Decree on justification problem/question


#1

Dear lovers of systematic theology, I just read the decree on justification in its fullness for the first time and was astonished, it was so well explained and argued and so incredibly scriptural, all Protestants should read it…BUT…there’s one thing that seemed contradictory and unclear to me and I need someone to help me out…

Chapter VI says that in the case of adults part of the necessary disposition for justification is faith, citing Hebrews “He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him” etc.

Chapter VII says the justified man receives faith, hope and charity in justification.

Chapter VIII says that we are said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God[reference to Hebrews above again, same context] and to come to the fellowship of His sons…

So it seems to me that the Church is trying to explain that we need faith before justification, and then that faith is given to us in justification, and then again that faith is the beginning and root of justification again taking us back to the time before justification. The problem here is that the Apostle says we are justified by faith, the Church seems to say that faith is a part of the preparation for justification which then occurs in baptism. The other problem is that on the one hand ur supposed to believe before justification and on the other justification is supposed to give you faith. Is this a different kind of faith? Is the person who before justification believes and loves God by the help of his actual grace still an unjustified reprobate sinner? Or are there two justifications, one when the sinner starts believing and another one when he is baptised? This is what all of the above would require although I know it’s not the case…

Appreciate your help!Thanks!E


#2

The other problem is that on the one hand you’re supposed to believe before justification and on the other justification is supposed to give you faith. Is this a different kind of faith? Is the person who before justification believes and loves God by the help of his actual grace still an unjustified reprobate sinner? Or are there two justifications, one when the sinner starts believing and another one when he is baptized? This is what all of the above would require although I know it’s not the case…

Appreciate your help!Thanks!EYep, you got it right, and so does the document.

Think about it.

We come to God to begin with because He gives us the unmerited grace and gift of faith, right?

Once we respond to that initial grace and faith, we then are gifted with more faith that helps us continue our journey towards God.

Without that faith, we’d be completely lost, and God insures that we receive that faith both before we are baptized (as adults) to bring us to conversion, and then gives us even more as we begin growing in the body of Christ.

As with a great many things Catholic, it’s not an either/or, but a both/and.

I hopes that helps somewhat. :slight_smile:


#3

so are we justified by that faith that we have before baptism? if so, why is this called preparation for justification not justification? if not, how can we be believers and lovers of God and unjust? and why does Paul say we are justified by faith? if we are, then are we “justified again” or “more justified” in the baptism? complicated…


#4

There are two types of faith, and two types of justification.

Regarding faith: The type of faith required before justification is the faith of belief. The type of faith given AFTER justification is a fuller faith - the faith that is informed by love that enables us to live out a Christian life.

Regarding justification: There is initial justification which is a FREE gift from God, apart from any work of our own. After initial justification, there is a justification that comes from God through the holy works that he has provided for us and given us the grace to do.

I hope that answers your question.

Blessings,
Marduk


#5

Good observation.

During the “preparation stage” God gives the gift of faith that takes a son of Adam to the threshold of justification.

While Trent doesn’t describe it in detail, this “kind” of faith seems to be provisional. Even with this gift of faith, the son of Adam remains a son of Adam; at this point he has not [yet] been brought across the “event horizon” of justification. The only reason why he, as a son of Adam, can believe at all is because of God’s free gift of “prevenient inspiration”.

Then at the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism comes the event of justification: the son of Adam is reborn as a son of God by adoption and simultaneously receives “the faith that gives eternal life”.

This kind of faith is described as infused with hope and charity and “unites a man with Christ [and] makes him a living member of his body.”

So the gift of faith is operative both before and after the event of justification. Does the faith that follows justification differ from the faith that precedes justification? That’s a good question.

Trent specifically notes that the faith given at the moment of justification is infused with the supernatural virtues of hope and charity; perhaps in this sense it differs from the the faith given before justification.


#6

It sounds good to think that the faith received in baptism/justification is a fuller faith informed by charity etc… but Trent also says that in the preparation for justification the man is moved to love God… and it’s clear that some catechumens love Christ more than some initially justified CINO-people… that’s problem number 1.

Problem number 2 is that it’s not like u receive the initial justification when u believe and the other kind of justification at baptism. At baptism u receive the initial justification and then the other u receive after the initial one, and then there’s a third one too at the judgment, the final one.

Problem 3 is that if the believing unbaptized man is a child of Adam, a child of wrath, without the supernatural virtues of F, H and C, he cannot be saved. But we believe that they are saved (baptism of desire).

Problem 4 comes from problem 3 if we try to say we are justified by the baptism of desire when we come to believe. If so then baptism doesn’t justify any more but becomes merely a symbol.

so in other words…

HEEELP and get your best theologians to help too:)


#7

Dear sister Fineca,

The love that perfects is given after initial justification is more than just the love for God - it also gives us the grace to love our neighbor with agape. The graces given AFTER initial justification perfects our works - transforms them from mere works into “good works” - which help maintain our justification.

Now you might say that you have seen catechumens who give more evidence of loving their neighbor than baptized Catholics. However, understand that even that love of neighbor displayed by those before baptism (which seems more perfect TO YOU than the love displayed by those who have been baptized) is NOT the love that perfects the soul unto justification. The love that perfects the soul for justification (via good works) is obtained only AFTER initial justification.

[quote=fineca]Problem number 2 is that it’s not like u receive the initial justification when u believe and the other kind of justification at baptism. At baptism u receive the initial justification and then the other u receive after the initial one, and then there’s a third one too at the judgment, the final one.
[/quote]

I think you misunderstood brother Vincent. You and he are saying the same thing about what type of justification is received when.

Regarding the third justification, I don’t see what the problem us. Perhaps a further explanation is necessary.

The three types of justification are, in GOD’s eyes, one and the SAME justification. The three “types” are simply the Church’s way of describing the justification as it relates to US. Let me explain it this way:
Justification initially does not involve our works. Thereafter, it DOES involve our works, and it may be lost by our sinfulness. In heaven, our justification is complete, we do not need any good works, and it can never be lost.

To repeat. It is all the SAME justification. Each “type” is only a description of how justification relates TO US during each stage of our development towards perfection.

[quote=fineca]Problem 3 is that if the believing unbaptized man is a child of Adam, a child of wrath, without the supernatural virtues of F, H and C, he cannot be saved. But we believe that they are saved (baptism of desire).

Problem 4 comes from problem 3 if we try to say we are justified by the baptism of desire when we come to believe. If so then baptism doesn’t justify any more but becomes merely a symbol.
[/quote]

This is not a problem. The resolution of your dilemma is similar to the one for “problem” 2 above. The baptism of desire, the baptism of water, and the baptism of blood are all the SAME baptism in the eyes of God. The three types are simply different modes of fulfilling God’s requirement for baptism, according to our means and exigencies. Thus, baptism, no matter how it is achieved by us according to our situation, is INDEED necessary.

Hope that helps.

Blessings,
Marduk


#8

First of all it’s brother not sister:)

I don’t really know if that helps… the core problem still stays:
why does Paul say we are justified by faith if all that faith does is prepare us for justification in baptism?


#9

As Chapter 7 of Session 6 states,[INDENT]The instrumental cause [of justification] is the sacrament of baptism, which is the “sacrament of faith”; without faith no one has ever been justified.
[/INDENT]So while God gives catechumens the grace to believe, which prepares them for Baptism, it is in Baptism that they receive the “the faith that gives eternal life.”

We can thus say that we are justified by faith in the sense that the “sacrament of faith” (baptism) is the instrumental cause of our justification.

I’m not sure if this gets you closer to the answer you’re looking for.


#10

Dear brother :o (you know, that is the THIRD time I have done that on this board to others :o :smiley: ) fineca,

When Paul says we are justified by faith, he is talking about the faith of belief. Paul is actually presupposing that someone with the faith of belief will be moved by the Holy Spirit to be baptized (as HE was by Ananias). That faith of belief (for adults or at the age of reason) must be present at baptism, without which justification will NOT occur. As Jesus taught, “Be baptized and you will be saved. If you do not believe, you will not be saved.”

So your justification does not actually occur once you have the faith of belief, but once you are baptized WITH that faith of belief. Of course, if it is impossible for you to be baptized before you die, your DESIRE to be baptized is sufficient to fulfill the law of Christ.

Does that help?

Blessings,
Marduk


#11

hmm…maybe…not sure…
so does the baptism of desire justify or does the person die unjustified but still saved? if it justifies, then water baptism doesn’t justify any longer, if it doesn’t, how can an unjustified man be saved?


#12

According to the Council of Trent, Session VI, Ch 4:[INDENT]Justification is a passing from the state in which man is born a son of the first Adam, to the state of grace and adoption as sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior.[/FONT] [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]After the promulgation of the gospel this passing cannot take place without the water of regeneration or the desire for it, as it is written: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”[/FONT].[/FONT][/FONT]

C.f. Romans 8:15[/FONT]
Emphasis added[/FONT]
C.f. Canon 5[/FONT]
John 3:5[/FONT]
[/INDENT]Baptism justifies. The desire for Baptism justifies.

The former applies for those who have been baptized. The latter applies to the following case:[INDENT]For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

*Catechism of the Catholic Church *1259
[/INDENT]


#13

As I stated earlier, the baptism of desire, the baptism of water, and the baptism of blood ARE ALL THE SAME BAPTISM IN THE EYES OF GOD. They ALL have the same effect on us.

NORMALLY:
baptism in water WITH the faith of belief justifies.

In EXTENUATING circumstances:
the desire to be baptized WITH the faith of belief justifies.
baptism in blood WITH the faith of belief justifies.

Notice that in each circumstance it is NOT JUST the faith of belief.

Hope that helps.

Blessings,
Marduk


#14

:thumbsup: YAY! Is is powerful and well written.

So it seems to me that the Church is trying to explain that we need faith before justification, and then that faith is given to us in justification, and then again that faith is the beginning and root of justification again taking us back to the time before justification. The problem here is that the Apostle says we are justified by faith, the Church seems to say that faith is a part of the preparation for justification which then occurs in baptism.

The main issue here is one of grace: Prevenient grace is like wind in your sails pushing you towards Baptism. Upon Baptism your soul is infused with sanctifying grace in which you are transformed into an adopted child of God. This infusion of grace includes a great strengthening of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and, Love.

REMEMBER that when St Paul was talking about faith he was talking to ALREADY baptized members.
26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
-Gal 3

11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
-Col 2
I dont know of ANY conversions recorded in Acts where Baptism wasnt done IMMEDIATELY upon accepting the Gospel. Faith to Paul is much much more than simply believing Jesus is Lord, it is struggling to live the best Christian life you can. Places like 1 Cor 13 show the end goal is love, not faith.

The other problem is that on the one hand ur supposed to believe before justification and on the other justification is supposed to give you faith. Is this a different kind of faith?

Yes, it is a “weaker” faith and must be strengthened such that you are capable of performing supernaturally good works.

Is the person who before justification believes and loves God by the help of his actual grace still an unjustified reprobate sinner

Technically yes, however the Council teaches the desire for Baptism is sufficient and thus you could in fact attain this before water Baptism.

Or are there two justifications, one when the sinner starts believing and another one when he is baptised? This is what all of the above would require although I know it’s not the case…

There is one justification where you become an official child of God, though through preveinient grace you do go through a mini conversion before hand.


#15

Some thoughts for Fineca:

  1. Even Satan and gang believe in God. (Scripture tells us we are to have an obedient faith, which means we respond to God in belief, trust, and obedience)

  2. God is the source of our faith. At Baptism, the seed of faith is firmly planted. The Church is the household of faith. Through the ministry of the Church, our seeds of faith are nurtured. Faith is lived – we share our growing faith. We live with God through Baptism but we must persevere to gain everlasting life.

  3. We assume certain responsibilities when we become members of Christ’s Church through Baptism. Infants who are baptized don’t yet know how to respond to God’s graces; but they have been made justified – freed from sin and mde holy by the action of God’s grace. They have begun their “process” of salvation.

  4. Justification is about establishing a just (or “right”) relationship with God – and entails a transformation of the whole person, accomplished by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism. Conversion isn’t one event … it’s a journey we travel on every day.

  5. We can lose our faith, because of our free will. We can lose our salvation. We must seek to do God’s will … to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).

“As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:6-7).

“If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:11-13).

“As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).


#16

**JDDJ just has too many unresolved issues especially the theological differences of Justification,the definition of Grace,at serious points it uses (in Faith) instead of by or through faith. It’s a feel good happy doctrine that goes nowhere ecumenically in my opinion! **


#17

CatholicDude, your thoughts were somewhat helpful, thanks, and also the earlier answer to the baptism of desire.
Back to the question about faith. CatholicDude, in Romans Paul is specifically talking to NON-baptised Jews arguing that one is justified by faith in Christ/the Gospel. I’m still wondering why he taught justification by faith so strongly if justification really happens in baptism, assuming he was talking about the “faith of belief”, putting one’s faith in Christ before baptism, not the faith that is given in baptism since he never really says that.
So… are we to explain Romans 3-5 away by saying that even though paul says we’re justified by faith, he really means faith is the result of prevenient grace leading us to baptism which really then justifies us…I’m sure Calvinists would be happy to read this and shout at our face CAN’T U SEE how wrong you are just accept the biblical doctrine of J by F … but well I live in a Lutheran country and they’re the only biblical ones too in their opinion but they still have the same problem with baptism&justification by faith… well…
James Akin once said nicely that on the level of virtue we’re justified by faith, on the level of sacrament by baptism, on the level of behavior by repentance of sins. Sounds good, but the problem is those 3 don’t occur simultaneously but initial justification occurs just once…so which is it?


#18

Where do you figure he was talking to unbaptized Jews? I always got the impression when he specifically addressed Jews he was talking to Judaizers (Baptized Jewish Christians who demanded circumcision and the law be followed).

I’m still wondering why he taught justification by faith so strongly if justification really happens in baptism, assuming he was talking about the “faith of belief”, putting one’s faith in Christ before baptism, not the faith that is given in baptism since he never really says that.

First of all in places like rom 4 Paul is talking about justification in general which is APART from your own works (ie apart from grace) done in a humble spirit (If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-4:2). He was NOT talking about a IMPUTED justification that took place once and for all as we already know Abraham and David were in a relationship YEARS before the verses Paul quotes.

Second of all, faith is INCREASED through Baptism, not first received at baptism. (eg Acts 2:38 - Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

You need to keep in mind that faith is something that you live by, it is not simply a profession of faith, it must “work through love” (Gal 5:6; cf Heb 11:6). Paul constantly refutes the Jewish idea that Gods favor was automatically and forever upon the Jews simply because of their “fleshy” heritage to Abraham. Romans 4 is very clear circumcision apart from faith in the Gospel means nothing.

So… are we to explain Romans 3-5 away by saying that even though paul says we’re justified by faith, he really means faith is the result of prevenient grace leading us to baptism which really then justifies us…I’m sure Calvinists would be happy to read this and shout at our face CAN’T U SEE how wrong you are just accept the biblical doctrine of J by F … but well I live in a Lutheran country and they’re the only biblical ones too in their opinion but they still have the same problem with baptism&justification by faith… well…

I recall many famous passages where those accepting the Gospel were Baptized immediately (Acts 2:38; 8:36f; 9:18; 10:47f; 16:14f; 16:32f).
It is ESSENTIAL you realize that places like Rom 4 are not talking about the Protestant notion of justification -imputed, one time only- RATHER Paul was clear justification is obeying God apart from your own works. Abraham was justified because his faith revealed his righteous soul (explicitly stated in 4:18-22), this could only be the result of infused grace. Further Abraham was already a believer long before Gen (see my sig!!) 15:6, as was David before he wrote Ps 32.

Paul is very clear in places like Rom 6:3f (and others like 1 Cor 6:9-11) that Baptism plays an indispensable role in salvation.

As for your Calvinist friends, they ALSO believe in prevenient grace except they call it “regeneration”…one SLIGHT problem, the only time St Paul uses the term “regeneration” is in Titus 3:5 (a beautiful passage on justification 3:4-7) and this is in reference to Baptism (and supports the Catholic interpretation of salvation). If a Protestant says ‘no way’ pull out Luther’s Large (and small) Catechism (accepted by all Lutherans) and he explicitly cites Titus 3:5 for Baptism. (Even Calvin said this verse was about Baptism!!).

For those who REJECT any concept of “prevenient grace” tell them to read Acts chapter 10 from start to finish. Cornelius had faith, it led him to Peter but he was not a true Christian until he was Baptized after accepting the Gospel message.

James Akin once said nicely that on the level of virtue we’re justified by faith, on the level of sacrament by baptism, on the level of behavior by repentance of sins. Sounds good, but the problem is those 3 don’t occur simultaneously but initial justification occurs just once…so which is it?

Hopefully I have shown you above that the Protestant interpretation is unworkable and disregards many of the facts as well as degrades things like Baptism to mere symbols.


#19

Thanks CatholicDude for all the comments but it missed the point a bit anyhow, I know the problems with the Calv interpretation but the question was why is it said so many times we are justified by faith, Rom 3:20-28, 5:1 etc…

why I think Paul is talking to Jews? Well it seems clear he’s talking about initial justification in Rom 3ff, and it makes more sense he’s arguing to unjustified people telling them how to be justified rather than already justified people… and when he addresses the “Jew” in Romans 2 there’s nothing suggesting those Jews were already Christians…especially if you read Romans 3 after that…


#20

You ask great questions Fineca. I hope that my three posts here are helpful. I am sorry I didn’t get around to addressing all of your questions. Please let me know what you find unsatisfying and I will continue to search out all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden in Christ Jesus.

You wrote, “It seems to me that we need faith before justification.”

This is true… because without faith, we will not approach Christ to be united with him in the sacrament of baptism. The Catholic Church refers to baptism as the “sacrament of faith”, and this is an apt expression. We cannot be justified, or, in other words, made right with God, until we are born again. And this happens in baptism, taking Jesus’ words in John 3:5 as referring to baptism. And so the faith that we have before baptism, while sufficient to convert us and turn us toward Christ, is insufficient to unite us to Christ. But when Christ baptizes us into His death, then our faith, by the grace received through baptism, becomes efficacious in receiving the power to walk in newness of life: “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4)… and again, “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). It is important to understand that it is said to be specifically the death and resurrection of Christ (not to exclude His whole life of obedience) that bring justification. We “are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith” (Rom 3:24-25). And His righteousness “will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:23-24). Again, noticing a one to one correspondence, both of these historical, redemptive events become our own by baptism and through faith: “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death” …] “in which [baptism] you were also raised with Him through faith” (Rom. 6:4; Col 2:12).

St. Augustine talks about having faith before baptism and says that, “that faith suffered me not to be at rest in regard to my past sins, which were not yet forgiven me by Your baptism” (Book 9, Chapter 4). This agrees with what Ananias says to Paul after Paul had come to faith in Jesus: “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on His Name” (Acts 22:16). This washing away by water baptism can only be understood as “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6). It makes sense to believe that this washing of regeneration and reception of the Holy Spirit refers to water baptism because Peter tells the Jews at Pentecost to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). In this passage, faith is presupposed, because without faith, you will not repent and be baptized. But notice that the reception of the Holy Spirit – Who causes us to be born again – and the forgiveness of sins are both received when the people, who have faith, repent and are baptized. Peter believes, and we saw Ananias giving evidence of this same belief, that the initial forgiveness of sins, comes with baptism. And we know from Paul’s discussion in Romans chapter 4 that forgiveness of sins is integral to his teaching on justification: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Rom. 4:7-8).

(continued…)


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