Debate on Justification (Opening Statement)
By: Kevin Tierney, Denying "Sinners are justified only once by grace alone through faith alone"
Iíd like to thank Mr. Pike for agreeing to debate as well, we are here to discuss an important topic. He is right; this is not a distinction without a difference. He has presented a fairly accurate portrayal of the Catholic view, with one exception. Mortal sins are what cause us to lose our justification, not just any sin. Iíll be explaining that more in-depth during my rebuttal section to his comments. Right now, I would just like to outline the Catholic case against Justification by Faith Alone, to which I think the unbiased, and I pray even the biased, will become convinced Sola Fide is directly contrary to Biblical Christianity.
Weíve attempted to make the thesis as definite as possible. Allow me to present my evidence showing exactly why I correctly reject the Evangelical notion of justification by faith alone. Both I and Mr. Pike uphold the absolute necessity of Godís grace, so the part about it being by grace is not being discussed. The phrase ďjustified onceĒ is something we must discuss. To Mr. Pike, justification is viewed as a past event, where one has faith in Christís atonement, Christís righteousness is imputed to Mr. Pike, he doesnít really have it, and his past, present, and future sins are forgiven by this one-time act of justification. Therefore, he cannot lose his justification. It is also entirely legal, forensic.
This is a complete rejection of what I will attempt to prove. Not only do I reject justification is entirely forensic (rather it is a familial type justification, with infused righteousness), I reject justification is a one time event. Justification and sanctification are co-inciting events, whereas for Mr. Pike, justification happens first, then you no longer have to worry about justification, there is only sanctification.
I will also attempt to prove that when the writers of God-breathed scripture are referring to works of the law, they are referring to obligating God, works of debt. This is seen chiefly by Romans 4:4-5, which goes as follows:
Here we see the person acting in a contractual sense, coming before God, and demanding payment. That isnít grace, thatís debt. And one cannot be justified by attempting to obligate God, because since salvation is the perfect reward, if we are to obtain it by working for it, we must work perfectly.
This in no way implies that Paul is condemning all types of works relating to justification. He is only speaking against those works of debt. How do we know this, by reading the very chapter before that which is central and key to my opponentís case, Romans 2:
Here Paul points out the hypocrisy of the Jews. They are judging, when they are just as guilty. Yet Godís kindness is calling them to repent of their hypocrisy, and if they donít, they are storing up wrath on judgment day. Here, are we are told God will judge every man on the basis of what, faith alone? Absolutely not. We are told that God will judge each man according to his works. To those who do well in seeking honor and glory, eternal life is given to them. To those who donít, well I think we all know what will happen. Paul makes this clear; this is for Jew and Greek. (Gentile) He then says it is the doers of the law who will be justified. How do Evangelicals handle this?
Some will say while Paul is talking about justification by works, he really means justification by faith alone. Iím sure my opponent realizes thatís not the road he wishes to take. Others will say Paul is speaking hypothetically. That if someone could be justified by the law, this is what would happen, but since he canít, he must be taken to the next chapter where Paul introduces the gospel, Sola Fide! How convenient is that? We donít like a text, we dismiss it as hypothetical. The Evangelical will counter back, well if one is to be justified by the law, perfect obedience must be done. And you want to know something, us Catholics agree. If you are seeking to be paid salvation, you must work perfectly. Yet is that what the people in Romans 2 are doing, absolutely not.
He starts out by calling them hypocrites, urging them to repent. Therefore, these people have admitted their faults and shortcomings before God, and have repented. They are trusting in he who justifies the ungodly, as Paul later points out. The wicked man does not seek honor in the eyes of God, so therefore, these are not wicked men, but are those in Christ. So the idea of perfect obedience is not even hinted in this text, it only occurs when the Evangelical reads it into the text.
Others will say Paul has not yet introduced the Gospel, but this again is false, for we turn to chapter 1 in Romans:
Paul has already introduced the Gospel back in chapter 1. He further elaborates on it in Romans 2:16, after saying there will be a judgment of works to heaven and hell, that the doers of the law will be justified; furthermore, Paul calls this my gospel. This claim is clearly false, and it has been shown Paul is not excluding all works from justification, just those of law, of debt.
This brings me to another point, that the idea that when we are justified, we only receive the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to us is an unbiblical doctrine. While I am not denying the forensic aspect of justification, I am rejecting the assertion that it is entirely forensic. This will also deal with the issue that justification is a process, and not a one time event. We first turn to a very important chapter to our discussion, although many overlook it, Hebrews 11:
Paul, who we believe has written Hebrews, first starts off by stressing the fact, if one wants to please God; one must have faith in him, not a relationship based on works for pay. We see this by the fact that God rewards those who seek him. They are doing things not to be paid, but because they have faith in God. He then lists a bunch of Old Testament people who have had this kind of faith in God. The Evangelical would surely say this is saving faith, since it pleases God. We must turn our attention to verse 8 though.
Evangelicals will assert that Abraham was justified only once in Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. One cannot have saving faith without being justified. Otherwise, what would be the purpose of justification to begin with, so in their theology, at least they are consistent! Yet when you read from Genesis 15 to the end of Genesis, nowhere do we read about Abraham having faith in God when he left his homeland, not knowing where he was going. There is a very good reason for this. The account of Abraham having faith in God when he left his homeland was before Genesis 15, in Genesis 12 which reads as follows:
Paul is saying Abraham is having faith right here before he says he is justified in Genesis 15:6. Scripture cannot lie, nor can it be broken. Therefore, we see that the Protestant interpretation of Paulís use of Abraham must be rejected, for it would contradict other parts of scripture. Now Evangelicals will attempt to say we are ruining Paulís argument by arguing justification is a process. This however, is false, let us return to Romans chapter 4:
All Paul has to do to prove his point, is to prove Abraham was justified before being circumcised. Genesis 12 is before circumcision. Therefore, Paulís argument is completely in harmony. In this selection of text, Paul introduces another very interesting person: King David. Paul is saying David agrees with him, and cites a quote from David. This comes from Psalm 32, the companion being 51, 51 goes as follows:
You read this text, and there is nothing about imputed righteousness. We also see quite clearly in verse 16, what kind of work is being mentioned. David was in grave sin for murder and adultery. All the sacrifice and burnt offerings in the world wouldnít help him, only repentance would. And a contrite heart that repents of sin, thatís doing something, but God surely does not despise that. David is asking to be renewed from within, as well as having his past sins not counted against him.
Now if Paul is saying David is agreeing with him, then according to the Evangelical, this is the point David is justified. While yes, David is speaking of also those Christ dies for, he is also speaking about himself. Otherwise Paul is taking David out of context. Here we see when one repents of their sins, they are justified.
A story that is even more interesting is the Old Testament priest Phinehas, whom Psalm 106 covers, which goes as follows:
Where else do we see ďreckoned to him as righteousness?Ē (Depending on your translation, it is reckoned, credited, imputed, etc.) You see it in Genesis 15:6, where Abraham believes that God is going to give him a son. So here we have one credited with righteousness for faith, the other for a work. The fact that Phinehas is a priest, and has zeal for God, shows that he already has faith. The Hebrew and Greek texts for Psalm 106:31 and Genesis 15:6 are virtually identical. To give us further insight into exactly what was done, let us take a look at Numbers 25:
Here we see the priestís zeal, and God is very pleased with what he does, and even said his act stops Godís coming judgment upon Israel. So here, God credits him with righteousness, because in Godís eyes, he is righteous.
How do Evangelicals deal with this verse? If you ever want to see exegetical gymnastics, look for an Evangelical who comments on this passage of Scripture. They will argue there is a distinction between the justifying righteousness of Abraham, and the moral righteousness of Phinehas. We pointed out before; the phrase is virtually the same, at what liberty is the Evangelical to impose their meanings on the text is beyond me. Look it up in your concordance, the words are the same. So the only way to distinguish the difference is to read the idea into the text. Because of this anachronism, many Evangelical apologists say this must mean it, because Paul could not use it, because he would be lying. This again assumes that Paul is preaching Sola Fide.
Letís assume for a moment that Paul is teaching Sola Fide. Why do the Jews in Rome not bring up the case of Phinehas, to stop Paul dead in his tracks? Surely if Paul was saying Abraham was credited with righteousness for faith alone, the Jews couldíve demonstrated that Phinehas was also credited with righteousness. The Jews there Iím sure werenít stupid. So once again, our point is vindicated; Paul just has to prove Abraham was justified before circumcision for his argument against the Jews to be effective. So for the Evangelical case to work, Paul simply ďgot lucky.Ē Yet the problem remains, they are putting scripture at odds with Scripture, so much for perspicuity!
They will then attempt to say Phinehas is demonstrating his justification, whereas Abraham was justified in Genesis 15:6 before God only once. This again assumes Abraham was justified only once, and as I have shown from Genesis 12, Abraham had faith in God, incredible faith. Therefore we see when God is declaring them righteous; it is because he sees them as righteous.
How can he see us like this? Because he is not judging us through the law, he is judging us through Grace. He cannot view us through law, otherwise we are condemned. Even your faith must be looked at through Godís loving grace. If God looked at your faith through the law, it would have to be perfect, and your faith would not pass the test. The Council of Trent was correct in saying nothing we have or do, whether faith or works, merits the graces of justification. We went farther than the Reformers did. Under grace, we can follow the law; weíre just not following it perfectly, nor is God expecting us to follow it perfectly, he looks on us like a father looks at his son. He will see faults in his son, but will not condemn his son to death for one fault. Now if we are relying on that law to justify us, and not Godís grace, one fault will condemn you, I must make that clear. Do we see examples from the God-breathed scriptures that prove this assertion, that there were people, doing the law, righteous in Godís eyes? Absolutely, and letís take a look at those examples.
Let us take a look at Psalm 7, where we do see some interesting words:
It is obvious here; David is stating he is righteous, because he is righteous. Does that mean David never sinned? Of course not, we see later, he committed a grave sin, and lost his justification. It simply means God is not looking at him with the uncompromising law. We see this with Abel, both him and Cain offer sacrifice, Abelís is accepted, and Cainís is rejected. God is looking with grace upon Abel, and can accept his sacrifice. Lot is called righteous Lot, as well as Job. In Hebrews 11, we find out Noah was righteous amongst the people.
We already took a look at Romans 2:4-13, and how the doers of the law will be justified. They are not expected perfect obedience since they are relying on the grace of God to justify, and they repent of their sins, showing they love and trust God. Even more interesting is in Lukeís Gospel, where Zechariah and Elizabeth walk blameless in front of Lord. Does that mean they never sinned, of course not! Yet it means since God is not judging them with the law, he may judge them with grace. This passage confirms that, Luke chapter 1:
Now most Evangelicals donít really read the Gospels for works on justification, and when weíre done looking through the Gospels, we shall see why. The majority of writing on Justification by Evangelicals comes from the Apostle Paulís letters to the Romans and Galatians. While I agree these are important, the foundation was laid by Christ, not by Paul. Contrary to the opinions of popular Evangelical writings, the Lord did talk about the Gospel during his ministry and how one is made right with God. Paul built upon what the Lord had already said, and further clarified it.
When Evangelicals do quote Jesus in support of Sola Fide, it is at the expense of the context. One of the most famous verses is John 5:24. Let us read this verse:
I have heard this verse over and over again in my discussions with Evangelicals, without the context. There is a very good reason the context is not cited. If itís cited, it completely undoes their entire position:
Evangelicals will assert that you are judged once, when your sins are imputed to Christ, and Christís righteousness is imputed to you. That is the judgment of your salvation. Any future judgment is only one of rewards. I agree, this judgment here is talking about rewards for what we do. That reward is salvation itself. Those that do well are given eternal life, and those that donít, are condemned. Are there evil people in heaven? Surely not, that is why in this verse, your works play a large role in whether you are saved or damned. The judgment you pass out of when you come to Christ is the judgment of death, you are no longer dead in your sins, but you have awakened to new life in Christ Jesus. But this does not by any means say your works play no role in the final judgment, where you go to heaven, or to hell.
Another popular verse is John 3:16, which goes as follows:
I find it interesting; this is in the context of baptism. Furthermore, read down a little more, to verse 21:
Here the works are tested, and we can again make the case with John 5:24, that the same end result is found. Those who do good, eternal life in heaven, those who donít, eternal suffering in hell.
Even more damaging to the Evangelical doctrine of Sola Fide is the Gospel of Matthew. Here Christ makes some statements that should have no place in the Evangelical mindset of justification by faith alone. Let us look at a couple of these verses.
In chapter 5, verse 20, Christ tells the people their dikaiosune must be greater than that of the Pharisees to enter the Kingdom of God. Or, if you prefer the English, their righteousness, their own righteousness, not some alien righteousness, but their own. And notice if it isnít, they will not inherit the Kingdom of God, which is heaven. How are they supposed to surpass the Pharisees?
Is Christ saying this knowing this canít be done? Many will say Christ is speaking about perfection, and since not one can do it, we turn to faith alone, some fairly popular Evangelicals during the Reformation believed that. Again, this has nothing to do with perfect obedience, because in the context again, we see a person repenting, making reconciliation. Here Christ is getting the people out of the letter of the law (you have heard), and into the spirit of the law, doing things because they love God. (But I say unto you) This has nothing to do with imputed righteousness and faith alone. Now some will say this only covers sanctification. How one gets to that conclusion to begin with I donít know. But Matthew eliminates that idea later in his Gospel.
We now turn to Matthews Gospel, chapter 12, which goes as follows:
This again has nothing to do with a judgment of mere rewards in heaven, but salvation itself. Here Christ says by your words you shall be dikaioo, justified. It says shall be, implies a future justification, which us Catholics call the final justification, where we are glorified. If we do not exercise caution in how we speak, which is what we do, we will be condemned. Is anyone in heaven condemned? The words of Jesus are very damaging to the Evangelical case, and it is no surprise they quote Paul far more than they ever quote Our Lord.
As we wind through the evidence against Justification by Faith Alone, we come across the most damaging evidence presented to this court, you the readers. It is the epistle of straw, to which us papists cling to so much, the Epistle of James. This epistle has been the death knell to Sola Fide for every Evangelical except one, the first Evangelical, Martin Luther. Why was this epistle no problem for him? Because he removed it from his Bible, thatís why! Luther was honest, he realized James taught the exact opposite of his pure Sola Fide Gospel, said it was an epistle of straw, not written by an apostle, written by some Jew, and letís throw Jimmy into the fire!
Now Evangelicals will try a variety of polemics to explain away, or tone down James. In this debate, I intend to refute each and every one. The first they will do is by appealing to chapter one, by saying something along the lines of ďFirst, lets see who James accredits salvation to, by looking at verses 17 and 18.Ē
I find this funny, as if Catholics deny that every good act comes from God, if anything, we totally affirm Godís ultimate holiness, his sovereignty, and that we can do no good, unless he ordains it. My opponent will no doubt attempt to do this, so watch for it ladies and gentlemen who read this debate. Let us go back up a few verses, to verse 13-15:
It is here the tone of the epistle is set, about the struggle between the spirit and the flesh. It is not Godís fault we sin, but our own, for failing to listen to the spirit, and giving into our own desires. These people, as we shall soon find out, are giving into the flesh, and not walking in the spirit of truth. The matters are fairly serious, as James says; desire gives birth to sin, and when sin becomes fully manifested, death results. This is a struggle of eternal consequences. Already we see, it is not shall I just show my fruits, as my opponent will assert, but whether or not we are in sin and condemned, or in the spirit and on our way to heaven.
Now let us turn our attention to the even more important part of Jamesí case against Sola Fide, James Chapter 2. Most will go straight to verse 14, but I believe, as always, we need a little background information as to why James is saying the things he is saying.
Here we see the problem with the Church James is writing to, favoritism, based on outside appearance. In verse 1, James is already acknowledging these people have faith in Christ. He is writing to people who exhibit faith, have faith in Christís atonement. Yet the sin of favoritism is undoing their faith, because they had faith, but they become convicted by the law as transgressors, for this sin of favoritism. So this is a grave sin.
James becomes even clearer in verse 12, in which he says:
James has phrased this in a question that demands a negative answer. Walk up to an Evangelical, and say, can faith save you, and they will say yes. To James, just having faith is not enough for salvation. For one must show mercy as well, so they will be judged by the law that shows mercy, showing these people are not under the law currently. This is a way to escape the condemnation that has been mentioned above. So part of the works right here, are showing mercy. Mercy, or love, must be added to your faith. Your faith alone, to James, is not sufficient enough to save you.
Now some translations will attempt to alter the meaning of the texts to ďCan such faith save him, can that faith save him.Ē What they are attempting to do, is insert a barrier between a true and false faith, and James is only speaking about a false faith. So therefore, since the same Greek word for faith, pistis, is used, when James speaks of faith, he is speaking of a false faith, instead of the true saving faith we are supposed to have. This is impossible.
In verse 17, James would say if it were false faith ďSo false faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.Ē If it had works, would the false faith be a living false faith?
In verse 18, he would say ďone will say you have false faith and I have works, show me your false faith apart from works, and by works I will show my false faith.Ē We can see how absurd this is. We can conclude, James is only talking about faith, by itself, being insufficient to save someone.
In verse 15 and 16, he gives us an example, and wants us to imagine ourselves in the situation, to see what we would do. Let us take a look at what the epistle of straw has to say:
James demonstrates not only favoritism, but the hypocrisy of these members of this church. These people are not showing mercy. If they didnít understand his first argument, he makes it even clearer. We must do these things. If we see a person lying naked and starving, and we go up to them, saying we hope he finds food and clothes to get warm, when weíre holding a bag of groceries and wearing a Gucci suit, weíve committed a grave error. This isnít just a matter of receiving a reward based on our works, but are we sinning, and we will not be justified. We are not showing mercy because of this sin, and hence, will not be judged with mercy, but with the uncompromising law, for which one sin condemns us. As we have seen before, we have to avoid this, and if we do this, we had better repent soon, because we have lost our justification. He furthers his examples of hypocrisy in verses 17 and 18.
Now James practically overstates his point to make his case. These people didnít believe the first few arguments; well now let me tell you this. So what if you believe in God, even the demons have this faith, and they wonít be saved. Now some Evangelicals will just say ďdonít have the faith demons haveĒ, of course we shouldnít, but that isnít Jamesí point. He exaggerates faithís inability to save by itself, to get people to see his point. For those who still do not have a clue, James must hit harder than ever, and hit extremely close to home for the Jew, with the case of Abraham.
This is almost comical, James is essentially calling these people ignorant, and if they didnít understand him before, now they will. Now many evangelicals will make a big case about this word ďshownĒ to imply that it is justification before men James is referring to, and not God. Given the context from before, which is clearly salvation or damnation, condemnation under the law, this seems quite odd. Wouldnít a perfectly logically plausible interpretation of this be that James is going to show them, by the example of Abraham, that faith alone was not enough to save? We do justice to the context, and donít engage in all the exegetical gymnastics which are utterly unnecessary. How does James show man the inability of faith alone to save, by their father Abraham.
James is through playing around with his audience, now he is hitting where it hurts. He says when Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22, he was justified. If this is so, then if he doesnít offer his son up in Genesis 22, he would not be justified, and as a matter of fact, wouldíve been condemned for not trusting God. Abraham had faith in God, but it wasnít enough. Now some will say that this is referring to justification before men. Let us turn to Genesis 22, and see if this claim has any credibility:
We see from the very first verse, Abrahamís son was to be a sacrifice to God, not to prove anything to man. A little interesting side note for this verse is that Abraham came from Mesopotamia. One of the pagan Gods of this culture was one named Nanna-sin. The way these pagans worshipped this God was by offering child sacrifice to it. This makes the test all the more serious. God knows where to push Abrahamís buttons. Abraham must choose; is the God Iíve been serving so much, that I put so much trust in, really God, or is he evil? This is murder, this is evil. God cannot be evil; otherwise, what is the difference between the true God, and the entire group of pagan Gods I grew up around! This puts it in perspective, this is the ultimate trust. If Abraham doubts God, then he does not trust God, and is not willing to give everything to God, and hence cannot be the seed from which all nations would spring. This is hardly before men.
We see this even more in verse 5, when Abraham tells the others with him to stay there, while Abraham and his son go up the mountain. The men Abraham should be justified in front of arenít witnessing this. Now some will say the person witnessing this act is his son Isaac. Perhaps Mr. Pike would like to show how Abraham telling his son he is going to murder his only son heís waited forever for proves that Abraham is justified before God. ďSon, Iím going to show you, demonstrate Iím justified before God, by murdering you.Ē I find that idea insane.
Right before Abraham commits the act, the Angel of the Lord comes, speaking on behalf of God and says, ďNow I know you fear me.Ē Isaac did not say ďnow I know you fear God.Ē This was not intended for any man, but was intended for God. This claim has no merit in Genesis 22.
The Evangelical will further attempt to get around this huge black hole in their theology, by claiming ďJustifiedĒ does not always mean ďjustified.Ē It reminds me of Bill Clinton. (Depends on how you define ďisĒ Is doesnít always mean is!) Of course, they must back this up with Scripture, and there is only one verse that will even allow this. First before we even see the verse we must ask why they want to ignore the meaning of the word justified that occurs 99.9% of the time, and choose a meaning that is very rare. Even from the get-go we should be suspicious of the Evangelical tactic. The verse is in Matthewís Gospel, chapter 11.
Let us cite the context:
Somehow I donít think the Jew believes Christ is vindicating his claims. If anything, the Jew mocks him. Wisdom is justified by her deeds, also, is in a poetic context if we want to take it as is. Wisdom is not a man, itís an abstract value. Furthermore, when Paul and James use the word justified, it is in a judgment context of judgment and salvation. This verse is poetry.
Let us for a moment assume the Evangelical is correct, and the word justified in James 2:21 means vindicated or demonstrated. The Greek word for justified is dikaioo, the same word Paul uses. In verse 23, James quotes Genesis 15:6, the same verse Paul quotes about Abraham as being justified. The word for righteousness is dikaiosune, the noun form of the verb dikaioo. James then continues in verse 24, switching back to dikaioo, to say a man is dikaioo(justified) by works, and not by faith alone.
Now the Greek might get complicated, so letís take it slow here. In verse 21 the Evangelical asserts it is justification before men, in verse 23, itís before God, and then back in verse 24, it is before men. They must say it is before God in 23, because Paul and James have to agree on dikaiosune and its meaning, to both quote the same verse. Yet this is completely incongruous. James couldíve used several Greek words for vindicated, demonstrated, but he used the word that means justified. Why would he do this, is he attempting to confuse his audience? Nowhere do we see a word appear in 4 verses this many times, and it means something different every time! James is connecting Genesis 15 to Genesis 22, saying and the scripture was fulfilled, prophetic context. In other words, Genesis 22 was not only a justification, but had he not been justified in Genesis 22, the justification from Genesis 15 wouldíve been undone. For this to be true, James has a different definition for the noun form, and the verb, which is crazy!
To further enforce his point, he then talks about how Rahab was justified when she hid the spies. The only problem here is when Rahab hides the spies, this is when she is justified, and her faith and works are simultaneous. Hebrews 11 calls both Abraham and Rahabís works, works of faith. James says the works justified the two. Faith is implied, but it is the works that justify. He ties this back to Abraham by saying ďand in the same wayĒ in verse 25. Therefore, however Rahab is justified; Abraham is also justified in Genesis 22. Rahab was first justified when she hid the spies; hence, Abraham was also justified in Genesis 22, since it must be in the same manner as the harlot.
Now we just got a little technical, and unfortunately, we had to. The Evangelical ignores the plain meaning of this text, and attempts to find a loophole. Luckily, that which is theopneustos does not allow for such loopholes. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. That sounds pretty plain, and I think itís amazing I just had to spend 2,000 words doing exegesis of 3 passages, to show that we must take this scripture on face value.
This shows how high Mr. Pike has set the bar for himself. You heard it yourself friends, and I want you to remember this throughout the debate. For those who reject Sola Fide, they are no longer ďBiblical Christians.Ē In other words, they are in rebellion to the Scriptures, and if they donít change, are on their way to hell. While I as well set the bar high, Mr. Pike is taking the affirmative in this debate. He is not telling us this is a probability. He is not telling us this is something we might want to believe. No, he is telling us we must believe this, because it is absolute truth. Sola Fide is based on a long list of premises, the majority of them very easily challenged, and a plausible alternative can be given. Letís remember that throughout the debate, and ask ourselves, can we be damned for rejecting his view?
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