Friday, September 11, 2009

Peter Kreeft: Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen

As I read more and more Catholic theology on non-Protestant issues like the Sacrifice of the Mass, Penance, and Sacramentology I think more and more that Dr. Peter Kreeft is outside the realm of Catholic orthodoxy and that he is either unknowingly an Arminian Protestant or a Jansenist. He teaches Penal Subsitution as a Catholic atonement model, and refuses to mention the necessity of the sacraments when writing a book on God's love. In his commentary on the Catechism, "Catholic Christianity" he seems to accept Mortal Sin, but tends to say that as long as you're sorry, then you aren't condemned. I don't mean to single Kreeft out too much, because most modern Catholics will say similar things, but the problem is that Trent - the byword of all Christendom - is still Magesterial teaching. So in the spirit of Catholic Traditionalism and ungrace, I'll roll out some statements Kreeft makes and then quote Trent so that you, the reader, can decide.

Salvation without the Sacraments, or even desire of them:

"The only thing that can keep us out of Heaven is not sin but refusal to accept God's cure...God does it all, in Christ; we only have to accept it...Faith saves us, but good works follow" - Peter Kreeft "The God Who Loves You" p. 156-7

"CANON XXIX.-If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism... is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church-instructed by Christ and his Apostles-has hitherto professed, observed, and taught; let him be anathema."

Assurance of Salvation:

This one I admit isn't as clear and he could be using that prized Catholic doublespeak we all enjoy, because Aquinas teaches we can have assurance, but only in God's goodness and only in hope not certainty of receiving grace.

"...[Jesus'] Spirit will give me that absolute certainty personally [of salvation] if I ask Him...just as Jesus promised He would for all who ask" Peter Kreeft "The God Who Loves You" p. 195

"CANON XVI.-If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema."

The Reformation

He then trivializes the Reformation to a point I think ridiculous, though with the way our Pontiffs have been speaking these days, you'd think Bellarmine didn't understand Calvin or that it was all an honest mistake. They knew, they disagreed, they condemned and killed each other over the differences.

"...the most liberating idea I have ever heard I first learned from Martin Luther. Pope John Paul II told the German bishops that Luther was profoundly right about this idea. He said that Catholic teaching affirms it just as strongly and that there was no contradiction between Protestant and Catholic theology on this terribly important point, which was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation. I speak, of course, about "justification by faith" and its consequence, which Luther called "Christian liberty" or "the liberty of a Christian" in his gem of an essay by that name" - Peter Kreeft "The God Who Loves You" p. 23

"CANON XIX.-If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free...let him be anathema"

Kreeft has probably twisted the words of JPII (I can't check as he has no citation), and it is Catholic doublespeak in that he doesn't say "justification by faith ALONE" just like all the Catholics are doing today, and I think it's dishonest.


The Protestant gospel is centred on this truth: the only thing necessary for salvation is fiducia (trusting faith without love) in Christ and that God will forgive you because of Christ. This is salvation by grace (not God's help or work within the soul, but his loving disposition) alone for them.

This is where Catholics and Protestants have disagreed 'yesterday, today, and forever'. This is the same deceit we see in the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification. What is faith? What is grace? What is justification? Even a preliminary inquiry into the differences we have here will tell you that we do not agree.

If JPII and Catholicism throughout the ages believe in sola fide and sola gratia IN THE SENSE THAT THE REFORMERS DID (as we have our own teaching on faith alone and grace alone but in Catholic language), the obvious question is: why do we still have the penitential system, purgatory, doctrine of merit, canonized saints, mariology, etc. The reason we still have those, is because we do not believe that a man is justified by faith alone without baptism or the desire of baptism.

Tolkien said rightly in a letter to his son: "It was against this [transubstantiation] that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched – 'the blasphemous fable of the Mass' – and faith/works a mere red herring."

Now he is speaking specifically here about the Eucharist, which makes the point debatable, but it is a traditional Catholic view that the Reformation was a revolt against the sacramental system. In fact, many Protestants would probably agree. I think this is why Kreeft is wrong.

I feel bad if I've mistreated Peter Kreeft who was so influential in my conversion, but I genuinely think he's giving people a false view of Catholicism and the Sacraments. God is not limited to them, but he ordinarily works through them.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew, as much as I may disagree with you, I think consistency in a system is a good thing. But I must ask you again if you are consistent with Trent, would I not be in mortal sin and an anathema of the Church of Rome?

    Just a question I always wonder about modern Rome (post VII against pre VII)