Is R.C. Sproul wrong about Martin Luther?

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Canadian Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Read the article.
In a nutshell, must we believe in justification by faith alone to be justified by faith alone? If so, there were no Christians between the Apostles and Luther. Augustinian and Thomist Catholics have defended fervently salvation completely by the grace of God alone, just read the Council of Orange, Augustine and many others. Yet Sola Fide is new with Luther. How does this all fit guys? Comments please....

http://www.etsjets.org/jets/journal/47/47-1/47-1-pp089-120_JETS.pdf
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
God has always had a remnant, even during the periods you mention, else Christ failed in his promise.

Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

[Edited on 10-22-2005 by Scott Bushey]
 

bond-servant

Puritan Board Sophomore
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
God has always had a remnant, even during the periods you mention, else Christ failed in his promise.

Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

[Edited on 10-22-2005 by Scott Bushey]

:ditto:
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
We are not saved by rational arguments on justification. We are not saved by our understanding of justification. We are saved by God's gift of faith, wherein He grants each different levels of understanding on justification.
But faith, childlike, includes the person and work of Christ. On this we must agree. Augustines idea of ratio (reason) means the gaze of the mind, aspectus mentis, and he intimates that understanding is the reward of such faith.
Understanding comes with maturity in God's word and living out the gospel.

[Edited on 10-23-2005 by Saiph]
 

AdamM

Puritan Board Freshman
Is that really what Sproul says?

I reread the passages in the book and I think all Sproul is saying is that sola fide is essential to the gospel. My take on it is that Sproul is making the point that if you knowingly look the doctrine of sola fide square in the eyes and reject it (as Rome does) then you have rejected the gospel. Should that be controversial among us confessional folks?

On page 178 Sproul asks the following:

1. Is sola fide essential to the gospel?
2. Is the gospel essential to Christianity and to salvation?
3. Is the denial of the gospel an act of apostasy?

I would think if we answer yes to the above, then we are forced to conclude is someone denies sola fide then they can't be be saved no matter when they lived. Of course this doesn't mean a perfect understanding of sola fide is required and interestingly, Sproul himself in many other works makes the case for pre-reformation figures being saved by an imperfect understanding of sola fide, but that is a whole different ballgame then saying as ECT does that you can deny sola fide and still have the gospel.

[Edited on 10-23-2005 by AdamM]
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Adam you are right. But many people do not understand the difference between infused or imputed righteousness. Those who reject the clear teaching of the scripture are culpable, but what about those who believe who Christ is, and that it was by His grace thay are saved and His work, yet hold to erroneous doctrines of infusion because they have never been enlightened by the scriptures ? ?
 

AdamM

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi Mark,

Sorry, I added some material as an edit after the original post and I think it gets to what you are asking about.

I see it as two different questions. A person with a simple faith, that just goes around trusting in Jesus and doesn't know the difference or importance between infusion and imputation of course is saved. However a theologian or pastor who tackles the issue head on and denies sola fide is committing apostasy. That is what i think the issue is with ECT, which is the almost exclusive thrust of Sproul's book, not his ideas of about how the pre-reformation saints were saved.

[Edited on 10-23-2005 by AdamM]
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Adam, I think you are correct. Teachers are held to a higher judgment. Someone could be saved by sola fide applied, without really understanding all the nuances of the doctrine itself. Sola Fide is just that, a doctrine of how the gospel is applied. God saves man by graciously giving him the gift of faith. Opening blind eyes, or deaf ears, is the analogy Christ used. But, as we mature in faith, our VISION, and HEARING improve by the illumination of the HOly Spirit and the knowledge of the scriptures. I have been a Christian since I was a young boy, and believed many a heretical doctrine along the way. We must pray for wisdom and understanding.
I love Anselms statement fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. Saving faith will always be manifested by a hunger for the word, and a deeper knowledge of Christ.
 

Larry Hughes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Should that be controversial among us confessional folks?

The Gospel by its very nature being utterly against the worship of the will, seeking self and autonomy, that is fallen nature, that is to say that the Cross of Christ always slaughters the will of the old Adam - will always be by necessity polemical. If its not, then likely it is not the Gospel OR it is being obsured by some other doctrine mis-applied.

That is why such much Controversy ALWAYS surrounds works and the Gospel, no body wants to REALLY believe the Gospel is the power (against Scripture) and the human will wants to re-assert some work on the back end, even very hidden. Rome is rather blunt on the end of Justification. However, evangelicals and some so called reformed even usually slip it back in at Sanctification. Almost everybody asserts grace, but then they slip in a micky later, a tricky implied "you must work your way to heaven or else". They just cannot grasp that the Gospel empowers freely, it really really does.

It matters little if the "work" is from a liberal theology, a quick slap on the back or positive thinking "you can do it"; or if it is from a more conservative theology which declares the depths of human sin but later just raise more grace necessary to meet the wills needs. Both of these are will worshipping and from the fallen religion of man. Luther called them glory religions and they are all known by one KEY factor, they ALWAYS hold out something somewhere for the human will to do with an eye to or toward salvation (they need not be blunt about it and often are not). For example the John MacArthur Vs. Zane Hodges debates: At the end of the day neither man taught true Gospel in their mutual gastly books AT ALL! But said they did, rather they wasted a lot of time and paper arguing against each other's wrong theology and other Gospel (Zane more so than JM).

It is ironic that John Calvin gets saddled with the identity by the other camp as anti-free will more than Luther. Because Luther wrote FAR FAR more and obliterated any residuals of the "free-will" than Calvin ever even put to pen and paper.

LDH
 

Canadian Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
If Sola Fide is essential to the gospel, then it must be essential regardless of subjective interpretation by individuals ignorant of its truth, in any age. If Imputation and Sola Fide are in the scripture then that leaves every age without excuse. Yet you do not find either doctrine until the Reformation.
For example, people do not become lost because they consciously reject the truth of Christianity, they stand condemned from birth whether they know the truth or not. Similarily, we seem to imply that the Church as a whole was not fully responsible for these things until they consciously rejected them at Trent.
It seems that those who passionately defend Sola Fide and Imputation (myself included), while saying they are essential to the Gospel are inconsistent.
We will usually defend anyone before Trent who fought for salvation entirely by grace (Sola Gratia) and overlook the absence of Sola Fide and Imputation in their beliefs, however Sproul says on page 186 "Can a person be saved if he has faith in Christ and in his own works and merit?" Augustine and Aquinas taught works and merit as important aspects of salvation yet they said these also were solely caused by the sovereign Grace of God working them in the elect. (Infusion)
So are Sola Fide and Imputation essential for all in every age?
And now after Trent, we say ignorance cannot be claimed, so no one defends an Augustinian or Thomist who still teach Sola Gratia but not Sola Fide just as Augustine and others did before Trent.
I personally refuse to reject pre-Reformation "saints of Grace" yet I feel like my Reformation categories about Justification make me squirm in discomfort. If I accept Pre-Reformation "Grace defenders", then I must accept modern defenders of Grace as well, whether they are Catholic or not. Anyone else feel this dilemma?
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
D. Hunter,

Check this out:


I found a website where one Michael J. Vlach is reviewing Alister E. McGrath's book, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (2d. ed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).


Here are some interesting comments showing that Protestantism departed from Augustine at several key points:

McGrath refers repeatedly to the enormous significance of Augustine on soteriology. He points out that Augustine is the first major theologian of church history to seriously address the issue of justification (24). Although Augustine´s views would undergo development and change in his own lifetime, many of his positions would eventually become predominant in the medieval era.

Some of Augustine´s key views according to McGrath include:

· Man´s election is based on God´s eternal decree of predestination.
· Free will is not lost; it is merely incapacitated and may be healed by grace.
· The act of faith is a divine gift.
· Faith is adherence to the Word of God.
· It is love, not faith, that is the power that brings about conversion.
· There is a distinction between operative and cooperative grace.
· The righteousness of God is that by which God justifies sinners.
· God´s prevenient grace prepares man´s will for justification.

In specific relation to justification, Augustine held the following:

· The motif of amor Dei dominates Augustine´s theology of justification.
· The verb "˜to justify´ means "˜to make righteous.´ Thus, justification is about being "˜made just.´
· Justification is all-embracing, including both the event of justification and the process of justification.
· Man´s righteousness in justification is inherent rather than imputed.

The predominant view of justification in the medieval era was this: "œJustification refers not merely to the beginning of the Christian life, but also to its continuation and ultimate perfection, in which the Christian is made righteous in the sight of God and the sight of men through a fundamental change in his nature, and not merely his status" (41). With this understanding, there was no distinction between justification and sanctification that would later characterize Reformation orthodoxy. Other views associated with the medieval era according to McGrath include:

· The infusion of grace initiates a chain of events that eventually leads to justification.
· Justification consists in the remission of sins.
· Justification involves a real change in its object.
· Man has a positive role to play in his own justification.
· A human disposition toward justification is necessary.
· Justification takes place within the sphere of the church and is particularly associated with the sacraments of baptism and penance.
· Grace is understood in Augustinian terms, including the elements of restoration of the divine image, forgiveness of sins, regeneration, and indwelling of the Godhead.

. . . McGrath does positively assert that the origins of the concept of imputed righteousness "œlie with Luther" (201).

If this concept originated with Luther, it could hardly have also been the view of St. Augustine. I found another fascinating article in the excellent evangelical online journal, Quodlibet (which I have linked to on my website for several years now): "Justification as Healing: The Little-Known Luther," by Ted M. Dorman.

(http://www.quodlibet.net/dorman-luther.shtml)




[Edited on 10-23-2005 by Saiph]
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
I personally refuse to reject pre-Reformation "saints of Grace" yet I feel like my Reformation categories about Justification make me squirm in discomfort. If I accept Pre-Reformation "Grace defenders", then I must accept modern defenders of Grace as well, whether they are Catholic or not. Anyone else feel this dilemma?

Yes, it is a dilemma. I solve it by maintaining that faith is quite a mystery, and while I prefer the reformed side of the river, Sola Gratia is more important, and would tend to be more gracious towards those who hold to a different view of justification.
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
This is interesting also,


Melanchthon had written to Brenz on April 8, saying that he understood why Brenz, a newly married man, hadn´t written, but asking him to start corresponding again. He also sent some propositions about justification. Brenz must have commented on them in a letter not found in the collection of Melanchthon´s correspondence. In mid-May Melanchthon responded:

I received your rather long letter, which I enjoyed very much. I beg you to write often and at length. Regarding faith, I have figured out what your problem is (1). You still hold on to that notion of Augustine´s, who gets to the point of denying that the righteousness of reason is reckoned for righteousness before God"”and he thinks rightly. Next he imagines that we are counted righteous on account of that fulfillment of the Law which the Holy Spirit works in us. So you imagine that people are justified by faith, because we receive the Holy Spirit by faith, so that afterwards we can be righteous by the fulfillment of the law which the Holy Spirit works in us.

This notion places righteousness in our fulfillment, in our cleanness or perfection, even though this renewal must follow faith. But you should turn your eyes completely away from this renewal and from the law, and toward the promise and Christ, and you should think that we are righteous, that is, accepted before God, and find peace of conscience, on account of Christ, and not on account of that renewal. For this new quality itself does not suffice. Therefore we are righteous by faith alone, not because it is the root, as you write, but because it lays hold of Christ, on account of whom we are accepted, whatever this new life (2) may be like"”indeed it follows necessarily, but it does not give the conscience peace.

Therefore love, which is the fulfillment of the law, does not justify, but faith alone, not because it is a certain perfection in us, but only because it lays hold of Christ. We are righteous, not on account of love, not on account of the fulfillment of the law, not on account of our new life, even though these things are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but on account of Christ; and we lay hold of this only through faith.

Augustine does not fully accord with (3) Paul´s pronouncement, even though he gets closer to it than the Scholastics. And I cite Augustine as fully agreeing with us (4) on account of the public conviction about him, even though he does not explain the righteousness of faith well enough. Believe me, dear Brenz, the controversy about the righteousness of faith is great and obscure. Nonetheless, you will understand it rightly if you totally take your eyes away from the law and Augustine´s notion about the fulfillment of the law, and fix your mind rather on the free promise, so that you think that we are righteous (that is, accepted) and find peace on account of the promise and on account of Christ. This pronouncement is true and makes Christ´s glory shine forth and wonderfully raises up [people´s] consciences. I have tried to explain it in the Apology, but it was not possible to speak in the same way there as I do now because of the calumnies of our opponents, even though I am saying the same thing essentially. (5)

When would the conscience have peace and a sure hope if it had to think that we are only counted righteous when that new life has been made perfect within us? What is this other than to be justified on the basis of the law, not the free promise? In the disputation I said this: that to attribute justification to love is to attribute justification to our work. There I have in mind the work done by the Holy Spirit in us. For faith justifies, not because it is a new work of the Holy Spirit in us, but because it lays hold of Christ, on account of whom we are accepted, not on account of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us.

If you will consider that the mind must be brought back from Augustine´s notion, you will easily understand the issue. Also, I hope to help you in some way by means of our apology, even if I speak cautiously of such things, which however cannot be understood except in the conflict of the conscience. The people indeed ought to hear the preaching of law and repentance; but meanwhile this true pronouncement of the Gospel must not be passed over. I ask you to write again, and let me know your judgment about this letter and the apology"”whether this letter has satisfactorily answered your question. Farewell.

Phil. Mel.

Luther´s P.S.

And I, dear Brenz, in order to get a better grip on this issue frequently imagine it this way: as if in my heart there is no quality that is called faith or charity, but instead of them I put Christ himself and say: this is my righteousness; He is the quality and my formal righteousness, as they call it. In this way I free myself from the perception (6) of the law and works, and even from the perception of this object, Christ (7), who is understood as a teacher or a giver; but I want Him to be my gift and teaching in Himself, so that I may have all things in Him. (8) So he says: I am the way, the truth and the life. He does not say: I give you the way, the truth and the life, as if He worked in me while being placed outside of me. He must be such things in me, remain in me, live in me, speak not through me but into me (9), 2 Cor. 5; so that we may be righteousness in Him, not in love or in gifts that follow.

Footnotes

(1) Lit. "œI hold/grasp what exercises you/should excercise you/might exercise you".
(2) Lit. newness.
(3) Lit., does not satisfy.
(4) Melanchthon uses a Greek word which means "œone who says the same"; "œwith us" is my addition since it´s understood in the original.
(5) Lit. in the thing/matter itself.
(6) Latin: ab intuitu.
(7) Or in another reading, this objective Christ.
(8) "œObject" means "œobject of thought""”Luther´s point is that he doesn´t even think of Christ as a source of teaching or of gifts, such as the gift of charity.
(9) Luther uses the Greek here.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Nobody dying denying justification by faith alone see's God. Hence, all those of the past who are Christs by election and have have held contrary views prior to their death, God by His perfect grace and mercy bestows that truth prior to their demise.
 

AdamM

Puritan Board Freshman
A timely article by F.J. De Angelis addressing the question:

http://www.semper-reformanda.org/journal/

Sandlin Downplays Sola Fide, Rewrites History

Sandlin has admitted that he no longer holds to Reformed theology (I commented on his admission in the March 25, 2005 entry, "Andrew Sandlin Comes Clean"). He now makes public statements concerning justification by faith alone and its doctrinal centrality to the Christian faith that seriously call into question even his claim to be generically Protestant. It is highly problematic to claim that one believes in the historic Protestant doctrine of justification and at the same time claim that said doctrine is merely a "denominational distinctive," not touching on orthodoxy or heresy.


Sandlin states in his latest missive, "Heresy Inflation":


Doctrines that constitute denominational distinctive, like certain ones in Reformation Churches, are not, properly speaking, issues of heresy or orthodoxy. Take "œmonergism" in soteriology, for instance. Reformation Churches believe that God alone save sinners, and that men do not cooperate with God in salvation. This is and always has been a minority view in the universal Church; but this should not unduly alarm Protestants, because, despite its importance, it is not an issue touching Christian orthodoxy. 1

Keep in mind that Sandlin proclaims himself to be a "proud Protestant," and while he does pay lip service that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is "important" he nonetheless belies that affirmation to be so much politico-speak in order to leave room for back pedaling when called on his defection.


It doesn't take long to see that Sandlin views justification to not be too important after all, and simply in the category of a "denominational distinctive." Curiously, neither side -- Roman Catholic nor Reformers -- viewed it as simply a "denominational distinctive." Sandlin at this point is not only doctrinally deficient, he is also ahistorical.


Wayne Grudem (Ph.D., Cambridge University) noted in his excellent Systematic Theology the historic and doctrinal centrality of justification, writing:


The primary issue in the Protestant Reformation was a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church over justification. If we are to safeguard the truth of the gospel for future generations, we must understand the truth of justification. Even today, a true view of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation based on good works. 2

Sandlin further attempts to downgrade the significance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone by making the bold (and unsubstantiated) claim, "Had Luther not speculated, we would never have had the Protestant idea of justification, which to that time had never been held by any Christian anywhere." 3


The notion of Luther arriving at the doctrine of sola fide through "speculation" (even "good" speculation...) will be addressed later, but let us presently turn our attention to Sandlin's claim that Luther's proclamation of justification "had never been held by any Christian anywhere".


Harold O.J. Brown (Ph.D., Harvard University) noted in his classic work, Heresies:


The concept of justification by faith alone was by no means new with Luther. Indeed, the ecumenically minded Roman Catholic scholar Hans Küng has in effect contended that Luther's doctrine really was fully and satisfactorily Catholic, but of course Küng himself has been rebuked by the pope.

Justification by faith is a concept that is quite consistent with the teachings of the Apostle Paul -- in whose writings Luther rediscovered it -- and indeed with the whole emphasis of the early church on the finished work of Christ.

Dr. Brown continues:


From the early Middle Ages onward, the doctrine of the merits of Christ's work underwent a decisive change...It was not justification by faith that was the innovation and therefore the heresy; transubstantiation was the innovation that made the orthodoxy of the past into the heresy of the present. 4

Prior to Luther (circa 1490's), John Colet's lectures on the book of Romans contained a substantial Augustinian content, and more importantly particular emphasis upon the doctrine of grace is stressed as found in the Pauline epistles; Colet stated at Romans 5:1 "Wherefore Paul concludes that justification is of faith and confidence in God alone, reconciliation to God through Jesus and restitution to grace." 5

To Colet, writing prior to Luther, justification is "of faith...in God alone." In his Oxford lectures, Colet directly affirmed that those that have faith, which he defined as "belief and trust in God," "will undoubtedly be saved". Undoubtedly be saved! Based upon what? Faith...in God alone.


Such security of salvation based upon faith alone in the work of God is remarkably similar to Luther and evangelical doctrine. Colet's commentary likewise affirmed the assensus and fiducia components of evangelical saving faith, or intellectual assent and trust, respectively; the notitia, or content, is likewise affirmed by Colet in his stressing of true doctrine in the same lecture. 6


In short, there was nothing novel or "speculative" with Luther's doctrine of justification. Indeed, it was the Roman Catholic church that deformationally introduced the novel and anti-biblical doctrine concerning justification disconnected from the historic, Biblical meaning, not Martin Luther 7; the Roman Catholic church was the schismatic that broke away from the true catholic church marked by adherence to Scripture.


This position regarding the Roman church as a deformed and corrupted version of Christianity is normative for Reformed theology, based upon Scriptural fidelity. Cornelius Van Til expressed it, "Only thus can those who are in the schismatic "mother church" be challenged to come into the church universal in which Christ is really supreme and really saves men from sin." 8

Sandlin yet again demonstrates that he wants nothing to do with orthodox Reformed theology, and, indeed, even his claim to be (generically) "Protestant" and evangelical is highly suspect in far too many areas, from doctrine to epistemology.


Justification by faith alone is central and crucial to the Biblical faith -- it is not peripheral or a "denominational distinctive" that can be passed over as non-essential or secondary. Luther rightly deemed it articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae -- "the article upon which the church stands or falls."


Likewise, John Calvin stated that the doctrine of justification is "the most important basis of true religion, and deserves close attention." 9 Sandlin is to be considered totally outside of the norms of Reformation theology and thought.


Note again the words of John Calvin (certainly a more significant and learned voice than Andrew Sandlin), "the most important basis of true religion". To emphasize the fact, it must be remembered that the doctrine of justification was the raison d'être of the Reformation. As such, Sandlin is essentially denouncing the Protestant Reformation as a big mistake, a huge error over a mere "denominational distinctive."


He cannot simultaneously claim to be a "proud Protestant" and also downplay or minimize the doctrine of justification to peripheral status. His postmodernism may enable him to do such a thing in his own mind in order to value "community" over truth, but logically and factually he cannot have it both ways.


In short, he cannot continue to speak out of both sides of his mouth (his postmodernism notwithstanding) and maintain any doctrinal credibility. Unless and until he repents Sandlin should be viewed as a heretic, from a Biblical and orthodox Reformed vantage point.


The crucial importance of the Reformation and the centrality of justification is well noted by Dr. Godfrey (Ph.D. Standford University), president and professor of church history at Westminster Seminary (California), "The defense of the Reformed doctrine of justification is not a nit-picking exercise in irrelevant theology". 10 Unfortunately, Sandlin evidently does view it as so much non-essential "nit-picking". Fair enough, but as Sandlin disavowed Reformed theology he should likewise stop claiming to be Protestant or evangelical in any sense.


It should be noted that justification simply wasn't a major point of controversy or central emphasis during the patristic period (the battles that raged centered on theology proper and Christology; justification had become corrupted during the Medieval period -- hence the need for the....Reformation in the sixteenth century.


However, to state or imply (in order to minimize its significance) that the Protestant articulation of justification was something novel to Luther is to place oneself outside of the facts of history and the Biblical data, particularly the Pauline epistles.


Interestingly, the Roman Catholic scholar Hans Küng conceded the historic Protestant doctrine of justification as essentially correct 11; he is not alone among Roman Catholics. The noted Roman Catholic scholar Joseph Fitzmyer in his work on the book of Romans cited Bellarmine, listing a number of patristic writers that utilized the phrase "faith alone" many centuries before Luther and the Reformation. 12


Regarding Sandlin's extolling of theological "speculation," let it be noted that "speculation" is the seedbed for every heresy and cult in history; in formulating formal doctrine there is no such thing as "good speculation" -- it has no place in the history of Reformed, Biblical orthodoxy.


Solid Biblical doctrine is derived from a sober and careful exegesis of Scripture, not "speculation." Just as an example, to those familiar with the scholars of the Westminster Assembly and the scholarly labor they underwent in their deliberations, it is not too much to note that they likely would have recoiled in horror at such a 'just so' statement from the likes of Sandlin, and would have concluded him to be less than informed and certainly no serious minister of the Christian Gospel.


Indeed, this avoidance of "speculation" in matters of Biblical doctrine was the consistent trait of the principal Reformers. In the introduction to the Lane and Osborne edition of Calvin's Institutes, editor Tony Lane correctly observed "Calvin abhorred and repeatedly attacked all useless speculation." 13


Calvin strongly stated "they measure him by their own worldly folly and instead of solid investigation, they go away and humour their curiousity with useless guesswork." 14 Martin Luther, of whom Sandlin casually credits "speculation" as the means at which he arrived at the doctrine of justification, had the following to state in sharp contradistinction of Sandlin (let us grant that Luther knew Luther better than Sandlin):


"And, to cast everything aside, even speculation, meditations, and whatever things can be performed by the exertions of the soul itself, are of no profit. One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian liberty; and that is the most holy word of God..." 15

Alister McGrath noted concerning Luther's "Theology of the Cross":


The theologia cruces is a theology of revelation, which stands in sharp contrast to speculation. God has revealed himself, and it is the task of the theologian to concern himself with God as he has chosen to reveal himself, instead of constructing preconceived notions of God which ultimately must be destroyed. 16

Walther von Loewenich likewise noted in his work on Luther, "The theology of the cross as a theology of revelation stands in sharp antithesis to speculation." 17


Sandlin's comments regarding justification by faith alone and his dismissal of this central doctrine to nothing but a "denominational distinctive" derived by "speculation" on the part of Luther display his incompetence and his fraudulent claim to be an orthodox Protestant. Thinking Christians and those holding to Reformed orthodoxy should beware of Sandlin's serious errors.



Notes1. P. Andrew Sandlin, "Heresy Inflation" d. October 14, 2005.


2. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994, p. 722.


3. Sandlin, "Heresy Inflation."

4. Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984, 1988, pp. 305-306.


5. John Colet, Romans. ed., J.H. Lupton. London: Bell and Daldy, 1873, p. 141. emphasis mine.



[Edited on 10-23-2005 by AdamM]
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
Nobody dying denying justification by faith alone see's God. Hence, all those of the past who are Christs by election and have have held contrary views prior to their death, God by His perfect grace and mercy bestows that truth prior to their demise.

Or they spend a little time in purgatory. :lol:
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Adam,

The concept of justification by faith alone was by no means new with Luther. Indeed, the ecumenically minded Roman Catholic scholar Hans Küng has in effect contended that Luther's doctrine really was fully and satisfactorily Catholic, but of course Küng himself has been rebuked by the pope.

Sidenote/digression: Woe, I have never heard this, have you read Hans Kung ? ?
Makes me want to check his work out.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I read Heckel´s essay (article). I found it very scholarly and helpful in one sense, and very disturbing in another sense. His article is very helpful in delineating Augustine´s position on justification. In fact, if you want to read something that explains Augustine´s view on justification, you can find, to my knowledge, no better treatment of it than here.

Moreover, the way he handles the views of Luther and Calvin on justification via sola fide is likewise astute, insightful, and carefully nuanced. He does show, I think to my satisfaction, that Luther and Calvin were not ready to anathematize the pre-Reformation Church in their doctrinal formulations of sola fide. Thus his treatment of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin on the subject of justification is simply put, superb.

However, I found it disturbing from the perspective of his optimism regarding Rome. His subsequent treatment of its position regarding justification suffers from a lack of the same perceptiveness, clarity, and exactness with which he treats Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. He assigns to Rome´s "œacceptance" of the Joint Declaration regarding justification and the discussions of Evangelicals and Catholics Together a status that he hasn´t established is indeed representative and/or reflective of the kind of dogmatic weight to which Rome views conciliar or papal authority with respect to doctrinal formulations. He glosses over Trent, stating that,
But Catholics do not generally treat their confessional documents like an inerrant Bible; instead, they tend to treat them contextually.
Such a statement is true if you accept the fact that many modern day Roman Catholic theologians (and apologists) have succumbed to post-modern tendencies, and do indeed subject past, official, dogmatic pronouncements to the death of a thousand qualifications. But the truth is that such statements do not reflect the official position of the Roman communion´s magisterium.

Moreover, Heckel´s insistence (which I think is helpful) in his critique of some Protestant tendencies, in which "œsola fide becomes an object of saving faith rather than Christ alone" and that "œits precise formulation was [is] not essential to know in order to be saved by the gospel" is not equally applied by his hand to Rome, which does dogmatically state that its doctrinal formulations must be believed in order to be saved. In other words, there is a great disparity of perceptiveness and astuteness between his methodological treatment of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin and hisoptimistic and/or naive treatment of Rome.

Furthermore, his essay/article virtually ignores the long list of doctrinal accretions that Rome has itself attached to the substance/essence of the gospel in making such dogmatic pronouncements regarding the papacy and Marian doctrines (perpetual virginity, immaculate conception, bodily assumption), and insisting that these dogmas must be believed in order to be saved, while at the same time affirming, in contradiction to past pronouncements, with Vatican II and John Paul II that even pagans, Muslems, and Jews can be saved apart from conversion to Jesus Christ. In other words, he takes certain Protestants to task for trying to add to the essence of the gospel, while optimistically ignoring that this is precisely what Rome itself has done.

Thus, while his treatment of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin displays a very learned and astute awareness, his optimism seems to have blinded him from offering the same kind of objectivity and evenhandedness in the way in which he deals with Rome. Again, learned accuracy prevails in his treatment of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, while naiveté prevails in his optimistic approach to Rome. There is, to be sure, an overt double-standard in his methodology, in that he does not apply to Rome the same precision with which he delineates the views of Augustine and the Reformers, as well as his critique of certain Protestants for seeking to add to the essence of the gospel.

Now, I understand that one may defend him by asserting that this was beyond the scope of his paper, but that doesn´t change the fact that it leaves the reader with a very unbalanced view of the real gap between Roman and Reformational theologies of grace, and how we come to be right with God.

DTK
 

Canadian Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Very helpful DTK.
So, as I said earlier, why will we not accept modern Augustinian and Thomist Catholics who seem to throw all dependence on God for all aspects of their salvation by continually begging for more grace. As we know like Augustine, they are asking for God to work in them what He demands of them including the gratuitous gift of perseverance in grace. They also believe that God from all eternity has chosen His elect for glory apart from any forseen merits of theirs as He has loved some men (the elect) more than others by giving them faith itself. And none of them would ever say that we are not saved by faith, they would just say that it is not by faith alone. They condemned Semi-Pelagianism at the Council of Orange. Yet again if anyone today draws back from Sola Fide they are immediately called heretics but Augustine and many of the Fathers are preserved from this anathema because we need them as stalwart defenders of Grace. We appeal to the early Councils because we need them to affirm historical evidence that Christ has fulfilled His promise of not letting the gates of Hell prevail against the Church, but we pick and choose when and why we appeal to them because we know that they did not believe much of what we believe as Reformed folks.
I know the Roman Church stumbles all over itself trying to weave together all the contradictory proclamations etc. They try to portray a monolithic united Catholic Church but because Vatican II so badly conradicts previous Canons and anathemas against us, they themselves have splintered into numerous Traditionalist groups who reject the Pope and the mother Church because of these very contradictions. But I am concerned about us, not them. I'm not talking about accepting the Roman Church as a whole. I am just trying to sort out our heritage and be consistant by granting modern equivalents of Augustine what we granted to him.
We need to be careful, if something is heresy today it had to be heresy in 400 AD as well.
Soli Deo Gloria.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Originally posted by Canadian Baptist
Very helpful DTK.
So, as I said earlier, why will we not accept modern Augustinian and Thomist Catholics who seem to throw all dependence on God for all aspects of their salvation by continually begging for more grace. As we know like Augustine, they are asking for God to work in them what He demands of them including the gratuitous gift of perseverance in grace. They also believe that God from all eternity has chosen His elect for glory apart from any forseen merits of theirs as He has loved some men (the elect) more than others by giving them faith itself. And none of them would ever say that we are not saved by faith, they would just say that it is not by faith alone. They condemned Semi-Pelagianism at the Council of Orange. Yet again if anyone today draws back from Sola Fide they are immediately called heretics but Augustine and many of the Fathers are preserved from this anathema because we need them as stalwart defenders of Grace. We appeal to the early Councils because we need them to affirm historical evidence that Christ has fulfilled His promise of not letting the gates of Hell prevail against the Church, but we pick and choose when and why we appeal to them because we know that they did not believe much of what we believe as Reformed folks.
I know the Roman Church stumbles all over itself trying to weave together all the contradictory proclamations etc. They try to portray a monolithic united Catholic Church but because Vatican II so badly conradicts previous Canons and anathemas against us, they themselves have splintered into numerous Traditionalist groups who reject the Pope and the mother Church because of these very contradictions. But I am concerned about us, not them. I'm not talking about accepting the Roman Church as a whole. I am just trying to sort out our heritage and be consistant by granting modern equivalents of Augustine what we granted to him.
We need to be careful, if something is heresy today it had to be heresy in 400 AD as well.
Soli Deo Gloria.
It is clear there are some challenges to the thesis of the author that Luther was "inventing" the doctrine of Sola Fide. I also think that, while Historical Theology is useful, some fall in the trap of making it the normative way to discern the meaning of Scripture. I'm not accusing you of that though.

That said, is it fair to posit a movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church over the centuries to provide a corrective to the doctrine of Justification? We see that in the movement, in the early Church, where some issues of the nature of the Godhead and of Christ were worked out. Would some of the ante-Nicene Fathers been willing to concede some of their faulty thinking if they had lived to work out these Creeds? I think so.

Some of the other works show conclusively that Luther did not arrive at the doctrine of Justification through mere speculation and even Hans Kung admits it to be orthodox. In the life of the Church, I believe the Reformation to be the time where the Holy Spirit raised men to bring Justification to the forefront. As some other doctrines had been worked out by controversy in centuries past, so was the Reformation the moment in Church history to wrestle with Justification.

I understand your sentiment and, on a certain level, I understand what you're saying. I don't believe I, or anyone else, knows the heart and what God has done in a man. I know I have much sin that clouds my thoughts and how I understand God.

That being said, it seems like "...the cards are on the table now." The Church has wrestled with this issue and it is one thing for the Pharisees to be arguing with Paul about circumcising Gentiles prior to the Council of Jerusalum and quite another for them to continue to argue once the Church had wrestled with the issue.

In short, I think it's one thing for Augustine, a titan of theology, to make a few errors concerning the nature of Justification and to "forgive" him. It is quite another now that the Church has discussed the whole idea of merit and to still subscribe to a view that others have shown, through the Scriptures and plain reason to be faulty. At that point, it seems like one would be holding to a view of Justification based not on Scripture but on historical theology.

[Edited on 10-23-2005 by SemperFideles]
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Canadian Baptist

So, as I said earlier, why will we not accept modern Augustinian and Thomist Catholics who seem to throw all dependence on God for all aspects of their salvation by continually begging for more grace. As we know like Augustine, they are asking for God to work in them what He demands of them including the gratuitous gift of perseverance in grace. They also believe that God from all eternity has chosen His elect for glory apart from any forseen merits of theirs as He has loved some men (the elect) more than others by giving them faith itself. And none of them would ever say that we are not saved by faith, they would just say that it is not by faith alone. They condemned Semi-Pelagianism at the Council of Orange. Yet again if anyone today draws back from Sola Fide they are immediately called heretics but Augustine and many of the Fathers are preserved from this anathema because we need them as stalwart defenders of Grace. We appeal to the early Councils because we need them to affirm historical evidence that Christ has fulfilled His promise of not letting the gates of Hell prevail against the Church, but we pick and choose when and why we appeal to them because we know that they did not believe much of what we believe as Reformed folks.
I know the Roman Church stumbles all over itself trying to weave together all the contradictory proclamations etc. They try to portray a monolithic united Catholic Church but because Vatican II so badly conradicts previous Canons and anathemas against us, they themselves have splintered into numerous Traditionalist groups who reject the Pope and the mother Church because of these very contradictions. But I am concerned about us, not them. I'm not talking about accepting the Roman Church as a whole. I am just trying to sort out our heritage and be consistant by granting modern equivalents of Augustine what we granted to him.
We need to be careful, if something is heresy today it had to be heresy in 400 AD as well.
Soli Deo Gloria.

1) I suppose I wasn't helpful enough.

2) The Council of Orange was not an ecumenical council in the eyes of Rome, hence they ascribe no sense of infallibility to it, and hence no binding nature of it.

3) I don't accept Roman Catholics as Christians at face value for the simple reason that as long as they remain in the communion of Rome, they are in a communion that does indeed demand belief in dogmatic accretions/additions to the gospel for which Heckel sought to chide Sproul. That's not to say there are no Christians within the Roman communion. It's simply to say that I refuse to grant that "blanket" affirmation; and if such folk are Christians, they are Christians in spite of Rome's teaching and not because of it. What Heckel ignores is that Rome does the very thing for which he wants to chide Dr. Sproul. At least Dr. Sproul could argue that he has biblical grounds for insisting, as he seems to do, that sola fide is the essence of the gospel, whereas Rome has no such biblical support for its dogmatic accretions.

3) I don't appeal to such ancient sources, when I cite them, because I "need them to affirm historical evidence that Christ has fulfilled His promise of not letting the gates of Hell prevail against the Church!" That is a Roman argument. And if that is true, then the gates of hell did prevail for nearly 50 years in the 4th century in terms of the Arian heresy, when as Jerome testified,
Jerome (347-420): The Church does not consist in walls, but in the truths of her teachings. The Church is there where there is true faith. As a matter of fact, fifteen and twenty years ago, all the church buildings belonged to heretics, for heretics twenty years ago were in possession of them; but the true Church was there where the true faith was. FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 46 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1964), p. 344.

Jerome (347-420): The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian. NPNF2: Vol. VI, The Dialogue Against the Luciferians, §19.
When I do appeal to them it is to demonstrate that Rome, which btw does claim these sources (consensus Patrum, conciliar authority) to be a rule of faith, is the communion that "picks and chooses" from these sources while ignoring where they rejected modern Roman accretions. The WCF (31:4) instructs us that we "are not" to make conciliar authority "the rule of faith or practice; but to be used as an help in both." So when I do appeal to ancient sources, I do so to demonstrate Rome's inconsistency in these matters, and to refute the notion that all our views are novel. Since We don't claim them as a rule of faith, we don't need to assent to everything they taught, but only that which they taught which can be embraced as supported by biblical authority.

4) Personally, I don't call Roman Catholics "heretics" for denying sola fide; I call them heretics when they affirm dogmatic accretions to the gospel as part and parcel of the gospel and necessary to be believed. I do so on the basis of Galatians 1:6-9. When they affirm extrabiblical dogmatic accretions to be part of the gospel (which they do), they are under the curse of perverting the gospel of Christ with a "different gospel."

5) I'm concerned about us too, but I would be hesitant to say---"We need to be careful, if something is heresy today it had to be heresy in 400 AD as well"---Because the question that raises in my mind when I read that sentence is, how do you think heresy is to be identified. If it can be identified as heresy today, it had to be heresy in 100 AD as well, at the end of the apostolic age. Now, to be sure, unlike Rome, I do not believe that there is any doctrinal deviation today that cannot be sufficiently addressed and answered on the basis of the inscripturated apostolic testimony. But I stress again, that when I speak with Roman Catholics about the gospel (and I have exchanged with many of them), and they affirm Rome's dogmatic accretions to the gospel, I don't grant them the status of my affirmation of them as Christians, for the simply reason they have added extrabiblical accretions to the essence of the gospel. Our Reformed heritage does not necessitate that we embrace every tenet of the post-apostolic church.

In other words, you can't consistently call Roman Catholics back to the biblical gospel while at the same embracing them as if they haven't deviated from that gospel. Perhaps, you can find some who are very ignorant of their communion's teachings, and who upon examination demonstrate their trust in Christ alone. But that is not what Rome teaches, and if we ignore that in our dealings with Roman Catholics, we do so to the impoverishment of their never-dying souls.

DTK
 

Saiph

Puritan Board Junior
Personally, I don't call Roman Catholics "heretics" for denying sola fide; I call them heretics when they affirm dogmatic accretions to the gospel as part and parcel of the gospel and necessary to be believed. I do so on the basis of Galatians 1:6-9. When they affirm extrabiblical dogmatic accretions to be part of the gospel (which they do), they are under the curse of perverting the gospel of Christ with a "different gospel."

I agree David.

In my opinion, (and that is all it is) the idolatry of RC is more damnable than the misunderstanding of justification. I agree with what Rich said above about biblical knowkedge and history. The worship of Mary by making her co-redemprtress/mediatrix etc . . . breaks the first and sencond commandments. But which commandment is broken by a faulty view of justification ? I suppose in an extreme sense it would break the same two if the individual actually believes they stand before God on the basis of their own works righteousness. But, if they follow Augustine, and say, they are justified by faith working through love, and all their righteousness is God's work in and through them, is it really that far off ? (As Calvin, Luther, Gerstner admit to it being basically reformed)

Any thoughts from the individuals who zealously affirm that sola fide is indeed the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae ?
 

Canadian Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Mark said:

But, if they follow Augustine, and say, they are justified by faith working through love, and all their righteousness is God's work in and through them, is it really that far off ? (As Calvin, Luther, Gerstner admit to it being basically reformed)

This is exactly my point. This is what I am trying to sort out.
If I gave this quote to any of our Reformed or Calvinistic Baptist Stalwarts to look at today they would immediately declare it heretical because it declares that God justifies by faith working righteousness in us rather than "extra nos" or outside of us through Christ. That is until you mention Augustine, then it is immediately qualified with "Oh, but...." and the guns are lowered.
 

Canadian Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
DTK said:

"2) The Council of Orange was not an ecumenical council in the eyes of Rome, hence they ascribe no sense of infallibility to it, and hence no binding nature of it."

Here's a quote from the Catholic site New Advent:

The acts of the council, which were signed by the bishops, the pretorian prefect Liberius and seven other distinguished laymen, were forwarded to Rome and approved by Boniface II on 25 January, 531 (see BONIFACE II). They consequently enjoy Å“cumenical authority and are printed in Denzinger's "Enchiridion Symbolorum" (10th ed., nos. 174-200).

DTK, you said:

"But I stress again, that when I speak with Roman Catholics about the gospel (and I have exchanged with many of them), and they affirm Rome's dogmatic accretions to the gospel, I don't grant them the status of my affirmation of them as Christians, for the simply reason they have added extrabiblical accretions to the essence of the gospel."

So are you basically saying that because modern Catholics are placing themselves under all the bogus declarations of dogma from the past 1500 years or so, which Augustine knew nothing about, that they are culpable?
Are they disqualified from the status of defenders of salvation by Grace Alone because they consent to all of the additional bunk the Catholic Church have added over the years? I suppose that would make some sense. Maybe we can't deal with them on the same basis as we can Augustine even if the agree with him 100%.
 

AdamM

Puritan Board Freshman
Are they disqualified from the status of defenders of salvation by Grace Alone

Do you really believe that the modern (post Trent) RC church is a defender of salvation by grace alone?

[Edited on 10-23-2005 by AdamM]
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Here's a quote from the Catholic site New Advent:

The acts of the council, which were signed by the bishops, the pretorian prefect Liberius and seven other distinguished laymen, were forwarded to Rome and approved by Boniface II on 25 January, 531 (see BONIFACE II). They consequently enjoy Å“cumenical authority and are printed in Denzinger's "Enchiridion Symbolorum" (10th ed., nos. 174-200).

DTK, you said:

"But I stress again, that when I speak with Roman Catholics about the gospel (and I have exchanged with many of them), and they affirm Rome's dogmatic accretions to the gospel, I don't grant them the status of my affirmation of them as Christians, for the simply reason they have added extrabiblical accretions to the essence of the gospel."

So are you basically saying that because modern Catholics are placing themselves under all the bogus declarations of dogma from the past 1500 years or so, which Augustine knew nothing about, that they are culpable?
Are they disqualified from the status of defenders of salvation by Grace Alone because they consent to all of the additional bunk the Catholic Church have added over the years? I suppose that would make some sense. Maybe we can't deal with them on the same basis as we can Augustine even if the agree with him 100%.

I stand corrected on Orange and I thank you. Though it is not usually included in the list of ecumenical councils, I erred. It is the confirmation of Boniface II which grants it a status of "infallibility" for Roman Catholics. But having read every article articulated by Orange, I don't think that the historic Reformed position can affirm everything that this council "decreed." I have Denzinger readily at hand, and failed to consult him.

As for your second point, it ceases to be grace alone when extrabiblical accretions are made binding on the conscience as necessary for salvation. To be sure, Rome will settle here for implicit faith in the Church, even if an intellectual grasp and/or understanding is lacking. But again, that is a shift from trust in God to a trust in the fallible decisions of men. I repeat, Rome is far more guilty of doing the same thing with which Heckel charges Sproul, and for far less commendable reasons. If I had to choose between the two, I'd rather err on the side of Sproul than glossing over all of Rome's blunders in this respect. But since I need not choose between the two, I can sympathize to some extent with his critique of Sproul, while disagreeing with the way in which he glosses over the problems with Rome's dogmatic accretions.

It seems that Heckel's article, in this respect (as I mentioned before), suffers from a glaring double-standard. And it's because of his astute perception of Augustine and the Reformers that I would tend to hold his feet to the fire all the more. On further reflection, I think he should have included in his critique another statement by Calvin that he doesn't address, nonetheless, I abide with my previous statement that he does a very perceptible treatment of Calvin. However, he simply does not treat Rome's position as carefully as he does Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, when his article makes it abundantly clear to me that he has the ability to do so. Here is a fine example of how even very capable scholarship can fall short on the grounds of prejudice, or naiveté, or a combination of the two.

Cheers,
DTK
 

Canadian Baptist

Puritan Board Freshman
Adam said:

"Do you really believe that the modern (post Trent) RC church is a defender of salvation by grace alone?"

As I stated in my previous posts, I am not defending Catholicism in general at all, nor do I think that they stand on Grace Alone as a whole. I am trying to figure out how I should see modern Augustinian and Thomistic Catholics who agree with Augustine's clear defense of Sola Gratia. The Catholic Church officially "allows" for strong adherance to Sola Gratia and Predestination among their ranks but as a whole will distance itself from these truths.

DTK said:

"But having read every article articulated by Orange, I don't think that the historic Reformed position can affirm everything that this council "decreed.""

I agree. But it seems that some Catholic writers are trying to call their church back to a condemnation of Semi-Pelagianism when they appeal to Orange and Augustine and Aquinas in this regard. Shouldn't we be using Augustine, Orange and Aquinas as reference points for Catholics who don't know their own Church's heritage on Grace? Above all, we use the scripture. However, if Sola Fide is exclusive in its Reformation sense, then we must stop using or appealing to Augustine, Aquinas, Orange etc.
 

AdamM

Puritan Board Freshman
In fact, if you want to read something that explains Augustine´s view on justification, you can find, to my knowledge, no better treatment of it than here.

Agreed.

For what it's worth, in the interest of full disclosure to my fellow board members, although we disagree on this issue, Matt (the author of the article) is a good friend and as David noted a very capable scholar.
 
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