Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Was (or is) the Reformation Necessary? An examination of Protestantism’s doctrinal Pillars: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide -- 6

Interlude--Part 4

This post is in direct reply to the last one about Universalism. Jacob's words are black, my old words are maroon, and everything else is same as always...

It's important that you know for yourself everything that Gregory said, as I am not going to repeat every word of his, but I don't want to mis-quote him either. So please by all means everyone keep us both accountable.

I appreciate the thought. Now were sort of getting down to brass tacks.

Gregory, regarding your response to part 4, I believe that this is very much on the topic of Sola Scriptura. Though I admit in a abstract way. Simply because If I can show contradictions between scripture and Roman Catholic doctrine/tradition, then one of the two has to be wrong.

It is, to an extent. But I accused you of being off topic because it isn't specifically proving the thesis:

...The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a) that Sola Scriptura is actually taught in the Bible, b) why the Church somehow missed this teaching for nearly 1500 years, if indeed it is so clear in the Bible, and c) that it is in fact a workable theory in the promotion of Christian truth and unity, despite the glaring evidences to the contrary."
Since that is technically the topic of Sola Scriptura that was agreed upon way back in the first post, anything that doesn't further a proof of it is at best tangental. Attacking my beliefs don't actually support yours. They might, at best, demonstrate that a reformation was or is still necessary, but it does not prove that The Protestant Reformation is the reformation that is possibly necessary. The only way to do that is to demonstrate that Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are valid doctrines. So far we've discussed only Sola Scriptura, and you need to demonstrate the three points in the thesis before anyone can satisfactorily hold to such a doctrine.

Thus, straightaway we find that attacking Catholic Tradition will not prove Sola Scriptura. That is why I say you are off topic.

And seeing as how the scripture came first

First in what sense? Scripture is itself a product of Sacred Tradition, in the sense that it was the Sacred Tradition of Conciliar Ecumenical Councils that determined what, in fact, was Scripture! You seem to miss or ignore that point: The Bible is a product of the Church

and years and years of RC tradition have been built on top of them, I believe it would point towards the tradition being faulty and not the scripture.

Yet this is not the historical reality of it, at all. Scripture and Tradition developed simultaneously (much like faith and works) and if not for Tradition, we would not know what Scripture was! Since we believe (because of the infallible ruling of the Councils) that the 73 books of the Bible are in fact God's Word, yes, it is, in your estimation, more likely that the Bible (which we both agree on) is right and the Traditions (which we disagree on many) are wrong--but then, the question is less "Is the Bible right or true?" as "Is my interpretation of the Bible right or true?" On the one hand, we both take the Bible as an authority on our faith. On the other, your interpretation of it contradicts Catholic Tradition while mine does not. It all comes right back to the issue of whose interpretation is correct and why.

After all the claim is that everything the RCC teaches is contained in scripture in "seed form." So if contradiction appears between tradition and scripture it's the tradition that is in the wrong.

Yes, if it can be proven that the interpretation of Scripture is correct, and still contradicts Tradition, then indeed, the Tradition is wrong. So then instead of quoting Scripture at me, you would need to rather demonstrate why you have more authority to interpret that Scripture correctly than the Magesterium.

"Your part 4 would have been a lot better put if you had asked how we reconcile those passages of the Catechism with the plain teaching of Scripture rather than just telling us what we supposedly believe and then labeling it a false Gospel."

First of all let me say you are right that I should give you an opportunity to reconcile your beliefs with scripture. I'm guilty of not being friendly, and I apologize. I have a tendency to get over-zealous.

As is demonstrated by my reply, I do to. All is forgiven. I appreciate the apology :)

That said, now that you have given your defense, I think your defense did nothing but back up my claim. Which simply put was that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that it is possible to be saved apart from knowing the name of Jesus or ever hearing His gospel. And not only that but that a person can be justified through the works of the law.

I would say that we are all justified by the works of the Law. The only question is, "Who is doing the works?" Only Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law, and when we place our faith in Him, He washes away our sins and gives us the grace to live in Him. He paid the penalty against us.

Now the hypothetical question is, what if a person never sinned but kept the Law perfectly? He would not need Jesus to justify him. Of course, because of Adam and Eve, we know that the sin nature inside of us, devoid of grace, cannot keep the Law perfectly, so really, that's a moot point.

However, by your description of who can be saved and how, you would condemn the Old Testament faithful to Hell as well. Since we know that's not the case, we see that there is an exception (namely, that their faith looking forward was salvific through the sacrifice of Calvary which extended backwards as well as forwards).
Romans 2:12ff: "All those who have sinned without the Law will perish without the Law; and those under the Law who have sinned will be judged by the Law. For the ones that God will justify are not those who have heard the Law but those who have kept the Law. So, when gentiles, not having the Law, still through their own innate sense behave as the Law commands, then, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves. They can demonstrate the effect of the Law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness; since they are aware of various considerations, some of which accuse them, while others provide them with a defense...On the day when, according to the gospel that I preach, God, through Jesus Christ, judges all human secrets."
Ok, I of course agree with the scripture. Now, your interpretation.....

"What is this saying? That God's Law is on the hearts of every man, and that as a man is able, as he follows that law in his conscience, he is following God whether he knows it or not. Since, as Romans 2 clearly states, God judges us by our deeds, there is the possibility that such a man, who, through no fault of his own, does not know the fullness of the Gospel. However, if such a man is saved, it is still due to the unmerited life of Grace at work in him through Jesus Christ.This is what the Catechism is saying. But even the Catechism isn't declaring it to be a sure thing, but says that "those too may achieve eternal salvation" [emphasis mine]. The only sure way is through Christ Jesus, and that is why evangelisation is so crucial--in fact, the Bible says and the Catechism echoes, that evangelisation is itself necessary for salvation!"

Starting with the last thing you said in the above paragraph, I'll be honest and just say I don't follow what you mean. Are you saying that evangelism is something a Christian needs to do for their own salvation or are you saying that it is necessary to be evangelized to become a Christian? Maybe if you explain this I'll understand better what you mean. If it's the latter, then this sounds like it's in stark contrast to what you've just said right before that. If it's the first, then that's a work and I would say it's not necessary for salvation.

What I said, I had thought was pretty clear. If we will not spread the Gospel, we will not be saved. Jesus Himself said that if we fail to acknowledge Him before men (evangelisation), He will not acknowledge us before the Father (justification). Doesn't get much clearer than that! Philippians 2:12-16:
So, my dear friends, you have always been obedient; your obedience must not be limited to times when I am present. Now that I am absent it mst be more in evidence, so work out your salvation in fear and trembling. It is God who, for His own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act. Let your behaviour be free of murmuring and complaining so that you remain faultless and pure, 'unspoilt children of God' surrounded by 'a deceitful and underhand brood,' shining out among them like bright stars in the world, proffering to it the Word of life. Then I shall have reason to be proud on the Day of Christ, for it will not be for nothing that I have run the race and toiled so hard.
What is Paul saying? He tells us first that we must work out our own salvation! But, he says, that working out comes only by the grace of God! All our works are nothing if they are not energised by God's Grace, but through God's Grace, He gives us the ability to work righteousness for Him! Now, if He gives us that grace, and we fail to work said righteousness, then we are forfeiting our salvation (Revelation 3:3-5). Back to the text: Paul continues to describe the behaviour of those who are working out their salvation--free of murmuring and complaining, faultless and pure, and "proffering to [the world] the Word of life." Earlier in the epistle, Paul's chief joy is that the Church has been doing just that--helping him to spread the Gospel!

Finally, if Christ has given us the Great Commission, and we do not obey it, how can we expect to be saved? He said, "You are My disciples if you do what I command." Anything further I'll save for an actual discussion of Sola Fide.

Because it seems to me what you have just said is that even if a person has never heard of Christ or His gospel, but they obey the law that is written on their heart, though it's a slim chance, it's possible they might be saved.

This is a point of division even among Protestants, so we must not try to make it a "Catholic-Protestant" issue! I looked up the phrase "Salvation haven't heard Gospel" on Yahoo. I looked at the first two articles. The first was a well-written and biblically (with help from RC Sproul) defended treatise giving the answer that no, those who have not heard the Gospel are not saved (Your position). The very next article (very Protestant indeed!) gave the opposite answer (with a little help from Don Richardson (and his book "Eternity In Their Hearts") after thorough biblical reasoning, as well (My position).

Thus it is plain to see that the issue is not simply Protestant-Catholic, and therefore can't really enter into this debate at all, in the long run--because if you succeeded in proving your position, you would still have to exclude the vast majority of Christian denominations as teaching a "false Gospel." Yet this should not surprise me, because time and time again you have shown yourself willing to reject all but the Calvinist point of view (and a very narrow version of that, since Calvin himself believed in infant baptism, such Marian doctrines as her perpetual virginity, and opposed things like birth control--all of which you disagree on). So in the end, I'm not sure which denominational version of Christianity you would accept outside of the SBC--which you admitted that you aligned yourself with because it taught what you believe.

(For the record, the two sites were The Necessity of Christ as the Conscious Focus of all Saving Faith--your position; and What happens to people who have never heard the gospel?--My position.)

"On the one hand we believe that God is merciful and compassionate, and that He doesn't want to condemn."

I fully agree with this. And it's in this compassion (I think you'll agree) that He sent Jesus into the world so that the world might be saved. (John 3:17)


"On the other, we know that He is holy and just and must condemn.

Right. (Romans 1:18)

But the harmony is found in Jesus. But where is justice in condemning someone who doesn't know about Jesus? There is none,

Actually there is plenty. Romans 3:10-12;
"as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
And Romans 1:28-32;
"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
We all have rejected God. We all deserve Hell. If we got what we deserve and God didn't die in our place we would all die and go to Hell. And because we rebel in our sin against God, He would be just to send us there. Praise the Lord that He loved us enough to make a way for us, but He sure didn't have to.

The question, hypothetically, was not whether all men or women who had not heard the Gospel were saved regardless of their lives, but whether any man or woman who had not heard the Gospel, but did respond to the grace of Christ in whatever way that grace made itself known to them could then be saved? Therefore the Scriptural indictments against actual sins do not apply to a hypothetical person. Moreover, quoting poetical hyperbole doesn't make a good case. But then, we have a different definition of "Total Depravity", too.

without the possibility, however remote, that even St. Paul describes in Romans, that they might seek for God anyway and live according to what knowledge He has given them! Paul says all men are without excuse. But if they are without excuse, then it cannot be possible that they are also without the grace of salvation!

Wrong. Romans 7:7-10;
"What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me."
Knowledge of the law reveals sin! That's the whole point of why Jesus had to come, because no one was capable of fulfilling the law, and it is indeed the law that condemns us and reveals our sin. There is absolutely no way to inherit salvation apart from faith in the name and gospel of Jesus Christ! That is why the great commission is so important.

But we are talking specifically of those who don't know the law! Paul himself, in the very text which you cited says, "I was once alive apart from the law"! Therefore, if one does not know the Law, they fall into that category! The Law about which Paul is talking here is not the law written on men's hearts by general revelation, but specifically the OT Law, specially revealed to the Jewish people! This is evident by the very fact that St. Paul quotes it!

However, unfortunately, the majority of people will not take even the "easy" version through Jesus!

I wouldn't call it the easy version.

That's why I put easy in ""s. It's a lot easier to get to heaven with Jesus than without Him!

It's tough to forsake yourself and take up your cross. But it is indeed the only version and only way to Heaven. Place your faith in Christ alone, deny yourself and walk the narrow road home.

I just wanted to point out that "deny[ing] yourself and walk[ing] the narrow road home" are "works."

How much less will those who have never heard of the guarantee of salvation from Him not meet even the remote exception? Yet the Bible is clear that just because the chance is remote, does not mean there is no chance!"

I couldn't disagree more. (Shocking I know) The Bible is clear that there is no exception to be made. There is no other chance. Salvation is by calling on the name of the Lord. And you can't call on the name of the Lord unless you've received the gospel to know what the name is. Romans 10:13-15;
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
Romans 3:26;
"It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
John 3:16;
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Romans 10:9;
"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Ephesians 1:13;
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,"
And of course there is more in the scripture that backs up this point. It is necessary to know about Jesus, the Christ of God, who he is, what He has done, and why He did it, in order to be saved.

The law does not justify, it condemns. But as Paul says, the law is good. Without it we would not know our helpless estate.

But again, we are discussing those without the Law, but still with the grace of Christ--like those written about in different books on missions that I studied when I was working toward a Bachelor of Religious Studies in Missions as a Protestant. For example, the tribe that had a legend about a man who would come and bring them a book of how to be reconciled to God, because generations ago, a tribal chief had been revealed this in a dream. When the missionary finally showed up, they readily received the Gospel because of this--but the question is, what about those who died before the missionary arrived, yet hoped for his arrival? Are they condemned simply because they did not know Jesus' name? Or does His grace cover them as it covered the Old Testament saints who were saved through their faith in God and in His Christ, though their notion of Him was vague and incomplete?

Gregory, you have to concede that it's in the known name of Jesus and faith in Him and what He has done that brings upon salvation. Put aside the fact that we have different views about faith and works, the gospel must be known and understood for salvation to occur. If you haven't heard the message of the cross, there is no chance for salvation.

Later, Jacob wrote in the comments:
A lot has been said here, but the question still remains. Is it possible for someone to achieve salvation outside of hearing the gospel of Christ and responding in faith?

Put aside all our other differences for a moment on faith alone versus faith + works. Gregory made the statement regarding this issue:

"Yet the Bible is clear that just because the chance is remote, does not mean there is no chance!"

Gregory did I understand you right? Am I misinterpreting you? Or did you say that the possibility is, while remote, there for someone by works of the law to secure eternity with Christ?

Because if that's the case, that person has something to brag about.

I replied:

No, that is not what I said, nor is it what the Bible or the Church teaches.

To be as clear as I possibly can, let me attempt to explain.

Christ died for all people, of all times, in all places. But not all of these people in all times or in all places have had the opportunity to hear of Christ. For example, Old Testament Saints who very obviously did not have the fulness of the Gospel preached to them, babies who could not comprehend the Gospel if it was preached to them, and various though precious few others who through no fault of their own are currently out of reach for various reasons of having the Gospel preached to them.

We know, though, that the Old Testament Saints, while not perfectly fulfilling the Law, are nonetheless saved through their faith and hope in salvation and obedience to the law as much as they were able. Why? Because Christ's Sacrifice was retroactive, to speak from our point of view (but eternal, to speak from His).

Babies we honestly cannot be sure about, but we entrust them to God's mercy if they die unbaptised and to His grace if they die baptised--even though they could not respond in faith to the Gospel. Why? Because even though they are born in sin, they themselves have not committed sin through any fault of their own, and we can trust that because God wants them to be saved, that He can and will save them.

Now, that's two very plain exceptions of groups of people who are saved without placing their faith explicitly in the Gospel of Christ, that I assume we both agree on (if not, then there are issues at stake here that run miles deeper than I first supposed!).

In light of the fact that A) these two groups were not at fault for not placing their faith explicitly in Jesus, and B) that they are saved regardless of the fact that they did not (indeed, could not) place their faith consciously in Jesus Christ, but were judged and saved rather on what they had the ability to believe in, and how they responded to the grace they had been given, then why is it not just as logical that the third group, who meets the same qualifiers as the other two saved groups (namely that they do not place their trust in Jesus through no fault of their own and that they respond to whatever graces God has given to them), especially in light of the fact that Jesus died for them just as much as He died for us, and that God is not willing that any should perish, why is it obvious, biblical teaching that these people are ipso facto condemned because of something that they had no control over?!

Now note carefully what I am not saying:
I am not saying that this "loophole" is likely (indeed, in our day and age, it is almost impossible to not have faith in Jesus through no fault of your own, let alone respond to God's graces without knowing the Gospel).
I am not saying that these people are saved without Christ. In fact, I have tried to make it as explicit as possible that if these people are saved at all, it is only because of Christ that they could be!

I hope that is clear now.

Any teaching divergent to this, is indeed a false gospel. And if this is what the Roman Catholic Chruch teaches, this is part of "Why the reformation was and still is necessary."


Actually, this isn't the case, because, as I demonstrated above, this isn't simply a Protestant-Catholic issue, but one that divides Protestants (indeed, even hard-core, conservative, Bible-believing Protestants). So before you turn this issue into one allowing you to write of Catholicism, you'd better be willing to write off all who don't agree with you.

Of course, the reverse of that is those that you write off will most likely write off your opinion or that of the SBC, and we'll get rather nowhere. Moreover, it is yet one more issue where Sola Scriptura has led to a multitude of competing and contradictory opinions, and spread more disunity.


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