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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Does the Roman Catholic Catechism Teach Justification by Faith Alone?

In the next several days I will do short commentaries on The Catechism of the Catholic Church to show how it is defective and how it departs from the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. I have decided to do this commentary because someone who claims to be "Protestant" and "Calvinistic" also claims to be "Anglo-Catholic." (See Tracts for the Times). This person gave me references in the Roman catechism with the remark that he did not see a problem with these statements. I intend to show that in fact Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics share the same view of justification, which is heretical and not the gospel at all. (Click here for a straightforward explanation of justification by faith alone by Dr. John H. Gerstner).

I will also frankly admit that many "Evangelicals" today think that the Protestant Reformation is over and that Rome and Protestants are now one. That is expressed in the document, Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Oddly enough one of the endorsers of that document is also a member of The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which produced The Cambridge Declaration. The two documents are contradictory to say the least. I'm extemely displeased that James I. Packer and Gerald Bray, both Evangelical Anglicans, signed ECT. However, other Evangelicals, including R. C. Sproul and Michael Horton saw through the weaknesses of this document and responded with An Appeal to Evangelicals.

Moreover, paragraph 1989 from CCTC shows that the Roman Catholic/Anglo-Catholic view confuses justification with sanctification:

"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

As Reformed believers we should be careful to distinguish between justification and sanctification. In fact, the footnote shows that this idea of justification and sanctification being one and the same thing comes from the Council of Trent. It should be noted that the Council of Trent officially condemned the Gospel of Jesus as it is understood from Holy Scripture and by the Protestant Reformers. This paragraph emphasizes the logical flow from the Roman Catholic doctrine of infused righteousness. In other words, at baptism the believer is infused with righteousness which is the basis of his justification. In the Roman Catholic view he is made inherently or actually righteous as if he or she were as pure as Christ Himself at baptism. Thus, all sins past and present, including the guilt of original sin are washed away and the believer is made pure within and without. However, the Roman Catholics would not deny that this includes a legal declaration of righteousness up to the point of baptism. But the Protestant view is that the legal/forensic declaration includes all sins committed in the past, the present, and the future--not just sins committed before baptism but all sins committed after baptism as well. All we need to do when sin is committed after conversion and baptism is to confess our sins and repent of them. Of course, we must pay the consequences for our sins in this life but that has nothing to do with our eternal standing with God. If I commit a crime, I must do prison time but that has absolutely nothing to do with my state of justification if I truly repent of my sins.

The problem is that we are not made inherently righteous when we are converted. We are both saints and sinners simultaneously (see Romans 7). We not only have a new nature but the old nature is still there as well. This is why Protestants insist on the distinction between justification and sanctification. Justification is a legal declaration whereby we are declared not guilty of our sins and not guilty of the original sin of Adam (see Romans 4:1-8). It is not an inherent righteousness or righteousness infused into the heart. Rather, it is a righteousness that is not our own credited to us. We remain sinners while we are declared righteous. A foreign righteousness is imputed or credited to us even though it is not our own. This righteousness is the perfect obedience and the perfect righteousness of Christ himself.

On the other hand, our sanctification is both positional and progressive. At conversion we are separated to God and then we progress imperfectly toward Christian maturity. Only at our death are we entirely sanctified and sinless in every respect. This is in fact our glorification.

I would also disagree with the statement's obvious semi-pelagianism, which was condemned as a heresy at the Council of Orange in 529 A.D. I do not agree that we cooperate with God's grace. This view essentially says that total depravity and original sin is cancelled out by a general grace given to all men. However, the Bible makes it clear that only the elect will be drawn to Christ and only the elect are effectually called. Man is unable to respond to the call of the Gospel unless grace is given to individuals. Those individuals who actually receive grace are indeed irresistibly drawn to repentance, conversion, and faith. Those who are not converted have not received grace to believe. (See the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Articles IX-XVIII: Personal Religion). If grace is given to all, then grace is essentially ineffective and the deciding factor is man. The problem with this view is it makes God unable to save anyone at all and salvation is left to chance and the capricious wills of sinful men. God is in heaven wringing His hands and hoping someone will choose Him. But the biblical view is that God actually saves exactly who He intends to save out of sheer mercy and grace. This is the point upon which the Gospel stands or falls. Those who claim to be both Protestant and Anglo-Catholic are misrepresenting the facts.




More on this later.

38 Mt 4:17.
39 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1528.

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