Monday, November 6, 2023

Does The Roman Catholic Church Have A Deficient View Of The Gospel?

  • Discussion:
          -This article serves as a rebuttal to a number of claims made by De Maria as to the nature of justification and the role of works in the Christian life. Following are excerpts from the author along with a critique of those assertions: 

          "Will they be saved who do not do good works?"

          This question requires more than a simple yes or no answer. It is also a loaded question because it operates on the disputed assumption that faith and works are necessary for one's justification before God.

          "I don't know. Since the Catholic Church Teaches that we have assurance of salvation, we live a life of joy and peace when we give ourselves to Christ."

          How can a Roman Catholic say that he has assurance of salvation at all when for him the forgiveness of sin is not settled immediately by the single act of Christ at Calvary? It must be confessed to a priest and acts of penance are prescribed to make restitution. This must be done over and over again in a lifetime.

          "What the Catholic Church does not teach is the ABSOLUTE assurance of salvation."

          So, Catholics can have absolute assurance that they do not have absolute assurance of salvation.
 
          "We don't claim, as the Pharisee did, that we know that we are saved (1 Corinthians 4:3-4)."

          But Roman Catholics do, like the Pharisees of old, rely in part on their good works to get right with God.

          1 Corinthians 4:3-4 does not speak to the issue of assurance of salvation, but to the greatness of one's service to God. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is God's approval. If the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to our account, then we are already fully accepted before God as righteous. That would be a judgement He makes in regard to us, not us in regard to our own standing before Him.

          "First of all, if you judge yourself saved, you judge yourself righteous. Luke 18: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. 9 He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else..."

          I do not assign any status to myself but accept in humility what God has given me. You turn the message of Luke 18:9-14 right on its own head. It condemns people who trust in their works to have a righteous standing before God. That would include things like going to church, baptism, confessing sins to a priest, partaking in communion, praying to saints, not committing evil actions, and a host of other things people do.

          "2. But if you say, "I am saved because of the righteousness of Christ which He has credited to me." Scripture doesn't say any such thing. If you are not truly righteous, God will condemn you. God does not acquit the wicked (Proverbs 17:15; Galatians 6:7)."

          Romans 3:21-22 speaks of the righteousness of God being received on the basis of faith. Faith is not said to be His righteousness but is what brings us to it. Romans 4:6-11 speaks of righteousness being credited to us, but not faith as being that righteousness. God gives us a righteous standing in Christ through faith. We no longer live wickedly by the power of His grace.

          "That's another error passed on by Luther. God forgives sins."

          It is not an error to say that God is perfect and condemns sinners. Paul himself said, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)

          "Jesus Christ died for the sins of all men. But, only those who amend their lives and live in accordance to His instructions, will be saved (Hebrews 5:9)."

          God initiates this transformative process of sanctification and brings it to completion.

          "But God will not pour out His grace on those who do not obey His will."

          The heart of the problem with Roman Catholicism is that it offers people an inadequate gospel message. It is always the work of Christ plus something else. It is the work of Christ plus my own works, the merits of Mary and the saints, etc. Christ alone is not sufficient.

          "Again, that [John 6:29] doesn't mean what you think it means. That doesn't say, "If you claim to believe in Jesus Christ, you will be saved. Scripture is clear that those who do not do the righteous works of God, will be condemned to eternal punishment."

          That is a straw man argument. John R. Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible has this excerpt on John 6:29:

          "For the plural ’works,’ i.e. a multitude of supposed meritorious acts, Jesus substitutes one single work, faith in Himself. Faith in Jesus is called a ’work,’ because it is a definite act of the will. It is the one work required, because it is the solemn dedication of the whole life to God, and virtually includes in itself all other works, and renders them acceptable."

          That is the kind of faith which is acceptable to God. No one even suggested that a person can be saved by an empty profession of faith.

          Roman Catholic apologists cite passages such as Romans 2:6-13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and Galatians 6:7 as evidence against the doctrine of justification by faith alone because they bring up the doing of good works or God punishing people for failure to do so. However, these kinds of objections miss the point. The dispute is not about whether good works should be done, but the relationship faith and works have with each other. Further, those texts merely contrast the different lifestyles of believers and nonbelievers. It describes the separate eternal fates that both will experience. They do not say that good works can merit justification before God.

          "And where do you get this Blood? We get it in the Holy Eucharist when we attend the Mass. You reject this Sacrament."

          Christians get the blood of Christ applied to them daily by faith in their Messiah. Theophagy is actually a pagan concept.

          "On the contrary, those who claim salvation by faith alone give themselves credit for salvation. Essentially, judging themselves saved in the exclusion of God's judgment."

          If justification is a gift of God to be received on the basis of faith to the exclusion of good works, then the recipient has nothing to boast about. It is for Him to give and us to receive. If justification is to be earned even in part by good works, then God would be a debtor to man. This only goes to illustrate that Roman Catholicism preaches a man-centered gospel.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

An Exegetical Analysis Of Psalm 19

          "The heavens tell of the glory of God; And their expanse declares the work of His hands." (Psalm 19:1)

          In this text, we see that King David, the Psalmist, has deeply pondered the works of God. As a result of this contemplation, his soul is moved deeply. David is in awe at creation, whether it be the skies, sea, or the land. God has disclosed Himself through the created order of things. Paul said as much in Romans 1:20.

          "Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." (Psalm 19:2)

          Creation is personified as it continually makes known to us the presence of God. It bears the majestic imprints of His authorship. Creation flows with the beauty of His craftsmanship. Nature itself bears witness to the fact that it has an intelligent designer. Nature reveals to us that it has a rational first cause. 

          "There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard." (Psalm 19:3)

          The glory of God is universal. It exists everywhere and involves every one of us. The glory of God fills the earth absolutely. The witness of creation transcends even barriers of human language. It speaks volumes to us without using words. 

          "Their line has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." (Psalm 19:4)

          David says that the witness of the heavens to the glory of God extents to every part of this earth. It is therefore incumbent on all men to worship the living God. 

          The Apostle Paul gives this verse a broader application in Romans 10:18 in which the gospel is to be received by all men. Nature indicates to us that God exists. The gospel provides a description of what God is like.

          "Which is like a groom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices like a strong person to run his course." (Psalm 19:5)

         The sun is likened to a bridegroom raising from his resting place, one who displays strength and confidence.

          "Its rising is from one end of the heavens, and its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat." (Psalm 19:6)

          The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. It is used by David as an illustration of God's creative power. He has in mind the scorching heat of the ecosystem in which he lives.

          "The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." (Psalm 19:7)

          King David changes his focus from natural revelation to special revelation. The word "perfect" here has the meaning of blamelessness or freedom from fault. David sees the Law as having a restorative effect on our souls and imparting wisdom to those who lack it.

          "The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." (Psalm 19:8)

          David takes joy in obeying the laws of God. It is within the framework of His divine revelation that we are to base our doctrine and morals.

          "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether." (Psalm 19:9)

          The Law was meant to instill in the Jewish people a proper sense of respect and devotion to God. Note the various words used to describe the Law in this context: perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. Just as God is holy, so are His commandments.

          "They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much pure gold; Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb." (Psalm 19:10)

          David's words are precisely what one would expect of any ardent Jew. He praised the value of God's Word as being without measure. It is better than what the best of life has to offer.

          In regards to the meaning of the phrase "sweeter than honey," C.S. Lewis notes:

          "...The temptation was to tum to those terrible rites in times of terror-when, for example, the Assyrians were pressing on. We who not so long ago waited daily for invasion by enemies, like the Assyrians, skilled and constant in systematic cruelty, know how they may have felt. They were tempted, since the Lord seemed deaf, to try those appalling deities who demanded so much more and might therefore perhaps give more in return. But when a Jew in some happier hour, or a better Jew even in that hour, looked at those worships-when he thought of sacred prostitution, sacred sodomy, and the babies thrown into the fire for Moloch-his own "Law" as he turned back to it must have shone with an extraordinary radiance. Sweeter than honey; or if that metaphor does not suit us who have not such a sweet tooth as all ancient peoples (partly because we have plenty of sugar), let us say like mountain water, like fresh air after a dungeon, like sanity after a nightmare. But, once again, the best image is in a Psalm, the 19th." (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 62-63)

          "Moreover, your servant is warned by them; In keeping them there is great reward." (Psalm 19:11)

          The Law instructs people in the way that they should be. It serves as a corrective standard to wrong behavior. Adherence to the Word of God results in the gaining of the knowledge of divinely revealed spiritual truths.

          "Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults." (Psalm 19:12)

          The kind of righteousness that we should be striving for is not an outward appearance that impresses other people. It is an inward kind that stems from the heart as a result of having been changed by grace.

          "Also keep Your servant back from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be innocent, and I will be blameless of great wrongdoing." (Psalm 19:13)

          David confessed his sins to God. He did not self-righteously try to hide them. He did not want any kind of sin to be in his life, either privately or publicly. He despised the ways of an evildoer.

          "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight,
Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

          Our prayer to God should be that He keeps us from sinning. We ought to be pleasing to Him. God is our strength against temptation. He is our strength against earthly enemies. Compare the reference to a redeemer in this verse to Job 19:25.

Divine Justice And The Christian Worldview

"It [the Jewish point of view] supplements the Christian picture in one important way. For what alarms us in the Christian picture is the infinite purity of the standard against which our actions will be judged. But then we know that none of us will ever come up that standard. We are all in the same boat. We must all pin our hopes on the mercy of God and the work of Christ, not on our own goodness. Now the Jewish picture of civil action sharply reminds us that perhaps we are faulty not only by the Divine standard but also by a very human standard which all reasonable people admit and which we ourselves usually wish to enforce upon others. Almost certainly there are unsatisfied claims, human claims, against each one of us. For who can really believe that in all his dealings with employers and employees, with husband or wife, with parents and children, in quarrels and in collaborations, he has always attained (let alone charity or generosity) mere honesty and fairness? Of course we forget most of the injuries we have done. But the injured parties do not forget even if they forgive. And God does not forget. And even what we can remember is formidable enough."

C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 13