Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pope Agrees With Luther...Not

Yesterday, the Pope announced that "Martin Luther's doctrine on justification is correct..." You may read an article by Zenit here (thanks to Algo for pointing this to me). I guess we can all close our Protestant churches and go back to the true church Jesus founded. We Protestants have been wrong for the last 500 years. If only the Pontiff of Luther's day would have said this. We could have avoided all of this misunderstanding.

At the close of the article the Pope is quoted.
Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love."

"Paul knows," he added, "that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love."
What modern Protestant would disagree with this? As a Protestant who has spoken over the years with many different sects that claim to be Christian but are not, I have learned one thing. There is a "language barrier" that must be scaled.

First, let's look at what the Pope is actually saying. Then we will look at what the Reformers taught in their confessions. Tomorrow's post we shall look at the meaning of "law" as defined by Scripture.

If you read the article carefully, you will notice there are significant qualifications that Benedict the XVI stipulates.
Martin Luther's doctrine on justification is correct, if faith "is not opposed to charity." - [emphasis mine]
What does the Pope mean by this. He clarifies with the same old Roman Catholic trick. He redefines "law".

What is law

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."

The article then explains the meaning of this,
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."
So what the Pope gives with one hand, he takes away with the other. It is true that Jesus' work on the cross takes down the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles, such as circumcision, pure foods, and ect..
"The wall -- so says the Letter to the Ephesians -- between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary".
This is often the argument used by Roman Catholics to explain Paul's use of the Law in Galatians. According to Rome, Paul was not saying that men are justified by faith alone without works of love. They were just not justified by keeping ethnic barriers of circumcision (perhaps also eating certain clean foods and keeping certain rituals) that the Judaizers were forcing upon churches. So Rome teaches that we must keep the law of love by faith in order to be Justified. But is this the only meaning of "Law" Paul is speaking of or is this really what Luther meant by faith?

The Lutheran and Protestant Confessions as a whole reject what the Pope defines as faith that Justifies a sinner. Luther's Lectures On Romans has an interesting paragraph that deals with the external nature of Justification.

The saints are intrinsically always sinners, therefore they are always extrinsically justified; but the hypocrites are intrinsically always righteous, therefore they are extrinsically always sinners....Hence, we are extrinsically righteous in so far as we are righteous not in and from ourselves and not in virtue of our works but only by God's regarding us so. For inasmuch as the saints are always aware of their sin and implore God for the merciful gift of His righteousness, they are for this very reason also always reckoned righteous by God. Therefore they are before themselves and in truth unrighteous, but before God they are righteous because He reckons them so on account of this confession of their sin; they are sinners in fact, but by virtue of the reckoning of the merciful God they are righteous....
One must wonder if the Pope would agree with Luther. Obviously not.

The Augusburg Confession states,

1] Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for 2] Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. 3] This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

As the LBCF states defines the historic understanding of Faith Alone,
Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ, and his Righteousness, is the (f) alone instrument of Justification: yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving Graces, and is no dead faith, (g) but worketh by love.
And again,
But the principal acts of Saving Faith, have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, and resting upon (i) him alone, for Justification, Sanctification, and Eternal Life, by vertue of the Covenant of Grace.
These quotes demonstrate that for historic Protestantism including Luther that faith without any works whatsoever saves a man. The reason is simple. It looks to Christ. It looks to another's work and righteousness alone. Yet obviously saving faith is never without works, but those works have no justifying power in any way, shape or form. This is what Benedict denies in his qualifications of faith. The Reformers did not misunderstand Rome. They knew full well the stakes involved. Once works entered into the definition of faith that justifies, then resting in Christ's work alone is not possible.

So why does the Pope say Luther was right, when he knows full well what Luther taught and knows full well that he disagrees with Luther? Deception. As Algo said to me last night, "This is double talk." Double talk is what you get with Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. It is also what you are getting with Rome.

You may say, "This seems trivial." How a man is made right with God is anything but trivial. Of course if you see man as merely "sick" then, God's grace may be necessary, but it will not be sufficient until man cooperates with God. For the Reformers, God's grace is not merely necessary, but sufficient. This, tied together with man's total depravity, brings about faith alone in Christ Alone.

When a man sees he has nothing to offer God, even by faith in love, he will see salvation is By Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. To God alone be the Glory.


Anonymous said...

I've been following your posts for a few weeks and enjoy your blog. Are you saying that because faith is alone it is opposed to charity/love? Also, I read a section of B16's speech (see below) where he seems to affirm that it is not our merit in any way that justifies. Maybe I'm missing something here?

"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." - Benedict XVI

Most Respectfully,

Howard Fisher said...

"Are you saying that because faith is alone it is opposed to charity/love?"

Nopers. I am not saying it is opposed to charity and love. I think I even quoted the Confessions that say as much.

The problem is in definitions. Assuming you are a Christian, have you ever talked with a Mormon or a JW? They believe in Jesus. If you look back to a recent post on Hell, I have had a conversation with a JW who says she believes in Substitutionary atonement.

The language barrier must be scaled. Rome has infallibly defined the Protestant faith as anathema. So if the Pope is "sounding" like a Protestant, it is only the ringing in your ears. Definitions and context are the core issues.

"he seems to affirm that it is not our merit in any way that justifies"

This is the new catholic tactic. They will say it is only Jesus' merits that get us into heaven. What is not mentioned here is that in order to get those merits, you have a treasury of merit system. Surely Benedict is not denying that.

What do you think the Mass is a part of? What do you think purgatory and indulgences are about? They are the means by which you gain the merits of Christ. However, the merits are piece-mealed to you. Romans 5:1 makes no sense to the knowledgeable RC. Knowledgeable RCs in public debates have to give some interesting answers in order to get around Paul's meaning.

God Bless