This is the third part of a debate between Jim Drickamer and myself on the topic of Justification.
Jim Drickamer’s Closing Statement: Calvinist View
Kevin wants to turn this debate about justification into a debate about once saved, always saved. That is a topic for another debate.
The subject here is justification, and the issue between Kevin and me is in some ways linguistic.
In Romans 4: 3, Paul quotes Genesis 15: 6 as saying that, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” In verse 5, Paul expands this counting as righteousness to believers. In verse 6, Paul tells us that David also speaks of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works. In quoting Psalm 32: 1-2 in verse 8, Paul speaks of the man against whom the Lord will not count sin.
In each of these verses from Romans 4, “count” is used as the translation of the Greek verb, “logizomai,” which does not mean to count as with numbers but to regard or consider or think of something in a certain way. Here, Paul writes that God thinks of faith as being righteousness and does not think of sin against some people.
These Romans 4 verses do not say that God changes the nature of people from unrighteous to righteous so they stop committing unrighteous sins and begin doing righteous works. They merely show that God treats or regards believers as though they were righteous. Basically, in Romans 3: 20, Paul wrote, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight.” God does not count works of law as righteousness. He counts faith as righteousness. This is justification.
No reason exists for thinking this justification is inadequate for salvation. John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God accepts faith as righteousness and saves those who believe in Christ. Romans 1: 17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’” Romans 5: 1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 2: 8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Given that justification is God’s counting of faith as righteousness, there is no process to it. The Bible does not teach, and it is not reasonable to think God grows over time or that He gradually changes His mind so as to consider faith as righteousness. He simply regards faith as righteousness once and for all.
At the same time, there is a process of growing. In II Peter 3: 18, believers are told to grow in grace. According to II Timothy 3: 16-17, the Scriptures were inspired by God so that believers would grow to maturity by teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. And in fact, the Greek word, “dikaiow,” means not only to acquit someone of charges against him but also for him to grow in righteousness.
So there is a process. It is just not a process of getting God more and more to consider believers righteous. It is not justification.
Kevin wishes to add to the definition of justification the ideas of re-justification and final justification. To that end, he indicates that he considers justification to be a process of growing so that it is something which can be stopped temporarily and re-started at a later date. The interpretive challenge here is formidable.
There is obviously no need for someone to be re-justified while God considers him justified. In order for him to be re-justified, God would have to stop considering him to be righteous. What would change God’s mind? Sin? Sin could not stop God from considering a man righteous, because God already considers him righteous relative to that sin and every sin. Unbelief? Unbelief is just another sin for which God already considers him righteous. Besides, in John 6: 37, Christ declares that He will never cast out anyone who comes to Him. If sin or unbelief would lead God to stop considering someone righteous, that would mean Christ has cast out that person. Christ has said He will never do such a thing. Since Christ will never cast him out, it is impossible for a man to do anything that would lead Christ to throw him out.
The same can be seen in terms of Kevin’s final justification. There is a judgment at the end of time. It is depicted in Matthew 25: 31-46. This judgment is according to works. Kevin, however, has failed to show that any of the sheep who are here finally justified were not already justified by grace through faith. Nor has he shown that the sheep did the impossible and convinced God to stop thinking of them as being righteous. His only argument to that point is that God’s declarations are creative so that the sheep were not justified, until God said they were. Two objections must be raised here.
First, if the sheep were believers, they were already declared righteous by God when He considered their faith to be righteousness. Their justification was created long before the final judgment.
Second, not all of God’s declarations are creative. In Matthew 23, Christ declares the scribes and Pharisees to be hypocrites. He did not create hypocrisy there. Nor did He create them as hypocrites. He simply stated the facts as they already were.
It seems most likely that Kevin’s final justification is a repeated declaration of the fact that Christ’s sheep have been accounted righteous with the works of the sheep added in here as additional evidence that the sheep believe and, thus, are already counted righteous.
Some people think that the Protestant teaching of justification leads to licentiousness. It does remove fear of damnation as a control over behavior. It controls behavior through love.
Word Count: 995
Kevin Noles’ Closing Statement: Catholic View
I have already shown plenty of evidence that the Calvinist view of justification does not hold Scriptural water and instead that the Catholic view is entirely Scriptural and that the Bible shows us that justification is a process. Initial, Progressive and Final are the three phases. Those that commit mortal sins (those who have chosen to separate themselves from God) need Re-justification in order to be saved from damnation.
Re-justification is part of the “process” though it is necessary since when we choose to sin we choose to separate ourselves from God and in doing so we face a grim prospect of not attaining salvation. St. Paul speaks about this when talking about running the race and the fear of being disqualified.
Now let us take a look at what Jim’s arguments:
Jim builds a couple strawmen in his closing arguments instead of addressing difficult arguments. He has to otherwise he runs the risk of contradicting Scripture which he falls into anyway as I will show. He also decides not to fully defend OSAS despite the fact that this is where most of our differences are in reference to Re-justification. Since if Re-justification is true then OSAS is false which I showed with the Book of Life. Jim also brought up the “Lamb’s Book” (Book of Life) yet when shown what the Bible actually teaches about it you will notice that he didn’t rebut it since he cannot.
Let’s get to some of the strawmen that Jim built:
“The Bible does not teach, and it is not reasonable to think God grows over time or that He gradually changes His mind so as to consider faith as righteousness.”
You’ll notice that I never said or insinuated this nor does the Catholic Church believe this for “the Lord do[es] not change” as Malachi 3:6 says.
“Second, not all of God’s declarations are creative.” and “His only argument to that point is that God’s declarations are creative so that the sheep were not justified, until God said they were.“
I never said that they were as Jim means here. Jim misses the point completely and unsurprisingly since he takes me quite out of context. Jim used a court room analogy in his opener. In a courtroom just because someone is declared innocent does not mean they actually are. In fact Jim says that Jesus is declared guilty for us which means that we are guilty. This is what I was speaking to, the making of one righteous. God cannot lie so if He says something in which before is not true it then becomes that way. If something is already in a way then it stays until changed later. This does not take away from God’s creative acts but actually reinforces it. Again he takes my emphasis to the extreme as he did previously.
Jim talks about Matthew 25:31-46 and the sheep yet fully misses the point of the parable since it talks about Jesus’ flock which include both sheep and goats. Jim says, “Kevin, however, has failed to show that any of the sheep who are here finally justified were not already justified by grace through faith. Nor has he shown that the sheep did the impossible and convinced God to stop thinking of them as being righteous.” Both the sheep and goats were (at one point) justified by grace and faith, otherwise they would not be part of the flock, but yet only the sheep are saved. This shows that one may lose their justification through their works (sins) such as not loving your neighbor (Matthew 25:45-46) which as I presented in my opener is one of the 10 commandments. The argument is with the goats not the sheep.
“What would change God’s mind? Sin? Sin could not stop God from considering a man righteous, because God already considers him righteous relative to that sin and every sin. Unbelief? Unbelief is just another sin for which God already considers him righteous.”
Unbelief? Jim can only mean one of two things here. Either one does not have to actually believe in God to be saved or one does not need to persist in belief in God to be saved. I do not believe that he believes in the former so I will address the latter. Hebrews 6:4-6 talks about those who commit apostasy (believing then not believing) not being able to be restored again to repentance. The KJV uses “If they shall fall away.” One cannot fall away unless one is already in Jesus thus this passage is telling us that we will lose our salvation and cannot be Re-justified if we deliberately commit apostasy. This is quite contrary to what Jim writes here! Unbelief does in fact separate us from God! In my previous paragraph I already talked about how sin, not loving your neighbor (Matthew 25:45-46), will separate us from God.
“It controls behavior through love.”
But one does not have to love God. That would be a work and Jim believes that works do not justify us. As I quoted above about sin and unbelief, it follows that if we do not believe in God then even a failure to love God will not separate us from God according to Jim. In other words, there is no control of behavior since love is not necessary to persist with God. Thus it does lead to licentiousness. No process of growing in holiness as Jim proposes because it is not necessary. This is rather absurd to think once we take the whole of the Bible in context instead of individual verses.
There is no doubt that Jim’s view here contradicts the Bible. It is quite scary that one can be saved and not even love or believe in God! Think about that a moment. He proposed that a person with unbelief will be saved (if justified previously) yet the Bible continuously tells us that faith is necessary for salvation.
Now this I cannot believe!