Monday, January 27, 2014

Three Major Arguments Against "Assurance of Salvation"

I am frequently asked by Protestants why we Catholics don't teach “assurance of salvation,” the belief that those who are currently saved are guaranteed ultimate salvation, no matter what. Someone cannot be temporarily saved and ultimately damned. Calvinists and many Evangelicals affirm this doctrine (under different names: assurance of salvation, perseverance of the Saints, “Once Saved, Always Saved,” etc.), and Calvinism actually requires it in order to work.

From a Catholic perspective, we can be assured that if we are faithful, we will be saved. But we have no guarantee that we will be faithful: that is, while we can be assured that God won't reject His faithful people, we have no assurance that we won't reject God.

Broadly, there are three major reasons why we Catholics can reject “Once Saved, Always Saved.” First, the passages that allegedly teach this doctrine are actually conditional upon us not turning away from God (and Scripture tells us this); Second, Scripture explicitly teaches that those who are saved can reject their salvation (and gives specific examples); and finally, assurance of salvation provides only illusory assurance, due to the insurmountable problem of “false assurance.” Let's consider each in turn:

I. The Assurance of Salvation Verses are Conditional

Many of the passages in Scripture are conditional, in that they apply unless something changes. Sometimes, this conditionality is explicit, but other times, it's only implicit. And we see it both in negative proclamations (that someone is hellbound) and in positive proclamations (that someone is saved or righteous). Let's consider both halves:

Dirk Crabeth, Jonah and the Whale (1565) (detail)
Negative Conditionality:  If you say to someone living a life of sin, “You're going to Hell,” you're implying “...unless you change your ways.” Jonah proclaimed “Yet forty days, and Nin′eveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4), but Ninevah wasn't overthrown after forty days. So why wasn't Jonah a false prophet? Because his message had an implicit conditionality: Ninevah would be destroyed unless it changed its course. Even though Jonah never said that his message was conditional, it still was (and was understood to be: cf. Jonah 3:6-10).

Positive Conditionality: So then, the only question is whether this implied conditionality applies both ways. Obviously, if we say someone is headed to hell, that can change. But can it change if we say that they're headed to Heaven? Scripture says yes. This is Ezekiel 3:18-21, very explicitly laying out both negative and positive conditionality:
"When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself. 

“Again, when a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before them, they will die. Since you did not warn them, they will die for their sin. The righteous things that person did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the righteous person not to sin and they do not sin, they will surely live because they took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”
All that strikes me as very clear: even when a person is described as saved or righteous, they can still fall away, all the way to eternal death (and their prior righteousness will be forgotten, just as the righteous man's prior sinfulness is forgotten).

II. Lack of Assurance in Scripture

A second way that we know that assurance of salvation isn't Scriptural is that it is contradicted by Scripture. Let's consider three examples:


Avanzino Nucci, Peter's Conflict with Simon Magus (1620)
Lack of Assurance in Scripture, pt. 1: There is a clear example in Scripture of someone falling away in just the way that Ezekiel 3 warns about. In Acts 8, a magician named Simon sees the miracles of St. Philip. We're told explicitly that he believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13), which is the formulation for salvation (Mark 16:16). So Simon is saved. But then, he attempts simony (the buying of spiritual goods, a sin which bears his name) by trying to buy the ability to perform the Sacrament of Confirmation (Acts 8:19). Acts 19:20-24 reports the aftermath:
But Peter said to him, “Your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
Peter doesn't say “you're saved, so these sins won't keep you out of Heaven.” He says very much the opposite: that Simon's bad actions have changed his trajectory downwards, and that he needs forgiveness. (I also like that Simon seeks forgiveness through the intercession of St. Peter, but that's a conversation for another day). Whether Simon was ultimately saved or damned, we're not told. And it's not particularly important for our purposes: the point is that it's possible that he went to hell, which disproves assurance of salvation.

Lack of Assurance in Scripture, pt. 2: St. Peter opens the second chapter of 2 Peter by warning that “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1). That's a strong claim: Peter is saying that these false teachers were ransomed by Christ, their Master, but then denied Him, and brought destruction upon themselves. That's exactly what perseverance of the Saints claims can't happen. At the close of the chapter, speaking of this same group, Peter says:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.
Sometimes, this second passage gets explained away, by saying that these teachers weren't ever really Christian, but just associated with Christians. If that's the case, it's hard to see in what way they “escaped the defilements of the world” or “have known the way of righteousness” or turned back (since they apparently never had a faith to turn back from). And it doesn't even remotely explain why Peter would think that Christ ransomed them.

Apostle Paul, Church of St. Trophime, Arles
Lack of Assurance in Scripture, pt. 3: St. Paul calls believers to mortification, in 1 Cor. 9:24-27, to help ensure that we don't lose our salvation. In the process, he even admits the possibility that he could lose his salvation:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
In my view, nothing in this passage makes sense if assurance of salvation is true (since all of the runners would be guaranteed to win). That's true of several other Pauline passages, too.

For example, in the very next chapter, Paul uses examples of members of the Old Testament Chosen People who “were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:10) as the basis of his warning: “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). If perseverance of the Saints were true, the sort of fall that Paul warns against is impossible: the unsaved were never standing (and therefore, can't fall), and the saved can never fall to their destruction.

To take another example, St. Paul warned the Christians of Galatia not to reject the Gospel by which they were saved (Gal. 1:3-7), and warned them against falling into the sins of the flesh, since “those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-20). Why warn them of this (specifically), if it is impossible for them to disinherit the Kingdom?

So there are numerous other Scriptural examples that can be marshaled, but the point is simple: if even St. Paul wasn't assured of his (or his readers') final perseverance, you shouldn't be, either.

III. False Assurance

Charles Templeton preaching in New York
(h/t Brad Templeton)
The last problem is a devastating one for the doctrine: there are people who, at one point in their lives, are professing Christians, and convinced of their own salvation, yet who later fall away. There are two major points to make here:

False Assurance, pt. 1: Charles Templeton was a prominent televangelist in the mid-twentieth century, the host of a weekly religious show, and a close friend of Billy Graham's. If you were to ask him if he was saved, he would have undoubtedly said yes. So would those around him. But in 1957, he announced that he had become an agnostic. He went on to write a book called Farewell to God, and apparently died an agnostic (or an atheist). What good is assurance of salvation if we can't tell whose assurance is real, and whose is false? That's not much ground for certainty.

False Assurance, pt. 2: The problem of "false assurance" is so serious to the doctrine of assurance of salvation that Calvin had to make up an entirely new doctrine. He invented something called "evanescent grace" given to some of the damned to (inexplicably) trick them into thinking that they were saved. In Calvin's words, “the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.” I wrote about it here, but I'm sure you can see the problem: if nobody can tell the difference between real-assurance and false-assurance, then nobody is really assured in their assurance.

Imagine it in terms of two prison guards, one who always lies, and one who always tells the truth. You hear from one of them (you're not sure which) that you can be assured of your freedom. Rationally, this shouldn't give you any assurance, since you don't know whether it was the good guard (representing saving grace) or the evil guard (representing evanescent grace).

Conclusion

There you have it: the Bible doesn't teach “assurance of salvation,” or “perseverance of the Saints,” or “Once Saved, Always Saved,” or any variation thereof. The passages that seem to teach it are implicitly conditional, as Ezekiel 3 tells us, and as Jonah's preaching shows. And there is a veritable wealth of passages showing people who were once saved, but then lose their salvation. Finally, the appeal of “assurance of salvation” is illusory, since it comes with the problem of “false assurance,” since not everyone who feels assured will be saved.

The implications of this are huge. If Calvinists and Evangelicals are right in their soteriology and their views on grace, then perseverance of the Saints would necessarily be true. Since we have just seen that the doctrine is false, it follows that the theological systems requiring such a doctrine are also false.

214 comments:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that the doctrine can't be held to. I believe there is one biblical passage that could support such a viewpoint, but its implications don't support what OSAS proponents want it to. When St. John writes of those who left that they would have stayed if they were genuine, it seems to be saying something along the lines of "if saved, always saved", and that those who leave are only leaving phenomenologically because they were never there to begin with. That's not helpful for providing any sort of assurance for those who want it because one cannot be assured that they will persevere - thus the repeated calls to persevere and not to fall.

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    1. Dan,

      I know the verse that you're referring to: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). An awful lot of weight is placed on this sentence by proponents of OSAS.

      But John is talking about specific individuals, who he dubs "many antichrists." He's saying that this is the reason that they left (they were never really Christians). He's not saying that this is the reason anyone leaves. In terms of logic, we would say that you can't move from "some X are Y" (some ex-followers are disingenuous) to "all X are Y."

      To take a silly example: in Genesis 3:10, Adam says to God, “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” If we abused Genesis 3:10 the way that 1 John 2:19 is abused by OSAS proponents, we would have to conclude that anyone who runs from God is naked. Obviously, a ridiculous conclusion.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  2. Prison Guard 1, if I asked you if I were guaranteed freedom, would you say yes?

    Little logic joke there haha

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    1. Daniel,

      That question doesn't solve the paradox! Better question: "Prison Guard 1, if I asked Prison Guard 2 if I were guaranteed freedom, would he say yes?" Whatever he answers, the opposite is true (because he's either lying about the truth,or telling the truth about a lie: either way, resulting in a false answer).

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    2. No, actually, either way works. If you ask the guard who tells the truth, he knows he would tell the truth, and truthfully tells you so. If you ask the guard who lies, he knows he would lie, and lies about it, so he tells the truth, too.

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    3. D'oh! Good call. I stand corrected. That's actually a more elegant solution, because the result is true, rather than false.

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    4. We're as smart as Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth :-)

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    5. Go, us.

      It is, after all, much better than being dumber than her. 0:)

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  3. Thanks. This is excellent.

    I think the argument you give is bolstered by the fact that "righteousness" in 2nd Peter, 2:21, translates "dikaiosune," which is Paul's word for justification. Presumably, "to have known the way of righteousness" is to be righteous, i.e. to be justified. Hence, those who "turn back" are people who had been justified.

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  4. If you are depending on your works or your ability to keep yourself saved then you will never have any assurance. Salvation is based on what Christ has done and not on what we do. John 5:24 is a good place to start for assurance of salvation--" “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." To have eternal life, is to have unending life.It is not to be judged.

    John 6:37-40 " 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
    Here we see again that it is the will of the Father that those who believe in Christ will have eternal life. The will of the Father cannot be frustrated.

    In John 17:11 we see that Jesus praying that the Father would keep those who He has given to Christ.
    " I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are."
    It is impossible for the Father to fail to keep those whom He has given to Christ.

    In John 10:27-29 we see even a stronger promise that those whom are given to Christ will never lose their salvation:
    "27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand."

    These are just some of the promises of eternal salvation that show that salvation is based on God and not man. Since salvation is what God does we can be assured of salvation.

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    1. God Almighty in his infinite wisdom knows who will be finally saved. We human being don't have that knowledge, so we cannot say once saved always saved. We don't just know each and every one that will be finally saved. That is why this doctrine of OSAS is so detrimental to the spiritual health of souls. The doctrine blunts and tends to obliterate the spirit of repentance.
      St Catherine of Siena for instance till her last breathe kept confessing her sins, asking the Lord Jesus to forgive her short-comings and mistakes. If we are assured of our salvation what is the point in confessing our sins regularly?
      cf http://prophetamos3m.com/2.html
      cf the parable of the sower (Mark 4 v 3-20)

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    2. "Since salvation is what God does we can be assured of salvation."

      The problem is that pesky we word. We don't know who we entails. Only God knows who He has given grace efficacious for their personal salvation.

      This isn't even a theological difference, but a point of view difference between Catholics and you. From God's point of view, every one who dies in a state with the grace that's efficacious for their salvation, will be saved. If they weren't saved, then it wouldn't be efficacious for their salvation. If it wasn't efficacious for their salvation, then they wouldn't be saved. That's not even disputable because the statement itself is a tautology.

      From man's point of view, we have no idea who won't fall away at the last moment--sometimes what appeared to be a person that had grace efficacious to presevere to the end in fact did not have grace efficacious to presevere to the end, and he falls away at the last moment. Sometimes the opposite happens, and at the last moment, an obstinate sinner secretly repents before he dies.




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    3. cp sho,
      We should confess our sins daily because Scripture commands it and when we sin we offend Christ. Confessing sin is the result of the work of the Spirit in us.

      Daniel,
      Dying with some unconfessed sin will not condemn you. Our salvation does not depend on that. Rather it depends on Christ Who promised to keep those who are His.

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    4. "Dying with some unconfessed sin will not condemn you..."

      If you don't repent of a sin that you know to be sin, it WILL condemn you. Period.

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    5. Daniel,
      If this were true I would hire a priest 24/7 to be with me. What about sins you commit that you either don't know they are sins or you forget?

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    6. I think there's some misunderstanding on how sacramental confession works in RCC ecclesiology.

      First, i think it's helpful to break it down into components:

      1) The heart must be contrite
      2) The heart must be determined to resist commiting the sin again, or sometimes we say commited to mending our ways.
      3) Restitution is made if at all possible.
      4) Contrition is expressed both to God and to the Church via the conversation with the priest.
      5) Christ absolves the sinner, the priest lending his tongue for the words and the hand for the sign of the cross during the end of that conversation.

      That's the norm.

      There are situations outside of the norm--when a priest isn't availible or whatever.

      Contrition of the heart is efficacious for absolution, it's just not by itself a sacramental act. Does that make sense?

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  5. meyu -

    Do you separate works and work itself? I don't know about you, but having faith takes me a tremendous amount of work. Is my faith now a work that you say I can't rely upon for salvation?

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    1. God gives the believer the faith to believe. It is His Spirit that is at work in us. Phil 1:6

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    2. And how does one know that he or she has been given that faith?

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    3. By the kind of life they life. For example, do they desire to put sin out of their lives and desire to please Christ? If they do, then this would be an indicator that they have faith.

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    4. " I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them."

      (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Ch. 2, Sec. 11. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.iii.html)

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    5. meyu -

      So man plays no role in his salvation and he's unable to reject the Holy Spirit? That is the logical conclusion from your worldview.

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    6. cwdlaw223,
      God gives the "dead in his trespasses and sins" man the ability to believe in the gospel. Without this, no man would believe.

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    7. meyu-

      That's a straw man, and doesn't address cwdlaw223's actual question. Noone is disputing that God gives the spiritually dead man the ability to believe, semi-Pelagianism was condemned a long time ago as an obvious heresy.

      Where we differ is the interaction with this life after it has been given. We're proposing that man has a responsibility after being first moved to grace by God to respond to that gift by accepting it (note: that accepting a gift does not deny whether or not it is or is not a gift anymore, only a fool would argue that acceptance of a gift would somehow justify the original gifting).

      It's similar to someone giving CPR to an individual after they've stopped breathing. That first breath is not their own, therefore it is a gift of life given to them; however, it'd be rather foolish for that rescued individual to now think that all their breaths after that point on did not require some sort of action on their part to maintain that initial life given back to them.

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  6. As a Protestant, I never felt comfortable with the idea of assurance of salvation. I wanted to believe in it, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way. It's just what you said: "we can be assured that if we are faithful, we will be saved. But we have no guarantee that we will be faithful: that is, while we can be assured that God won't reject His faithful people, we have no assurance that we won't reject God." I knew myself enough to know that I could fall away and I could think back on various instances in which I had "fallen away."

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    1. Being eternally secure in Christ because Christ promised that and having "subjective" assurance about it are 2 different things.

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    2. as·sur·ance
      əˈSHo͝orəns/
      noun
      noun: assurance; plural noun: assurances

      1.
      a positive declaration intended to give confidence; a promise.

      Your term subjective assurance is redundant. Assurance is intended to elicit a response of confidence.

      con·fi·dence
      ˈkänfədəns,-fəˌdens/
      noun
      noun: confidence

      1.
      the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.

      Confidence is an opinion or a feeling about something. To come full circle...

      sub·jec·tive
      səbˈjektiv/
      adjective
      adjective: subjective

      1.
      based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

      Subjective means to be based on feelings or opinions. Assurance is, by its very definition, a subjective term. You can only argue this point if you're willing to make the statement that there is such a thing as an "objective feeling" or an "objective opinion", both of which are obviously oxymoronic.

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    3. A person can feel they are not saved but that may not line up with the fact that they are saved. Same goes the other way. A person can feel they are saved but in reality are not. 2 Peter 1:2-11 shows us how to have that assurance of salvation.

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    4. If a person feels that they are not saved, does that person have assurance of salvation?

      Remember what assurance means. If that positive declaration does not give confidence, is that still an assurance?

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    5. My apologies, meant to say "If a person feels that they are not saved but in fact are, does that..."

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    6. If a person does not feel they are not saved they don't have assurance of salvation. Our feelings can deceive us and that is why we must look at our lives and test them by the Scripture. A good "test" to look at are the beatitudes that are found in Matt 5. Are those beatitudes the focus of a person's life? Are they the attitudes of a person's life? If they are then this would be an indicator of salvation.

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    7. "If a person does not feel they are not saved they don't have assurance of salvation."

      That's only half of your statement, you conveniently left out the fact that they are in fact, saved (when you said: "A person can feel they are not saved but that may not line up with the fact that they are saved."). So, you're admitting then that not all of the elect have an assurance of Salvation.

      "Our feelings can deceive us and that is why we must look at our lives and test them by the Scripture."

      Yet, as was pointed out before, even that can be deceived according to Reformed Theology (see: "evanescent grace")

      "A good "test" to look at are the beatitudes that are found in Matt 5. Are those beatitudes the focus of a person's life?"

      First off, why put test in quotation marks? Is it a test or is it not a test? Seems like you're leaving a way out of the obvious complication with your statement, namely, that, according to Reformed Theology, those works do not have to actually be present in that individual's life in order to be saved. So, we've then thoroughly established that the Elect cannot trust his or her feelings, nor can they reliably look to their works to act as an assurance of their salvation.

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    8. 'Are those beatitudes the focus of a person's life?"

      Or, in other words, put your faith in your works.

      In Catholic theology, that's not a problem, that's just judging a tree by its fruit, but it is assuredly a problem with any assurance-of-salvation scheme.

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  7. You have cited Scripture that contradicts the idea. But there is so much Scripture that supports the idea. Here are just 3:

    “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word….I am praying for them. I am not praying fro the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.”
    John 17:6, 9

    “And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’

    What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the scripture says to Pharoah, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even to us whom he has called, not from the Jews also but also from the Gentiles.”

    Romans 9:9-24

    And then as Paul himself explains his call:

    "And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus."

    Galatians 1:14-16

    Per point III, no other person can judge where or not another is saved or “eternally God’s.” That is not the claim. The claim is that the person alone knows their relationship with God and God is ultimate judge. If I am the Lord’s, his faithfulness to me, even when I rebel or reject him, will prove greater than my ability to run or leave.

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    1. Elisabeth Jordan,
      How does John 17:6,9 contradict osas?
      What is the context of Rom 9?

      Gal 1:14-16 has nothing to do with osas but Paul's life before he became a Christian and how he was set apart to name a few things. I don't see anything in this about osas.

      I agree we cannot know with certainty who is saved. However, we can warn those who reject Christ will be condemned. Those who are claiming to be in Christ but are living a life contrary to Christ may not be saved because they have no works-fruit that shows it. They could be self-deceived.

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    2. "The claim is that the person alone knows their relationship with God and God is ultimate judge."

      That's not true. According to Reformed Theology, even the individual may be confused about his or her salvation.

      "I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them."

      (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Ch. 2, Sec. 11. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.iii.html)

      Having faith is not an assurance of salvation in Reformed Theology, as that faith may, in fact, be temporary. "Assurance of Salvation", when you get past the veneer, is no assurance whatsoever.

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    3. Great point Nate! I like your thinking and analysis. Reformed Theology is often the "starter drug" for Catholicism. You cannot believe in Reformed Theology and square your interpretation of Scripture with history. But you can square it with yourself if you believe that you know all there is to know about Christianity. In the end, Reformed Theology is about the individual being his own church and priest. So intoxicating, but so scripturally unbiblical.

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    4. meyu--The Scriptures examples I gave support OSAS.

      The Galatians passage is directly related to OSAS: see this line: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born..."

      "I agree we cannot know with certainty who is saved. However, we can warn those who reject Christ will be condemned. Those who are claiming to be in Christ but are living a life contrary to Christ may not be saved because they have no works-fruit that shows it. They could be self-deceived." <-- completely agree with you here.

      --

      Nate--I disagree with Reformed theology here then. I grew up Reformed but have (clearly) rejected some doctrines :).

      Explain the second quote if you will.

      What do you mean, "Having faith is not an assurance of salvation..." Particularly what do you mean by "having faith" in this usage?

      --

      cwdlaw--what do you mean by "starter drug"? What do you mean by "you cannot believe in Reformed Theology and square...history"? What do you mean "you can square it with yourself"? In Reformed theology, what you say is not true. Reformed people believe Jesus is the High Priest (Hebrews 6:19-20). They also believe that they are a part of the body, the church, but that there is only ONE church, and it is Jesus' church.

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    5. Elisabeth,
      I must have misunderstood you. Do you believe in OSAS?

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    6. Yes. That makes 2 against the world :)

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    7. No. My hope is to have a fruitful discussion without irritating our RC friends to much. What brings you here?

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    8. Elisabeth -

      Please name me one person from 100 AD through 1,500 AD who believed in the tenants of reformed theology? These people do not exist and they certainly don't believe there is a physical church on this planet that has existed since Pentecost until today. If so, please name me this Church. Early Christianity is sacerdotal to the core. That is the history of Christianity no matter how you try to interpret scripture that it shouldn't have been. If Christ failed with his Church/Bride right out of the gate he was a liar and not God.

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    9. The Reformed faith is probably the last group of Protestants that take biblical issues very seriously. Most of forms of Pism have no real care for theology. Not so in reformed circles. They love these issues and are intellectually curious. I suspect most Ps that convert to Catholicism are for or near the Reformed faith. Thus, a starter drug. I fought history and poor explanations of Catholicism for over a year. The Reformed faith took hold because: (a) people no longer had to pay a priestly tax (money), (b) the state became the power center instead of Rome (power), and (c) the Reformers changed the grounds for divorce (sex). Throw in growing nationalism and you have a dangerous mix. Even Carl Trueman from Westminster Seminary admits that Reformed Theology was a theological novum. It was a new interpretation of scripture created out of thin air.

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    10. Elisabeth -

      Do you believe the Apostles Creed is correct? If so, when this creed was developed do you think the word "catholic" meant a universal set of believers who can only agree that Christ physically rose from the dead and can forgive us of our sins but disagree on every other major issue such as baptism, the Eucharist and even what constitutes the OT itself? No way. History shows it was for what people today call Roman Catholics. The creed didn't include heretical sects of Christianity. There is no Reformed Church and Christ doesn't need to protect himself from the gates of Hades. The more you study history and language the more you will reject your Protestant beliefs or go mad trying to make Pism fit with history and language.

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    11. Elisabeth -

      Fair enough. However, it should be noted that virtually every notable teacher of OSAS has had to encounter the situation outlined by John Calvin. They hate this topic because when fully understood it comes across as truly terrible. This is the problem of taking such an aggressive soteriological stance, it sounds great in the positive sense and can generally be understood in neat little statements that advertise well ("OSAS!", "Perseverance of the Saints!", "Assurance of Salvation!"), but, when deliberately meditated on, this is an inevitable conclusion that one has to deal with.

      >"Explain the second quote if you will.

      What do you mean, "Having faith is not an assurance of salvation..." Particularly what do you mean by "having faith" in this usage?"<

      What I mean is that, according to the teachings of Reformed Theology (which was the originator of what we now know to be OSAS, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseverance_of_the_saints), it is quite possible to have a "temporary faith" ascribed to the non-Elect. So much so that the person genuinely believes that he or she is of the Elect ("evanescent grace") and their faith and lifestyle are, both to them and to those around them, indistinguishable from the truly saved. However, that person is still not considered to be part of the Elect and this was nothing more than "a taste of heavenly gifts".

      So, your statement:

      >"The claim is that the person alone knows their relationship with God..."

      is not necessarily true, per the actual teachings of Perseverance of the Saints:

      There are some that know themselves to have faith, and are part of the Elect.
      There are some that know themselves to have faith (ascribed to them, by God, but only temporarily so), but are not part of the Elect.

      Now, if you're following some new teaching of this doctrine, then this discussion can go no further because the point of this discussion is to the doctrine as it is widely understood and taught (when taught in depth). Last I checked most of the notable Evangelical Calvinist teachers, especially in America (Piper, MacArthur, RC Sproul, Driscoll, Chandler, et al.), have all publicly accepted and widely teach Reformed doctrine, which has, at the heart of its exposition, Calvin's Institutes which I quoted above.

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    12. Nate--Thanks for educating me. Here's how it goes for me.

      I grew up in a reformed church. I am now in an Anglican church. I reject many of the hard-line reformed doctrines because I have seen them lived out. I am on this site because I have some good Catholic friends and I want to know truth. I like to examine other sides to things to learn. I don't think anyone is right on everything. I think we would do well to listen well to each other and learn from each other.

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    13. meyu--I am here because I am curious about Catholic theology. Two of my good friends are Catholic and I love learning from them. I tend to think no one has it "all right," and that the truth is somewhere closer to in between two hard lines than on either side. I want to know the Lord more, and I hope by opening myself to new ideas, examining what I believe, and seeking truth God will work in my life.

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    14. cwdlaw--I don't believe in hard-line reformed theology myself. I grew up in a reformed church, but I saw a lot of negative effects from people living the theology out, and so I left the reformed church as an adult.

      So I am trying to figure out what I believe and why.

      I don't think taking such a hard stance as you do is very helpful to conversation, however. I think that Catholics have something to learn from Protestantism, and that Protestants rightly reacted to abuses of the Catholic church. I also think Protestants have something to learn from Catholics. I am curious about the space in which the two meet, in which we can grow and learn from each other, where I, personally, hope to know and grow to love God more.

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    15. "Protestants rightly reacted to abuses of the Catholic church."

      How so? Dividing Christ's church is a good thing? Saint Ignatious Loyola chose to reform within yet Martin Luther left. Isnt it the better choice to stay?

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    16. Delta--Well it wasn't the first time the church split. 1054 Great Schism. Certainly it's preferable for the church to reform internally, and I hope we get to live through a sort of reunification.

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    17. The trouble with rigorist schisms is that they seem to always be right about what's wrong, but are always wrong about what's right.

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  8. I agree we cannot know with certainty who is saved. However, we can warn those who reject Christ will be condemned. Those who are claiming to be in Christ but are living a life contrary to Christ may not be saved because they have no works-fruit that shows it. They could be self-deceived.


    What then exactly do you disagree with Joe about?

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    1. "There you have it: the Bible doesn't teach “assurance of salvation,” or “perseverance of the Saints,” or “Once Saved, Always Saved,” or any variation thereof. "

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    2. Don't you think the context of his remark is that he's talking about from our point of view not God's?

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    3. I have no reason to think that he believes that once a man is saved he is saved forever.

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    4. I feel pretty confident in saying this...as a Catholic,Joe believes that salvation happens/ is completed/ is determined at death. And once one dies in a state of grace (ie saved) than one is saved forever. But that's at death.

      What ones salvation status is until that point when we know is what we are debating. In other words while we are alive we aren't assured. Do you think we are assured before death? Or do you believe otherwise?

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    5. We should have an assurance of salvation now because it leads to worship of Christ and confidence.

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    6. Catholics view salvation as a process; one we work out with "fear and trembling". Worshipping Christ is done with great love and in great hope. We hope that we choose Christ but we know we are prone to sin. We worship in hope. Confidence is not humility. We are humble before Christ.

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    7. Should we have confidence in Christ?

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    8. Confidence in Christ that He will do what?

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    9. To forgive us our sins (I John 1:9) and bring us safely into His kingdom.

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    10. As Joe pointed out Christ is not lacking in either tradition. Christ offers freely salvation to those who desire and seek it. The lack of confidence is not in Christ but in ourselves. We have free will. You say its simply a matter of choice to believe. Catholics believe it is a path of choices to remain with Christ. And knowing our human frailty we hope that we will perserve to the end with the Grace of God. We worship knowing God's greatness and our own weakness.

      It sounds like you do not believe in free will. It sounds like as the person asked above that you believe that Christ saves us whether or not we choose it. Is that correct?

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    11. meyu-

      >"To forgive us our sins (I John 1:9) and bring us safely into His kingdom."<

      The word "confess" in 1 John 1:9 is translated from the Greek word "homologōmen" which is present subjunctive active tense. In Greek, the present tense is meant to be understood as continuous. 1 John 1:9 is not talking about a single point in time, but a continuous action that we as believers must undertake. Again, in proper understanding and original grammatical context, this is perfectly in line with Catholic teaching and is not congruous with Reformed theology.

      Very interesting that we wound up learning about all these soteriological innovations when we started using relatively modern (~1500) translations, huh?

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    12. Nate,
      Don't Rc's have to confess to a priest to be forgiven? Don't you need to do penance before you can be forgiven?

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    13. meyu -

      How can one truly repent of their sins if they don't do penance? If I steal $20 from you don't I have to return the money? The return of the money is penance. Not sure how one could be forgiven of their sins without penance. To state otherwise is to deny the temporal effect of sin.

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    14. Making restitution is not the same as penance. Penance is about showing sorrow for sin and being given to you by a priest to perform something. Correct?

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    15. Meyu-

      Nope and nope.

      Confession to a priest is the ordinary means of forgiveness, but not the only means. (see 403, http://www.catholicity.com/baltimore-catechism/lesson30.html)

      Performance of penance is not necessary for the absolution of sins. The willingness to perform the penance is what's required, which is understood to be the natural by-product of a contrite heart (after all, a truly repentant thief would return what he or she stole...a truly repentant liar would tell the truth, etc. etc.), the contrition of the heart is what matters...kinda why the priest is able to say "your sins are forgiven" even though some acts of penance can only occur after one leaves the confessional.

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    16. Nate Jusko,
      Where in the NT do we see a priest or some church official hearing someone's confession, giving some kind of penance and absolution?

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    17. meyu -

      Making restitution can be part of penance if the sin was theft for example. Do you think that there is such a thing as the temporal effect of sin that must be corrected? Penance is much more than just showing sorrow. It requires real effort to correct the effect of sin. Your presumptions about penance indicate to me that you haven't taken a genuine examination of this topic. True contrition requires work and effort to repair the damage of sin. I would be surprised if you think that true contrition does not require effort to repair the damage of sin in this world.

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    18. Meyu,

      First I think you are making your inquiry unnecessarily narrow. It's like Justice Scalia's remark on the death penalty in the constitution: does the constitution say anything about the death *penalty*? No. But it does mention capital *crimes* which by definition in the common law tradition are those crimes whose conviction could result in execution.

      So in an analogous way, consider John 20:21-23. Do you really think Christ gave the apostles the authority to remit sin, but that they weren't authorized to use it?!

      When they forgive sins, is it "I Paul of Tarsus forgive X of the sin of Y" or does he forgive 'en prosopo Christou' -in persona Christi? 2 Cor 2:10

      There are those in the Church--ambassadors of Christ who vicariously have His authority--who have ministry of reconciliation.

      What is this ministry of reconciliation? Is it encouraging sinners to say the sinners prayer? Over what sins, only the ones the ministers know about?

      That would make a mockery of reconciliation because it's the worst sins done in secret.



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  10. meyu -

    Why should we have assurance now of being saved? That isn't truely loving of God and you're conditioning your love upon him saving you. You're placing a condition upon your love. Sort of like working just to earn a living. If you think love is about conditions then you don't understand the concept of true love and faith. Christ doesn't want us to think of his relationship with him as one between merchants.

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    1. We should have assurance of salvation because Scripture tells us that Christ gain for us what we could never achieve. " 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand." John 10

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    2. meyu -

      The cripture you are using to support you own man made condition of assurance that we should be assured of our salvation. This pernicious thought process actually pulls people away from a vibrant Christian life. Why? Because people think they're saved and therefore a little sin here or laziness there won't really detract from me being saved. Nobody denies the power of God, however your arguments for why we should be assured of our salvation have no biblical support and isn't logically supported by the scripture you quoted. You just want to be assured because it makes you feel better.

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    3. cwdlaw223,
      Actually assurance of salvation leads to a godly life. Paul in 2 Cor 5:14-15 shows how a person in Christ is to live: 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf."

      What this shows us that we are not to tolerate a "little sin" or be lazy but that we are focus our lives in living for Christ because He died and rose again for us.

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    4. You can call a pumpkin a watermelon but that still doesn't make it's contents sweet and juicy. This once saved always saved is a man made doctrine to make people feel good about themselves. You have completely removed man with this doctrine.

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    5. There is a lot of things people should do but they don't do (myself included). That doesn't mean this doctrine compels them to do what they should do. The logical out working of the doctrine is complacency. Why? Because you're already saved.

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    6. Assurance of salvation does not lead to complacency but to passion for Christ for what He has done for those who believe in Him. Paul had assurance of salvation and it motivated him to give his life fully to Christ. So did many others in Scriptures who were willing to risk all for Christ because He saved them.

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    7. Not true. Who's more motivated to work? A person with $1 in their bank account or $1,000,000,000? The billionaire is the person who is definitively saved. Why persevere? You're already saved.

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    8. It is the person who knows deeply what Christ did for them who will live to please Christ out of a grateful heart. Paul is a good example of this. He had assurance of salvation and he worked harder than all the other apostles.
      "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain ; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." I cor 15:10

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    9. "It is the person who knows deeply what Christ did for them who will live to please Christ out of a grateful heart."

      Not according to Reformed Theology, again, see comments about "evanescent grace". According to that worldview, a person can truly believe that Christ died for them, live their life in such a way that is indistinguishable from the Elect (producing the exact same good fruits you mention), and still not be considered part of the Elect as all that was just a "temporary faith" and just a "taste of the heavenly gifts" reserved for the truly Elect to receive. There is quite literally nothing that you could do now to know that you're not considered part of this "temporary faith" group, this is why we say that this teaching provides no assurance whatsoever, it advertises well on the surface but has some serious fine print issues.

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    10. Nate Jusko,
      Get serious. Am I to believe that Reformed Theology teaches that it does not matter how a Christian lives? What documents mention this "temporary faith"?

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    11. meyu-

      Thank you for your suggestion to "get serious".

      The specific documents you're looking for would be John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, Chapter 2, Section 11. Here's the direct link if you'd like: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.iii.html

      Here's the direct quotation if you'd like to narrow it down even further:

      "yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them."

      Also, I never said that it does not matter how a Christian lives. What I did say was that one cannot determine one's salvation, per Reformed Theology, by the "fruits" of their life. Because, that may be nothing more than the attributes of the temporary faith that is outlined above.

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    12. ^ Sorry, the above is me. Was typing from our home computer and must have been logged into another Google account at the time of submission.

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    13. Nate Jusko,
      What does "the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them" mean?

      One can certainly determine if one has salvation by their lives. That is what James 2:21-26 is about.

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    14. Meyu,

      There are people like Charles Templeton who believed that they were saved, and then lost the faith. For quite some time, he bore great fruit (he was a popular evangelist who worked with Billy Graham in the early days). But then he became an agnostic, and wrote a book called Farewell to God.

      This poses a huge problem for the Reformed system, because it has no real way of accounting for it (since you can't say that he was saved, and then lost his salvation). You seem to resolve this by simply denying that such people exist - even though we can point to countless examples. John Calvin admitted that such people exist, but "solved" this problem by suggesting that the Holy Spirit deceived them into believing that they were saved.

      This "solution" isn't a good one, though, for three reasons: (1) he's making this doctrine up, out of thin air, to make up for a problem in his theological system; (2) it suggests that the Holy Spirit is just acting inexplicably cruelly; and (3) it eliminates assurance of salvation. If Calvin is right, you can feel as assured as you want, and you have no way of knowing that it isn't an elaborate trick by God.

      If you have a problem with this solution, your problem isn't with Nate Jusko. It's with John Calvin.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    15. Joe,
      You are confusing the issue. Just because someone says they are saved does not mean they are. Some of these people can deceive others but they cannot deceive God. If a person claims to have believed in Christ and later rejects Him then that shows he was not really in Christ to begin with. I John 2:19 warns of this situation where John writes:
      "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us."

      Calvin wrote a lot and I'm not that familiar with most of it. How much of Calvin have you read?

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    16. Meyu, isn't the way your phrasing it just simply using the No True Scotsman fallacy?

      No 'true Christian' will ever reject the faith?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

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    17. meyu-

      We're not talking about someone who just says that they are saved, but deep down knows otherwise. What we're talking about is someone who, to their very core, believes exactly what and how you believe about Christ's sacrifice for them ("that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them").

      Essentially what this verse does is take the entire "Assurance of Salvation" clause and add a huge caveat to the end of it saying that your assurance may or may not, in fact, be genuine.

      >" Some of these people can deceive others but they cannot deceive God."<

      You're still missing the point. These people are not deceiving others, they themselves are deceived as even they are not capable of judging whether or not the faith that has been given to them was genuine or not.

      >"If a person claims to have believed in Christ and later rejects Him then that shows he was not really in Christ to begin with."<

      No True Scotsman fallacy. This always allows you to win the "battle" on the topic of OSAS, but you lose the overall "war" in terms of confidence in salvation. If we have to wait until the final moments of death to ensure that one does not reject Christ, how is this any more of an assurance than the Catholic soteriology. You keep repeating that you have more assurance than the Catholic in your salvation, but in terms of actual substance behind that comment you don't because you do not know if you will later reject Christ and had nothing more than a temporary faith that, to your own judgment about yourself, is indistinguishable from the lasting faith.

      >"Calvin wrote a lot and I'm not that familiar with most of it. How much of Calvin have you read?"<

      Institutes of the Christian Religion & The Secret Providence of God

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    18. Nate Jusko,
      Do you think Jesus and His apostles wanted those who believed into Christ and followed Him want them to have an assurance of salvation? Do you think that Jesus and His apostles did not want these followers to be deceived?
      After all, there are a number of warnings in Scripture about being self-deceived and how to address it. Take 2 Cor 13:5-6 as an example: " Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? 6 But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test."

      So what do you think? Does Christ want us to be self-deceived?

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  12. I certainly fear God and want to be saved and it is a driving factor in coming to him, but if my love is based solely out of fear of hell or to "get to heaven" then it isn't true love. It's a business transaction. Protestantism will always make God smaller and start clipping away the supernatural. Protestantism removes the supernatural and therefore leads to a thought process that skews such things as love.

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  13. Meyu and Elisabeth,

    Thanks for the quality of the discussion so far, and sorry that I'm late to my own party. There's been too much to respond to everything in great detail, so let me just hit the highlights:

    1) The Nature of the Debate: I really like the way Elisabeth characterized the debate in her opening comment: "You have cited Scripture that contradicts the idea. But there is so much Scripture that supports the idea." This strikes me as a very honest characterization from the Protestant perspective: there really are quite a few verses that seem to teach eternal security, but there are also verses that contradict it.

    What do we do in that case? We can't just say "60% say yes, 40% say no, so we'll go with yes" (or anything like that). That treats Scripture as contradictory, and ultimately, results in us cherry-picking the verses or doctrines that we like best. Rather, if we want to practice Biblical Christianity, we need to hold to a view that can harmonize all of the Scriptural evidence. Given that, here's the basic case for why I think that involves affirming the Catholic interpretation, and rejecting the doctrine of eternal security.

    2a) Why I think the Catholic interpretation works: Most of the verses that the two of you cited can be summed as saying something like "God will sanctify and save the righteous." And that seems to teach assurance of salvation ... IF the statement is understood non-conditionally, and IF "the righteous" is a fixed group.

    But let me offer an alternative. I'll start with an analogy: imagine a college that offered an Honors Society to those in the top ten percent of each class. There are two ways that this offer could be understood: (1) as applying to those currently in the top ten percent, that no matter how badly they performed for the rest of the year, they were guaranteed a spot in the Honors Society; or (2) as applying to whoever happens to be in the top ten percent (meaning that people could enter or leave the top 10%, and thus, enter or leave the Honors Society).

    The Protestant interpretation of the passages that the two of you cited tends to be like #1: it assumes that "the righteous" refers to a fixed group of discrete individuals, like "the 1964 Yankees." A hundred years from now, the list of people on "the 1964 Yankees" will be the same as it is today: it's impossible (at least now) to enter or leave. But the Catholic interpretation tends to be more like #2: it argues that "the righteous" refers to a state that can be entered or left, like "the healthy" or "the Yankees." These categories aren't frozen.

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  14. (cont.)

    The verses that you cite admit of either interpretation. And the verses that I cite, specifically the Ezekiel 3 passage, explicitly tell us that "the righteous" is a fluid group. There are plenty of other passages that explicitly teach the fluidity of these groupings, as well. For example, Elisabeth, you quoted Romans 9:9-24. But in the very next two verses, Paul speaks to the fluidity of these categories (quoting Hosea): "As indeed he says in Hose′a, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘my beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”"

    And this fluidity goes in both directions, as he explains in Romans 11, noting that "some of the branches were broken off," while the Gentiles "were grafted in their place" (Rom. 11:17). He then says: "You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you" (Rom. 11:19-21). By grace, those who were not saved are saved; but they stand only by faith - if they lose faith, God will not spare them. That seems pretty explicit to me.

    2b) The other theme to the verses that you've cited is that many focus on the fact that Christ won't abandon us, or lose us, or somehow fail on His end. But both sides agree on this: neither Catholics nor conservative Protestants believe in Christ as some sort of demigod incapable of holding up His end of the covenant. The entire question is about whether we can reject Him. But if we reject Him, that's not a failing on His part, right?

    All of this is a long way of saying that I think that Catholics can easily harmonize all of the passages that the two of you cited without resorting to the Reformation-era innovation of "eternal security."

    3) Why I think the Protestant interpretation doesn't work: As Elisabeth conceded, the passages that I have cited simply contradict the doctrine of eternal security. These passages are Scripture. Either they're wrong, or the doctrine of eternal security is. I don't think that you can harmonize these (or the many other similar) passages without doing serious violence to their interpretation.

    4) Conclusion: Of the passages that you cite, there are two ways to read them. Reading them your way makes them contradict the rest of Scripture (resulting in an impossibility, where we have to ignore or reject Scripture). Reading them our way makes just as much sense, harmonizes with the rest of Scripture.

    I.X.,

    Joe

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    1. Hi Joe,

      Thanks for going into all of that. Very helpful.

      Here's what's going on with me. I grew up in a very reformed tradition. I am now in an Anglican church.

      It's very difficult for me to see the whole story (grand narrative) of the Bible through any lens but that God calls, chooses, and perfects. When I start in Genesis, I see God calling certain people out...Abraham and his descendents. He chooses Israel not because they are the most populous or best but because he chooses them as the vehicle through which he will show his character and make his name known.

      Though they are a sinful and rebellious people, God continually extends mercy. He sends them away (into exile), but then HE takes the initiative to bring them back. He continually pursues and loves a rebellious people.

      Then, of course, he sends his Son. In all this, God's character never changes. He is continually extending grace and mercy to those who call on his name, even in the Old Testament to those who are not Israelites by birth (Rahab and Ruth are two).

      With Jesus, we see the gospel for all, Jew and Gentile alike. But of course this was always God's plan. There are prophecies throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament (NT), we see Jesus calling disciples, but it doesn't seem he calls the especially righteous. Sometimes he calls sinners. They continually fall short. They even deny him. YET he extends grace and mercy, bringing them back.

      The whole story of Scripture to me is one of God's continual faithfulness to his people, and of their continual failings.

      I would love to know how you look at this grand narrative. I am truly open to other ways to think about it.

      Finally, I would share from my personal life. I became a Christian at 12 years old. Then in my early-mid twenties, I rebelled against God, ultimately rejecting him and living as though he did not exist for 9 months. Yet because of his profound love for me, he did not let me go, though I wanted him to. He rescued me; he saved me--AGAIN.

      The way I see my story is that my conversion at 12 was real, but that in his mercy God worked even when I tried to leave. I was his child, so he brought me back despite my hardness and rebellion towards him, despite not honoring him in many areas of my life.

      So from my personal experience, God hasn't let me go, even when I've wanted to be let go of. I don't understand how Catholics would look at that part of my story because all I see in it is God's immense love for me and his faithfulness to me.

      Please send your thoughts!
      Elisabeth

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  15. Joe -

    Good summary. This doctrine never made sense in my prior reformed life and I could never make it fit. I think the real issue behind this doctrine is whether man is free to reject the grace of God. RC Sproul completely removes man from the equation and he does not believe that man is "free" to reject the grace of God. Once you have that worldview then doctrines such as these make more sense. There's no concept of man cooperating with the grace of God. Sacerdotal systems of worship are almost meaningless in such worldview because if God gives grace to someone that someone cannot reject such grace and they will be saved no matter what. Thus, why have sacraments???

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  16. I would just point out that not all Protestant evangelicals disagree with Catholics on this. When I was Assemblies of God, for example, they always condemned the heresy of "once saved, always saved." Essentially they believed in mortal sin without calling it that. The problem was that there was no particular authority to say which since were actually "mortal." When I was a lot younger, taking a drink of alcohol might have qualified, and later on drug abuse might or might not have been included. And sex...no one was quite sure what was "too far" or on the other hand not far enough, so the jury was constantly out on that one. What ended up happening was that people called themselves "saved" but really meant that they were in the state of sanctifying grace, and then when they fell from it they had to become "rededicated" to Christ. While not always clear on the conditions, they at least realized that presumption of eternal salvation without living for God was not correct. That also is true of many Wesleyan traditions, of which the A/G was part of, and which evolved into Methodism. I only point this out because I often hear all evangelical Protestants lumped together on this point, and in reality they are not. But all of them miss the concise understanding that Joe so (as usual) brilliantly brings out here. And it is the ones who remained closest to Catholicism who retained the understanding that works really did have something to do with ultimate salvation. Great article.

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    1. To deny OSAS is to deny the power of God to save. It is to deny that God has elected some to salvation. It is to say that the will of man is greater than the power of God to save. It is to deny "that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil 1:6

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    3. Nobody denies God has such power. What you are presuming is that God exercises such power as opposed to providing grace that can be rejected. Do you believe God could provide grace that could be rejected? Is God powerless to provide grace in a manner that could be rejected? If so, now you are limiting God (as well as causing man to play no part in his salvation but just to exist).

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    4. meyu-

      Who was Paul's audience in Phil. 1:6?

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    5. cwdlaw223,
      God does provide power and grace for all those whom He has saved and will bring them safely in His kingdom. That is what Phil 1:6 is talking about. Since God is the One Who elects then that person will be saved. Paul is a good example of this. Before the Damascus road he had no intention in converting to Christ. After he was knocked to the ground and saw and spoke with the risen Christ he went against his will and became a slave of Christ. Christ converted Paul against his will.

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    6. Nate Jusko,
      The audience is " to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Phil 1

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    7. Does he address it to specific individuals? Or, is it more of a general audience sort of letter, being written to a type of people (perhaps...a "holy people") instead of a specific group of identified individuals?

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    8. Nate Jusko,
      To all who are at Phillippi.

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    9. Meyu,

      1) When you make claims like “To deny OSAS is to deny the power of God to save. It is to deny that God has elected some to salvation. It is to say that the will of man is greater than the power of God to save,” it sounds like you're just conceding that your prior theological commitments make it impossible for you to reject OSAS, regardless of the Scriptural evidence. You think that OSAS must be true, regardless of what Scripture says, because your theological system requires it. Then, when you see Scriptural passages that contradict it, you simply disregard it. But if that's how you're going to do theology, why even bother citing Scripture? You already have your conclusions, and are just finding verses to fit into the cracks.

      2) This view, elevating Reformed theology over Scripture, might also account for why you're still refusing to engage any of the Scriptural passages that I cited. As should be clear by now, we can show how the passages you're citing make sense in our system. You can't do the same, apparently.

      3) Reformed theology's starting assumption (that God's will is impossible to resist) can't account for salvation history. God is omnipotent, yet permitted Adam and Eve to fall (unless you're claiming that He actively willed sin, in which case you're just rejecting the Christian view of an all-good God).

      I reject as false the notion that if evil exists, God must either will it or be too weak to stop it. It may be that He permits that which He does not will for the furthering of His own purposes. But if that's the case (that is, if the atheistic argument against God is false), then your argument is false, and for the same reason. God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4), yet permits some men not to be saved.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    10. Joe,
      You also have already think osas is false. Your RC theology requires it. The passages you quote that you think refutes it, in reality does not when taken in the context of those passages. There were many passages you did not deal with in your article.

      Lets look at Ezekiel 3:18-21. This passage has nothing to do with salvation but with physical death. Look at the context.

      The magician named Simon was not a believer but wanted to have what the apostles had in an evil way. Peter rebuked him for it.

      2 Pet. 2:1 is not about losing salvation either. It is true that Christ "bought" them as He has all men in the sense that His death for sin was for all men but that does not mean they or anyone else is automatically saved. There is nothing in the verse that leads us to believe they were true believers in Christ to begin with.

      1 Corinthians 9:24–27 is also not about losing salvation but is about being disqualified in preaching the gospel. He wants his life to be in harmony with the gospel.

      I never claimed God's will is impossible to resist. People do it all the time when they sin. However, when God foreordains someone to be elect (saved), that will come to pass.

      God did allow for Adam and Eve to sin. We don't know why which means it must have been for a greater purpose.

      God is working in the world and is using evil for His means. The life, death and resurrection of Christ is evidence that God is dealing with the evil in the world. The day is coming when evil will be done away with.

      PS- what is the RC position on Genesis? I am in dialogue with a strong RC who tells me that Genesis is a myth. What say you?

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    11. " However, when God foreordains someone to be elect (saved), that will come to pass. " That's an acceptable theory in Augustinian and Thomist views of predestination.

      Have you ever read Jimmy Akin's article A Tiptoe Through Tulip? I remember reading that when I was a 7 point Calvinist and had my mind blown.

      http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/TULIP.htm

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    12. meyu -

      You have effectively created a system of chance salvation. I don't know how anyone can read the Bible as a whole (all 73 books, but that's another matter) and conclude that Christ died to save the elect that are foreordained by God. Why can't you square OSAS with Christian history from 100 AD - 500 AD? Nobody believed and/or stated such a position that man is subject to chance. Christianity was sacerdotal to the core and man sought grace through the sacraments in his Church because he did not believe there was such a thing as OSAS.

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    13. Catholics are free to believe in limited atonement as long as they affirm the material sufficiency for all.

      They are also free to believe in radical predestination as long as they deny predestination of the damned.

      We shouldn't expect our reformed brethren to be to the left of Augustine on this issue.

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  17. Meyu, on the general topic of predestination and election, there are different theories in Catholic thought. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are much much much closer to your view (and indeed my view) than what's called Molinism.

    Catholics are free to believe something I think is either identical, or remarkably similar, to what your saying, just phrased in a different way.

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11711a.htm

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    1. Daniel,
      Do you think predestination and election has something to do with osas?

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    2. Yes I do.

      Did you read the article? It's only 3 paragraphs or so from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

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    3. I did and its confusing. The first sentence "Final perseverance is the preservation of the state of grace till the end of life. The expression is taken from Matthew 10:22, "He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved." is taken out of context because its not about persevering in the faith for an entire life time but about advancing the gospel in the midst of persecution.

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    4. Ok, you disagree about what the proof-text means. Fine.

      Is the doctrine of final preserverance articulated in the article compatible with your view of OSAS? If not, what are the differences?

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  19. If OSAS is right where is the incentive to seek for perfection? If OSAS is right why does the Lord Jesus advice us not to look back once our hands are on the plow. The mere fact that we have the possibility to look back (backslide as some say) means OSAS in invalid.

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  20. cp sho -

    I agree. Very similar to a person with $1 in their bank account and another with $1,000,000,000. Who generally has more incentive to work? Living a Christian life is hard work no matter how much people try to make the word work into a negative word.

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    1. Anyone who would take the attitude you are espousing does not understand what Christ did for them. There is great incentive to live for Christ, seek for perfection because this shows love for Christ. How could a person not be motivated to do this knowing what Christ did for them?

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    2. Is a proper understanding of Christ's sacrifice now a requirement of salvation in your soteriology?

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    3. A person needs to know that Christ died for their sins. That would be a requirement.

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    4. Would you say that that proper understanding of Christ's sacrifice comes all at one time? Or, is it more of a process over the life of the Christian?

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    5. meyu -

      How could a person not be motivated to follow Christ after what he did for them? Because of sin. You seem to espouse a reality where once someone is 'saved" that sin will never adversely affect them again. That is not the real world and leads to pride because one thinks they're the elect and special. They no longer fear hell because they're saved from it.

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    6. I think the basics needs to be understood at the beginning. As a person grows in his faith in Christ I would think they would grow deeper in their appreciation for what He did for us. In that sense it is a process. However, I do think that there are things that get in the way of understanding this. Sometimes we are so concerned about ourselves instead of Christ.

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    7. meyu -

      Do you believe that living the Christian life isn't hard work?

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    8. cwdlaw223,
      A Christian should no longer be afraid of hell because Christ paid the price in full for sin (Col 2:13-14) but of displeasing Christ. Sin will always be a problem for us because it is still a power in our flesh (Rom 7:14-25). No man can truly say he has conquered it.

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    9. Living the Christian life is the hardest thing we do. Its also the greatest joy.

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    10. A Christian should obey the Bible and work out his salvation in fear and trembling.

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  24. I gotta ask this question of the Reformatists. Do you believe in free will? Are we puppets to God that cannot reject ot accept God on our own?

    And...

    Can one be saved and murder someone? Does sin have no place in the rejection of God and loss of savation? Is it simply at matter of acceptance? I seem to be reading it both ways. One that as a saved Christian you strive to turn from sin thus its obvious you are saved but as others have quoted how one behaves has nothing to do with sslvation. It's confusing. Either you agree that sin affects salvation or at least knowing it or it doesnt matter. Therefore evil acts are separate from salvation.

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    1. Do you mean by freewill that the will is totally neutral? If God predestines and elects someone to salvation can that person ultimately end up being dammed?

      Yes, someone could be saved and murder. In fact the saved still continue to sin. That's why we need forgiveness continually. Being saved is not just a mental acceptance of certain facts about Christ. Rather, it is an entrusting one self to Him. It is believing in the heart and mind certain things about Christ that leads to salvation. See Rom 10:9-10.

      How could sin destroy the union a Christian has with Christ given that Christ has paid the debt of sin in full?

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    2. meyu -

      Your explanation is incomplete. The issue comes down to whether man is "free" to accept or reject God's grace. Your answer has to be no if you believe the doctrines of the Reformation. Man's souls is corrupted too much by sin to ever be able to freely accept or reject God's grace. God makes such decision all on his own and his grace is irresistible.

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    3. cwdlaw223,
      How can a man who is dead in sin, helpless, an enemy of God be free? How is a person who is in bondage to sin seek after God?

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    4. Think about how your belief disfigures the person of God.

      "How could sin destroy the union a Christian has with Christ given that Christ has paid the debt of sin in full? "

      How could sin not be consequential if it required such a price? How can you expect Christ to accept this new insult blandly? This formula makes Christ to be a fool, a doormat, a patsy for even those who spurn Him in new sin. It makes no sense for the Man-God who said "Go and sin no more". Rather this doctrine is designed to comfort man in his weakness, and is especially for those who have rejected the sacrament of confession and now have no method for reconciliation. Think about it a little bit doesn't this doctrine tempt you to sin: "hey your saved what's the big deal go out and sin mightly He forgives you! " Who's lie does that sound like to you?
      The "blessed assurance" doctrine is manifest non-scriptural wish fulfillment.
      I fully understand the comfort such a belief would give but see no reason to accept it.

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    7. meyu -

      Because man is not so "dead" in sin as to be able to freely accept or reject ordinary grace and cooperate with such grace in him. You would have to reject thousands of years of Christian practices and beliefs to interpret scripture to the point where man is incapable of cooperating with ordinary grace. You have to first interpret scripture as a whole. If man is so "dead" why did Jesus try to save so many????

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    8. cwdlaw223,
      To be dead means you are totally lifeless, incapable. It means you can do nothing.

      It is because of the love of Christ that He came to die for those who could not pay the price for their sins. Jesus did not "try" to say anyone but saves everyone whom the Father gives Him. That is what election is all about.

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  25. Deltaflute -

    Reformers believe that man does have "free will" but not how you might think of it. Reformers believe that man's sould is so corrupted by sin that he is not "free" to accept or reject God's grace. Here is a quote from RC Sproul on the doctrine of irrestible grace: " In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic. Now that’s a three-dollar word. It means essentially that the divine operation called rebirth or regeneration is the work of God alone. An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono- means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God. He, and He alone, has the power to change the disposition of the soul and the human heart to bring us to faith."

    The Reformers completely remove man from his own salvation. There is nothing that man can do to save himself and the only way that man could ever have saving faith is if God gives it to him. Horrible doctrine that not all Protestants agree with and it is another man made invention of Christianity that has no historical support.

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    1. It is true there is nothing a man can do to save himself. Eph 2:1-3 tells us why: " And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."

      Man is dead in his sin.

      Rom 5:6-10 says essentially the same thing. Unless God takes the initiative man no man would be saved.

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    2. "The will is prepared by the Lord." Prov 8:35 LXX

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    3. meyu -

      Do you believe in a distinction between ordinary grace and irrestible grace?

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    4. Ah. So baptism is unnecessary? God creates evil people who without him die in sin?

      Sigh.

      People aren't evil by nature. Weak yes. Evil no. God doesn't create evil. We just cooperate with it too much.

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    5. Deltaflute, remember that Prots don't have the same philosophical/scholastic background that Catholics do. When Prots say that human nature is evil, they simply mean that evil is a trait at the present time applicable to our nature and that all good that is in our nature is from God's intervention in our nature.

      Catholics because of their background with essence/accidents distinctions, will say that God made the nature and the nature is good as far as its essence. It's wounded because of the effects of Adam's transgressions. So for example, if meyu was to define a man as a human person that has testicles that's an acceptable with typical protestant underpinnings. Aquinas or Anselm would say that testicles is an accident that almost always accompanies manhood, but it is not the essence of manhood: so that castration makes one a man without testicles but it doesn't make one a non-man.

      Those subtle philosophical underpinnings--especially accident/essence distinctions--have us talking a different language amongst both sides when we say "evil nature" or "wounded nature" because one side thinks denying evil nature is to mean the nature isn't currently acting evily, and the Catholic side takes the affirmation that nature *is* evil to mean that Prots believe that evil is part of its being, as if either God made nature evil or alternatively God made human nature good, but our nature is not the same essence as that of Adam.

      Things get confusing fast when we don't speak the same language.

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    6. I'm so confused....but I've think I'm beginning to see why. I normally don't talk to Calvinists. Baptists is my normal interaction and they have their own flavor of total depravity and OSAS. So using the blanket Protestant as someone pointed out is super confusing as each denom has its own understanding. For example among Baptists some believe in the need for rededication which turns OSAS on its head. I'm just trying to figure out meyu's flavor. And I'm confused. I think we're all talking multi languages. Perhaps defining terms may help.

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  26. There is nothing mysterious or supernatural in the Reformed faith on the planet today. The system cannot work if there is the supernatural and/or metaphysical on this earth today because this doctrine is steeped in scholasticism. Scholastics despise the supernatural/metaphysical. A Reformer cannot comprehend there are metaphysical mysteries on this planet such has how man cooperates with the grace given to God. Cooperation is impossible in their worldview.

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  27. Sproul doesn't like the term irrestible grace and prefers effectual grace. However, his distinction is without a difference. Sproul does not believe that man is freely capable of doing anything when it comes to regeneration leading to faith. In the Reformers world there is no cooperation.

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    1. That's a straw man of monergism. Even the most ardent monergists adhere to the Council of Orange. There is no cooperation from man on our own. That's not the same as there is no cooperation at all.

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    2. Daniel-

      Are you saying that there is no cooperation from man on our own to salvation or sanctification?

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    3. I'm saying such cooperation is preceded and enabled by a prevenient grace that is sometimes efficacious for salvation.

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    4. Daniel -

      Can man cooperate with ordinary grace and be saved? The Catholic viewpoint holds two forms of grace which are ordinary grace and irrestible/supernatural grace. The standard way of cooperating with ordinary grace is to receive the sacraments, pray, fast, acts of self denial, etc. (not works of the law, works of faith that everyone is called to do according to scripture and as part of their baptism). I agree that supernatural grace cannot be resisted (Augustine) or that man would never reject it (Molinist). However, the Reformers believe that man is incapable of being saved unless God bestows upon a person irrestible/supernatural grace. Man has free will to cooperate with ordinary grace.

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    5. I think I'm following you. As long as we aren't saying that God does his 50% and we do our 50%. Instead, it's God first enables us for the maximum amount of what we actually do.

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    6. Daniel -

      I believe we are on the same page. I'm not trying to espouse semi-pelagianism and apologize if my posts seem to imply such position.

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    7. I suspect we are ALL on the same page, just talking past each other. Meyu thinks we're pelagian because when we talk about how we actually have to do stuff, it sounds as if it's not grace enabling us to do the good stuff that we're doing. We think he's advocating some kind of easy-believism where God does the work while we don't experience any of the work being done.

      In truth, I think we all actually believe the same thing. Though I could be wrong.

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  28. Let's all agree to a brief time out and read or re-read the Canons of the Council of Orange, and then proceed. That way we have a common foundation for the discussion.

    http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html?mainframe=http://www.reformed.org/documents/canons_of_orange.html

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  29. Deltaflute,
    You wrote--"People aren't evil by nature. Weak yes. Evil no. God doesn't create evil. We just cooperate with it too much."

    Let me respond with this from Eph 2:1-3--"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."

    Romans 3:
    "9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,

    “There is none righteous, not even one;
    11 There is none who understands,
    There is none who seeks for God;
    12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
    There is none who does good,
    There is not even one.”
    13 “Their throat is an open grave,
    With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
    “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
    14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
    15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
    16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
    17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
    18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    How can you say "People aren't evil by nature. Weak yes. Evil no."?

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    1. Simply really. We are creations of God made in his image. Is God evil? No. Does He create evil? No. He's God. He creates goodness, Truth, and life. Evil in the most basic sense is the absence of good. It is not wanting to do what is right and loving toward God. Why would God create evil if evil means the absence of loving Him? That doesn't make sense. One of the basic teachings of the Baltimore Catechism is that God created humans to love Him. Not that he needed us to love Him, but that was His reason why. Therefore God doesn't create evil humans. We are not evil.

      What the Fall did was wound us. It did not make us evil. There's a big difference. Some Calvinists agree with this. Others do not. It is this wounding that made us weak and susceptible to doing evil. This weakness is called concupiscence. Our actions therefore can be evil, but we are not evil (as in we are not made evil; one could argue that a person's total actions could judge us to be evil but again we are not created as evil beings).

      Angels also are given free will. The big difference between angels and humans (in Catholic theology) is that angels have a different intellect. Once they choose to turn from God they won't turn back. Hence Lucifer and the other fallen angels. Humans until death can flip flop back and forth because our intellect is weaker.

      God allows evil because that is part of free will.

      This may explain it a bit better. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05649a.htm

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    2. Do you believe that God creates evil human beings? Do you believe that God damns people? And if so why? The Biblical references only refer to sin and our propensity to sin. They speak nothing of God creating evil people.

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    3. Meyu,

      Daniel did a good job of answering this below, but I want to sort of reiterate what he said, in case you missed the point. It's fine to say that there are evil men, in the sense that they perform evil deeds, or have committed themselves to evil. But to go further than that - to say that all mankind is evil by nature, as you have done - is to say something obviously heretical.

      Here's why. In the Incarnation, Christ took on our humanity. If "humanity" is inherently evil, then the Incarnation is evil.

      Of course, Hebrews 4:15 says that Christ is like us in all things but sin. But this shows why evil can't be an essential part of our humanity, why it can't be part of what it means to be man.

      Let's use an analogy: an essential attribute of triangles is that they are three-sided. If I said that a certain object was like triangles in all things but three-sidedness, I would be saying that it's not really a triangle. Likewise, if you're right that evil is part of the nature of what it is to be man, then Christ either took on an evil nature (impossible, and denied by Scripture), or took on something other than human nature (in which case, the Cross did nothing for us).

      Both of these are obviously heretical solutions. And both of these solutions fails the test laid out by St. John in 1 John 4:1-3,

      "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already."

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    4. Joe,
      I never said that "all mankind is evil by nature". Here is what I wrote yesterday:

      "meyu February 1, 2014 at 10:58 AM
      Daniel,
      Your right. Sin is not part of the essence of man. It is abnormal. To us, it seems normal because our fallen flesh causes us to sin so much that we think its part of our nature."

      As for Christ, He did not take on fallen human flesh because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary. He had no human father. If He had, then He would have had fallen human flesh that all men inherit from Adam. Jesus is the only sinless human being born after the fall.

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  30. We are evil. We don't keep the law of God. Remember what Peter said to Christ after the miraculous catch of fish? "Depart from me for I am a sinful man. Or read Isaiah 6:5 where Isaiah says in the presence of the Lord "woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips..."

    Sin has corrupted us to the bone. Even our wills are corrupted. We cannot keep the law of God for second without the help of the Holy Spirit.

    All men who are in the world come into it with the sin of Adam. Those who die without Christ will be condemned for their sins.

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    1. I think we need to be extremely precise with our language here.

      Meyu, so-called Total Inability is absolutely compatible with Catholic teaching. It's just the logical corollary of the canons of Orange.

      CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

      CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).


      CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

      BUT we need to be very cautious in how we speak of the corruption of human nature. If we say human nature is evil according to its essence, and we say that Christ had a human nature, then we will speak heresy: saying Christ had an evil human nature. If evilness is intrinsic to human nature's essence, then if you say Christ had something like our human nature, expect His wasn't evil, then you are ascribing to Him a nature not consubstantial with ours.

      The best way to say it is that human nature in essence is good, but has a wound on it inflicted by Adam causing our Total Inability. Christ has a human nature 100% exactly identical to Adam's nature before the fall. The wound on our nature is incidental to what our nature is.

      Catholics are hesitant to use verbiage that sounds like the essence of our nature is evil because of the Christological problems touching Christ's humanity.

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    2. Well said Daniel. Meyu- you still haven't answered my basic questions. Do you think God creates evil people? How do you think that's possible if evil by basic definition is an absence of a thing?

      An analogy. We're taught as youngsters that cold is the opposite of heat. It sounds like cold is a thing, but in reality it's the absence of a thing. Cold is the absence of heat. Scientists are incapable of absolute zero or absolute cold because in order to create it in a lab you'd be inadvertently introducing heat.

      It is the same with evil. It is the absence of good. God is Good. There is nothing about Him that is evil, as Daniel explained. In order for evil acts or moral evil to happen it has to be lacking of goodness and charity. Not helping someone in need is evil for it lacks charity. There's also physical evil like famine. Famine is simply the lack of food. Evil is always the lack.

      By saying that God creates evil, you are in essence saying that Christ's human nature was lacking love for God. We know this to be untrue. You are also saying that God creates humans to not love him, which is again also untrue. God could compel us to love him (and through His Grace he does draw us near) but God created free will or the choice to love Him. It is in the creation of free will that the opposite or rather lack occurs. God didn't create evil but it was the natural outcome of creating free will. Humans or fallen angels create evil (if you can call the creation of the lack of something to be creating at all). We choose to not to love Christ.

      So no God did not create evil human beings. He also does not create evil. He created free will and through it our lack of cooperation is the definition of evil. We are wounded by the Fall making it difficult to love God without the grace of God (as you see in the Old Testament many people were able to Love God without the Holy Spirit around but with great difficulty and often with the help of God.)

      Does this make more sense? Do you believe evil to be defined another way?

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    3. Deltaflute,
      I did answer your questions and you didn't respond to the passages of Scripture that shows the condition of men. That is your answer. Man in his fallen state cannot love God but actually hates God because he is at enmity with God. It is only because of the Spirit of Christ in a man that makes him love God because only God can change the heart.



      Do you know how Jesus defined how a man is to love Him? It is by keeping His commandments that shows you love Him. See John 15:10.

      If men are not evil, then why does God condemn the unsaved? If men are not evil, then why do they break the Law of God?

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    4. I think you're conflating God creating man to be evil with the state of man (his woundedness post-Fall). Because below you said to Daniel that sin (or evil) is not part of the essence of man. And that's what I've been saying all along. God does not create an evil man. It's impossible. We inflicted the wound on ourselves (Adam that is).

      Now you can say man is evil. But then you should read Joe's excellent post on person first language. Because men aren't really evil. We are weak and wounded. And because of this we DO evil. It's a huge and big distinction one of which you seem to agree with below. To Catholics God does not pre-ordain anyone to Hell. We choose Hell. Or rather we choose to reject God (as I said evil is essentially the lack of loving God). A person who has committed evil in the past can likewise choose to love God. And a person who has chosen to love God can also later choose to reject Him. They are still the same person created as God created them. They do not change their essence (which is not evil) only their action. Make sense?

      I get the general impression from you that God is capable of evil in the sense that He is WANTING people to reject Him and therefore send them to Hell. This is unfathomable to Catholics. God calls us all to salvation. Unfortunately, He also knows that some will willingly reject this call.

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    5. If man is not evil but is just "weak and wounded" then how can God be just in condemning men to hell? How is that just?

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    6. meyu -

      Do you believe that man is 100% evil? That fact that someone is weak and wounded does not mean they will not sin.

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    7. A man's actions condemn him. Does a person need to be made 100% evil in order to be condemned? Again are we puppets to be manipulated?

      The way I see it is in essence we are good because God is not going to make us evil. It defeats the purpose of why we are created which is to love and serve the Lord. However rather than making us puppets he allows us the choice to love and serve him (free will). We have a couple of things going against us to fulfill our mission 1)the woundedness from the Fall that left us weak and 2) temptations by the Devil who wishes all to turn from God. God's Grace is sufficient enough to help us overcome these things, but we have to actively participate with it. In other words we must avoid sin. Sin is what condemns you. It's not because we are created evil because well...we're not. It's because we DO evil.

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    8. Deltaflute,
      The fall did not make us wounded and weak but rather killed us. Adam and Eve died when they committed that first sin. Eph 2:1-3 goes far beyond the idea that we are just wounded and weak.

      Until a man is in Christ he is a slave to sin. He cannot stop sinning.

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    9. Huh? No where in Genesis does it say that Adam and Eve died. They were cast out of Eden. But they didn't die. They eventually die and they felt the sting of choosing to disobey God. Genesis talks about the consequences of disobedience, but you seem to be implying that they keeled over and died after they disobeyed rather than were simply cast out.

      To quote Ephesians "when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you walked." This is a metaphor. You are not literally dead when you commit sin.

      It all goes back to what I've said before. There is a vast difference between DOING evil/sin versus BEING evil and full of sin. You don't seem to delineate between the two. You interpret the passage to mean that all men are sinful and evil. Whereas I interpret the passage to mean that people who commit sin are trapped in their sin and saved by God's grace. My interpretation has nothing to do with how God created us. In Genesis it specifically says that God created everything and saw that it was good. Are you saying that God changed his mind about how He created Man? Are you saying that Adam and Eve changed their very essence and how they were created? And if so, is that even possible?

      I guess I view the soul as being like the body. You cannot really change how you are physically. You can try but at your essence you are who you are. You can however inflict wounds on yourself like tattoos or something. It is like that with the soul. God creates our souls. There is nothing we can do to change this. We can and have inflicted a wound on our soul. But this doesn't change what our soul is. To me it's completely illogical to think that we have the ability to change the goodness, the call to Love the Lord, that is instilled in us from God.

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    10. Deltaflute,
      Here is what Gen 2:16 says about sin and death--"16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Death is separation. 1st they were immediately separated from God in spirit and ultimately they died a physical death.

      All men outside of Christ are dead in their trespasses and sins. This is speaking of spiritual death with physical death that will soon follow.

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    11. meyu- From the CCC-

      405- Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

      419- "We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature..."

      410- After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium ("first gospel"): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.

      Sorry. Don't believe that God ever abandoned us as you seem to imply when you say "they were immediately separated from God in spirit." I'm guessing that you believe that God has also predestined some people to damnation. This is something the Church doesn't agree with as we believe that salvation is for all. Nor do I believe that men are at their essence created evil as I previously defined it (in other words I don't think God created us NOT to Love Him).

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    12. Deltaflute,
      Why didn't you deal with Gen 2:17? When they ate the fruit, they died.

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    13. Sorry thought I had. I suppose I should ask if you are a fundamentalist? Do you take Genesis literally? I don't suppose you do because what Genesis talks about is death and you take that to mean symbolically as the death of the soul whereas the Church takes it to mean the Fall from original holiness and justice as I state above. But if you want a more specific take....

      CCC 396- God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" spells this out: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die." The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.

      Also from the CCC: How to read the account of the fall

      390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

      In other words, when they took the fruit and ate it they didn't literally die. Their souls did not separate from their bodies. They weren't physically wounded either. You say their souls separated. I'm not sure what that means exactly. I say they were inflicted or wounded. Much like cancer rides on a healthy organism we are born with souls that are in essence good but marred by original sin.

      Catholics are not fundamentalists. Our interpretation of Genesis is not literal as I explained.

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    14. Deltaflute,
      I take Scripture in how the original authors intended it to be taken. Not to take Genesis in a historical manner creates all kinds of problems for those who do not. If the fall did not take place in a historical context then that means its false and has no grounding in reality. It means Jesus and Paul were lying when they reference Adam and Eve because if they were not historical then they did not exist. Its a myth.

      It is an incoherent statement for your catechism to say "The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man." You can't have something be figurative and yet claim it actually "took place at the beginning of the history of man."

      You misunderstand how the word "death-die" is used in Scripture. It does mean to separate. The moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit they were separated from God. That is, they died right then in their relation to God.

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    15. Meyu,

      I agree with you that Scripture should be taken in the manner that the original authors (including Our Lord) intended. But I disagree with your contentions that if Genesis uses figurative language, (1) it's a myth, (2) it's false, and (3) our Lord and St. Paul were liars. I also don't see you providing any actual support for any of these assertions.

      In any case, they seem to me to be demonstrably false. In Exodus 19:4, God says, "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself."

      According to you, we must either conclude that God literally brought the exodus about by using an eagle (like something out of Lord of the Rings), or else the exodus didn't really happen, and God is a liar. Do you see how both of those options are absurd?

      If you want to hold that the events of Genesis 1-3 are using non-figurative language, that's fine. But when you demand that all Christians must do so (and claim that they're making liars of Jesus and Paul if they don't agree with your interpretation), that's much too far. You don't have the authority to make those sorts of pronouncements on Scripture, and they're well past what your arguments prove.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    16. Joe,
      Here is what figurative means "used with a meaning that is different from the basic meaning and that expresses an idea in an interesting way by using language that usually describes something else : not literal". http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/figurative

      How could Genesis be historical if its figurative?

      It would true that it would make Jesus and Paul liars if Genesis is not historical. Jesus bases marriage on a historical Adam and Eve in Genesis. Paul refers to Eve being deceived by the serpent in the garden in 2 Cor 11:3. There is no hint in these passages that they thought Genesis is not historical. If Genesis is myth then the foundations of the Christian faith are undermined.



      Exodus 19:4 is an example of figurative language of what God did historically.

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    17. Joe I and the CCC both said figurative language. Nobody said Gen was a myth. In fact my quotes say it was indeed an event. Gen is historical but we dont adopt it to be literal. As you point out Adam and Eve were cast out they did not literally die as in their soul separated from their body.

      Either they did die when they ate the fruit or its a figure of speech. We both agree it was a figure of speech but disagree on what it actually meant.

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    18. Meyu,

      In one in the same comment, you said:

      "How could Genesis be historical if its figurative?"

      and

      "Exodus 19:4 is an example of figurative language of what God did historically. "

      Your second comment shows that historical events can be described in figurative language. You affirm that's the case with parts of the Book of Exodus, but seem to claim that it's impossible for that to be the case for the first part of the Book of Genesis. You're giving no reason, and it seems like a totally arbitrary double standard.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    19. Deltaflute, Joe,

      Ok. Let's try this. Did 2 people called Adam and Eve really exist? Were they directly created by God in a garden?

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    20. Meyu,

      Yes, Adam and Eve refer to historical individuals.

      I actually meant to get back with you about this earlier, because you mentioned that you'd encountered a "strong RC" who said that Genesis was a myth. I don't know if that's a fair characterization of his position (it sounds like you sort of paint anyone who disagrees with your interpretation of Genesis as denying its historicity, at least based on your mischaracterization of Deltaflute and my own position in this thread), but if it it, he's contradicting the Church.

      If you want something to sink your teeth into (and to your great credit, you seem to do a lot of reading), I recommended Humani Generis, which deals with Genesis and evolution. Key line, relevant to this discussion:

      "For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.[12]"

      I.X.,

      Joe

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    21. If you're an auditory learner like me I dug around and found a video. Part of it discusses the differences between a fundamentalist view and a Catholic view. The later half reconciles this with science. I'm not sure why he air quotes. Perhaps it has something to do with the video being in response to another video.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwlNlFNT6oc

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  31. Daniel,
    Your right. Sin is not part of the essence of man. It is abnormal. To us, it seems normal because our fallen flesh causes us to sin so much that we think its part of our nature.

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  32. Daniel,
    One of the best passages on sin in us is found in Romans 7:14-24:
    "14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

    21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?


    25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."

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    1. Meyu, bringing the discussion back to OSAS, in your theory of soteriology, is it possible that in Joe's example of Charles Templeton that if Templeton had died in 1950 he would have gone to Heaven, but because of his beliefs in 2001 when he actually died, he actually went to Hell?

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  33. Daniel,
    i don't think he would have. Notice what I John 2:19 says: "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us."

    Notice what John said -"but they were not really of us". Applying this to Templeton it appears he was not really in the faith.

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    1. Meyu,

      I see that verse get bandied about quite a bit in these discussions, but it seems like a serious abuse of the text. I answered it above:

      I know the verse that you're referring to: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). An awful lot of weight is placed on this sentence by proponents of OSAS.

      But John is talking about specific individuals, who he dubs "many antichrists." He's saying that this is the reason that they left (they were never really Christians). He's not saying that this is the reason anyone leaves. In terms of logic, we would say that you can't move from "some X are Y" (some ex-followers are disingenuous) to "all X are Y."

      To take a silly example: in Genesis 3:10, Adam says to God, “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” If we abused Genesis 3:10 the way that 1 John 2:19 is abused by OSAS proponents, we would have to conclude that anyone who runs from God is naked. Obviously, a ridiculous conclusion.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  34. Joe,
    That verse certainly does show how we can determine if a person is truly what they say they are. The context certainly supports the idea that one of the ways we can determine if a person is Christian is if they persevere in the faith. Gen 3:10 is irrelevant to the subject matter because that verse is about something else entirely. That verse is in the context of one of the results of the sin of Adam who for the first time its recorded he felt fear of God.

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    1. How do you justify the huge logical leap from "many antichrists ... went out from us, but they were not of us" to "everyone who goes out from us must not be of us"?

      The analogy from Genesis 3:10 is just that: an analogy. A specific group of people (Adam and Eve) fled God because they were naked. But it would be absurd to universalize that to claim that what is true of this specific group of people is therefore true of all who flee God. But that same universalizing of a specific text is exactly what you're doing in 1 John 4:10.

      I.X.,

      Joe

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  35. What is an antichrist?

    Since perseverance is a sign of true faith then there is a principle in I John 1:2:19 that can be used as a test to determine who is saved or not. John 6:59-71 is an example of I John 2:19.

    It is usually true that when people sin they want to hide from God (Gen 3:10). In that sense it is a universal principle.

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  36. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01559a.htm- Article on anti-Christs. Most basic definition is that they are false Christs or false prophets. This is different than the men who commit sins not claiming to be Christ or a prophet.

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  37. Usually after 200 comments blogger makes you hit load. This is comment 200.

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