whatever happened to justification by faith alone?

Gal 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…

So, the Pontificator has crossed the Tiber. In this post he explains his reasons why.

Frankly, this is a tragic day. Why? Because he has leapt from one heresy into the arms of another. Now, I have every sympathy with those that find themselves unable to stay in ECUSA (the Episcopal Church of the USA) – but to go to Rome? Why are we Anglicans in the first place? The Church of England was formed as a bastion of protestantism. A brief walk through the 39 Articles demonstrates that. So, for example, let’s go to the following:

 XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

XII. Of Good Works.
Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

XIV. Of Works of Supererogation.
Voluntary Works besides, over and above, God’s Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

If you have any knowledge at all of Roman Catholic doctrine then you’ll realise how far apart the doctrine of justification that is stated in the 39 Articles is from what Rome teaches. And yet the Pontificator says, “ It is my intention to renounce my orders as an Episcopal priest and to enter, for the sake of my salvation, into full communion with the Catholic Church. I freely affirm the Catholic Church to be the one true fold of Jesus Christ.”

It’s tragic. “For the sake of my salvation”. If you’re worried about salvation then the last place that you go to is the Roman Catholic Church who teach confidence in something other than Christ’s work alone. Just so we’re clear on this let’s go to the Roman Catholic Cathechism, in particular the section on grace and justification.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

That’s horrendous. “We can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification…”
In Roman Catholic theology sanctification is justification. One is “re-justified” (to warp protestant terminology) by being sanctified. The notion of what the Reformers called an “alien righteousness” (i.e. that we are considered to be righteous/justified even though we are not – and that purely on the merits of Christ which we appropriate by faith) is anathema to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pontificator has said goodbye to all that.

Now, I know that this will offend some of you and I write this with you in mind. But it must be said. The Roman Catholic Church teaches dogmatically that simple faith/trust in Jesus is just not enough to save and that we must contribute to our own salvation.

A false gospel is a false gospel whether it is the inclusivity of ECUSA or the works religion of Roman Catholicism.

Ultimately, then, this is a plea to you all. Look again at Christ. Is He sufficient? Or do you think that there is something that Christ cannot do that you must do? If you think the former then rejoice in Him. If you think the latter then you are in real danger because we cannot trust ourselves.

Galatians 2:16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

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42 comments on “whatever happened to justification by faith alone?

  1. Bravo buddy, I totally agree

    Marring the concept of grace is about the most powerful of our enemies weapons, wherever man is TOLD to work for salvation, or is told that the cross was not enough to save you ON.ITS.OWN, you wont find worldy or satanic motivations far behind. ANY doctrine that affirms salvation by ANYTHING but Christ is a humanistic approach to God and is without merit.

    Thanks D

    – r0b

  2. David, I understand where you’re coming from. But, I don’t think he made such a bad move. It is one that I once tried to make myself, but failed. However, any difference regarding justification by faith alone (which I think is usually preached and understood in a distorted sense within Protestantism), versus the actual RC dogma on these points certainly is not what kept me from going to Rome. I am not saying that the RC doctrine is not a bit off-center, but so is yours, from where I stand.

    I freely affirm the Catholic Church to be the one true fold of Jesus Christ.
    I will never be able, I think, to recite that line!

    And the bit about “for the sake of my salvation” makes me sad. I guess I have seen this so many times that I am numb to it all now.

    But, though I will soldier on as an Anglican until my life’s end, I cannot help but feel that Protestantism is largely a failed experiment. By their (our) fruits ye shall know them (us)!

      • Re: heh?

        It is a failed experiment in that it has splintered the church beyond recognition. How many Protestant denominations are there in the US alone? I believe it is around 30,000. That is not the Biblical vision of the church. It is, though, the expected outcome of the Protestant emphasis on individual salvation over the corporate salvation of the bride of Christ.

        The doctrine is off-center by not realizing that our works play a part in our salvation (too many verses to list, but begin with Matthew 25:34-46, John 5:28,29, and James 2).

        In terms of “no room for boasting” and strident defense of the fact that all our good works are God’s doing, I am as Reformed as anyone I have met. Soteriologically, I am a 5-Point (TULIP) Calvinist. However, the bare and stark version of sola fide usually presented by Protestants does not do justice to the fully-orbed Scriptural picture of the place of the (God-empowered) good works of the Elect.

          • Re: heh?

            Did I say 30,000? I meant to say 8196!

            Seriously, thanks for the useful link. Both sides, of course, are guilty of that sort of copy-cat argumentation. Many of the RC apologists (most of whom seem to have come out of Protestantism) have pointed out Protestant teachings against the Roman Catholics, all of which lead back to the same quote by someone like B. B. Warfield.

            Anyhow, I don’t think the force of my argument would be diminished by a great deal had I said “roughly 213 separate groups” instead of “30,000 denominations.” Still, I should have been more careful. Thanks again for the link!

            (PS … While driving through rural Indiana one time, I saw a little white church that proclaimed itself to be the Union Separatist Church … anecdotal evidence, admittedly, but still …)

        • Re: heh?

          I am confused, forgive me.

          Nothing of what you said makes any sense to me.

          I’ve never heard of the sola fide, and I dont follow your terminology either.

          I have only ever studied, and only care about, what the bible says.

          I have never heard of corporate salvation, in fact, such a concept seems foreign to scripture, as does the ideal of our works having any effect on salvation.

          I came to a pentecostal church because they preach bible, they teach bible and strongly encourage us to do the same.

          Calvinists AND Armanenists (sp?) are both wrong, scripture teaches that God is soverign AND chooses to give us a degree of free well. We have both.

          It seems that personal relationship is a resounding theme in scripture, however, religion isnt.

          I am intrigued with your point of view, I have honestly never really met anyone who actually considered themselves a calvinist, or supported angelican/episcipol/catholic ideals.

          tell me more, this time with scripture.


          • Re: heh?

            That would be kind of a lot to type in someone else’s LJ. I’d suggest you keep reading , as he is an Anglican who is very Biblical.

            Just to briefly touch on one point: corporate salvation. When you are doing your regular Scripture reading (OT or NT), keep an eye open for how many times salvation is described as being for “his people Israel” or other corporate terms: “the body of Christ”, “the bride of Christ.” Scripture shows salvation to be for and through “the church” … which is a corporate thing, that is, it is a body.

            • Re: heh?

              Corporate salvation

              I still dont buy it, I have always regarded those terms to mean “those that are of Christ” and by extension “christian”.

              Does that concept imply that a person cannot BE saved without a church? Moreover, does that imply that knowledge of Christ comes from the church as opposed to Scripture? Was the thief on the cross saved? Were the people that Paul found, whom had no church saved? Was the centurion that had the great faith, saved?

              And a tougher question, was Judas Iscariot saved? We toss that one around a bit. Consider what Jesus and Stephen said about the people that beat and killed them.

              – r0b

              • Re: heh?

                just to come in at this point.

                Corporate salvation gets expressed in several ways.
                From the RC perspective one can only be saved by being saved in the RCC.
                From another perspective, salvation includes incorporation into the body of Christ; in that sense it’s a product of salvation, not the means.
                There are still others who take an extreme view the other way that salvation is completely individual. This is maintained in order to defend the vital necessary doctrine of individual salvation but it ignores the fact that it’s into a body.

                Dunno if that’s any help. In one sense the whole issue is further confused by the New Perspective on Paul (which I don’t have too much time for) but it also raises a number of interesting issues.

                Let’s keep talking about it. Can someone persuade John to join the party? 🙂

                • Re: heh?

                  From the RC perspective one can only be saved by being saved in the RCC.

                  Lately, they don’t say this so much. Or, rather, they say both “Yes” and “No” in different places. In reading through Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, I learned that I am a heretic. But, in reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church, I learned that heretics may quite possibly be saved. It is all very confusing.

                  • Re: heh?

                    which is just one more reason to reject the whole pile. With Vatican II and the blatant contradictions with Trent there’s little left to do to demonstrate that the infallible church is making it up as they go along.

          • Re: heh?

            I’ve never heard of the sola fide, and I dont follow your terminology either.

            I have only ever studied, and only care about, what the bible says.

            Sola Fide is the latin term for the Reformers’ claim that salvation was by faith alone. As such it’s straight from the Bible.

            There’s a certain weakness in pushing the “only from the Bible” line too much and not appreciating that those that have gone before us have established doctrines from scripture and expressed them in the language of their day.

            • Re: heh?

              As such it’s straight from the Bible.

              So is the claim that salvation is not by faith alone (James 2:14-24). There are better and worse ways of synthesizing these two passages (St. Paul & St. James). Some attempts at synthesis do not do justice to both passages.

              • Re: heh?

                have to disagree. The error comes in defining dikaiw in far too narrow a sense. Once it is seen that dikaiw is, at the most basic level, simply a declaration that something is considered to be true or correct then James makes perfect sense and has no contradiction to ROmans.

          • I want to nuance my response.
            I don’t think there is any salvation at all in the doctrines of the church of Rome. I think they teach a false gospel.

            However, i don’t discount the possibility that there are converts in the church, in fact I more than assume that God’s saving action, being unconditional, means we must insist on it.

  3. I’ll start by saying I agree with .

    I, too, am disappointed (though not at all surprised) at Pontificator’s jump. However, I don’t believe the matter of justification is the real barrier between Anglicanism and Romanism, that it’s more a matter of terminology and point of view. I believe, rather, that it is ecclesiology, and some of the teachings they uphold as dogmatic, and (I must be frank) some teachings that some Anglicans hold as disposable, that separate us.

    I definitely agree that the solution to all who are dissatisfied with ECUSA (and who wouldn’t be?) is not necessarily Rome. As you know, my solution was the Continuing Church. What I found irritating about Pontificator’s pontifications is that he had nothing but scorn for all those who didn’t have the same conscience vis-à-vis Rome as he did. Protestantism has its problems but it is not void… any more than Catholicism or Orthodoxy is void.

    • thanks for the comments. I certainly had you in mind as I wrote the final few paragraphs. I have to respectfully disagree – the issue of justification is not just argument over terminology; it’s a complete watershed on the question of how a man gets saved.

      Personally, I didn’t often read the Pontifications in much detail – I shared your concerns about his style.

  4. With some trepidation, because I am not an expert either in things Anglican (as are you, Scott and Paul) or Roman, I must say that I agree with you.

    Just looking at the quoted material from the 39 Articles versus the quoted material from the Catechism seems to make the differences in the matter of justification perfectly clear. This is not mere semantics.

    To me, the major concerns about moving back Romeward are the issues of Authority and Justification. All the rest could be sorted out if those two could be.

    I believe personally that the bible makes it very clear that nothing regarding Salvation is merited by man–neither justification, nor sanctification, nor glorification; rather, it is all a gift of God, by His grace. True, as the 39 Articles affirm, works are a necessary out-flowing and byproduct of true saving faith, just as the true Tree (Vine) produces true fruit.

    God gives rewards to the obedient. And yet even these, the closest things referened in the N.T. to “meritorious works,” are by grace through faith. Partly for this reason, I suppose, the saints throw their crowns back at the King’s feet.

    • On a related note, the more I have learned about Anglo-Catholicism (mainly from John), the more I have doubted that it is a long-tenable position. It is a razor edge theology and ecclesiology; one is bound to eventually fall off into either Anglicanism or Romanism eventually, it seems to me.

      In this case, the Pontificator fell off the razor’s edge in an Eastwardly direction.

      Well, may the Lord bless and protect him.

      • I agree with you to a large extent about Anglo-Catholicism. Many Anglo-Catholics I know either desire publically or secretly reunion with Rome (not a bad thing for them, I suppose, depending on how it is accomplished- there are dogmas of Rome I could never submit to, for one…) or who are raging Protestants in their hearts who are in it for the liturgy.

        In fact, the clear problem with Anglicanism is identity crisis- it is also, however, one if it’s strengths. The fashion in which it held together different modes of worship until unity shattered with the begining of women’s ordination and the current scandal over homosexuality was important and an example in many ways.

    • Well, technically, the 39 Articles aren’t bearing in the United States. ECUSA clergy don’t have to affirm them upon ordination like CE clergy do; the continuing churches don’t really affirm them either.

      I could never be in a church that does, because I can’t honestly swear myself to uphold all the 39.

      • Hmmmm…..the heading states “Articles of Religion– As established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the twelfth day of September, in the Year of our Lord, 1801.

        How is that they have no bearing in the United States?

        • Well: “ECUSA clergy don’t have to affirm them upon ordination like CE clergy do; the continuing churches don’t really affirm them either.”

  5. From my Presbyterian angle, I have to agree with you. Though from what I’ve read of the Pontificator before, this move doesn’t surprise me.

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