By grace alone through faith alone - why this is true and we should not fight this. Advice from Pope Benedict

“The Letter to the Philippians offers us a moving testimony of Paul’s transition from a justice founded on the Law and acquired by his observance of the required actions, to a justice based on faith in Christ…It is precisely because of this personal experience of relationship with Jesus Christ that Paul henceforth places at the centre of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between the two alternative paths to justice: one built on the works of the Law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ…Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love (cf. Gal 5: 14).”

w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081119.html

The Apostle Paul would agree with Pope Benedict.

He would not agree with your sentiments.

TaylorDonBarret:

By grace alone through faith alone - why this is true. . . ?

It CAN be true. (But it can be false too).

WHY?

Because “faith” can be used in the sense of “fidelity”. This is true (so you would not oppose it).

But “faith” can also be used in a mere intellectual ascent too. This is false concerning justification (so you would oppose that).

I don’t like the phrase justification by “faith alone” because it demands constant clarification because the actual phrase is un-Biblical (the Bible never teaches we are justified by faith alone and does teach against such notions).

Hope this helps.

God bless.

Cathoholic

Here is the crux of the matter, and it has been widely misinterpreted, as expected. This cannot be ripped apart from James 2, the Apostolic Tradition and the deposit of faith, i.e. the Catechism.

Welcome to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church! As a new member, at times it can be difficult to realize that she is not “bible alone” as that is a 16th century European invention.

The Pope made another critical statement that you omitted –
“Paul knows that in the twofold love of God and neighbour the whole of the Law is present and carried out. Thus in communion with Christ, in a faith that creates charity, the entire Law is fulfilled.”

Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. The commandments are still valid and must be kept. Sometimes a new convert does not understand Paul’s wording about the works of the law, which he personally kept rigidly and flawlessly prior to his conversion. The law he was speaking about was Mosaic Law with its 613 prescriptions and which he taught continuously that it is no longer necessary. The First Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 reiterates and confirms that, and the Church proclaimed that new Gentile converts no longer needed to keep the law of Moses, which included circumcision.

Now, my friend, you have hit the nail on the head. There is a big difference between the kind of “head knowledge” faith that can be accurately described as mere intellectual assent; and the kind of saving faith that resides in the heart, not merely the mind, and captures the allegiance of the man. And the best Protestant theologians, including Luther and Calvin, Spurgeon and Wesley, Barth and Packer, Piper and Washer, etc., whenever they speak of justification by faith alone, do have in mind this distinction.

For Pope Benedict, as for Luther and the best of the Protestant theologians, “faith” is not merely intellectual assent. Faith is in the heart, and it involves surrender and allegiance to Christ. It involves love. But it is this kind of faith, and this kind of faith alone, that can justify us (or, that can result in initial justification.)

Both Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church agree with this teaching. When the Church condemns “faith alone”, it only condemns the idea that mere intellectual assent can result in justification. But when the Church speaks of the living, supernatural faith that resides in the heart of man, it declares that such faith does in fact have the power of justification.

And this teaching is in complete agreement with the traditional Protestant understanding of “grace alone, faith alone,” such that, as long as we are careful to make sure that the Protestant is not slipping into a sort of antinomianism, we can and SHOULD agree with this formula. It is both right and just. For it was Jesus who said that all who believe in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life.

**From the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification (sponsored by Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger):

"41.Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration. "**

The dispute on justification goes deeper than simply faith or works, though. For example, is grace infused or imputed? Is it monogerism or synergism? Do we cooperate with grace or are we passively moved by it?

That’s what faith versus works comes down to, and something that agreement on “faith working through love” doesn’t clarify.

This includes believing (and therefore practicing) what he taught, not just that he’s your Lord and Savior, for not everyone who says to him “Lord, Lord!” will be saved.

This is true. The Church basically takes a “both/and” response to the mysteries of the faith. In regards infusion/imputation, this one is easy. The Church does affirm that, at the moment of justification, we are imputed the righteousness of Christ. At the same time, this imputation cannot occur without the simultaneous infusion of grace into our souls, as the very Holy Spirit of God indwells us upon the moment of justification.

For the question of monergism/synergism; I do not think such questions are answerable. The monergist position would seem to fall in line with the Council of Orange, but the Council of Trent would seem to agree more with the synergist. And from what I understand, different orders within the Church tend to fall on different sides of this question. It does not seem to be a matter of Catholic dogma, except to say that neither strict monergism nor strict synergism can be accepted.

Yes, but initial justification does not depend upon our works of obedience. It is solely a matter of the heart. The obedience which follows is the fruit, not the seed, of justification.

Originally Posted by TaylorDonBarret
For it was Jesus who said that all who believe in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life.

It almost seems as if you hold the doctrine of “once saved - always saved” in the statement you posted here. Is that your belief, that all one needs is “belief” in the heart, and they are justified with no chance of losing it?

TaylorDonBarret:

Now, my friend, you have hit the nail on the head. There is a big difference between the kind of “head knowledge” faith that can be accurately described as mere intellectual assent; and the kind of saving faith that resides in the heart, not merely the mind, and captures the allegiance of the man. And the best Protestant theologians, including Luther and Calvin, Spurgeon and Wesley, Barth and Packer, Piper and Washer, etc., whenever they speak of justification by faith alone, do have in mind this distinction.

And so do many of their followers (because I have talked to them) say that WORKS are associated with their faith.

Then ask them if their faith gets them beyond “head knowledge” to obedience, are obedience and works . . . . NECESSARY for salvation?

Not if obedience is merely “important”, but NECESSARY.

St. Paul explicitly says you can have faith but NOT works. Is this situation OK? (Most Protestants I’ve talked to try to say good works are automatic–they are wrong according to St. Paul in 1st Corinthians). Or they will say you don’t “NEED” obedience and good works (in which case they illustrate the Catholic objection to “faith ALONE”).

THAT’S where you will see the proverbial rubber hitting the road on this issue. Are good works (done in grace and not on your own) NECESSARY.

St. Paul talked about faith in terms of “fides” or “fidelity”.

This includes WORKING (in GRACE and not on our own to be sure).

Ask them if they NEED OBEDIENCE and see how they respond (St. Paul assumes the need for “obedience” in grace with faith).

ROMANS 1:1-6 1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the OBEDIENCE OF FAITH for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;

ROMANS 16:25-27 25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the OBEDIENCE OF FAITH— 27 to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

(emphasis mine)

The Catholic idea maintains that the formal cause of justification does not consist in an exterior imputation of the justice of Christ, but in a real, interior sanctification effected by grace, which abounds in the soul and makes it permanently holy before God (cf. Trent, Sess. VI, cap. vii; can. xi). Although the sinner is justified by the justice of Christ, inasmuch as the Redeemer has merited for him the grace of justification (causa meritoria), nevertheless he is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness (causa formalis), just as a philosopher by his own inherent learning becomes a scholar, not, however, by any exterior imputation of the wisdom of God (Trent, Sess. VI, can. x). To this idea of inherent holiness which theologians call sanctifying grace are we safely conducted by the words of Holy Writ.

newadvent.org/cathen/06701a.htm

absolutely not. one musn’'t confuse assurance of present salvation (a true Catholic doctrine) with the erroneous idea of OSAS.

Technically speaking, the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that good works are necessary. Death bed conversions prove this true. The only thing absolutely necessary for salvation is the proper disposition of heart towards God. And when the best of the Protestant theologians talk about “Sola Fide”, the kind of faith they have in mind does indeed fit the criteria for meeting this proper disposition.

It is not my goal to deny the Catholic teaching that our justification is brought about by a real interior change - that our justification entails the ontological purification of our souls so that we are truly, intrinsically righteous before Him.

But at the same time, this intrinsic infusion of righteousness (justification) does not occur without a simultaneous legal decree in which the person is acquitted of their crimes and declared legally righteous and just due to the substitutionary death of Christ, in which He became sin so that we might become righteousness.

Thus, the imputation of a legal righteousness occurs simultaneously with the infusion of ontological righteousness. In fact, the one cannot happen without the other. They are mutually dependent upon each other.

For more on this, please read this absolutely wonderful article by Jimmy Akin:

jimmyakin.com/righteousness-and-merit

Those who convert while dying repent. Repentance is a good work.

TaylorDonBarret:

Technically speaking, the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that good works are necessary. Death bed conversions prove this true. The only thing absolutely necessary for salvation is the proper disposition of heart towards God.

I get what you are saying here TaylorDonBarret,

But there needs to be further clarification (now) with you bringing this up as there are lurkers here that may not have caught that you “moved the goalposts” of the discussion.

The item in the original question I responded to had to do with Protestants and their discussion with Catholics—presumably a Scriptural generalization regarding justification and justification “By grace alone through faith alone - why this is true and we should not fight this”.

But with what you are introducing here, is much more pedantic.

I’m OK with that too by the way, but I was trying to avoid writing a proverbial “doctoral dissertation” on the subject.

You said . . . .

The only thing absolutely necessary for salvation is the proper disposition of heart towards God.

That’s not quite right. God gives us supernatural faith, hope, and charity upon our Baptism.

We need these gifts. If you want to say that IS a “proper disposition” I’m OK with that. But there may be lurkers here that don’t understand such nuances so the deeper we go, the more clarification is demanded.

If you are talking about BEFORE and up until our justification . . . .

The only thing absolutely necessary for salvation is the proper disposition of heart towards God.

I’m OK with that too.

But that takes “faith” out of the equation too . . . . at least until we are gifted with supernatural “faith” (hope, and charity) at Baptism (Baptism by water and the Spirit or by “desire” including “blood” for those that by no fault of their own cannot or did not be baptized).

No “faith” is not going to sit well with Protestants you are discussing this with, unless you clarify.

We can’t earn justification with works OR faith.

COUNCIL OF TRENT From Chapter 7 . . . . none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

But once we are justified,
once we become partakers of the Divine nature,
once we have the Holy Spirit indwelling in us through Baptism . . .
. . . . then we NEED to WORK in the Spirit according to our state in life.

Infants and death beds, have different expectations obviously. Different “states” in life.

The Good thief for example was only able to do a small amount in the way of “works” with his death bed conversion he was gifted with (he of course admonished the “bad” thief or “admonished the sinner”—a “work” of mercy).

So yes you are right, deathbed conversions MAY be an exception.

And yes the works “REQUIRED” of one, differs according to their state in life.

Jesus sums it up perfectly when He said . . . “To whom much is given, much is REQUIRED” (Luke 12:48).

The Council of Trent also sums up this state in life aspect of justification saying . . . .

. . . each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one’s proper disposition and co-operation.

So yes there CAN be exceptions. But even if they do no obvious works that we can see in those exceptions, they still MUST POSSESS the grace of charity in addition to their hope and faith.

“Faith ALONE” is NOT going to justify people in a “work-less” sense ordinarily.

***From the Council of Trent . . . . ***

CANON IX If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON XIX If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free; or, that the ten commandments nowise appertain to Christians; let him be anathema.

CANON XX If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.

CANON XXIV If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON XXXII If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Eh. I do not have a problem with that definition. Except for the fact that you might be missing the point. God does not require us to do good works. The only thing He absolutely requires of us is that we give Him our hearts in faith.

Sanctifying grace is the only requirement for supplying the principle effect of baptism, which is the forgiveness of sins. furthermore, baptism of desire does not occur only at death, but occurs simultaneously at the moment a person comes to love Jesus more than they love sin. i do not have time to get into providing citations for these things. but you may benefit going back and reading Pope Benedict’s remarks once again

Well, in a technical sense, works are a sign of active cooperation with God’s grace. God’s not sitting up there counting works per se, but He is interested in whether the converted person is truly open to cooperation and is cooperating. With death bed conversions, that cooperation is there, even if it doesn’t have an opportunity to manifest itself in external good works. They are still actively cooperating insofar as they are able. The dung has been intrinsically changed into a fertile flower bed, even if the flowers haven’t had a chance to bloom before death.

I don’t want to fight with you, but there are still hurdles on the topic of justification that are beneath the “faith and works” terminology. Works done in cooperation with God are meritorious and will be rewarded.

The main problem is that in Protestant theology for the most part faith is separate from the need for love in order for a person to be considered just-or justified. “Faith alone”, to them, means just that; there can be nothing added to it, no other requirement, while Augustine voices the Catholic position: “Without love faith may indeed exist, but avails nothing”.

And love, by its nature, acts-or works-which is why Jesus can tell us in Matt 25:31-46 that we’ll be judged on those works. And this is also why the Church can quote St John of the Cross in the Catechism regarding the particular judgment for each of us at the end of our lives:
“At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”

Indeed. But there are also Protestant denominations that will say that a faith with no fruits or love is no saving faith at all. Even with these, though, there are “subterranean” differences in our understanding of the roles of both God and man in justification.

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