Justification Catholic/Protestant Dialogue


#1

I have been studying Catholic apologetics for over 14 years now. I am currently in a discussion with a Protestant friend about justifcation. Now, we have been talking about the nature of works. If I understand our (the Catholic position ) position correctly, when Paul says in Romans 4:2-3 "Indeed if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works, he has reason to boast; but this was not so in the sight of God. For what does scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ " The “works” Paul would be talking about here is “works” done apart from God’s grace. (or as Scott Hanhn and others teaches ceremonial works of the law like circumcission) These are not “works” done once the person comes to God through grace. Correct? We know this because Paul, in Romans 2:5-13, says that God will judge every man according to his works. These are works done once a person comes to God through grace. This is also why James says in James 2 :20-24 “Do you want proof, you ignoramus,that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Issac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works. Thus the scripture was fulfiled that says, ‘Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’ You see that man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Also Paul’s quote, in Romans 4:3, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousnes,” was from Genesis 15:6 James clearly stated that Abraham was justified back in Genesis 12. Is this a good explanation of the Catholic position??? (I mean a good explanation of these verses (concerning works) based on the Catholic position. I am not talkign about a comprehensive explanation of the Catholic position.) THANK YOU!! ANY FEEDBACK WILL BE APPRECIATED:thumbsup:


#2

I think you’re doing pretty well here. IMO the P vs. C justification debate is more about semantics than many (most?) realize.

C’s believe that faith without works is dead. We should be doers of the world and not hearers only. The sign of true belief is the acts that result from it. By our fruit we are known.

Not to say that P’s don’t believe that. However, my opinion is that many (most?) P’s don’t understand the true C position here, and think that we have a works salvation gospel. To me that is understandable, because sadly many C’s don’t make it beyond spiritual infancy and don’t take the time as adults to learn the teachings of the CC.

I think it’s useful to look at the Cathechism on this subject:

I. JUSTIFICATION

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism: 34

[quote]But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 35

1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself: 36

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature… For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized. 37

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man. 39

1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.

1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

[/quote]


#3

My first post didn’t really answer your concluding question. Here’s my opinion FWIW.

Agree – at this point we are not discussing the works of the justified, these are works in the absence of grace.

We know this because Paul, in Romans 2:5-13, says that God will judge every man according to his works. These are works done once a person comes to God through grace. This is also why James says in James 2 :20-24 “Do you want proof, you ignoramus,that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Issac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works. Thus the scripture was fulfiled that says, ‘Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’ You see that man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” :

IMO the works are the fruit of faith in this discussion. Why is Abraham’s example reknown? Because he believed and trusted God so much (ie, faith) that he submitted and obeyed him (ie, works of the justified), to the point of sacrificing his son. If the works don’t come, the faith is not there.

I’d also add to the discussion James 1:22 “Be doers of the word and not hearers only”.


#4

My first post didn’t really answer your concluding question. Here’s my opinion FWIW.

when Paul says in Romans 4:2-3 "Indeed if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works, he has reason to boast; but this was not so in the sight of God. For what does scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ " The “works” Paul would be talking about here is “works” done apart from God’s grace. (or as Scott Hanhn and others teaches ceremonial works of the law like circumcission) These are not “works” done once the person comes to God through grace. Correct?

Agree – at this point we are not discussing the works of the justified, these are works in the absence of grace.

We know this because Paul, in Romans 2:5-13, says that God will judge every man according to his works. These are works done once a person comes to God through grace. This is also why James says in James 2 :20-24 “Do you want proof, you ignoramus,that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Issac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works. Thus the scripture was fulfiled that says, ‘Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called ‘the friend of God.’ You see that man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

IMO the works are the fruit of faith in this discussion. Why is Abraham’s example reknown? Because he believed and trusted God so much (ie, faith) that he submitted and obeyed him (ie, works of the justified), to the point of sacrificing his son. If the works don’t come, the faith is not there.

I’d also add to the discussion James 1:22 “Be doers of the word and not hearers only”. Otherwise, we are simply the rocky soil in the parable of the sower.


#5

Also, Catholic definition of “works” includes cooperation in our own salvation. Most Protestants don’t like that concept…because it sounds to them like we are “earning” our salvation.

But…thinking more about it, nothing we do (and I’m not speaking about good works, rather assenting to accept God’s free grace) “counts”, then we really don’t have any truly free will to accept such grace. Martin Luther denyed our free will when it comes to justification (I don’t have the reference handy).


#6

Would you also agree that this reasoning can be used to explain Ephesians 2:8-9 “for we are saved by grace through faith it is not of works lest any man should boast.” These are works done apart from God’s grace. In verse 10 Paul says," For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them."

Also the context of Ephesians 2 seems to indicate that Paul is talking about man before Christ came and atoned for sin. The whole chapter talsk about how wre dead in our transgressions, and God in His mercy brought us to life. Any comments on Ephesians 2 would aslo be helpful.


#7

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