Monday, June 11, 2012

The best book on Martin Luther now available on Google Play Books!




Martin Luther: The Man and the Image

By Herbert David Rix

By far and away, the best book written on Matin Luther in the 20th Century was "Martin luther: The Man and the Image" by Medieval scholar and Erasmus expert Herbert David Rix.  It was published by a small independant New York press Irvington Publishers in 1983.  It did not receive much press.  I obtained a used copy in a small bookshop in Oxford, UK in 1989.  I had never heard of it before, but as I glanced through it in the shop, I knew it was a must read.  My expectations were more than realized.  it was essentailly a life-changing book and I used it as the basis for an extended lecture on Martin Luther entitled "The Death of Charity" which I delivered to the Pro Fide Forum at Westminster Cathedral in London in October 1989.

Dr. Rix did an extended survey of Luther's works from the Weimar Edition of Luther's collected works.  He also did a survey of the various analyses of Luther's personality and work by his 16th Century contemporaries and by scholars since the Quadricentenniel of his birth in 1883.  Rix makes several connections in the timeline of Luther that I have not seen documented in other biographical materials.  He also gives a plusible (if somewhat dated) psychological profile of the heretic using pre-DSM3 categories.

In short, Dr. Rix thinks that Luther suffered from a severe manic-depressive disorder puncutated with periods of extreme mania that bordered on the psychotic and characterized by a poor self image, severe depression, and delusions of grandeur.  In this view he was not alone.  he quotes from previous authors who wrote about Luther including Erasmus, Richard Simon, Preserved Smith, Fr. Heinrich Denifle, Fr. Hartman Grisar, Preserved Smith, Paul Reiter, and Eric Eriksson. 

Based on his masterful summary in this book, it is abundantly clear that Luther was suffering from severe mental illness and that ths illness lay as the foundation of his alleged religious "breakthrough." To put it bluntly, the theological foundation of Protestnatism is mental illness.  Luther's amoral and antinomian heresy of "justification by faith alone unformed by charity and without good works" was a personal catharsis which the heretic used to control his periods of depression.

EVERY CATHOLIC APOLOGIST MUST READ THIS BOOK! 

This book has been out of print for over a decade, but now Google Play has a PDF version of it that is available here for $16.50!  It would be cheap at twice the price. 


Drop everything and check this book out!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ecclesial Deism: Former Protestants Admit the Problem of the Innovations of the 16th Century




In Catholic Apologetics we many times end up dealing with the usual suspects.  You know who they are.  the radicals who question whether Catholics are even Christian and who KNOW they are going to heaven but are not really sure about anyone else.  I have generally found these types of Protestant apologists to be rude, arrogant, condescending, and not at all Christ-like.  They are the types who think that Salvation is a purely OBJECTIVE phenomenon with no subjective component either on God's part or our own.  The 'god' they worship doesn't really care about human beings.  He just uses them to prove how great He is.  And the 'elect' in their view are chosen arbitrarily with no reference to either their love for God or man.  I refer to these kind of Protestants as 'Death Eaters' or 'The Kampus Krusade for Kthulhu.'

Numbered among these ne'er-do-wells are James 'Pseudopodeo' White, Robert Reymond, Jack Chick, James Swann, Jimmy Swaggart and his spawn Donnie, Robert Zins, and the ever militant Ian Paisley just to name a few.  This crowd will literally tell you that unless someone believed in "Luther's view of salvation of faith alone apart from good  works" that person could not be saved.  They are actually willing to consign 1500 years of pre-Deformation Christians and 500 years of post-Defomation non-Protestants to eternal punishment in a "christless eternity"  because they either rejected OR NEVER KNEW Luther's private interpretations.  The teaching of the church from time immemorial is eother denied, misrepresented,  or ignored as unimportant.  Pushed to the extreme, they will claim that the Church apostatized in the 1st Century after the death of the Apostles and that sound doctrine was not rediscovered until the 16th Century.

Recently, I discovered a new website "Called to Communion: where the Reformation meets Rome" which hosts articles by former Protestants who have entered into Communion with the Catholic Church.  The level of discourse is above average, devout ,and respectful of both Catholic and Protestant sensibilities but from a Catholic viewpoint.  This is an excellent site that I highly recommend. 

There was an article at this site entitled "Ecclesial Deism" by Bryan Cross which directly deals with the claims of the Death Eater crowd that Catholics cannot be Christians.  More importantly it makes the telling BIBLICAL argument that if the Church in the 1st Century (or the 4th Century for that matter) had abandoned sound doctrine, then the Gates of Hell would have prevailed against the Church in spite of Jesus' promise that they would not do so.  Bryan makes the further point that such an argument is derived from the philosophical position of Deism and not form the biblical and tradition views of Divine Providence.

There are several articles on Ecclesial Deism that you can find by Googling that term , but Bryan's is the first one to use this term and it is an important one.  I recommend that Catholics view this article and the responses to it for an in depth treatment of this issue.

We should remember that despite the dissembling of the Death Eater crowd, God so LOVED world that he sent his only beloved Son (John 3:16).  It was not for His self-aggrandizment but to save poor sinners (Phillipians 2:4-8).  Furthermore we have been told quite clearly by Jesus himself that to gain eternal life we must keep the commandments (Mat 19: 16-17): Love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Luke 10:25-28).  Faith alone is not complete without our response to God in love (James 2:22). As St. Paul told us, "So in the end three things will endure: faith, hope, and love ; but the greatest of these is love. " (1Cor 13:13).

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The Gospel According to St. John
The Catholics Apologetics Study Bible
Volume 6
Translation and Commentary by Robert A. Sungenis
A Review by Art Sippo

Dr. Bob Sungenis continues his ongoing series in The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible with a Volume on St. John’s Gospel. As in the earlier volumes in this series, Bob brings to bear his masterful command of the Biblical Languages (in this case the Koine Greek of the New Testament) to provide us with and in depth grammatical and exegetical analysis of the Biblical text. Bob also is cognizant of the traditional Patristic and Magisterial teachings on the text as well as more modern commentaries both Catholic and non-Catholic. His goal in this series is to provide a commentary which addresses not only the exegesis of the biblical text but also the relevant apologetic topics that arise in defending the Catholic faith against the erroneous views of those who attack the Church and her teachings.

Bob gives us not only and in depth running commentary but includes several Apologetic excurses on relevant topics which themselves are worth the price of the book. Bob’s erudition in the explication of the biblical text is evident from the very beginning. He engages not only in exegesis but also in comparisons between the various textual sources available to us from antiquity. As such, this commentary will appeal to readers on several levels from the scholarly to the Catholic layperson wishing to develop a deeper understanding of the Gospel of St. John. The exegetical notes are well written and comprehensible to the interested reader as well as providing detailed information for the more advanced student.

What is most laudatory about this commentary is that it is written from a thoroughly CATHOLIC viewpoint that is cognizant not only of the Church’s teachings but also of wider biblical scholarship. One need not fear finding heterodox interpretations or modernist advocacy in this text which is not always the case with other commentaries by allegedly “catholic scholars.”

By its nature, this commentary does not chase down all the possible interpretations of each portion of the text. It instead gives the most logical interpretations based on the simple flow of the narrative in harmony with the rest of the New Testament and Catholic teaching. Various scholarly controversies are mentioned when they are relevant to Catholic apologetics or when they are helpful in explicating the text.

St. John’s Gospel is a unique voice in the New Testament. While it is obviously dependent in part on the Synoptic Tradition that underlies the other three Gospels, St. John’s Gospel includes material that is unavailable elsewhere and which was critically important in the development of dogmatic theology especially in regards to Christology, the Trinity, Mariology, the sacraments, and ecclesiology.

There are numerous passages in which Jesus speaks about his relationship to the Father (e. g., John 3:35, 5:17, 6:57, 10:15, 10:30) and to the Holy Spirit (e.g., John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13, 20:22,). The locus classicus for the necessity of water Baptism for salvation is in John 3:5ff. Chapter 6 contains the ‘Bread of Life Discourse’ (John 6:48-69) which clearly explicates the Real Presence of Christ – body, blood, soul, and divinity – in the Holy Eucharist. The Blessed Virgin Mary also figures prominently. In this Gospel she encourages Jesus to perform his first public miracle at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1-11). And she is there at the foot of the Cross where Jesus as he was dying placed her in the care of the Beloved Disciple to be his mother. The story of the Good Shepherd (John 10) juxtaposed with the post resurrection story where Jesus tells St. Peter “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep” (John 21:15-18) is one of the strongest biblical witnesses to the divine origin of a permanent Papal office in the Church. In fact, many new converts to Christianity have found reading St. John’s Gospel to be beneficial in their initial walk with Christ. Properly expounded, St. John’s Gospel is an important witness to the biblical origin of the Catholic Faith.

The narrative of this Gospel is seen from the perspective of an unnamed eyewitness to the events depicted therein who is described as the “Beloved Disciple.” Traditionally this person has been identified with St. John, the son of Zebedee and brother of St. James the Greater. Other scholars have proposed a different identity for the beloved disciple but Dr. Sungenis convincingly defends the traditional identification in his commentary. He also makes it clear that the gospel was written so that we the readers of the Gospel can identify with the Beloved Disciple and put ourselves into his place in the story. Everything Jesus addressed to the Beloved Disciple therefore is to be understood as addressed to the reader. The giving of the Blessed virgin to the Beloved disciple as his mother therefore takes on special relevance for the reader. She is meant to be our mother as well. Thus, this viewpoint makes the narrative more personal and immediately compelling than any other text in the New Testament.

The excurses in this volume –as in all the volumes of The Catholic Apologetics Bible Series – are of excellent value and deserve to be read and studied carefully several times. The is one on the Christological heresies, three on the Eucharist, a very timely one on the Inerrancy of Scripture, and one on the Council of Trent and its teaching on Confession. The three excurses on the Eucharist are particularly noteworthy. Bob interacts with several anti-Catholic controversialists and refutes their objections with his superb knowledge of Greek. Bob also bring to the defense of Catholic teaching certain modern Protestant exegetes (most notably Rudolph Bultmann and C. K. Barrett) who acknowledge that the Bread of life discourse is clearly referring to the Holy Eucharist and that the sacramentality of St. John’s Gospel at this point is very ‘High’ and realistic as opposed to being merely symbolic as some Protestants have tried to claim.

This is an important commentary that I think everyone involved in Catholic apologetics, evangelization, and catechesis should own and study. It is a serious piece of Catholic Scholarship that remains accessible to the people in the pew. It is almost indispensable for anyone leading a Bible Study on St. John’s Gospel in a parish. I hope that this book receives a wide readership because I think it will bear great fruit within the Catholic Church. I look forward to further volumes in this series.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Brief Refutation of Gregg R. Allison's Critique of Catholicism



A Brief Refutation of Gregg R. Allison's Critique of Catholicism


In a recent book of essays from the Protestant perspective (The Lord's Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes edited by Thomas Schreiner and Matthew R Crawford) Gregg R. Allison wrote an article “The Theology of the Eucharist according to the Catholic Church.” In this article, Mr. Allison portrays himself as an ‘expert’ on Catholicism alleging that he had worked closely with various Catholic evangelistic organizations. Maybe he was around those organizations, but not as a sympathetic observer. Rather he was an undercover saboteur trying to find fault with Catholicism. Mr. Allison’s hatchet job on the Eucharist and the Catholic understanding of it is quite typical of Protestants. He first asserts the superiority of his own personal interpretation of the Bible and then acts as if the Catholic Church is remiss for not agreeing with him. It never dawns on him that much of his interpretations are colored by modernist skepticism and confessional bias. His presupposition is always that the Catholic Church is wrong and the Protestant Deformers were right. He is never able to transcend his own wishful thinking and to confront the reality that the religions that have resulted from Protestant Pandemonium are in direct contradiction with the LITERAL words of Scripture at the most fundamental point imaginable and that there may be other ways of interpreting the Bible other than his own.

As a Catholic, I have always attempted to understand the Protestant viewpoint from their perspective of Sola Scriptura. Invariably, when doing so, I have found that their interpretations were forced, highly selective, and contradictory to the very words of Scripture. It is particularly disturbing that they ignore what Jesus Christ himself had to say and put their misrepresentations of St. Paul in pride of place over the clear literal words of my Lord and Savior.

It is also quite disturbing that so much of their objections to Catholicism are virtually identical with secular skepticism. When they attack the Church, they act like infidels. When they confront atheists, they fall back on Catholic authorities such as St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, Molinos, and G. K. Chesterton. Furthermore, they advance the Bible as an independent authority with which to attack historic Catholicism while ignoring the fact that everything they claim about the Bible (authority, inspiration, canon, devotion, etc.) is derived from the actions and teaching of the Church. The false religions of the Deformation presuppose the authority of the Catholic Church while simultaneously denying that authority and in fact mocking it.

And to make matters worse, the scions of the Deformation assert that the authority of mere human scholarship is capable of discerning the eternal verities revealed in Scripture. Meanwhile they dismiss the Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church as if it were mere human opinion, identical in kind to their own man-made systems of thinking.

In fact Catholicism has always taught that the Scriptures, Tradition, and the Magisterium all have the Holy Spirit as their guarantor of truth. Human scholarly efforts have always been made subservient to the superintendence of the Holy Spirit in the church throughout the ages. The opinions of mere men – no matter how educated or erudite – must be subservient to the Gospel which has been preserved in the Catholic Church.

By comparison, the multitudinous and contradictory ravings of the Deformers and those whom they have duped is merely the attempt of sinful men to create for themselves religions that ‘tickle their ears’ and have no divine warrant behind them. This is nothing more than disobedience and rebellion against God, his Christ, his Spirit, and the Church that they have founded for us. Protestantism is theological Pelagianism where the grace of God is absent in ecclesial affairs and in teaching doctrine. Instead, glib demagogues oppress people searching for Christ using mere human rhetoric.

There is a large amount of objectionable nonsense in Mr. Allison’s article. I will focus on just a few themes to demonstrate how poorly he understands the topics he claims to know and to show how fallacious certain of his assertions truly are.

The following is a quotation from pages 180-181 of the book cited above:

The formal principle of Protestantism is Scripture only; its material principle is justification by grace through faith alone. This doctrine also clashes with the Catholic doctrine of salvation and its insistence that the call to God's beatitude is experienced through (1) keeping the law; (2) justification, consisting not only of the reception of forgiveness of sins and divine righteousness, but including the renewal of sinful human nature. (3) cooperation with grace so as to love and engage in good deeds, by which sanctification is increased and eternal life is merited; and (4) involvement in the sacramental economy of the Church, especially through participation in the seven sacraments by which grace is communicated. From an evangelical perspective, (1) no one can keep the law and be justified before God (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16-21); (2) justification is the forensic declaration of God that one is not guilty, but righteous instead, not because of any intrinsic righteousness of one's own or infused righteousness from the sacraments, but because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to one's account (Rom 3:21-4:8); and (3) the synergy of the heart in the Catholic notion of human cooperation with divine grace destroys grace and merits nothing more than condemnation, for salvation leading to eternal life is the gift of God apart from human works (Eph 2: 1-10).

As for (4) the sacramental economy of the Catholic Church, this concept is so far removed from Scripture (and even early church history) that no Protestant denomination has an ecclesiology that even remotely resembles it. The explanation for how Christ's sacrifice on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago is re-presented each time that Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated -- an appeal to the Pascal mystery's participation in the eternality of God -- is a theological construct without biblical warrant.


Mr. Allison begins by asserting without warrant – biblical or otherwise – what he considers to be the formal and material principles of Protestantism. The claim that the Scriptures alone should formally determine doctrine is NOT taught in the Bible. Nor was it ever held in the Church prior to the Deformation. In fact there are several places where it is clearly stated in Scripture that the Bible does no stand alone as the source of the Christian religion.

2Th 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

2Th 3:6 ¶ Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

1Cr 11:
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."


So we can see that St. Paul himself clearly advocated the authority of Christian tradition. So much so that he equated such traditions to the Scriptures themselves.
This next quotation is critically important because it relates some post-resurrection appearances of Christ that are attested to nowhere else in Scripture. The entire Church had received these stories as part of their traditions and St. Paul bears witness to the authority of those traditions:

1 Cr 15:
1 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand,
2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fast -- unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.


The next quotation is often twisted by Protestants to mean the exact opposite of what it says. It is critically important to read this quotation IN CONTEXT to fully understand it:

2Ti 3:
12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
13 while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.


In this quotation St. Paul says that there are 3 sources for sound doctrine and moral teaching:

1. Continue in what you have learned (Tradition)
2. Knowing from whom you learned it (Magisterium)
3. And… you have been acquainted with the sacred writings (Scripture)

Note well that Tradition comes first, Magisterium comes second, and Scripture comes third. This is not a minor matter. What distinguished the early Christians from the Pharisees was not that the use of Scripture because the Pharisees themselves were Scriptural experts. What distinguished the early Christians from their Jewish counterparts was their INTERPRETATION of the Scriptures (i.e., the Christian Tradition) and the TEACHING AUTHORITY of the Apostles who because of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were ALONE capable of rightly dividing the word.
The position of Scripture in this quotation therefore was as a SUPPLEMENT to Tradition and Magisterium. It does not stand on its own and it certainly is not considered to be solitary in its importance. It is by adding Scripture to Tradition and the Magisterium that the man of God is made complete.

Pope St. Peter in his second Encyclical wrote to confirm this:

2Pt 1:
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder,
14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.
15 And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,"
18 we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,
21 because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.


Pope St. Peter makes it clear that the Christian people have the “prophetic word made more sure.” The ‘prophetic word’ here clearly refers to the Bible. St. Peter reminds the reader that he was present at the Transfiguration and the deepest of truths was revealed to him by God himself. He and the other Apostles were “men moved by the Holy Spirit who spoke from God” and were not the purveyors of their “own interpretation” as Protestants claim to be. The Holy Spirit revealed guided St. Peter and the Apostles so that their teaching is “a lamp shining in a dark place” and so the Christian people “do well to pay attention to” them.

This echoes the words of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel:

John 14:
12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;
14 if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever,
17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you…
25 "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you.
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:
26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;
27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 16:
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
8 And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more;
11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


Jesus clearly says that he will send the Holy Spirit to the Church after his Ascension (which is what happened at Pentecost). That Spirit will be the spirit of truth that will not only remind us of what Jesus said but also lead us into all truth. That Spirit will be “he dwells with you, and will be in you.” Clearly this is referring to the Spirit that St. Paul describes as being given at the time of ordination of the Apostle St. Timothy to the Christian ministry:

2Tim 1:
6 Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;
7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.
Jesus also taught this to the Apostles:

Matthew 10:
17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues,
18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour;
20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.


So obviously this promise of the Spirit was to those in ordained ministry which is why Apostolic Succession is critical. No Protestant sect has Apostolic Succession and thus none of them are protected from error or guaranteed to teach sound doctrine. The minister ordained in Apostolic Succession receives the Holy Spirit and will not speak by his own authority (or his own scholarship, or his own opinion). He will rather bear witness to Christ and glorify only him.

Another serious deficiency in Sola Scriptura should be noted. Protestants constantly refer to the Pauline Epistles – most notably Romans and Galatians – as the very touchstones through which sound doctrine should be defined, yet the Book of Acts which describes the time period in St. Paul’s career when the major Pauline epistles were written makes no mention of their composition or their collection. Neither does Acts mention the composition of any of the Four Gospels even though we know that at least one of them (i.e., Luke) was written before Acts. In short, the Epistles of St. Paul and the Gospels were not considered important enough to be mention in Acts. The authority, collection, exposition, and inspiration of the New Testament is a dogma of the Church, not a teaching of the Bible. The Protestant claim otherwise is pure hypocrisy.

Now I am aware that Protestants have tried to cobble together new interpretations of some of these verses in order to justify their disobedience and rebellion. I have read their objections and they are laughable. They do exactly what Pope St. Peter warned us about in his Second Encyclical:

2Pet 3:
14 Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
15 And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.


We see that the formal principle of Protestantism is not biblical. The material principle fairs no better.

‘Justification by faith alone’ was called by Luther “the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls.” Mr. Allison rephrases this material principle of the Deformation as ‘justification by grace through faith alone.’ It doesn’t matter. Neither formulation is present in the Bible, his alleged ‘sole rule of faith.’
In fact there is only one verse in all of scripture in which the words ‘to justify’, ‘faith,’ and ‘alone’ occur together:

James 2: 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.


This fact always astonished me. Protestants are arrogant and self-righteous. They treat Catholic as if we were morons who do not know the Bible. Yet here the material principle upon which their entire apostasy was based LITERALLY CONTRADICTS the simple words of Scripture.

As a Catholic, I am not interested in slogans or snippets taken out of context as the Protestants do so often. I will quote the larger context in which this verse occurs so there will be no ambiguity as to what St. James writing under divine inspiration was clearly saying.

James 2:
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder.
20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,
23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God.
24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.


Protestant controversialists have several dodges for avoiding the obvious problems here. Some claim that St. James was not talking about justification in the soteriological sense but merely in the simple demonstrative sense before men. They try to justify themselves by pointing to verse 18 and claiming that good works are merely the fruit of justification so that other people can see that you are saved. Verse 14 above, though, demonstrates that this won’t work. It asks the rhetorical question whether a faith without good works save a man. The implied answer in the Koine Greek idiom and in English is “No.” Clearly, the justification St. James has in mind is soteriological. Furthermore, verse 18 is pointing out the hypocrisy of the claim that faith lone saves. Anybody can say they believe and there is no way to prove it one way or the other. But real faith results in actions. (N.B. - It does not START with actions but results in them. Mr. Allison in his essay repeats the common slander that Catholics think that their works done in co-operation with grace saves them. This is a lie as I will show later.)

St. James clarifies his position in verse 22 where he says that “that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works.” St. James sees good works as an integral part of faith, not an optional or merely incidental result of it. In fact faith in jesus is INCOMPLETE without good works.

None of this is new. It echoes the teachings of both Jesus himself and St. Paul:

Matt 7:
13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?
17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.
18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.
21 "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'
23 And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'


This following quotation from Jesus is most important because in it, he roundly condemns the whole idea of ‘justification by faith alone’ and the external imputation of an alien righteousness to one’s account.’ Clearly Jesus wants his disciples to have an intrinsic righteousness.

Matt 23:
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity.
26 You blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Jesus also tells us several times that we are to keep the commandments::

Matt 19:
16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?"
17 And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
18 He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Luke 10:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?"
27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
28 And he said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this, and you will live."

John 14: 15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 15:
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.


St. Paul echoes this:

Rom 2:
5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.
6 For he will render to every man according to his works:
7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
11 For God shows no partiality.
12 All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
14 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them
16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Rom 13:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Gal 5:
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
3 I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law.
4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love…
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself…"
19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit,
21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.


Mr. Allison claims that Rom 3:20 and Gal 2:16ff show that a man cannot be justified by works. Strictly speaking, we Catholics agree with this. Works ALONE cannot save. Neither can works after justification merit eternal life in the strict sense. Yet it is clear that the Bible teaches that good works are necessary for salvation. We will explore how this is explained later on.

The problem with Mr. Allison is that he has been duped by the errors of Luther in reading St. Paul. Luther assumed that the phrase ‘works of the law’ used by St. Paul meant that no works done according to any moral principle could possibly please God. This lead him to misinterpret these following verses:

Rom 3:20 20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Gal 2: 16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.


Happily, the New Perspective on St. Paul (a Protestant scholarly movement based on Sola Scriptura) has pointed out the deficiency here and is trying to correct it. The phrase ‘works of the law’ does not refer to all attempts at acting according to moral principal. Rather it is referring SPECIFICALLY to keeping all of the precepts of the Mosaic law according to the Sinai Covenant.

This was obvious to me when I first read Romans and Galatians. I was shocked to find out that Protestants who allegedly were committed to the Bible could not see this.

This quotation in Romans makes the point succinctly:

Rom 3:
28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law,
29 or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.
31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.


According to St. Paul, the ‘works of the law’ that he is opposing are those that God expects of Jews and not from Gentiles. The only law that fits this profile is the Mosaic law. So it is only distinctly JEWISH works that St. Paul finds to be unnecessary. Truly good works that proceed from love of neighbor actually fulfill the moral requirements inherent in the Law of Moses (Rom 13). It is the LETTER of the Mosaic Law that is not necessary. The SPIRIT of that law is still required.

St. Paul gives us a clear definition of what it means to be saved in Romans 6. Sadly for Mr. Allison and his co-religionists, it is the diametric OPPOSITE of what they believe. I will quote that chapter in its entirety:

Rom 6:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
7 For he who has died is freed from sin.
8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.
13 Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
16 Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
21 But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


St. Paul tells us here that we are regenerated by baptism and made into a new creation. That means that we are truly made righteous and have been infused with the very Spirit of Christ himself. We are no longer slaves of sin but now we have become slaves of righteousness. We have: “become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (v. 17). But even more importantly, “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.” So we find that it is not justification that gains us eternal life but sanctification which even Protestants agree is the renewal of the whole person by the grace of God working within us.

So in Romans 6 we see:
1. The necessity of the sacramental life for the salvation of the Christian
2. Baptismal regeneration
3. The renewal of the inner man that make the baptized Christian inherently righteous
4. We become a new creation and are now empowered to please God
5. Our walking in newness of life sanctifies us more and more
6. It is this process of sanctification that secures for us eternal life
7. The entire process is by grace and thus is a gift from God and not from our own efforts.
8. Nor is this a combination of our efforts and God’s grace.
9. Grace works within us and all the responsibility for our salvation rests in God

This 9 point schema is in fact the Catholic dogma with regard to salvation.

One last point I want to confront is Mr. Allison’s assertion that “The explanation for how Christ's sacrifice on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago is re-presented each time that Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated -- an appeal to the Pascal mystery's participation in the eternality of God -- is a theological construct without biblical warrant.”

First of all the New Testament is clear that Jesus Christ offered himself as an eternal sacrifice and an ongpoing mediator for mankind:

Heb 7:
14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek,
16 who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life.
17 For it is witnessed of him, "Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
18 On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
19 (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
20 And it was not without an oath.
21 Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, `Thou art a priest forever.'"
22 This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant.
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office;
24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever.
25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
28 Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever.

Heb 9:
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh,
14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Heb 9:24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;

Rom 8:34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

1 John 2:
1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.


We also have the clear words of Jesus that the Eucharist IS his body and blood and not a mere representation of it:

John 6:
48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever."
59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.
65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."


The usual Protestant denial of the clear meaning of this quotation is that Jesus was merely speaking figuratively, not literally. It is easily refuted. First of all, the Jews obviously took Jesus at his word and did not think that a figurative explanation was what he intended. Secondly, Jesus could very easily have allayed the objections of the Jews by saying that he was merely talking in symbols, but he did not. He insisted that they take him literally.

Another Protestant objection is that in verse 63, Jesus says that he is talking “in spirit and in truth” which they claim once again implies a merely ‘spiritual’ or symbolic meaning. But Jesus is saying something far more profound and disturbing. He is warning the crowds that they who do not accept the necessity of eating his literal body and blood are not true believers and have not received the Holy Spirit. They are merely carnal people who cannot discern the truth of God’s word. In short, those who deny the Substantial Presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist are manifesting a sign of not being members of the Elect of God.

Finally, Mr. Allison and others of his ilk fall back on the old standby that Jesus was OBVIOUSLY talking symbolically about the Eucharist. Sadly, this is the most egregious calumny of all. Mr. Allison and his confreres try to force fit their modern secular skepticism as if it were normative in the First Century. As I noted earlier, the Jews who heard Jesus did not think he was speaking figuratively and neither did the Christians who followed the teachings of the Apostles. The Consensus of the Church Fathers was that Christ was substantially present – body, blood, soul, and divinity – in the Eucharist. Retrojecting modern skepticism into the New Testament is poor scholarship. Jesus meant LITERALLY what he said and I have faith in him. I will follow what he has taught. I have no faith at all in Protestant dissembling.

With regard to the ‘re-presentation’ of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, it was no accident that Jesus chose the Passover Seder for the institution of the Eucharist. The Seder was regarded by the Jewish people (and still is regarded by Orthodox Jews) as a‘re-presentation’ of the Exodus of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt. In fact, participation in the Passover Seder was a biblical requirement for all members of the Mosaic Covenant as an eternal ordinance. One who failed to keep the Passover was to be banished from the Land of Israel. According to Numbers 9, if a stranger was in a Jewish home over Passover he was not permitted to participate in the Seder unless he and his entire household (including man servants and slaves) were circumcised and took on the obligation to live according to the Torah from that day forth.

Modern Rabbinic commentators see the obligation to celebrate the Passover as an act of covenant renewal between God and the Jewish people. The Passover is celebrated synchronically in order to capture the original experience of the Hebrews Exodus from Egypt under Moses. This is not merely a remembering but a full participation in this historical event.

In like fashion, the Holy Eucharist is a synchronic celebration of the sacrifice of Christ started at the Last Supper, and ongoing through Jesus’ death and resurrection, culminating in his Ascension into Heaven as an eternal Ascension Offering.

As in Baptism, in the Eucharist we participate in the death, resurrection, and eternal offering of Christ to the Father in Heaven. I cannot imagine anything that is more biblical than that.

A lot more could be said, but I wanted to make my remarks as brief as possible without sacrificing the necessary contextual citing of the Scriptures to give a robust biblical defense of the Catholic faith. Me. Allison obvious does not know his Bible very well. Even worse, he is still blinded by his confessional bias so that he refuses to see what is clearly in Scripture. He is not the expert on Catholicism or on Scripture that he thinks he is. He needs to stop and reflect on his own inadequacies and accept that the modernist views of Protestants are not the only possible ways of interpreting Scripture.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Review: "Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision" by N. T.Wright































The theological position of Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Deformers has for almost 500 years been claimed to be the result of sound biblical interpretation of the writings of St. Paul. In particular, the Deformers and their descendants have emphasized St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans and in a lesser way his Epistle to the Galatians as providing proof that righteousness before God was a matter of faith alone in Christ and his promises without the necessity of good works. Over the centuries the strident anti-nominanism that the original Deformers advocated was often modified such as in the Arminian-Wesleyan Tradition. But mainstream Lutherianism insisted that the act of human faith alone was salvific while Calvinoids insisted that the irresistible grace of regeneration given only to God's elect must precede the act of faith for it to truly save. In virtually all Protestant systems the imputation of an alien righteousness -- that is, an external righteousness applied to the believer in some sort of forensic exchange -- was what made a person righteous before God. The process was seen as passive with any disposition to good works being seen as a mere by-product that had at best evidentiary value but did not contribute in any way towards ones standing with God. This process was known as Justification. In the more mechanistic versions of this doctrine, the sinfulness of humans was imputed to Christ while the perfect human goodness of Jesus was imputed to the believer. Thus God punished Jesus as a sin bearer for human offenses and there was no need of our suffering at all. This was the doctrine of penal substitution that has been most popular in Calvinism and the more Puritanical forms of Anglicanism.

Patristic and Medieval Catholicism as well as Eastern Orthodoxy insisted that the process of becoming righteous before God was not a merely forensic declaration or an imputational exchange but an a transformation of the person brought about by the active power of grace. Catholicism always saw the relationship between the believer and God primarily as one of "adoptive sonship" in which the believer is changed from a condition of wrathbefore God to that of a partaker of the Divine nature. Orthodoxy uses the term 'Divinization.' This transformation was initiated by an act of faith that lead to baptism which itself was seen as an instrumental means of one joining the household of God. (See Romans 6.) The exact details of this transformation were a matter of discussion among different schools.
The official Catholic doctrine itself was not as strictly defined as those of the various Protestant groups and would continue to develop over the centuries. It would not be until the Jansenist controversy in the 18th Century that some of the fine points would be hammered out. Even so, there is still much more diversity in Catholicism on this issue than there is in any individual Protestant sect.

The difference between Catholics/Orthodox and Protestants was between a divinized humanity and a re-humanized humanity. Between being children of God or servants of God.

The crucial distinction came down to what it meant when St. Paul said we were "justified by faith apart from works of the law." If he meant by this ANY works of ANY law, then no transformation is needed and righteousness could be imputed. Good works then MIGHT flow from gratitude but were not necessary for one to be considered in right relationship with God. If it was more narrowly construed to mean works of a particular law (e.g., the Mosaic law) then it was only one condition that did not necessarily exclude others and this opened up the possibility that being righteous before God could be construed as a new covenantal relationship. That is, a relationship of the reciprocal donation of God's life to us and our life to Him.

Since the early 1960s there has been a growing movement among PROTESTANT biblical scholars which began to recognize that the focus of St. Paul's letters was primarily on the place of the Gentiles within the Church and not on works righteousness. They all so emphasize that the anti-nomianism of Luther et al is notoriously absent from the Bible. Krister Stendahl from Harvard wrote the first major piece mentioning this and others have followed including W. D. Davies, E. P. Sanders, and James D. G. Dunn. Collectively the position of these men and others who have had this insight have been known as "The New Perspective on Paul." (As a Catholic, I insist on calling it "The New Perspective on St. Paul .")

The most recent contribution to the New Perspective is a book by the Anglican scholar N. T. Wright entitled "Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision." This represents the watershed of the New Perspective on the matter of Justification and is essential reading for any Catholic Apologist. With only minor quibbles, I believe that Wright has gotten it right! He shows the flaws in the Protestant position which are due to a systematic theological anti-Semitism which sees far too many discontinuities between St. Paul and pre-Christian Judaism.
Dr. Wright is the author of a three volume work called "Christian Origins and the Question of God." The three volumes are:
The New Testament and the People of God

Jesus and the Victory of God
The Resurrection of the Son of God
He also did a supplementary volume that dealt with his views on the law in St. Paul:

The Climax of the Covenant: Christ And The Law In Pauline Theology

The volume under review here distills Dr. Wright's views from these very technical books into a format accessible to a more popular audience. In it he also addresses numerous criticisms that have been made of his position by Protestant dogmatists like John Piper who want desperately to affirm Protestant systematic theology no matter what the Bible actually says.

Dr. Wright is a critical advocate of the New Perspective. He finds some of the material by Sanders and Dunn to be too theological and not well informed enough by an understanding of 1st Century Judaism. Nevertheless, he makes it clear that the theological and exegetical views of Luther and later scions of the Deformation with regard to St. Paul can no longer be maintained. He also makes it clear that he follows the New Perspective in seeing St. Paul's primary opponents within the nascent Church as the Judaizers who wanted to extend the need for circumcision and a full Torah lifestyle to Gentile Christian converts. The question of "works righteousness" from the later Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian controversies really has no place here.

As Dr. Wright sees it, St. Paul envisions the righteousness of God as covenant faithfulness. God had promised Abraham that he and his descendants would be a blessing to all the nations. In return, they would be God's own chosen people. While Israel had failed to keep up their end of the covenant with God, God did not falter on His end and He sent Jesus so that His promises could be fulfilled. Dr. Wright favors the general views of John Calvin with regard to Israel over that of Martin Luther. Luther generally found the law to be a negative standard that brought troubled consciences to despair. Calvin on the other hand understood that "the Mosaic law was given as a way of life for a people already redeemed." {Wright, Justification, pg 72} In other words, Israel was redeemed by God FOR the Law that they should walk in it afterwards. (This echoes St. Paul's teaching in Ephesians 2:8-10.)

But Calvin went too far making it seem that there was no need for the pursuit of a moral life. In his view, if one has been elected, then one was guaranteed to be saved and works performed after receiving the grace of justification played no part in one's righteous state before God. As Dr. Wright points out this viewpoint is inconsistent with Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and for that matter with the moral exhortations in the rest of Scripture in both Testaments {Wright, Justification, pg 75}. Instead, St. Paul makes it clear in his letters that a New Covenant has come in Christ as prophesied to Abraham (Gen 18:18), Isaiah (Isa 49:6-7; 55:5, 60:3, 66:18-21), Zechariah (Zec 8), and Jeremiah (Jer 1:5, 3:17, 4:2, 31:31ff). This New Covenant will not be just with Israel but all of the nations.

Most importantly, Dr. Wright understands that the New Covenant will come with new responsibilities that we are expected to carry out as God's Holy People. He points out that there are 3 concepts used by St. Paul to described the work of Christ in His followers: justification, sanctification, and redemption. There has been a tendency to see these words as interchangeable but in fact they represent 3 different aspects of salvation.

Justification is the new standing that we have before God through our union with Christ. Dr. Wright spends quite a bit of time explaining this in the book. It is crucial to understanding his views. He sees justification as the declaration in the here and now that God has accepted the Christian as a member of His people in anticipation of the consummation of all things at the Eschaton. So it has both an already/not yet character. The inherent tentative state this places the believer in puts Wright at odds with dogmatic Calvinism. For him, justification looks to the future, not to some 'eternal decree' in the deep distant past. Dr. Wright also sees this condition in covenantal terms. The justified are related to God as covenant partners and so reciprocal obligations are placed on both God and the believer. These important distinction cause quite a bit of trouble for Wright among his Protestant confreres.

Sanctification in St. Paul is "the actual life of holiness through the power of God working in them by the power of the Holy Spirit." {Wright, Justification, pg 156}. Redemption is the accomplishment that God has made on our behalf. All three of these are necessary for salvation in Wright's interpretation.

This understanding is very important for it supports the Catholic view on Justification. The Council Trent teaches that Justification is best described as "the adoption of sons" {Trent, Session 6, Chapters 2 & 4}. This is in essence our new standing before God.

Sanctification is the process by which we are inwardly renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit {Trent, Session 6, Chapters 7, 10, & 11}. St. Paul clearly teaches that it is through that we gain eternal life (Rom 6:22).

Redemption is the work done by God that enables us to be justified and sanctified. Apart from this redemptive work, we remain sinners before God and nothing we can do will please Him. {Trent, Session 6, Chapters 2, 3, & 6}.
Dr. Wright's exposition of St. Paul clearly rejects the main themes from Deformation theology while giving ample Biblical support for the Catholic Church's own views on salvation.

Dr. Wright makes some brief comments on the Catholic view showing very sadly that he does not understand it. Following the misinterpretations of the Caroline Divines of his own Anglicanism, he assumes that the Catholic understanding of redemption "goes too far" expecting us to made virtually impeccable by sanctifying grace. This error led many Anglicans in the past to seek a 'via media' (middle way) for their theology between the 'extremes' of Protestantism on the one hand and Catholicism on the other.

To the contrary, the Catholic view is that we are enabled by grace to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God and to conform ourselves to the image of His Son. The grace of initial conversion is not the end for us but the first steps as children in God's own family. Growing grace is the Catholic way of understanding anticipation of the Eschaton. It is why - following Judaism - we Catholics believe there is purgation after death to prepare the soul for the resurrection.

Dr. Wright's book is absolutely indispensable for any Catholic who wants to understand what St. Paul actually taught and how to understand the Pauline corpus in the New Testament. Reading it you will see the biblical foundations of Catholic theology made plain and you will better understand why the Church rejected Luther, Calvin, et al for their errors.

READ THIS BOOK!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where have you been Dr. Sippo?

Hi, folks!

Sorry I have been inactive here. My life has become quite busy in the last few year and I have not been doing much on this blog. Nevertheless, I will be back. More time is opening for me and I anxious to get some new postings up.

Coming soon:

Review of N. T. Wright's book "Justification: God's Plan and Paul's vision"

Review of John Salza's book, "The Mystery of Predestination"

Review of Gordon Fee's lecture series on Romans


So stay tuned!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review: Catholic Apologetic Study Bible Volume III: The Epistles of Romans and James by Robert Sungenis PhD


Catholic Apologist Dr. Robert Sungenis has published a landmark book which in my opinion should be read by anyone who is serious about Catholic Apologetics. It is the Catholic Apologetic Study Bible Volume III: The Epistles of Romans and James. Bob is a former Protestant Minister who converted to Catholicism in the early 1990s. He brought with him a great love of the Scriptures and in depth knowledge of the Greek language which he has used effectively in writings and debates with non-Catholics. Bob has a somewhat controversial history and he and I have agreed to disagree on several points, but he is a first class biblical exegete and his new book is likely the best commentary on Romans and James that is available for the Catholic Apologist.

St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans and St. James' Epistle were the two biblical books that were most controversial during the Protestant Rebellion of the16th Century. Protestants from that time up to the present have tried their level best to twist and distort the clear words of these Scriptures to their own perdition often making reference to esoteric interpretations of the Koine Greek language to justify their errors. Since Bob has published his commentary, this obfuscation will no longer be possible. He deals in depth with the rules of Greek grammar and vocabulary demonstrating that the Protestants have misrepresented the texts and that the Catholic teaching on the matters of justification, nature/grace, and soteriology are thoroughly biblical.

Bob make his own literal translations of the two epistles with extensive footnotes that refer back to standard scholarly commentaries both Catholic and Protestant as well as to other relevant biblical texts, the works of the Church Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, other approved Catholic theological sources, and the Papal Magisterium of the Popes up to and including John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The content of this commentary is intended for the study of Catholic apologetics and it is both informative eminently readable. After the line-by-line commentary here are several excurses that deal with apologetic topics such as "Expiation or Propitiation?," "What is Justification by Faith?," "What is Concpiscence?," "Living in the Spirit by the Principles of the Law," "The History of the Protestant Rebellion," "James' Teaching on Justification by Works," and "The Sacrament of Extreme Unction" to name just a few.

All of these excurses are superbly done and they alone are worth the price of the book. I would single my personal favorite: "Expiation or Propitiation?" This section has no parallel in any Catholic book with which I am familiar. Bob defends the idea of Christ's work being a true propitiation showing that this is entirely in line with defined Catholic teaching and approved scholarship. I have been looking for over 30 years for a solid Catholic treatment on this and I am overjoyed that my friend Bob Sungenis has produced what I consider to be the definitive exposition on this topic to date.

The long excursus on "The History of the Protestant Rebellion" is another absolute gem that once again has no parallel in any other Catholic work to do date. It is worth reading slowly and attentively.

Bob is not an advocate of the 'New Perspective on St. Paul' which has arisen over the last 30 years from within Protestant Scholarship. In myself favor the New Perspective, but it does remain controversial and many Protestant controversialists reject it vehemently because they know that it makes the traditional Protestant interpretation of St. Paul virtually impossible to justify. Even though I would have like to have Bob appropriate the New Perspective into his work, his apologetic method is probably even more effective because it utilizes the same perspectives and methods as traditional Protestant scholars and demonstrates their inherent contradictions and failures to rightly divide the Word. In essence, Bob hoists them with their own petard.

Bob does take some minority positions. For example he believes that the Epistle of St. James was written before Romans which is not the opinion held by the majority of biblical scholars. He also does not think that a mass conversion of the Jews will occur as a sign of the coming of the end times. He does believe that many Jews will convert in the end but as individuals joining the Church, not as a distinctly Jewish movement into Christianity. This places him at odds with the majority of Christian biblical scholars.

These unconventional opinions do not detract from the central theme of the work and such things are to be expect whenever a scholar takes pen in hand to take a fresh look at the Biblical text.

I cannot recommend this book more highly. I encourage anyone interested in Catholic Apologetics to get this book and study it carefully. I also want to congratulate Dr. Robert Sungenis on a great work of Catholic Apologetics.

The book is available for purchase on Bob's website:


As an additional note, Bob has recently updated his classic book Not By Faith Alone which is his in depth exposition on the doctrine of justification. In this Second Edition, he answers the objections of Protestant critics and has added a new section on the joint declaration of the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation on justification. It is avaialable as an e-book download on his website: