Thursday, October 7, 2010


Words have differing meanings to different people.

Example - Grace.

For a Lutheran, grace is understood to be God's favor and forgiveness towards a person, given to them on account of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

For Rome, Grace is a gift of God, freely given, that provides a person energy and strength for living a proper life, whereby one may obtain salvation through remission of sin and the exercise of merit.

Both can say that we are saved by grace.... One views grace as bringing Christ to us and thus bring salvation to us. The other views grace as the spiritual gas in our cars that let us drive to Christ and reach the goal of salvation.

What do you mean when you use a term? Make sure the other people mean the same thing.


Chad Myers said...

I would tweak slightly the Catholic definition. Of course, any discussion on Grace could go on for pages and pages, but I'll try, as you have, to condense it into a sentence:

Grace is a gift of God, freely given, that provides a person energy and strength for living a proper life. Without this, a person would surely fall. One may *persist in* the salvation, won by Jesus Christ, through obeying God's law, receiving the Sacraments, and trying to live according to God's will.

When you use words like "obtain" it implies Catholics believe they can earn salvation which is most certainly *not* the case and is frequently condemned as heresy.

One more point: The word 'merit', when Catholics talk about it, has nothing to do with Salvation. Only Jesus merited salvation (CCC para 1992).

Merit is merely reward in heaven. That is, if you make it to Heaven, God will review the works in your life you have done with the Grace He has given you and give you extra rewards. This is the basis for the concept of "levels of reward in Heaven and levels of punishment in Hell" To quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) "God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace." (CCC 2008).

Again, just to repeat, merit has *NOTHING* to do with salvation. We're talking about *AFTER* the judgement, assuming you or I were judged to go to Heaven. What rewards does God have planned for us in Heaven? Here "merit" is the classical word for "reward."

God doesn't have to do this, because there is immeasurable inequality between God and man (i.e. God doesn't OWE us *ANYTHING*). We can claim no right to anything, especially reward in heaven. (CCC 2007)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Well, that's not bad. The problem comes in when you toss in the doctrine of purgatory and the negative side of not having enough merits.

And really, given the whole doctrine of anonymous Christians, that seems like a whole lot of obtaining to me. Although I do find much that is in good with what you write here.

Chad Myers said...

*sigh* Wherever you got your information was *REALLY* bad.

You've got the doctrine of Purgatory all wrong (has *NOTHING* to do with Salvation - repeat *NOTHING*). If you're in Purgatory, your are already judged and on your way to Heaven, GUARANTEED. Purgatory is nothing to do with salvation or earning anything.

Also, as I've explained before, merits *ALSO* have nothing to do with SALVATION. - repeat *NOTHING*.

Merits are rewards. Like Bonus Points in Heaven. The discussion on merits ONLY takes place if the person is actually already IN HEAVEN. You cannot merit heaven or add to the merits of your salvation, etc.

It is possible, though probably rare I would imagine, for someone to be in Heaven with ZERO merits. Like I said, merits are like BONUS POINTS., added on after the game has ended and its conclusion already determined.

I've been trying really hard to explain this because you seem to be stuck on the concepts of earning or obtaining salvation.

I'm not sure how many times I'll have to say it, but I'll do it again: One cannot EARN heaven through any ways or means.

Purgatory, merits, rewards, etc all have to do with sanctification, *NOT* Justification.

IIRC, this is a sticking point between Catholic/Lutheran dialog because Lutherans (as I understand it) do not separate Justification and Sanctification? The two are the same? And Catholics do separate the two. Justification is not the same thing as Sanctification.

Justification is given freely as a gift with nothing required on our part except faith.

Sanctification is a process, worked by God through us and we must repeatedly will it to happen and cooperate with the process God is working in and through us.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

No, Lutherans separate Justification and Sanctification -- it's just when you talk about aligning your will to God (as you do in the above post) our anti-pelagian sensors go off.

I never said purgatory had to do with salvation, you'll notice. But purgatory is designed to "purge" the dross of the sinful life that remains if a person has not lived righteously enough to become holy. Again, this is so human-centric in approach. Also, by definition, if you are in purgatory, you are lacking in sufficient merit, otherwise you would have by-passed purgatory. And Rome still offers plenary indulgences.

Chad Myers said...

But the way you talk about Purgatory makes it sound like it has something to do with salvation. And there you go mixing merit into it again, which has nothing to do with any of this. ;)

You can be justified to go to Heaven (i.e. judged worthy by the merits of Christ and all the other things necessary for salvation [belief, repentance, baptism, work of the Spirit, declaring with our mouths, coming to knowledge of truth, works, grace -- all scriptural as I pointed out]).

So you're on the express Heaven train. There's no going back. You're heaven bound no matter what. Except there's this little problem of sanctification. What if you die in a justified but not entirely sanctified state? You're still guaranteed to end up in Heaven no matter what, but you can't go immediately. Why not? Because, as it says in Rev. 21:27, nothing unclean shall enter the presence of God in Heaven. Uh oh, what now?

So let's say there's a married guy who cheats on his wife one time. He confesses it contritely, he receives forgiveness and absolution and goes on his way. He won't do it again, but there's still a thought of how nice it was and a little part of his heart always yearns to do it again. He's tasted forbidden fruit and wants another taste. That's attachment to sin. Even if one is judged SAVED and is going to Heaven, he can't enter Heaven with that attachment in his soul

Purgatory may not involve any time. Purgatory may not involve any pain or suffering (though the inspired author of Hebrews seems to make it clear that it won't be pleasant). Purgatory may simply be the transition from life on Earth to the after life.

Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) suggested that Purgatory may simply be a radical encounter with Christ. That is, as soon as you die, Christ comes to great you and the encounter is so profound that you instantly see all your selfishness, your sinful attachments, your bad habits, and you are so stung with the pain of how bad you were and how amazingly pure and Holy Jesus is, that everything bad is "burned" out of you (as in the burning feeling when a loved one has just died or when you realize you have grievously offended a loved one). This "radical encounter" may take only an instant. In that case Purgatory is merely an instant of time.

Indulgences represent the Church's acknowledgement that some of this transformation has already occurred. That you have already burned away some of your attachments and have positively demonstrated that you are aligning your will to Christ's Will.

Plenary indulgences are actually hard to get and it's not known most of the time whether people actually receive them or not since the bar is so high. The main requirement is that the person have no attachment to sin of any kind (mortal or even venial!)

So, like I said, it's a RECOGNITION of an already existent state. The indulgence isn't DOING anything to the person. It's like a certificate recognizing completion of a class or something. It's not a reward, only an acknowledgement. It gives the penitent some comfort to know that he's on the right track, at least.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

A few things.

1. Rome is trying to move away from the idea of a place of purgation. this is a good thing.

2. It's not just recognition, otherwise you would not be able to obtain an indulgence for another. You can still do that.

3. St. Paul says we will be changed in an instant -- the sinfulness of this life will drop away and be shed -- and not because I recognize it, but because Christ has called me to life.

Anonymous said...

If I am justified [declared forgiven by a forensic action of God] in Christ and His merit for salvation I am also perfectly holy in Christ and His righteousness that is imputed [not infused] to me without any worthiness or merit in me. I cannot do nothing towards salvation, righteousness, or even a good work without the imputation of Christ which is received through faith from the grace of God. All his actions, not mine. I DO NOT participate in justification or sanctification. All is Christ's that is imputed to me. Grace alone [God's action], faith alone[received and given by the Holy spirit as a free gift], Scripture alone [invisible word heard Rom. 10 or visible Word - the Sacraments], Word & Sacrament are the means of receiving God's grace which is imputed to us on account of Christ alone without us participating either in salvation or sanctfication.

Brown the Elder
PS My son may argue with me on sanctification which I see as total Gospel without Law.

Chad Myers said...

1.) I wouldn't say it's moving away from anything. The core teachings have always been vague on things like space and time in the afterlife. It was a medieval concept to ascribe space to Purgatory and time/duration to ones stay there. But any discussion of space/time is just a bad analogy and all analogies limp.

2.) Are you talking about people still on Earth? The Church has never taught that you get indulgences for others. Only for people already departed. You can assist in their purging because we are still one body in Christ.

3.) I'm not sure which verse you're referring to, but 1 Cor 3:13-15 is the common one used. I don't get any sense of duration there. But, like I said, all analogies limp (even the 'fire' one, though I'm sure whatever it's like, we will all agree it was like "fire" in the end).

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

First - Dad - I would agree with your that our Sanctification is Christ working in us. I would say that you participate in the effects of that Sanctification taking place in you, but you do not make yourself more sanctified by your actions.

Then to Chad.

1. Chad, you do a disservice to the Fathers here. The most insightful discussions on things like Time, Heaven, the afterlife, are done by the Fathers. Read Augustine on Time - astonishing. Even my Jewish Philosophy professor in college thought it was good, really good.

It was not just a medieval thing to ascribe time to purgatory, but it was a perversion of the teaching of the Fathers - a prevision upon which the whole penitential system of Rome is still built upon. Gregory viewed the afterlife as one giant Monastery (a fleeing of the world) rather than a recreation of the world, and things went down hill rapidly from there.

2. Dude, really? To a Lutheran, you are going to say that the Church has never taught this? You know, that whole Tetzel, sanctioned by the Pope to build St. Peter's. The attack on indulgences for others being the reason why Luther is excommunicated?

But I suppose that's not the Church, just bad teaching from a Pope. Yeah... and the thought and misinterpretation which lead to that Pope thinking that way still stands, as with the medieval garbage, which is why the Church was reformed and the true Catholic Church can now be found in what is entitled the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

3. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. If this happens in a twinkling of an eye, and the dead in Christ come with it. Yes, on the last day, if I build upon anything other than Christ (say, the merits of my own works), that pride will be burned away in a flash. But the whole theory and system of purgatory well beyond this.

Chad Myers said...

RE: #2: Can you show me any reference where the Church has taught that you can gain indulgences for other people on Earth?

Luther's attacks on indulgences were more than just this. He attacked all the stuff around indulgences (communion of saints, temporal punishment for sins, etc) because of his defective understanding of Catholic theology (which, as we can see here, still persists today in Protestantism).

RE: #3 First, 1 Cor 15 is talking about the general judgement, not the particular judgement. At any rate, this does not contradict the doctrine of purgatory. Read a little earlier in the chapter (v29-30). Who's he talking about there?

1 Thess 4 is talking about the Parusia also. There will be no need for purgatory at the end of the world. Everything will be sorted out then and there.

You said, "that pride will be burned away in a flash" -- you just described Purgatory.

Your understanding of Purgatory has been clouded by Luther's misunderstanding of it and Protestant's conflating of it over the years and by Catholics who have done a poor job of explaining the doctrine to each other and to non-Catholics.

I suggest you read up on it a little more, because your information is not accurate and you're forming judgments and verdicts on bad information.

Chad Myers said...

Oh, one more thing, the whole "It's all Pope Gregory's fault" myth is just that, a myth:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

1. Luther was, while folks don't like it, a doctor of the Church, on a theological faculty, and he wasn't excommunicated because he "just didn't understand". Centuries of excommunication of Lutherans don't happen simply because we just don't get Roman Theology.

One is not declared an outlaw and condemned to death and murder simply because one doesn't quite get the nuances.

Actually, it's not that Luther didn't GET purgatory, it's that Rome, in the counter reformation and following mollified their position on purgatory because they were teaching rank heresy. Even now, to claim that there is suffering that we do to pay off the weight of our sin does nothing but diminish the work of Christ.

If Rome teaches purgatory that it is nothing but things being burned away in a flash, it is a foolish doctrine but not horrible. Bully for Rome. When purgatory is taught as a place where the souls linger in some post-death penance sentence, which is its historical roots, it is utterly faith-destroying and blasphemous.

+ + + + +
While there was an idea or theory of purgatory present prior to Gregory, he is the one who codified and systematized it, moving it beyond a theory and making it dogma.

The System of Pennance grows out of the lapsii, those who gave in during persecution in the 3rd Century. There was question as to whether or not they could be re-admitted to the Church. This was allowed after a time of penance, mainly to be a safeguard to make sure that they don't rat everyone out.

This idea was then applied to monastic ideals - penances were assigned for those who in some way violated the rule of the order to prove that they wanted to stay. Thus the idea came in that one ought to pay with acts of contrition for the wrongs that one has done -- and even Augustine surmised that there would be a place for those who needed to do such things to complete them after death.

What happens is that Gregory, in his reforms of the Church, in an attempt to fix morality, applies the monastic system of penance to all people, not simply monks, demanding acts of contrition for all sin, and codifying Purgatory as a place for working off the debt after death. So yes, I blame Gregory.

Now, by the middle ages, this teaching of Gregory was that we must receive punishment ourselves to be prepared for heave (Florence says in 1438 "If they have died repentant for their sins and having love of God, but have not made satisfaction for things they have done or omitted by fruits worthy of penance, then their souls, after death, are cleansed by the punishment of Purgatory". There it is, our punishment becomes the effective cause of admittance into heaven - we suffer enough so we are in - and Christ is just a pro forma hoop to jump through first).

If Rome, in response to Luther, has mellowed on this - great. However, the foisting off upon burden consciences a theory with dubious scriptural merit derived from a corruption of practical protections designed for a Church under persecution, a theory which directs the penitent to his own works rather than Christ, this is horrible.

And it's not horrible because I just don't see the beauty of the system, or over play it, or don't get it. I understand the consequences of what this sort of theology does -- and it is wrong.