The Justification of Robert Koons

Robert C. Koons, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas, has announced his decision to leave the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Dr Koons explains that critical to his decision has been a reevaluation of the Reformation construal of justification. He has made available a lucid analysis of the key issues: “A Lutheran’s Case for Roman Catholicism.”

Comparing the Catholic and Lutheran understandings of justification is not an easy matter, despite the confident polemics of the past four hundred and fifty years. Key terms (justification, grace, faith, merit) possess different meanings within the respective systems. As a result, the two traditions appear to agree when they do not in fact agree and to disagree when they in fact do agree. Identification of the authentic differences between the Catholic and Lutheran understandings thus requires patient and charitable analysis.

Koons argues that the difference between the Catholic and Lutheran understandings is more subtle than usually recognized:

• Is the difference one between a righteousness in us (in nobis) and a righteousness outside of us (extra nobis), or between an inherent and an imputed righteousness? As we have seen, both sides admit that we are really made righteous by God’s imputation, and both admit that this righteousness consists in a right relation to Christ.

• Does the difference consist in the issue of whether our works can be said to ‘merit’ grace and eternal life? As we have seen, both sides admit that God can be said to ‘reward’ our works with eternal life, and both admit that some of our works can be ‘means’ of grace. This amounts to our works having a kind of ‘merit’ (in the Roman sense).

• Does the difference concern the question of whether our works can play any causal role in securing our final glorification. As we have seen, both sides affirm Peter’s injunction that we do good works to make our calling secure. (2 Peter 1:10) (p. 39)

The crucial difference, Koons asserts, is grounded in the way in which each tradition construes the relation between objective and subjective justification. Both sides agree that humanity is justified by the merits of Christ alone. Both reject the Calvinist error that Christ died only for the elect. Both reject the universalist error that all will ultimately be saved. Humanity is objectively justified in Christ, yet we may not say that each individual is subjectively justified. Wherein lies the difference between the unjustified man and the justified man? What must happen to us, within us, that we may become subjectively justified?

Lutheranism identifies the justified man as he who has received the gift of faith in Jesus Christ through the preaching of the gospel. Catholicism identifies the justified man as he who has been been regenerated in the Holy Spirit and supernaturally restored to a relationship of love with the Father through the incarnate Son. Which is the superior explanation? Koons has become persuaded that the Catholic view best states the reality of our justification:

In order to be able to benefit from our objective justification, we must undergo an internal transformation that enables us to enjoy eternal life with God. Eternal life in God’s presence would be no benefit to a sinful man, whose heart and mind are at enmity with God. C. S. Lewis illustrates this fact beautifully in his masterpiece, The Great Divorce. Unregenerate people would find heaven more intolerable even than hell.

How does this internal transformation take place? It begins with faith, which is itself a free gift of God, dependent on no prior works or merits. However, merely believing God is not sufficient for being able to enjoy communion with God: faith must reach its natural end or completion, in the form of the love of God. Only when, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we begin to love God are we in a state in which we can begin to enjoy the benefits of Christ’s redemption. It is true, of course, that we never love as we ought, but neither do we ever trust as we ought. The process of sanctification is a long and gradual process: the attainment of perfection is not a prerequisite of friendship with God, but the natural result of that friendship. (p. 40)

The two positions are not in fact far apart. “The difference (faith alone versus faith completed in love),” Koons elaborates, “is a subtle one, since Lutherans admit that saving faith is never ‘alone’, that is, that it is always accompanied by an inward renewal and by good works that flow from this renewed nature and that are pleasing to God. The Scriptures describe eternal life as a reward for these good works, and without good works one’s perseverance in grace cannot be secure” (p. 39).

Yet despite the relative closeness of the two construals of justification, the confessional Lutheran continues to insist that the difference remains church-dividing. He fears that the Catholic identification of justification and regeneration undercuts our assurance before God. If to be justified is to be transformed by the Spirit, necessarily manifested in good works, are we not in fact thrown back upon ourselves and forced to trust in our deeds, thus leading to either self-righteousness or despair? But this concern, Koons says, is unwarranted, for the very nature of our regeneration disallows the attempt to secure our justification in our works:

We cannot trust in our outward works, since the merit of any work depends on its supernatural quality as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. This supernatural quality is not under our control. In the end, we must place our faith wholly in the promise of the gift of the Spirit to us for Christ’s sake. One cannot assess the merits of his own life in terms of the visible or introspectible character of one’s deeds. (p. 35)

In its own way, in other words, the Catholic construal of justification achieves the Lutheran goal of absolute reliance upon God. Like the Lutheran, the Catholic must ultimately look away from himself and throw himself upon the mercy and grace of the Father. While it is descriptively true that, in Christ and by the Spirit, our good works merit final salvation, no human being can introspectively examine himself and know with absolute certainty that the salvific description obtains. No one can see himself as God sees him. And so the Catholic, like the Lutheran, looks to the promises of Christ sealed to him in the sacraments. In this respect, Koons believes that the Catholic sacramental principle of ex opere operato actually provides a stronger basis for assurance than the Lutheran understanding of sacramental efficacy:

There is one respect in which Lutheran assurance is decidedly inferior to its Roman counterpart. Lutherans deny that the sacraments (of baptism and of absolution/penance) are effective unless the individual exercises saving faith, while Romans stipulate that the sacraments are effective unless the individual actively intends to use them for base purposes. The technical term for this dispute is ex opere operata (Romans affirm this and Lutherans deny it). The logical consequence of the Lutheran position is that I cannot be sure that I am now in a state of grace, reconciled to God, unless I am sure that I have saving faith. In contrast, the Catholic can be assured that his sins are forgiven, so long as he as not intentionally created some inner obstacle to the efficacy of the sacrament. This means that when the Catholic exercises faith or trust, the object of the trust is simply the grace and mercy of God, whereas when the Lutheran does so, he must to a certain degree rely on the quality of his own trust. This subjective, self-referential character of the Lutheran conception of trust can place a serious obstacle to one’s assurance of one’s present state of grace. To their credit, Lutheran theologians urge their laymen to direct their faith solely toward God’s faithfulness as its object, but this instruction is inconsistent with the theory that the beneficial efficacy (although not the validity) of the sacrament depends on the genuineness of the believer’s faith. (p. 36)

I’m not sure if Koons does justice here to the Lutheran position. At least as interpreted by non-Lutheran Phillip Cary, the Lutheran understanding of the gospel grounds faith in the external word and short-circuits the introspective move to reflective faith (also see Cary’s essay “Why Luther is Not Quite Protestant,” Pro Ecclesia [Fall 2005], pp. 447-486. I briefly discuss Cary’s argument in “Believe and you have it [or maybe not]”). Koons has neglected, perhaps, the Lutheran reinterpretation of sacrament as word-event: sacraments accomplish their purpose by visibly enacting the unconditional promises of the gospel. When God in Holy Baptism says to me “I love and forgive you,” I do not need to reflectively know whether I believe it or not; I just need to believe it—and in believing it I receive my assurance. Yet I also see Koons’s point, for it is descriptively true that only those who trust in Christ are in fact justified. In some sense faith is a condition for salvation, and if so, then it seems inevitable that the troubled sinner will seek to know whether that condition has been fulfilled within himself. I’ll leave it to Lutherans to defend themselves against Koons’s criticism. At a practical level, I am confident that Lutherans are in no better and no worse position than Catholics on the matter of salvific assurance. Just as Lutherans cannot determine through introspective analysis whether they in fact believe, so Catholics cannot determine through introspsective analysis whether they in fact possess the supernatural life of God. Both are ultimately compelled to cast themselves on the merciful God who slays them in baptism and raises them to new life in the eucharistic Christ. Only in the actual living of Christian discipleship, in prayer, worship, repentance, and good works, can authentic assurance be achieved. Assurance is neither abstract nor static. It is a personal knowing, and unknowing, gained through daily self-surrender to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col 3:3-4).

I also commend to you Pastor Adam Cooper’s recent response to Koon’s reflections on justification.

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~ by Fr Aidan Kimel on 4 June 2007.

56 Responses to “The Justification of Robert Koons”

  1. Welcome back, Pontificator. I’ve missed you blog the last week or so. On the new look: Nice graphic at the top, but the black background is hard on the eyes. I realize that it looks “rad” and might go along nicely with that sportscar you pictured yourself with a while back ;) , but my eyes are just too week for such things.

  2. On a light-hearted note …

    Why do RC conversion stories always include something like this phrase:

    “. . . and enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.”

    Does anybody ever announce a decision to enter into partial communion with the Catholic Church?

  3. Koons:

    Lutherans deny that the sacraments (of baptism and of absolution/penance) are effective unless the individual exercises saving faith, while Romans stipulate that the sacraments are effective unless the individual actively intends to use them for base purposes. The technical term for this dispute is ex opere operata (Romans affirm this and Lutherans deny it).

    ______________

    Interestingly, I am not so sure that Lutherans do not believe something similar here. We say that infant baptism produces faith (trust) and is valid because of faith – and assume that every baptism creates / strengthens faith.

    Pont:

    Koons has neglected the Lutheran reinterpretation of sacrament as word-event: sacraments accomplish their purpose by visibly enacting the unconditional promises of the gospel. When God in Holy Baptism says to me “I love and forgive you,” I do not need to reflectively know whether I believe it or not; I just need to believe it—and in believing it I receive my assurance. Yet I also see Koons’s point, for it is in fact descriptively true that only those who believe the gospel are in fact justified. I’ll leave it to Lutherans to defend themselves against Koons’s criticism.

    ____________

    Pont:

    I think you nail the weakness in Koon’s presentation. By the way, Rome also believes that only those who believe the Gospel are justified (or can be justified, when love is infused), right?

  4. Why do you think it is that people allow themselves to be used as props like Koons has done? Protestants do it, Catholics do it, Orthodox do it…… it is something almost common to humanity. “Look at me!” It’s juvenile. Then whatever church that landed their latest trophy puts the person on a speaking tour with a pseudo-celebrity status. I guess it gives whatever church that owns the trophy self-assurance that somehow they’re “more right” now. It lacks humility, both on the part of the trophy and the trophy-owner.

  5. Phil,

    Good question! Perhaps someone who can affirm 90% of Catholic dogma enters into “90% Communion with the Catholic Church” or something like that :).

    I think the reason many of us former Protestants speak in terms of “entering into full communion” is because we recognize the value of our protestant upbringing, and Catholic theology does grant that Protestants, on account of their baptism, are in an imperfect communion with the Catholic Church already.

  6. Pont,
    I have not read Koon’s account in full yet, but given your excellent summary, I may pass on this. By the way, I speak as a traditional Lutheran here, for those who don’t know me.
    Koons says:

    “Does the difference consist in the issue of whether our works can be said to ‘merit’ grace and eternal life? As we have seen, both sides admit that God can be said to ‘reward’ our works with eternal life, and both admit that some of our works can be ‘means’ of grace. This amounts to our works having a kind of ‘merit’ (in the Roman sense).”

    First of all, it is good Koons puts “means” in quotes in his second to last sentence. If Lutherans would say that our actions are a “means of grace” in any sense, meaning that they attain our salvation, it would be in a highly qualified sense, very distinct from the real means of grace, the Words and Sacraments which “move towards us” (action) via God’s messengers.

    Second, he is simply incorrect when he says that “both sides admit that God can be said to ‘reward’ our works with eternal life.” Koons needs to back this up his views from the Lutheran Confessions. On this issue, they say:

    “We are not agitating an idle logomachy concerning the term reward (but this great, exalted, most important matter, namely, where Christian hearts are to find true and certain consolation; again, whether our works can give consciences rest and peace; again, whether we are to believe that our works are worthy of eternal life, or whether that is given us for Christ’s sake. These are the real questions regarding these matters; if consciences are not rightly instructed concerning these, they can have no certain comfort. However, we have stated clearly enough that good works do not fulfil the Law, that we need the mercy of God, that by faith we are accepted with God, that good works, be they ever so precious, even if they were the works of St. Paul himself, cannot bring rest to the conscience. From all this it follows that we are to believe that we obtain eternal life through Christ by faith, not on account of our works, or of the Law. But what do we say of the reward which Scripture mentions?] If the adversaries will concede that we are accounted righteous by faith because of Christ, and that good works please God because of faith, we will not afterwards contend much concerning the term reward. We confess that eternal life is a reward, because it is something due on account of the promise, not on account of our merits. For the justification has been promised, which we have above shown to be properly a gift of God; and to this gift has been added the promise of eternal life, according to Rom. 8, 30: Whom He justified, them242] He also glorified. Here belongs what Paul says, 2 Tim. 4, 8: There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me. For the crown is due the justified 243] because of the promise. And this promise saints should know, not that they may labor for their own profit, for they ought to labor for the glory of God; but in order that they may not despair in afflictions, they should know God’s will, that He desires to aid, to deliver, to protect them. [Just as the inheritance and all possessions of a father are given to the son, as a rich compensation and reward for his obedience, and yet the son receives the inheritance, not on account of his merit, but because the father, for the reason that he is his father, wants him to have it. Therefore it is a sufficient reason why eternal life is called a reward, because thereby the tribulations which we suffer, and the works of love which we do, are compensated, although we have not deserved it. For there are two kinds of compensation: one, which we are obliged, the other, which we are not obliged, to render. E. g., when the emperor grants a servant a principality, he therewith compensates the servant’s work; and yet the work is not worth the principality, but the servant acknowledges that he has received a gracious lien. Thus God does not owe us eternal life, still, when He grants it to believers for Christ’s sake, that is a compensation for our sufferings and works.] Although the perfect hear the mention of penalties and rewards in one way, and the weak hear it in another way; for the weak labor for the sake of their own advantage. 244] And yet the preaching of rewards and punishments is necessary. In the preaching of punishments the wrath of God is set forth, and therefore this pertains to the preaching of repentance. In the preaching of rewards, grace is set forth. And just as Scripture, in the mention of good works, often embraces faith,—for it wishes righteousness of the heart to be included with the fruits,—so sometimes it offers grace together with other rewards, as in Is. 58, 8f , and frequently in other places in the prophets. 245] We also confess what we have often testified, that, although justification and eternal life pertain to faith, nevertheless good works merit other bodily and spiritual rewards (which are rendered both in this life and after this life; for God defers most rewards until He glorifies saints after this life, because He wishes them in this life to be exercised in mortifying the old man] and degrees of rewards, according to 1 Cor. 3, 8: Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. (For the blessed will have reward, one higher than the other. This difference merit makes, according as it pleases God; and it is merit, because they do these good works whom God has adopted as children and heirs. For thus they have merit, which is their own and peculiar, as one child with respect to another.) For the righteousness of the Gospel, which has to do with the promise of grace, freely receives justification and quickening. But the fulfilling of the Law, which follows faith, has to do with the Law, in which a reward is offered and is due, not freely, but according to our works. But those who merit this are justified before they do the Law. Therefore, as Paul says, Col. 1, 13; Rom. 8, 17, they have before been translated into the kingdom of God’s Son, and been made joint-heirs with Christ. 246]”

    I don’t think that this could be much more clear. It seems that Koons, somehow, has missed the boat.

    Incidently, the [temporal and spiritual] rewards that we receive according to our works, aren’t for us alone – they are for our neighbor:

    “If you find yourself in a work by which you accomplish something good for God, or the holy, or yourself, but not for your neighbor alone, then you should know that that work is not a good work. For each one ought to live, speak, act, hear, suffer, and die in love and service for another, even for one’s enemies, a husband for his wife and children, a wife for her husband, children for their parents, servants for their masters, masters for their servants, rulers for their subjects and subjects for their rulers, so that one’s hand, mouth, eye, foot, heart and desire is for others; these are Christian works, good in nature (Luther’s Advent Postil 1522)”

    Therefore, when Koon’s says “both admit that this righteousness consists in a right relation to Christ” he is right. The difference is that when it comes to his and his neighbor’s eternal life, i.e. His relationship with God (John 17:3), the Lutheran says Christians bank on the power of the promise alone to give it. We say Christians are able to do this because the promise gives certainty, and the faith, or trust, of a child unpretencious and unreflective as it is, grasps this promise, and hence Christ Himself. This is the fundamental, crucial difference.

    I think this all comes down to the faith of a child which refuses to be pre-saddled with either Aristotelean or Platonic transformative frameworks. Transformation certainly does occur and have consequences in the world, but it happens according to God’s framework hinted at in Scripture, which is not to be mitigated by unbiblical concepts.

    In short, in a sense, good works are necessary for salvation. But not for our salvation – we know we have a secure relationship with God through the Promise – but for our neighbor’s. Like a child, one must be willing to be nothing but given to. This is trust, not love. First a child trusts, then he loves. Love is not a condition of our initial justification, of our spiritual rebirth, but rather a fruit of it.

    Serious Lutherans affirm that our eternal life with God can be lost of course – when in unbelief we no longer desire forgiveness for stepping outside the transformed life that we have been given in Christ. We cannot trust our outward or inward works of love – we can only look to Christ.

    Therefore, I still maintain that the Lutheran view best states the reality of our justification.

  7. Every person who is truly baptized is in true communion with the only Church there is: the Catholic Church. The reality of divisions among Christians teaches us that this communion with the Church exists along a continuum of degrees of fullness, and in the contemporary texts of the sacred liturgy and canon law, the process of moving from a non-Catholic Christian communion into the Catholic Church is described as being received into full communion. This usage, while cumbersome, does justice to the reality of Christian faith and life outside the visible boundaries of the Church governed by the Bishop of Rome and the Bishops of the world who are (How else to say it?) in full communion with him.

  8. Actually, Koons may have a point. It looks like I need to read more carefully, not him:
    E. g., when the emperor grants a servant a principality, he therewith compensates the servant’s work; and yet the work is not worth the principality, but the servant acknowledges that he has received a gracious lien. Thus God does not owe us eternal life, still, when He grants it to believers for Christ’s sake, that is a compensation for our sufferings and works.
    This passage from the lengthy quote above was not in my Tappert edition of the Book of Concord. (1959). I simply assumed that what I was cutting and pasting from this website was the same. Well, it is not, and I need to find out why. In any case, I had equated “eternal life” with a “right relation” with God, and said that this was all a gift, based on John 17:3. However, the word “compensation” makes me pause here… initially, it seems that God freely gives us a relationship with Him and then, as we do works, he “compensates” us in some sense.
    I must look into this more. More later, I hope.

  9. This website = http://www.bookofconcord.org/augsburgdefense/5_love.html

  10. It’s always helpful to read a writer before critiquing him. I urge all not to rely upon my summary (which may or may not be accurate) but to read Koons himself and to engage his thought directly. Thank you.

  11. The answers on the “full communion” question were very edifying. Thanks, David Bennett and Fr. Newman.

  12. Nathan

    You said

    “Second, he is simply incorrect when he says that “both sides admit that God can be said to ‘reward’ our works with eternal life.” Koons needs to back this up his views from the Lutheran Confessions”

    Please see quote below from Lutheran Confessions

    This is from the section on Love and Fullfillment of the Law in the 240’s section

    “If the adversaries will concede that we are accounted righteous by faith because of Christ, and that good works please God because of faith, we will not afterwards contend much concerning the term reward. We confess that eternal life is a reward, because it is something due on account of the promise, not on account of our merits. For the justification has been promised, which we have above shown to be properly a gift of God; and to this gift has been added the promise of eternal life, according to Rom. 8, 30: Whom He justified, them242] He also glorified. Here belongs what Paul says, 2 Tim. 4, 8: There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me. For the crown is due the justified 243] because of the promise. And this promise saints should know, not that they may labor for their own profit, for they ought to labor for the glory of God; but in order that they may not despair in afflictions, they should know God’s will, that He desires to aid, to deliver, to protect them. [Just as the inheritance and all possessions of a father are given to the son, as a rich compensation and reward for his obedience, and yet the son receives the inheritance, not on account of his merit, but because the father, for the reason that he is his father, wants him to have it. Therefore it is a sufficient reason why eternal life is called a reward, because thereby the tribulations which we suffer, and the works of love which we do, are compensated, although we have not deserved it. For there are two kinds of compensation: one, which we are obliged, the other, which we are not obliged, to render. E. g., when the emperor grants a servant a principality, he therewith compensates the servant’s work; and yet the work is not worth the principality, but the servant acknowledges that he has received a gracious lien. Thus God does not owe us eternal life, still, when He grants it to believers for Christ’s sake, that is a compensation for our sufferings and works.]

    This explains the Catholic position exactly

  13. Glad to see Pontifications back. My sympathies for your depressive tendencies; I know from experience how miserable this can be. Try to believe me-you are better than you think, and many find your blog valuable and enlightening.

    As for the presentation of the blog, I also find it difficult to read. I don’t think it is the black background so much as the smallness and faintness of the text…in this browser, at least. (IE. I’ll try it from home on Firefox)

    I just changed it to my other monitor (we work from two at once at my job) and it comes across much sharper, yet seems almost to assault my eyes, or to invoke my astigmatism, as if degrees of brightness were moving through the letters.

    I wish you would go back to ordinary black on white. YOur blog doesn’t need a gimmick.

    Susan Peterson

  14. I wish you would go back to ordinary black on white. YOur blog doesn’t need a gimmick.

    Susan Peterson
    i>

    Hear, hear.

    Please, Fr. Kimel, it’s really a pain.

    The small text against the black background really makes for a difficult time.

  15. John ends “This explains the Catholic position exactly”.

    I disagree, although perhaps one might work some gymnastics to rescue the quote as Catholic.

    Trent states that the justified, because of infused righteousness and co-operation with God, fully satisfy the demands of the law and truly deserve eternal life: “hence it must be believed that nothing more is needed for the justified to be considered to have fully satisfied GOd’s law, according to this state of life, by the deeds they have wrought in him and to have truly deserved to gain eternal life in their time (provided they die in a state of grace) [Tanner; Session 6, chap. 16].

    Canon 32 of the same reads: “If anyone says that the good works of the justified man are the gifts of God in such a way that they are not also the good merits of the justified himself, or that the justified person himself—in the good works which are wrought by him through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ of whom he is a living member—does not truly merit an increase in grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life (if he dies in grace) and even an increase in glory: let him be anathema”

  16. “In some sense faith is a condition for salvation, and if so, then it seems inevitable that the troubled sinner will seek to know whether that condition has been fulfilled within himself. I’ll leave it to Lutherans to defend themselves against Koons’s criticism.”

    Isn’t this also the dilemma with Calvinist assurance, i.e. that those who fall away never had “real” faith?

  17. Rob Koons is one of the most respected figures at the University of Texas among Christian students – not least of all for his personal humility and grace. His words merit an honest weighing, if only because of the man who speaks them.

  18. Christopher

    The point was that Nathan objected to the point that both Catholic theology and Lutheran theology speak of “meriting” eternal life and said you must back that assertion with the Confessions.

    So my point in citing the Confessions was that on this pont of “merit” the Confessions explained the doctrine of congruent merit.

    So when the Confessions state

    “For there are two kinds of compensation: one, which we are obliged, the other, which we are not obliged, to render. E. g., when the emperor grants a servant a principality, he therewith compensates the servant’s work; and yet the work is not worth the principality, but the servant acknowledges that he has received a gracious lien. Thus God does not owe us eternal life, still, when He grants it to believers for Christ’s sake, that is a compensation for our sufferings and works.] ”

    Again this explains the position of the Catholic doctrine of Merit. I did not say that justification in Catholic and Lutheran teaching is the same only that when it pertains to merit, according to the Confessions there should be no issue with a statement that we merit etranl life ( as understood as the Confessions explain and Trent explains).

    Before you go on to other quotes from Trent..do you agree that the Confessions in this section teach that we merit eternal life as “compensation for our sufferings and works” If you do that is why I said this explains the position of Catholic theology…I should have been more specific in stating that this teaches the same doctrine of merit.

    So again before we go on to other Trent quotes do you agree?

    Grace and Peace

    This explains the Catholic position exactly

  19. Christopher

    typo on the comment…the last sentence was copied and I did not see it..it should have ended in Grace and Peace

  20. John,

    Great to talk with you. FYI, I can’t comment again until at least Monday.

    I think Christopher Malloy is right when he says these positions are not exactly the same.

    Also, Pontificator is right about Koon’s not fully understanding the Lutheran position about “assurance”. Lutherans, like Catholics, say that those with true faith can fall away and be lost eternally.

    Back to your point in citing the Confessions I cited. You said to Christopher that it was on this pont of “merit” that the Confessions explained the doctrine of congruent merit. I initially thought the same, and wrote the following to a good, knowledgeable (esp. early church), wise pastor friend:

    As best I can tell this is *somewhat* similar to the Catholic concept of congruous merit, which is rewarded not because of *intrinsic necessity or because of any creature’s deservedness, but because of God’s love.* However, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia (under “merit”), “In the case of congruous merit, to withhold the reward *involves no violation of right and no obligation to restore, it being merely an offense against what is fitting or a matter of personal discrimination”* and “owing to its inadequacy and the lack of intrinsic proportion between the service and the recompense, *claims a reward only on the ground of equity.”* (end of message to pastor friend)

    The point, I think, is that Lutherans believe Christians never claim a reward “on the ground of equity” with God, nor to we bother talking about the *possibility* about whether or not God would have committed an offense had he not compensated us for our work. On the contrary, we never say we deserve any temporal or spiritual reward or gift (including eternal life), but that “we are only unworthy servants.” With Trent, on the other hand, there is still a sense in which we “deserve it”.

    Again, the real problem in our mind, I think, with the Roman system is that Rome thinks its OK to postulate regarding the *possibility of whether or not God would have committed an offense, if…*

    Do you understand why for the Lutheran this thought is dangerous – because we believe it feeds into man’s tendency to rationalize (get overly philosophical) due to a continual desire to justify himself?

    How different all of this is from the faith of a child, it seems to me.

    Having said the above, I can say that one thing we know for sure is that God certainly felt *compelled by love* as a parent to redeem and forgive us – and He even commands that we do the same! In fact, I would argue that love – the continual desire to remain in relationship (I Cor. 13) – is the moral structure of the universe due to His Triune nature fully revealed in the incarnation.

    Let’s recap.

    John, you said: “Again this explains the position of the Catholic doctrine of Merit. I did not say that justification in Catholic and Lutheran teaching is the same only that when it pertains to merit, according to the Confessions there should be no issue with a statement that we merit eternal life ( as understood as the Confessions explain and Trent explains).”

    Christopher Malloy, on the other hand, quoted Trent: “Trent states that the justified, because of infused righteousness and co-operation with God, fully satisfy the demands of the law and truly deserve eternal life: “hence it must be believed that nothing more is needed for the justified to be considered to have fully satisfied GOd’s law, according to this state of life, by the deeds they have wrought in him and to have truly deserved to gain eternal life in their time (provided they die in a state of grace) [Tanner; Session 6, chap. 16].”

    So John, the statement that the Confessions in this section “teach that we merit eternal life as ‘compensation for our sufferings and works’” is problematic.

    I say this: .I am beginning to sense *yet again* that all of this comes down to the matter of certainty of salvation, and not much else. I think Luther was right to insist that the word of absolution delivers justification, and hence certainty, to the man who is ungodly (Rom 4:5-8) – that it really does give “peace” with God. In this model however, at the same time, there is a sense in which our “blood-bought, spirit-wrought” *works of love*, *fully covered in Christ*, really are rewarded with eternal life – however, by definition, these are works that are performed *not for our own sake or salvation, but for our neighbor’s*. (There is absolutely no demanding, no “tit-for-tatting”, “quid-pro-quoing”, no making God’s work predictably dependent on my own, no saying I am a worthy servant, no even thinking for a minute that, “if God were to… He would offend” – we simply accept all His multi-faceted Goodness, forgiveness, works and assignments, etc. freely as children). This is precisely because, due to the promise, we operate with certainty *now* while not being unaware of the fact that our future depends on whether or not we step outside of the life we now have been *freely given* in Christ. What do we have that we have not received? (end)

    So let me revise what I said in the post above with some crucial “now” words:

    “the Lutheran says Christians bank [now] on the power of the promise alone to give eternal life. We say Christians are able to do this because the promise gives certainty, and the faith, or trust, of a child unpretencious and unreflective as it is, grasps this promise, and hence Christ Himself. This is the fundamental, crucial difference.

    I think this all comes down to the faith of a child which refuses to be pre-saddled with either Aristotelean or Platonic transformative frameworks. Transformation certainly does occur and have consequences in the world, but it happens according to God’s framework hinted at in Scripture, which is not to be mitigated by unbiblical concepts.

    In short, in a sense, [now is the moment that] good works are necessary for salvation. But not for our salvation – we know [now that] we have a secure relationship with God through the Promise – but for our neighbor’s. Like a child, one must [at this very moment] be willing to be nothing but given to. This is trust, not love. First a child trusts, then he loves. Love [rather], is not a condition of our initial justification, of our spiritual rebirth, but rather a fruit of it.”

    Again, the maxim of the Christian is this: “One must be willing to be nothing but given to”. God was not obligated to create or save anyone. But compelled by love alone, He has freely done that for the world. It really could not be otherwise, not because I force Him into this, but because this is what He reveals to us. And He demands this same kind of forgiveness from me, even as He is still merciful when I fall short.

    All this said, let me emphasize that I want to interpret others charitably. And I have no doubt that Lutherans and Catholics have much to learn from one another. Vatican II certainly emphasized that.

    Also, I believe the fact that a Roman Catholic could read Melanchton’s Apology to the Augsburg Confession and think that it is compatible with conservative Roman Catholicism today is a testimony to the influence of Lutheranism in the Church. Let us remember, that the Apology was utterly rejected and Rome strongly felt the need to “correctly” reframe things at Trent, as Christopher has demonstrated.

    My pastor friend thinks we are still on very different wavelengths as well when it comes to our systematic understandings of the life we have been freely given in Christ.
    Of Koon’s paper, he says:

    -it is impressive (in that it deals with Lutheranism much more than many have bothered)

    -it is still inadequate because, for example…

    -He uncritically goes with the new understanding of Paul (I suggest Andrew Das as a good antidote here)

    – “he does not really engage Luther, nor Chemnitz, nor even Scaer for that matter. All are
    simply set up as straw men that are set up and then knocked down.”

    – he does not admit to proposing the 13th century Thomistic/Aristotelian synthesis
    which is Trent, while at the same time, charging Lutheranism with innovation.

    – He does not treat the existence of Eastern Orthodoxy,

    -he does not treat Rome’s own hermeneutic for reading the fathers

    -he does not address the battles between councils and popes, etc.

    -he does not adequately represent Lutheran positions on various doctrines (such as the canon—which even among Lutherans, is treated not simplistically as he asserts.

    – Even asking the question as to “virtue”, as to why we must
    discuss Pauline theology in view of the concept of “virtue” should cause red flags to shoot up immediately.

    – Re: shared terminology: the meaning of the vocabulary and concepts used to explain the terminology differs as well as terminology itself

    – Koons shapes the conversation using Thomistic philosophy of the middle ages, assumeing that that language, and those ideas, are objective measures

    -Christian theology, in no way needs to conform to midevieval philosophy, or any philosophy, for that matter.

    -therefore, any discussion must return to the Scriptures, as the
    Scriptures understand themselves, and not how they are to be
    understood in some Aristotelian system.

    Melanchton, though being very bold at times, was still was open to talking with Rome. Luther, after a certain point, was not, I think. We all have our faults, but I think Luther’s blast vs. the Pope in the Smalcald articles, showed not one ounce of pity for the Pope and the Magisterium, but *seemed to* demonize them without redemption (I think in truth, he did love them, and desperately wanted them to repent) – and I struggle with this. It does not seem to me the way of Christ who is the definition of I Cor 13…

    But then again, Luther never would claim to be a worthy servant.

    Where do we go from here? Pontificator, you have often said of salvation that “we can earn to lose it”? Could you explain a little more specifically what you mean by that?

  21. Also, Pontificator is right about Koon’s not fully understanding the Lutheran position about “assurance”. Lutherans, like Catholics, say that those with true faith can fall away and be lost eternally.

    should read:

    Also, Pontificator is right about Koon’s not fully understanding the Lutheran position about “assurance”. *And* Lutherans, like Catholics, say that those with true faith can fall away and be lost eternally.

  22. “In short, in a sense, [now is the moment that] good works are necessary for salvation. But not for our salvation – we know [now that] we have a secure relationship with God through the Promise – but for our neighbor’s. Like a child, one must [at this very moment] be willing to be nothing but given to. This is trust, not love.”

    Do we have a secure relationship? I think not. A relationship goes two ways. To be a child in the relationship is to do the will of the Father. If one choses not to love and so not work, is not the relationship severed? Regardless of initial justification, I don’t think trust without love is ultimately sufficient for salvation.

  23. John:

    On your last point, I quite agree. God’s peace. As for Melanchthon on merit, that is a complicated business, but suffice it to say that I think, no, he would not want to be read the way you read him. You read him charitably. I wish to read him accurately but without being uncharitable, not that you wish to be inaccurate of course. (Perhaps we simply disagree; that’s all I’m saying.) He seems to teach this: that although eternal life is not promised to works but to faith alone, yet, a man having done works, his works might be “said” to be recompensed by the eternal life that is in fact given solely because of faith in the promise, on account of the sole merits of Christ. Notice that Trent refers to promise twice: once linking it with initial justification; again, linking it with free works done by those already justified. This is to make “second justification” a furthering of “first justification”, a furthering that to many Protestants is contrary to faith. Of course, there are many other Protestants.

    Peace,

  24. Welcome back, Father Ponty! But oy, that white type on the black background—my poor eyes ain’t what they used to be. :)

  25. John: Do we have a secure relationship? I think not. A relationship goes two ways. To be a child in the relationship is to do the will of the Father. If one choses not to love and so not work, is not the relationship severed? Regardless of initial justification, I don’t think trust without love is ultimately sufficient for salvation.

    Christopher Malloy: On your last point, I quite agree. God’s peace.

    It seems both of you are missing my point here. My point is that genuinely good works that please God are the result of a child-like trust that does not presently fear God’s retribution, but rather has confidence in His love in Christ that covers all our sins and even “good” works (which we often realize are tainted by horrible, ungodly motives). In other words, we trust that because of His doing, we, at the present, HAVE *peace with God*, therefore we do good works. If you say anything else, you necessarily exclude peace with God – this stable relationship – and throw people back on whether they now have done enough or done this or that well enough to maintain (continually *deserve*) that relationship.

    When a man who sees that he is evil is absolved by God’s shaliach (messenger), He is justified *freely* by grace apart from works and has peace with God (Rom 4:5-8), period (this is not talking about initial justification, but *continual justification*, as the man described in verses 7 and 8 is *David*, who was a believer).

    In all of this, notice what is NOT being denied here. The Lutheran does not deny that it is important that our thoughts, words, and deeds do not need to be compatible, or in harmony with, the moral structure of the universe which is dependent on the love of the Triune God – they do – I would argue even more so than the R.C.!

    Let me make this even more clear. We trust we have full forgiveness, peace with God, transformation in, with, and through Christ, and that apart from Him *(His life, as He lived on earth and as He works in us now)* there simply is *no life* but only spiritual death. There may be “life”, but not the life that is “truly life” (I Tim 6).

    The Lutheran doctrine of justification has cosmic implications and is not disconnected from the transformation of the world. On the contrary, one must be willing to be nothing but given to, and God’s means of grace that do the giving always come through *persons*. In general, God works through *transformed* persons to do this.

    People do not understand that Lutheran theology is not based on “the truths of philosophy”, but rather the concern to be pastoral to people in their personal circumstances – in addition to the truth, “what do we have that we have not received”.

  26. Nathan,
    “Security” and “a stable relationship” imply a time element. If you’re only secure and stable in the moment, you’re neither. The fact is that over time, people and relationships are subject to change. They are not stable and experience says that a good relation one moment can easily go bad the next. Few of us really behave like good children and many like to believe that they are the adult in the relationship with God.

    If you agree that justification is continual and that thoughts, words and deeds must be compatible, is there distinction without a difference?

  27. Hello Nathan

    You said

    “John: Do we have a secure relationship? I think not. A relationship goes two ways. To be a child in the relationship is to do the will of the Father. If one choses not to love and so not work, is not the relationship severed? Regardless of initial justification, I don’t think trust without love is ultimately sufficient for salvation.”

    Two things on this point

    1. Security. YES we do have security…” for I am convinced that neither death, nor famine..nor anything can separate us from the love of God in Christ” Paraphrasing Romans

    2. If you really believe that trust without love is not sufficient for salavtion than you have quite honestly repudiated the Lutheran position. That is the crux of everything form the Lutheran position ( i have studied, teh confessions, Chemnitz Examen, Cemnitz Loci, Gerhard, and was the staunchest Lutheran). Lutherans officialy teach that faith alone justifies, meaning that ONLY faith as receiving the promise of the gospel justifies APART from love.

    See Solid Declaration

    43] But James speaks, as the Apology says, concerning the works of those who have already been justified through Christ, reconciled with God, and obtained forgiveness of sins through Christ. But if the question is, whereby and whence faith has this, and what appertains to this that it justifies and saves, it is false and incorrect to say: Fidem non posse iustificare sine operibus; vel fidem, quatenus caritatem, qua formatur, coniunctam habet, iustificare; vel fidei, ut iustificet, necessariam esse praesentiam bonorum operum; vel bona opera esse causam sine qua non, quae per particulas exclusivas ex articulo iustificationis non excludantur. That is: That faith cannot justify without works; or that faith justifies or makes righteous, inasmuch as it has love with it, for the sake of which love this is ascribed to faith [it has love with it, by which it is formed]; or that the presence of works with faith is necessary if otherwise man is to be justified thereby before God; or that the presence of good works in the article of justification, or for justification, is needful, so that good works are a cause without which man cannot be justified, and that they are not excluded from the article of justification by the particulae exclusivae: absque operibus etc., that is, when St. Paul says: without works. For faith makes righteous only inasmuch as and because, as a means and instrument, it lays hold of, and accepts, the grace of God and the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel.

    The bottom line in the article of justification I found is this….IF you believe that Christ established a Church or that he would be with his followers until the end of time, and if you beleive this Church has authority (from Christ) to establish the canon and to defend itself against Arians, Euonomians, Marcion and all the other heretics, and IF the church has done so and codified extremely important doctrines for the faith such as the Holy Spirit being God, The two natures and so on, and if these declarations of the Church were the guidance of the Holy Spirit according to Christ’s promise that the gates of Hades would not prevail….

    THAN

    How could it be that the this article of justification…the “article on which the church stands or falls”…how could this article have been interperted incorrectly for 1600 yrs?

    Not one council dealt with justification as Defined by The BoC (the declarion of righteousness imputed to the believer in the merits of Christ soley by faith alone without love or an actual transformation, althouth the transformation logically flows from this)

    The church knew of no doctrine for 1600 yrs. Even Chemnitz in his Loci states that none of the fathers could teach about justification. He laments Augsutine ” who was the best of the fathers” and says he did not understand the proper understanding of grace or could teach justification properly.

    So on the artcile on which the church stands or falls…the Lutheran understanding is that the church fell for 1600 yrs??

    I just could not end of reconciling this. I would cull the fathers like Chrysostom and find quotes that woudl defend my case (Lutehran) all the while avoiding all the other commnents on justification being transformational.

    It took me (the Holy Spirits guidance) to take a step back and say…” If the entire church taught justification as transformational and did not teach imputaion alone as justification, and they were correct in Christ being of one essence with the Father, that the Holy Spirit is God, that Christ has two wills etc, etc…maybe just maybe they had justification right all along” So what i did is read the fathers to see why they did not see a conflict with faith and works and faith and love as justification.

    Just my exeperienece

    Grace and Peace

  28. John,

    It is true that the man who converts on his death bed who dies does not have the love of God in his heart – he has the beginnings of such love, for sure. However, it is not this love that constitutes his acceptance before God. It is God’s declaration that He is just (which certainly changes him, but this is not the point) – and His reception of such a declaration in faith, that constitutes his acceptance before God.

    Almost every Lutheran pastor I know would be able to articulate this, which as I have said, is said as it is because all theology is for proclamation – the comfort of sinners, that they may be filled with confidence and joy in God, and to do good works.

    As I said, the Lutheran has confidence of his salvation now, and therefore does good works. He is not unaware however, that he has been freely given a life in Christ and that by stepping out of this life he has been given, he steps out of God’s purposes for him, endangering his salvation. He also believes – trusts that He is transformed only in Christ, and not by stepping outside this life that has been freely given, received in faith. So how have I then repudiated the Lutheran position?

    I understand your argument about Church history. I can’t go into a detailed response now, but I have done so in the past on Pontifications, dealing precisely with these issues – in great depth. In short, it is not Rome’s understanding, but rather something like this understanding of the Christian life (which I have outlined above) that is implicit in the early church (in some fathers, like Cyril of Alexandrai, much more than others), “novelty” is no argument vs. the truth of Scriptures, size doesn’t matter, and in Luther, one simply has “Athanasius vs. the world” taken to the next degree, as God further refines and tests those who are His own (the remnant, scattered throughout Christendom, but concentrated in the Churches of the Augustana) for the sake of the whole world. In this framework, Lutheranism is the true doctrinal development which simply means we are better realizing what the Scriptures say all along – and which we have continuously, to this or that degree, suppressed. Having faith like a child is not an easy thing. We say, wanting to justify ourselves, “who is my neighbor”, and God points us what the Neighbor looks like, shutting us up and condemning the whole world before Him, that He might have mercy on them all.

    In any case, those more detailed threads are “Privately judging justification” and “Parasitic Catholicism”. I am not sure how to get to those links now.

  29. It is true that the man who converts on his death bed who dies does not have the love of God in his heart – he has the beginnings of such love, for sure. However, it is not this love that constitutes his acceptance before God. It is God’s declaration that He is just (which certainly changes him, but this is not the point) – and His reception of such a declaration in faith, that constitutes his acceptance before God.

    should say:

    It is true that the man who converts on his death bed has the love of God in his heart – he has the beginnings of such love, for sure. However, it is not this love that constitutes his acceptance before God. It is God’s declaration that He is just (which certainly changes him, but this is not the point) – and his reception of such a declaration in faith, that constitutes his acceptance before God.

  30. John said:

    “Security” and “a stable relationship” imply a time element. If you’re only secure and stable in the moment, you’re neither. The fact is that over time, people and relationships are subject to change. They are not stable and experience says that a good relation one moment can easily go bad the next. Few of us really behave like good children and many like to believe that they are the adult in the relationship with God.

    If you agree that justification is continual and that thoughts, words and deeds must be compatible, is there distinction without a difference? (end)

    John, I am sorry I missed this post before. There is a huge difference here. Namely in one system, I think *it is inevitable* that our acceptance must continually be constituted by our love for God, according to what He tells us to do: Do you do this purely enough? Do you to enough of this? If you do, take heart, because God would not be equitable and would offend if he refuses you – He is just!

    In the other system, it is it continually constituted by our trust in what God says: do you call this thing that God calls sin, “sin”? – do you call this *free* forgiveness (love continually seeking reconciliation) grace? If so, take heart, because you have a Savior who has brought you to this knowledge! God is the friend of sinners!

    This is not to say that thoughts like these will be explicit in our minds constantly, but *when we do think about how God preserves us*, I think we will think according to these lines – and it will influence how we react to the Law whose purpose is to condemn us (shut us up) and the Gospel (free gift, apart from anything in us).

    If you do not think my portrayal of the results of the RC system is fair, I would like to understand better why you say so.

  31. Nathan,
    I don’t see this as pitting grace against “the Law”. Rather I see Christ putting the Law and our relationship to it in its proper perspective, a la grace. The law is no longer a contract, but how to live the relationship. It’s the relationship that lives and dies, and its death is solely in our hands. A few posts back you tied trust to justification and said that love follows. My first thought was where do I stand in the interim? If I die in trust of God, but do not love Him, is salvation mine? I think not. I think even the demons know that God is trustworthy, but they still hate Him.

  32. Nathan,
    By the way, lowercase john and uppercase John are not the same people.

  33. The is the uppercase John

    Nathan

    You said

    So how have I then repudiated the Lutheran position?

    Becuase of your other statement that said

    “Regardless of initial justification, I don’t think trust without love is ultimately sufficient for salvation.”

    This is Catholic doctrine.

    Trent states

    CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

    the Boc and Lutherans teaches that we ARE justified to the exclusion of love

    43] But James speaks, as the Apology says, concerning the works of those who have already been justified through Christ, reconciled with God, and obtained forgiveness of sins through Christ. But if the question is, whereby and whence faith has this, and what appertains to this that it justifies and saves, it is false and incorrect to say: That faith cannot justify without works; or that faith justifies or makes righteous, inasmuch as it has love with it, for the sake of which love this is ascribed to faith [it has love with it, by which it is formed]; or that the presence of works with faith is necessary if otherwise man is to be justified thereby before God; or that the presence of good works in the article of justification, or for justification, is needful, so that good works are a cause without which man cannot be justified, and that they are not excluded from the article of justification by the particulae exclusivae: absque operibus etc., that is, when St. Paul says: without works. For faith makes righteous only inasmuch as and because, as a means and instrument, it lays hold of, and accepts, the grace of God and the merit of Christ in the promise of the Gospel.

    John

  34. John,
    “Regardless of initial justification, I don’t think trust without love is ultimately sufficient for salvation.” was my statement, not Nathans.

  35. John,

    Don’t sweat the mistake!

    john,

    Now is not the place to argue over exegesis of James 2 but surely you know Lutherans do not believe that true faith / belief / trust is being discussed in any sense there, but rather deals with believing that God exists. In short, the whole point here is that it is only evil people who sense they do not love God who needs Jesus. Others need not apply. In the end, Lutherans believe it is our neighbor who needs our good works – i.e. the Confession of Christ, the fearless proclamation of the Word, and a merciful disposition which absorbs the neighbors wrongs (as Christ did ours). The forgiveness of God freely flows through us to our neighbor – or, we are telling Jesus we don’t want this life – His life – our life – that He has given us, or that we don’t want His forgiveness for not wanting this life that He has given us.

  36. Sorry – incomplete thoughts – so, God does not need our love and acts of devotion, but desires us in full confidence that we are secure with Him, to move our towards our neighbor. One way we do this that we often don’t consider is by attending the public reading of the Word – sitting at Christ’s feet, receiving His Words. Even this can be done for our neighbor’s benefit – when they see the geniuine, tender devotion that we have for our Savior who gave Himself up for our sakes that we might be His own.

  37. “…so, God does not need our love and acts of devotion, but desires us in full confidence that we are secure with Him…”

    So, are you saying that there are or can be souls in heaven that trust God, but do not love Him? That’s the heart of the issue. Can there even be souls in heaven that both love God and yet continue to will evil as they do on Earth? I say no! I agree that God needs nothing from us, but that doesn’t mean WE don’t need to love as well as trust.

  38. john,

    No, that’s not going to happen. Again, anyone who is a Christian has the beginnings of transformation, and this transformation will be complete in heaven – at least, that seems to be what the Scriptures say.

    Again, what’s the key point here? All theology is not for proclamation and not for any other use – its for people who know they are sinners. God uses words to love sinners. The sermon loves sinners. When the pastor absolves the sinner, God is loving the sinner – God is doing that which creates and strengthens faith – even as we, insofar as we are old men, continue to act like rational adults who justify themselves as opposed to children who are willing to be nothing but given to.

  39. All theology is not for proclamation and not for any other use

    should be:

    All theology is for proclamation and not for any other use

    (sorry I keep making these errors)

  40. Nathan,
    If anyone who is Christian has the beginnings of transformation, does that transformation necessarily include love, i.e. where do you see faith/trust/transformation without love in a Christian? If you agree that no one can enter heaven without love, where does that leave trust alone? Works are nothing more than love in action.

    Who said all theology is for proclamation and not for any other use?? I’m not familiar with this scripture passage??

  41. john,

    Now I am confused. What else do you think theology is for if not proclamation for the whole world, including particular sinners?

    john said:

    If you agree that no one can enter heaven without love, where does that leave trust alone? Works are nothing more than love in action.

    Since I believe all theology is for people and their spiritual lives, I am not saying that no one CAN enter heaven without love, but am saying that there no one who enters heaven will have failed to be transformed by the love of God. You may think that this too sounds like a distinction without a difference, but I think if you consider it for a while, you will understand how huge a difference this is.
    Who said all theology is for proclamation and not for any other use?? I’m not familiar with this scripture passage??

  42. Updated (how sincere was my repentance?)

    john,

    Now I am confused. What else do you think theology is for if not proclamation for the whole world, including particular sinners?

    john said:

    If you agree that no one can enter heaven without love, where does that leave trust alone? Works are nothing more than love in action. (end)

    Since I believe all theology is for people and their spiritual lives, I am not saying that no one CAN enter heaven without love, but am saying that no one who enters heaven will have failed to be transformed by the love of God. You may think that this too sounds like a distinction without a difference, but I think if you consider it for a while, you will understand how huge a difference this is.

  43. You dance around the question. If you are not saying that no one can enter heaven without love, are you saying that love must exist in the hearts of those who do? Is that what you mean by “transformed by the love of God”? If so, faith alone is not enough, which is what James says and what Trent says. If charity/love and its good works are for neighbor only, how does one give what one does not already possess? If one merely trusts in the promise, but has not love to go with it, isn’t that treating the promise as if it were a contractual relationship? Isn’t that tantamount to living under the Law?

  44. Dancing? John, I am trying as best I can to explain… We could probably go around forever here. Surely you know that Lutherans have always said faith is never alone, meaning that of course when one comes to faith they have love in their heart. We have eternal life *now* and when we trust Christ we have the love of God in our heart. The point is that it is not our love for God that constitutes our acceptance before God, but God’s love for us that does by declaring us righteous by grace through faith for Christ’s sake. Such is God’s way towards sinners (Rom 4:5-8, 17). As to your example, a child does not receive this love via trust like a “contractual relationship”. As I have said, this does not mean our love is unimportant or unnecessary *for the life of the world*. Our love – which is now found only in Christ – is necessary for the sake of our neighbor’s salvation – not our own. The whole framework by which you are operating suggests that God has created the cosmos such that it is our actions that constitute our acceptance before Him, and that if He were to not reward these meritorious works, that He would not be being equitable and would offend. I say, “No, it is His gracious action, which we receive like a child, willing to be nothing but given to.” We personally have nothing to give Him, but He has chosen to work for us for the sake of our neighbor. What can we do then? Not believe. Not trust Him. Reject the gift.

  45. I commend to all the Ignatius Insight interview with Christopher Malloy.

  46. Nathan

    Here is where I believe the issue to be…you state that it is not OUR love for God the constitutes our acceptance but Gods Love for us be DECLARING us righteous.

    Here is the crux…..Lutherans teach that our justification consists SOLELY in this declaration APART from Love. God credits us the merits of Christ and so we are justfied extrinsically.

    The Catholic teaching is that God declares us righteous by UNITING us and IMPARTING to us Christ himself.

    Do you think we can be saved by God declaring us righteous extrinsically without love?

    The second point is you may be getting bogged down in the Law/Gospel distinction…anything to do with Love is the law so that nothing about Love can consitute our rightouesness before God, Lutherans teach.

    When Catholic Doctrine says that we are justified by faith formed by love…it is NOT OUR love that is our rightouesness before God but Gods love “shed abroad in our hearts”

    Lutherans separate our works and our love as if we stand before God with our own love…

    Our love we have is Gods love for us and you could almost say our faith and love are hypostatically united together (like the divine and human nature of Christ)

    It is no longer I that live but Christ that lives in me….

    So when Catholic teaching states that Love is essential for salvation all it means is no one can be saved without actually partaking of Christ and being united to him…Romans 8 does not say “to those who are credited with Christ’s rightouesness, there is now therefore no condemnation” it states “for those IN Christ”

    So to summarize your statement….

    The Catholic teaching using your structure woudl be

    it is not OUR love for God the constitutes our acceptance but Gods Love for us by uniting us to Christ and actually imparting to us Christ’s rightouesness.

    Thoughts?

    Uppercase John (former Lutheran)

  47. John,

    Justification consists in God’s declaration apart from our love for God, not His for ours. No, we are not declared righteous apart from God’s love. God’s love in Christ is why He declares us righteous with His powerful, life-giving Word. It is this declaration that constitutes our righteousness before Him, and the new man who lives by faith.

    John, there is a sense in Catholic doctrine that it is OUR love which works and constitutes our acceptance before God. I am quite sure about that. In the RC system, God makes salvation possible through the infusion of grace which we cooperate with to attain final salvation by our works of love. This produces the lack of certainty I mentioned before.

    I understand you don’t want to give up being Catholic, but I think you need to accept that what you are saying is not really Catholic teaching and Christopher Malloy could second that.
    Justification does not preclude our being put in Christ.

    However, it is not the love of Christ or Christ’s righteousness in us that constitutes our acceptance before God, but His declarative word.

    Again, Lutherans insist on this because all theology is pastoral theology for the comfort of sinners – that they might do true works of love in confidence and joy.

  48. “Surely you know that Lutherans have always said faith is never alone, meaning that of course when one comes to faith they have love in their heart….The point is that it is not our love for God that constitutes our acceptance before God.”

    What then is “sola fide” if not faith alone? You seem to be saying that love is incidental to justification and salvation, yet you agree that no one enters heaven without it. Why spread love and charity to others if it as unnecessary for them as it is for you? Can it be that your definition of faith tacitly assumes the love/charity which Catholics say is also necessary? You treat our love as something apart from God’s, when in fact it is sourced in God. It is God’s life in us. If we don’t have His life in us, we don’t have Him.

  49. Nathan

    >>>John, there is a sense in Catholic doctrine that it is OUR love which works and constitutes our acceptance before God. I am quite sure about that. >>>>>

    It IS our Love but you are separating our Love from Gods love…they are united “hypostatically” So is it Gods love or grace…YES..is it our Love or good work…YES

    But these two are united. Take for intance St Paul when he says in 1 Cor 15

    1 Corinthians 15 [Commentary]

    10. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

    You see St Paul saying is it Gods grace that he is what he is YES…did HE labor or do good works or love…YES….YET NOT I but the grace of God

    That is Catholic teaching as is St Augustine when he says

    In Grace and Free Will

    6. 15: “If then your merits are God’s gifts, God does not crown your merits as your merits, but as His gifts

    Ep. 154, 5. 16: “What then is the merit of man before grace by which merit he should receive grace? Since only grace makes every good merit of ours, and when God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing else but His own gifts.”

    You said
    >>>>I understand you don’t want to give up being Catholic, but I think you need to accept that what you are saying is not really Catholic teaching and Christopher Malloy could second that.>>>>>

    What I have said and St Paul and St Augustine have said is all Catholic teaching, that has been taught from the beginning to now.

    Grace and Peace

  50. Nathan

    One other thing to show what john and I have been saying is Catholci. Please review these canons from the Council of Orange. This is official Cathoilc teaching.

    The Council of Orange
    A controversy needed to be settled between the heresy of Pelagius and the orthodoxy of Augustine. This was the final result.

    The Canons of the Council of Orange (circa 529 AD)

    CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was “changed for the worse” through the offense of Adam’s sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20); and, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?” (Rom. 6:16); and, “For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19).

    CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam’s sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

    CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

    CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

    CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

    CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

    CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, “Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).

    CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him “unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

    CANON 9. Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.

    CANON 10. Concerning the succor of God. The succor of God is to be ever sought by the regenerate and converted also, so that they may be able to come to a successful end or persevere in good works.

    CANON 11. Concerning the duty to pray. None would make any true prayer to the Lord had he not received from him the object of his prayer, as it is written, “Of thy own have we given thee” (1 Chron. 29:14).

    CANON 12. Of what sort we are whom God loves. God loves us for what we shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving.

    CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

    CANON 14. No mean wretch is freed from his sorrowful state, however great it may be, save the one who is anticipated by the mercy of God, as the Psalmist says, “Let thy compassion come speedily to meet us” (Ps. 79:8), and again, “My God in his steadfast love will meet me” (Ps. 59:10).

    CANON 15. Adam was changed, but for the worse, through his own iniquity from what God made him. Through the grace of God the believer is changed, but for the better, from what his iniquity has done for him. The one, therefore, was the change brought about by the first sinner; the other, according to the Psalmist, is the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps. 77:10).

    CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus, “For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Gal. 2:21); and “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8, quoting Ps. 68:18). It is from this source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it from this source either does not truly have it, or else “even what he has will be taken away” (Matt. 25:29).

    CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which “has been poured into our hearts” not by freedom of will from our own side but “through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

    CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

    CANON 19. That a man can be saved only when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound state in which it was created, could be no means save itself, without the assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safe- guard his salvation without the grace of God, which is a gift, how will he be able to restore what he has lost without the grace of God?

    CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

    CANON 21. Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle most truly says to those who would be justified by the law and have fallen from grace, “If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Gal. 2:21), so it is most truly declared to those who imagine that grace, which faith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: “If justification were through nature, then Christ died to no purpose.” Now there was indeed the law, but it did not justify, and there was indeed nature, but it did not justify. Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law might be fulfilled by him who said, “I have come not to abolish thembut to fulfil them” (Matt. 5:17), and that the nature which had been destroyed by Adam might be restored by him who said that he had come “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

    CANON 22. Concerning those things that belong to man. No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way.

    CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.

    CANON 24. Concerning the branches of the vine. The branches on the vine do not give life to the vine, but receive life from it; thus the vine is related to its branches in such a way that it supplies them with what they need to live, and does not take this from them. Thus it is to the advantage of the disciples, not Christ, both to have Christ abiding in them and to abide in Christ. For if the vine is cut down another can shoot up from the live root; but one who is cut off from the vine cannot live without the root (John 15:5ff).

    CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It is wholly a gift of God to love God. He who loves, even though he is not loved, allowed himself to be loved. We are loved, even when we displease him, so that we might have means to please him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the Father and the Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Father and the Son (Rom. 5:5).

    CONCLUSION. And thus according to the passages of holy scripture quoted above or the interpretations of the ancient Fathers we must, under the blessing of God, preach and believe as follows. The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God’s sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. We therefore believe that the glorious faith which was given to Abel the righteous, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and to all the saints of old, and which the Apostle Paul commends in extolling them (Heb. 11), was not given through natural goodness as it was before to Adam, but was bestowed by the grace of God. And we know and also believe that even after the coming of our Lord this grace is not to be found in the free will of all who desire to be baptized, but is bestowed by the kindness of Christ, as has already been frequently stated and as the Apostle Paul declares, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29). And again, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). And as the Apostle says of himself, “I have obtained mercy to be faithful” (1 Cor. 7:25, cf. 1 Tim. 1:13). He did not say, “because I was faithful,” but “to be faithful.” And again, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7). And again, “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17). And again, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). There are innumerable passages of holy scripture which can be quoted to prove the case for grace, but they have been omitted for the sake of brevity, because further examples will not really be of use where few are deemed sufficient.

    According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. We also believe and confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith in him and love for him without any previous good works of our own that deserve reward, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacrament of baptism, and after baptism be able by his help to do what is pleasing to him. We must therefore most evidently believe that the praiseworthy faith of the thief whom the Lord called to his home in paradise, and of Cornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was sent, and of Zacchaeus, who was worthy to receive the Lord himself, was not a natural endowment but a gift of God’s kindness

  51. The flame of the soul’s life is our love of God which is also God’s love poured out and burning within us. It is ignited by faith and sustained by the fuel of charity. To a Catholic good works are not buying off God, but tending the fuel given us by the Holy Spirit which sustains the flame of divine love that we might be consumed by it. Neglecting charity is to cut off the fuel and kill the flame.

  52. john,
    Sigh. Love and charity from God is necessary for others, not for themselves to merit justification before God. I know that our love is sourced in God, but can you not see that love has a different “purpose” or “function” than the one you give it. Yes, you are right to say that if we don’t have His life in us, we don’t have Him. Also, I believe the flame of our soul’s life is first our trust in Christ. He forgives me again and again and again, sustaining me out of pure love. I understand you don’t think you are buying off God, but what are Catholic theologians saying when they imply that if God did not reward your works of love (which source from Him) with eternal life He would not be being equitable and would give offense? I distinguish between mortal and venial sin, as do most serious Lutherans but also believe that small sins become mortal when they are considered small. Malloy is right : experience is a big part of Lutheran theology and why it is constructed the way it is. Can anyone not see the pastoral issues here?

    John,
    I think I’m in agreement with Orange. I have not denied that we can choose to step outside of the life in Christ which has been freely given to us. I think it would be best to read my response to Malloy’s article before going any further.

  53. Thank God for honest souls like Dr. Malloy, who I have really grown to appreciate. I read his article with pleasure.

    At the same time, the picture of the Catholic faith he paints terrifies me:

    -“ The Catholic faith holds that the human person (justified initially by God’s power and not by his own–although not without his own cooperation if he has the use of free will) is made clean interiorly.”

    -“Catholics read Paul similarly: When Paul says, “None is righteous” (Rom 3:10) he does not mean “not one in all the world”. He means that no one is righteous who has not been justified.”

    -“… At the end of our lives, as St. John of the Cross warns us, Jesus will ask each of us, “Did you love me above all?” Paul even speaks of a judgment according to works as part of his Gospel (Rom 2:16).”

    Need encouragement? Here you go: “Yet, as we grow in our Christian vocation, things that before were out of our control are now in our control. Hence, if I do now the things I used to do with impunity, I now do them with culpability. Everyone can love God more. Everyone can grow in love.”

    All of this makes Luther so understandable. I thank God for men like Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, for instance, who I believe (from my limited reading of them) did not express the Gospel in the way Dr. Malloy has expressed it.

    Malloy says:

    “Some (e.g., Francis de Sales and Thérèse) even felt condemned by [the Law’s] rigor. To feel condemned does not mean that one has committed a mortal sin. Indeed, as some theologians have argued recently, living saints who love God have this role of suffering in solidarity with the condemned. In their psyche they feel abandoned, but in the depths of their hearts they cleave to God, and they never lose the deepest peace.”

    And yet, of course that peace in God’s absolution was stolen from Martin Luther. The quality and sincerity of one’s repentance is important, Rome said, while condemning him. Luther knew He did not love God sincerely enough for this to apply to Him.

    Malloy says:

    “According to this line of thought in Luther, however, it seems that faith’s justifying role is not informed by charity but rather supplemental to the defects of charity.”

    A person may conclude this – but if they do it is precisely because they are presuming a certain view of salvation. The true view is ultimately this: one must as a child be willing to be nothing but given to. Therefore: faith, or trust, alone. Of course, besides actual little children who do not think to justify themselves, this word of Gospel is only for those who realize the fact that they are sinful, self-justifying and rationalizing men who need redemption. Its only for sinners. The purpose and intent of God’s law is never to be part and parcel of our justification before God (our fulfillment of it in Christ only being evidence of our justification) – it is only meant to “shut us up”. (Therefore, I personally believe – and I think most serious Lutherans would agree with me – that our current sanctification is “insufficient” *only* for this reason). The pearls are not for pigs, but for little kids.

    Malloy: “God has not only justified but also divinized man!”

    Indeed he has. But let us note that just as the man Jesus Christ’s focus was to carry out and win salvation for His brothers and not to Himself climb the ladder to God, so also God desires for our primary focus to be our neighbor’s spiritual well-being, as we go forth in true confidence and joy, rooted in the real peace we have with God. This is the true “upward call”, of Christ in this fallen world, to descend into our neighbor in love as Christ did for our sakes, not “dying for their sins for their full salvation” to as we take them into ourselves, but imaging the One who did.

    Luther agrees with Malloy in this sense: “Christ fulfilled the law. Therefore we need not fulfill the law” is an argument of the Antinomians…This consequence would follow better: Christ fulfilled the law. Therefore we too will fulfill it. (Martin Luther, “The Third Disputation Against the Antinomians”, Thirteenth Argument).

    But, oh, how very different the fulfilling of the law is in each system.

    Again Luther:

    “If you find yourself in a work by which you accomplish something good for God, or the holy, or yourself, but not for your neighbor alone, then you should know that that work is not a good work. For each one ought to live, speak, act, hear, suffer, and die in love and service for another, even for one’s enemies, a husband for his wife and children, a wife for her husband, children for their parents, servants for their masters, masters for their servants, rulers for their subjects and subjects for their rulers, so that one’s hand, mouth, eye, foot, heart and desire is for others; these are Christian works, good in nature (Luther’s Advent Postil 1522)”

    By the way, I found this a little disturbing: “In fact, even Jesus in his human nature cannot love God as much as God is lovable! Every creature–and Jesus’ human love of God is creaturely–“fails” to love God infinitely.” Can one really say this? I need to look into this more.

    By the way, in fairness, “Which Lutheranism?” needs to be countered by “Which Catholicism?” How many prominent Catholic theologians agree with Trent and Malloy? What makes them united? Because they “feel some affinity” with the Pope?

    Further, I would be interested in further hearing about the evidently crucial “metaphysical teachings of Trent” that I believe are essential to understanding everything being discussed here.

  54. If its evidence of good works and fulfilling the commands in the NT that people want from Christians, than I submit that Luther was full of good works:

    Of course, the Christian is to “do everything in love” (I Cor 16:14), because everything ultimately comes down to the Gospel. The rule of God in the worldly government ultimately exists so that persons may freely proclaim the Gospel. For again, in this fallen world, love ultimately looks like the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ, providing for our neighbor’s very life “every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” What this means is that the Christian is not to lose sight of what his ultimate goal is, wherever he may be serving God in the left-hand kingdom. This message is of the first importance (I Cor. 15:3-4): we preach Christ crucified, and are determined to know nothing but this (Gal. 3:1-56) – and to boast in nothing but this (Gal. 6:14). Though a stumbling block and foolishness to the world, it is the power, wisdom, and salvation of God to all who believe. As Paul says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should (Eph. 6:19-20). Finally, in good Lutheran fashion, there is this fine Pauline “pure doctrine” passage showing how such is intimately tied up with proclamation for the neighbor’s sake: “Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col 4:4-5). In short, the law is fulfilled in love whenever the Word of God becomes incarnate in human flesh, simultaneously speaking and showing Jesus Christ to the neighbor for their sake. Again, as the EO author Constantine Souteris has said “[Christians are] in reality dogma being lived and applied” – the “saints are living doctrine” (Scouteris, Constantine, “Church and Justification”), and this is most certainly true.

  55. I also note that Luther did not fail to let his proclamation be adorned by all sorts of other “works of mercy” (“social justice” as part and parcel of the Gospel) – he was known as being extremely generous.

    By the way, I have tried myself to be faithful to the preaching of the Gospel, attempting to make it not only clear, but sweet.

    On another thread, I wrote this:

    The comfort of sinners is the glory of God and the ushering in of His Kingdom, which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

    True… Christ at times speaks harsh words which terrify and condemn us – they should, for as he says, we are evil and only God is good.

    But, at bottom, we know that he is not a hard man, but gentle and tender. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. He will not break the bruised reed nor snuff out the smoldering wick. Desiring mercy and ever compassionate, He comes only for pitiful sinners as our friend.

    To be certain of the stability of our relationship with God is to unreflectively depend on His Word of forgiveness in Christ, which brings with it life and salvation. We are like simple children in this matter, taking their dear Father at his word.

    It is by this forgiving Word that we have life and stand, not by faith in anything else, like: the strength of our faith; the performance of our actions; our conception and concern over the moral and spiritual transformation needed to stand in His presence.

    We are the ox who falls into the well and whom He immediately pulls out, not even waiting for words of repentance (see Luke 15) – and the angels rejoice at this. Having peace with God (Rom 5:1), we therefore do not let sin reign in our mortal bodies (Rom 6:11, the first active verb in the entire book).

    And with that – I doubt I will be saying much more here, though I will check in again – and sincerely hope for a breakthrough of some kind. In any case, I sense I have repeated myself enough.

  56. “if God did not reward your works of love (which source from Him) with eternal life He would not be being equitable and would give offense”

    I think this makes sense if you understand it as something God puts on Himself, i.e. inherent in His most generous nature. Man who tends to think in terms of Law would consider this foolishness.

    As to mortal an venial sin, I view that as a measure of the flame of love, the health of the relationship. It’s presumptive to ignore venial sin, but it’s also not a complete turning away from God.

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