Friday, November 21, 2008

Pope Agrees With Luther...Double Talk

In this second post I want interact with the Pope's understanding of the Law verses the context of Scripture's use of it in Galatians. The article explains,
But in order to understand this Pauline teaching, Benedict XVI affirmed, "we must clarify what is the 'law' from which we have been freed and what are those 'works of the law' that do not justify."
So here we see that some aspects of the Law justify and some that do not justify. But what are they?
Instead, the Pope said, the law to which Paul refers is the "collection of behaviors extending from an ethical foundation to the ritual and cultural observances that substantially determined the identity of the just man -- particularly circumcision, the observance regarding pure food and general ritual purity, the rules regarding observance of the Sabbath, etc."

These observances served to protect Jewish identity and faith in God; they were "a defense shield that would protect the precious inheritance of the faith," he remarked.
By making this distinction between ethnic (Jewish Identity) laws and moral laws, Rome is able to say that justification occurs with a faith that works [moral laws] in love, not a faith alone that simply looks outside of one-self, looks to another and rests solely in the work of Christ alone.

In Galatians we read,
Gal 2:15 "We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
Gal 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
With the Rome's definition of law smuggled in, many Protestant will readily accept Rome as simply another denomination. The irony is that there is a movement among Protestants called the New Perspective On Paul (NPP). This movement interprets Paul's letter to the Galatians and sees that Paul was arguing against the Judaizers that were wanting to have Gentile Christians keep the ethnic laws that were used as boundaries for the Jews. In other words, Paul, according to this view, simply wanted to break down the cultural ethnic barriers of the law that separated Jews and Gentiles, not the moral law. But is this all Paul meant by the term "law"?

Jeffery Smith's article in the Reformed Baptist Theological Review (vol IV, No.1) demonstrates that the NPP is in serious error. His arguments I think apply equally strong here against the Roman Pontiff. He writes examination of Paul's use of the phrase "the works of the law" demonstrates that he saw in this insistence a much deeper problem that goes far beyond the mere issue of boundary markers or the social function of the law. Paul argues that to insist that justification is dependent on obedience to any aspect of the law means that we must be obedient to all that the law as a whole demands in order to be justified.
Now how do we know that Paul is referring to the entire law? Smith goes on to explain verses 3:10-14 and cites Venema's comments,
Those who would be justified by the works of the law are reminded that the law pronounces a curse upon everyone who fails to keep "all things" that are written in it.
The reference makes plain that the entire Old Testament Law must be kept or the curses of Deuteronomy would be fulfilled in the law-breaker. To make this passage refer to only "boundary markers" is to miss the point of the text itself. Paul not only includes circumcision, but also the Ten Commandments.

Think about it. Are we going to say that we may by faith keep the commandment "Thou shall not commit adultery" as justifying while circumcision is not? Who in the world keeps that commandment? I'll bet you broke that commandment within the last fifteen minutes. Are we really going to say that Christ has only freed us from the "boundary markers"? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross for circumcision? The problems with NPP and Rome's understanding of these passages in order to get round the plain teaching of Scripture only worsens the problem. God truly becomes the "cosmic child abuser" if Jesus' death on the cross is merely for racism.

To put it another way Smith writes,
...If this is the meaning of Christ being made a curse for us, then the Jews themselves had no need of a cross. The cross was only for the Gentiles, to show them that God is for them [is this not what Benedict basically says?]. The only need, then, that Jews had of the cross was with reference to their unwillingness to receive Gentiles. Thus the cross was only for those Jews who were racist and only for those Gentiles who were unhappy with the idea of having to become Jews.
Smith's comments on Romans 7 are helpful.
Some argue that it's only a legalistic obedience to the law that Paul excludes from being the ground of justification. It is only obedience out of the sinful motive of seeking to bribe God. However, they argue that evangelical obedience, or believing obedience, is not excluded from being the ground of our justification or from in some sense being the condition of our justification. But it is not merely a legalistic obedience that Paul excludes. That, of course, is excluded. Paul excludes obedience to the demands of the law period, whatever the motive.
Man is always attempting to insert himself somewhere in salvation. We just can't let go of the idea that we must do something. The common objection raised by all religions including Roman Catholicism is the same objection that was raised against Paul's teaching of Justification by faith alone.
Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
Or as one RC asked me, "So you believe that we are fully and completely justified by faith alone apart from any works of any kind? So you may get saved and then kill people without any possibility of losing your salvation?"

Paul's answer in the rest of chapter 6 is something I will let the reader decide. For now I will agree with Lloyd-Jones. You are not preaching the Gospel unless you are accused of preaching the free-grace of God. This Rome denies and will not do. Therefore Rome is an apostate church. She has redefined faith and the law and ultimately the Gospel, which is really no Gospel at all.


Anonymous said...

It would perhpas be better to read the Pope's entire lesson on Paul and justification. Your source gave extracts of his Wednesday talk to the faithful, which was done in Italian.

Anyhow, here is how Pope Benedict on Wednesday synthesized his talk on Paul and justification in English.

Dear Brothers and Sisters

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification.

Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God.

Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21).

In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works. For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life.

The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love.

With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned this on the previous post about this topic. Glad to see someone else caught that too.


Howard Fisher said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Again, though, none of this is new. RCs have been saying this for centuries. JWs or Mormons might even say things like this. Again, the issue isn't what appears to be said. What else is the Pope going to say? Is he really going to say, "Hey, Jesus' work on the cross isn't going to be able to save us."?

You quoted the Pope as saying,

"since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life."

The issue has never been "Do we believe that faith saves?" or "Is salvation by God's grace?"

Nevertheless, words have meaning. When he says the grace of justification, he means it in almost the same way or at least in a similar way as the New Perspectivists.

Also, the Pope has affirmed the Council of Trent as binding. So whatever Benedict says, we must interpret him in light of Trent.

Trent states,

"CANON 9: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema." "

Notice the phrase, "the grace of justification". It is right in the middle of deny faith alone. That pretty much does it for me.

God Bless