Monday, March 23, 2009

Wittenberg v. Rome - what is sin?

This is a good post by Dave Armstrong: But he has an excerpt specifically which is useful:

"For Luther sin is passion, for Catholicism sin is in the will - the act of choice. In Freudian terms Luther's sin is libido, Catholic sin is ego. From this a number of consequences flow. From the Lutheran point of view the conclusion follows that, as nobody is ever entirely passionless (least of all essentially passionate types like Luther), there can be no freedom from sin in this world. Man is born and dies in iniquity. The utmost he can attain is an assurance that this won't be counted against him - that Christ's redemptive suffering covers all. Hence justice is only imputed - the Lutheran concept which became the center of controversy."

In Catholic teaching, on the other hand, the work of justification is not limited to the act of faith with which it begins. It is carried on by the use of the sacraments, the life of charity and the practice of good works, so that human nature recovers the spiritual life that was lost by sin and man becomes a new creature . . ."

Good habits make a man good and bad habits make him bad. This . . . was ignored or underestimated by Luther. It seems that there was a certain confusion in his thought on these matters. He had become convinced of the worthlessness of pious practices - that it is no use fasting or saying long prayers or making a pilgrimage or a vow. Good works, however, are not merely pious practices, they are simply what the words denote - doing good - and it is a fallacy to argue that such action has no value from a religious point of view." (5:78-79) - Christopher Dawson

You're free to disagree with the latter half and Catholic justification, but what I wanted to point out was the difference between a Lutheran and Catholic view of sin, that is extremely important for the rest of our theology. It is a prime difference and it is simply important to note.


  1. I agree sin is very important Andrew, but the Catholic church offers a semi-pelagian view of the nature of man; which is the nature result of her justification and teaching about sin.

    Reformed teaching believes man is unable to please God apart from first grace, and second faith. Both stress the work needed to "justify" ourselves, but our salvation is both past, present, and future, when we are grafted into Christ, we are part of Him, with Him, and in Him. Our justification is both beyond time and space, and a part of time space. We just do not try and add on to the merit of Christ, is merit is sufficient and counted to us in faith. And in faith are we obedient, and in faith we are sanctified just as we were justified.

    Cheers brother

  2. I think it's hillarious that you're calling St. Augustine's view Pelagian. I mean after all, it's not like he was the one who declared Pelagius heretical. Maybe in another 500 years Calvinists will be calling Calvin a Pelagian because he "only" say man as Totally Depraved.

    You can say the Catholic view is 'un-biblical', but to say that Augustine taught a pelagian doctrine of justification is like saying Martin Luther King taught a racist doctrine of tolerance. It's contradictory.

    St. Augustine (the pelagian) on Romans 4:4:

    "Paul was speaking here of the way wages are given. But God gave by grace, because he gave to sinners so that by faith they might live justly, that is, do good works. Thus the good works which we do after we have received grace are not to be attributed to us but rather to him who has justified us by his grace." - [On Romans 21]

    and again:

    ". . . by freedom of choice comes the love of righteousness; by the love of righteousness comes the working of the law. Thus, as the law is not made void but established by faith, since faith obtains the grace whereby the law may be fulfilled, so freedom of choice is not made void but established by grace, since grace heals the will whereby righteousness may freely be loved." - St. Augustine [The Spirit and the Letter 52]

  3. I think that quote is inaccurate. Dawson is a better historian than theologian. There is not a choice between the two. the will is moved by the passions. Jesus seems to think desire plays a part in sin (Matt 5:28). To see Luther as an enemy of passion is not to know Luther. The question is the object, not the fact, of passion.

  4. I was actually refering to Post-Trent andrew, not Ausustine or his doctrine of justification.

  5. BTW don't build straw men bro...I know you see an absolute unity between Peter and Benny 16, whereas I see developed doctrine.

  6. I see a development in doctrine, certainly purgatory and the monarchical nature of the bishopric of Rome/papacy but when it comes to justification, I think Trent just ratified Augustine. Wasn't trying to build a strawman, just going with McGrath :) heh I like that we're calling him Benny 16 - he sounds much cooler that way heh. Didn't mean to sound angry bro.

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  8. Keep in mind Andrew the biased quotes taken from McGrath (on catholic websites) do not fully express the work of Iustia Dei... :P He critized Augustine for his failures due to his ignorance of any of the original languages.

    And by the way, I said semi-pelagian. :)

    take care

  9. If Catholicism is semi-Pelagian because it admits the Scriptural mandate for works, then Calvinism is semi-Pagan for its disregard of works in the economy of Salvation.

    I have vowed that every time someone calls Catholicism "semi-Pelagian", I will absurdly call their perspective a halfway house between Christianity and some random, nonsensical madness.

    Arminianism is semi-Atheism since it denies the sovereignty of God. Puritanism is semi-madmanism because it hates beauty and happiness. Baptists are semi-Richard Dawkinses because they deny the power of God to work in the Sacraments. Presbyterians are semi-materialists because they deny free will.

    Absurd. Any balanced viewpoint will be marked as "semi" one thing or another from the perspective of an extreme viewpoint.

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  11. What is absurd is absurd to say
    "its disregard of works in the economy of Salvation." Calvinism has a demand for works, it the natural result of regeneration and is required(James 2); calvinists do not try and add on to Christ's merit though that is where we differ with regard to works.

    BTW a red herring is a weak way to attempt to squirm out of an accusation.

  12. By the way Philip I thought all those semis were really funny.

    But Matt, surely I'm not saying that Alister McGrath is a Catholic or thinks Catholic justification proper, he's simply saying that it's Augustinian and that Trent is what St. Augustine taught. Now that we've all agreed about that you have to do the squirming, by squirming yourself out of 16 centuries of justification.

    It is true that St. Augustine didn't know Hebrew or Greek, but if he is wrong then your completely "Sovereign" God certainly did a bad job with his Church.

    No offense meant Matt. God bless.

  13. Andrew, chill first of all. As an advocate of Sola Fidei, I must stand by the belief that we are saved by faith, not by work, or by doctrine. Doctrines take time to develop, I understand and accept that, I actually advocate that fact. I am not proud of Protestantism, but I still believe Scripture teaches Sola Fidei, and I believe it is that which saved all men from Adam till now.

    My "Sovereign" God worked with imperfect and erring people, no matter how great I think they are, they still err. I love the early church, they are great, but they are not perfect. Look at the history of Israel, God saved his elect in apostate Nothern Israel, for the very reason that he is sovereign. I still believe Augustinian justification to be flawed, it does not mean that I am condemning all catholics. I have harder words for Protestants than I do Catholics most of the time. You can wiggle your self around church history Andrew, but when it comes down to Scripture, Reformed Theology is the result. It is not perfect, we err, but it is the progress I hope the church continues in the centuries to come if the Lord tarries.

  14. I was being chill - I put my last sentence in to make it clear that I wasn't angry, but the internet is a poor means of communicating.

    I guess it all comes back again to what Romans 4 means and that old "impute/reckon" vs "make" righteous. It's a shame, we've come so far together in our understanding - we've actually accomplished alot. But of course now it turns into a battle of Greek grammar which I am completely unarmed in. As Fr. Bouyer says Catholics and Protestants have fought over the meaning of one word for so long, it's probably not going to end soon.

    I guess that's why I go with the Traditions of Christendom lol - as a history major, it's what I know best. I'm going to have to kick Erasmus in the crotch in heaven for stirring up all this greek nonsense lol.

  15. LOL the Erasmus comment is great. I agree the internet is a poor medium for communication, I have gotten in more fights because of it then anything else.

    You should have focused on Clements work more he definitely has a Pauline imputed righteousness to his theology. That is why I like him so much. :)

    I also think it far more than just Romans 4, even though that clearly is part of the proof text's... anyways it clearly will not be answered today.

    It is funny though, unlike modern evangelicals, I will definitely agree one cannot be saved without works, and without the church, and I may even go as far as saying without the sacraments (two not seven), but I still do not believe them to be justifying acts. Then again Andrew as we have said I tend to grow further and further away from Protestants with each passing day.

    I have Augustine and two Catholics praying to Mary for me, I am doomed!