Archives For July 2014

A Fresh Look at Salvation

At first glance, many Bible verses seem to support the Protestant understanding of salvation. The Protestant might say, “There are several passages that pit faith against works in order to demonstrate that salvation is—and can only be—a free gift, a grace (c.f. Ephesians 2).”

There is much to laud here; however, this notion is incomplete. 

I will never fail to declare that salvation is a grace given by God. I, without God’s grace and mercy, cannot merit salvation. Catholics, at least from the insider perspective, do not see themselves as meriting salvation apart from Christ’s free gift.

That said, allow me to briefly explain why I disagree with the Protestant view. I will aim to do so in a slightly fresh way.

When the Scripture speaks of salvation by faith through grace, apart from the works of the law, it is referring to the means by which we are transferred from a state of condemnation to a state of grace. John 8:24 and John 11:25 are great examples of this instance. John and Paul are saying, “You Jews cannot be saved by the works of the Mosaic law. You Greeks cannot be saved by the works of the moral law. You are all sinners in need of a Savior. Merely believe in me, and I will save you from your present state of condemnation.” For this reason, Paul often writes about this type of salvation in the middle of speaking about Jews, Gentiles, circumcision, Abraham, etc. He wants to demonstrate that ALL can come to Christ in faith. Upon reflecting on this fact, we realize that SHEER grace brought us into a state of grace, justifying us from our former selves. Moreover, baptism and faith are often together in the Scriptures because baptism is a sign of the shedding of the Greek-ness or the Jew-ness (both states of condemnation) and the gaining of status as the new creation. 

About this sort of verse, the Council of Trent correctly asserts, and I will quote at length so that you get the idea in all of its particularities: 

“The holy council declares first, that for a correct and clear understanding of the doctrine of justification, it is necessary that each one recognize and confess that since all men had lost innocence in the prevarication of Adam,[3] having become unclean,[4] and, as the Apostle says, by nature children of wrath,[5] as has been set forth in the decree on original sin,[6] they were so far the servants of sin[7] and under the power of the devil and of death, that not only the Gentiles by the force of nature, but not even the Jews by the very letter of the law of Moses, were able to be liberated or to rise therefrom, though free will, weakened as it was in its powers and downward bent,[8] was by no means extinguished in them. Whence it came to pass that the heavenly Father, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort,[9] when the blessed fullness of time was come,[10] sent to men Jesus Christ, His own Son, who had both before the law and during the time of the law been announced and promised to many of the holy fathers,[11] that he might redeem the Jews who were under the law,[12] and that the Gentiles who followed not after justice[13] might attain to justice, and that all men might receive the adoption of sons. Him has God proposed as a propitiator through faith in his blood[14] for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world.[15] But though He died for all,[16] yet all do not receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His passion is communicated; because as truly as men would not be born unjust, if they were not born through propagation of the seed of Adam, since by that propagation they contract through him, when they are conceived, injustice as their own, so if they were not born again in Christ, they would never be justified, since in that new birth there is bestowed upon them, through the merit of His passion, the grace by which they are made just. For this benefit the Apostle exhorts us always to give thanks to the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, and hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption and remission of sins.[17]” 

Now, I would imagine that Protestants and Catholics would agree about what the Council has written up to this point, but there is a divergence after this part. 

Roman Catholics, to be true to the parts of Sacred Scripture that attest to her doctrines, assert that, though we initially receive justification by grace through faith (which we express in baptism), faith alone does not continue to justify us until the end. In this sense, I mean to say that faith alone means truly believing that Jesus is Lord and Savior. To preserve our state of grace, we must persevere in faith, hope, and love. Thanks be to God that we now can do so because we have been made new. With this in mind, all the glory goes to Christ, for he made us new in the first place! There is a difference between a Christian who obeys the commandments and an unregenerate person who obeys the commandments: in the first case, the glory is to God, who fulfills the law in us, and in the second case, the man cannot justify himself without the Holy Spirit, who washes and sanctifies. 

It is from this perspective that Catholics analyze the Scriptures: namely, that abiding in God’s love is necessary for salvation. We abide in his love by doing his will, obeying the commandments. We now have the power to effectively obey His commands because, as Paul writes in Romans, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (5:5). Those verses that speak of us failing short of the glory of God refer to the unregenerate, not to the regenerate, for the regenerate are no longer slaves but sons. The Father is jealous for the glory of his sons, but he is not jealous for the glory of his slaves. The laborer works for wages, but the son obeys his Father (Romans 3-4). 

That said, it would be remiss of us to ignore the sections of Sacred Scripture that speak about abiding in salvation through means other than sheer faith. We receive eternal life by grace through faith, but we abide in it through faith, hope, and love. 

In John’s gospel, Jesus declares that we must abide in his love by obeying his commandments (John 15). In Luke’s gospel, Jesus affirms the idea that we must love our neighbor and God in order to have eternal life (Luke 10). In Ephesians, “The wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient” (5:6). Notice that this interpretation makes sense, for Paul at first speaks of salvation by faith through grace, but, now that he is speaking of the lives of the regenerate, he urges them to OBEY by avoiding impurity, fornication, stealing, gossip, and idol worship. Likewise, Paul, in Galatians, speaks of salvation by faith alone in the first four chapters, but by salvation through obedience and doing good in five and six. Lastly, in the Book of Revelation, you will find that God is constantly calling his people to repent BOTH for their lack of faith as well as for their lack of hope and love. Who are God’s saints ultimately? “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus” (14:12). Additionally, there is hellfire for those who “did not repent of their deeds” (16:11). The case of the church in Ephesus is paradigmatic: “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5). We must repent for our lack of love, and we must do the works of God. On the day of judgment, Jesus will ask us if we know him. John reveals to us how we “know” Jesus: “Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments” (1 John 2:3). For other examples of this sort of thing, please see the following: John 3:36, Matthew 24:9-13, 1 John 3:14, and Matthew 7:21. 

In sum, if, when Protestants say “faith,” they mean obedience to the commandments of God as well as belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, then we agree entirely. However, if by faith, they do not include the obedience of his commandments in your regenerate state, then I think they are rejecting Sacred Scripture itself. Obedience is necessary for the regenerate. And thank God that, if we disobey, we can always repent with a contrite heart.

May God preserve his Church in faith, hope, and love.

Best wishes,
David J.W. Inczauskis

“Trust Me, I’m a Scientist”

“The essence of the Pedant is twofold, first that he takes his particular science for something universal, second, that he holds with the Grip of Faith certain set phrases in that science which he has been taught.” –Hilaire Belloc

The most severe dogmatism of the present age–empirical materialism–continues to hold sway among hordes of intellectuals. The self-contradictory position has taken such a strong root that all who question its principles receive the label “science-denier.”

There is no greater anti-skeptic, no greater dogmatist, than the skeptical scientist. What, after all, is the difference between the fundamentalist Christian who claims to explain all of reality by pointing to the Bible and the scientist who supports an equally impenetrable system by pointing to his traditional “method”? Each system has its presuppositions, and each system denies common sense.

Scientists, who generally accept the doctrines of post-modernism, become rather furious when you demonstrate to them that their theories do not stand the test of reason. Fundamentalists are similar. 

Let me provide an anecdote. At a garden party at some professor’s house, the post-modern scientist goes on to explain that everything genuinely human is the product of mutations. “There is no such thing as objective truth. There is no such thing as goodness. There is no such thing as beauty. These terms are exactly that…mere terms. They serve social functions for the preservation of the species. Nothing more. Nothing less,” he stoically describes. And how often do academics spout off such ideas! But, of course, when you point out to them that their lack of adherence to objective truth undermines the truth of their theory, they either become upset or begin to state that their idea is an exception. However, when they argue with biblical fundamentalists, they never admit exceptions.

How our culture needs a dose of philosophy!

Best wishes,
David J.W. Inczauskis

AMDG

 

 

 

The Firm Foundation of Roman Catholicism: Thoughts on Hilaire Belloc

hilaire_belloc_portrait

Roman Catholicism contains a certain charm that almost all people who are acquainted with the religion easily recognize. Even John Adams, a fervent Protestant, spoke about its attractions: “Thousands were before [the Eucharist], on their knees, adoring. I could not help cursing the knavery of the priesthood and the brutal ignorance of the people ; yet, perhaps, I was rash and unreasonable, and that it is as much virtue and wisdom in them to adore, as in me to detest and despise” (1780).

From what I have heard and read, one of the people who most adequately captures the pull of the Roman Catholic Church is Hilaire Belloc, an English writer, politician, and apologist who lived at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. He wrote eloquently about the connection between the soul of Europe and the spirit of the Catholic Church. In fact, he went as far as asserting, “Europe is the Church, and the Church is Europe” (4). Now, upon typing a statement such as this one, I can already sense the tension of those who vehemently oppose Catholicism. I would simply encourage such critics to read his works and to discover the merit of his ideas for themselves.

In this post I will share a few of his quotations that I’ve found in The Essential Belloc. Some commentary will follow.

1. “Others, not Catholic, look upon the story of Europe externally as strangers” (3).

  • Belloc argues that history, at its most fundamental level, is a product of human philosophy and theology. Our underlying ideas, which are essentially spiritual, shape the way we live. This fact is unavoidable. As for the history of Europe, Roman Catholicism is the foundation upon which everything rests. The region’s formative period–the Middle Ages–is akin to our young adulthood, the point in time at which we decide who we are. Belloc, though, loves the Middle Ages! He claims that the medieval times solidified the concepts of property, of human dignity, of family life, of marriage, of truth, of science, and of hierarchical order. Naturally, these fixtures are still in place today in almost all societies that trace their roots back to Europe. With this background in mind, Belloc argues that Catholics (the preservers of the great medieval tradition) best comprehend the meaning of modernity because they best understand its foundation.

2. “The bad work begun at the Reformation is bearing its final fruit in the dissolution of our ancestral doctrines–the very structure of our society is dissolving” (16).

  • Well before postmodern scholars “discovered” the contemporary effects of the Reformation, Hilaire Belloc did. He knew that Protestantism introduced a disorder that challenged the basis of medieval authority: the Church’s traditions. Protestantism is the origin of modern materialism, modern atheism, and modern skepticism; for, if the Church’s magisterium is fallible, who is to preserve the Truth?

Belloc, surely, is a most controversial and interesting figure. Get to know him!

May God bless you.

–David J.W. Inczauskis

My Discovery of Hilaire Belloc

This evening, I started reading one of Hilaire Belloc’s articles on religion in the United States. Since I’ve yet to digest it fully, I’d simply like to share two quotations that caught my attention:

1) “The definition of faith is the acceptation of a truth, and the refusal to entertain the possibility of an opposite to that truth, although proof is absent. Faith must be coincident with reason, but it is not established by reason. Science is the acceptation of a truth, and the refusal to admit the possibility of an opposite, because conclusive proof has been presented, and reason has accepted that proof. Opinion is the partial acceptation of an affirmation, the opposite of which is still regarded as possible. The modern world, I say, the modern Christian world, using the word Christian in the cultural and not in the doctrinal sense, has lapsed from faith into opinion outside the Catholic body.”

2) “The contrast in religion between the New World and the Old is a difficult point to emphasize, and that for three reasons. First, that modern men have forgotten the social effect of religion, ascribing to almost any other cause, economic or physical, what is in truth the result of men’s doctrines. Secondly, that modem men hold doctrines without defining them; therefore without knowing they hold them.

(Both from “A Catholic View of Religious America”)

What are your first impressions? Is he right?

Best wishes,

David J.W. Inczauskis