Council of Trent, Justification, Canon 18

I don’t know why but I’m having trouble understanding this…

From the Council of Trent:

18. If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to observe, let him be anathema.

Imagine this scenario: John (lol, maybe a bad name choice for this scenario :p) was born in a community that has never encountered Christianity. He is subjectively not at all culpable for being a non-Catholic; he always does what he discerns is right (i.e follows his conscience) and is in a state of grace. Andrew is in a similar situation; he was born a Baptist and that is all he knows; all he is told about Catholicism is that it is a false version of Christianity, and so he doesn’t become Catholic. But he is truly sincere in his search for God and is in a state of grace.

God commands all people to become Catholic. How is it possible for John or Andrew to observe this command? How does this not contradict the canon from Trent?

Let me give another example: Susan, who is also subjectively innocent for her errors and is in a state of grace, erroneously believes that one may do evil that good may result. She is in the classic ticking time bomb scenario, and erroneously believes she is morally obligated to torture a suspect to learn where the bomb is. How is it possible for her to observe what God commands, barring a miracle?

(Please note that I accept there is no contradiction, I just can’t understand.)

Note the accent is on the impossibility…

In other words no one can say it is impossible to observe say the 10 Commandments …

God makes us a new creation in baptism and gives us the grace of that new life and to live it…it is not impossible for one to live them.

It is just not what Trent is getting at there.

More like that if any one says that it is impossible to not commit murder…by the given in Baptism one can certainly avoid murder…etc.

I have difficulty with this too, so I appreciate the question and the answers received so far.

James 2: 10 adds to my puzzlement:

For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it

Mary.

Ah, so the canon is saying the reverse of how I interpreted it? So how before I interpreted it to mean always possible (i.e in every situation) would be wrong? See below to see what I’m saying…

18. If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to observe (i.e, it is not ever possible), let him be anathema.

The entire law is summed up in loving God, so I take that verse to mean something like this: If I keep all the commandments but murder people and don’t repent, I am in a state of mortal sin (and therefore don’t love God). I might outwardly be keeping the commandments, but interiorly they aren’t being kept because to keep them interiorly one must be doing them out of love for God. That’s my take on it. :slight_smile:

Think of it this way - no one can say “it is impossible” for with the Holy Spirit - it is.

Not sure quite what you mean. :blush:

No one can say it is impossible to keep the Commandments…

Because with God it is possible.

One is not doing it on ones own…one is a new creation in Christ…a temple of the Holy Spirit …etc…

Thank you, very eloquent and resonates well with me.

Mary.

Right…but with my previous examples it was impossible for someone to do what God commands (i.e not torture someone, convert to Catholicism). I suppose theoretically possible in that God can do what he pleases (e.g he could miraculously convert John while teleporting a priest to the community John was in so that John could be baptized), but in practice ISTM not really possible.

So I feel like I’m back at the point where you responded saying:

It is just not what Trent is getting at there.

More like that if any one says that it is impossible to not commit murder…by the given in Baptism one can certainly avoid murder…etc.

And so I said:

Ah, so the canon is saying the reverse of how I interpreted it? So how before I interpreted it to mean always possible (i.e in every situation) would be wrong? See below to see what I’m saying…
18. If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to observe (i.e, it is not ever possible), let him be anathema.

Such is simply not what Trent is getting at…

The point being that man - can with the grace of God ie which come when he is a new creation in Christ - a temple of the Holy Spirit - can keep the Commandments of God (not commit a mortal sin against them). Such is yes possible and no one should say that such is impossible for it would be contrary to the truth that a Christian can do so -by the grace of God.

Simply put it is possible for anyone to live the Christian life and avoid mortal sin - by the power of God. That no one should say it is* impossible* for man to keep the the Commandments of God.

Some where embracing the error that it was not possible for a person to keep the Commandments of God…that Christians cannot keep them them all.

Ok, so I read through some of the canons in Trent concerning justification trying to read in context and it seems to me Trent is speaking in a general way, saying God does not command what is impossible. Correct? I think you give the answer to that in what I bolded.

Although does this mean then that God is not calling people who have no contact with the Church to become Catholic at that time? Obviously the end goal is he wants everyone to become part of the Church in a visible way, but since they can’t do that in practice it does it mean that at that particular moment he only wants them to become Catholic by way of anticipation?

Or is it just saying that it is, even not in concrete practice, theoretically possible for a person to follow the commands of God on this earth (so the error being condemned would be saying there is absolutely no way humans can follow God’s commands)?

Yes.

Yes - it is possible for Christians to keep the Commandments of God.

(those who argued otherwise at the time…were incorrect)

This is getting into other questions than what Trent was getting at.

God calls all…not all are able to hear the call in the same way…

God quite understands each persons possibility (better then they do).


God knows what a person knows or does not know etc.

There is a normative requirement for all to be baptized…but that does not mean that those who never hear of baptism or do not have anyone to baptize them - do wrong in not being baptized.

The phrase, “the Commandments” is about the Decalogue, not entering into the Church. Faith is a distinct act with distinct grace.

All have sufficient grace to follow the Commandments at any time and in any situation (“we are never tempted beyond our strength” etc.), or to prepare for the grace needed to do so.

Luther obviously had a different opinion - total depravity of nature and all that (later followed from a different angle by Jansen and friends)… viz., our nature was destroyed by original sin and we are only saved because of faith, with Christ covering our sins and guilt. Literally every voluntary human act was a sin according to Luther.

Trent was dealing with some Reformer’s position that it was not possible to keep or obey the law because of man’s sinful nature, that justice was merely imputed or declared to man while he remained irreformably a sinner in this life (a "snow-covered dung-heap, as Luther put it), for all practical purposes. Trent affirms OTOH, that God did not create man to sin, nor did He give man commands that were impossible to fulfill. The bottom line of the New Covenant in any case is that ‘with God all things are possible’ (Matt 19:26), while ‘apart from God we can do nothing’ (John 15:5). Man was made for communion with God.

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