Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Catholic Answers Gets Galatians 2:16 Completely Wrong

  • Discussion:
          -Luke Lancaster of Catholic Answers wrote an article titled Galatians 2:16 and Sola Fide, where he defends the Roman Catholic view of justification by arguing that the text from Galatians is not so much supportive of faith alone as it actually pertains to salvation no longer being on the basis of the Mosaic Law system. Right from the beginning of the post, a straw man has been erected:

          "On this view, God is not concerned with whether the person obeyed God by living a holy life or whether he was baptized."

          Of course, no Christian actually believes that God does not care about our obedience to Him. Sola Fide simply means we cannot earn our way into heaven. That is it. Nonetheless, this same misrepresentation is routinely repeated by apologists for the Church of Rome. Belief in Sola Fide is by no means an equivalent to upholding antinomianism. Another key component of the Catholic apologetics argument being critiqued is cited here as follows:

         "Paul emphatically rebuked Peter. Man reaches heaven by the universal action of faith, which is always “working through love” (Gal. 5:6). Both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith, as one family of God, which automatically dismantles any separation between them.

          Next, Paul draws out the —the Mosaic Law has been fulfilled by the New Law (Matt. 5:17). Jews and Gentiles have been united by Christ—He has torn down the wall separating them, and Paul cannot “build up again those things which I tore down” (Gal. 2:18). His identity is no longer found in the Mosaic Covenant, he has a new one: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20)."

          The Apostle Paul spells out that our justification is not by works but by faith. His purpose in distinguishing between faith and works of the Law is to tell us not only the way in which we cannot receive justification, but also how we can be justified in God's sight. Paul very clearly affirms that we are justified by faith. He nowhere states we are saved by keeping some new law. Those who place their trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ will also serve Him, but that service does not make the basis for justification.

          "The point of Galatians 2:16, then, is that Gentile Christians do not have to live like Jews. This is because going under the yoke of the Mosaic Law does not lead to salvation. Christians must follow Christ and His way of life (Gal. 6:2). They do what Christ commands, not what Moses commands (John 1:17). Christians need to live by faith, lovingly obeying Christ by loving others, which fulfills the whole Mosaic Law (Rom. 13:8). The Spirit empowers us to love others – and his presence particularly distinguishes the old yoke from the new (Rom. 8:1-4), which has the “circumcision of Christ,” baptism (Col. 2:11-12), and the new Passover, the Eucharist (1 Cor. 5:7, John 6:53).

          Galatians 2:16 has nothing to do with the Catholic belief that good works and receiving the sacraments are necessary, but not sufficient, for salvation. Deciding who spends eternity in heaven remains entirely the prerogative of our loving Creator, who has given ample guidance to the faithful. Our Protestant brothers and sisters have been misled about the meaning of the text, so let us gently show them their error (2 Tim. 2:25)."

          The author abuses certain passages of Scripture and simply spews off assertions that are contrary to what has already been explained in the first paragraph. Justification does not depend on obedience to the Mosaic Law, since it is by faith. Justification does not depend on any other law for the same reason. We are justified by faith, apart from the merit of good works. Consider, as an example, Romans 13. To say that we are required to follow the Law of Love rather than the Law of Moses misses the entire point. The Law of Love was literally embedded into the Mosaic system. So it is not something new by any means. The concept was taught in Leviticus and many other places throughout the Old Testament. To say that a person is not justified by the Law encompasses the Law of Love. This excerpt from John Gill's Exposition of the Bible Commentary is pertinent here:

          "for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified; reference seems to be had to (Psalms 143:2) and contains a reason why these believing Jews relinquished Moses in his law, in whom they formerly trusted, and looked to, and depended on for their justification, because that by obedience to the law of works no sinful mortal man can be justified in the sight of God."

          And lastly, there are reputable translations of the Bible that render the Pauline text being discussed in the following manner (which further proves that Galatians 2:16 reinforces justification by faith alone in a straightforward manner):

          "Yet we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires." (Galatians 2:16, Good News Translation)

          Interestingly enough, the Good News Translation is approved by the Roman Catholic Church for adherents to use in study. Following is another translation of Galatians 2:16:

          "yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16, New English Translation)

          The New English Translation has this footnote on Galatians 2:16:

          "tn Or “faith in Jesus Christ.” A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in v. 20; Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 3:22; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view."

          Brandon Addison provides these relevant comments on the subjective genitive phrases:

          "...if one wants to argue for the subjective genitive here or elsewhere in Galatians (διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ) then we are all sons of God because of Christ’s faithfulness, in which case, something like imputation is functioning as Christ’s faithfulness imputes benefits to believers."

12 comments:

  1. Hey Jesse I left you an email. I need your input on an issue I'm having where I live. Thank you.

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  2. Hello Jesse,

    Really good article!

    It seems like it’s a never-ending battle with Catholics when they try to resurrect good works to “supplement” Jesus’ work on the cross.

    I like the way you handled it early on and said, “Right from the beginning of the post, a straw man has been erected:” You set the stage to deal head-on with an important issue. Well done!

    Also, I like what you said about the Law of Love being “embedded” into the Mosaic system. Again, well said!

    I have made a similar point in the past. ALL good works are encompassed in the Law, since Jesus sums it up by saying that the Law can be boiled down to two simple commands: Love God with all your heart and love your fellow man as you love yourself. This covers EVERY good work.

    Keep up the good work, my brother!

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  3. Russell,

    I appreciate you taking the time to review this post. I also would strongly encourage readers of this article to check out Russell's work, which can be found here:

    http://answeringcatholicclaims.blogspot.com/2010/08/sola-fide-revisited.html

    I too have given this issue a more in depth assessment in the following article:

    https://rationalchristiandiscernment.blogspot.com/2017/06/a-refutation-of-new-perspective-on-paul.html

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  4. -You claimed that Catholics earn their salvation. That is not true. We do not pull ourselves up by our moral bootstraps to live a good life. We only do it by the little something (or rather, Someone) that the Jews never had: The Holy Spirit. Jesus said He had to leave earth so that the Spirit would come, and boy did He come. Under the empowerment of the Spirit, we can now obey the "Law of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2). It is HIS fruits that come out of the tree, not our own. Salvation is a gift, through and through. God’s grace given in the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to make our works salvific: they maintain our salvation. As the Catholic bishop of Hippo said, “Then God will crown not so much thy merits, as his own gifts.”
    P.S. Augustine also said, “In the first place, we feel that we should advise the faithful that they would endanger the salvation of their souls if they acted on the false assurance that faith alone is sufficient for salvation or that they need not perform good works in order to be saved.” (Faith and Works, no. 21)

    - You said, "He [Paul] nowhere states we are saved by keeping some new law.” This is not true. Paul saw the whole tree (the fruits) as being included in the very notion of justifying faith. Faith is not separated from actions! Paul spoke of the "Law of faith" (Rom. 3:27). "Law" implies actions to be obeyed. We follow the "Law of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2). Our faith needs to follow the "Law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2 and 1 Cor. 9:21). So, our faith is a law in itself. This faith says to obey the teachings of the Master.

    -You said that the "Law of Love" was the same thing as what was taught in Leviticus. This is not true, though. Jesus took the Mosaic Laws and DEEPENED them. Instead of simply avoiding adultery (Mosaic Law), we have to avoid lust in our Hearts (Christ's Law). Instead of simply obeying the commandments (love your neighbor), Christ says, "I give you a new commandment: love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU" (Jn. 13:34). We have to be Christ's Body, literally.

    -You surprisingly strengthened my argument at the end of your post. You implied that "faith" includes the notion of "faithfulness" within it when you gave that definition of "pistis Christou" as meaning "faith in Christ" or "Christ's faith" or "Christ's FAITHFULNESS." Faith and faithfulness are two birds of a feather. This is because of the Hebrew understanding of the word, "faith.”

    Grace and Peace dear brother,
    Luke Lancaster

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    1. Just a few points to make, Luke.

      Number 1, not all non-Catholics are "Protestants." The term "protestant" applies to the denominations which came out of the Reformation, i.e. Lutherans, Presbyterian, Anglicans. There were non-Catholic REAL Christians long before the Reformation, and many of them were executed by the Roman Catholic Church.

      Number 2: People who walk away from their faith and live an unholy lifestyle are almost always those who weren't believers to begin with.

      Number 3: Only a small minority of legalistic, cultic type groups claim you can lose your salvation if you get involved in sin, or that once you profess the Faith you can live as unholy as you please. The rest of us real Christians know that the Faith requires we do our best to live like Christ, and that every sin -- past, present and future -- are forgiven. PERIOD.

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  5. Luke,

    (Part 1 of 2)

    "You claimed that Catholics earn their salvation. That is not true. We do not pull ourselves up by our moral bootstraps to live a good life. We only do it by the little something (or rather, Someone) that the Jews never had: The Holy Spirit."

    On the contrary, the Roman Catholic Church does teach that man in part performs his share of good works in order to get God's favor. Just look at the nature of the seven sacraments, purgatory, indulgences, monasticism, the instances of self-flagellation, etc.

    Jesus Christ has already paid the full debt of sin on the cross at Calvary (Hebrews 10:10-14). There is not one good work that we can accomplish to make amends for our sin. It is sheer blasphemy to add to Christ's work. Like it or not, but the Catholic view essentially amounts to that.

    "It is HIS fruits that come out of the tree, not our own. Salvation is a gift, through and through. God’s grace given in the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to make our works salvific: they maintain our salvation."

    The Roman Catholic view of justification is indeed complicated with the numerous laws and ordinances prescribed by the Roman Catholic Church. All these things are added as requirements for salvation. Grace for you folks is essentially a wage that can be depleted on a daily basis. In fact, the Catholic plan of salvation is so complex that it would be virtually impossible to even accurately describe the entire process on a witnessing tract!

    "This is not true. Paul saw the whole tree (the fruits) as being included in the very notion of justifying faith. Faith is not separated from actions! Paul spoke of the "Law of faith" (Rom. 3:27). "Law" implies actions to be obeyed. We follow the "Law of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:2). Our faith needs to follow the "Law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2 and 1 Cor. 9:21). So, our faith is a law in itself. This faith says to obey the teachings of the Master."

    Yes, faith and works are not to be divorced from each other. However, you are dead wrong to suggest that we are justified by faith and works. We receive Christ by faith. We are justified by faith. Romans 3:27 contrasts faith and works. Paul in Romans 3:28 concludes that the former is the instrument of justification. The "Law of Christ" operates on the basis of God's unmerited and undeserved grace through faith.

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  6. (Part 2 of 2)

    "This is not true, though. Jesus took the Mosaic Laws and DEEPENED them. Instead of simply avoiding adultery (Mosaic Law), we have to avoid lust in our Hearts (Christ's Law). Instead of simply obeying the commandments (love your neighbor), Christ says, "I give you a new commandment: love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU" (Jn. 13:34). We have to be Christ's Body, literally."

    If we speak of Jesus Christ "deepening" what is required of His people, then that should be seen over against the understanding of God's Law as advocated by the scribes and Pharisees, not the Law itself. In other words, Jesus was not deepening what the Law says but bringing out the true meaning of the Law in contrast with the false teachings of the Jewish leaders. This is evident in Matthew 5 when Jesus contrasts his own teaching with "you have heard that it was said." The Law already taught obedience from the heart. The Old Testament forbids hatred as well as murder; lust as well as outward adultery. This can be seen in the Book of Proverbs and many other places throughout the Old Testament.

    "You surprisingly strengthened my argument at the end of your post. You implied that "faith" includes the notion of "faithfulness" within it when you gave that definition of "pistis Christou" as meaning "faith in Christ" or "Christ's faith" or "Christ's FAITHFULNESS." Faith and faithfulness are two birds of a feather. This is because of the Hebrew understanding of the word, "faith.”

    Scholars disagree over the translation of the phrase in Greek. Most agree that it means faith in Christ. There are a minority of scholars who argue that it means the Christ’s faithfulness. Both translations are doctrinally sound and support salvation by faith alone. The question is which reading is correct.

    Faith does not mean faithfulness in every context that the word is used. Further, historic adherents of Sola Fide would argue that a saving faith is characterized by charitable deeds. Works are the evidence, not the cause, of justification. Faith itself is not a work. So, it is perfidious for you to claim that the footnote from the NET Bible strengthens your argument in any way.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. "Finally, your last point is saying that I am right about there being Christians like that. You also disproved Jesse's statement that there are zero Christians like that."

      This will not do. You have no interest in learning, as you continue to parrot ridiculous straw men. This discussion would not be profitable, if it were allowed to continue.

      Sola Fide does not at all mean that God has given Christians a licence to sin. Yes, it may take awhile for some believers to get on the right track. I never said that there were "zero Christians like that."

      On the other hand, good works will show up in our Christian walk. The grace of God teaches us to resist sin (Titus 2:11-14). We have been called to grow in sanctification.

      Sola Fide does not mean that "God is not concerned with whether the person obeyed God by living a holy life." It simply means that we are not justified by works, but by trusting in Christ's work alone.

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  8. Luke,

    It is no wonder you don’t understand what the Bible says, and no wonder you use eisegesis for your interpretation of Scripture.

    Here’s what I wrote: There were non-Catholic REAL Christians long before the Reformation, and many of them were executed by the Roman Catholic Church.

    But you responded thusly: I'd disagree with your position that there were Christians pre-Reformation that held the same views as Christians did post-Reformation.

    Did I mention anything about holding the same views as anyone? I stated they were REAL Christians. Yes, there are many REAL Christians since the Reformation, but not all hold the exact same views. The fact is that the Catholic Church executed thousands of Christians for disagreeing with the heretical teachings of the RCC! And yet Rome called the REAL Christians “heretics,” as they still do today.

    So you disagree that the apostates were not Christians to begin with, and that you don’t see it taught in the Bible? Ever read 1 John 2:19? Oh, perhaps you did, and like everything else Catholic there is likely a eisegetical explanation.

    This is a perfect example of why discussions with Catholics is futile.

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