American Catholic Truth Society

Debate on Justification (First Rebuttal)

By: Kevin Tierney, Denying "Sinners are justified only once by grace alone through faith alone"

Well, I am sorry to say this ladies and gentlemen, but I donít think Mr. Pike has even touched my opening statement, almost to the point it almost seems like he didnít really read it. Thatís quite a charge to make, so allow me to present my evidence.

He starts off by saying that the debate hinges on interpretation of a few passages. As a Reformed Protestant, Iím sure he upholds the notion of tota scriptura, or all of scripture. Take the entirety of Godís written word into account for doctrines. It is not taking 3 passages or 3 chapters apart from the entire Bible, which I believe Mr. Pike has done. This can be plainly seen in the fact he has ignored almost my entire opening statement. I will submit he has to in order to have his doctrine proven true. I have cited account after account that calls into question many of the things he has ventured to prove. Itís real convenient, you donít want to deal with a tough passage, just label it irrelevant. Such debating tactics should be avoided.

He quotes Habakkuk and the righteous will live by faith. What that faith was, is a constant trusting faith in God, an unwavering faith. Yet nowhere does this say faith alone. So far Mr. Pike is arguing from silence. Why, because Paul then goes right into Romans 2, which my opponent ignored my main points, while spending almost his entire section upon it. But let us continue looking through his rebuttal.

He moves onto Romans 2 and says I have no appreciation of scholarly exegesis. I sure do, yet Mr. Pikeís rebuttal is eisegesis, not exegesis. He says that I quote verses 5 and 6, as if they have anything to do with the Gospel. Wait a minute here people! Talking about damnation, judgment, repentance from sin, and being justified have nothing to do with the Gospel? What Gospel does Mr. Pike believe? Furthermore, Paul explicitly states this is his gospel:

ď13: 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.Ē

After saying the doers of the law will be justified, Paul calls this his gospel! Yet Mr. Pike will have us believe he is not talking about the Gospel. ďLadies and gentlemen, this is my gospel, but not really.Ē Which one is it Mr. Pike? The reason Paul is making the distinction this is for both Jew and Greek, is to simply show the Jew being in possession of the law doesnít save you. The law is not what saves you, because again, you have to work perfectly. He further shows this as we read through the chapter, showing that the Gentiles condemn the Jews, when they do the law, yet they donít have that written law.

ď"It is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified" (Romans 2:13). Now one might be tempted to say that Paul is preaching how one can be saved. In actuality, Paul is explaining why everyone deserves damnation. As he continues: "You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For 'the Name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' just as it is written" (Romans 2:23-24).Ē

Mr. Pike would have us expect that when Paul says someone will be justified, he doesnít really mean it. This is again extremely convenient, and he commits the hypothetical argumentation error I said he would commit in my opening statement. While he may try to argue Romans 2 is talking about perfect obedience, he ignores what I had written in my opening statement. In verse 4 it says Godís kindness is drawing them to repentance. Again, being these people are being rewarded, and seeking honor in Godís eyes, and God is obviously giving it to them on the Day of Judgment, these people have repented from their sins. He again omits the points I was arguing, then sets up a straw man of my position, the Catholic position.

It is a predictable argument, because this verse is so damaging to the Reformed notion of Sola Fide. Works being judged play nothing but a judgment of rewards in their mindset; they cannot be included in the judgment of salvation. Furthermore, he ignores the quotes from Matthew and John where the same thing was stated. Again, we see a clear example of someone not wanting to deal with the plain words of the text. This cannot be ladies and gentlemen, if this is so serious that if we reject his position, we are not Christians, it cannot be based on a long list of ideas, when we can provide Biblical verses that explicitly call into question his beliefs. I can easily make an alternate explanation, and thatís all I have to do to show the futility of Mr. Pikeís position. He has placed the burden on him quite harshly. He states Paul has not yet began to discuss the Gospel, yet it was clearly shown in verse 16, he is talking about the Gospel. There is a real problem with anachronism by my Reformed colleague. We again ask him, Romans 2 talks about judgment, damnation, repentance from sin, seeking to please God, and eternal life. If this isnít the Gospel, what is? Romans 3 talks about the same things, yet of course, Romans 3 is about the Gospel, Romans 2 is not.

ďThis is obvious in the fact that Paul writes, "both Jew and Greeks are all under sin." But if all are under sin, then the only thing that will happen is: "all who have sinned under the Law, will be judged by the Law" (Romans 2:12).Ē

Yes Mr. Pike, if we are under the law. Yet in my opening statement, from the Gospels, I presented evidence that one is not judged by the law when they trust God. And the people in Romans 2 repent of their sin, hence, trust God, hence, and are not being judged by the law. You seem to want to interpret the entire Bible from Romans 3 and 4, and a selective reading of the chapters if that. I prefer to interpret those 2 chapters in light of the whole Bible, and there is a big difference. So until the evidence I have presented is actually dealt with, your entire rebuttal is irrelevant.

ďIt is impossible for Mr. Tierney to deal with the universal sin of man that runs through all of the first three chapters of the book of RomansĒ

The universal sinfulness of man runs throughout Paulís entire epistle to the Romans, so I donít see the relevance of this. Furthermore, when have Catholics denied the fact that there is the universal sinfulness of man? What is the relevance of this argument? I donít have to deny it. As a matter of fact, I totally affirm the universal sinfulness of man, which is why I preach people to trust in God, not in their own works, demanding payment from God, because it canít happen. This is straw man argumentation; again, this should be avoided at all costs. He knows very well what Trent has to say about the universal sinfulness of man. So I have no idea why Mr. Pike would write something, since it is a clear, an extremely clear misrepresentation of the Catholic system.

ďNo one will be justified in God's sight by works of the Law. Yet this is the same Paul wrote: "glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 2:10). I submit to you that the only way to reconcile these two passages is to admit that Paul never once thought that anyone could actually do good deeds, even though perfect obedience would gain "glory and honor and peace" for the one working. As such, since no one can actually work Paul can write: "by works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight."Ē

Again, we are not allowed to actually let Paul stand on his own. He said it, but he didnít mean it. Why did he put it there? Why didnít he tell the people this was only hypothetical? He said every man is judged according to their works, the doers of the law will be justified, yet you seem to wish to make Paul self-contradictory. The simple fact of the manner is, the Evangelical cannot harmonize his exegesis of Romans 3 and 4 with the entire Bible. This is becoming plainly clear. He must explain away all the clear references that we are judged by our works in salvation contexts, as hypothetical. Such is not the way to interpret scripture. As I said in my opening statement, so much for the perspicuity of scripture!

ďAgain, we must keep the context clearly in our mind. Paul has just demonstrated that there is no one who does good, not even one. He further states that no one can be justified in God's sight by the Law. How, then, are we justified? Through faith. And this is completely apart from the Law! There is no way to reconcile the Law and faith! This passage cannot be clearer. There is no mention at all of the ability to do any works to merit justification. Such a notion is completely alien to Paul's thoughts here! Paul has just demonstrated that there is no one who can do any good, and that the Law cannot justify a person anyway-it is impossible to assert into this text any notion of any kind of works. Such a thing is to turn the passage on its head. So lacking is the idea of works that Paul states being justified is "a gift by His grace" in verse 24.Ē

We fully agree Mr. Pike; one cannot walk down the road of both the law and faith at the same time. We cannot rely on the law to justify us. It seems again, you are setting up a straw man of the Catholic position. I said in my opening statement we cannot trust the law to justify us, so why bring it up against the Catholic position, when Catholics donít even believe that. And again, you refuse to harmonize Romans 2 with Romans 3, itís the plan A plan B approach. Romans 2 describes how is someone could work perfectly; he would be justified by this. But since he canít, Paul didnít actually mean what he said, time to take him to the Real Gospel, Romans 3! (Interestingly enough, Mr. Pike says Romans 2 isnít about the Gospel, even though it says Gospel. Where does it say the word Gospel in Romans 3? How does Mr. Pike make such a distinction?)

ďGod is the one who is the justifier, and He justifies the one "who has faith in Jesus." There is absolutely no mention at all of any kind of work in this passage! In fact, Paul continually rails against it. "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Romans 3:27-28).Ē

Mr. Pike has not even begun to prove that works of law equals all works in justification. I agree, salvation comes apart from works of the law. Until my evidence has been dealt with to show works of law does not equal every single work, again, his rebuttal is entirely irrelevant. Mr. Pike must show that works of law equals all works. Works are not explicitly mentioned in that passage, yes, but in the several other places I mentioned which are in a justification context, works are explicitly mentioned, even by St. Paul himself. Until Mr. Pike wishes to deal with the clear explicit examples, I donít see how he can overcome this blow to his argument. We must take passages such as Romans 3:28 in context of the entire Bible to figure out what works of law means. We cannot read an idea into Romans 3:28 and ignore or explain away as hypothetical the rest of Scripture, which is, unfortunately, what Mr. Pike has done. He made a glaring omission in the beginning of his rebuttal; he didnít have to deal with my entire argument in his mind. The truth is the idea of justification by faith alone cannot be harmonized with the entirety of scripture.

ďChapter 1: Paul introduces the Gospel as something by "faith." No mention of the necessity of works is made. Paul then shows that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Chapter 2: Jews are just as guilty of suppressing the truth as Gentiles. Simply being a Jew will not save a person, because it is the doers of the Law, not the hearers of the Law, who are righteous. Chapter 3a: No one is righteous. All men are evil. As a result, the Law can justify no one.Ē

Again, in chapter 2, Paul says the doers of the law will be justified, yet in chapter 3, you say Paul didnít mean what he said. If we make the Apostle self-contradictory, we are obviously misrepresenting him. I offered a complete harmony of Romans 2 and 3, allowing them to stand on face value in my position. I pointed out in my opening statement, since Mr. Pike cannot deal with the clarity of this passage, which throws a wrench in his entire position, he will claim it cannot be taken at face value. We see that right here. Paul calls the doers being justified, and people being judged on account of their works as his Gospel. Until you can prove Paul a liar Mr. Pike, I will keep this position. He harps about ďthere is none righteous, not even one.Ē Amen, compared to God and his perfect standard, there is not one righteous. Yet how can there be none righteous in the slightest way, yet Noah, Abraham, Job, David, Zechariah, all be righteous and blameless before God. As I stated before, God has removed them from the perfect standard of the law, dealing with them in a gracious manner. Iím repeating myself, but I must make this clear, Mr. Pike has attempted in his rebuttal to stake his entire case on one point of my very large argument. The simple problem is, we have seen not only has he grossly misrepresented the Catholic side, his objections utterly fail. Contrary to his assertion, I have provided a quite plausible, consistent, and most important, a position that allows the Bible to speak for itself on face value. This alone destroys Mr. Pikeís position.

ďWhile Mr. Tierney appears to mock serious exegesis of Romans 2, I must ask him to show the Scriptural support as to why we should think that Paul, in the second chapter of Romans, was saying that works could merit justification. This simply cannot be done.Ē

I would submit Mr. Pikeís question is dangerously misleading, trying to back me into a position I canít defend, because not even Rome teaches such. The Council of Trent itself says that neither faith nor works merits the grace of justification. The simple fact is, even our faith is not enough, nor is our works in accordance with the perfect law. If we are judged by our law, not even our faith is acceptable, so God must look upon even our faith by grace. Mr. Pike has to admit this, but then imposes a limit on what God can do by saying he cannot look at our works through grace. Do we limit God? As far as showing scriptural support that one is judged on account of their works, and by their works they are justified and condemned, I will surely direct Mr. Pike to ample evidence. It is called my opening statement, which he has virtually ignored in this rebuttal, especially the statements from the Gospels. I challenge Mr. Pike to engage that position.

He then quotes Romans 4:7-8, which references Psalm 32. I referenced Psalm 51 since it is a companion of the issue, and explains it. David could not trust in offering sacrifice to justify him, since he committed a grave sin. It helps the context. Now in context of Psalm 32, here is what David says.

1: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2: Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3: When I declared not my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4: For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. [Selah] 5: I acknowledged my sin to thee, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"; then thou didst forgive the guilt of my sin. [Selah] 6: Therefore let every one who is godly offer prayer to thee; at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach

Since Paul is drawing his language from this, justification occurs in this manner as well, when one repents from sin. That person is blessed when his transgression is forgiven. As Iíve shown, Davidís transgression was not forgiven until he repented of his sin. Therefore, that repentance justified David. Furthermore, when the sin is covered, it is also in whose spirit there is no deceit, not dung covered with snow. This again shows how it is vital to read the passages Paul cites from the Old Testament in their context, to know what he is talking about, and they heavily disprove the Evangelical myth of Sola Fide. ďMr. Tierney then speaks about Phinehas, and says that Phinehas was imputed righteousness by works, because he interposed and a plague was stopped. But this begs the question of what kind of interposition Phinehas did. Mr. Tierney claims it is because Phinehas did good deeds.Ē

The fact is, it does not talk about his religious zeal in Numbers, and it talks about his act of killing the people in the temple that preserved Godís honor. The mere fact he stood up and interposed, this isnít talking about faith, if you interpose, you are doing something. Therefore, it is that thing you did that righteousness was credited for. Faith was already assumed. Again, we see the exegetical gymnastics of Mr. Pike come up far short. He goes on to quote Hebrews 11, saying the only actions that are righteous are done in faith, as if we didnít agree with him. Hereís the problem. Phinehas was already a man of God, credited with righteous once for all when he first came to God, as Evangelical theology tells us. It says right here he was credited with righteousness for that interposition. In order for Phinehas to be consistent with the Protestant interpretation, this would have to be when he was justified. What he did was credited to him as righteousness. Some may attempt to argue God merely recognized Abrahamís righteousness in Genesis 15, even though he had imputed it earlier, as Calvin argued. While that goes far beyond what the text says, and is a clear case of anachronism, the case of Phinehas will not allow this. Again, for Mr. Pikeís case to work, he has to put scripture against scripture, and not take them at face value.

ďThe fact is that one fault will indeed bring about condemnation. It only took one sin for Adam to plunge mankind into depravity.Ē Yes if we are under the law, but this again shows why my entire argument should not have been ignored essentially in this rebuttal, because you are arguing against only part of my position, acting as if I left out everything. I submit this is because the Evangelical cannot deal with the whole of Scripture in proving his assertions.

Ē This passage is interesting. First, it says, "Therefore, having been justified." It is speaking of a present action. Believers can be justified!Ē

So what? Yes, believers can be justified, and we do have peace with God. I would submit the true fear is on the Reformed position, because unless those works qualify the saving faith, they could think they are a Christian, then stand before the judgment seat of Christ, only to find out it is a false peace, and they were never justified to begin with, that Christ never intended to die for him, and they are on their way to hell. So letís turn this argument over to Mr. Pike. I can know about my justification by my trust in God, and my repentance, and my works. How do you have infallible assurance of this lasting peace with God? Truth is, you donít have absolute certainty. So your entire argument is again, irrelevant.

In closing, what have we seen in this rebuttal? We have seen an initial false premise about Catholicism. Mr. Pike has built upon that false premise, destroying a straw man of the Catholic position, and generating a lot of dust in the process. Once the dust clears, we see in reality, Mr. Pike has not even begun to deal with what I wrote. We have seen him go to great lengths to explain away the complete clarity of the text of Scripture. We have seen a denial on his behalf of taking all scripture together, by ignoring every single book of Scripture, except 2 chapters of Romans, where he hinges his entire case. I challenge him to engage the entire body of argumentation I have provided. I do look forward to his rebuttal on James and our time of cross examination, where we interact with each other in real time. I believe that will be the defining moment of this debate. Until then, I again beg the audience to consider this fact; can we be deprived of our Christian status and go directly to hell for rejecting his interpretation of what justification is?

Kevin Tierney

Go to Index of the Justification Debate