Catholic vs. Protestant framing

I am fascinated by how Catholics and Protestants approach issues differently.  Usually, it’s not a disagreement that separates us–C believes A while P believes ~A–so much as that we are preoccupied by different issues.  Below are what strike me as the major two cases.  I would be grateful if my Protestant readers could help me out with making sure I’m understanding their position properly.

For Protestants, my impression is that the “assurance of salvation” is a big issue:  how can I know that I’m saved?  It usually doesn’t even strike Catholics that such a thing could be possible.  My salvation depends on my future decisions, so I won’t find out until I’m dead.  For Protestants, the main issue is not whether one can assure oneself, but where one looks.  They are very concerned that a Christian will look into himself and imagine he sees something that deserves salvation, so that God will be compelled to let him into heaven.  He has some coin, some currency–good works, holiness, whatever–that God must accept, and his faith is not ultimately in God but in this currency.  They call this “works righteousness”, and they are sure that Catholics (and many of their own number) are guilty of it.  Catholics think it bizarre to hear that their prayers and devotions are “works righteousness”, but we often don’t understand what we’re being accused of.  We think the Protestants are accusing us of Pelagianism, and we know how to defend against that charge.  “Meritorious righteousness comes from unmerited grace”, we say, so we are not Pelagian at all.  The Protestant is not reassured:  “What does it matter that God gave you the coin?  What matters is that you clutch at it for salvation rather than at Him.”  Nor does he think us better if we say that these devotions are not payment to God but ways of conforming our soul to Him:  “How much worse!   Boasting of your soul is even grosser pride than boasting of your deeds!”  In fact, I do think the Protestant misjudges us.  A Catholic cannot fall into works righteousness as long as he’s not actually looking for an assurance of salvation.  The latter is largely a Protestant preoccupation.  Not that Catholics don’t worry about going to hell (although we don’t worry as much as we should), but we don’t imagine that there’s any cure for this fear this side of the grave.  Nor is grace for us something apart from God, something we can wave in His face and make demands with, but His presence in us.

The Catholic has his own preoccupation:  “extrinsicalism”.  His theology divides being into two orders, nature and grace, each with a sort of integrity of its own, and his problem is to show how the two are related.  His fear, the way the Protestant fears works righteousness, is that Christians will come to see them as unrelated.  They will think of the world as able to get along just fine without God (except as Creator); He will appear only as a sort of cosmic cop who doles out to criminals an extra dose of punishment after death.  Heaven forbid we see things this way!  To avoid this impious conclusion, we must see nature as somehow pointing to something outside itself, as needing something outside itself for its completion.  The Thomists point to the Analogy of Being to and natural law (placing man’s telos in God), while Nouvelle Theologie types point to the natural desire for God.  To Protestants like Barth, this is all blasphemy; it makes the soul seem fitted for God in some sense, which forgets His radical “otherness”.  But here we see not so much clashing beliefs but clashing preoccupations.  For the Protestant, the danger is that God might seem too close, so that we might make claims on Him; for the Catholic, the danger is that God might seem too far, so that our relationship to Him seems like something externally imposed, rather than an exigency of our innermost being.

Of course, we Catholics accuse the Protestant of what we fear falling into ourselves.  Luther’s account of justification is “extrinsic”, “legalistic” even.  “Snow covering a dung heap”, no inner penetration.  The boxes labeled “nature” and “grace” aren’t touching each other.  But that’s not fair, because Protestants don’t believe in a box labeled “nature”; at least they don’t believe in a nature with any internal integrity.  For Catholics, the Protestant doctrine of Total Depravity seems to complete the cutting of the knot between God and man that we Catholics are so anxious to reinforce.  To the Protestant, it removes the problem altogether.  If unredeemed man is and can do nothing but evil, of course we need God.

38 Responses

  1. A thoughtful post, bonald, thank you. In response, here are some reflections on the way Roman Catholics and Protestants perceive each other, and an explanation of the importance of assurance of salvation in Protestant theology:

    Jesus told His disciples a story about two men who went to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other was a tax collector (then, as now, among the most hated of evil-doers). The Pharisee thanked God that he was different from other men, like extortioners, adulterers, and tax collectors, that he tithed and fasted regularly. The tax collector beast his breast and asked God to have mercy upon a sinner like him. The latter, Jesus said, went home justified and not the former.

    The Protestant, hearing the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, hears the Pharisee in this parable. The Pharisee is not a Pelagian. He believes in the grace of God. He gives God the credit for his own righteousness. It is God, Who made him different from others, and he thanks Him for it. But the righteousness he thanks God for, consists in who he is, and what he has done.

    The Roman Catholic, hearing the Protestant doctrine of justification, imagines the tax collector walking away from this incident, completely unchanged by his having humbled himself, asked for, and received God’s mercy, and indulging in his old ways, using God’s mercy as an excuse to continue in sin.

    The Roman Catholic says that St. Paul taught “justification by faith” but not “justification by faith alone”.

    The Protestant responds that “justification by faith alone” does not mean “justification by faith apart from grace, mercy, and Jesus Christ and His atonement” but “justification by faith apart from works”, the sola in sola fide means “apart from works” and this is exactly what St. Paul taught in his epistle to the Roman Church.

    To this the Roman Catholic says “St. Paul in Romans excluded works of the law as a basis for justification, not works of love which are necessary”.

    The Protestant answer is that “the fundamental difference between works of the law and works of Christian love is eliminated if the latter are made to be part of the means whereby a man gains acceptance in the sight of God”. Works of the law are works a man does with the end in mind of obtaining God’s acceptance. Works of Christian love are works a man does out of love for God not in order to obtain something from God for himself. For these kind of works to be possible, the Protestant insists, the question of man’s acceptance by God must be settled, or everything a man does to please God will be done with the motive of winning God’s acceptance for himself.

    God, in Christ, has lovingly given us a Saviour Who makes us completely acceptable to God by the merits of His sufferings, passion and death when we simply trust in Him. When we so trust Him, we trust Him to be that Saviour to us, an attitude which is not consistent with thinking “I’m not sure, but hopefully God will accept me in the end”. Trusting Christ to have taken care of the matter of our acceptance with God for us out of His love, does not license us to sin, but frees us do works pleasing to God, because they are motivated by love for Him which is unmixed with our own selfish motives. Not that Christian love for God starts out unmixed. Trust in Christ is to be a lifelong attitude towards Christ, not a one-time event, a faith which grows and the more it grows the purer our love for God becomes.

  2. Bonald, you said “My salvation depends on my future decisions, so I won’t find out until I’m dead.”

    I’m curious: exactly what, in your view, determines whether you will be saved?

  3. For the Catholics, salvation is a gift from the Christ conferred via the Church and its Sacraments. Just do what the church says and it will get you there. You do not need to think or understand anything – just do what the Priest says.
    For the Lutherans, salvation depends on really, really believing the Right Things. All that matters is what you think and understand.
    For the Calvanists – none of these other things matter. The whole question of salvation is out of our hands and beyond our pay-grade.
    The only remaining question is this: How would the people of God reveal themselves in this radically fallen, abysmally darkened world?
    They would live as if every aspect of their lives should exhibit holiness.
    They would engage with the world in honourable business and/or war and they would win or die trying. Because everything in life matters absolutely.
    They would experience getting rich and/or winning wars as a kind of warm and fuzzy glow of divine affirmation.

  4. The Catholic doctrine on Final Perseverance is perfectly summarised by Berti (one of the Later Augustinians), commenting on St Paul’s “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is producing in you both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him (Phil 2:12-13)” “Saints persevere to the end, “ says Berti, “not because they cannot fall, for they may, but because God upholds them; there is nothing in the saint that makes his salvation certain; nevertheless, God has decreed he shall not perish.”

    The cardinal error of the Reformers, in which they were followed by some Catholics, like Baius and Jansen (both of whom died in the peace of the Church) was to suppose that the Beatific Vision was the natural end of Man. From this it was an easy step to concluding that the Fall involved, not merely the loss of supernatural endowments, but a depravity of human nature – the loss of something that belonged to it intrinsically. In other words, they believed the Fall produced a corruption of human nature, rather than the loss of its supernatural elevation.

  5. I would still like to know Bonald’s answer to the question I asked before I give the Protestant view.

  6. Gerry and Alan,

    I’m glad you guys are here, because I’d like to get my mind around this “assurance of salvation” thing. Let me say more about why it perplexes me.

    I assume we all three believe in at least a weak form of predestination and reprobation: some of us are going to heaven, some to hell, and God knew where each of us was going when He created us. I also assume that none of us are universalists, in that the New Testament seems pretty clear that the number in each category is not zero. Finally, I presume that we all accept, on overwhelming New Testament evidence, that there is some sort of connection between unrepentant sinning and damnation.

    Consider any two of your friends. Can you infallibly tell me that one of them is predestined to glory, and the other reprobate, or that both are predestined, or both reprobate? I don’t see how you could do this without knowing the future. This is true whether you choose to emphasize the role of free will or of grace. We all know of cases where notorious sinners have repented and reformed and cases where seemingly good men have fallen into sin and apostasy. One certainly can’t trust in the current virtue of one’s friends, at least not infallibly. What about God’s promises of help? Surely we can trust those? Yes, but those promises were made to everyone, but not everyone is saved. How can we know in which particular person God’s work will prove effective? Again, it doesn’t matter whether you stress God’s initiative or man’s. (I’m going to dodge answering Alan’s question.) Whatever combination produces salvation doesn’t work on everyone.

    Now, I claim the case is no different when we consider ourselves. I have no special knowledge of myself. God has made no promise to me that He hasn’t made to all Christians, many of whom are damned. I have received no special revelation. It would seem to be rank presumption to assume that of the few who are chosen, I am necessarily one of them.

  7. By embracing predestination so unambiguously, Calvinism could be read (between the lines) as saying we should not waste time thinking about such riddles as free will vs divine power or the eternal reward/punishment for our feeble,human scaled actions.
    I know that this attitude does not bear any resemblance to what J. Calvin actually wrote, but perhaps G d had a use for him even so.

  8. Hi bonald,

    Your argument is reasonable but it runs up against revelation. St. John stated explicitly in his first epistle that believers in Christ can know that they have everlasting life.

    Protestants do not all agree about the nature of assurance of salvation. I agree with the early Reformers on the subject, that assurance of salvation is not a self-confident believe that “I” will do or continue to do something in the future, but a trust in the unchanging reliability of God, the sufficiency of Christ and His Atonement for our sins, and the truth of God’s promises to the believer in the Gospel. God promises us more than help. He promises us everlasting life as a free gift in Christ. It is true that those promises aren’t addressed to everybody but they are addressed to all who believe. “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”, “he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life” to cite two of many such examples in St. John’s Gospel. These Gospel promises are an invitation for us to trust the Christ Who made the promises to keep the promises to us personally. That is what assurance of salvation is all about.

    Some Protestants think it is all about a past experience. I “accepted Christ”, “asked Jesus to come into my heart”, “gave my life (or heart) to the Lord” and now “I’m in”. This is not orthodox Protestant doctrine however. Dr. Luther would have been appalled by it as would John Calvin. It makes the object of one’s faith one’s conversion experience rather than God in Christ, His all-sufficient sacrifice, and His promises to the believer. True conversion, in orthodox Protestant doctrine is when a sinner, awakened to his sinfulness and need of Christ, begins to trust in the mercy and grace of God, extended to him in Christ, through the promises of the Gospel. Assurance of salvation is not subsequent reflection upon that experience but rather a continuation of the experience by continuing to trust Christ.

    It is not about what I did at one moment in my life. Nor is it about what I did over the course of my whole life looked at as a whole at the very end. It is about Who God is and what He has done for me in Christ and promised in His Holy Gospel.

  9. Hi Gerry,

    Thanks for helping me out with this. So is the Protestant claim that we know for certain that everyone who has been baptized a Christian will go to heaven, even unrepentant sinners and apostates?

  10. Bonald,

    You say that you want to discuss assurance of salvation, and also that you’ll dodge my question (“What, in your view, determines whether an individual will be saved?”) But since “assurance of salvation” means “knowing you’ll be saved,” one cannot dodge the question. So here goes:

    [Technically, what follows is the Protestant answer. As a Calvinist Protestant, I say it is the correct answer.]

    The Bible gives a clear answer to the questions “What must I do to be saved?” and “Who will be saved?” The biblical answers are, respectively, “Repent and have faith in Christ,” and “Whoever continues to have faith in Christ.” (It should be added that the faith that saves consists of knowledge of Christ and His teaching, assent to these truths, and trust that Christ will save you.) Being a member of a true church is important, but not decisive. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

    But some who appear to be Christians later reject the faith, and some who appear to be lost later gain saving faith. So where is the assurance?

    Regarding those who appear to have saving faith but later apostasize, the biblical answer is that they never had faith. See1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” And John 6:37 records Jesus saying “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Therefore anyone who rejects the faith—and is therefore “cast out”—never really came to Christ in the first place.

    You asked “So is the Protestant claim that we know for certain that everyone who has been baptized a Christian will go to heaven, even unrepentant sinners and apostates?” The answer is: Certainly not! Only those with saving faith in Christ go to Heaven.

    This means that even a person who has a strong sense of faith in Christ could conceivably reject the faith later, revealing himself to have been an unbeliever all along. To the one who is troubled by this possibility, the best answer is the biblical one: Whoever has faith in Christ will be saved.

    This is where predestination enters the picture. The New Testament repeatedly says (see, e.g., Ephesians 1:3—5) that God predestined those who would be saved, and therefore those who would not. Therefore whomever God wants to save, remains saved.

    But the knowledge of who is saved is not available to man. We cannot know is saved and who is not. So we must proclaim the Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone to whomever will hear it, and those who have been predestined to eternal life will eventually respond, as God gives them the faith to be saved. See, e.g, Ephesians 2:8, 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” And note that the “it” that is the gift of God includes the faith that saves.

    The assurance, then, is this: that God will save all whom He intends to save, and that all who have faith in Christ as their Savior will be saved, because faith in Christ is the necessary means by which God saves.

  11. It seem to me that you are using the word “belief” to describe both the subjective awareness of conviction that a proposition is true and the objective truth of the proposition. In normal usage a belief is a thing that can turn out to have been mistaken, but discovering that the belief was mistaken never results in an assertion that the belief itself never existed. In this case, it seems to me that you’re using the word belief in two senses. In the first sense, belief=assurance. In the second sense, belief=saving faith. I think we could avoid a great deal of confusion if we used two different words, instead of one word in two senses. People who fall away from Christ were mistaken in their belief (sense 1: assurance) that they had belief (sense 2: saving faith). Belief (sense 1) certainly existed; belief (sense 2) never did.

    As I’ve said in earlier threads, I have a good deal of respect for Reformed theology, but I cannot reconcile it with the manifest fact of terrestrial life. If what it claims is true, why does God put us through a life on earth? And if it’s just a sort of waiting room where we sit thumbing through old magazines and hoping to be called through the door marked Heaven, why does it seem to be a test? If I were a Protestant, this phenomenology of human life would make me an Arminian.

  12. Hi Alan,

    Thanks for your reply, which clears things up a little for me. It seems, though, that on your telling I *cannot* be assured of my salvation, because there’s no way for me to know if my faith is real faith. If you agree, then perhaps I don’t have any problem with the Protestant claim after all, because it just amounts to belief in predestination. I still don’t see how it’s supposed to “assure” me, though.

    By the way, I also have a lot of respect for Protestant–especially Calvinist–theology. It seems to me quite profound and to-the-point on a lot of issues, which is why I assume when there’s something like this that doesn’t make sense to me that I’m not understanding it correctly.

  13. Hi bonald,

    You asked “So is the Protestant claim that we know for certain that everyone who has been baptized a Christian will go to heaven, even unrepentant sinners and apostates?”. I know of no Protestant group that would make that claim. There are some Protestants who hold that once a sinner has placed his faith in Jesus Christ he can never return to a state of being lost. Such Protestants would rarely say that this applies to everyone who has been baptized a Christian. They would say that it applies to those who have believed in their hearts, whether they have gone through the external ritual or not, and that there is no guarantee that those who have been baptized will go to heaven unless they also believe in their hearts. Others maintain that believers who apostasize will be lost. Others add “or don’t repent of their sins”. Others maintain that apostasy and/or unrepentant persistence in sin indicate a lack of genuine faith.

    I look at it somewhat differently from each of these positions. What I see in the New Testament is that God has given us in Christ an all-sufficient Savior, Who accomplished for us an all-sufficient salvation, to which we need add nothing. The full benefit of what Christ has done for us is promised to all who put their trust in Him. The promises of the Gospel are not addressed to those who “don’t believe now, but can look back to a time when they did”. Someone in that position therefore cannot reason their way to anything but a false hope by looking back to a faith they no longer possess. The person who does trust Christ at the present moment can claim all of the promises in the Gospel for himself. Whether or not the person who apostasizes loses their salvation, demonstrates that their faith was never genuine to begin with, or remains saved, the only assurance God gives is in Christ is to the person who trusts Christ in the present. We lose God’s assuring promises to us if we stop believing whether or not we also lose our actual salvation. Thus assurance of salvation is itself a motivation to persevere in the faith.

  14. Bonald,

    The Protestant answer, including predestination, gives us assurance because salvation is ultimately God’s work, not our work. We don’t have “assurance” in the sense of 100% certainty that we will not apostatize, but we do have as much assurance as is possible: if we have faith, which is a gift of God, then God will save us

  15. Alan,

    Okay, this last restatement sounds reasonable to me: “We don’t have “assurance” in the sense of 100% certainty that we will not apostatize, but we do have as much assurance as is possible: if we have faith, which is a gift of God, then God will save us.” Salvation comes from faith, and faith is a gift of God; St. Paul is quite clear about that.


    Thanks for giving me an overview of the different Protestant positions. If I understand your last point, it’s about psychological reassurance: even if apostates don’t lose their salvation, they lose the comfort of knowing that they will be saved. No doubt that’s true–the gospel is Good News, although of course no one can choose to believe it just for this reason. It’s said that people choose beliefs based on wish-fulfillment, but my impression is that we just as often are drawn to the possibilities that most frighten us. Whatever captures our imaginations, good or bad, we take to be true. Perhaps Christianity just sounds too good to be true for a lot of people.

  16. Haha! Very interesting in an academic sense. I can tell some folks have spent way too much time on apologetics sites. i love the way some can actually recreate the logical flow of Catholic vs. Protestant discussions that occur. 😉

    Applaud everyone for trying, but I think your conversation is sadly limited to 5% of C and Ps. The average christian is merely culturally c or p. I think I can speak for some priests who would be more than happy to have congregants profess as Protestants if it meant they knew half as much as those who have commented on here!!

    The Christian faith cannot be reduced to theology. Surely there’s a place, just as there’s a need for the runway models in Milan who have a lampshade for a dress. The farmer’s wife in Nebraska has no idea what it means and laughs at the photos, but she’ll gladly run to Macys and pick up the pencil waist dress thats suddenly all the rage.

    I think the general tone goes too deep for the real differences. Protestants, depending on the pedigree and strain, are Catholic-light. Love it or hate it, the Church is the Church established by Christ and the cradle of christian thought and life up until the Reformation. Was this a reformation back to the early fathers? No. A rejection of very real abuses with a few neuroses and doubts against doctrine thrown in. erasmus said as much but didnt go as far, seeing the horror that would come from working outside the protection of the Holy Spirit.

    this argument treats c and p as theological equivalent… As though each contains Truth but fails to recognize it in the other. relativity…er, ecumenical dialouge at best. Wrong. One is right,the other in error. A child can’t break away from its parents instruction, rejects precepts it was taught, and then claim to have the inside edge on what Grandpappy originally set forth. in that case, we wouldnt question theparents authenticity and stancec we’d say: ” how much does this child and their decendants waver from the precepts set down by the original parents?”

    Therefore, it seems easier to say, doctrine has always held this to be Truth, how or why does this Protestant choose to reject this idea? Half the time, I find the disagreement is in the fancy schmancy terminology and not in the doctrine.

    If you’re a thinking Protestant, you reject the church becuase one, two, or a few doctrinal ideas just dont sit right with you. There’s few few intellectual protestants who reject all catholic doctrine since they recognize it would undo the very arguments of their own protestant lineage and forefathers. But theres usually just one or two things (mary, contraception, the Eucharist) they just arent willi.g to submit on since it will be a condemnation of a particular sin or intellectual pacifier. they shouldnt feel too bad or lonely, half of those who profess to be catholic are in the same boat.

    The hardest nuts to crack are the independents. “ independent baptist”. Essentially a hodge podge of whatever mini pope or church leader they feel at home with. Theyll take credit for Truths that have resided in Catholicism since day one, but theres no need for arguing on other topics because all roads lead back to their pastor who is right, but the pastor can’t tell you why he’s right and the others are wrong, but he can tell you the Bible supports His (or cough..her) rejection…i meanc interpretation.

    Anyhow, best thing for a Protestant is to focus on who had the authority to develop the very Bible they point to, and then question if the Church has the infallible authority to edit and compile the Bible, then how did it lose it’s authority in other matters?

    Stop fighting, submit to God’s authority, and start lovin’. lifes way too short and we need to get back to work 😉

  17. P.s. apologize for bad typing and syntax from using a driod and poor lighting on the toilet. isaiah, if you read this, Great beer, last night. You DO realize if you finally become catholic, it tastes evdn ten times better and you suddenly can speak German?!

  18. Bonald Pete and everyone…

    I think Pete’s right about the 5%. I’ve lost time dealing with people who think they are “Catholic” and then come up with some trash that ain’t Christian by any stretch. And when my Catholic friends correct them — with good reasons (and this Calvinist backing them) there is “I was taught this @ Church”.

    What are we teaching? I’ve had young intelligent people like Svar say they don’t understand systematic theology. Yet… almost all the systematic theologies use as a framework the creeds and the cathecisms.

    How we have fallen. Calvin’s handbook (the Institutes) was designed for the lay person. And this confronts the church — we (all of us) give out baby food when people crave true bread and meat.

  19. Pete,

    “I think the general tone goes too deep for the real differences. Protestants, depending on the pedigree and strain, are Catholic-light. Love it or hate it, the Church is the Church established by Christ and the cradle of christian thought and life up until the Reformation. Was this a reformation back to the early fathers? No. A rejection of very real abuses with a few neuroses and doubts against doctrine thrown in.”

    Above, you have a very non-historical view of the differences between the Catholic and Protestant churches.

    I will start with the historical end and work my way up to Bonald’s original question. The reformation was started over the course of the 16th century. The first thing you need to realize is that there are actually two parts to the Roman Catholic system. There is the Vatican and then there are the individual diocese that would constitute main body of the church. The latter mentioned being subservient to the former. Unfortunately, what many of the reformers were attempting to do was reform the Vatican and it’s pagan inspirations and letting the changes in doctrine filter down to the individual churches themselves.
    Read “History of the Reformation of the 16th century” for more information on this topic.

    For reference, here are some quotes from the reformers themselves about what they believed the Vatican and it’s system to be:

    Martin Luther (1483-1546) (Lutheran)
    “We here are of the conviction that the papacy is the seat of the true and real Antichrist…personally I declare that I owe the Pope no other obedience than that to Antichrist.”
    (Aug. 18, 1520) Taken from The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. 2., pg. 121 by Froom.
    (In response to a papal bull [official decree]): “I despise and attack it, as impious, false… It is Christ Himself who is condemned therein… I rejoice in having to bear such ills for the best of causes. Already I feel greater liberty in my heart; for at last I know that the pope is antichrist, and that his throne is that of Satan himself.” –D’Aubigné, b.6, ch. 9.

    John Calvin (1509-1564) (Presbyterian)
    “Some persons think us too severe and censorious when we call the Roman pontiff Antichrist. But those who are of this opinion do not consider that they bring the same charge of presumption against Paul himself, after whom we speak and whose language we adopt… I shall briefly show that (Paul’s words in II Thess. 2) are not capable of any other interpretation than that which applies them to the Papacy.”
    Taken from Institutes by John Calvin.

    Cotton Mather (1663-1728) (Congregational Theologian)
    “The oracles of God foretold the rising of an Antichrist in the Christian Church: and in the Pope of Rome, all the characteristics of that Antichrist are so marvelously answered that if any who read the Scriptures do not see it, there is a marvelous blindness upon them.”
    Taken from The Fall of Babylon by Cotton Mather in Froom’s book, The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. 3, pg. 113.

    John Knox (1505-1572) (Scotch Presbyterian)
    Knox wrote to abolish “that tyranny which the pope himself has for so many ages exercised over the church” and that the pope should be recognized as “the very antichrist, and son of perdition, of whom Paul speaks.”
    Taken from The Zurich Letters, pg. 199 by John Knox.

    Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) (Anglican)
    “Whereof it followeth Rome to be the seat of antichrist, and the pope to be very antichrist himself. I could prove the same by many other scriptures, old writers, and strong reasons.” (Referring to prophecies in Revelation and Daniel.)
    Taken from Works by Cranmer, Vol. 1, pp. 6-7.

    John Wesley (1703-1791) (Methodist)
    Speaking of the Papacy he said, “He is in an emphatical sense, the Man of Sin, as he increases all manner of sin above measure. And he is, too, properly styled the Son of Perdition, as he has caused the death of numberless multitudes, both of his opposers and followers… He it is…that exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped…claiming the highest power, and highest honour…claiming the prerogatives which belong to God alone.”
    Taken from Antichrist and His Ten Kingdoms by John Wesley, pg. 110.

    Roger Williams (1603-1683) (First Baptist Pastor in America)
    He spoke of the Pope as “the pretended Vicar of Christ on earth, who sits as God over the Temple of God, exalting himself not only above all that is called God, but over the souls and consciences of all his vassals, yea over the Spirit of Christ, over the Holy Spirit, yea, and God himself…speaking against the God of heaven, thinking to change times and laws; but he is the son of perdition (II Thess. 2).”
    Taken from The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers by Froom, Vol. 3, pg. 52.

    With a unanimous voice, the reformers were of the opinion of the spiritual debaseness of the Vatican. With this in mind, you now know why we are called Protestants. We stand in Protest to the Catholic church and it’s clearly errant teachings.

    As for Bonald, I offer you this in light of your question on salvation. You ask how can a man know if he is saved, and if so, where does that salvation come from. This is known among Catholics as the doctrine of Immaculate Conception:

    According to Catholics, Mary (not Jesus) was without sin and thus Jesus was not born into the same sinful flesh that we have but into a different flesh that was without sin.

    The bible teaches something different.

    1Jn 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

    Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
    Heb 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
    Heb 2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
    Heb 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
    Heb 2:18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

    Jesus clearly came in the flesh and was tempted just as we were. In this, the Roman Catholic church is clearly wrong and the clear teachings of scripture take precedence over tradition.

  20. Pete and Joseph are both partially right. The original reformers wanted a more uncompromising, not less, Christianity. That was more or less reversed in the nineteenth century with the rise of liberal Protestantism, which saw itself as more “moderate” and “modern” than Roman Catholicism.

    Joseph, I don’t quite follow your point about the Immaculate Conception. According to this doctrine, Mary was in a state of grace from the moment of her conception. She and Christ Himself certainly experienced temptation, as this is possible even for unfallen man (as we see in the cases of Adam and Eve). No Catholic would claim that Mary or Jesus had a different kind of “flesh”, whatever you mean by that. In any event, I don’t see what it has to do with the Protestant doctrine of assurance of salvation.

  21. Bonald,

    For the sake of brevity I left much out letting you fill in the blanks. But I will go into it here. By different type of flesh, I refer to fallen and un-fallen. Let’s go back to verse 14:

    Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same;

    So whatever flesh Mary had, Jesus also took partook of the same. If it was un-fallen flesh, that flesh that had no pretense towards sin. Nowhere in scripture does it say that Mary had such a status. By Catholics own admission it does not exist. As such, Jesus entered into this world with the same fallen flesh that we have, but instead entered it just as one of us and yet remained without sin.

    Heb 2:17 Wherefore in ALL THINGS it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

    Jesus took all things on himself that we had on us, including a sinful nature, and he overcame it. So that he might be a faithful high priest for us. To deny him this is to violate scripture as it was clearly stated above. To claim otherwise is to take a position that Jesus did not come in the same flesh we have and thus “did not come in the flesh”. This leads to a number of very bad doctrines such as Mary’s position as Co-Redemptrix. Contrary to pete’s position that Protestantism is Catholic-Lite, they are in fact diametrically opposite to one another.

  22. I need to add a little more. If the source of your salvation is from a different source, then whatever assurance you have of salvation is different than that of your protestant counterparts.

  23. […] Now Bonald yesterday suggested that Protestants are concerned about assurance of salvation while Catholics think about two orders, nature and grace… and these preoccupations lead to us arguing past each other.  The post generated a lot of comments, particularly on what we mean by salvation. […]

  24. Joseph,

    Assuming you are baptized and in a state of grace, you have the same “flesh” (to use your idiosyncratic terminology) as Mary. She just received the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice preemptively at the moment of her conception. As you know, these gifts do not preserve one from temptation. (As I said, even the preternatural gifts of prelapsarian man don’t protect against that, not that I claim that Christ or His mother enjoyed such gifts.)

  25. I think we are all aware that the Protestants were protesting, and that one of their protests was against the Papacy. That’s why protestants called us Papists until well into the nineteenth century. We know what Protestants have said about the “Scarlet Whore” and the “Man of Sin” and the “Beast,” we’ve read your interpretations of Daniel and Revelations, and we understand your view of the Reformation. And if we found any of this justified or persuasive, we would of course be Protestants. But we don’t, so we aren’t.

    If the teachings of the Church were, as you say, “clearly errant,” then those of us who think otherwise must be either very stupid or very wicked men. If we are not clearly stupid or wicked, then our errors, if they are errors, must not be clearly errant.

    I’ll admit to having a fairly primitive grasp of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but do not believe it implies anything about Mary’s “flesh.” (The doctrine of the Assumption, maybe.) My understanding is that it is an attempt to explains how Mary had the grace to accept the incarnation before the incarnation occurred. You must admit, this is an interesting question. Do you have a better answer?

  26. We find early intimations of the doctrine in some of the very early Fathers, in their emphasis on the BVM as the Second Eve and her rôle as the meritorious cause of our redemption.

    St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 120-165) – “We know that He, before all creatures, proceeded from the Father by His power and will, … and by means of the Virgin became man, that by what way the disobedience arising from the serpent had its beginning, by that way also it might have an undoing. For Eve, being a Virgin and undefiled, conceiving the word that was from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death; but the Virgin Mary, taking faith and joy, when the Angel told her the good tidings, that the Spirit of the Lord should come upon her and the power of the Highest overshadow her, and therefore the Holy One that was born of her was Son of God, answered, ‘Be it to me according to thy word.'” —Tryph. 100

    And Tertullian (160-240) – “God recovered His image and likeness, which the devil had seized, by a rival operation. For into Eve, as yet a virgin, had crept the word which was the framer of death. Equally into a virgin was to be introduced the Word of God which was the builder-up of life; that, what by that sex had gone into perdition by the same sex might be brought back to salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel; the fault which the one committed by believing, the other by believing has blotted out.”— De Carn. Christ. 17.

    And St. Irenæus (120-200) – “As Eve by the speech of an Angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing His word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the Angel’s speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to His word. And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin’s disobedience by a Virgin’s obedience.”— Adv. Hær. v. 19

    To me, at least, the similarity between the teaching of these three early Fathers, representing the traditions of the churches of Palestine and Syria, Africa and Rome and Asia Minor and Gaul respectively, renders it probable that this antithesis between the Blessed Virgin Mary and Eve is part of the original apostolic teaching. Irenasus had been taught by Polycarp and Polycarp had been present, when Ignatius talked with John “and with others, who had seen the Lord” and Justin was born in Palestine some 20 years after John’s death.

    Moreover, the verbal similarities are very striking; they are obviously drawing on a common source, perhaps a piece of catechesis.

  27. Wow guys, I am genuinely impressed. Most Catholics I run into don’t know anything of the history of their own church.

    As for your points,

    “We find early intimations of the doctrine in some of the very early Fathers, in their emphasis on the BVM as the Second Eve and her rôle as the meritorious cause of our redemption.”

    2Co 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

    2Pe 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
    2Pe 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
    2Pe 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

    According to these verses, there were people even in the early church who taught false doctrine and tried to modify God’s word to their own ends. Perhaps your “early church fathers” were among them? You’ll also notice that it is tradition alone that leads you to follow this doctrine and no clear teaching from scripture.

    “Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel; the fault which the one committed by believing, the other by believing has blotted out.”

    According to this, Mary blotted out our sins, not Jesus. Certainly Jesus played a part, but the man is clearly speaking out of his rear end if he thinks that one drop of salvation came from Mary. Where no one can deny that she played a part in Jesus getting here, so did a hundred other people in his genealogy. This infers no special position on Mary. In fact, if I remember correctly, Jesus himself sent his family away after they came to collect him.

    Mar 3:31 There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.
    Mar 3:32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.
    Mar 3:33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
    Mar 3:34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
    Mar 3:35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

    Seems to me Mary was actually getting in the way.

    “If the teachings of the Church were, as you say, “clearly errant,” then those of us who think otherwise must be either very stupid or very wicked men. If we are not clearly stupid or wicked, then our errors, if they are errors, must not be clearly errant.”

    I notice you said, quite accurately, that they were teachings of the church. Here is one VERY questionable teaching.

    “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.” Understanding Roman Catholicism Pg. 234, #882 ©1995 by Rick Jones

    Define for me in scripture where a single man is given primacy of Jesus’ church. (queue the pebble verse) This teaching is clearly errant as I said before.

  28. According to this, Mary blotted out our sins, not Jesus. Certainly Jesus played a part, but the man is clearly speaking out of his rear end if he thinks that one drop of salvation came from Mary.

    Excellent point! It is really a good way to see the rationale for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. If Mary was a pivot for mankind’s salvation acting only from natural goodness and obedience, then mankind earned it’s salvation, and we are all Pelagians. That or we must deny that humans had any meritorious agency whatsoever, and that the veneration all generations of Christians has shown our Lord’s mother is damnable. Fortunately, we are driven to neither impiety, since we believe that Mary was granted benefits of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice before it occurred, and that it was God who gave Mary the grace to make a perfect act of obedience. No matter how great the importance one then gives to Mary, Jesus Christ is still the sole ultimate cause of our salvation. (The acausality may seem a bit bizarre, but remember that God exists outside of time.)

    This probably seems to you an odd way of looking at things. Remember in my original post, I said that the relationship between nature and grace is a key Catholic preoccupation. We see that working itself out here. Man acting through his own powers–i.e. his own nature–could never save himself, because salvation consists in being raised above his nature into, as it were, the Divine plane. God injects His super-nature into history primarily through the Incarnation, but even when He does it through creatures, it is still necessarily Him doing it.

  29. Joseph,
    If your argument is valid, then my mother is typing this message. And why stop with Mary, since you seem to want to deny her any special status? Why not Mary’s mother, or grandmother, etc.? Weren’t they necessary preconditions for the incarnation? Good grief, now that I think about it, it goes right back to Eve! Our salvation comes from Eve! Wait a minute?

  30. I think he’s saying that we don’t just regard Mary as being part of the causal chain that produced Jesus, but in some sense giving her credit for Him. I’m not sure most Catholics really go that far, but some of the Fathers Michael quotes seem to border on it. I claim though that even if we count Mary’s good deeds as part of what won mankind salvation (a larger claim than any Catholic would make), it wouldn’t compromise Christ’s centrality if one also accepts the Immaculate Conception.

  31. I submit your for your review.

    “Q. 1. Why do Catholics pray to Mary?

    A. 1. A saying that is well known among Catholics is, “To Jesus, through Mary.” This does not mean, “To Mary, through Jesus.” Nor does it mean, “To Jesus and to Mary.” This saying affirms that Catholics do not pray “to” Mary as an equal to God. They pray “through” Mary as an intercessor who prays to God on behalf of mankind.””

    “Hail Holy Queen

    Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Our life, our sweetness and our hope.
    To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, To thee do we send up our sighs, Mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
    Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, And after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
    Amen. ”

    This was just a random search on Google. They pray to this woman. They freakin* call her queen. She can’t even hear them. She isn’t in heaven yet as the Day of the Lord hasn’t come. Who are they praying to? Why are they pretending it’s her? You guys may not venerate her or pray to her, but a lot of others do. The doctrine is dangerous at best and blasphemous at worst.

    *special word used in place of expletives.

  32. The point I am getting to with these posts is that C’s and P’s do not approaching things differently, but instead that to the C, scripture and tradition have a near equal standing. According to P’s, scripture receives precedence every time.

    Between that and the pagan roots of Catholicism (which it still has) there is no common ground between the two sides. We are diametrically opposed.

  33. My reason for citing these three very early writers is that they are obviously not giving their own theological opinions, but drawing on a common teaching and a teaching that was considered authoritative.

    Everything about it suggests an apostolic origin.

    Without going into the arguments around κεχαριτωμένη, which the Italic versions, translated by men bilingual in Greek and Latin, as so many First Century Romans were, is rendered “gratia plena.” I accept and insist that every Christian would ascribe the BVM’s obedience to praevenient grace and grace conferred through the merits of Christ – Likewise, the faith of Abraham and so on.

    That said, the Fathers clearly teach that the BVM was the meritorious cause of the Incarnation; that her cooperation in our salvation was not merely physical, but moral and many later theologians, as well as the sense of the faithful, call her Co-Redemptress and Mediatrix of all Graces.

    To those who claim this is to deify the BVM, I would only point out that both Arius and Nestorius called her Son Redeemer and Mediator – and will anyone claim the they believed in His divinity?

    The Immaculate Conception is not clearly taught in the scriptures, but, then, neither is the ὁμοούσιος clearly taught in scripture, but in the Holy Fathers, who well understood and faithfully expounded them.

  34. “That said, the Fathers clearly teach that the BVM was the meritorious cause of the Incarnation; that her cooperation in our salvation was not merely physical, but moral and many later theologians, as well as the sense of the faithful, call her Co-Redemptress and Mediatrix of all Graces.”

    Ah, the call to tradition again. I don’t care about the early church fathers. I care about what is written in scripture. Sola Scriptura. They were men just like you and I and just as fallible. They had their own thoughts and feelings. I have already clearly laid out in scripture where it is stated explicitly that there were false teachers even in Paul’s day. These may have been their progeny. I am fully capable of reading the book for myself in both Hebrew and Greek. Mary had nothing more to do with salvation than Eve. In case you didn’t notice, the angel Gabriel didn’t even ask her, he told her she was having a child. She didn’t do anything special except be exactly where God had always planned for her to be. On that matter, what about Joseph? He actually had to pay a price for raising Jesus. Shouldn’t he have a place as Co-Redemptrix? The logic you all share is silly. She was a woman who was spoken little of after her son arrived, and in every case as part of her following her son around. She has no special power to call out in the name of Jesus than we do. In fact less so, now that she has passed away.

  35. In discounting tradition, you flatly contradict the Apostle, who says

    “He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which were taught, whether by word of mouth or by epistle.” (Thess 2:14-15)

    And likewise

    “And the thing you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim 2:2)

    “When the Marcionites, Valentinians, and the like,” says Origen, “appeal to apocryphal works, they are saying, ‘Christ is in the desert;’ when to canonical Scripture, ‘Lo, He is in the chambers;’ but we must not depart from that first and ecclesiastical tradition, nor believe otherwise than as the Churches of God by succession have transmitted to us.”

  36. I should say that I put sacred Tradition on a high epistemic level. For me, a traditionalist conservative is one who weights secular traditions very highly. While I respect secular traditions and wish to preserve them where practical, they don’t occupy nearly the same place for me as they did for, say, Burke.

  37. The fundamental question that needs to be answered here is it possible to have faith and yet not charity?

    Many assume that faith,hope and charity come as an integral package and yet it would appear from biblical text that this is not the case. It would appear that it is possible to have some of the qualities without the other.

    I mean the problem of the Devil illustrates this quite clearly. He has faith, i.e he knows Jesus can save him, and yet is not saved.

    To quote King James,

    And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    It would appear that faith and/or works alone are insufficient by themselves. More importantly, it would appear that faith can exist independently of charity and as such it would appear that a man can have faith and still be damned, therefore it would appear that the priori quality which ensures salvation is charity.

    And once again to quote King James;

    And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity

    What these passages seem to imply is that both faith and works can exist without charity: meaning that on their own, without charity, they are pointless.

    The Devil is not an atheist, he is a Christian, i.e. in that he knows of Christ and his salvific potential. The Devil doesn’t rebel against God because he doesn’t believe in Him, it’s because he hates Him. The Devil is damned not because of a lack of faith, but a lack of love.

  38. Catholicism was founded by people who had a relationship with God. The Catholic church put the bible together in the late 4 century. Authority from the pope was neccessary for the bible to be wrote.

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