14 July 2006

About that series of posts I keep promising . . .

by Phil Johnson



This is part of an ongoing (albeit sporadic) series related to 2 Corinthians 5:21. For previous posts in the series, see "The Key to the Gospel (With an Unexpected Addendum about My Criticism of NT Wright)"; "The Heart of the Gospel?"; and "Back Again."

n a previous post ("The Heart of the Gospel?") we discussed the historic and biblical importance of justification by faith and the principle of sola fide. It is to the shame and the detriment of the evangelical movement that we have not given this doctrine sufficient stress or suitable attention for the past century or more.

You'll discover an interesting irony if you study the history of the fundamentalist movement at the start of the 20th century: That movement almost from its inception failed to place sufficient stress on this most important of all fundamental doctrines.

The name fundamentalism is derived from a series of articles titled "The Fundamentals"—written in defense of several vital doctrines under attack from the modernists. It was a terrific set of tracts. They were not academic papers; they were apologetic arguments accessible to lay people. The complete set was ultimately published in book form (republished in four volumes in the 1990s). Most of the articles stand up quite well almost a century later.

But study the table of contents and you will notice a glaring omission: There is only one brief article in defense of the doctrine of justification by faith. It's a short and succinct article by H. C. G. Moule, then Bishop of Durham. It's fine, as far as it goes, but it stops short of being a thorough and definitive explanation of how Christ's righteousness is imputed to the sinner. It's buried in the middle of the third volume, not at all given the kind of prominence this doctrine deserves (and received from the Reformers and Puritans).

Perhaps our fundamentalist ancestors simply took the principle of sola fide for granted. It's true that the doctrine of justification was not the focus of the modernist attack. (The main 19th-century battle for justification by faith had come much earlier in response to the Oxford Movement.) So the doctrine of justification simply wasn't large on the radar screen in any of the battles the early fundamentalists were fighting.

Unfortunately, the same pattern of neglect continued for almost 100 years.

In 1961, the Banner of Truth Trust published a reprint of a book that was then 97 years old. The Doctrine of Justification, by James Buchanan, was originally published in 1867. The first Banner reprint in 1961 carried a Foreword by J. I. Packer in which Packer wrote this:

It is a fact of ominous significance that Buchanan's classic volume, now a century old, is the most recent full-scale study of justification by faith that English-speaking Protestantism . . . has produced. If we may judge by the size of its literary output, there has never been an age of such feverish theological activity as the past hundred years; yet amid all its multifarious theological concerns it did not produce a single book of any size on the doctrine of justification. If all we knew of the church during the past century was that it had neglected the subject of justification in this way, we should already be in a position to conclude that this has been a century of religious apostasy and decline.
It's been some 44 years since Packer wrote those words. And now the doctrine of justification by faith is under attack on several fronts within the evangelical movement. After multiple generations of near total silence on the subject, evangelicals are not well-equipped to defend sola fide.

The ecumenical movement represented by the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" (ECT) document has made serious inroads into evangelical churches for precisely this reason: the inaccurate and watered-down notion most modern evangelicals have regarding justification by faith really isn't all that different from Medieval Roman Catholicism. The typical evangelical these days doesn't understand the doctrine of justification well enough to see how profound and important the difference is between what the Reformers taught and what the Roman Catholic Council of Trent declared. Try this if you don't believe me: Read the council of Trent on justification to the typical evangelical; don't tell him what it is; and in all likelihood, he will think it is perfectly sound.

In fact, that is pretty much what ECT implied, and what some evangelical leaders are now expressly saying: Luther and the Reformers got it wrong. Some actually claim that everyone since the time of Augustine has badly misunderstood what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke of justification by faith. Various New Perspectives on Paul and the doctrine of justification by faith have had a surprising and dismaying influence in Reformed circles, where you would expect men to understand and fight for the central, defining doctrine of the Protestant Reformation.

It seems to me that Paul's teaching on justification by faith is neither as obscure nor as difficult to follow as the new breed of New Testament scholarship wants to pretend. Romans 3-4, Romans 5, Romans 8, Philippians 3, and many other key texts on justification are as clear and definitive as anything in Scripture. Taken together, they give us an understanding of justification by faith that is the ideal anchor and the perfect centerpiece of a comprehensive biblical theology. It is my contention that proper exegesis of all the biblical texts will definitively prove the principles of sola fide, the imputation of Christ's righteousness, the forensic nature of justification, and every other key point that was under dispute in the Protestant Reformation.

But perhaps the best, most pointed, most explicit single text that sums up Paul's view of the evangelistic message most clearly is 2 Corinthians 5:21: "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

Starting next week (in a series of posts I have been planning and promising and hoping to get to for the past few months) we'll delve into that text and examine how Paul himself boiled evangelical truth down to its bare essence.

Phil's signature

Addendum:

So as not to bury this post over the weekend, here, earlier than ever, is—

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs devote space at the beginning of each week to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The excerpt that follows is from "The Heart of The Gospel," one of five sermons Spurgeon preached on 2 Corinthians 5:21. This message was delivered 18 July 1886 (a Sunday norning) at the Metropolitan Tabernacle:


The Most Fundamental of All the Fundamentals

The great doctrine, the greatest of all, is this, that God, seeing men to be lost by reason of their sin, hath taken that sin of theirs and laid it upon his only begotten Son, making him to be sin for us, even him who knew no sin; and that in consequence of this transference of sin he that believeth in Christ Jesus is made just and righteous, yea, is made to be the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ was made sin that sinners might be made righteousness. That is the doctrine of the substitution of our Lord Jesus Christ on the behalf of guilty men.
C. H. Spurgeon



43 comments:

Steve said...

Phil said, "here, earlier than ever, is—Your weekly dose of Spurgeon"

It's never too early to enjoy Spurgeon.

Looking forward to reading more of this new series.

Deviant Monk said...

After multiple generations of near total silence on the subject, evangelicals are not well-equipped to defend sola fide.


I do not take up your lament, since I think sola fide is not a doctrine worth defending. Notwithstanding that, I would, however, question what silence you are talking about. From my experience within Protestantism, I have read theology books that go out of their way to talk about it, heard preachers talk about it, (usually contrastng it with the RCC, and usually inaccurately) and other such avenues. Perhaps your experience has been different. In every evangelical church that I can remember attending I have heard sola fide stressed, exegeted, etc. But I suppose I can only speak for myself. Personally, I don't believe sola fide, so it's decline within modern protestantism and evangelicalism might not be a bad thing.

In fact, that is pretty much what ECT implied, and what some evangelical leaders are now expressly saying: Luther and the Reformers got it wrong.

Concerning sola fide- yes.

Some actually claim that everyone since the time of Augustine has badly misunderstood what the apostle Paul meant when he spoke of justification by faith.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, since regarding sola fide Protestantism essentially claims the church has pretty much gotten it wrong since the apostles died. I do agree, however, that the reformed position misunderstands Paul quite a bit.

It is my contention that proper exegesis of all the biblical texts will definitively prove the principles of sola fide, the imputation of Christ's righteousness, the forensic nature of justification, and every other key point that was under dispute in the Protestant Reformation.

Since you are beginning with sola fide as your exegetical matrix, it seems quite impossible that you could possibly conclude anything different.

Dr Stanley said...

"It's buried in the middle of the third volume, not at all given the kind of prominence this doctrine deserves"

For a second I thought you were refering to the doctrine in Calvin's 1559 institutes.....


Allister McGrath writes, “ It is a well known fact that, in the 1559 edition of this work, Calvin defers his discussion of justification until Book III, and it is then found only after a detailed exposition of sanctification. This has proved a serious embarrassment to those who project Luther’s concern with the articulus iustificationis on to Calvin, asserting that justification is the ‘focal centre’ of the Institution.” (Iustitia Dei, 225)

EJ said...

Phil, I look forward to your posts on this subject. 2 Cor 5:21 and Romans 4:4-5 leave no possibility other than righteousness freely given by grace through faith. Perhaps theologians haven't written as much about faith alone in recent years, but I would bet the pages of most folks' Bibles are well-thumbed in the area from the 3rd through the 5th chapters of Romans!

thebluefish said...

Bring it on! Looking forward to the continuation of this series.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Allister McGrath writes, “ It is a well known fact that, in the 1559 edition of this work, Calvin defers his discussion of justification until Book III, and it is then found only after a detailed exposition of sanctification. This has proved a serious embarrassment to those who project Luther’s concern with the articulus iustificationis on to Calvin, asserting that justification is the ‘focal centre’ of the Institution.” (Iustitia Dei, 225)

It's not an embarassment for me since Calvin himself writes at the beggining of that section of the Institutes that, "The theme of justifiaction was therefore more lightly touched upon because it was more to the point to understand first how little devoid of good works is the faith, through which alone we obtain free righteousness by the mercy of God; and what is the nature of the good works of the saints, with which part of this question is concerned. Therefore we must now discuss these matters thoroughly. And we must so discuss them as to bear in mind that this is the main hinge on which religion turns, so that we devote the greater attention to it. For unless you first of all grasp what your relationship to God is, and the nature of His judgment upon you, you have neither a foundation on which to establish your salvation nor one on which to build piety toward God."

Ad Fontes!

Steven Dresen said...

deviant

Well you outsmarted that Paul. He says it was not by works but by faith because no one is justified by works. But somehow you must have gotten some extra-biblical revelation that says the Bible is wrong. Through the Old Testament to the New Testament the emphasis is on faith, the key is faith, faith will produce good works but those good works don't justify us before God. Those good works will justify us in the eyes of other people, like James argued for. The church was getting the whole faith thing wrong when the apostles were alive, hence Paul arguing for justification by faith and imputation of righteousness.

Aaron said...

Perhaps Sola Fide is being attacked in order to make us devote more theologocal attention to it.

Catez said...

I'm aware of Catholic doctrine but I hadn't read through the Council of Trent before. This is pretty heavy actually:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

How on earth can saying we are justifed by faith alone be deserving of anathema? It is so clearly stated in scripture as you point out Phil.

It seems to be about protecting the institution above conducting honest biblical enquiry to me (The Trent thing I mean).

DJP said...

... I think sola fide is not a doctrine worth defending

You have identified a line that separates the Biblical Gospel from all others, Deviant. But evidently you've parked yourself on the wrong side of the line. It's a losing side.

Jason Engwer said...

Deviant Monk wrote:

"I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean, since regarding sola fide Protestantism essentially claims the church has pretty much gotten it wrong since the apostles died."

You and Dr Stanley need to read (or reread in the case of Dr Stanley) one of the threads Phil linked to at the beginning of his post:

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2006/05/heart-of-gospel.html

In that thread, some of the participants here give examples of sola fide in sources between the apostles and the Reformation. The issue of John Calvin's view was addressed as well.

There's no rational way to deny that a passage like Genesis 15:6 involves faith without any accompanying sacraments or works of other types. There's no reasonable way to deny that people are justified as soon as they believe in passages like Acts 10:44-48 and Galatians 3:2-9, without having to wait for any later participation in sacraments or works of some other type. Passages like the ones I just cited are treated as normative in scripture, so they can't be dismissed as exceptions to a rule. Sola fide is Biblical, it's patristic, and it's found in other pre-Reformation sources aside from the apostolic writers and the church fathers.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Let's get this party started!

Dr Stanley said...

Jason, I don't think i need to reread it at all. I just thought it was a little humourous that Phil viewed the doctrine being religated to the "third volume" as a failure to recognize the importance after we already had the conversation in which everyone argued that Calvin's placement of the doctrine DID NOT indicate a failure to recognize the importance. The parallels were too much for me to not comment.

Jason Engwer said...

Dr Stanley said:

"I just thought it was a little humourous that Phil viewed the doctrine being religated to the 'third volume' as a failure to recognize the importance after we already had the conversation in which everyone argued that Calvin's placement of the doctrine DID NOT indicate a failure to recognize the importance. The parallels were too much for me to not comment."

Phil didn't say that the placement of John Calvin's material or the placement of H.C.G. Moule's material was the only factor he was taking into account. He also mentioned other factors and contrasted the treatment of justification in The Fundamentals with its treatment in the reformers and the Puritans. Whatever similarities there are between the Calvin material and the Moule material, the point is that there are significant differences as well.

Phil Johnson said...

Dr. Stanley: "I just thought it was a little humourous that Phil viewed the doctrine being religated to the "third volume" as a failure to recognize the importance . . ."

The operative phrase in what I actually said was: "only one brief article."

The operative phrase in what Calvin actually said was "Justification . . . is the principal hinge on which all religion hangs, so it requires greater care and attention" (Institutes, 3.11.1). Although he started his discussion of justification in vol. 3, he expressly said that he regarded everyting prior to that as the prelude to his treatment of justification.

Read what Calvin wrote about justification in chapters 11-18 of vol. 3, and then tell me if you seriously are going to argue that he deemed it less than essential.

Broken Messenger said...

Phil,

Good stuff. Just one thing....

In 1961, the Banner of Truth Trust published a reprint of a book that was then 97 years old. The Doctrine of Justification, by James Buchanan, was originally published in 1867. The first Banner reprint in 1961...

This would be 94 years, not 97. Either that or it was published in 1864 not 1867. Just keeping it real for the homeschool moms.

Brad

Deviant Monk said...

steve-

Well you outsmarted that Paul. He says it was not by works but by faith because no one is justified by works. But somehow you must have gotten some extra-biblical revelation that says the Bible is wrong.

??? I don't quite understand this comment. I don't recall saying that the bible was wrong. Please show me where I said so. I said the Reformed position misunderstands Paul quite a bit. I fail to see how this equates to saying the Bible is wrong.

Perhaps by your saying I think the bible is wrong, you actually mean I think what you think the bible says is wrong, which I do.

I don't believe that Paul equates 'works' with action. Rather, Paul sees 'works' as those things inherent within the Jewish system by which the Jews believed themselves to be justified, and by which they felt the Gentiles must adhere to be justified. This is the point of Paul's whole argument about Abraham- it wasn't that Abraham didn't do anything, but rather that Abraham was justified before being identified through the Jewish cultus. If Paul meant 'action', his entire argument in relation to circumcision is entirely superfluous, and completely contradictory to James.

James is even more explicit than Paul and says without equivocation that "a person is justified by what he does and not by sola fide."

Through the Old Testament to the New Testament the emphasis is on faith, the key is faith, faith will produce good works but those good works don't justify us before God. Those good works will justify us in the eyes of other people, like James argued for. The church was getting the whole faith thing wrong when the apostles were alive, hence Paul arguing for justification by faith and imputation of righteousness.

How is James talking about good works justifying us in the eyes of other people? James is talking explicitly about Abraham being justified before God because of what he did.

In regards to the church getting faith wrong, and Paul needing to correct them- as can be seen from the issues raised at the council of Jerusalem, Paul's argument about the Jewish cultus having no justifying merit in Romans, and the confrontation with Peter in Galatians, the issue is not about imputation of righteousness from faith alone but rather trying to receive or complete justification through the Jewish cultus.

phil-

You have identified a line that separates the Biblical Gospel from all others, Deviant. But evidently you've parked yourself on the wrong side of the line. It's a losing side.

Why am I necessarily on the losing side? I can appeal to the scriptures just as much as you can, so I think what I believe is biblical, as well as within the historical understanding of the church universal.

I would assume you would hold to sola scriptura- then how could you possibly make such a determination, if I can appeal to the scriptures as much as you?

jason-

You and Dr Stanley need to read (or reread in the case of Dr Stanley) one of the threads Phil linked to at the beginning of his post:

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2006/05/heart-of-gospel.html

In that thread, some of the participants here give examples of sola fide in sources between the apostles and the Reformation. The issue of John Calvin's view was addressed as well.


First off- it's extremely poor form to ask somebody to sift through a previous post, especially to find the answers within the comments. However, I found the list, and still find it very lacking.

I disagree that sola fide is patristic. From the writings of the church fathers that I have read, (most of the ante-nicene fathers, augustine, chrysostom, athanasius) none of them approach the protestant understanding of sola fide. In church history classes I have taken and historical theology books I have read, the point is made that sola fide was not the predominant understanding of justification. In fact, before I stopped affirming sola fide I was distressed in my reading that the early church fathers seemed to either know nothing of it or flatly contradicted it.

No orthodox segment of Christianity has denied that we are justified by faith. But justificaton by faith does not equal sola fide. Catholics and orthodox believe that faith is a part of justification. The list I saw of tertullian and others said that they taught justification by faith- I'm sure they did, but that does not mean they taught sola fide.

There's no rational way to deny that a passage like Genesis 15:6 involves faith without any accompanying sacraments or works of other types.

James certainly seems to disagree with you.

There's no reasonable way to deny that people are justified as soon as they believe in passages like Acts 10:44-48 and Galatians 3:2-9, without having to wait for any later participation in sacraments or works of some other type. Passages like the ones I just cited are treated as normative in scripture, so they can't be dismissed as exceptions to a rule.

1. Even within RCC theology the sacrament of baptism is in some cases not absolutely necessary.

2. That Acts 10:44-48 is 'normative' seems questionable, since the entire scenario is the out-of-the-ordinary experience that convinces Peter of God's acceptance of the Gentiles, and aids in the decision that the gentiles do not need to be circumcised. That being said, baptism seems to be the normative in the NT, as Paul talks about it in connection with justification in Romans 6, and how Peter calls the crowds to repent and be baptized and even says it is what saves in 1 Peter.

Sola fide is Biblical, it's patristic, and it's found in other pre-Reformation sources aside from the apostolic writers and the church fathers.

If sola fide is biblical, then James should be chucked, since he explcitly contradicts it.

centuri0n said...

I have an idea.

deviant monk:

Rather than see you get dog-piled here, I'd like to give you the opportunity to substantiate your claim that "sola fide is not a doctrine worth defending".

I have a nice little blog called Ask the Calvinist in which I get to ask you questions about your opinion, you get to answer, and then you get to ask me a question, and I get to answer it -- without a lot of piling on or distractions. You can read the basic guidlines in the sidebar there.

If you are interested in bringing your dismissal of sola fide into the sunlight, I welcome your participation. Please e-mail me (my e-mail in in my blogger profile) if you are interested.

If you'd rather defend your opinion here, good luck with that.

centuri0n said...

One thing about the book of James before I run off to church.

I always enjoy reading people who say, "that durn James certainly doesn't say we are justified by faith, so ..." and then insert their theological opinion about the rest of the NT based on what James obviously said.

What your particular reading of James overlooks, DM, is that the letter begins thus:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Isn't that interesting? James here makes the foundational statement for his letter the assumption that faith produces works.

In that, whatever it is exactly you want to read into what we call chapter 2 of this book, it has to confoirm with James' assumption that "steadfastness" is a result of faith.

I'm not a big fan of the "justified before people" reading of James 2, but your objection to it doesn't actually address the kind of argument James has made here -- which is plainly that if you have faith, you will have works which are a result of that faith.

And again, if you want to has that out, I have a nice quiet place in which to do that.

centuri0n said...

Oh boy -- another pet peeve:

from 1Pet 3:

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

There are a lot of people who will tell you, "I doin't even think this passage is talking about water baptism," but they are simply wrong. However, to say that this passage blankly makes baptism the operator for salvation is also simply wrong.

You can see this if you find the antecendent to "to this". I challenge you to find it and then make that information fit back into your glib interpretation of the passage as you have provided it so far.

Jason Engwer said...

Deviant Monk said:

"This is the point of Paul's whole argument about Abraham- it wasn't that Abraham didn't do anything, but rather that Abraham was justified before being identified through the Jewish cultus. If Paul meant 'action', his entire argument in relation to circumcision is entirely superfluous, and completely contradictory to James....In regards to the church getting faith wrong, and Paul needing to correct them- as can be seen from the issues raised at the council of Jerusalem, Paul's argument about the Jewish cultus having no justifying merit in Romans, and the confrontation with Peter in Galatians, the issue is not about imputation of righteousness from faith alone but rather trying to receive or complete justification through the Jewish cultus."

Paul doesn't just exclude one system of works. He excludes every conceivable system of works, and he does so in more than one way. In Romans 3:27, he contrasts a law of faith with any law of works. To read Romans 3:27 as a reference to a Jewish system of works, without any intention of excluding other systems of work, would be implausible. The alternative Paul offers is "faith", not "faith and a non-Jewish system of works". Similarly, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:21-25 that there isn't any system of works whereby we can attain justification. No conditions can be added to what God has offered (Galatians 3:15). Paul doesn't limit himself to one system of works, as if adding circumcision to faith would be unacceptable, whereas adding tithing or church attendance would be acceptable. So, your argument is fallacious in light of Paul's exclusion of every system of works, not just one Jewish system.

Secondly, your argument is untenable in light of Paul's inclusion of nothing other than faith. As I said with regard to Romans 3:27, the alternative Paul offers is faith, not faith and something else. To argue that Paul meant to imply the inclusion of something else, but didn't mention it, in dozens of passages in which he only mentions faith is implausible.

Third, we know that your argument is false because of Paul's use of Genesis 15:6. In that passage, Abraham only believes (sola fide). Not only is circumcision absent, but so are baptism, tithing, honoring of parents, submission to government authorities, church attendance, and every other conceivable good work.

Fourth, we can compare your view to the Biblical examples of the justification of various individuals. In Galatians 3:2-9, for example, a passage I cited in my last response to you, Paul refers to the Galatians' being justified when they believed the word being spoken. They weren't justified when they were baptized or when they did some other good work. Rather, they were justified as soon as they believed. Paul goes on to cite Genesis 15:6 as an illustration again, and Genesis 15:6 most surely does not illustrate baptismal justification or any other form of justification through works. What it illustrates is sola fide. Similarly, every other example of how people were justified, without exception, has people being justified upon faith, prior to baptism and other works (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:50, 18:10-14, etc.). Given that we have all of these Biblical examples of people being justified prior to doing any good works, and given that we have no examples of a person coming to faith and having to wait until baptism or some other later work before being justified, it seems unlikely that all of these Biblical examples of sola fide are exceptions to a rule.

Your view also gives us a weaker explanation for the Biblical passages that refer to eternal life as a free gift. You would affirm that the opportunity to work for eternal life is free, but eternal life itself is not free under your system. Similarly, your view gives us a weaker explanation of the substitutionary nature of Christ's work. A passage like 1 Corinthians 2:2 or Galatians 6:14 makes far more sense under sola fide than it does under any system that combines faith and works.

You wrote:

"First off- it's extremely poor form to ask somebody to sift through a previous post, especially to find the answers within the comments."

No, it's not "extremely poor form" for me to tell you where you can find further documentation. I gave you some examples of my evidence, such as Acts 10 and Galatians 3, but I didn't repeat everything I argued in the other thread. Why is it "extremely poor form" for me to give you some representative examples of my evidence, then point you to a thread in which I've gone into more detail? That thread is part of Phil Johnson's series, so reading it would help you understand this post better anyway. If you don't want to take the time to read the other thread, then say so, but I don't think I've shown "extremely poor form" by suggesting that you read it.

You wrote:

"I disagree that sola fide is patristic. From the writings of the church fathers that I have read, (most of the ante-nicene fathers, augustine, chrysostom, athanasius) none of them approach the protestant understanding of sola fide. In church history classes I have taken and historical theology books I have read, the point is made that sola fide was not the predominant understanding of justification. In fact, before I stopped affirming sola fide I was distressed in my reading that the early church fathers seemed to either know nothing of it or flatly contradicted it."

There's a difference between "not the predominant understanding" and "either know nothing of it or flatly contradicted it". I would agree with you that sola fide was a minority view. But I reject your suggestion that it's absent from all of the church fathers. And the fathers weren't the only Christians who lived between the apostles and the Reformation.

I don't know what history classes you took or what theology books you read, but different scholars take different positions on this issue. In the previous thread I linked you to, I and other posters give examples of scholars who think that sola fide is found in some sources between the apostles and the Reformation.

As I said above, the church fathers weren't the only Christians who lived during the time in question. Some of the church fathers argued against people in their day who believed in justification apart from baptism or who taught that works in general aren't a means of attaining justification. If those fathers rejected sola fide, then what was the position of the people they were arguing against? Are you going to claim that the people they were arguing against rejected sola fide also? If so, then what were these people being criticized for? If you think that they did advocate sola fide, then they would be examples of people who held that view between the time of the apostles and the Reformation. I see no reasonable way to deny that some people held sola fide during that timeframe. The quantity of people who did so is more questionable, but the concept that nobody held the view seems to me to be implausible.

You wrote:

"The list I saw of tertullian and others said that they taught justification by faith- I'm sure they did, but that does not mean they taught sola fide."

I don't know what "list" you're referring to, but I discussed Tertullian in the context of some people he wrote against. He was opposing some people in his day who advocated justification through faith alone, apart from baptism. If you're referring to what I wrote about Tertullian, then you might have misunderstood what you were reading.

You wrote:

"Even within RCC theology the sacrament of baptism is in some cases not absolutely necessary."

The primary issue here is what's normative, not exceptions to a rule. If a passage of scripture teaches justification through faith alone in a normative context, it would make no sense to appeal to exceptional cases in Roman Catholic theology in order to explain that passage.

You wrote:

"That Acts 10:44-48 is 'normative' seems questionable, since the entire scenario is the out-of-the-ordinary experience that convinces Peter of God's acceptance of the Gentiles, and aids in the decision that the gentiles do not need to be circumcised."

On the normative nature of Acts 10, see Peter's comments in Acts 15:7-11. Peter cites the people of Acts 10 as representative of how all people are justified. He doesn't just cite them to illustrate that Gentiles can be justified. He also cites them to illustrate that justification occurs through an instrument in the heart (Acts 15:8-9), which would exclude baptism and all other outward actions. If the Gentiles in Acts 10 had received the Holy Spirit after being baptized or after doing some other good work, that also would have demonstrated that Gentiles can be justified. Their justification prior to baptism wasn't necessary for illustrating the acceptance of Gentiles. Yet, God justified them prior to baptism. That's what we see over and over again in scripture (Genesis 15:6, Mark 2:5, Luke 7:50, 18:10-14, 23:39-43, Galatians 3:2-9, Ephesians 1:13-14, etc.). That's why Paul, in Acts 19:2, expected people to receive the Holy Spirit at the time of belief, not at the time of baptism. The people in Acts 19 were unusual in the manner in which they did receive the Spirit. They received the Spirit through the laying on of hands, not through faith (Acts 19:6). But Acts 19:2 demonstrates that Paul considered it normative to receive the Spirit, the seal of justification (Romans 8:9-11, Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 1:13-14), at the time of faith. The method of justification in Acts 10 is treated as normative in Acts 15, and it's consistent with how we see other people justified elsewhere in scripture. Why, then, should we think that Acts 10 is an exception to a rule?

You wrote:

"That being said, baptism seems to be the normative in the NT, as Paul talks about it in connection with justification in Romans 6, and how Peter calls the crowds to repent and be baptized and even says it is what saves in 1 Peter."

What connection does Romans 6 have with justification? Baptism is related to justification, in the sense that it results from justification and illustrates that justification, but nothing in Romans 6 logically leads to the conclusion that baptism is a normative means of attaining justification. Baptism does associate us with the death and resurrection of Jesus, but so do other activities in the Christian life (2 Corinthians 4:10-11, Philippians 3:10-12). In a passage like Romans 13:14, Paul can tell people who are already Christians to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ", since there are many things in the Christian life that can bind us to Christ, associate us with Him, make us more like Him, etc. To single out the passages on baptism, and assume that our association with Christ in baptism must be a matter of attaining justification, is insupportable from the text and contradicts many other texts.

With regard to 1 Peter 3:21, I recommend reading J.P. Holding's comments on the passage:

http://www.tektonics.org/af/baptismneed.html#1pt3

The context of 1 Peter 3 is a context primarily about sanctification. He's addressing Christians who are going through some difficulties. Baptism saved them in much the same way that bearing children saves women in a non-justifying sense (1 Timothy 2:15). The term "saved" is used in different ways in different contexts. The public pledge involved in baptism was sustaining these Christians in their trials. It was a means of sanctification. To read 1 Peter 3:21 as a reference to attaining justification through baptism would be unnatural in the context of the passage and would make it contradictory to what Peter and other Biblical authors said elsewhere.

You mention the book of James a lot, but you don't offer us any refutation of the common Protestant explanations of the text. James is wisdom literature. It uses brevity and figures of speech in much the same way that a book like Proverbs does. In chapter 2, James is addressing both the fact that true faith results in works and the fact that we can't show other people our faith without works. Works justify both in the sense of vindicating our claim to have faith (Luke 7:35) and in the sense of showing our faith to other people. We know that James was concerned with showing our faith to others, since he mentions the concept (James 2:18). The reason why he can mention both Genesis 15 and Genesis 22 in James 2:21-23 is because Abraham's justification in Genesis 15 is vindicated in Genesis 22. To interpret James as saying that Abraham was justified in the sense of attaining eternal life in both passages would be nonsensical. For one thing, Genesis 15 doesn't involve any works of any type, so there's no way to fit that passage into your system. Secondly, nothing happened in Abraham's life between Genesis 15 and Genesis 22 that would lead us to the conclusion that he needed to attain eternal life over again or needed to increase in that attainment (as if such a thing were possible). Third, the view that Abraham was working to attain eternal life in Genesis 22 would contradict many passages of scripture, such as the ones I've discussed above. Fourth, James distances himself from your view before he even begins the passage we're discussing. In James 2:10-13, we read that only perfection is acceptable before God. If you disobey in one area, you're guilty of all. We either attain eternal life through our perfection or attain it through the perfection of a substitute, namely Christ. James and scripture in general know nothing of your in-between system in which we attain eternal life through a combination of Christ's work and our imperfect obedience to God's commandments.

The concept of people coming to faith in Christ, yet having to wait until the ceremony of baptism an hour, a week, or a few months later before being justified, is anti-Biblical. The gospel is "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:50)

David B. Hewitt said...

Hey all,

Has anyone read James White's book on justification by faith?

I wondered how it related to the other book mentioned among other things, and wondered how it would weigh in on this conversation.

SDG,
DBH

4given said...

Brad,
Thank you for your sensitivity towards the homeschool moms.

And I think the award for the longest comment on another person's blog now gets passed to Jason Engwer... scroll, scroll, scroll...

Interesting. Sola Fide is definitely worth defending and I am one that is ill-equipped to do it properly. I have tried and got hammered to the point of realizing that, well, I need to do more worthwhile studying on this.

Steven Dresen said...

David,

Read White's book for Theology II, it is really helpful to have a grasp on Greek when reading it becuase White loves to exegete straight from the Greek text in it. It seemed solid theologically.

Deviant,
Glad you had a talk with Paul and found out that he believes works are something different from what everyone else does. Paul does well in specifying the works of the law and works in general. But then again N.T. Wright whom I assume you get your theology from would disagree with that.

Phil Johnson said...

Deviant Monk: Your position isn't helped by your tendency to respond to things you obviously haven't bothered to read carefully. For instance, you replied to something DJP wrote and addressed your reply to me as if I had written it. Your anecdotal account of patristic history suffers from exactly the same kind of fault, as Jason has shown.

Jason: Good response. Thanks.

David Hewitt: James White, R.C. Sproul, and a few others have written some excellent material on justification in the past decade or so.

The Packer quotation is from the '60s. He pointed out then that no one had written anything significant on justification for almost a hundred years. It was almost 25 years more before much significant attention was paid to the doctrine. By then there was already a fairly large contingent of Reformed and evangelicals who were saying they didn't see what the big deal about sola fide is.

For anyone who seriously doesn't get the point, note the tone of some of the above comments, from ostensibly Protestant sources. I suppose it's not at all surprising that after a century of neglect, there's not much respect for (or understanding of) the material principle of the Reformation.

But compare the smart-aleck and dismissive attitude of those comments with the opening words of A. A. Hodge's chapter on justification in his handbook of doctrine for lay people titled A Brief Compend of Bible Truth:

"Correct ideas on the subject of a sinner's justification are exceedingly important; because this is a cardinal point in the Christian system. A mistake here will be apt to extend its pernicious influence to every other important doctrine."

Taliesin said...

Phil,

Another good (and needed) post.

Jason,

Good responses. You wrote: "Your view also gives us a weaker explanation for the Biblical passages that refer to eternal life as a free gift."

Especially Romans 4:4, where Paul states that if you get something for your works, it is not a gift, but what you earned. Then in v.5 he states "And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness."(ESV)

So works to Paul are anything that earns something, and faith is not faithfulness, but trust/belief.

4given,

I've seen longer comments, but Jason's is in the top ten.

donsands said...

"... because we are justified by faith, we are, through faith, endowed with all the privileges and supplied with all the graces of the children of God." - Benjamin B. Warfield

" ... we should remember that in Christ we are justified. We are righteous in Him. ... we stand before God--clothed in the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ." - Jerry Bridges

This is such a magnificient truth. It should bring tears of joy. And it surely does.

Exist~Dissolve said...

jason--

Paul doesn't just exclude one system of works. He excludes every conceivable system of works, and he does so in more than one way.

And so he should. However, the point Deviant Monk is making is that Prostestantism has created an unnecessary, unnatural and, IMO, unbiblical bifurction between “faith” and “action.” None of the orthordox church believes that we are justified because we belong to the cultus of a particular religion (which is the basis of Paul’s polemic against the “works” of the Judaizers). All orthodox Christians affirm that we are saved by the grace of God.

So the issue is not whether or not we are saved by “works” (as in the Judaizer’s belief system); the answer is obviously no. However, this answer does not mean that “faith” is bifurcated from “action.” As DM pointed out, the very example of Abraham which Paul conjures in Romans 4 proves that Paul clearly has an integrated view of “faith” in mind, not the dichotomous conception of “mental assent” that is separated from action.

In Romans 3:27, he contrasts a law of faith with any law of works. To read Romans 3:27 as a reference to a Jewish system of works, without any intention of excluding other systems of work, would be implausible.

Actually, the implausible interpretation is to go beyond Paul’s polemic against the Jewish system and to equate Paul’s language about “works” with “action” in an unqualified sense. Nonetheless, even if we pursue your contention, the answer will still be the same, and your bifurcation “faith” and “action” will reveal itself to be entirely artificial to the meaning of the text (precisely because you have gone beyond the context of the text and attempt to make universal propositional statements from Paul’s arguments).

The alternative Paul offers is "faith", not "faith and a non-Jewish system of works".

No one disagrees. However, the “faith” Paul offers is equally not “faith” but not “action.” As I have said before, your misunderstanding and misapplication of Paul’s polemic against the works of the Judaizers has led you to create an unnecessary and inappropriate dichotomy between “faith” and “action.”

Similarly, Paul tells us in Galatians 3:21-25 that there isn't any system of works whereby we can attain justification. No conditions can be added to what God has offered (Galatians 3:15). Paul doesn't limit himself to one system of works, as if adding circumcision to faith would be unacceptable, whereas adding tithing or church attendance would be acceptable. So, your argument is fallacious in light of Paul's exclusion of every system of works, not just one Jewish system.

It is not fallacious at all, as even the speculative expansion of “works” to other systems does not create a dichotomy between faith and action. No one is suggesting that one “system” be replaced with another. Rather, the argument that is being presented is merely intended to recapture the biblical conception of faith as the integration of belief and action.
Secondly, your argument is untenable in light of Paul's inclusion of nothing other than faith. As I said with regard to Romans 3:27, the alternative Paul offers is faith, not faith and something else. To argue that Paul meant to imply the inclusion of something else, but didn't mention it, in dozens of passages in which he only mentions faith is implausible.

This is only a necessary conclusion if one artificially bifurcates faith from action. As there is no reason in the biblical literature or historical theology to do so (and even better reason not to!), I would suggest that your rejection of what is being presented by Deviant is the rejection of a strawman which you have created.

Third, we know that your argument is false because of Paul's use of Genesis 15:6. In that passage, Abraham only believes (sola fide). Not only is circumcision absent, but so are baptism, tithing, honoring of parents, submission to government authorities, church attendance, and every other conceivable good work.

Read the whole story of Abraham. How does the narrative describe his “faith?” It is action! God told Abraham to go. What did Abraham do? Did he say, “Ah, I mentally assent in belief to what God has said?” No! He packed his family up and left. When God said to kill Isaac, Abraham took Isaac to the mountain and plunged the knife. The bottom line is that belief and action cannot not separated. One believes that which one does, and one does that which one believes. There is no logical or chronological relationship; rather, they are an integrated reality which the Scriptures refer to as “faith.” Belief without action and action without belief is not faith, for neither can exist without the other. Therefore, to say that one is justified by “faith” alone with the Protestant refusal of “action” is simply absurd and completely misunderstands the biblical and historical teaching about faith.

Fourth, we can compare your view to the Biblical examples of the justification of various individuals. In Galatians 3:2-9, for example, a passage I cited in my last response to you, Paul refers to the Galatians' being justified when they believed the word being spoken. They weren't justified when they were baptized or when they did some other good work.
Rather, they were justified as soon as they believed. Paul goes on to cite Genesis 15:6 as an illustration again, and Genesis 15:6 most surely does not illustrate baptismal justification or any other form of justification through works. What it illustrates is sola fide. Similarly, every other example of how people were justified, without exception, has people being justified upon faith, prior to baptism and other works (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:50, 18:10-14, etc.). Given that we have all of these Biblical examples of people being justified prior to doing any good works, and given that we have no examples of a person coming to faith and having to wait until baptism or some other later work before being justified, it seems unlikely that all of these Biblical examples of sola fide are exceptions to a rule.


Again, your conception proceeds from a misunderstanding of the meaning of “works” in Paul’s thinking. As DM pointed out, Paul’s polemic against “works of the law” is directed against the Judaizers who taught that Gentiles must become associated with a particular religious cultus before they could be justified with God. Paul, however, refuses this argument, claiming that all are justified apart from identification with a particular religious cultus (i.e., Abraham and circumcision) through faith. When he says this, however, he is NOT saying that action is alien or unnecessary to “faith.” All he is saying is that the path to God does not require identification and initiation into the Jewish (or another) system of ritual law. Therefore, I will very firmly affirm that we are justified not by works; nonetheless, this does not mean that faith can be divorced from action. Matthew 25 makes this abundantly clear. Of course, Jesus often doesn’t get much of a say in regards to the issue of justification by faith, so perhaps this is an irrelevant notation...

Your view also gives us a weaker explanation for the Biblical passages that refer to eternal life as a free gift. You would affirm that the opportunity to work for eternal life is free, but eternal life itself is not free under your system. Similarly, your view gives us a weaker explanation of the substitutionary nature of Christ's work. A passage like 1 Corinthians 2:2 or Galatians 6:14 makes far more sense under sola fide than it does under any system that combines faith and works.

A “weaker” explanation? Huh? Who defines that which is “weaker?” To my mind, a conception of “faith” which bifurcates “belief” and “action” is the most watered-down, hollow and disingenuous description which one could give. No one is advocating that we have to “work” for eternal salvation; nonetheless, this affirmation does not in any way necessitate a bifurcation of “belief” and “action.”

There's a difference between "not the predominant understanding" and "either know nothing of it or flatly contradicted it". I would agree with you that sola fide was a minority view. But I reject your suggestion that it's absent from all of the church fathers. And the fathers weren't the only Christians who lived between the apostles and the Reformation.

Well, the last statement is true. However, considering that their works are the ones that the historic church chose to preserve and considered relatively authoritative in terms of orthodox belief, an argument from silence on this issue is hardly compelling and appears, to be perfectly honest, somewhat desperate. Rather than using the Reformation to marginalize historical theology (which you admit did not affirm sola fidei in the majority), perhaps we should use the tradition which we have received to critique our beliefs. Just a suggestion...

I don't know what history classes you took or what theology books you read, but different scholars take different positions on this issue. In the previous thread I linked you to, I and other posters give examples of scholars who think that sola fide is found in some sources between the apostles and the Reformation.

But the indentification of “some” sources is not good enough. First of all, there is a very good chance that the quotations are incidental, rather than foundational to the writers’ thinking (and this is a reasonable conclusion, given your own admission about the “majority” view). Secondly, as Deviant pointed out, the identification of “some” sources does not suggest a comprehensive system of thought. Finally, as you will hopefully agree, all scholars are motivated by certain theological loyalties to come to particular conclusions about the nature and shape of historical theology. However, I would suspect that even the scholars to whom you would appeal would be forthcoming enough to admit that despite the ability to proof-text sola fidei out of historical theology, the evidence is overwhelming enough to conclude (even as you have admitted), that the majority view did not hold to this conception. Therefore, given this conclusion, and coupled with the fact that the historical church never codified sola fidei as an orthodox belief, Protestant theology must be very careful about how forcefully it teaches this concept, lest it (as in many other theological conclusions) effectively marginalize the very tradition to which it attempts to appeal in substantiating its presupposed theological understanding.

As I said above, the church fathers weren't the only Christians who lived during the time in question. Some of the church fathers argued against people in their day who believed in justification apart from baptism or who taught that works in general aren't a means of attaining justification. If those fathers rejected sola fide, then what was the position of the people they were arguing against? Are you going to claim that the people they were arguing against rejected sola fide also? If so, then what were these people being criticized for? If you think that they did advocate sola fide, then they would be examples of people who held that view between the time of the apostles and the Reformation. I see no reasonable way to deny that some people held sola fide during that timeframe. The quantity of people who did so is more questionable, but the concept that nobody held the view seems to me to be implausible.

I doubt that you would wish to appeal to those against whom the early church fathers wrote. While some were relatively harmless, the majority of polemical work in the early church was directed against serious perversions of the orthodox faith that had been received from the apostles and passed on through the bishorpic leadership of the church. Given this fact, if these individuals against whom the ECF’s wrote did affirm sola fidei, it would seem that this should raise several flags about the philosophical and theological presuppositions which gave rise to not only their heresy, but also their affirmation of sola fidei. Obviously, we cannot conclusively know that this linking was a reality. However, as these heretical individuals would be the ones in whose thinking you would have to locate an explicit affirmation of sola fidei (per your own admission that the “majority” of the orthodox writers did not affirm sola fidei), this should give rise to concern on your part in regards to the tenability of sola fidei. Again, I am not saying that the early heretics affirmed it–but if they did, I would suggest this would be cause for caution, for no theological conclusions are atomistic–rather, the proceed from the same presuppositions which give rise to other conclusions.

The context of 1 Peter 3 is a context primarily about sanctification. He's addressing Christians who are going through some difficulties. Baptism saved them in much the same way that bearing children saves women in a non-justifying sense (1 Timothy 2:15). The term "saved" is used in different ways in different contexts. The public pledge involved in baptism was sustaining these Christians in their trials. It was a means of sanctification. To read 1 Peter 3:21 as a reference to attaining justification through baptism would be unnatural in the context of the passage and would make it contradictory to what Peter and other Biblical authors said elsewhere.

Exist~Dissolve said...

BTW--

The last paragraph of my last post is not mine--I forgot to trim it off.

Steven Dresen said...

exist,
you said:

the fact that the historical church never codified sola fidei as an orthodox belief, Protestant theology must be very careful about how forcefully it teaches this concept, lest it (as in many other theological conclusions) effectively marginalize the very tradition to which it attempts to appeal in substantiating its presupposed theological understanding.


Well you must have never read the great Protestant confessions of faith which codify sola fidei as orthodox belief. I'll give you a few examples:

Westminster confession of faith
I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies;[1] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,[2] they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[3]

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[4] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.[5]


Augsburg Confession
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

2nd Helvetic:
WE ARE JUSFIFIED BY FAITH ALONE. But because we receive this justification, not through any works, but through faith in the mercy of God and in Christ, we therefore teach and believe with the apostle that sinful man is justified by faith alone in Christ, not by the law or any works.

and finally I'll bring in the big gun Clement's epistle to the church of Corinth:

4And we, therefore, who by his will have been called in Jesus Christ, are not justified of ourselves or by our wisdom or insight or religious devotion or the holy deeds we have done from the heart, but by that faith by which almighty God has justified all men from the very beginning. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

this point of sola fidei is where the church lives or dies on, and this point let's true believers know who the false teachers are.

Soli deo Gloria, To God alone be the glory.

Exist~Dissolve said...

steven dresen--


Well you must have never read the great Protestant confessions of faith which codify sola fidei as orthodox belief.


Sorry. The "great" Protestant confessions of faith does not qualify as authoritative for orthodox belief because they are not ecumenical. In truly Protestant style, these confessions effectively marginalize nearly the entire scope of Christian history which precedes them. My conscience is not bound in any way to the conclusions of the so-called Protestant "confessions of faith." They may be Protestant, but they are not truly orthodox.

I'll give you a few examples:

Westminster confession of faith
I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies;[1] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,[2] they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[3]

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[4] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.[5]


Augsburg Confession
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

2nd Helvetic:
WE ARE JUSFIFIED BY FAITH ALONE. But because we receive this justification, not through any works, but through faith in the mercy of God and in Christ, we therefore teach and believe with the apostle that sinful man is justified by faith alone in Christ, not by the law or any works.


These examples are fine and dandy. However, as they are not orthodox declarations of the historic, ecumenical church, I hardly see how they are authoritative or definitive explications of the teaching of the apostles.

and finally I'll bring in the big gun Clement's epistle to the church of Corinth:

4And we, therefore, who by his will have been called in Jesus Christ, are not justified of ourselves or by our wisdom or insight or religious devotion or the holy deeds we have done from the heart, but by that faith by which almighty God has justified all men from the very beginning. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.


I hardly see that Clement is using "faith" in the way that Protestants do. Rather, he is merely reflecting the teaching of Paul who eschewed the Judaizers' attempts to force Gentiles to become Jewish before they could be justified with God. In the same way, Clement argues here that humans are not justified by doing "x" and "y" and "z" to please God. Nonetheless, this does not substantiate the Protestant bifurcation between "belief" and "action."

this point of sola fidei is where the church lives or dies on, and this point let's true believers know who the false teachers are.

Well, seeing as the church made it just fine for 1500 years before the Protestants came along, I hardly see where the force of your assertion lies.

Steven Dresen said...

exist,
You're in error. So I'm going to start with the basics.

This is a good summary of the gospel:
1 Corinthians 15
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Jesus who is God became a man. He lived a perfect sinless life and he died for our sins. We are saved through faith in Christ, which is based on belief that he died in our place.

The following passage from Romans 10 clarifies the issue further:

10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

We are justified by trusting in the sacrifice of Christ. You want a lie, you want a false gospel, you say you want an ecuminical confession but the fact is that all those positions agree, they define the universal church. To put it bluntly and come to the point, there is going to be a final judgement and if you don't love Jesus and believe he died for you and trust that he was obedient in your place, then you're going to be judged on the basis of your works, and they'll get you condemned because our only hope is Christ anything else is a lie and damnable. I'll be praying that God does work on your heart, and I don't mean that was a smart-alec remark I'm serious, you're on a slippery slope.

David Gadbois said...

Prostestantism has created an unnecessary, unnatural and, IMO, unbiblical bifurction between “faith” and “action.”

To distinguish faith and action is not "bifurcation." They are distinct concepts, as well as being distinct words. The idea of action/works is not part of the semantic range of pistew. More on this below.

It also is not bifurcation to say that faith entails works/action, or faith inevitably causes works/action, but this does not justify a conflation in definition.

Your anti-Protestant diatribe everywhere seems to think (without the benefit of argument) that the only alternative to "bifurcation" is blurring the distinction between concepts.

All orthodox Christians affirm that we are saved by the grace of God.

This affirmation does not absolve semi-Pelagians (affirming the necessity of grace but denying its sufficiency) nor those who make works/actions the co-instrument or co-ground of justification. The Pharisee of Luke 18 credited and thanked God for his good works, but still did not go home justified.

This pericope justifies Jason's comments that the Bible excludes EVERY CONCEIVABLE system of actions or works - not just belonging to the cultus of a particular religion - but even the Pharisee's faithful and just lifestyle, his fasting, and tithing.

has led you to create an unnecessary and inappropriate dichotomy between “faith” and “action.”

For you to say that "action" is not the same thing as "works" is a distinction without a difference. It is still "works" - something we do.

And making a simple distinction (warranted by lexical semantics) between "faith" and "works" is not "dichotomizing", as if we were saying faith and works are not closely related. But works/actions are not co-instruments of justification.

Rather, the argument that is being presented is merely intended to recapture the biblical conception of faith as the integration of belief and action.

Your sloppiness continues. Precisely HOW are belief and action "integrated"? Are you saying that action is included in the definition of faith? As I have already pointed out, you are wrong here. Or, are you saying belief and action evidence genuine faith? Then there is no argument.

God told Abraham to go. What did Abraham do? Did he say, “Ah, I mentally assent in belief to what God has said?” No! He packed his family up and left.

Your ignorance shines brightly as you trot out this old canard. Since you are obviously an Eastern Orthodox types, I suggest you spend some time back in Protestant Doctrine 101, where you will learn that faith is not merely mental assent or unaccompanied by works. From the beginning, Luther stated that 'We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.'

And the Reformed view of faith conceives of faith as being composed of knowledge, assent, and volition:

http://www.girs.com/library/theology/syllabus/subsoter6.html

How does the narrative describe his “faith?” It is action! God told Abraham to go.... The bottom line is that belief and action cannot not separated.

This muddled thinking plagues the rest of your post here. We are not "separating" belief and action by distinguishing them. The Genesis narrative proves that genuine faith will yield and be accompanied by action, but it never defines actions as the essence of faith. It never says nor implies that faith IS action simply because we see that Abraham's faith produces action/works.

this does not mean that faith can be divorced from action. Matthew 25 makes this abundantly clear.
Again, you are trying to justify a blurring of definitions by saying that two concepts cannot be "divorced." That is non sequitur.

perhaps we should use the tradition which we have received to critique our beliefs.
Oh, but which tradition should I pick? Can I pick Clement of Rome?

And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end.

Continuing:

an argument from silence on this issue is hardly compelling and appears, to be perfectly honest, somewhat desperate

Well, that depends. Since there was no concensus, self-conscious, developed doctrine of justification in the early church, one wouldn't weigh the historical issue in the same way as we would with doctrines that were self-consciously developed in light of, say, the early christological controversies. We would expect ambiguity or even silence on such a matter (since the narrower topic of justification does not exhaust the category of salvation).

The "great" Protestant confessions of faith does not qualify as authoritative for orthodox belief because they are not ecumenical.

For us orthodoxy is defined by God's Word, which does not give magical infallible powers to ecumenical councils. You Eastern Orthodox types everywhere assume such powers, but never prove it.

It also has the pragmatic difficulty of justifying any innovative heresy beyond the 1st-millennium ecumenical councils as being within the pale of orthodoxy.

Even so, the "historic" interpretation you give so much lip service to of justification hardly backs up your 20/21st century Sanders/Dunn/Wright New Perspectivist take on the biblical texts.

David Gadbois said...

Some more "gems" from exist-dissolve:

I hardly see that Clement is using "faith" in the way that Protestants do.

Oh? How is it different?


Rather, he is merely reflecting the teaching of Paul who eschewed the Judaizers' attempts to force Gentiles to become Jewish before they could be justified with God.


This is indeed a sad and desperate way to wiggle out of a fairly plain text. He does not contrast "faith" with "the Judaizer's attempts to force Gentiles to become Jewish." That is nowhere in the context. Rather, the explicit contrast is between faith and "our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or works that we have done in holiness of heart."


In the same way, Clement argues here that humans are not justified by doing "x" and "y" and "z" to please God. Nonetheless, this does not substantiate the Protestant bifurcation between "belief" and "action."


If all you have to fall back on is the hollow rhetoric about "bifurcation", you have no case. How is it "bifurcation" to say that "faith" and "action/works" are different concepts, as well as different words, that serve different functions in a given text?

You need to give your rhetoric some feet here.

Exist~Dissolve said...

steven dresen--

You're in error.

Oh. Ok.

So I'm going to start with the basics.

This is a good summary of the gospel:
1 Corinthians 15
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Jesus who is God became a man. He lived a perfect sinless life and he died for our sins. We are saved through faith in Christ, which is based on belief that he died in our place.

The following passage from Romans 10 clarifies the issue further:

10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

We are justified by trusting in the sacrifice of Christ. You want a lie, you want a false gospel, you say you want an ecuminical confession but the fact is that all those positions agree, they define the universal church. To put it bluntly and come to the point, there is going to be a final judgement and if you don't love Jesus and believe he died for you and trust that he was obedient in your place, then you're going to be judged on the basis of your works, and they'll get you condemned because our only hope is Christ anything else is a lie and damnable. I'll be praying that God does work on your heart, and I don't mean that was a smart-alec remark I'm serious, you're on a slippery slope.


What in the world does this have to do with anything I have posted? Like many others on this board, instead of actually engaging my point, you fall back on pat propositional answers that you feel somehow contradict what I have said even though they do not even approach the content of my ideas. You say I am on a slippery slope, yet you do not bother to show me how, except to rehearse some entirely unrelated litany of propositional statements.

Exist~Dissolve said...

To distinguish faith and action is not "bifurcation." They are distinct concepts, as well as being distinct words. The idea of action/works is not part of the semantic range of pistew. More on this below.

I firmly disagree. "Pistew", like all other words, does not have absolute meaning. Rather, the meaning is derived from the context in which it is used and the place that is assumes in the course of description. Therefore, it would be linguistically absurd to limit the range of meaning of a word, given the fact that all "definitions" are ultimately derived from presuppositions about the ways in which the words are used.

It also is not bifurcation to say that faith entails works/action, or faith inevitably causes works/action, but this does not justify a conflation in definition.

Again, you are operating from a presupposition about the possible semantic meaning of "faith" because of your theological convictions, even as I do.

Your anti-Protestant diatribe everywhere seems to think (without the benefit of argument) that the only alternative to "bifurcation" is blurring the distinction between concepts.

There need not be an absolute "blurring." Nonetheless, there is also no reason to create a bifurcation which is exactly what Protestant theology does with "belief" and "action" because of its wrongheaded understanding of Paul's polemic against "works."

This affirmation does not absolve semi-Pelagians (affirming the necessity of grace but denying its sufficiency) nor those who make works/actions the co-instrument or co-ground of justification. The Pharisee of Luke 18 credited and thanked God for his good works, but still did not go home justified.

You just can't resist a shot at semi-Pelagianism, can you? My post has nothing to do with semi-Pelagianism, Pelagianism, or any of the like. Moreover, in this post, you continue in your misunderstanding of my post by wrongly bifurcating faith and action. I have never said that we are justified by works. However, belief is action, and action is belief. The Pharisee in your example was not justified precisely because he had the kind of bifurcated faith which you advocate; he assented to belief in God, yet failed to do those things which were pleasing to God (helping the poor, giving justice to the widow, etc).

This pericope justifies Jason's comments that the Bible excludes EVERY CONCEIVABLE system of actions or works - not just belonging to the cultus of a particular religion - but even the Pharisee's faithful and just lifestyle, his fasting, and tithing.

But the Pharisee did not have a "faithful and just" lifestyle. His morality was entirely inwardly focused; he believed he was justified because of what he did. What brings justification, however, is obedience to the will of God, as seen clearly in the examples of all the "faithful" of God throughout history, including Jesus. Jesus was vindicated by the Father, not because he "believed," but rather because he was faithful to do the will of God, even as Abraham before him was.

For you to say that "action" is not the same thing as "works" is a distinction without a difference. It is still "works" - something we do.

Yes, but they are not the same. To "do" something is necessary--we are embodied creatures. Therefore, we cannot "think" or "believe" without "doing." The difference, then, between "action" and "works" is that the latter supposes that justification is based upon fulfilling in oneself a system of works that is self-justifying. The other (action) is simply the natural response of the human person to the grace of God.

And making a simple distinction (warranted by lexical semantics) between "faith" and "works" is not "dichotomizing", as if we were saying faith and works are not closely related. But works/actions are not co-instruments of justification.

Again, as we are integrated beings, it is impossible that they are not concomitant. To suppose that one can have "faith" without "action" is ultimately a gnostic conception of belief, a position which has been thoroughly and consistently rejected by the historic Christian church. Moreover, it is a concept that is entirely foreign to the biblical witness. If one looks at any example of "faith" in the Scriptures, it is clear that the meaning goes much farther than some metaphysical conception of "belief." Rather, it faith is a description of obedience.

Your sloppiness continues. Precisely HOW are belief and action "integrated"? Are you saying that action is included in the definition of faith? As I have already pointed out, you are wrong here. Or, are you saying belief and action evidence genuine faith? Then there is no argument.

I am saying that belief and action comprise the definition of faith. You may claim that semantically this is unwarranted. However, I think if the definition is expanded to allow for an honest examination of the meanings which are assumed by the writers who employed "faith" language, the intergrated nature of faith will become immediately honest. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find any Protestant literature that deals in an intellectually honest way with this concept, for the hegemony of sola fidei has so poisoned the intellectual arena of Protestantism that the assumption is all but automatic by all who approach the subject.

Your ignorance shines brightly as you trot out this old canard. Since you are obviously an Eastern Orthodox types

What does this matter (BTW, I am not EO)? I see you, like so many others on this board, are incapable of actual intellectual engagement that you feel it necessary to resort to pathetic attempts to undermine my thought by identifying it with particular traditions which you feel are inadequate (even though EO theology has been around infinitely longer than Protestant theology).

I suggest you spend some time back in Protestant Doctrine 101, where you will learn that faith is not merely mental assent or unaccompanied by works.

Yes, this is exactly my point. Protestant Doctrine 101 is so blindly smitten with its "solas" that it cannot engage theological thinking in an intellectually honest way. Rather, the "solas" have become the controlling hermeneutic against which there is no recourse in Protestant theology. And those who attempt to think outside of this hegemony are immediately vilified as "semi-Pelagian," Eastern Orthodox, or whatever other pathetic characterizations you wish to trot out onto the stage of intellectual engagement.

From the beginning, Luther stated that 'We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.'

So what? Luther's thought is not binding to my conscience. The Church existed long before Luther came along, and it will continue to exist long after Protestantism has completed its self-implosion.

And the Reformed view of faith conceives of faith as being composed of knowledge, assent, and volition:

http://www.girs.com/library/theology/syllabus/subsoter6.html


Again, my conscience is not bound by the "new" theology of the Reformed tradition. The historical church occupies much greater authority in my thinking. As I suppose you would claim to be an orthodox believer as well, I should think that it would for you, also.

This muddled thinking plagues the rest of your post here. We are not "separating" belief and action by distinguishing them. The Genesis narrative proves that genuine faith will yield and be accompanied by action, but it never defines actions as the essence of faith. It never says nor implies that faith IS action simply because we see that Abraham's faith produces action/works.

Abraham's faith did not "yield" action. His faith was action! The entire example of Abraham revolves around his obedience to God, not his mental assent to propositions about God. For any Jew worth their snuff (like Paul), this central meaning about the example of Abraham would have indellibly informed his thinking. Protestant theology, however, divorces Paul's thinking about Abraham from the historical Abraham.


Oh, but which tradition should I pick? Can I pick Clement of Rome?


If you wish. However, I think that if you honestly reflect upon the early tradition of the church as a whole, you will quickly realize that the Protestant conception of action-less faith is not only absent, but vigorously denied as well.

And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end.

I have already responded to one quotation of this text, so I will not waste time responding again.

Well, that depends. Since there was no concensus, self-conscious, developed doctrine of justification in the early church, one wouldn't weigh the historical issue in the same way as we would with doctrines that were self-consciously developed in light of, say, the early christological controversies. We would expect ambiguity or even silence on such a matter (since the narrower topic of justification does not exhaust the category of salvation).

I would vehemently disagree that there was no conscious, developed conception of justification in the early church. This is another lie of Protestantism, that Luther somehow brought justification to light for the first time, or resurrected it from Augustine. Such a conclusion is horrifically historically naive and reveals that the hegemony of sola fidei is not only theologically self-deluding, but historically destructive as well.

For us orthodoxy is defined by God's Word, which does not give magical infallible powers to ecumenical councils. You Eastern Orthodox types everywhere assume such powers, but never prove it.

Again, I'm not EO, but thanks for your childish slight anyway. I have never claimed that the ecumenical councils have "magical infallible powers". However, they are more authoritative (because of the ecumenicity) than the Protestant councils that deliberately marginalize the largest and oldest sections of the Church, the sections which, ironically enough, the Protestant church is built upon. It's quite humorous, actually, for Protestants wish to claim legitimacy from their usage of the "Word," yet their very ability to engage the word is prefaced upon the existence of the very traditions that they vehemently reject and marginalize.

Even so, the "historic" interpretation you give so much lip service to of justification hardly backs up your 20/21st century Sanders/Dunn/Wright New Perspectivist take on the biblical texts.

Says who? Do you somehow have an insight to the Scriptures that are infallible and devoid of presuppositional bias? If so, then I will capitulate the point. However, since you, like all the authors you mentioned, approach the texts from certain hermeneutical loyalties, your claims are hollow at best, supremely arrogant and self-delusional at worst.

Steven Dresen said...

exist,
now tell us why you hate monkies. I think that's a bit harsh being hateful like that. Oh and about this:

Therefore, it would be linguistically absurd to limit the range of meaning of a word, given the fact that all "definitions" are ultimately derived from presuppositions about the ways in which the words are used.


Let interpret this according to your pomo hermeneutic the following is a translation/interpretation:

"I'm a blathering fool who had a philosophy. Look at me trample on truth. Words have no absolute meaning so I will waste time trying to do what is impossible. Oh and by the way I'm a heretic."

Now I could only define and interpret your words through my presuppositions but I come at it with presuppositions of absolute truth and biblical authority so you'll disagree.

Exist~Dissolve said...

david--

This is indeed a sad and desperate way to wiggle out of a fairly plain text. He does not contrast "faith" with "the Judaizer's attempts to force Gentiles to become Jewish." That is nowhere in the context. Rather, the explicit contrast is between faith and "our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or works that we have done in holiness of heart."

You are being absurdly obtuse. I never said that Clement was talking explicitly about the Judaizers. What I said is that he was reflecting Paul's teaching about the Judaizer's conception of "works." As with Paul's polemic against the Judaizers, Clement derides any conception that one will be justified by one's own "wisdom, understanding or godliness," as if these things could "earn" God's approval. Nonetheless, in the very same letter as that which you earlier quoted, Clement says:

"Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those who wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith rewards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition."

Clearly, Clement does not see "action" as opposed to faith; rather, as seen above, it is directly linked to it. Therefore, we must, as with Paul, see the difference between "works" and "action."

If all you have to fall back on is the hollow rhetoric about "bifurcation", you have no case. How is it "bifurcation" to say that "faith" and "action/works" are different concepts, as well as different words, that serve different functions in a given text?

You just can't resist putting "action/works" together, can you? In everything I have written, I have clearly created a distinction between "action" and the "works" against which Paul (and Clement) polemicizes. However, you appartenly are either incapable or unwilling to follow this thinking. More interestingly, you deride me for speaking about the bifurcation of "faith" and "action" in Protestant theology, yet you yourself do the same thing (in reverse) to my thoughts about "action" and "works."

You need to give your rhetoric some feet here.

They've been walking all over your thought already. Size 12, baby.

Exist~Dissolve said...

steven--

now tell us why you hate monkies.

I don't hate monkeys.

Let interpret this according to your pomo hermeneutic

As opposed to a modernistic hermeneutic which presupposes that language somehow has transcendent meaning from context? Let's have a little more intellectual honesty here, please.

"I'm a blathering fool who had a philosophy. Look at me trample on truth. Words have no absolute meaning so I will waste time trying to do what is impossible. Oh and by the way I'm a heretic."

Now I could only define and interpret your words through my presuppositions but I come at it with presuppositions of absolute truth and biblical authority so you'll disagree.


I have presuppositions of biblical authority as well, just not the self-justified way in which you suppose it to exist. Moreover, I do not doubt that you believe you have epistemological access to "absolute truth." Howeover, given the fact that human persons are woefully incapable of actually pulling off such a feet, I would have to question the presuppositions through which you operate.

Jason Engwer said...

David Gadbois has made many good points, one of which is that exist~dissolve is relying on some assertions he hasn't justified. Exist~dissolve is correct in saying that context can alter our understanding of a term used by an author, but the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the person who wants us to accept a definition different from common usage. Exist~dissolve hasn't even told us what sort of "action" supposedly is included in faith, much less has he justified his inclusion of action within faith. Paul did often respond to the Judaizers, but it doesn't logically follow that all of his references to "works", "deeds", etc. in the relevant passages must therefore be limited to one system of Jewish works. And Paul isn't the only source Protestants cite to support their view of justification.

exist~dissolve wrote:

"However, the point Deviant Monk is making is that Prostestantism has created an unnecessary, unnatural and, IMO, unbiblical bifurction between 'faith' and 'action.'"

Faith and action are related, but they aren't the same. That's why different words are used to describe them. The fact that faith results in action doesn't justify an assumption that action is present in passages that use a term like "faith" or "believe". Faith comes before the actions that result from it, and we know that people are justified through that faith alone, at the time when they believe, not when an action is later added to that faith. That's why Paul refers to God's justification of the ungodly person who doesn't work (Romans 4:4-6). That's why a paralytic or people apparently doing nothing other than listening to the gospel being preached (and believing that gospel in their heart as they listen to it) can be justified.

You wrote:

"All orthodox Christians affirm that we are saved by the grace of God."

Unorthodox professing Christians affirm it as well. The concept of grace can be distorted (Romans 11:6, Jude 4). When Paul wrote to the Galatians about a false gospel that was misleading them, the "only thing" (Galatians 3:2) he wanted to know was not whether they affirmed salvation by grace. Rather, what he wanted to know was the identity of the instrument whereby they had been justified. Had they been justified through faith or through a system of works (Galatians 3:2)? Affirming that salvation is by grace isn't enough, if that affirmation is followed by an affirmation that we attain justification partly through outward actions.

We should keep in mind that Paul's focus in Galatians 3 is on the instrument whereby people attain justification. He doesn't say that he's focusing on the source of that instrument or whether grace is involved, for example. Apparently, Paul's Judaizer opponents accepted the concept that grace is necessary. That's why Paul could argue that they were distorting grace or could fall from it. If they didn't think that grace was part of the process, why be concerned about distorting grace or falling from it? As first century Jews, they surely would have recognized their dependence on God, the fact that God didn't owe them anything, etc. It's unlikely that Paul's opponents were claiming that they didn't need grace or that they could work for justification without any assistance from God. That's why Paul can focus on the instrument whereby justification is attained. That was the primary issue in dispute. Thus, it's fallacious for exist~dissolve to claim that the issue comes down to:

"The difference, then, between 'action' and 'works' is that the latter supposes that justification is based upon fulfilling in oneself a system of works that is self-justifying. The other (action) is simply the natural response of the human person to the grace of God."

Does Paul frame the issue that way in Galatians 3? No, he doesn't. When Paul describes how the Galatians were justified, does he refer to them doing works (or actions, if you prefer that term) that are "the natural response of the human person to the grace of God"? No. Rather, Paul refers to the Galatians' justification through "hearing with faith" (Galatians 3:2). If you want us to assume that "action" is included in that reference to faith, then you need to explain how you know that and which actions they were. You also need to explain what actions Abraham did in Genesis 15:6, the passage Paul goes on to cite as an illustration (Galatians 3:6-9). Do the people in Acts 10:44-48, Galatians 3:2, etc. engage in actions to attain justification? No, they don't.

You wrote:

"As DM pointed out, the very example of Abraham which Paul conjures in Romans 4 proves that Paul clearly has an integrated view of 'faith' in mind, not the dichotomous conception of 'mental assent' that is separated from action."

Deviant Monk didn't show us anything in Romans 4 that contradicts a Protestant view of justification, so you're going to have to explain to us what he supposedly showed us from that passage.

You wrote:

"Actually, the implausible interpretation is to go beyond Paul’s polemic against the Jewish system and to equate Paul’s language about 'works' with 'action' in an unqualified sense."

Again, read the other passages I cited as evidence. In Galatians 3, for example, Paul tells us that there isn't any system of works whereby we can attain justification. He doesn't limit himself to one system. Earlier in your first post, in your first sentence in response to me, you claimed to agree with me on this point. But now you're disputing it. Which is it? Again, read the examples Paul uses. He uses the example of a worker and his wages (Romans 4:4) and the example of Genesis 15:6. These passages don't just exclude one system of works. They exclude every system of works you could possibly come up with. The concept of a worker and his wages isn't limited to one Jewish system of works. Genesis 15:6 doesn't just exclude one type of work. When Paul asked the people in Acts 19:2 whether they had received the Spirit when they believed, are we to conclude that what Paul meant to ask was whether they had received the Spirit when faith was combined with action? If so, how do you know that, and how would they have known what action Paul had in mind?

You wrote:

"However, the 'faith' Paul offers is equally not 'faith' but not 'action.'"

If Paul uses the word "faith", and you want us to think that some actions are included with that faith, then you have to give us evidence that those actions are included. The burden of proof isn't on our shoulders. It's on yours. What we're doing is interpreting "faith" to mean what it commonly means. If you want us to believe that some actions are included, then you need to demonstrate the inclusion of those actions. So far, you haven't done so. And I've given evidence against your position, such as the passages of scripture that describe people as being justified before they get baptized or do other works.

You wrote:

"As I have said before, your misunderstanding and misapplication of Paul’s polemic against the works of the Judaizers has led you to create an unnecessary and inappropriate dichotomy between 'faith' and 'action.'"

Paul uses terms like "faith" and "works" in many contexts, not just when responding to the Judaizers. Your assumption that "works" only refers to one system of Jewish works is implausible. That's not what the Greek terms in question generally mean, and the fact that Paul sometimes responded to Judaizers doesn't justify giving the terms the specialized meaning you're applying to them every time Paul uses those phrases in the passages in question. And even if we accepted your implausible reading of Paul, we'd still have a lot of evidence against your position in non-Pauline sources, as I documented earlier.

You wrote:

"Read the whole story of Abraham. How does the narrative describe his 'faith?' It is action! God told Abraham to go. What did Abraham do? Did he say, 'Ah, I mentally assent in belief to what God has said?' No! He packed his family up and left."

Paul doesn't cite "the whole story of Abraham" when describing how people attain justification. Rather, he cited Genesis 15:6. If you think that Abraham's "whole story" was about attaining justification, then that's a system of works righteousness. The fact that you choose to call it "salvation by grace" doesn't change the fact that you're advocating an anti-grace system of justification through works.

You wrote:

"The bottom line is that belief and action cannot not separated."

How can people do actions of faith without first having faith? Faith does result in works, but to claim that faith never exists without accompanying action would be logically and Biblically untenable. Thoughts come before actions. The inner man moves the outer man.

The reason why James speaks positively of both Genesis 15 and Genesis 22 (James 2:21-23) is because Abraham had a faith that justified him, which was followed by works. If the faith was insufficient for justification until works accompanied it, then James would need to cite an example of Abraham having both faith and works at the same time. Instead, he uses Genesis 15 to illustrate faith and Genesis 22 to illustrate works. Genesis 22 perfected or fulfilled the faith of Genesis 15, but that faith of Genesis 15 was a good and justifying faith prior to Genesis 22. It was reckoned as righteousness. The Protestant view is that James is saying that true faith eventually results in works. That's what James is saying in James 2:21-23. Your position, which is that there is no justifying faith until works are present, contradicts James 2:21-23. The reason why James can cite two events in Abraham's life that are years apart (Genesis 15 and Genesis 22) is because he's saying that true faith eventually results in works. He's not saying that justifying faith is absent until works are present. There are no works of any type in Genesis 15:6. The "faith" James is referring to can't include action, since he uses "works" in a positive sense to describe action. Why would he refer positively to "works" if such positive works were already included in faith? Thus, when he cites Genesis 15 to illustrate faith, he can't be defining faith as something that includes action. He's citing Genesis 15 as an illustration of faith as faith is normally defined, and he acknowledges that such faith was reckoned as righteousness. There's no way to get your system of justification through actions from Genesis 15:6.

You wrote:

"One believes that which one does, and one does that which one believes. There is no logical or chronological relationship; rather, they are an integrated reality which the Scriptures refer to as 'faith.' Belief without action and action without belief is not faith, for neither can exist without the other."

Then why does Peter refer to God seeing the heart in Acts 15:8-9, for example? If the people in Acts 10 did some good work in order to attain justification, then what was that good work, and why does Peter mention that God saw the heart? Why doesn't Peter also refer to the good work they did outside of their heart? Scripture repeatedly refers to faith existing prior to good works. Thus, Paul was concerned that "those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds" (Titus 3:8). In 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul refers to how love in the Christian life comes from, among other things, "sincere faith". The faith comes first. Jesus, like Peter in Acts 15, knew that the primary issue was what was in the heart (John 2:25). The mouth, the hands, and other instruments of outward action are moved by what's first in the heart. Thus, Paul writes that "with the heart a person believes" (Romans 10:10). Confession of Jesus with the mouth, feeding the poor with your hands, and other outward actions are good, and true faith produces such actions, but they aren't faith. That's why the Biblical authors will both refer to people having faith and go on to refer to them having good actions as well.

If Paul was teaching justification through actions in Romans 4-5, why does he begin Romans 6 by explaining that he isn't saying that good behavior is to be neglected? Why would somebody who just taught justification through action go on to explain that he isn't saying that people shouldn't take action? Similarly, why does Clement of Rome, after excluding works wrought in holiness of heart (good works) from the gospel (First Clement, 32) go on to explain that he isn't telling people that they should neglect good works (First Clement, 33)? Why all of this concern for explaining that good works shouldn't be neglected if they had just said that justification is attained through good works?

You wrote:

"Matthew 25 makes this abundantly clear. Of course, Jesus often doesn’t get much of a say in regards to the issue of justification by faith, so perhaps this is an irrelevant notation."

Matthew 25 is referring to the general contrast between the behavior of the righteous and the behavior of the unrighteous. Jesus isn't describing how justification is attained.

I haven't neglected Jesus in this discussion. I repeatedly cited what He taught about justification. He didn't agree with your view. The paralytic in Mark 2 and the woman in Luke 7, for example, didn't get baptized or do other works in order to attain justification.

The words of Paul in scripture are just as authoritative as the words of Jesus. If Protestants only cited Paul's words in scripture, which they don't do, they would be citing a source as authoritative as Jesus. The reason why Protestants do cite Paul so often, though not exclusively, is similar to the reason why people discussing eschatology tend to cite Revelation more often than Titus.

You wrote:

"No one is advocating that we have to 'work' for eternal salvation"

You're saying that we attain justification through a faith that includes actions rather than through a faith that results in actions. You are advocating justification through works in the sense of justification through outward behavior. If you prefer a phrase like "justification through action" rather than "justification through works", the fact remains that justification through action isn't the same as justification through faith.

You wrote:

"However, considering that their works are the ones that the historic church chose to preserve and considered relatively authoritative in terms of orthodox belief, an argument from silence on this issue is hardly compelling and appears, to be perfectly honest, somewhat desperate."

I didn't appeal to silence. Apparently, you haven't read what I wrote in the other thread. Instead, you're responding to a misreading of my comments in this thread.

You wrote:

"Rather than using the Reformation to marginalize historical theology (which you admit did not affirm sola fidei in the majority)"

The people who advocated some form of justification through works widely contradicted each other. They advocated different systems of works that were inconsistent with each other in a variety of ways. It's not as if everybody who believed in some form of justification through works agreed with your version of justification through action. How, then, do you know that yours is the correct view? Which of the many and contradictory systems of justification through action is the correct one?

You wrote:

"But the indentification of 'some' sources is not good enough. First of all, there is a very good chance that the quotations are incidental, rather than foundational to the writers’ thinking (and this is a reasonable conclusion, given your own admission about the 'majority' view)."

You aren't interacting with the documentation I offered. Instead, you're just guessing at what you think my evidence probably consists of. Why don't you read what I cited instead of making ignorant guesses?

You wrote:

"Therefore, given this conclusion, and coupled with the fact that the historical church never codified sola fidei as an orthodox belief, Protestant theology must be very careful about how forcefully it teaches this concept, lest it (as in many other theological conclusions) effectively marginalize the very tradition to which it attempts to appeal in substantiating its presupposed theological understanding."

What qualifies as "codifying", and how do you know that your standard for it is correct? If something is taught in scripture as a foundational issue, as we see in Galatians with the doctrine of justification, then what further codifying would be needed?

And in what way have Protestants appealed to this tradition you're referring to in order to "substantiate its presupposed theological understanding"? Agreeing with some traditions isn't equivalent to accepting something only because of those traditions, and accepting some traditions isn't equivalent to accepting all traditions. You need to be more specific.

You wrote:

"Given this fact, if these individuals against whom the ECF’s wrote did affirm sola fidei, it would seem that this should raise several flags about the philosophical and theological presuppositions which gave rise to not only their heresy, but also their affirmation of sola fidei."

I didn't just cite non-patristic sources. I also cited patristic sources. And the fact that a church father disagreed with a source doesn't require that the source was heretical in the relevant sense. The fathers would sometimes disagree with a source without considering that source non-Christian. And the fathers often disagreed among themselves.

If you're going to argue that we must agree with a theological position if it attained a particular level of popularity after the time of the apostles or was taught by a particular post-apostolic source, then you should tell us where you're getting such a standard. I see no reason why a minority status for justification through faith alone among post-apostolic sources should be considered an insurmountable obstacle to accepting the doctrine. If you're only saying that such a minority status should be a caution to us, who suggested otherwise? Similarly, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics should be cautious as they accept concepts like the veneration of images, prayers to the dead, and the sinlessness of Mary, which seem to have been absent or widely rejected among the earliest Christians. I do take note of the widespread historical opposition to sola fide, but I also take note of the evidence for the doctrine in scripture and in some post-apostolic sources.

Exist~Dissolve said...

jason--

Exist~dissolve is correct in saying that context can alter our understanding of a term used by an author

Not “often”; Always.

but the burden of proof is on the shoulders of the person who wants us to accept a definition different from common usage.

The “common usage” is a slippery identification! For example, both Roman Catholics and Orthodox believers (who compose the majority of the church, BTW) use “faith” in a completely different way than Protestants. Therefore, if we are going by sheer majorities, the “burden of proof” is on the Protestants—you—to defend your innovation of the ancient definitions of “faith” which are preserved in RC and EO traditions.

Exist~dissolve hasn't even told us what sort of "action" supposedly is included in faith, much less has he justified his inclusion of action within faith.

Very simple. Obedience. This is justified because this is overarching concept that is assumed by all the biblical writers in every cited example of “faith.” For example, Abraham’s “faith” was nothing more than obedience to the word of God. Jesus’ faith was obedience to the will of God. Ad infinitum.

Paul did often respond to the Judaizers, but it doesn't logically follow that all of his references to "works", "deeds", etc. in the relevant passages must therefore be limited to one system of Jewish works.

True, but the contexts which have been discussed clearly indicate that this is the meaning. In both Romans 3-4 and Galatians, the programme of the Judaizers is clearly the object of Paul’s polemics.

And Paul isn't the only source Protestants cite to support their view of justification.

Sure, but functionally he is.

exist~dissolve wrote:

Faith and action are related, but they aren't the same. That's why different words are used to describe them. The fact that faith results in action doesn't justify an assumption that action is present in passages that use a term like "faith" or "believe". Faith comes before the actions that result from it, and we know that people are justified through that faith alone, at the time when they believe, not when an action is later added to that faith.

This is an assumption on your part. However, if you look at a person as an integrated reality, there is no way in which “belief” can be bifurcated from “actions.” One does not “act” without believing, nor does “belief” have any substance without a concomitant act. If you can show me how one can “believe” without “act,” I will capitulate the point. If not, then one must redefine any notion of faith that bifurcates belief from action.


That's why Paul refers to God's justification of the ungodly person who doesn't work (Romans 4:4-6). That's why a paralytic or people apparently doing nothing other than listening to the gospel being preached (and believing that gospel in their heart as they listen to it) can be justified.

Give me a break. Romans 4 is clearly a polemic against the system of the Judaizers. Therefore, Paul’s meaning is clearly that the ungodly are justified not because they do the “works of the law” (i.e., first become “Jewish”), but rather because they believe God. This is explicitly why Paul conjures the example of Abraham–Abraham was justified because he was obedient to God, and this before he became a Jew.

Unorthodox professing Christians affirm it as well.

This would definitely depend upon one’s definition of ‘unorthodox.” From many of the Protestants I have met, this is mostly those who are not Protestants, which is sad (not to mention inaccruate).

The concept of grace can be distorted (Romans 11:6, Jude 4). When Paul wrote to the Galatians about a false gospel that was misleading them, the "only thing" (Galatians 3:2) he wanted to know was not whether they affirmed salvation by grace. Rather, what he wanted to know was the identity of the instrument whereby they had been justified. Had they been justified through faith or through a system of works (Galatians 3:2)? Affirming that salvation is by grace isn't enough, if that affirmation is followed by an affirmation that we attain justification partly through outward actions.

Again, if we look at the context of Paul’s argument, he is arguing against the Judaizers. He says that justification is entirely by grace through faith—one does not need to first do the “works of the Law” (become a “Jew”).

Does Paul frame the issue that way in Galatians 3? No, he doesn't. When Paul describes how the Galatians were justified, does he refer to them doing works (or actions, if you prefer that term) that are "the natural response of the human person to the grace of God"? No. Rather, Paul refers to the Galatians' justification through "hearing with faith" (Galatians 3:2). If you want us to assume that "action" is included in that reference to faith, then you need to explain how you know that and which actions they were. You also need to explain what actions Abraham did in Genesis 15:6, the passage Paul goes on to cite as an illustration (Galatians 3:6-9). Do the people in Acts 10:44-48, Galatians 3:2, etc. engage in actions to attain justification? No, they don't.

You are missing the forest for a tree. Go back to the context of Galatians. Paul is arguing against the logic of the Judaizers who asserted that believers must first become Jews in order to be justified. This thinking betrayed the notion that one was justified with God by being identified with a particular religious cultus. Paul strenousley rejects this conclusion, arguing that justification comes only through faith in Christ. This is the first context that must be established.

However, once this is established, the false dichotomy between belief and action is unnecessary. If we go back to the example of Abraham in Romans 4, Abraham’s faith is described as a holistic response to God’s call––The call to leave came, and Abraham left. It was Abraham’s obedience which framed the description of his faith. However, as obedience cannot be divorced from act, it is impossible that Abraham’s faith (which is described through obedience) can also be assumed to be “act-less.

Given this logic, I would throw the question back to you: You need to explain how you “know” that action is unnecessary to faith.

Deviant Monk didn't show us anything in Romans 4 that contradicts a Protestant view of justification, so you're going to have to explain to us what he supposedly showed us from that passage.

Read what I wrote above.

Again, read the other passages I cited as evidence. In Galatians 3, for example, Paul tells us that there isn't any system of works whereby we can attain justification. He doesn't limit himself to one system. Earlier in your first post, in your first sentence in response to me, you claimed to agree with me on this point. But now you're disputing it. Which is it?

If one reads the context of Galatians, it is painfully clear that Paul’s polemic is directed explicitly against the Judaizer’s programme. Further, I do agree that Paul’s argument is naturally extended to all other “systems.” However, my contention that action is indelibly bound up in the definition of faith is not another “system.” It is simply recognizing the nature of faith in relation to the integrated human person.

Again, read the examples Paul uses. He uses the example of a worker and his wages (Romans 4:4) and the example of Genesis 15:6. These passages don't just exclude one system of works. They exclude every system of works you could possibly come up with. The concept of a worker and his wages isn't limited to one Jewish system of works. Genesis 15:6 doesn't just exclude one type of work. When Paul asked the people in Acts 19:2 whether they had received the Spirit when they believed, are we to conclude that what Paul meant to ask was whether they had received the Spirit when faith was combined with action? If so, how do you know that, and how would they have known what action Paul had in mind?

The obvious problem you are having in wrapping your brain around the obvious meaning of faith is that the (false) bifurcated nature of belief and action have been so engrained in your mind that the very word action conjures images of “working” in order to receive justification. This is not what I am advocating. Obviously, if we presume that doing “x” will bring justification because we have done “x”, we have fallen into the trap of the Judaizers (ironically enough, Protestant theology uses this very motif in relation to “faith,” i.e., if you believe “x” you will be saved—it’s simply a noumenological version of the Judaizer’s system...but I digress). However, this is not the way in which I am using “act.” I am simply pointing out that belief cannot be abstracted from act. What we believe is how we act, and how we act is what we believe. If you can give me an example of how one can believe without acting, I will, again, capitulate the argument. However, as I presume you will not be able to provide such, the onus is on you to preserve and explain the unnatural bifurcation which you have created between belief and act.

If Paul uses the word "faith", and you want us to think that some actions are included with that faith, then you have to give us evidence that those actions are included.

I have! Look at the example of Abraham. This is the one that Paul uses, and it will be the one that I use to. Abraham’s “faith” was his obedience to do the will of God. When the call came, Abraham’s faith was not rooted in some intellectual assent to an idea or an existential alignment with the infinite. Rather, his faith was what he did----he obeyed God, leaving everything to follow where he was told to go. Honestly, I cannot see how this is so difficult to understand.


The burden of proof isn't on our shoulders. It's on yours. What we're doing is interpreting "faith" to mean what it commonly means.

Please see my notes above about “common” meaning. You may think that the Protestant definition is “common,” but in light of the whole of the Christian church, it is actually aberrant.

If you want us to believe that some actions are included, then you need to demonstrate the inclusion of those actions. So far, you haven't done so. And I've given evidence against your position, such as the passages of scripture that describe people as being justified before they get baptized or do other works.

Again, you reveal your ignorance about what I am saying. When I say that actions are part and parcel to faith, I am not saying that one must do “x, y and z.” All I am saying is that to have faith is a collusion of belief and action. If we believe God, we do what God says. If we do what God says, we believe God. There is no chronological or even logical priority to either. Rather, they each form the fulness of the definition of faith.

Paul uses terms like "faith" and "works" in many contexts, not just when responding to the Judaizers.

By and far, Paul’s usage of “works of the law” is in reference to the Judaizer’s programme.

Your assumption that "works" only refers to one system of Jewish works is implausible.

I never said that it refers only to one system. While this is the context of Paul’s discussion, his logic can obviously be expanded to other “systems.” However, the relationship of “act” to faith is not another “system,” as if one has to do or become “x” in order to be justified. Rather, I am simply describing what the nature of faith is–it is belief and action colluded.

Paul doesn't cite "the whole story of Abraham" when describing how people attain justification. Rather, he cited Genesis 15:6.

Give me a break. This is one of the more absurd and naively obtuse things that you have said. The nature of human language is that it is naturally correlative. If I say “President Bush,” the mere conjuring of his name will concomitantly bring up a litany of other ideas, opinions, ancedotes, etc. about President Bush which will more fully flesh out one’s interepretation of the phrase “President Bush.” Therefore, when Paul mentions Abraham, he is doing so in the context of people who have cut their teeth on the stories of the patriarchs. They have been formed and shaped in their beliefs by these stories. It would be intellectual suicide to restrict the semantic range of meaning to the “verse” which Paul quotes. Rather, by using the example of Abraham, Paul is recalling the entire story and meaning of Abraham.

If you think that Abraham's "whole story" was about attaining justification, then that's a system of works righteousness. The fact that you choose to call it "salvation by grace" doesn't change the fact that you're advocating an anti-grace system of justification through works.

But Paul is not describing what Abraham DID to attain justification, and neither am I. Paul is rather describing why Abraham was justified—because he believed God (i.e., was obedient to follow God’s call).

How can people do actions of faith without first having faith?

As usual, you carry in your bifurcation and ask a loaded question. There is no such thing as “actions of faith.” Faith is action. The dividing line between belief and action cannot be located (although Protestants assume that is exists, and that absolutely).

Faith does result in works, but to claim that faith never exists without accompanying action would be logically and Biblically untenable.

Biblically untenable? Again, I would point you to the story of Abraham. Clearly, faith is described as Abraham’s obedience to God. As before, I would love for you to show me even one example in which your metaphysical conception of “faith” exists in the biblical language that does not have an integrated human action concomitantly accompanying it. You will not find one, for it does not exist. Belief and action are indelibly related and provide the fundamental definition of faith.

Thoughts come before actions. The inner man moves the outer man.

I disagree. You are thinking about “actions” in too rigid of a sense. As always, you cannot think of actions apart from the “works of the law” motif in Paul. I am not advocating “action” in an atomistic sense, however. Rather, I am talking about the trajectory of a life that is devoted to following the will of God. The “action” is not individual, phenomologically identifiable events, but rather a direction of alignment with the will of God.

The reason why James speaks positively of both Genesis 15 and Genesis 22 (James 2:21-23) is because Abraham had a faith that justified him, which was followed by works.

Ha, except that is not what James says. Rather, he says that “Abraham was justified for what he DID.” He goes on to say that “works ACCOMPANIED his faith” (belief), not that they followed them. Finally, he mentions that the action “completed” his faith. Therefore, without action, faith is not complete—it is only a metaphysical pile of garbage (which is exactly what Protestantism has given to the world). I find it terribly humorous that you deride me for not following the “common usage” of faith, when in this passage you clearly ignore the clear meaning of James’ writing.

If the faith was insufficient for justification until works accompanied it, then James would need to cite an example of Abraham having both faith and works at the same time.

Can you not read? He does give this example–that of offering Isaac. Belief and action were merged in one faith-crisis moment.

Instead, he uses Genesis 15 to illustrate faith and Genesis 22 to illustrate works. Genesis 22 perfected or fulfilled the faith of Genesis 15, but that faith of Genesis 15 was a good and justifying faith prior to Genesis 22. It was reckoned as righteousness.

Oh my goodness, you are being obtuse. James’ citation of Genesis 22 is a “redefinition” for the people who believed that some abstracted notion of faith was justifying. Your interpretation makes the argument which immediately precede this citation seem entirely ridiculous, and James is appears to be arguing against himself.

The Protestant view is that James is saying that true faith eventually results in works.

I know that this is Protestant view, but it is also wrong. James clearly, clearly states that true faith is a collusion of belief and action.

Your position, which is that there is no justifying faith until works are present,

I never said this, and to say that I am reveals that you are either ridiculously ignorant or clearly unwilling to actually engage what I have said. I am not talking about “works” in the Pauline sense (which is your meaning). Rather, I am merely describing the nature of faith—it is belief and action, an integrated response from the integrated person.

The reason why James can cite two events in Abraham's life that are years apart (Genesis 15 and Genesis 22) is because he's saying that true faith eventually results in works.

I retract my previous comment. THIS is one of the most ridiculous things that you have said. This is clearly not what James is saying at all. Rather, he quotes Genesis 22 to redefine it for those who believed that some abstract, metaphysical notion of faith was that for which Abraham was justified. If you read the text apart from the Protestant propoganda in which you are clearly and seemingly indelibly entrenched, you would be able to see this.


He's not saying that justifying faith is absent until works are present. There are no works of any type in Genesis 15:6. The "faith" James is referring to can't include action, since he uses "works" in a positive sense to describe action. Why would he refer positively to "works" if such positive works were already included in faith? Thus, when he cites Genesis 15 to illustrate faith, he can't be defining faith as something that includes action. He's citing Genesis 15 as an illustration of faith as faith is normally defined, and he acknowledges that such faith was reckoned as righteousness. There's no way to get your system of justification through actions from Genesis 15:6.

This is a ridiculous interpretation, given the fact that in the verses that lead up to this interpretation of Genesis 15:6, James has already said that “Abraham was justified by what he did,” “faith and deeds were working together,” and “faith was made complete by what he did” (which necessitates that faith was incomplete, or not actual, without action). Moreover, considering the fact that on the tail end of these he says, “and the Scripture was fulfilled...” clearly indicates that he means for his preceding argument to provide the hermeneutical lens for understanding the meaning of Genesis 15:6. To invert the relationship of these elements in James’ argument is quite curious, and reflects more an allegiance to a particular philosophical presupposition rather than an honest attempt to understand the meaning of the author.

Then why does Peter refer to God seeing the heart in Acts 15:8-9, for example? If the people in Acts 10 did some good work in order to attain justification, then what was that good work, and why does Peter mention that God saw the heart?

Because the “action” that I am talking about is not the “works” of Paul’s polemics!! You assume that when I say “action,” that I mean “one does x, y and z” to be justified. This is not my meaning at all, which would be clear if you engaged my though in an intellectually honest way. Rather, you uncritically ride the back of your false bifurcation of “belief” and “action” and are unable to countenance any other reasonable interpretation of Scripture that contradicts you.

Scripture repeatedly refers to faith existing prior to good works. Thus, Paul was concerned that "those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds"

Again, in the context of this passage, Paul alludes to the Judaizer’s logic and warns the believers that, in their right rejection of it, they not drift to the other extreme (Protestant conceptions of abstract faith).

In 1 Timothy 1:5, Paul refers to how love in the Christian life comes from, among other things, "sincere faith". The faith comes first.

This is not Paul’s meaning at all. Rather, the context—not surprisingly—is, again, a polemic against righteousness attained by alignment with the “Law.” That you are unable or continually refuse to see this in Paul’s thinking (and even those who wrote as Paul, such as in I Timothy) is disturbing, to say the least.

Jesus, like Peter in Acts 15, knew that the primary issue was what was in the heart (John 2:25). The mouth, the hands, and other instruments of outward action are moved by what's first in the heart. Thus, Paul writes that "with the heart a person believes" (Romans 10:10). Confession of Jesus with the mouth, feeding the poor with your hands, and other outward actions are good, and true faith produces such actions, but they aren't faith. That's why the Biblical authors will both refer to people having faith and go on to refer to them having good actions as well.

But you miss Jesus’ ultimate meaning. Do phenomenologically identifiable acts flow from the heart? Sure. But this is not what I am talking about. Rather, I am talking about action being a part of faith in an overarching sense. It is not limited to what one can see you do, for actions are fully integrated with belief. This is why in Matthew 25, Jesus condemned those who had an abstract form of belief (such as in Protestant theology) without the active orientation to the will of God. They professed a “faith” in Christ, but their orientation to the will of God revealed that their abstract confessions were worthless.
If Paul was teaching justification through actions in Romans 4-5, why does he begin Romans 6 by explaining that he isn't saying that good behavior is to be neglected? Why would somebody who just taught justification through action go on to explain that he isn't saying that people shouldn't take action? Similarly, why does Clement of Rome, after excluding works wrought in holiness of heart (good works) from the gospel (First Clement, 32) go on to explain that he isn't telling people that they should neglect good works (First Clement, 33)? Why all of this concern for explaining that good works shouldn't be neglected if they had just said that justification is attained through good works?

Again, you are missing the point. I am not talking about justification in terms of doing “x.” I have said this so many times that I am embarrassed for you that you have not yet been able to grasp this elementary comment. Paul tells the believers to not neglect “good works” because in his polemic against the “works of the law,” he obviously realizes that one could very easily misunderstand that what one does is not concomitant with one what believes (such as happened in Protestant theology). The very errors which Paul, in Romans 6, is attempting to mitigate is the very ones which Protestantism has endorsed with reckless abandon.

Matthew 25 is referring to the general contrast between the behavior of the righteous and the behavior of the unrighteous. Jesus isn't describing how justification is attained.

Ok....

I haven't neglected Jesus in this discussion. I repeatedly cited what He taught about justification. He didn't agree with your view. The paralytic in Mark 2 and the woman in Luke 7, for example, didn't get baptized or do other works in order to attain justification.

Yes, they didn’t do “x” to get justified. However, theirs was an “active” response. It was not an abstract intellectual assent to the person of Jesus. Rather, theirs was a response that involved their whole person in belief and action.

You're saying that we attain justification through a faith that includes actions rather than through a faith that results in actions.

No, I am advocating a faith that includes “action” (a singular, holistic concept), not ‘actions’ (phenomenologically identifiable events in space/time). While the latter are not unimportant to faith, they are not the “action” of which I speak, which should be brutally honest to you by now.

You are advocating justification through works in the sense of justification through outward behavior.

Come off it! Is this really so hard for you to comprehend??? What is the difference between “outward” and “inward” behavior? Very little! We are integrated persons who cannot be divided into “outward” and “inward” parts. Therefore, any discussion of faith, belief, act, etc. must encapsulate the whole integrated person. To create a division is the error of gnosticism, something of which Protestantism has been terribly close to for a long, long time.

If you prefer a phrase like "justification through action" rather than "justification through works", the fact remains that justification through action isn't the same as justification through faith.

There is no need to change the language, for “faith” is not opposed to “action.” Rather, faith is the collusion of belief and action. Therefore, the phraseology is perfectly fine—it is only the wrongheadedness of Protestant theology that needs to be changed.

The people who advocated some form of justification through works widely contradicted each other. They advocated different systems of works that were inconsistent with each other in a variety of ways. It's not as if everybody who believed in some form of justification through works agreed with your version of justification through action. How, then, do you know that yours is the correct view? Which of the many and contradictory systems of justification through action is the correct one?

Quit being obtuse. I am not advocating a “system” of justification through works, action, or otherwise. The fact that you cannot get over this mischaracterization reveals that you are either incredibly foolish, inept at actual discussion or are simply incapable of understanding the nuance of that which I am saying.

What qualifies as "codifying", and how do you know that your standard for it is correct? If something is taught in scripture as a foundational issue, as we see in Galatians with the doctrine of justification, then what further codifying would be needed?

Well, considering that which I appeal to has been accepted by all segments of the church for over 1500 years, it is a safe bet that this standard is one of the more reasonable contenders for the definition of that which is authoritative. Moreover, this whole issue of “something taught in scripture as a foundational issue” is misleading, for as our discussion shows, this entire issue is an interpretive one. Unless you feel yourself qualified to codify for the entire church a particular interpretation of the Scriptures, I would suggest that you retract this sophomorically absurd and uncritically developed argument.

If you're going to argue that we must agree with a theological position if it attained a particular level of popularity after the time of the apostles or was taught by a particular post-apostolic source, then you should tell us where you're getting such a standard.

My first suggestion would be to go to the creeds of the ecumenical councils. After this, I would go the majority theological voice. While the latter isn’t authoritative in an orthodox sense, it is a pretty good indicator of the presuppositional framework that existed in the thoughts of those who did participate in codifying other aspects of Christian orthodoxy.

I see no reason why a minority status for justification through faith alone among post-apostolic sources should be considered an insurmountable obstacle to accepting the doctrine.

It’s not insurmountable, but that is not the point. The discussion about the minority opinion is in relation to what the early church thought about this issue. As it is clear that the majority would not agree with Protestant conclusions, the Protestant tradition will find very little historical affirmation for what they teach on this subject. While this does not necessarily preclude the veracity of the conclusion, it does also not provide much positive support (which should be of major consideration in outlining a particular theological position).

If you're only saying that such a minority status should be a caution to us, who suggested otherwise? Similarly, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics should be cautious as they accept concepts like the veneration of images, prayers to the dead, and the sinlessness of Mary, which seem to have been absent or widely rejected among the earliest Christians.

I don’t disagree about these issues you have raised in relation to EO and RC theology. I am just as critical of these developments as I am of sola fidei in Protestantism.

I do take note of the widespread historical opposition to sola fide, but I also take note of the evidence for the doctrine in scripture and in some post-apostolic sources.

Concerning Scripture, the “evidence” is that of interpretation. This does not mean that the Protestant doctrine is actually there, only that it can be coaxed out of texts by particular hermeneutical approaches (as with about any doctrine that one would wish to assert). And concerning post-apostolic sources, from what I have seen, it appears that the “presence” of sola fidei is more of an incidental nature than of an explicitly, fully developed theological conclusion. We all like to assume that similarities in language equate to similarities in doctrinal development. However, this is just not so. For example, the modalistic monarchianists will gladly affirm the phrase, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” However, as one understands their deployment of this language, it becomes clear that they do not utilize the language towards the same end as orthodox believers.

Steven Dresen said...

exist,

Why don't you tell us what this action or what the actions are we ar bifurcating from faith are. I mean if we really are in error as you claim us to be then you should be in all earnest to tell us what we need to do to be justified.

Jason Engwer said...

exist~dissolve wrote:

"The 'common usage' is a slippery identification! For example, both Roman Catholics and Orthodox believers (who compose the majority of the church, BTW) use 'faith' in a completely different way than Protestants. Therefore, if we are going by sheer majorities, the 'burden of proof' is on the Protestants—you—to defend your innovation of the ancient definitions of 'faith' which are preserved in RC and EO traditions."

There are a lot of problems with your reasoning. The issue under dispute is how terms were used by first century authors. The fact that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox combined make up a larger number of today's professing Christians than Protestants doesn't lead us to the conclusion that most people in the first century context of the New Testament must have defined faith as Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox define it. And why put Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox in one category and Protestants in another? Catholics and Orthodox disagree internally about issues related to faith and justification, and the two groups disagree externally, with each other. And why are we supposed to assume that "the ancient definitions of 'faith'" are preserved by Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy? Do we make that assumption just because those two groups claim to be preserving ancient tradition? They make that claim on issues where they contradict each other, such as the papacy, so they can't possibly both be right every time they make the claim. When scholars translate and interpret the Biblical documents, they don't define the common usage of the language by how a majority of modern professing Christians define the terms. The issue is how the terms were used in ancient times, and all sources would be taken into account, not just Christian sources.

You wrote:

"Very simple. Obedience."

Surely you realize that "obedience", like "action", is a term that can be defined in many ways. Again, what action must exist in order for a person to attain justification?

You wrote:

"In both Romans 3-4 and Galatians, the programme of the Judaizers is clearly the object of Paul’s polemics."

Nobody denies that the Judaizers were often in mind when Paul wrote on matters of justification. But the Judaizers aren't always referred to in the context of Paul's comments on justification, and even when they are, you can't assume that Paul is therefore opposed only to the works the Judaizers wanted to add to the gospel. If Paul wanted to exclude only some works, he could have used language that would have specified those works without including others. If he refers to those specific works sometimes and sometimes uses broader terminology, it's probably because he was opposed to both the specific works the Judaizers were proposing and other works. That's why he mentions that there isn't any system of works whereby we can attain justification in passages like Romans 3:27 and Galatians 3:21-25. That's why he uses the concept of a worker and his wages and cites Genesis 15:6. The fact that Paul was often responding to the Judaizers doesn't logically lead us to the conclusion that he could only have the Judaizers' works in view when he mentioned works. If Paul was responding to the Judaizers, and he wanted to exclude all works in the process, we would expect him to use the sort of language he did use. You need to explain to us how you know that Paul was only intending to exclude the works of the Judaizers (or only some larger group of works that still wouldn't include your concept of "action"). Paul can make comments in response to the Judaizers that have a wider application, and he wasn't always discussing the Judaizers in the relevant passages. Besides, Paul isn't the only source involved.

You wrote:

"Sure, but functionally he is."

No, when I cite Jesus, Peter, and other sources commenting on justification, those passages carry evidential weight. Your claim that Paul is "functionally" the only source we cite doesn't make sense. Even if he was, his responses to the Judaizers can have implications beyond the Judaizers, and he wasn't always responding to the Judaizers in the relevant passages. If you're going to claim that the passages not addressed to the Judaizers are using "works" in a sense that doesn't include your concept of "action", then you need to give us independent evidence to support that conclusion. The fact that Paul sometimes addressed Judaizers doesn't justify your definition of "works" in passages not addressed to Judaizers.

You wrote:

"However, if you look at a person as an integrated reality, there is no way in which 'belief' can be bifurcated from 'actions.' One does not 'act' without believing, nor does 'belief' have any substance without a concomitant act. If you can show me how one can 'believe' without 'act,' I will capitulate the point."

I don't deny that faith results in action. But the faith exists before the action that results from it, and scripture tells us that justification occurs at the time of faith. The paralytic in Mark 2 wasn't doing any outward action. Cornelius and those with him in Acts 10 were justified through faith in the heart prior to the action that resulted from that faith (Acts 15:7-11).

You wrote:

"Romans 4 is clearly a polemic against the system of the Judaizers."

Romans 4 follows a discussion of the sinful state of all mankind. Paul would have had the Judaizers in mind, but he also would have wanted to give people the general principles of the gospel. In Romans 1-3, Paul spends some of his time discussing the guilt of the Gentiles, and he spends some time responding to the adherents of Judaism, who weren't the same as the Judaizers. He mentions the Jewish law, only portions of which the Judaizers wanted to include in the gospel, but he also explains that there isn't any system of works whereby people can be justified (Romans 3:27), and he uses the example of a worker and his wages (Romans 4:4), which isn't limited to Judaizers.

You wrote:

"Therefore, Paul’s meaning is clearly that the ungodly are justified not because they do the 'works of the law' (i.e., first become 'Jewish'), but rather because they believe God. This is explicitly why Paul conjures the example of Abraham–Abraham was justified because he was obedient to God, and this before he became a Jew."

Paul cites Genesis 15:6 to illustrate how justification is attained. All that Abraham does in that passage is believe (sola fide). If Paul meant to say that people attain justification through a non-Jewish system of works, then he could have said that God justifies the godly who are doing works of grace, for example. Instead, Paul tells us that God justifies the ungodly person who does not work (Romans 4:5-6). He goes on to use Genesis 15:6 as an illustration, and that passage illustrates sola fide, not your gospel of justification through action. If we define terms like "ungodly" and "does not work" in their most natural sense, we end up with the conclusion we see illustrated in Genesis 15:6. Your interpretations of these phrases are less natural and make no sense of Paul's use of Genesis 15:6.

You wrote:

"This would definitely depend upon one’s definition of ‘unorthodox.'"

Are you denying that some unorthodox people claim to believe in salvation by grace? Why would Paul and Jude write against people who pervert grace (Romans 11:6, Jude 4), speaking of them as if they're unorthodox, if only the orthodox claim that salvation is by grace? Obviously, affirming that salvation is by grace isn't enough.

You wrote:

"If we go back to the example of Abraham in Romans 4, Abraham’s faith is described as a holistic response to God’s call––The call to leave came, and Abraham left. It was Abraham’s obedience which framed the description of his faith. However, as obedience cannot be divorced from act, it is impossible that Abraham’s faith (which is described through obedience) can also be assumed to be 'act-less."

Again, Paul uses Genesis 15:6, a passage that has faith and no action outside the heart, to illustrate how Abraham was justified. The fact that action resulted from that faith doesn't change the fact that justification occurred through faith, not through action. Nowhere in Romans 4 does Paul say that Abraham attained justification by means of action outside the heart. You aren't explaining Paul's use of Genesis 15:6, and you aren't citing any specific verse in Romans 4 that leads to your conclusion. All you're doing is making the same fallacious assertion over and over again. Nobody denies that Abraham was involved in action as a result of faith. The issue in question is why Paul uses Genesis 15:6, a passage about faith without any action mentioned.

In addition to your inability to explain Paul's use of Genesis 15:6, you want us to assume that "works" only refer to some works and that "faith" includes outward action. According to you, "works" means "some works" (which you call "action"), "faith" means "faith and outward action", and Paul was using Genesis 15:6 to illustrate justification through faith and action, even though the passage doesn't mention action. It isn't difficult to discern which of our views is a more natural reading of the text.

You wrote:

"Given this logic, I would throw the question back to you: You need to explain how you 'know' that action is unnecessary to faith."

As I explained before, the term "faith" had a common usage. That common meaning of the term didn't include action. And the Biblical writers refer to both "faith" and "works" positively in the same context, as I've documented, so they don't seem to have thought that good works were included in faith. They also refer to faith as something that occurs in the heart, and they describe people as having faith when they aren't doing any outward action.

You wrote:

"ironically enough, Protestant theology uses this very motif in relation to 'faith,' i.e., if you believe 'x' you will be saved—it’s simply a noumenological version of the Judaizer’s system...but I digress"

Yes, you are digressing, and your digression makes no sense. Protestants define justifying faith as trust, not just mental assent. And the concept that trusting Christ results in justification is a Biblical promise, not "a noumenological version of the Judaizer’s system".

You wrote:

"If you can give me an example of how one can believe without acting, I will, again, capitulate the argument."

Your language here is potentially misleading. You aren't just arguing that faith results in action. Protestants would agree with you on that point. Rather, you're asserting that there is no faith until action is present. That assertion is illogical and anti-Biblical. I've already documented Biblical examples of people having faith prior to action.

You wrote:

"Rather, his faith was what he did----he obeyed God, leaving everything to follow where he was told to go."

Genesis 15:6 doesn't describe Abraham "leaving everything to follow where he was told to go". It describes Abraham's faith in response to what God said. There is no action described in Genesis 15:6. The fact that Abraham acted elsewhere doesn't justify reading those actions into Genesis 15:6.

You wrote:

"Honestly, I cannot see how this is so difficult to understand."

I'm not having difficulty understanding your argument. What's difficult is accepting your argument, since you aren't supporting it with the text of scripture, and it's repeatedly contradicted by scripture. Telling us that Abraham was involved in acts of faith doesn't justify including those actions in Genesis 15:6. It also doesn't justify including actions in every use of the terms "faith", "believe", etc. in the writings of Paul and the comments of Jesus, Peter, etc.

You wrote:

"When I say that actions are part and parcel to faith, I am not saying that one must do 'x, y and z.'"

Must we have faith to attain justification? If so, are actions part of faith? If so, then those actions must be performed in order to attain justification. It logically follows that we would want to know what those actions are. So, what are they?

You wrote:

"By and far, Paul’s usage of 'works of the law' is in reference to the Judaizer’s programme."

But "by and far" isn't enough to establish your claim, and I didn't mention the phrase "works of the law". Paul often refers to "works", "deeds", etc. without the "of the law".

You wrote:

"Therefore, when Paul mentions Abraham, he is doing so in the context of people who have cut their teeth on the stories of the patriarchs. They have been formed and shaped in their beliefs by these stories. It would be intellectual suicide to restrict the semantic range of meaning to the 'verse' which Paul quotes. Rather, by using the example of Abraham, Paul is recalling the entire story and meaning of Abraham."

How does the fact that Jews were familiar with Abraham's life logically lead to the conclusion that any reference to part of Abraham's life must have all of his life in mind? Your argument doesn't make sense. You're gratuitously asserting something because you need to gratuitously assert it in order to maintain your position. People can single out one portion of Abraham's life for discussion, even if they're familiar with other portions of his life. Abraham's birth was part of his life, but Paul wasn't including his birth as a means of attaining justification. When the author of Hebrews mentions Abraham's obedience in going out where God called him (Hebrews 11:8), the author doesn't want us to think that he's addressing every action in Abraham's life. Abraham sometimes sinned. The author of Hebrews wants to commend Abraham's good works without commending his sins. You can single out one portion of a person's life without including everything else.

You can't get your system of justification through action from Genesis 15:6, so you're telling us that Paul meant to cite Abraham's entire life. You also want us to believe that "works" and "faith" aren't being defined as they usually are, but that Paul has your specialized meaning in view instead. The text repeatedly conflicts with your view, so you keep proposing highly awkward readings that supposedly are justified by the fact that Paul was often responding to Judaizers. But he can respond to Judaizers without using the sort of highly awkward methods of communication you're suggesting. And he wasn't always responding to Judaizers in the relevant passages. And Paul isn't the only source I've cited.

You wrote:

"As before, I would love for you to show me even one example in which your metaphysical conception of 'faith' exists in the biblical language that does not have an integrated human action concomitantly accompanying it."

Again, see the passages I cited earlier that discuss people who had no outward actions when they believed and the passages that refer to faith in the heart. I've already documented what you're asking for, repeatedly.

You wrote:

"Ha, except that is not what James says. Rather, he says that 'Abraham was justified for what he DID.' He goes on to say that 'works ACCOMPANIED his faith' (belief), not that they followed them. Finally, he mentions that the action 'completed' his faith. Therefore, without action, faith is not complete—it is only a metaphysical pile of garbage (which is exactly what Protestantism has given to the world)."

James cites Genesis 15 and 22. The two passages are separated by years of time. Genesis 22 surely does "follow" Genesis 15. And does James say that Abraham's faith in Genesis 15 is "a metaphysical pile of garbage"? No, he acknowledges that the faith of Genesis 15 was reckoned as righteousness. He uses Genesis 15 to illustrate faith and Genesis 22 to illustrate works. James distinguishes between faith and works, and he affirms that righteousness was reckoned prior to the work that completed the faith.

You wrote:

"He does give this example–that of offering Isaac. Belief and action were merged in one faith-crisis moment."

Then James should have only cited Genesis 22. Instead, he cites both Genesis 15 and Genesis 22. He cites the former to illustrate faith and the latter to illustrate works produced by faith. If James had agreed with your view, he would have done something like citing only Genesis 22, as you do above. But James didn't hold your view, so he argues differently.

You wrote:

"Your interpretation makes the argument which immediately precede this citation seem entirely ridiculous, and James is appears to be arguing against himself."

How so? You don't give us any explanation. You just assert that my view makes James contradict himself. You haven't proven that my view does that.

You wrote:

"James clearly, clearly states that true faith is a collusion of belief and action."

He says that true faith is accompanied by works, but in what sense? His use of Genesis 15 and 22 demonstrates that the faith can exist prior to the works. He distinguishes between "faith" and "works". He didn't consider them the same thing. Righteousness was reckoned to Abraham when he believed (Genesis 15), and the later work of Genesis 22 followed. That's a Protestant view of justification, not your view.

You wrote:

"I never said this, and to say that I am reveals that you are either ridiculously ignorant or clearly unwilling to actually engage what I have said. I am not talking about 'works' in the Pauline sense (which is your meaning)."

Actually, the problem is that you're being careless in how you think through these issues. I repeatedly explained to you that I was using the term "work" to refer to what you call "action". For you to respond as if I was saying that you think that people are justified through something you know Paul excluded is ridiculous. The problem is with your misreading of what I said.

You wrote:

"This is a ridiculous interpretation, given the fact that in the verses that lead up to this interpretation of Genesis 15:6, James has already said that 'Abraham was justified by what he did,' 'faith and deeds were working together,' and 'faith was made complete by what he did' (which necessitates that faith was incomplete, or not actual, without action)."

I've already addressed that argument. As I said before, James is addressing both the vindication of true faith and justification before other people. I gave examples of both from the text of James. There is no action in Genesis 15:6, yet James refers to righteousness being reckoned to Abraham there. Genesis 22 is said to "fulfill" Genesis 15, yet what occurs in Genesis 15 is called "faith". If there is no true faith until the fulfillment of action comes along, then how can James cite Genesis 15 to illustrate faith? If you want to argue that there is action in Genesis 15, then you need to tell us what that action is, and you need to tell us why James cited Genesis 22 to illustrate action rather than just remaining in Genesis 15. Why cite two passages, associating one with faith and the other with an action of faith, if faith and action were both present in Genesis 15?

You wrote:

"Because the 'action' that I am talking about is not the 'works' of Paul’s polemics!!"

You made the comment above in response to my citation of Acts 15:8-9. How is Acts 15 explained by the fact that you consider your concept of action to be different from the works Paul excludes? What Peter discusses in Acts 15 occurs in the heart. Peter calls it "faith". Peter is discussing the events of Acts 10. The people believed in their heart and were thereby justified, before baptism and without any outward action. Is that your view of how justification occurs? If so, then you hold the same view I hold, so I have to wonder why you keep claiming to disagree with me. Of course, you don't agree with the view of justification we see in Acts 15. Your objection that there's a difference between your view of action and the works Paul excludes from the gospel is an irrelevant objection.

You wrote:

"Rather, the context—not surprisingly—is, again, a polemic against righteousness attained by alignment with the 'Law.'"

How does the context of 1 Timothy 1:5 change the meaning I suggested? It doesn't. The fact that the Jewish law is mentioned in the context doesn't change the fact that love is referred to as a result of faith. If you want us to believe that the context changes the meaning of verse 5, so that this love doesn't actually result from faith, then you need to explain how that's so. Simply telling us that the Jewish law is mentioned in the context doesn't establish your argument.

You wrote:

"those who wrote as Paul, such as in I Timothy"

That's an example of your willingness to reject widespread Christian tradition, despite your claim to be so concerned about it. How many ancient Christians agreed with you that somebody was "writing as Paul" in 1 Timothy?

You wrote:

"The very errors which Paul, in Romans 6, is attempting to mitigate is the very ones which Protestantism has endorsed with reckless abandon."

Document your assertion. Where have Protestants argued that we shouldn't do good works as a result of being justified by grace? Here's documentation of Protestants saying that good works are to be done:

http://www.christiantruth.com/reformers.html

And you still haven't explained why Paul would need to tell people not to neglect action just after he told them that they attain justification through action. You refer to how Protestants supposedly neglect action, but, according to you, Paul wasn't teaching as Protestants teach. Why would somebody who had just taught that we attain justification through action go on to say that we shouldn't use such a gospel as an opportunity to neglect action?

You said:

"It was not an abstract intellectual assent to the person of Jesus."

I don't argue that justifying faith is merely "abstract intellectual assent". Trust involves more than "abstract intellectual assent".

You wrote:

"We are integrated persons who cannot be divided into 'outward' and 'inward' parts."

Then why does Peter single out the heart that only God can see (Acts 15:8-9), why does Paul contrast the "inner man" with the "outer man" (2 Corinthians 4:16), etc.?

You wrote:

"To create a division is the error of gnosticism, something of which Protestantism has been terribly close to for a long, long time."

No, distinguishing between faith in the heart and outward action is not equivalent to Gnosticism, nor is it something close to Gnosticism. You're abusing the term.

You wrote:

"Moreover, this whole issue of 'something taught in scripture as a foundational issue' is misleading, for as our discussion shows, this entire issue is an interpretive one."

The fact that scripture has to be interpreted doesn't mean that it can't define the foundational issues for us. The writings of the church fathers, ecumenical councils, theologians, etc. have to be interpreted as well.

You wrote:

"My first suggestion would be to go to the creeds of the ecumenical councils. After this, I would go the majority theological voice."

You've made your "suggestions", but you haven't justified them. Jesus, the apostle Paul, or the apostle Peter can define a foundational issue for us without any assistance from a creed, ecumenical council, or "majority theological voice". How do you even know that ecumenical councils, creeds, and such have the significance you think they have if you don't first interpret a series of historical documents in order to reach that conclusion? If you can interpret what Jesus taught about the church in order to reach the conclusion that ecumenical councils have a particular significance, for example, then why can't I interpret what Paul taught about justification in order to reach the conclusions I've reached on that subject?

You wrote:

"As it is clear that the majority would not agree with Protestant conclusions, the Protestant tradition will find very little historical affirmation for what they teach on this subject. While this does not necessarily preclude the veracity of the conclusion, it does also not provide much positive support (which should be of major consideration in outlining a particular theological position)."

We have several dozen books in the Bible. If we don't understand Genesis 15, we can read Paul for further understanding. If we think we might be misunderstanding Paul, then we can read Luke in order to see if he seems to be teaching the same view of justification that we perceive in Paul. And we can read Matthew, John, Peter, etc. Scripture tells us a lot about justification. There's a difference between, on the one hand, an issue like whether Peter went to Rome and, on the other hand, an issue like how justification is attained. Scripture doesn't explicitly address the subject of Peter's presence in Rome, so that leaves a lot of room for the early post-apostolic sources to fill in gaps. But scripture does address justification explicitly and at length. You don't have much of a need to go to later sources to clarify something if it's already clear in the earlier sources. The fact that some church fathers advocated some form of justification through works doesn't do anything to change the fact that there are no works in Genesis 15:6. And the fact that modern Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox agree that works are a means of justification doesn't change the fact that Acts 15:7-11 describes justification as occurring through faith in the heart.

You aren't citing post-Biblical sources to clarify the Bible. You're citing post-Biblical sources to overturn the Bible.

You wrote:

"Concerning Scripture, the 'evidence' is that of interpretation. This does not mean that the Protestant doctrine is actually there, only that it can be coaxed out of texts by particular hermeneutical approaches (as with about any doctrine that one would wish to assert)."

The same could be said of your interpretations of the church fathers, ecumenical councils, theologians, etc.