhaps paraphrase it as "Christian believers have eternal life" or (to bring it down to a Sunday School nursery level): "all good Christians go to heaven."

    It doesn't follow from a general statement like this that no Christian can ever fall away (though Calvinism requires this, over against many biblical passages to the contrary), or that works have nothing to do with it. We need to look at the deeper meaning of "believe" (as I have already done).

    As we read on (the same discourse from Jesus) we get to 5:29:

    ". . . those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."

    Now, you want to highlight 5:24 and de-emphasize 5:29. I can gladly consider both of them in the entire equation. It's once again the Catholic (Hebraic) "both/and" vs. the Protestant (and more Greek) "either/or".

    Scripture is asserting two truths:

    5:24 "he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life"

    5:29 "those who have done good, to the resurrection of life,"

    Faith and works. For us, the two passages are entirely compatible and in harmony with our Catholic theology: one is saved by grace through faith, in believing in Jesus, and this belief entails and inherently includes good works.

    But you guys can't do that, because you wrongly conclude that any presence of good works in the equation of both justification salvation itself is somehow "anti-faith" or antithetical to grace alone; and is Pelagianism. This doesn't follow.

    But because you believe this (the false, unbiblical premise), you have to explain 5:29 as merely differential rewards for the saved (who are saved by faith alone); whereas the actual TEXT does not teach that. It teaches a direct correlation between good works and eternal life. It explains 5:24 in greater depth; just as I noted earlier that Jesus Himself places works and faith in direct relationship:

    John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do . . .

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  72. That's why we often see baptism and faith distinguished, for example (Acts 8:12-13, 18:8, etc.).

    Ah, but baptism (odd that you should bring up that example) is also equated with regeneration and entrance into the kingdom, so this is hardly an example amenable overall to your position:

    Acts 2:38, 41 And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” . . . So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

    The order is not:

    1) faith
    2) forgiveness
    3) indwelling Holy Spirit
    4) baptism

    but rather,

    1) faith
    2) baptism
    3) forgiveness
    4) indwelling Holy Spirit

    Because of the baptism, souls were added to the kingdom. They weren't already in the kingdom, and then decided to be baptized out of obedience. Therefore, the work of baptism directly ties into both justification and final salvation.

    Galatians 3:26-27 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

    Colossians 2:12 and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    Faith and baptism are virtually equivalent in their importance. One is "in" Jesus both through faith and through baptism. Both/and.

    Baptism is not a separate, optional work. It is part and parcel of the process. Insofar as it, too, is regarded as a "work" then here we have again the Catholic grace-faith-works (and efficacious sacraments) paradigm.

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  73. Dave Armstrong wrote:

    "Since the Catholic believes in the triumvirate of GRACE--->faith--->works as the criteria for salvation, passages dealing with faith pose no problem. The more the merrier."

    For reasons I explained earlier, a passage that only mentions faith can't be assumed to include works as well. The fact that the Catholic gospel includes faith doesn't explain passages that don't mention works. And I gave several examples of passages that only mention faith or suggest the exclusion of baptism and other works by their context (Genesis 15:6, Mark 2:5, Luke 18:10-14, Acts 10:44-46, Galatians 3:2, etc.). You haven't been interacting with those passages.

    If I were to cite John 13:8 as evidence of justification through a triumvirate of grace, faith, and foot washing, it wouldn't make sense for me to respond to passages that only mention faith, or whose context suggests the exclusion of foot washing, by saying "The more the merrier." If my gospel places justification at the time of foot washing, then passages that instead place it prior to foot washing, at the time of faith, are inconsistent with my gospel. The fact that my gospel and the passages in question both involve faith doesn't reconcile the two.

    Regarding the works passages you've been citing, it needs to be kept in mind that faith comes before works. The inner man moves the outer man to action. Passages about good works imply faith. But, as I mentioned earlier, faith can exist in the heart prior to the works that result from it. And scripture repeatedly refers to justification as occurring through that faith in the heart (Acts 15:7-11, Romans 10:10). Since faith exists before works, it requires more than a mention of faith in a passage in order to conclude that works are involved as well. In contrast, passages about good works, such as the judgment passages, imply a faith that not only is present, but is the root of those works.

    Commenting on Matthew 25:34-36, you write:

    "The 'for' shows the causal relationship: 'you are saved because you did all these works.'"

    As I said before, the judgment is about more than justification. The kingdom that the justified inherit is a kingdom that's largely defined by rewards (Matthew 25:14-30). The passage I just cited comes right before the one you cited. I've given a few reasons why works would be emphasized in judgment passages, and all of those reasons are applicable to Matthew 25:31-46.

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  74. Concerning John 5:28-29, Dave Armstrong writes:

    "A direct correlation: the ones who do good works are saved; the ones who do evil are damned."

    Yes, the regenerate are justified for good works (Ephesians 2:10) and can be described as the righteous in contrast to the unrighteous. But their status after this life, at the time of the resurrection, doesn't tell us how they attained justification. The works of Ephesians 2:10 don't disprove the earlier exclusion of works in Ephesians 2:8-9.

    Here's your attempt to explain what Jesus said a few verses earlier, in John 5:24:

    "I have explained that this is a generalized statement: one could perhaps paraphrase it as 'Christian believers have eternal life' or (to bring it down to a Sunday School nursery level): 'all good Christians go to heaven.'"

    You're using phrases that can include more than faith, but the passage only mentions faith. And, as I said earlier, such comments come from Jesus in the midst of a ministry in which He forgave, pronounced peace, and healed people upon their coming to faith (see here). To include baptism or other works in the passage wouldn't make sense textually or contextually. A faith that results in justification, then produces a life of good works, on the other hand, explains both John 5:24 and 5:28-29.

    Regarding Romans 2:6-8 and 2:13, you write:

    "Again, works are directly tied to eternal life and justification; they are not portrayed as merely acts of gratefulness that will lead to differential rewards for he saved; no, the differential reward is either salvation or damnation."

    I take both passages to be part of Paul's case leading up to the charge of universal guilt in Romans 3. None of us live up the standards he's setting down (Romans 3:9-23).

    Concerning 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9:

    "Note that simply believing the gospel and knowing God is not enough for salvation. One has to also 'obey the gospel' (and that involves works)."

    The passage is about the punishment of the unrighteous. It's not about how to attain justification. The fact that the unrighteous are punished for their behavior doesn't prove that justification is attained partially through works. And the righteous can be described as people who obey the gospel without the implication that they attained justification through works.

    You write the following about Revelation 2:5:

    "If we don't do the works, we can lose our salvation; therefore works have to do with salvation; they are not separated from that by abstracting them into a separate category of sanctification, that is always distinguished from justification."

    Jesus is addressing a local church. Local churches aren't justified, so they don't have any justification to lose.

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  75. And concerning Revelation 20:11-13, Dave Armstrong wrote:

    "Same thing again. Obviously, St. John, St. Paul, and our Lord Jesus need to attend a good Calvinist or evangelical seminary and get up to speed on their soteriology. They don't get it. The passage should have been written something like the following: '. . . and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to whether they had Faith Alone. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to whether they had Faith Alone.'"

    Again, since the judgment involves more than justification, I wouldn't expect a focus on how justification was attained. The unrighteous are condemned for their sin. The fact that they could have been saved from that condemnation through faith doesn't suggest that a discussion of their judgment should focus on faith. Law courts don't focus on what a criminal could have done to avoid punishment. And since judgment of the whole life is in view, not just judgment of the portion in which the righteous were justified, I would expect the works of the righteous to be judged. It doesn't follow that they attained justification through works.

    Since you affirm that faith is a means of justification, along with works, you also have to explain why such passages don't mention faith. My explanation is that the judgment of works isn't primarily about justification. The unrighteous are condemned for their sin, and the righteous are judged for their works and vindicated without their justification being attained through those works. Since I consider these passages to be primarily about non-justificatory issues, I don't expect any focus on faith. But if you want us to believe that the passages are primarily about how justification is attained, then why don't they mention faith?

    When we go on to the next two chapters in Revelation, we're reminded that eternal life is a free gift (21:6, 22:17). Justification through faith alone, a faith that results in works, not only explains why the justified are described as righteous in their behavior, but also explains the many Biblical passages that refer to people being justified as soon as they believe, as a free gift of grace and apart from works, on the basis of Christ's finished work. The fact that your gospel involves faith doesn't reconcile that gospel with those Biblical themes, since you're trying to reconcile those themes with works at the same time. Your gospel places works in passages that only mention faith, makes the free gift of eternal life something that must be worked for, and claims to exclude works only to bring in a different system of works to replace the ones excluded. That's a long way from Genesis 15:6.

    Regarding baptism, see here.

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  76. Hi Jason,

    We could go round and round on this forever, and keep trying to poke holes in each other's arguments. Again, I think you have answered very well from within your paradigm. You can have the last word.

    Thanks for sticking entirely to theology and avoiding any hint of personal attack. How refreshing, and a model to be emulated.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours and all here.

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  77. Jason wrote, “Only if your example carries with it the sort of assumptions that Jesus' example surely carried.”

    What kind of assumptions are you supposing that Jesus’ example surely carried?

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  78. latitude writes:

    "What kind of assumptions are you supposing that Jesus’ example surely carried?"

    The kind I went on to discuss in the sentences just after the one you quoted.

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  79. Mr. Engwer,as a Catholic, and former Baptist (for a while) I can say without any hesitation whatsoever -- what you said about Francis Beckwith's Christian faith, salvation and even resorting to the cheapest trick of so many evangelicals when they resort to high n' mighty "God Bless (Protestant) America rhetorical flourishes -- is pure HOGWASH.

    You should be ashamed of yourself and the black eye you gave Evangelical Protestantism. I can just see Chuck Colson, Ron Sider, Billy Graham, Rick Warren and other more reasoned and less jingoistically inclined men of higher stature becoming sick upon reading what you said.

    What you implied has long been implied by Protestants for years against Catholics ever since we arrived on our shores in great numbers following the Potato Famine, "western Civilization's" first use of genocide engineered by English Protestant officials to rid Ireland of a significant portion of her native Irish population, the vast majority of whom happened to be Catholic. In order to receive ANY charity food offering, Catholic children in County Mayo were expected to join the Quakers who provided it in poor houses that were nothing more than glorified poor barracks.

    Ah, but when we arrived on these shores made ever more glorious by anti-Catholic bigotry, what were we greeted with? A civil war; in which if any Catholic from any land arriving here needing work could always find it either as a draftee or a paid substitute for a (no doubt good righeous Protestant who felt so long as his salvation was already intact, the lesson of the lambs and goats need not apply ... especially any part of it dealing with works, explicitly stated or otherwise ... why he could just pay off some Irish O'Malley or Bavarian Bauer to do his fighting, bleedin' and damn dying for him.

    Catholic blood was always good for the sheddin' -- but Catholic equality, hah! was another matter entirely. Have you heard of the Blaine Act, or Jim Crow for Catholics? By the way...it's still on the books!

    And for you, Mr. Engwer, to wrap your peculiar brand (well, I hope it's a VERY peculiar) of Evangelical Protestantism around -- Old Glory or the other way around, what you're doing and saying insofar as the nitpicking judgmentalism that reeks from your statements, is no more than what the early Reds did during the Russian Revolution. For some 80 years+ since, and despite billions of gallons of blood shed over small picayune issues that divided the Reds due to their incessant desires to demonstrate their own brand of exegetical nonsense ... you sir, seemed to have not learned anything from the dangers of that. Nor have you learned anything about St. Paul's eventual recognition of St. Peter's authoritative leadership, nor even what Jesus meant when he said the Gates of Hell would open wide before he allowed its leaders to embrace error. If your "facts" or interpretation held up, even on the smallest margins of "truth," none of us would even be here and most likely the earth would look as barren as the moon.

    Or for that matter, as barren as your arguments against Dr. Beckwith. One thing you said which I couldn't agree with at all; "What conclusion does the balance of evidence point to? I'm too ignorant of the relevant facts, and have given the subject too little thought, to reach a confident conclusion." Amen to that, brother.

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  80. I would like to add a correction to my final comments. They were typed in a hurry and as soon as I noticed the error, I had to get moving:

    The following:
    "One thing you said which I couldn't agree with at all; "What conclusion does the balance of evidence point to? I'm too ignorant of the relevant facts, and have given the subject too little thought, to reach a confident conclusion." Amen to that, brother."

    Should have read (and I'm using all caps out of my desire not to get tangled with computer codes...otherwise I'd have used boldface and italics.) ...

    ""One thing you said which I couldn't DISAGREE with at all; I'm too ignorant of the relevant facts, and have given the subject too little thought, to reach a confident conclusion." Amen to that, brother."

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  81. I was hoping you could be more specific than he believed what first-century Jews believed. I’m interested in knowing what you think constituted justificatory faith in the example of the tax collector, i.e., what was the propositional content of his faith alone when he cast himself on the mercy of God?

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  82. Stephen Barrett,

    Are you going to interact with what I said in response to previous criticisms like yours? Or do you just want to tell us about how upset you are by my post and how upset you are by other opponents of Catholicism who have little to do with what I wrote?

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  83. latitude,

    I don't have much time at this point, and I don't want to spend what time I do have on a further discussion of the essentials of the faith in ancient Judaism. You haven't explained what relevance you think that subject has to this thread, and you haven't made much of an effort to accurately represent or interact with what I've already said.

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  84. Francis Beckwith continues to believe in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the trustworthiness of Scriptures, including with regard to everything they teach on salvation. He makes this clear in his book Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic, in which he also says that he continues to regard himself as an Evangelical such as found in the statement of faith of the Evangelical Theological Society. I wonder if any others on this blog have read Beckwith's Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic.

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