Is Justification by Faith Alone? Response to Michael S Horton

Written by Faithful Answers on . Posted in Answers, Salvation


This is a debate you will want to pass on to your friends between Dr. Robert Sungenis (Catholic) and Dr. Michael S. Horton (Protestant Calvinist). You will see how the Bible thoroughly vindicates Catholic theology, and you will be able to hold up your head high in admiration.

Robert Sungenis responds

Michael Horton’s comments will be in black. Robert Sungenis’ comments will be in blue and will be numbered for reference.

Are We Justified By Faith Alone?

Michael S. Horton

Referring to the schism of the 14th and 15th centuries, one scholar observes, “For nearly half a century, the Church was split into two or three obediences that excommunicated one another, so that every Catholic lived under excommunication by one pope or another, and, in the last analysis, no one could say with certainty which of the contenders had right on his side. The Church no longer offered certainty of salvation; she had become questionable in her whole objective form–the true Church, the true pledge of salvation, had to be sought outside the institution. It is against this background of a profoundly shaken ecclesial consciousness that we are to understand that Luther, in the conflict between his search for salvation and the tradition of the Church, ultimately came to experience the Church, not as the guarantor, but as the adversary of salvation.” I hope that the credibility of this historical assessment will not be called into question, as it comes to us from the pen of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, current head of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith for the Church of Rome. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology, trans. by Sister Mary Frances McCarthy, S.N.D. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989) p.196).

1) No, the credibility of the historical assessment will not be called into question, but Dr. Horton’s use of it certainly will. Due to the existense of some upheavals in the Middle Ages, Dr. Horton implys that Cardinal Ratzinger believes Martin Luther was justified in his attack on the Catholic Church’s doctrine of salvation. Actually, the divisions in the Church during the 14-15th centuries had very little to do with the specific doctrines of soteriology, and had much more to do with politics. Cardinal Ratzinger believes, to this day, that the Council of Trent was absolutely correct in condemning the soteriology of Luther. Consequently, the only thing the Cardinal is saying in the 1989 quote is that the impetus for Luther’s rebellion may have been fomented by the divisions he saw in the Church of his day. In other words, the Cardinal is surmizing what Luther may have been thinking during the upheaval, not what the Cardinal is thinking.

That Cardinal Ratzinger has some strong opinions against Luther is well known. As far back as 1970, he said the following about Luther:

“The fact is that today both sides of the two faiths (Catholic and Lutheran) to a great extent regard it as necessary to speak of Luther only in terms of praise. But does the effort to understand one another exclude a critical study if the cause of truth is served in this way? Is it not true that, besides the known differences in the tenets of the Catholic and Lutheran religions, there is a basis of differences even in the writings of Luther himself?” (The Ego in Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, by Paul Hacker, p. v.)

As the gavel came down to close the final session of the Council of Trent in 1563, Rome had officially and, according to her own commitment down to the present moment, irreversably, declared that the Gospel announced by the prophets, revealed in and by Christ, and proclaimed by the apostles, was actually heretical. The most relevant Canons are the following: Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone…, let him be anathema.

2) It amazes me that Protestants, the very ones who claim to go by Scripture alone, continue to this day to use a non-biblical phrase (“faith alone”) to describe how one is justified. In fact, Scripture goes out of its way to avoid using “faith alone” in reference to justification. For example, St. Paul used the word “faith” and its derivatives over 200 times; and the words “alone” or “only” a few dozen times. Some of the appearances of “alone” or “only” occur right in the very contexts that address the subject of Justification (Romans 3:29; 4:12; 4:16; 4:23; Galatians 2:10; 3:2; 4:18; 5:13). Yet in not one instance did St. Paul feel compelled to combine the two words to specify how Justification was procured. What would have kept him from using such an all-telling, all-important, phrase, if, indeed, the concept of “faith alone” was on the forefront of his mind? A haunting question, indeed, for anyone of Dr. Horton’s burden to contemplate.

The burden is compounded when we recognize that Scripture considers the phrase “faith alone” to have the utmost importance, since it uses it in one very crucial place – – the very place it decides that it is appropriate to nullify the concept that Justification is by faith alone — James 2:24. In fact, not only does Scripture nullify “faith alone” as justifying, it reinforces its nullity by prefacing it with the clause, “You see, a man is justified by works” prior to adding “and not by faith alone.”

Now, the way Dr. Horton tries to dismiss the fact that Paul refrained from using “faith alone” is to say that when Paul condemns justification by works, we are to interpret this to mean that Paul believed in faith alone for Justification. This may seem plausible to him, but it is quite wrong. Condemning works does not automatically mean faith is alone. There are other things that could be added to faith that are not considered works, and thus faith would not be alone. In fact, Paul condemned only one kind of work. He called them works of DEBT (Romans 3:28-4:4). How do we know there is a distinction? Because in the previous chapter Paul says that those who do good works will receive eternal life (Romans 2:6-7) and that those who obey the Law will be justified (Romans 2:13).

As for works of DEBT, Catholics also condemn the idea that man can put God in debt to save him by his own works. The very first canon of the Council of Trent states this quite plainly:

If anyone shall say that man can be justified before God by his own works which are done either by his own natural powers, or through the teaching of the Law, and without divine grace through Christ Jesus: let him be anathema.

If you ask Dr. Horton how he deals with Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:6-13 9 (that those who do good works will be justified and receive eternal life), he will answer something like this: “Oh, Paul didn’t really mean that one can receive justification and eternal life for good works. It only appears that way. Actually, Paul was setting up an impossible task for man in order to drive him to the next chapter where he teaches that only faith without works will justify.” I know he will say this because I’ve heard him speak on Romans 2. But notice what he’s done. Without any indication from Paul that he is setting up an impossible task, Dr. Horton imposes such a disclaimer on the text of Romans 2.

Why does Dr. Horton do this? Because he must in order to make his theology work. Look at it this way: There are two solutions to the seeming contradiction between what Paul says in Romans 2:6-13 and what he says in Romans 3:23-4:4. Either you conclude that Paul is dealing with two different kinds of works (works of debt and works of grace), or you say he is dealing with only one kind of work (any work). The Catholic Church has chosen the former; Dr. Horton has chosen the latter. How do I know he has? Because later in this paper he admits it. Here are Dr. Horton’s exact words:

“The Scriptures are hardly ambiguous in excluding all human activity from being the instrument of justification with the exception of faith. This is the same as saying ‘faith alone.’ Or, to put it another way, if the Scriptures teach that we are justified by faith and not by works, then they teach ‘faith alone.”

Of course, once you choose that option, then you have no choice but to make the teaching of Romans 2:6-13 hypothetical (that is, something impossible to obey), and elevate the teaching of Romans 3:28-4:4 as the only reality. Otherwise, if you give only one meaning for “works,” you would make Paul contradict himself between Romans 2 and Romans 3.

Now here is the fair question for Dr. Horton: Does Paul claim anywhere in Romans 2 that his teaching (that those who do good works will be justified and receive eternal life) is hypothetical? Dr. Horton knows that the answer to this question is no. Paul never even hints that his teaching in Romans 2 is hypothetical. He speaks as plainly in Romans 2 as he does in Romans 3.

In fact, the teaching that men will receive justification and eternal life for their works is taught all over Paul’s epistles. It is one of the most abundant and most clearly taught ideas in the New Testament (cf., Matthew 12:36-39; 16:27; John 5:28-29; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:12-17; 4:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Revelation 22:10-12, et al). But what do Protestants do with these Scriptures? Either they make them hypothetical, or they say they only apply to Christians who receive rewards. But you will find, as is the case with Romans 2, that none of the above texts ever claim to be hypothetical, or do they claim that the judgment for works only applies to Christians. This has severe ramifications for Dr. Horton, for if he has no proof that Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:6-13 is hypothetical, and yet Dr. Horton maintains that Romans 2:6-13 does not represent the true means of salvation (which he thinks is “faith alone”), then he has ultimately accused Paul of heresy, as absurd as that sounds.

James 2:24

In other writings, Dr. Horton tries to dismiss the clear language of James 2:24 (“You see a man is justified by works and not by faith alone”) by claiming that James is only talking about a “vindication” of Abraham, not a real justification. Obviously, Dr. Horton feels he has the right to change the meaning of the word dikaiow in James to mean something different than what Paul means for dikaiow in Romans 4. Just as we discovered with Dr. Horton’s treatment of justification in Romans 2-3, you will find often that the only way he can make his theology fit is by changing the meaning of certain words and concepts.

But his attempts will not get very far, for Scripture is wise to such efforts. Let me show you how: If, by James’ use of dikaiow he meant only that Abraham was “vindicated” when he sacrificed Isaac, then we could translate James 2:21 as follows. “Was not Abraham our father vindicated by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” No problems yet.

But now let’s drop down to James 2:24 and make the same replacement: “You see that a man is vindicated by works, and not by faith alone.” Do you see the problem? Here it is: Since “vindicated” is the only main verb in the sentence, then it must be shared between the two clauses. In other words, the verse would have to mean: “You see that a man is vindicated by works, and not vindicated by faith alone.” If “vindicated” is assigned to works it must also be assigned to faith, but then that means that faith itself is not justifying, it is only vindicating, and therefore Dr. Horton destroys the very thing he was trying to save. Yes, Scripture is wise to such attempts, and does an excellent job in trapping those who would twist its words. If Paul had meant “vindicated,” there were about six different Greek words at his disposal that he could have used, but obviously he didn’t.

Dr. Horton may retort by pointing out the lone verse of Matthew 11:19 which may use dikaiow in the sense of “vindicated.” But this will not save him. Matthew 11:19 is a poetic context, and therefore its words can take on different shades of meaning. James 2:21-24 is not a poetic context, and therefore its words must mean what they indicate.

This can be proven by looking at how James uses the noun form of dikaiow, which is dikaiosune, in James 2:23. Here James quotes from Genesis 15:6: “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” The word “righteousness” is the Greek dikaiosune. Now let’s build our case. It just so happens that in Romans 4:3 Paul also quotes from the same passage, Genesis 15:6: “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” In fact, the Greek word order is identical in both James 2:23 and Romans 4:3, so we know that both James and Paul are quoting from the same source. Now here is where the Protestants are trapped. They assert that the dikaiosune Paul takes from Genesis 15:6 and uses in Romans 4:3 refers to real salvific righteousness leading to a real salvific justification. If so, then they would have to admit that, since James 2:23 also quotes from Genesis 15:6, then James must be referring to a real salvific righteousness. But here’s the problem: How can James be referring to a real salvific righteousness in James 2:23 but then be referring to a non-salvific “vindication” in James 2:24, considering that James 2:24 is using the verbal form, dikaiow, of the noun, dikaiosune in 2:23?

In effect, what the Protestants are proposing is that James uses a non-salvific form of the dikaiow derivatives in verse 21, switches to a salvific derivative in James 2:23 when he quotes Genesis 15:6, and then switches back to a non-salvific derivative in James 2:24, all in the space of four verses. Suffice it to say, that schema is one of the most elaborately contrived I ever seen, and it is certainly not supported by Scripture.

James give us further evidence that such a schema won’t work by introducing Rahab to the discussion. The all-important words James uses in 2:25 are “And in the same way” (Greek: homoiws). Here is the rest of it: “And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified (Greek: dikaiow) when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” James is telling us that Rahab was justified “in the same way” that Abraham was justified. But here’s the curious lacuna for Protestant theology: Scripture never describes Rahab’s justification as an instance in which faith was manifested before her works. Rather, Joshua 2 shows that Rahab’s faith and works were simultaneous. Thus, Protestants can’t treat Rahab’s justification in the same way they treat Abraham’s, for they hold that Abraham’s justification occurred in Genesis 15:6, many years prior to the work (supposedly for vindication), that Abraham did in Genesis 22 when he offered Isaac.

Again, we see how Scripture traps those who impose artificial systems on it. It seemed plausible to them to separate Abraham’s justification into two components (one justifying, one vindicating) but they can’t do so with Rahab’s justification. Here is where the haunting words “And in the same way” come to roost, for this means that Abraham was justified identical to Rahab. There can be no difference, otherwise there would be two salvation plans, one for Abraham and one for Rahab, but that is not possible. No, the reality is that Rahab’s justification occurred when she exhibited faith and works, simultaneously. In fact, Hebrews 11:31 calls Rahab’s incident with the spys an act of “faith,” whereas we have seen James call it a “work.” Thus, her faith was working together with her works to give her justification. We certainly cannot say that the work James ascribes to Rahab was merely something to vindicate her.

And it is no surprise to see Scripture speak of Abraham in the same way, for Hebrew 11:19 says that his attempt to offer Isaac to God was an act of “faith,” whereas we have seen James call it a “work.” In both Rahab and Abraham, faith and works are simultaneous, and thus it is no surprise that James says they were justified “in the same way,” and thus it is conclusive that “faith alone” did not justify either of them. There are more proofs to what I have introduced above. I suggest that those who are interested should read Chapters 1 and 2 of Not By Faith Alone to get the full picture.

M. Horton continues:

Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins,… let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy (supra, chapter 9), which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.

Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ…does not truly merit an increase of grac and eternal life… let him be anathema.

It was, therefore, not the evangelicals who were condemned in 1564, but the evangel itself. The “good news,” which alone is “the power of God unto salvation” was judged by Rome to be so erroneous that anyone who embraced it was to be regarded as condemned. Let us now consider the key questions and passages relating to this doctrine.

What Is Justification? Infusion or Imputation, Process or Declaration?

In the Roman system, as we have seen, justification is sanctification. Through baptism, we are renewed and by cooperating with grace infused we merit final justification. The long and short of this was that on the eve of the Reformation itself, there were many different interpretations of this doctrine, but the decisive moment occurred not with Luther, but with the Roman Catholic humanist, Erasmus, to whose criticism of the Latin text of Scripture we have already briefly alluded. The Latin Vulgate, Jerome’s 4th century translation of the Scriptures, had been the official translation throughout the middle ages, and its integrity was generally assumed. But then came the Renaissance, a recovery of classical learning that included a return to the original Greek text of Scripture.

As Oxford theologian Alister McGrath observes, the best example of the errors in the Latin Vulgate, corrected in tail end of the Renaissance, concerns its translation of the Greek word “dikaiosune,” which means “to declare righteous.” It is a legal term, a verdict. But the Latin Vulgate had translated “dikaiosune” with the Latin word iustificare, which means “to make righteous.” Erasmus and a host of classical scholars recognized that the Greek text required an understanding of justification that referred to a change in status rather than to a change in behavior or mode of being. Again, Erasmus had no doctrinal stake in this matter. He was not only a loyal son of the Roman church; he had engaged in heated polemics with Luther over free will. Nevertheless, he was Europe’s leading authority on the classical languages and could not overlook the glaring mistranslations. For this reason it has been said that Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched.

3) No Protestant has ever proved that dikaiosune is exclusively, or even preponderantly, a legal term. More specifically, there is no verse of Scripture that classifies dikaiosune as a legal term. Protestants claim that Paul is borrowing the meaning of dikaiosune from the Roman law court. Unfortunately for them, Paul never cites the Roman law court, or any legal terminology in vogue in the Roman legal system during that time, when he uses dikaiosune or its derivatives in the NT. Paul uses the model of the biblical Covenant as his one and only framework to explain justification, not the Roman law court.

A biblical covenant is the combination of a personal and legal bond between two parties, much like a marriage is today between a man and his wife. When a covenant is broken, the personal and legal ties either deteriorate or are dissolved. To be restored as a viable covenant, both the personal and the legal must be restored, simultaneously. Catholic baptism does just that, since it infuses the individual with God’s grace and thus makes him personally pleasing to God; and this infusion is also an indelible mark which gives him legal status as God’s adopted child (Council of Trent, Ses. 6, Ch 4). Law courts do not have any room for, let alone accept, the personal dimensions of biblical covenants.

In fact, if Protestants insist on making justification solely a juridical enterprise, then this begs the question, for we must then inquire what “faith” is doing in a judicial proceeding? “Faith” is a volitional act of the will to put personal trust in the other member of the covenant for the mutual benefit of both. In a court of law, neither the judge nor the jury cares whether the defendant exhibits personal faith in the judge or the jury. Rather, defendants are determined to be innocent or guilty. If the former, they are set free; if the latter, they are punished. If the defendant is determined innocent and set free, it makes no difference if the defendant says, “but I don’t believe in the judge or the jury, and I refuse to be ordered by this court.” At that, the judge will promptly call the baliff to have the defendant removed from the court, for it does not matter to the judge what the defendant personally believes about him.

Moreover, if Protestants insist that NT Justification is based on the juridical system of the Roman law court, this becomes a problem since there is no known Roman law (or Jewish law) that allows an innocent victim to take the legal punishment of an accused criminal so that the accused can go free. Dr. Horton’s colleague, Alister McGrath, tried to find such a connection in Roman private law, but the only thing he found was a concept called acceptiliation, which, according to McGrath, refers to the dissolution of an obligation by a verbal decree on the part of the one to whom the debt was due, without any form of payment having been exchanged (Iustitia Dei, II, p. 45). But this does not fit the Protestant concept of Atonement and Imputation, since the theory claims that Christ actually paid the debt, not merely let the culprit go free without anyone making a payment to the one owed. Thus, as it stands, there is no legal precedent for the forensic atonement used in Protestant soteriology.

This issue brings up another major difference between the Protestant and Catholic views of the Atonement. Luther and Calvin believed that, since justification was a purely legal enterprise, this meant that Christ had to suffer the equivalent of the legal punishment of the elect in order to redeem them. In other words, Christ had to suffer the precise punishment they would have sustained in Hell, whatever that punishment is.

Although no Father or medieval theologian had ever entertained the idea that the statement in the Apostles Creed that Christ descended into hell meant more than a release of detained saints, the Reformers saw in the descent an opportunity to buttress their forensic understanding of justification. They interpreted the descent as the infliction of the torments of hell on Christ in order to make a full legal payment for sin. Nicolas of Cusa (1400-1464) and Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) were the first to introduce the idea that Christ sustained agony in the descent into hell. Martin Luther held that Christ, as God and man, literally entered hell to sustain God’s wrath, suffering the tortures of the damned.

John Calvin used these concepts and was the first to produce the full-blown interpretation that Christ assumed the legal guilt of the sin for the elect and was justly punished with the torments of eternal damnation. He writes:

” But we must seek a surer explanation, apart from the Creed, of Christ’s descent into hell…If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No-it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment. For this reason, he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death….By these words he means that Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge-submitting himself even as the accused-to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained…No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked!” INT 2:16:10.

Suffice it to say, this is a thoroughly unbiblical understanding of the Atonement. Christ did not suffer the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. He suffered and died only, and this was sufficient to appease the wrath of God so that grace could be offered to mankind.

For more information on this, see my book Not By Bread Alone, “The Nature of Christ’s Sacrifice,” pages 37-56, and “Appendix 5, A Critique of Protestant Views of Penal Substitution,” pages 333-342.

As for Dr. Horton’s contention, ala Alister McGrath, that

“…the best example of the errors in the Latin Vulgate, corrected in tail end of the Renaissance, concerns its translation of the Greek word ‘dikaiosune,’ which means ‘to declare righteous.’ It is a legal term, a verdict. But the Latin Vulgate had translated ‘dikaiosune’ with the Latin word iustificare, which means ‘to make righteous,'”

it can be easily shown that McGrath is the one in error here. Here is an excerpt from my book Not By Faith Alone which deals with McGrath’s assertion:

In his work, Iustitia Dei, McGrath maintains that in Augustine’s translations, his Latin meanings were not faithful to the Hebrew meanings. This echoes the assertion of the German Lutheran, Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), a student of Melanchthon, who said that Augustine misrepresented the Greek word dikaioun to refer to “making righteous” instead of “declaring righteous.” McGrath cites Chemnitz’s view on page 29, and elsewhere in the book attempts to show through the etymology and usage of the Hebrew that tsedaqah is a more general word than the Latin iustificare.

Hence, McGrath says Augustine’s Latin translation missed the “soteriological overtones” associated with the Hebrew tsedaqah (p. 8). McGrath says these kinds of problems were further complicated by the Greek word dikaiosune which was also limited in scope due to its Aristotelian origins. To support this position, McGrath cites several usages of the Greek eleemosune (“mercy, alms”) by the LXX to translate the noun tsedaqah rather than the normal insertion of dikaiosune. McGrath also cites the anomalies of where LXX uses dikaiosune to translate tsedaqah in Lev. 19:36; Deut. 25:15; and Ezk. 45:10; in these instances the Hebrew merely carries the sense of “accurate” not, as translated, “just.”

In another example, McGrath cites the translation in Deut. 33:19 which should be “correct sacrifices” instead of “righteous sacrifices.” Similarly, McGrath sees a weakness in dikaiosune to translate the general scope of the Hebrew verb tsadaq. He cites the LXX translation of Isaiah 5:22-23 and 43:26 as proof. As a result, McGrath is of the opinion that the semantic range of the root dikaioun was expanded to accommodate tsedaqah. McGrath suggests that the difficulty comes to the fore when the “post-classical” Latin term iustificare is used to translate the “expanded” forms of the dikaioo derivatives.

More importantly, McGrath also asserts that Greeks and Latins had decisively different ideas of the concept of merit, and that this was the main cause for the Latin church’s emphasis on merit and the prevalence of merit in medieval theology. According to McGrath, in Greek culture merit was only a matter of “estimation” which is not inherent in its object, i.e., considering an entity to be something that it is not in itself. McGrath asserts that merit, in the Latin culture, refers to the quality inherent in the object or person.

Representative of these two meanings, according to McGrath, is the Greek passive axiousthai (“to deem worthy”) and the Latin equivalent, mereri. The Greek word that would have denoted “inherent merit” is meroma, from which the Latin meritum is derived. McGrath’s conclusion: the disjunction between axiousthai and mereri is similar to the disjunction between dikaiosune and iustificare. Hence the Greek word has the primary sense of being considered righteous, whereas the Latin word denotes being righteous or the reason one is considered righteous.

All in all, McGrath concludes that the initial transference of a Hebrew concept, to a Greek concept, to a Latin concept, led to a fundamental alteration in the concepts of justification and righteousness as the gospel spread from Palestine to the Western world (p. 15). Unfortunately, McGrath’s linguistic analysis and conclusion appear to read into history what his theology dictates.

Despite the anomalies that always occur in translating a word from one language to another, it is a matter of certain faith that inspired Scripture, which translates Hebrew text into Greek text, cannot err, and does not envision the problem McGrath proposes. First, without reservation, the New Testament authors use the dikaioo cognates to translate the Hebrew and Septuagint cognates. These translations occur in many non-justification contexts (i.e., “non-imputation” contexts).

For example, in 2 Cor. 9:9 Paul cites a quotation from Psalm 112:9 and uses the Greek dikaiosune to translate the Hebrew feminine noun tsadaqah (which the LXX also translates as dikaiosune). The context of 2 Cor. 9:9-10 concerns liberal giving, both of God and men, to those in need.

Thus, contrary to McGrath’s thesis, dikaiosune is understood as that which is inherent within both God and man due to the good they have done. Similarly, Hebrews 1:9 uses dikaiosune to translate the Hebrew male noun tsadaq in Psalm 45:7 (of which the LXX uses dikaiosune) and speaks of the inherent righteousness of Christ. (The relevance of the LXX may be even more significant here since Hebrews 1:6 is quoted by Paul directly from the LXX).

In addition, 1 Peter 3:12 uses dikaioo to translate the Hebrew adjective tsadeek of Psalm 34:15 (of which the LXX uses dikaious). The context of 1 Peter 3:12 regards righteous individuals as inherently righteous, for it is they who “turn from evil to do good” and “seek peace and pursue it.” Similarly, Hebrews 11:7 uses dikaiosune to describe the righteousness of Noah, translating the Hebrew adjective tsadeek in Genesis 7:1 which refers to God seeing Noah as inherently righteous for his goodness in the midst of the wicked people of his day.

We should also add that Scripture does not support McGrath’s assessment of the Greek word axioo to refer only to the estimation of an individual rather than his merit (which he distinguishes from the Latin notion of merit that gives the individual the “right” of the third party estimation, i.e., because he is deserving of it). The New Testament uses axioo not only in considering someone worthy but also in recognizing someone worthy because he is actually worthy. For example, Hebrews 3:3 uses axioo in reference to Christ’s worthiness: “Jesus has been counted worthy of greater honor than Moses…” This is a common usage of axioo and its cognates in the New Testament (cf., 1 Thess. 1:11; 1 Tim. 5:17; Col 1:10; et al).

Thus we see that Dr. Horton relies on faulty information in the analysis of Alister McGrath.

It is quite remarkable that the Roman Church would continue to embrace its erroneous view of justification, given the advances in scholarship by their own best minds. This is true not only of the 16th century; many Roman Catholic biblical scholars of our own day recognize that the Roman position is untenable in the light of the biblical text. I am not only referring to such controversial theologians as Hans Kung, but to the accepted interpretations of Roman doctrine. Bearing the nihil obstat and Imprimatur of the Roman Church, Sacramentum Mundi is a modern encyclopedia of Roman doctrine. In its article on Justification we read that justification “implies a relation with a judgment rather than a mode of being.” The term for Paul, “always has a certain forensic flavour which prevents its becoming a mere synonym of regeneration or re-creation. In later theology, however, this sense is often lost, and justification comes to mean nothing more than the infusion of grace (D 799). Now when St. Paul applies the juridical terminology to the new Christian reality, it acquires an entirely new meaning. It refers now not to the future but to the past (Rom.5:9), not to the just man but the sinner (Rom.4:5). And so the basis of justification must also be different. It can no longer be observance of the law. It must be Christ, whom God has made our righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor.1:30), which is the same thing as saying that we are justified by faith in Christ (Rom.3:28).” [ by Ricardo Franco, pp. 239-240]

Furthermore, arguably the two most widely respected Roman Catholic biblical scholars, J. A. Fitzmyer and Raymond Brown, have recognized that justification is understood in the biblical text to mean legal acquittal and not a process of growth in inherent righteousness. “Justification in the Old Testament,” writes Fitzmyer, “denotes one who stood acquitted or vindicated before a judge’s tribunal…This uprightness (righteousness) does not belong to human beings (Rom. 10:3), and is not something that they produced or merited; it is an alien uprightness, one belonging to another (Christ) and attributed to them because of what that other had done for them…This justification comes about by grace and through faith” (Romans, AB 33, pp.116-19).

4) Dr. Horton has given us the key word in his assessment of Sacramentum Mundi, that is, it is a “modern” encyclopedia of Roman doctrine. Sacramentum Mundi does not speak officially for the Catholic Church. Today’s Catholic Church is filled with modernist theologians who, in varying degrees, have denied everything from the resurrection of Christ, to the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and, as we can see above, the traditional and dogmatic teaching on Catholic justification.

The Council of Trent, which is the only officially infallible proclamation of the Catholic Church on Justification, never taught that justification was legal in nature, nor that the term “justified” contained a “forensic flavor.” Dr. Horton knows this, and it is precisely the reason why he took the time to quote above from six of Trent’s canons on Justification – – to show how “heretical” Trent was in its formulations.

Now Dr. Horton has a dilemma. (1) Knowing that Trent is the only infallible dogma in the Catholic Church on Justification; and that (2) Sacramentum Mundi (in the representation of “Ricardo Franco” who wrote the article on Justification) is not infallible but merely the ideas of some Catholic theologians who have been heavily influenced by Protestants in the last 30 years, what does Dr. Horton do? He can’t side with Trent; he can only attack Trent. But in attacking Trent, he is attacking the infallible doctrine of the Catholic Church, which he knows will never change, and cannot change, no matter how many “Catholic” theologians try to change it. (NB: This is not the first time in Catholic history in which “Catholic” theologians have tried to change Catholic doctrine, each time being unsuccessful, and Dr. Horton knows it).

So what is Dr. Horton’s only choice? To make a concerted effort to drive a wedge between the Council of Trent and modern Catholic theologians. The attempt is to make Trent look obsolete, out-of-step, and, in the end, quite wrong. But what Dr. Horton fails to see is that, the greater the wedge he drives between Trent and modern Catholic theologians, the greater the exposure he places upon the modern Catholic theologians as representing, in the estimation of the Council of Trent, a heretical view of justification. It is inevitable. In other words, Dr. Horton is merely proving my assertion that Fr. Raymond Brown and Fr. Joseph Fitmeyer are teaching things contrary to the Council of Trent.

Dr. Horton also proves that views such as Ricardo Franco’s do not represent the Catholic view of Justification, regardless whether Dr. Franco uses the term “Catholic” or writes in a Catholic book inscribed with the Nihil Obstat of a Catholic bishop. In reality, what has really happened in the last 35 years is that various modern Catholic theologians have been corrupted by the views of various Protestant theologians, especially from the liberal theological ranks. The most notable of these Protestant corrupters are Rudolph Bultmann and Karl Barth, among others.

After Pius XII allowed Catholic theologians to see if anything good could come out of “higher biblical criticism,” which had been used by Protestants for more than a century, Catholic theologians, such as Karl Rahner, Eduard Schillebeeckx, Hans Kung, Teilhard de Chardin, and many others, began using higher criticism as an excuse to depart from traditional Catholic teaching, and as a result, foisted all kinds of aberrant ideas both on Scripture and on Catholic teaching. As Protestant John MacQuerrie of Union Theological Seminary has noted in regard to liberal theology, the Catholics “took the torch” from the Protestants.

Up until his death a couple of years ago, Fr. Raymond Brown was THE torchbearer for liberal theology in US Catholicism, and Joseph Fitzmyer of Catholic University is right behind him. Fr. Brown was the very one who advanced the heretical idea that Scripture is only inerrant in matters of salvation (ie., that it can err in matters of history, and very often does. See his Jerome Biblical Commentary, page 1169). Yet Fr. Brown was made head of the Pontifical Biblical Commission at the Vatican. This shows you how the liberals at the Vatican make sure their own people get the appointments. No one in all of Catholic history has ever advanced the idea that Scripture is inerrant only in matters of salvation, yet Fr. Brown and his new view of Scripture was allowed to have one of its highest chairs. In fact, in opposition to views similar to Fr. Brown’s, five Popes since 1864 have officially stated as Catholic dogma that Scripture, “.in all its parts, each and every one, is free from every error.without distinction” (Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius IX, Pius XII). How does Fr. Brown view the Pope’s statements? He tries to tone them down as best he can, and has convinced a number of Catholic theologians that indeed the emperor has new clothes.

I do know a certain thing about Dr. Horton. He believes that Scripture is inerrant in all that it proclaims, for that is standard Protestant evangelical teaching, with only a few detracters. Dr. Horton would have to call Fr. Raymond Brown’s view of inerrancy “heretical,” for he gives the same label to liberal Protestants who believe there are mistakes in the Bible. So it seems that Dr. Horton and Fr. Brown are in very different camps on very fundamental issues.

The issue of Justification, however, makes strange bed-fellows these days, especially when Catholic theologians, such as Fr. Brown and Fr. Fitzmyer, start saying that justification is forensic. All kinds of Protestant ears begin to perk up, and suddenly Fr. Brown becomes their long-lost friend, even though Fr. Brown repudiates Dr. Horton’s view of biblical inerrancy, and many other doctrines that Dr. Horton holds dear to him. These are the kinds of days we are living. Alliances that we would never think possible are happening all the time. One look at the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Declaration on Justification will show that with a little ‘snip’ here and a little ‘cut’ there, virtual theological enemies 475 years ago can now become the best of friends. This is even more ironic since I am acquainted well enough with Dr. Horton to know that he would not endorse the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Declaration (and I believe he has gone on record against it), for it is virtually empty of the Reformed distinctives by which he molds his soteriology.

Now, where do all the modern ideas about Justification in the Catholic Church originate? From the liberal Catholic theologians noted above (de Chardin, Rahner, Kung, Schillebeeckx, et al); not from orthodox Catholics. Even 400 years after Trent (and prior to Pius XII’s Divino Afflante Spiritu in 1943) you couldn’t find a Catholic theologian who would even entertain the idea that Justification was forensic, let alone endorse it in writing. One of the great Catholic commentaries, A Commentary on Holy Scripture by Dom Bernard Orhard, written at the turn of the 20th century, repudiates forensic Justification, as do all the others in that genre.

So, in the end, we find that Dr. Horton’s citing of Franco, Brown, Fitmyer, et al, really doesn’t amount to much. All it shows is that there are some Catholic theologians who have attempted to change traditional Catholic thinking. This has happened many times in our Catholic history. In fact, I don’t know of any century in our two-thousand year history which has been immune from it. But faithful Catholics need not worry, for in due time the errors will be exposed and they will be eradicated. It just takes some time to do so. The Arians weren’t totally squashed for five centuries. Fr. Brown’s and his theological comrade’s aberrant ideas about Catholic Justification are relatively young and novel, that is, compared to other heresies that have come and gone in the Catholic Church. Fifty years of suffering with Fr. Brown’s aberrant teaching is negligible when put on the scale of the duration of heresies in other centuries of the Catholic Church. In the meantime, God allows their aberrant ideas to surface and flourish for a while, for as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:19 “For there must also be heresies among you, in order that those who are approved may become evident among you.” God has a purpose to everything, even to the wayward ideas of Dr. Horton and Fr. Brown.

But we can even go a step beyond Sacramentum Mundi and Fitzmyer, citing an article that our opponents will no doubt respect, since it is published in their magazine, This Rock (April 1995). After attacking the Protestant doctrine of “faith alone,” Leslie Rumble concedes, “Now it is quite true that Paul made use of a word which in the Greek language had the technical meaning of legal acquittal. And if the word can have no other meaning than that, one could scarcely dispute the interpretation of justification as implying no more than to be accounted as righteous or not guilty in the sight of God.” But alas, “Luther had not the advantages of modern scholarship.” “He belonged to an age when it was thought that the real meaning of the New Testament could be best ascertained by discovering the exact sense of the Greek language in which its books were originally written.”

Rumble evidently thinks that the meaning of the biblical text cannot be discerned in the same manner as Homer or Aristotle. Having conceded that the New Testament Greek text agrees with Luther, Rumble nevertheless rejects this view on the basis that “the whole religious outlook” takes precedence over the fine print. Although he admits that this interpretation is at odds with the Scriptures in their original language, we are supposed to take Rumble’s word for it that “the whole religious outlook” of the Bible endorses the Roman position, even though its actual words contradict it.

5) Has any Catholic theologian ever contested that dikaiow and its derivatives are totally void or incapable of being used in a legal sense? No, never. There were various instances in which the Greeks used the word in legal contexts. Paul could have done the same thing, if he desired to do so. But that just begs the question: DID he do so? Take the word “marriage,” for example. Is that a legal term or a personal term? It can be either, depending on the context in which it is placed. When applying for a marriage license, or when in divorce court, the word “marriage” becomes very legal, does it not? But when a husband loves his wife (as opposed to merely giving her food, clothing and shelter) is “marriage” merely a legal term? No, certainly not. It takes on a whole new meaning that law knows nothing about, for law can’t love. Only people who make a personal commitment of trust and care can love each other.

In the same way, Protestants think that just because they can find some examples where Greek culture used dikaiow in a legal sense that this automatically allows them to conclude that Paul is using it thusly, and, in fact, is confined to such a meaning in the New Testament. It is the all-or-nothing meaning that Protestants attempt to assign to dikaiow that is the problem. They tell us that it can ONLY refer to legal matters, and thus Paul is forced to use it forensically. But they have never proven this. They have never shown that dikaiow has such an exclusive meaning in Greek, nor have they produced a clear passage of Scripture which shows that Paul used dikaiow forensically, and only forensically. What they have done is give a lot of misinformation about dikaiow and Paul’s use of the term in the New Testament, not the least of which is Dr. Horton’s attempt below.

The verbal ending of dikaiow is declarative; if the biblical writers intended by “justification” a process of moral transformation, there is a perfectly good verbal ending for that sort of thing in Greek: adzo rather than ow. For instance, “to make holy” is translated from the Greek verb, “hagiodzo,” and this word is never rendered “to justify.” When the biblical writers refer to justification, they use the declarative ending; when they refer to sanctification, they use the progressive ending. If it is good enough of a distinction for the biblical writers themselves, surely we should have not trouble with the Bible’s own language.

6) Although Protestants have touted the ow ending as being exclusively forensic, the reality is that this is simply not true. We can find disproof for Dr. Horton’s contention in one of the very Protestant sources Dr. Horton admires. Philip Schaff, for example, says “Modern exegesis has justified this view of dikaiow and dikaiowsis, according to Hellenistic usage.” and then Schaff makes the admission: “.although etymologically the verb may mean to make just, i.e., to sanctify, in accordance with verbs in ow (e.g., delow, phanerow, tuphow, to make manifest, etc.” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII, f. 2, p. 123).

A study of these three NT words confirms Schaff’s admission. The word delow appears seven times in the epistles, all of which denote a recognition of an actual manifestation (e.g., 1 Cor 3:13; Col 1:8); phenerow appears fifty times, denoting the same (e.g., 1 Cor 4:5; 1 Tim 3:16); tuphow is used three times, referring to an actual blindness (John 12:40).

We also have the witness of M. J. LaGrange stating: “First, we should not that verbs in ow mean to make whatever the root indicates. Thus dikaiow would properly mean “make just” (La Justification selon saint Paul, RB 1914, 121, cited by C. Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, 1995, 1:341).

Protestants attempt to defend their forensic use of dikaiow by appealing to equally dubious definitions of associated words. For example, Protestants attempt to support an exclusively forensic meaning to dikaiow by appealing to the Greek word logizomai, normally translated as “credited” or “reckoned” in modern translations (cf., Romans 4:3). As taken from pages 324-325 of NBFA, here is what happens when they do so:

“This matter concerns the use of the Greek word logizomai, translated as ‘reckoned,’ ‘credited,’ ‘accepted,’ ‘counted,’ ‘considered.’.Protestant exegesis, especially that of Romans 4 where the Greek word logizomai appears twelve times, has consistently understood the word in the sense of ‘credited.’.Abraham is understood as one who has ‘something to his credit’ so that when God looks at his ledger book, as it were, he sees that, in accounting terms, Abraham is in the black.

Evangelical Joel Beeke comments on this verb:

‘This verb most often indicates ‘what a person, considered by himself, is not, or does not have, but is reckoned, held or regarded to be, or to have. It is clear then that when Abraham was justified by his faith, the righteousness which was reckoned or ‘charged to his account’ was a righteousness not his own but that of another, namely, the righteousness of Christ.’

Unfortunately, Beeke presents a false premise which leads a false conclusion. First, the Greek verb logizomai does not ‘most often indicate’ what someone or something is merely ‘considered’ to be but is not so in reality. The New Testament uses logizomai 41 times. Most of these refer to what someone is thinking as a mental representation of the reality they are witnessing (cf., Luke 22:37; Rom 3:28; 6:11; 9:8; 1 Cor 4:1; 13:5, 11; Phil 3:13; 4:8; Heb 11:19, et al). Contrary to Beeke’s proposition, in only a few instances is logizomai used as a mental representation of something that does not exist in reality (cf., Rom 2:26; 2 Cor 12:6).

Hence, the preponderant evidence shows that logizomai denotes more of what is recognized or understood intrinsically of a person or thing than a mere crediting to the person or thing something that is not intrinsic to it. In the case of Abraham, we can then understand the phrase “his faith is reckoned as righteousness” in Romans 4:3 such that God is recognizing or viewing Abraham’s faith as righteousness.This is very different from saying, as Beeke claims, that God ‘credited’ Abraham with righteousness as if to say that Abraham was not really showing any righteous qualities when he demonstrated his faith but that God, because of the alien righteousness of Christ, merely gave him the label of righteousness.’

I recommend to the reader that he consult pages 324-354 in Not By Faith Alone to see all the arguments refuting the contention of Dr. Horton that dikaiow is exclusively forensic.

Furthermore, it is an imputation of an “alien righteousness” rather than an infusion of righteous into the soul.

7) Here’s the challenge for Dr. Horton: Can he tell us where Scripture shows us that justification is an imputation of alien righteousness? Here’s his first problem: The word normally associated with Protestant “imputation” is the Greek word logizomai, which I covered above. We have seen that, from the Scriptural usage of the term, Protestants are wrong in assuming that logizomai refers to a mere crediting of righteousness, that is, a crediting of something that in reality does not exist.

Here’s his second problem: where does Scripture distinguish between the individual’s righteousness and “alien” righteousness in regards to the criterion for justification? This is a real dilemma for Protestants (although in listening to Dr. Horton you would never know it). For those who are interested in this, please consult pages 346-354 in Not By Faith Alone for the details.

In brief, the dilemma is this: Romans 4:5; 4:9; and 4:22, by strict use of Greek grammar, show that it is precisely Abraham’s faith which is counted for righteousness, not an “alien” righteousness from Christ.

Joel Beeke recognized it, but he tried to twist the meaning of the Greek word eis (“for”) (just as he had done with the Greek word logizomai, noted above) in order to escape the problem.

Esteemed Reformed theologian John Murray recognized it, but rather than twist the meaning of eis as Beeke did, Murray said, “It may not be possible to answer this question with any decisiveness” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 1965, p. 358).

Esteemed Reformed theologian Charles Hodge admitted the grammatical meaning of Romans 4:5, 9, 22, but says that it is “inconsistent” with other things we know about Scripture, which means that Hodge puts Scripture in the dubious position of being at odds with itself (Justification by Faith Alone, p. 48).

It is not, as it has been caricatured, a “legal fiction,” as if God could judge contrary to the facts. We maintain that God’s judgment is strictly according to the facts, but that it is Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account that allows God to be both “just and the justifier of those who believe.” It is not a legal fiction because Christ’s righteousness is real and perfect and it has been truly credited to the account of the believing sinner.

8) Dr. Horton is saying what others have said. For instance, R. C. Sproul says: “The forensic declaration of justification is not a legal fiction. It is real and authentic because the imputation upon which it is based is no fiction. It is a real imputation of real righteousness of a real Christ” (Justification by Faith Alone, p. 39).

Geisler and MacKenzie attempt the same argument with a little more subtlety: “Our status is not merely legal (as in forensic justification) but also ontological (real) for we become the actual children of God at the initial moment of salvation” (Evangelicals and Catholics Together, p. 239).

Here is our answer: Catholicism has no contention with Protestants if they desire to think of their imputation as “real.” The Counter-Reformation charge of “legal fiction” referred rather to the forensic justification’s theory that the individual was still internally unjust, though justified. This infringed on the integrity of God, who was put in the position of calling something just that was not really just. Analogously, a gold-plated coin is real (just as Protestants think their forensic imputation is real) but that does not mean that the metal underneath the plating is real gold. Thus, for someone to call the gold-plated coin a genuine gold coin would be a lie. So, Dr. Horton can consider his imputation “real,” and his Christ “real,” but that is not the issue at stake. The issue is: Is there “real” gold underneath the label? Dr. Horton believes that the individual, in the act of Justification, is intrinsically the same as he was before he was Justified. The only change is that, at the moment of Justification, he has a legal label on him that says he is “Justified.”

Let me illustrate the point: 11 yrs. ago now, I went to Europe with a group of college friends. It will come as no surprise to parents everywhere that by the last week, I had run out of money and had to phone home. My parents graciously transferred funds from their account to mine and I was saved from disaster. Was that my money? In the sense that it was in my account, surely it was my money. But had I earned it? Certainly not. The only reason that my account showed a full credit instead of a deficit was because my parents, who had earned that money, had transferred it to my account. Was this a “banking fiction”?

9) No, it wasn’t a “banking fiction.” They really transferred the money, and Dr. Horton really used it. But just as before, Dr. Horton is not dealing with the real issue, for he doesn’t tell us whether his parents merely lent him the money and expected him to pay it back, or that they gave him the money and did not expect repayment. Let’s say they lent him a million dollars, but expected it to be repaid. Would it be proper for Dr. Horton to tell his friends in Europe that he was now a “Rich Man” and that all his money worries in life were over? No, because he knows that the million dollars is not really his money, for he has to pay it all back. However, if Dr. Horton’s parents gave him the money and didn’t expect any repayment, then it would be perfectly acceptable for him to claim to his friend that he was a Rich Man, for he would actually have a million dollars to his name. This example illustrates well the difference between Catholicism and Dr. Horton. Catholicism will only call Dr. Horton a “Rich Man” if he actually possesses the million dollars and doesn’t have to pay it back.

In the same way, God’s judgment that we are righteous before him even though we are not inherently righteous in ourselves is not a “legal fiction.” The perfect righteousness of Christ is credited to the believer’s account as though the believer had never sinned and had perfectly loved God and his neighbor with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.

10) Its really amazing to me how Dr. Horton can say in one phrase the words “as though” and yet claim in another phrase that this is “not a legal fiction.” The words “as though” mean that it is not real; it only appears to be real. And its even more insidious when we see what Dr. Horton attaches to the “as though” category: “the believer had never sinned and had perfectly loved God and his neighbor with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.” In other words, he uses “as though” to make it appear that the believer hasn’t sinned and has perfectly loved God, yet Dr. Horton knows that the believer has not done either of these things. If he had just said that Christ imputes righteousness in spite of the fact that the believer has sinned and remains a sinner, it might not be half as bad, but his goal is to make the sinner appear as if he never sinned and always did the things he was commanded.

Why? Why does Dr. Horton need to have a “sinless” believer? Because his system demands it. In order for the believer to get to heaven, Dr. Horton maintains that the believer cannot merely have Christ’s righteousness imputed to him, he must, in the final analysis be “sinless,” for God cannot accept sinful people into heaven. Essentially, Protestantism and Catholicism are bound by the same principle: God cannot accept sinful people into heaven. Catholicism answers the problem by saying that all sin and its punishment, whether in Baptism, Confession, or in Purgatory, will be erased from the individual and will be replaced with grace so that he can enter heaven as a pure, undefiled individual (cf. Revelation 21:27). Protestants answer it by saying that Christ imputes righteousness, legally, not substantively, so that the individual can stand before God with a legal label that says “I am justified,” and which God will accept, even though God knows the person is still a dirty rotten sinner inside.

The account not only lacks any debt; it shows a balance of perfect righteousness. Luther’s phrase was “simul iustus et peccator,” “simultaneously justified and sinful.” God judges a believing sinner righteous not because the individual is actually righteous, but because Christ is actually righteous and the believer is covered in his righteousness. That is not to say that the believer is not being made righteous, but it is to say that this process is sanctification rather than justification; it is the effect of justification rather than its cause.

11) Well, Dr. Horton has just opened up a whole new can of worms here. Notice how he merely asserts, not proves from Scripture, that justification is a wholly different process than sanctification. But before we get to that, notice also that Dr. Horton says that in the “process of sanctification” the believer is “made righteous,” as if to placate his opponents so that he can say, “See, I believe we are made righteous, too. I am not denying that.” But to what avail, Dr. Horton? Your concept of “making righteous” has absolutely nothing to do with anything soteriological. It is merely an inconsequential passing of time before the believer dies and goes to heaven.

For that matter, to what degree is the believer “made righteous” on this earth, considering that he, according to Dr. Horton, is never free from the stench of sin in this life? How much “making righteous” does it take to counterbalance the very sin for which he was originally condemned to Hell? What is God supposed to do, look at the believer’s intrinsic righteousness out of one eye, and look at the intrinsic sin out of the other eye and come up with a composite view? You see how silly this whole enterprise becomes, for there is no degree of “making righteous” in Dr. Horton’s scheme of things that could ever counterbalance the stench of sin, and thus the whole idea of “making righteous,” in the Protestant sense of the term, is theologically superfluous.

Now let’s deal with Dr. Horton’s attempt to make a gulf between justification and sanctification. Dr. Horton has a problem. Why? Because there is only one verse in the whole New Testament that refers to justification and sanctification in the same sentence. That single verse is 1 Corinthians 6:11, and thus we are uniquely dependent on it for the relationship between justification and sanctification. From the Greek, the verse literally reads: “And these things were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

The first thing we notice is that, although a Protestant ordo salutis would prefer to see justification preceding sanctification, this order is just the opposite in 1 Cor. 6:11. Why would Paul allow this seeming discrepancy if the chronological, or even logical, precedence of justification over sanctification was already presumed by him? Second, the context of 1 Cor. 6 has nothing even remotely to do with forensic imputation; rather, it is concerned with the life of the Corinthians, and more specifically, with their inner spiritual life. Dr. Horton would have to admit to this specification, since he has already said that in sanctification the individual is “made righteous.”

But if the individual is “made righteous” by being “sanctified,” yet if “justified” means, according to Dr. Horton, “imputed, not made, righteous,” then what is “justified” doing in a context that is speaking only about being “made righteous”? “Justified” and “sanctified” are both Greek aorists referring to an act in past time. They are both passives, which means the acts were performed on the individual. They both occur when the “washing” occurs, and thus it is presumed that the washing (in the Greek aorist, middle voice, which means that the Corinthians submitted themselves to it, i.e., in Baptism) occurs simultaneously with the justification and the sanctification. The grammar certainly doesn’t bode well for the contention of Dr. Horton that justification precedes sanctification, whether temporally or logically, or that there is a distinction between the effects of justification and the effects of sanctification, since, obviously, 1 Cor. 6:11 makes no distinction.

We should also add that, Protestant lexicons which might normally be predisposed to interpret dikaiow as forensic, do not hesitate to call its usage in 1 Cor. 6:11 as “causative” (that is, to make one pure or righteous as opposed to declaring one forensically righteous), adding that “in the mystery religions dikaiousthai refers to a radical inner change which the initiate experiences.and approaches the sense of becoming deified. Some are inclined to find in 1 Tim. 3:165 a similar use” (Walter Bauer’s Lexicon, p. 197).

Here are some other proofs: In many instances, the New Testament writers use the word “sanctified” or “sanctification” where one would expect to see “justified” or “justification.” For example, Acts 26:18, in which Jesus connects the turning away from Satan to God and in being forgiven with sanctification, not justification; 1 Peter 1:2, in which Peter connects predestination with sanctification; 2 Thess 2:13 in which sanctification and faith are connected directly to being chosen for salvation; Hebrews 10:29 in which the sacred writer connects blood with sanctification.

I would recommend the reader to consult pages 223-225; 339-345 in Not By Faith Alone for more detail on the above arguments.

How Is One Justified? Faith Alone or Faith And Works?

M. Horton: Our opponents will argue that there is no single text that explicitly bears the words, justification by faith alone. They are correct, but I am certain that they would regard as simplistic the suggestion that the Scriptures do not teach the doctrine of the Trinity simply because the term is not used. The Scriptures are hardly ambiguous in excluding all human activity from being the instrument of justification with the exception of faith. This is the same as saying “faith alone.” Or, to put it another way, if the Scriptures teach that we are justified by faith and not by works, then they teach “faith alone.”

12) As the reader will recognize, I previously extracted Dr. Horton’s above comment for an earlier part of this rebuttal (answer #2). Notice that Dr. Horton starts from the unproven premise that “The Scriptures are hardly ambiguous in excluding all human activity from being the instrument of justification.” If he can show us just one verse stating that “all human activity” is barred from being an instrument of justification, then he can make a case. We know that Paul says works of “debt” are barred from being an instrument of justification (Rom 4:3-4; 11:35; Eph 2:8-9) but not “all human activity.” If not, then Paul’s statement in Romans 2:13: “the doers of the law will be justified,” would be an heretical statement, as would Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:36-37 or 16:27 about men being justified or judged for their works.

We should also point out that Dr. Horton’s appeal to the word “Trinity” not being in Scripture to support his conclusion that Scripture doesn’t have to use the words “faith alone” in order to teach the concept, is not going to help his case. The only thing it does show is that Dr. Horton is acutely aware that the absence of “faith alone” in Scripture has to be answered. Oh the poor Trinity! Its absence as a term in Scripture is even used by heretical groups such as Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons to support their aberrant beliefs. But here is the reality: The Trinity is a very complex concept — one, in fact, that the mind of man cannot comprehend. It is impossible for Scripture to explain to us how “three are in one and one are in three,” since it does not make any logical sense to our minds.

But Justification, especially if it were by faith alone, is not a complex concept at all. All Paul would have had to do is put one, just one, statement in Scripture which said man is justified by faith alone, and there would be no controversy. We are forced to reflect on this absence ever more seriously when we realize Scripture’s insistence that its own words are chosen very carefully, and that it makes such choices precisely because it foresees the impact and implications of its teaching. For example, in Galatians 3:16 Paul makes quite an issue out of the fact that Scripture, in explaining redemptive truth, chose to use the singular “seed,” not the plural “seeds” (a relatively imperceptible distinction for the uninformed reader). Paul writes: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.” Scripture often appeals to its precise language, which many times goes unnoticed by the average reader, to settle disputes and uncover nuances to divine revelation that are not immediately obvious (cf., Matt. 12:3-5; 22:29-32; 22:41-46; 24: 15; Luke 20:37; John 7:41-43; 10:34-36; 19:36-37; Rom. 9:13; 10:8-11; 1 Cor. 9:9-10; 14:21; Gal. 4:30; Eph. 4:8-9; Heb. 4:2,6; 7:14; Num. 25:9/1 Cor. 10:8; Exo. 12:41/Gal. 3:17; Gen. 46:26-27/Acts 7:14; Luke 10:7/1 Tim. 5:18). Obviously, Paul, and the other inspired writers, treat Scripture as one cohesive whole wherein one book or testament anticipates and clarifies another.

Hence, it is not too much a stretch of the imagination to assume that the word “alone” was avoided by Paul, but added by James, in recognition and respect of the ubiquity of Scripture’s teaching on justification. I can hasten to add that this argument should not be dismissed by claiming, for example, that if it is legitimate to use non-biblical words such as “Trinity” or “homousios” to explain theological truth, then it is acceptable to add such words as “alone” to Paul’s writings for theological clarification. The reason: since “faith” and “alone” ARE words used by Scripture, we are required to follow Scriptural guidelines on their respective use.

The Gospel is announced first in Genesis, after the Fall, where God finds Adam and Eve in their guilt and self-righteousness. Their fig leaves cannot hide their shame from God, but the Redeemer God sacrifices an animal and clothes them in its skins, anticipating “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Already the Gospel is announced not as divine assistance in producing an inherent righteousness, but as God’s covering of the believer with the righteousness of another. It is external to the believing sinner.

13) Since Dr. Horton brought up the issue of Adam and Eve, perhaps we should flesh-out this concept a bit. In doing so, we will see how the case of Adam and Eve actually disproves what Dr. Horton is attempting to teach. In Romans 5:19 Paul says, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One [Christ] the many will be made righteous.” We are going to concentrate on the words “made sinners” and “made righteous.” The Greek word “made” in both phrases is katestathesan.

Now let’s ask the question: How was Adam “made a sinner,” and how were his progeny “made sinners”? The answer is Original Sin, something to which Dr. Horton will have no disagreement. In fact, Dr. Horton would go on to explain that Original Sin refers to man’s Total Depravity, which is a real, ontological, sinful state. But here’s the difference: Adam’s sin does not merely place him in the legal category of sin; rather, his soul is effected. It is in a state of sin. Adam wasn’t “imputed” as a sinner; rather, Paul says he was “made a sinner.” There is no use of “crediting” here to which the Protestant can appeal. All one has to do is read David’s statement in Psalm 51:5: “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” to know the real effects of Original Sin on the soul.

This being true, it must be equally true that when Paul says “.even so through the obedience of the One [Christ] the many will be made righteous” he must also be referring to a real, ontological change in the soul from being in a state of sin to a state of righteousness, otherwise Romans 5:19 will not be in equilibrium.

By the way, how does one get rid of the sinful state of the soul? Paul answers that question forthwith, for immediately after his statements about Original Sin in Romans 5:19, he goes on to speak of Christian Baptism in Romans 6:1-4 as that which allows us to be “made righteous.” And the reader is encouraged to remember that this is precisely what 1 Cor. 6:11 taught us as it coupled the “washing” (baptism) with being “justified” and “sanctified” (cf., Titus 3:5-7; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 3:21).

In God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen.15), we learn again that sinners can only be justified through faith in God’s gracious promise: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credit it to him as righteousness.” In Habakuk 2:4, we read that while the unbelievers are “puffed up” with their own righteousness, the believer “by his faith shall live.” The impossibility of being justified by an inherent righteousness–that is, by works, runs throughout Scripture. As the writer to the Hebrews insists (Hebrews 11), all of the great Old Testament saints were justified by faith, not by their own deeds. But why is it impossible for works to play any part in justification? The Scriptures declare that it is because even our best works are sinful–in fact “as filthy rags” (Is. 64:6), and the Psalmist declares, “no one living is righteous before you” (Ps.143:2). Thus, our only hope is the good news that we find in Psalm 103:10: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” Isaiah foretold the day when the Messiah would “justify many and he shall bear their iniquities” (53:11).

14) So many Scriptures, so many misinterpretations. Of course Scripture says we are saved by faith, but in opposition to works of “debt,” not in opposition to all kinds of works. Of course Scripture says that the works of sinners are as “filthy rags,” but Isaiah specifies that they have “become” that way, not that they were that way all the time. In fact, in Isaiah 64:5 he acknowledges that God “meets him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers Thee in Thy ways.” If, as Dr. Horton contends, everything we do is a “filthy rag,” then how can Isaiah say that men can do “righteousness” and “remember” God? The reason is that Dr. Horton has made the classic mistake of taking a verse out of context to use it as a proof text.

As for Psalm 145:2, the same thing holds. In fact, we will go beyond what Dr. Horton has used and add in all the Psalms that Paul references in Romans 3:9-18 (“there is none righteous, no not one”; “there is none who understands”; “there is none who seeks for God”; etc). Catholic theology has no problem with these passages, for they describe the condition of man prior to God’s grace. Left on his own without God’s grace to move him, man would be as unable to come to God as an amoeba. Under law and without God’s grace all men are under the sentence of death and damnation, but that doesn’t mean that after God gives us His grace that our works can’t be used as an instrument of justification.

In fact, Dr. Horton can be trapped by his own logic. Since Dr. Horton holds that faith is the only instrument for justification, how is God going to judge the kind of faith that Dr. Horton aspires to? Dr. Horton has stated that God is not going to accept just any kind of faith. For example, Dr. Horton would agree that it can’t be mere “intellectual” faith. It has to be a qualified faith, faith that is good. In fact, evangelicals have a phrase that describes this kind of faith. They call it “saving faith.” Now, let’s ask this question: Who is going to judge whether Dr. Horton has “saving faith,” God or Dr. Horton? Of course, the answer must be God.

Second, by what standard will God judge Dr. Horton’s faith to see if it qualifies as “saving faith”? There are only two choices: God will judge it either through grace or through law. If God measures Dr. Horton’s faith through law, then, knowing that his faith has faltered on various occasions, Dr. Horton must admit that the law will condemn the least imperfection (James 2:10). So God must judge Dr. Horton’s faith through His grace, for grace does not require perfection. It can pardon imperfections upon repentance. Now, if Dr. Horton agrees with the above description (and there is no reason why he shouldn’t), then we will come back to tell him that works can be viewed in the exact same way that Dr. Horton allows God to view his faith — by grace.

When a Catholic says that his works are instrumental for justification, he does not mean works judged by law. He means works judged by grace. Under law, man’s works will always be condemned, because the works are not perfect. But by the same token, under law man’s faith will always be condemned, because faith is never perfect. Both faith and works must be judged by grace if they are to have any chance of being accepted by God. And we must also remember that if one has mere intellectual faith or works of debt, he will not be justified, for even grace cannot accept them.

In his earthly ministry, therefore, our Lord was regularly confronting the religious leaders with their confidence in their own works. While he offered the Gospel to the prostitutes who knew their sinfulness, he first offered the Law to those who did not. He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it and he held up to the self-righteous Pharisees the standard of divine perfection: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now imagine the force of that. The Pharisees were so concerned to follow God’s Law in every detail that they even set up elaborate rules to avoid the slightest transgression. Were Jesus to have said that our righteousness must surpass that of the prostitutes, we could have understood his point, but how could the common and rather vulgar fisherman like Peter attain a purity that exceeded that of the most righteous men in Israel? The Apostle Paul answered that question in Philippians 3. He says that if anyone had any reason to boast about his own inherent righteousness, it was he: circumcised on the 8th day, an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; “as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness of the Law, blameless.” And what is Paul’s response? “Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ…I regard these as dung, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith” (Phil.3:5-9). Notice the Apostle’s placement of “the righteousness from God based on faith” and the “righteousness of my own” in opposition. Justification by an inherent, internal righteousness is deemed absolutely contrary to a justification that comes through faith.

15) When you’re trapped in a system that cannot provide the answers, then you will have a very difficult time in seeing your errors. Notice that in attempting to answer the issue raised by Matthew 5:20 concerning the surpassing of the righteousness of the Pharisees, Dr. Horton immediately whisks us away from the context of Matthew 5 and propels us into Philippians 3. Why doesn’t Dr. Horton deal with the context of Matthew 5? The answer is obvious. If he stuck with Matthew 5 it wouldn’t prove his point. Why? Because the way Jesus goes on to explain HOW we are to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees is by not calling our brother a fool (5:21-26); by not lusting after a woman (5:27-30); by not divorcing a wife (5:31-32); by not making false vows (5:33-37); by not returning evil for evil (5:38-48). All these things the Pharisees did not do, but Jesus expects His followers to do in order “to enter the kingdom of heaven,” and thus their obedience is a matter of salvation.

Now let’s deal with Dr. Horton’s appeal to Philippians 3:5-6. Notice Paul says that “as to the Law” he was “a Pharisee”; as to “the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” So Paul, before his conversion, was of the same Pharisaical mentality that Jesus was condemning in Matthew 5:20. What was Jesus condemning in Matthew 5:20? He was condemning people such as the Pharisees who, perhaps: didn’t murder anyone, but constantly called their brother a fool; who didn’t lay with another man’s wife, but constantly lusted after her in their hearts; who put away their wives for various reasons by following the Mosaic law, but never showed any pity toward them; who didn’t make false vows, but lied about other things; who followed the Mosaic prescription of an eye for an eye, but never showed mercy for anyone who hurt them. Yes, they lived by the outward requirements of the law, but not the inward intent of the law, which was to show mercy and love to their fellow man. It is the mere outward obedience to the Law that Paul and Jesus condemned and which cannot gain anyone salvation. But neither condemned genuine, heartfelt good works that both Paul and Jesus say are necessary for salvation.

This is why Jesus threatened the religious leaders with the Law itself. Although they thought that their inherent righteousness–their obedience to God’s commands, was justifying them before God, they could only maintain this charade so long as they did not really know what the Law required. Therefore, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells them what it really means to fulfill the Law, that is, to love God and neighbor perfectly. Anyone who hates his neighbor is a murderer; adultery is committed not only in the physical act, but in lust. The young Pharisee who thought he had fulfilled the Law since he was a child was told by Jesus to sell everything he had and to give it to the poor, but the man went away sad. He had not truly loved his neighbor as himself after all. When Jesus told his disciples how perfect their righteousness had to be in order to merit eternal life, they replied, “Who then can be saved”? “Jesus replied, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'” (Mt.19:24).

16) Again, Dr. Horton misses what stares him in the face. Instead of answering the text for what it says, Dr. Horton creates another fallacious framework so that he can make the passage fit into his preconceived theology. What Dr. Horton is really saying in the above paragraph is that even though Jesus told his followers to make their righteousness surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20), in reality, this was an impossible task for them. Instead, Dr. Horton uses Jesus’ specific requirements outlined in Matthew 5:21-48 as evidence why they must NOT seek to gain eternal life by showing the love and mercy engendered in those commands. Dr. Horton reasons that if its hard to get into heaven by obeying as the Pharisees obey, its doubly hard to enter if one is required to go beyond the Pharisees’ obedience and actually love someone. But this is the exact opposite of what Jesus intended to teach. This is what happens when your theological system rules your exegesis of Scripture — the plainest passages become the victim of total distortion.

Regarding the Rich Man, in Mark 10:17-27, it says that when Jesus heard that the Rich Man had obeyed the commandments since his youth, “Jesus felt a love for him.” Jesus knew that the man was close, but he wasn’t there yet. Knowing the Rich Man’s state, did Jesus tell him to drop all pretentions of obedience and merely have faith in God? No, faith was not the issue. The man already believed in God. Instead, Jesus gave him another work to do, the most important work of his life — to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor. If he did that, then according to Jesus’ word, he would have entered the kingdom of heaven. If this wasn’t the way to heaven, then Jesus was lying to the man about what was necessary for him, but that is exactly what Dr. Horton’s theology ends up doing — making Jesus a liar.

What is Dr. Horton angling for? The justification of the Rich Man by forensic imputation. How does he attempt to get there? It is difficult for Dr. Horton because the text simply doesn’t say anything about forensic imputation. So what does Dr. Horton do? He quotes Matthew 19:24-26 (“Who then can be saved”? “Jesus replied, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible'”). What is Dr. Horton implying? That it was impossible for the Rich Man to perform any obedience to save himself, including selling his possessions and giving the money to the poor, but that God can come to the rescue with forensic imputation. Think long and hard about this passage, for it, unlike many others, unlocks the insidious nature of Dr. Horton’s theology.

Echoing these words, St. Anselm in the 11th century wisely counseled, “You have not yet considered how great your sin is,”

17) This type of patronizing reference to Catholic saints is done by Dr. Horton to claim, between the lines, “See, even great Catholics have agreed with what I am saying.” If Dr. Horton really knew what St. Anselm taught about Justification, he wouldn’t make such glib comments about this loyal Catholic saint. St. Anselm did not believe in forensic justification. Anyone who reads just a small portion of his writings can glean that much from him. He believed in infused righteousness just like his mentor St. Augustine. St. Anselm believed in the Catholic Mass as a salvific sacrifice, Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, Baptismal Regeneration, Confession for mortal sin, the primacy of the Pope, the succession of bishops, and all the Catholic doctrines we believe today, and all of them Dr. Horton repudiates.

The only who has not considered the greatness of his sin is Dr. Horton. He has twisted Scripture to no end; making Paul and Jesus say things they don’t mean, putting phrases in the Bible that the Bible specifically condemns (e.g., “faith alone”); make up definitions of words to suit his theology (e.g., dikaiow, logizomai); making wayward Catholic theologians be the mouthpiece for Catholic theology; and then Dr. Horton adds insult to injury by quoting Catholic saints and implying that they would have agreed with his theology about justification.

.and to those who trust in their own inherent righteousness, the realization of God’s purity sends them away sad, angry, or more determined to try even harder to attain righteousness by their own works. Some, however, like the disciples, will relinquish their own works and, like Paul, place them in the “debit” rather than “credit” column and their despair will turn to joy in the all-sufficient merit of Christ.

18) Again, Dr. Horton’s failure to distinguish between works of debt and works of grace is the cause for his continual distortion of Scripture. And my guess is that Dr. Horton will not admit to this distinction no matter how many times it is told to him, for to do so would mean that the entire edifice he has built for 20 years will come tumbling down. Right now it is Dr. Horton who is the Pharisee here; the one building artificial systems of theology for his own gain; circumscribed for 20 years by Evangelicalism, of the tribe of Geneva; a Calvinist of the Calvinists; as to the Law, a misrepresenter of facts; as to zeal, a persecutor of the Catholic Church; as to righteousness which is in good works, found totally blameworthy. .

Jesus taught justification by faith alone throughout his earthly ministry.

19) Once it starts, it never stops. Not only does Dr. Horton claim that Paul teaches faith alone, but now he claims that Jesus was his teacher, despite the fact that Jesus never says once in the gospels that man is justified by faith alone, but says numerous times that man is justified by his works (Matthew 12:36-39; 16:27; Revelation 22:12; John 5:28-29, et al).

First he would preach the Law so powerfully that his hearers despaired of being able to be saved by their own obedience. But then he offered the Gospel of free justification. When he healed the paralytic, for instance, forgiveness stand out as even greater than the healing itself. “When Jesus saw their faith,” we read–not when he saw their love or their works or the direction of the hearts, but “when Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.'” The Pharisees were incensed at Jesus for presuming to have the right to forgive sins. In the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus forgave a prostitute, telling her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Lk.7:50).

20) I suggest to the reader to consult pages 203-212 of Not By Faith Alone, which will explain in detail the healing of the paralytic and the prostitute who was saved. Suffice it to say that Dr. Horton is distorting these texts just as I have shown that he has done with our present texts.

In Luke 18:9, we find another one of those situations in which Jesus antagonized the religious leaders: “To some who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a day and give a tenth of all I get.” ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”‘” Notice the contrast Jesus makes here between these two people. First, the parable is told, says Luke, to “some who were confident in their own righteousness.” To the extent that Rome even speaks of meriting justification, there is a one-to-one correspondence between the Pharisee in this parable and our friends in this debate.

21) Yes, if Rome spoke of merit in the same way that the Pharisees spoke of merit, Dr. Horton would have every right to condemn the Catholic Church. In fact, I would beat him to it. Unfortunately for Dr. Horton, making such an association is a lot easier than proving it. Perhaps there are some Catholics (actually I’m sure there are many), who believe in their own self-righteousness. Similarly, I’m sure there are many Protestants who believe in their own self-righteousness. But if Dr. Horton really understood what Catholic theology taught about “merit,” he wouldn’t make such conclusions. Or perhaps there is another agenda at work here. It is very possible that Dr. Horton does understand the merits of the Catholic theology of merit, but simply refuses to accept it no matter how plausible and logical it sounds, and would rather debate a straw man of his own choosing.

Well, regardless of what Dr. Horton may be thinking, the truth is that when Catholic theology speaks of “meriting justification” it is referring to a “gracious meriting,” not a legal meriting such as was the case in Pharisaical theology. St. Thomas Aquinas, whose books were put on display at the Council of Trent so that the Tridentine divines could readily consult his works, taught that there were two kinds of merit: strict merit and condign merit. A third category is an offshoot of condign merit call congruent merit. Here’s what Aquinas said concerning the major distinction between the two classes of merit:

“Note the difference between meritum de condigno and that which is said to be merit in strict sense. Even though both bespeak some right to reward, they do so in different ways. Merit in strict justice implies an absolute equality without any grace given to the person who merits. But merit de condigno involves an equality which arises from grace which has been given to the one meriting (Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 114, a. 1, ad 3).

Ignoring these words from Aquinas, here is what Dr. Horton says regarding the Catholic concept of merit.

“Here, the Roman church distinguished between condign merit, which is an outright payment for that which is truly earned, and congruent merit, which is not really earned in the truest sense of the term, but which God graciously accepts ‘as if’ it had been merited truly” (Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Unites and Divides Us, p. 266, n. 9, cited on pages 628-629 of Not by Faith Alone).

Now we can understand precisely why Dr. Horton keeps undermining the Catholic doctrine of Justification – – because he has misunderstood one of its most fundamental concepts. Dr. Horton holds that condign merit is “an outright payment for that which is truly earned,” and that congruent merit is “not really earned in the truest sense of the term.”

Here’s what Dr. Horton has done: He has: (a) ignored Thomas’ classification of “strict merit”; and (b) confused the distinction between strict merit and condign merit to be a distinction between condign merit and congruent merit. Let’s make this perfectly clear: Condign merit is not “an outright payment for that which is truly earned.” That definition applies only to “strict” merit, as Thomas explains above. Strict merit is an equitable exchange of goods and services “without any grace” involved, whereas condign merit is an equitable exchange that “arises from grace.” If it arises from grace, it is cannot be an “outright payment” nor is it “truly earned.” Grace means it is not owed to the individual but is given to him as a gift or reward. Congruent merit also arises from grace, and the only thing that distinguishes it from condign merit is that it is given to Christians and non-Christians, whereas condign merit only applies to Christians.

For anyone interested, this topic is covered exhaustively in Appendix 3 of Not By Faith Alone.

“But,” our friends will protest, “we attribute our inherent righteousness to God. It is his work in us.” But the Pharisee, too, thanked God for this inherent righteousness. He pointed to his own spiritual disciplines–fasting, tithing, and so on, but he thanked God for it all.

22) Again, Dr. Horton gets himself into trouble because he doesn’t pay attention to the details in the text. He keeps dealing with universal concepts and tries to plug Catholicism into them. I suggest that he get his concepts correct first, which can only be done by looking at the details the parable gives. It is stated clearly in Luke 18:9 that, in using the Pharisee as an example, Jesus was referring to people who “trusted in THEMSELVES that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt,” not to people who attribute their inherent righteousness to God. In fact, did the Pharisee say, “God I thank you for attributing your righteousness to me”? No, not at all. He only thanked God for not being like the tax-gatherer and pretending that he had no sins.

Is that what faithful Catholics do? No. When a Catholic says that he attributes his righteousness to God he is neither trusting in HIMSELF, nor is he putting anyone else down. He trusts in God who gave him remission of sin through Baptism and Confession, and sustains him through the Holy Eucharist.

If we were to take Dr. Horton’s criticism to its logical conclusion, then there would be no one who could say that they are righteous because of God. Men such as Joseph (Mt 1:19); John the Baptist (Mk 6:20); Simeon (Lk 2:22); Lot (2 Pt 2:7-8); Elizabeth and Zechariah (Lk 1:6); Noah (Gn 6:9); Job (Jb 1:1); Abel (Mt 23:35); Enoch (Gn 5:24); Abraham (Gn 17:1); David (Ac 13:22); Daniel (Ez 14:14), and many others who the Bible says are “righteous,” could not be called such merely because people like the Pharisees abuse the privilege. No, I’m afraid Dr. Horton has tried to make the single case of the Pharisees represent a much larger case than they were intended to serve, and Scripture simply won’t allow it.

This, however, seems to have meant nothing, as Jesus sets his example beside that of a notorious sinner. Even before this tax-collector could have begun to fast, tithe, or engage in spiritual duties, he was already declared righteous. And how? He simply acknowledged his own helplessness and cried out for God’s mercy. Mercy, not merit, was this man’s plea. And what is the point of Jesus’ story? He concludes, “I tell you that his man [the tax-collector] rather than the other, went home justified before God.”

23) For those who want further information, you will find a detailed explanation of this passage on pages 192-198 of Not By Faith Alone.

Jesus even insisted that the faith itself with which we claim the righteousness of Christ is a gift of God, since “no one can even come to Me unless it is given by the Father” (Jn.6:44). He declared repeatedly that he did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. In his High Priestly Prayer, with the Crucifixion just over the horizon, Jesus prayed concerning his people, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” He fulfilled all righteousness, not in order to save himself–for he was sinless, but in order to merit for us salvation by his obedience to the Law. He sanctified himself–he perfectly obeyed the Law and satisfied God’s righteous requirements, so that we too may be acceptable to God in him.

24) This paragraph will receive no argument from me, as it stands. The problem comes in when Dr. Horton starts applying it to his Calvinistic theology and ends up distorting these precious truths.

This is why, especially in John’s writings, we are told, “I write these things to you who believe in he name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn.5:13). And Jesus stated, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life” (Jn. 5:24). It is just this confidence that is denied by the Roman system and by all gospels of works-righteousness.

25) No, we don’t deny confidence, we deny presumptuousness. Please read pages 501-505 in Not By Faith Alone for an explanation of this.

Ask our friends today if they can know that they have eternal life, and they will answer that they can only know that they are now in a state of grace, but cannot be certain about whether they will be condemned in the end. Jesus declared, speaking of himself in the third person, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

26) Again, Dr. Horton will be trapped by his own verses. Granted, the passage says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” but that means that if a believer stops believing, and thus becomes an unbeliever, then he will be condemned, for the passage only guarantees that he will not be condemned if he believes. (John 3:18).

It is Jesus himself who employs the legal language of justification and condemnation, acquittal and judgment. In fact, he adds, “This is the verdict.” From our Lord’s own mouth, we are repeatedly told that everyone who believes is justified and everyone who does not believe is condemned. Works flow from faith, but it is faith alone that leads to acquittal.

27) Sometimes I feel I’m debating someone who really doesn’t know the Greek language. Perhaps Dr. Horton’s NIV Bible says “verdict,” but the Greek says krisis, which refers to judgment, a decision of the mind between two alternatives. Jesus uses the same word in John 5:30 and 8:16 of his own thinking process. Yet notice how Dr. Horton desperately tries to latch on to anything that will give him some semblance of forensic justification.

And as for Dr. Horton’s claim that “faith alone that leads to acquittal,” all we need do to refute this is drop down to John 3:21 where it says, “But he who PRACTICES the truth comes to the light, that his DEEDS may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” Obviously, if his works are involved, then it can’t be by faith alone.

In Acts 13:39, we read, “Through Christ everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” In Acts 15:9, we are told that “he purified their hearts by faith.” But we have not even yet given our attention to the teaching of St. Paul, whose letters were written especially to oppose false gospels and confirm believers in the Gospel of free grace. Where is the addition of “alone” necessary when Paul so clearly declares, “For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The just by faith shall live'”? If it is by faith “from first to last,” it is by faith alone.

28) First, may I suggest that Dr. Horton not depend on his NIV Bible so much, for the translation is very poor in many places. The more literal translations will either have “from faith to faith,” or “from faith unto faith.” Many of the other translations tend to convey the concept of starting with faith and finishing with faith, but this is an interpretation of the text rather than a translation. The Greek word ek usually means “out of” or “from,” while the Greek word eis usually means “to” or “for,” thus the phrase “from faith to faith” is probably the most accurate. Paul says that the gospel of salvation is given first to the Jew, and then to the Greek. This may be the reason Paul then says, “from faith to faith” in verse 17. In this case, the first use of “faith” would represent the Jews, while the second use of “faith” would represent the Greeks, and thus the gospel goes “from faith to faith” or “from Jew to Greek,” or “from one people of faith to another people of faith,” or “from OT faith to NT faith.”

The point is that God’s gospel has always been about faith. This is supported by Paul’s appeal to the OT book of Habakkuk. Paul quotes Hab 2:4: “He who through faith is righteous shall live,” or simply “The righteous shall live by faith.” This is the story about the Jewish prophet, Habakkuk, showing that faith first came to the Jews of the OT. The Jews had the first opportunity to hear the gospel; now it is the Greeks turn. Thus, God’s “gospel” is always being “revealed” and the “righteousness of God” is displayed among Jews first and then among Greeks. Whatever “from faith to faith” means, it doesn’t mean “faith alone,” although Dr. Horton is desperate to see “faith alone” in every mention of the word faith.

Let me explain further by an exegesis of Romans 3:28 “we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Could one not argue that the phrase “apart from” is in fact a synonym of the word “alone,” and thus conclude that Paul really did teach that faith was alone in justification?

To answer this, we must first point out that “justified by faith alone” does not mean the same thing as “justified by faith apart from works of the law.” On a purely grammatical basis, the phrase “faith alone” denotes that faith is the only instrument for justification, while the statement “faith apart from works of the law” merely means that “works of the law” are the only thing that cannot be coupled with faith for justification. In other words, “faith alone” excludes anything from being added to faith, while “faith apart from works of the law” excludes only “works of the law” from being added to faith. From this distinction one may infer that either something may be added to faith that is not considered “works of the law,” or, we could implicitly understand “faith” as being inseparably related to other virtues that are not technically associated with “works of the law.”

For example, Paul never says, “a man is justified by faith apart from love,” or “man is justified by faith apart from obedience” or “man is justified by faith apart from hope.” In fact, in reference to justification, Paul, in Galatians 5:6, seems to make an inseparable bond between faith and love by the statement “faith working through love.” By the same token, Paul never says “faith working through works of the law.” Hence, with regard to justification, although we must give due justice to Paul’s dictum that faith must be apart from “works of the law,” we see from Scripture that this does not necessarily mean that faith is completely alone, especially from other virtues like love and obedience. According to certain Scriptures, there is something about the concept of “works of the law” which forces Paul to separate it from his concept of faith, yet dissimilar Scriptures which allow other virtues which are not necessarily associated with “works of the law” to be connected to faith for the purposes of justification.

Like Jesus, Paul first confronts his readers with the Law’s demands and concludes that Jew and Gentile alike are unrighteous and helpless. “No one is righteous, no not even one,” he declares, not even the person who is attempting to obey God. This is especially interesting in the light of Vatican II’s pronouncement that all who seek to obey God, even apart from Christ, will be saved.

29) Its easy to see why Dr. Horton is so vociferous against the Catholic Church — because is so often misunderstands it. As Fulton Sheen once said: “I don’t know anyone who hates the Catholic Church, but I know thousands who hate what they mistakenly believe the Catholic Church to be.” If the above is what Dr. Horton believes the Catholic Church to be, then his knowledge of Catholic truth is worse than a catechumen in Catholic RICA classes. The simple fact is that before God’s grace is given, no one either seeks or obeys God. In Adam we are all under law and condemned by the law. Under law we can do nothing worthy, and we will be condemned for the slightest sin.

But after God gives His grace, then man starts seeking and he has the responsibility to respond, just as Cornelius, the Roman centurion, responded in Acts 10:1-4 with prayers, alms and good deeds. Accordingly, Paul says that God is no respecter of persons, and thus whosoever, Jew or Gentile, seeks to do good and strives for immortality will be given justification and eternal life (Romans 2:5-13). But either Dr. Horton is ignorant of these facts in Catholicism, or he just chooses to ignore them and would rather make inept comparisons as he has done above.

Furthermore, like Jesus, Paul contrasts a righteousness that is by faith and a righteousness that is by works: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from Law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. The righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom.3:21). Notice what Paul says: It is a righteousness that comes to us as a gift, not as an infused disposition; further, it is a righteousness that is received by faith, apart from Law. The two ideas are diametrically opposed.

30) Perhaps Dr. Horton thought he could say such things without undergoing the scrutiny of someone who knows better. Again, Catholicism teaches that righteousness is gained apart from the Law. Here’s Canon 1 of the Council of Trent: “If anyone shall say that man can be justified before God by his own works which are done either by his own natural powers, or through the teaching of the Law, and without divine grace through Christ Jesus: let him be anathema.” Now let’s deal with Horton’s statement: “Notice what Paul says: It is a righteousness that comes to us as a gift, not as an infused disposition.” How did “infused disposition” get into the fray? Have Catholics ever claimed that infusion of grace is not a gift of God? No. So why is Dr. Horton making a polarity of these two components?

In Romans 4, Paul reaches the heart of his argument, appealing to the example of Abraham. “What then shall we say that Abraham our forefather discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” In other words, a salary isn’t a gift; the company owes it to you. Rome actually argues that we merit (de congruo) justification by cooperating with grace. But merit is precisely what Paul is excluding here. “However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” In one fell swoop, Paul destroys every plank in the Roman doctrine of justification. Rome says that justification is merited; Paul says it is a gift.

31) Can you see how Dr. Horton’s misunderstanding of strict, condign and congruent merit always gets in the way of allowing him to see the truth of this matter? Here it is again. Dr. Horton wants to make you believe that every time you see the word “merit” in Catholicism it refers to something that is paid, not gifted. He couldn’t be more wrong. The sad thing about this is that Dr. Horton has had this explained to him before, by me personally, but he refuses to acknowledge it, let alone deal with it. I guess he figures it is better to keep stoking the anti-Catholic machine than it is to get to the real truth of this matter.

Rome says that it is given to those who work for it; Paul says it is given to those who do not work for it.

32) No, Paul says it is given to those who do not work for it on the basis of “debt” or “wages” as Romans 4:4 specifies. Paul has only one category of works with which he is dealing in Romans 4. He is not dealing with works in the category of grace, since grace is antithetical to debt, as he says in Romans 11:6. Until Dr. Horton makes this distinction, he will never understand either Scripture or Catholicism.

Rome says that God only justifies those who are truly holy inherently; Paul says that God only justifies those who are truly wicked inherently.

33) Got that wrong, too. Rome says God justifies the ungodly. That’s what Baptism is all about. That is what Confession is all about. Those in Original Sin and those in Mortal Sin are “ungodly,” and they need to be made godly. By the way, Canon 5 of the Council of Orange (a Catholic Council before there were ever any Protestants) says: “.by which we believe in Him who justifies the impious.reforming our will from infidelity to faith, from impiety to piety.” Chapter 7 of the Council of Trent stated: “For although no one can be just but he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this does take place in this justification of the ungodly.”

Rome says that justification is a process of attaining righteousness; Paul says that justification is a declaration of imputed or “credited” righteousness.

34) Scripture says justification is a process, too. That’s why it says Abraham was justified in Genesis 15 (Romans 4:3) and Genesis 22 (James 2:21-24), and had the faith of justification in Genesis 12 (Hebrews 11:8); Genesis 15 (Hebrews 11:17); and Genesis 22 (Hebrews 11:17). Further, where does Paul say that justification is a “declaration”? Where does he say it is “imputed”? I know where Paul uses the Greek word logizomai, but we have already seen earlier in my rebuttal how Protestants distort its meaning (See answer #6). Does Dr. Horton have any other proof for his contention?

Furthermore, Paul cites David’s example. “Blessed is the man to whom God will not impute sin.” Justification for Paul therefore has nothing whatever to do with a process of moral improvement; it is concerned with imputation.

35) Well, Dr. Horton skipped over the most important piece of evidence denying his position and proving the Catholic position. Since Dr. Horton brought up the issue that Rome teaches justification is a process, let’s see if the case of David affirms or denies this Catholic concept.

In Romans 4:7 Paul is quoting David from Psalm 32 and 51. David is thanking God for forgiving him of the sins of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah. But here’s the curious fact: Paul is using David AS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW ONE IS JUSTIFIED, just as he did with Abraham a few verses earlier. In other words, David is the chief example of Paul’s case against the self-righteous Jews! David didn’t depend on any works (like circumcision) to clear his guilt with God. Rather, he pleaded, from his faith, for forgiveness, and God was merciful to him. This is why Paul says that God justifies the “ungodly,” for when David committed adultery and murder he BECAME an ungodly man. In Catholic theology we call these kinds of sins mortal, because they kill the soul and make one ungodly.

But all this begs the question, for since Paul is using David as an example of a person who receives justification by grace not works, let’s delve into this a little further. Was this the first time David was justified in his life? No. David received forgiveness for murdering Uriah and committing adultery with Bathsheba in his later life. Prior to that, David was known as a mighty man of God. He slayed the giant Goliath by calling on the Lord, even when the rest of Israel was afraid (1 Samuel 17). David is so close to God prior to his sin with Bathsheba that God calls him a “man after my own heart” (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). And David confessed his sins before the Lord on many other occasions, prior to the events in Psalm 32 (Psalm 25:7, 18). What this means is that in order to be the man of God David is said to be, he had to be a justified man, otherwise, he would have been doing all these godly acts as a pagan. Accordingly, when David committed adultery and murder, he lost his justification (just as Catholicism teaches) and his justification had to be restored. It was restored in his sincere confession of his sins (just as Catholicism teaches about Confession of Mortal Sin). Perhaps Dr. Horton should take another look at David, don’t you think? If you want more information on David, consult pages 234-240 of Not By Faith Alone.

Then he goes back to Abraham: “Under what circumstances was [righteousness] credited [to Abraham]?” Paul asks. “Was it after he was circumcised or before?” This is the heart of our question today. “Under what circumstances does God justify?” Is it before or after we begin in holiness? Rome answers that this justification is declared on the basis that the sinner is no longer a sinner, but has already begun in holiness. But Paul answers that it is before the new obedience begins. Abraham, Paul observes, was justified before he obeyed God in offering Isaac. “So then he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them…It was not through the Law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise…, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.” And why is the righteousness that comes by Law opposed to the righteousness that comes by faith? Paul says it is “because the law brings wrath,” since it can only render a “guilty” verdict in our case.

36) I think the case of David explains the answer to this question, if only Dr. Horton would consider it. But here’s another point: Both Abraham and David are prime examples of the Catholic concept of progressive justification. Abraham increased in his justification (just as the Council of Trent stated in Canon 24, 32); and David lost and regained his justification (just as the Council of Trent stated in Canon 29). In addition, Abraham’s faith in Genesis 12 and 15, followed by his lapses of faith in Genesis 16-17, and the followed by the subsequent justification and perfection of his faith in Genesis 22 (cf, James 2:23-24), shows the Catholic teaching of fides informatta (“unformed faith”) and fides informis (“formed faith”), as taught by St. Thomas Aquinas.

If we are justified by a process of cooperating with grace, we can only have peace with God when we no longer sin. But Paul writes, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Rom.5:1-2). Paul drives this point home further in verse 9: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

37) No, we only lose the peace of God when we fall into grievous sin (mortal sin) such as the murder and adultery that David committed. When he was justified after he confessed those sins, the peace of God was restored to him. Each time we confess mortal sins we are justified and attain the peace of God.

In the latter half of Romans 5, Paul unpacks the legal, forensic character of justification he has defended. Adam’s sin was imputed to the entire human race. We were made guilty before God not by a process of sin being infused into us, but by a declaration of our solidarity with Adam as our representative head.

38) No, not correct. In fact, this view of Dr. Horton’s was classed as a heresy in the early Church. Please consult the analysis I made of Romans 5:19 earlier in this rebuttal. I stated that, in Adam, we were “made sinners,” not “declared sinners.” Original Sin is not a “declaraton.” It is a real, ontological, sinful state of the soul. I wonder how Dr. Horton can call it merely a “declaration” when he knows that, because of Adam’s sin, man’s body and soul have assumed a sin nature which gives him a proclivity to sin. How can that be if the only thing that happened in Eden was a “declaration”?

In exactly the same way, Paul says, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to all believers by virtue of their union with him. The imputation of righteousness is just as forensic or legal as the imputation of sin: “The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.” Are our opponents really willing to argue that condemnation is a moral process?

39) We’re willing to argue that if you commit a gross immorality, without repentance, you will be condemned. That’s why the New Testament constantly warns its believers not to fall away from the faith. If they do, they will be condemned. But of course, Dr. Horton doesn’t believe any of that. He believes that once you’re justified you cannot lose your salvation, for any reason. Unfortunately, that is another heresy that the Bible simply does not teach. If you want to know the facts, consult pages 261-293 in Not By Faith Alone.

Jesus said that he who does not believe stands condemned already, just as the one who believes “has passed from death unto life.” Where is the process that leads to acquittal? From the mouth of our Lord and his apostles, the justification is as declarative as the condemnation. As a result, Paul confidently announces, “Therefore, there is now”–not at the end, if one cooperates with grace, but “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom.8:1).

40) Yes, as long as you believe and obey you have no condemnation. But if you stop believing and obeying, you no longer have the promise of no condemnation. It’s a simple matter of logic, but Calvinists are too blinded by their system of theology to see it. Scripture says it best in 2 Timothy 2:12: “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us.”

In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us that the Gospel, though foolishness to those who are perishing, is the wisdom and power of God. For Christ has been made “our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Here, Paul is simply picking up a recurring Old Testament Gospel announcement. For instance, we read in Is.61:10: “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” Jeremiah prophesied of Christ, “In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” Christ does not merely infuse me with righteousness; he is my righteousness. This is the meaning of the animal skins with which God clothes Adam and Eve and the robe that the father places over the prodigal son. And yet, this is precisely what Rome denies: God cannot, we are told, judge me to be righteous while I am unrighteous simply by transferring Christ’s righteousness to me. But this is precisely what Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Paul are arguing.

41) No, Genesis, Isaiah and Jeremiah are merely using metaphors, metaphors that Dr. Horton is distorting so that he can fit them into the Calvinistic gospel. Rome doesn’t deny any of the “coverings” of the Bible. She just makes them more effective than Protestants do. Our coverings actually do something; the Protestant coverings just act as labels.

But it is in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where one finds the apostle’s magisterial defense of the Gospel in the crucible of controversy. It is especially relevant in view of the fact that the church fathers themselves offered contradictory views on the way of salvation. In his epistle to the Corinthians, Clement, Bishop of Rome just a few decades after Paul’s letters to the same church, wrote, “So we too who by his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified not of ourselves nor through our own wisdom or understanding or piety, nor yet through anything that we have done in purity of heart, but through that faith through which almighty God has justified all men from the beginning, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Justin Martyr, John Chrysostom, and other Fathers concur. The Fathers said some good things and some bad things, but always sent us directly and finally back to Scripture.

42) Invariably I find Protestants snipping quotes out of the early Fathers, taking them totally out of context. The case with Clement of Rome is no exception. The quote that Dr. Horton extracts comes from The First Epistle of Clement, Chapter 32. Granted, Clement speaks of not being justified by works, but what kind of works does he have in mind? We will see that he is referring to the same kind of works that Canon 1 of the Council of Trent condemned. Here is that canon again: “If anyone shall say that man can be justified before God by his own works which are done either by his own natural powers, or through the teaching of the Law, and without divine grace through Christ Jesus: let him be anathema.”

How do we know this is Clement’s meaning? Because in chapter 30 of his epistle he says this: “Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God.being justified by our works, and not our words.” Obviously, Clement has a different meaning for works in chapter 32 than he does in chapter 30, since the former does not justify but the latter does.

In chapter 31, Clement says this: “For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith”? Here we see the kinds of works that Clement believes are effective for justification, not our own works, but works wrought through faith, the very thing the Catholic Church teaches today.

These works are so important to Clement that he states in chapter 34: “And thus He forewarns us: ‘Behold, the Lord cometh, and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work,” one of the very verses (Romans 2:6) that Dr. Horton says is hypothetical and impossible to obey. Thus we see that Clement does not even come close to supporting the theology of Dr. Horton. The same is true of Justin Martyr and Chrysostom. When studied in context they don’t support Dr. Horton’s theology at all.

If a prominent church founded by the Apostle Paul could fall so quickly into a false gospel of works-righteousness, we should not be surprised at the confusion of the early church. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even is we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Paul describes his public controversy with Peter, which would have been a rather remarkable thing had Peter been the first infallible pope.

43) Dr. Horton should know by now that infallibility is a special charism of the Pope used only at official times. For example, Peter’s declaration in Acts 15 that Gentiles will not need to be circumcised to be Christians was an infallible statement by Peter in his office as Pope. But infallibility does not mean impeccability. Peter had many flaws in his character, as did a lot of other Popes. In Galatians 2, Peter’s refraining from eating with Gentiles was a great indiscretion, but he wasn’t teaching official doctrine for the Catholic Church at that time, and thus Paul had every right to confront him, just as St. Catherine of Sienna confronted the Pope in her day.

But Peter did, in the end, come around and in his own letters acknowledged Paul’s writings as Scripture. If Peter could be corrected by Scripture, one would have hoped that those who claimed to be his successors might have imitated him.

44) First of all, 2 Peter 3:16 says nothing about Peter suddenly realizing that Paul’s writings were Scripture. Dr. Horton is reading into the verse what he would like to see. Second, it says nothing about Peter being corrected by Scripture. Dr. Horton is reading that into the verse, too.

If you really want to know what kind of authority Peter possessed in order to interpret Scripture, take a look at Acts 1:20, when the replacement for Judas must be decided. Peter extracts two obscure Psalms (Psalm 69:25; 108:9) that say nothing about either apostleship or Judas, but only David’s court, and uses them as the precedent to maintain 12 apostles. That’s quite a remarkable effort at exegesis by someone who Dr. Horton says is “corrected by Scripture.” In Acts 1:20, Peter apparently has insight into Scripture that none of the other 10 apostles possess. Moreover, no one challenges Peter and questions from whence his authority comes to make such far-reaching interpretations of the Old Testament. So, when it comes to making dogma for the Church, Peter is portrayed as an undaunted bulwark who unlocks the mysteries of God’s revelation. When it comes to his personality, however, he is as weak as the other apostles, perhaps even more so.

In fact, Peter himself declared that there is a heavenly inheritance reserved in heaven for those “who through faith are shielded by God’s power” and assures his readers, “you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:5). Peter opens his second epistle with the greeting, “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours.”

45) Granted, but does Peter ever oppose faith and good works as mutually salvific? No. In fact in 1 Peter 1:17 he says: “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” That’s very similar to Romans 2:6-13, the passage that Dr. Horton says is impossible for man to obey.

In Galatians, Paul declares that “by observing the Law no one will be justified…for if righteousness could be gained through the Law, Christ died for nothing.” The apostle could not have been more aggravated: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?…All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse…Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary.” In Rome, one is justified by faith and obedience, but for Paul, justification by faith is contrary to justification by obedience.

46) The only one who has been bewitched here is Dr. Horton. Do you see what he has done? He keeps making the same mistake over and over again. He has failed to make the proper distinction between Law and obedience. Yes, we agree, the Law, by itself, is an uncompromising judge that will condemn for the slightest fault. The Law is a legal entity that has no capacity to show mercy to someone who pleads for forgiveness. Only a personal being can give forgiveness. If you break the Law, you will be punished by the Law (unless the personal being can somehow set aside the Law or take you out of the Law’s grip). Once you are taken out of the Law, which happens when you become a Christian (cf., Romans 7:6-8; 8:1-4), then you are under grace, not law (Romans 6:14).

In the realm of grace, you are required to both have faith and obedience is order to benefit from the mercy that the personal benefactor wants to give to you. Although we are no longer under the Law, we now use the Law as a model for our obedience. That’s why Paul reiterates the commandments in Romans 13:9-11. Ultimately, Jesus is our Law. We model our behavior after Him, and He will also be our Judge. That such obedience is required for justification we have already proved from Romans 2:5-13; Matthew 12:36-37, and many other passages.

But Paul also says something similar from the very book Dr. Horton quoted, Galatians. In Galatians 5:4-6, Paul says: 4 “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Notice in verse 6 how Paul couples “faith” and “love” in the clause “faith working through love.” Here is a special relationship between faith and love that adds love to the salvific formula, and denies faith alone. Now notice that Paul opposes this clause over against the phrase in verse 4, “justified by law.” In other words, being justified by law is the opposite of being justified by faith working through love. We can also replace “love” with “obeying the commandents of God,” since Paul, using the same “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters” formula in 1 Corinthians 7:19, then says that “obeying God’s commandments” is all that matters.

For the next several chapters, Paul labors this contradiction. “So that Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” he declares in 3:24. After having been freed from the bondage of legalism, “How is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?” he wonders in astonishment. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen from grace.” The famous passage in Ephesians 2:8, 9 could not be clearer: “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and none of this is of yourselves; it is all the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” It is by grace through faith, not of works! This parallels Paul’s statement in Romans 11: “For if it is by grace, it is not of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.”

47) Yes, it is clear, but Paul is talking about works of debt in Eph 2:8-9 and Romans 11:6. We know this is his intent in Eph 2:8-9 since he speaks of “boasting” as that which characterizes the work he has in view. “Boasting” is precisely the term Paul uses in Romans 4:2 when he speaks about works not justifying Abraham. Yet Paul goes on in Romans 4:4 to specify what the “works of boasting” are. They are the attempt to work for wages, as if God were an employer and we the employees. That is what is anathema to Paul — that we would treat God as an employer, not as a Father. Paul is against works that put God in that position.

To Timothy, the Apostle writes, “God has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Tim.1:9). God has called us to a holy life, to be sure, but this is the goal, not the cause, of our justification. Our opponents will say that whenever Paul refers to “works” or “law” as contrary to faith, he is referring to the ceremonial law of the Old Testament, but here we have one of many obvious examples that Paul intends to exclude all works by saying that it is “not because of anything we have done.” Surely that includes all works, ceremonial or moral. It is by faith alone.

48) No, Dr. Horton’s opponents will not say that the works Paul has in mind are only those of the ceremonial law. Although there are some Catholics who have taken that tact, neither Augustine, Aquinas, the Council of Trent, or the new Cathechism take that tact. They say that “works” refers to any work, be it moral, civil or ceremonial or whatever. Any work that tries to put God in obligation to pay with salvation is anathema, as Paul makes clear in Romans 7:7-8; Galatians 3:10-12, and many other passages, as well as the first Canon of the Council of Trent. It just so happens that the ceremonial law was the chief way that the Jews tried to put God in debt to them, and that is why Paul focuses on circumcision in Romans 4:9-12 as his prime example of how the Jews were trying to be justified by works.

In the Scriptures and throughout church history, proponents of this view have been charged with opening the door to loose-living. It was the Apostle Paul himself who realized the full impact of this Gospel when, after announcing that “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” he anticipated his readers’ shock: “What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” His answer, and ours, is “Heaven forbid! How shall we who have died to sin live any longer in it.” We do not deny regeneration and sanctification, we simply do not regard this as the basis for our acceptance before a holy God. While the Apostle Paul knew that the Gospel he preached would raise the objection that this would lead to loose-living, Rome has never had to worry about this accusation concerning the gospel she proclaims.

49) This is nothing but patronizing rhetoric. Rome has had to deal with the same problem. People always take advantage of God’s mercy, no matter what form it comes to them. The only truth here is that Dr. Horton’s gospel makes it much easier for them to do so. For a gospel that supposedly doesn’t want to put too much trust in human nature (thus requiring the imputation of Christ), they sure do put a lot of trust in sinful human beings to do the right thing out of pure altruism.

Why would we “hunger and thirst after righteousness” if it is already imputed?, one may ask. It is precisely because it is already imputed that we hunger and thirst after obedience to God in gratitude for our redemption. It is similar to asking why a foster child would want to obey if he is already adopted. We are sons, not slaves; we serve God out of gratitude, not fear of judgment or hope of rewards. Tell me that I have to sufficiently love God and my neighbor before I can enjoy God’s favor and the last thing I will want to do is love God.

50) If that’s the case, then Dr. Horton is just proving what I said above. He recognizes that humans are so sin-oriented that they will even do more evil if they are given a command to do good! So how is this sinful nature (even after becoming a Christian) going to find the power to love God and man, altruistically, as easily as Dr. Horton would like it to be?

What I must hear if I am to end my war against God is that he forgives the wicked. He makes sons out of his enemies. He declares those to be righteous who in themselves cannot love God and their neighbor. Then I will lay down my weapons and accept the truce.

51) Yes, God forgives the wicked and makes sons out of his enemies. Dr. Horton doesn’t have the only gospel that believes those things to be true and essential. But the issue Dr. Horton keeps missing (and will always miss, because his system of theology won’t let him see it) is that his theology makes God a liar. Jesus tells us over and over again to love God and our neighbor, but Dr. Horton keeps telling us that this is an impossible command. Its so impossible that God has to compensate by putting a label on our forehead that says “justified,” even though we’ve never loved Him or our neighbor. It is just this type of inimical theology (of making God a liar and man an impotent animal) that was condemned at the Council of Trent. Here are the Canons dealing with the type of theology Dr. Horton is proposing:

Canon 18) If anyone shall say that the commandments of God are even for a man who is justified and confirmed in grace impossible to observe: let him be anathema.

Canon 19) If anyone shall say that nothing except faith is commanded in the Gospel, that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free, or that the ten commandments in no way pertain to Christians: let him be anathema.

Canon 20) If anyone shall say that a man who is justified and ever so perfect is not bound to observe the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe, as if indeed the Gospel were a mere absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observation of the commandments: let him be anathema.

Canon 21) If anyone shall say that Christ Jesus has been given by God to men as a Redeemer in whom they should trust, and not also as a legislator, whom they should obey: let him be anathema.

In Protestant theology, “salvation” is a broad word, encompassing not only justification, but election, atonement, regeneration, sanctification, adoption, and final glorification. In these debates, a recurring error on the Roman Catholic side is to assume a false antithesis: Either the Bible teaches that justification and sanctification are identical or the Bible teaches that there is no such thing as sanctification. This debate, therefore, is not over the question of whether God renews us and initiates a process of gradual growth in holiness throughout the course of our lives.

52) From the information I have given earlier in this rebuttal about justification and sanctification (especially the information concerning 1 Corinthians 6:11), the burden of proof is on Dr. Horton to show us, from the Bible, the difference between justification and sanctification.

“We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone,” Luther stated, and this recurring affirmation of the new birth and sanctification as necessarily linked to justification leads one to wonder how the caricatures continue to be perpetuated without foundation.

53) Sometimes men are so blind to the truth that they call their opponents view of them a “caricature,” but miss the caricature they make of their own view. Really think about what Dr. Horton just wrote: “We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” All he has done is change “alone” from an adjective in the first clause to a predicate nominative in the second clause and he thinks this solves the problem. But all such grammatical shifting ends up to be is a useless tautology. Either faith is alone in justification or it is not. It can’t be both. It is precisely this kind of theological gobbledegook which is characteristic of Reformed theology. Since there is no other way to deal with this major contradiction in their theology, the Reformed position has to resort to such inane circumlocutions.

Here’s what else Luther said about the issue: ‘Faith justifies’ [Rom. 3:28] stands in flat contradiction to ‘faith does not justify’ [James 2:24]. If anyone can harmonize these sayings, I’ll put my doctor’s cap on him and let him call me a fool.

For instance, in the magazine published by Catholic Answers, This Rock, Leslie Rumble (April, 1993) makes the astounding claim concerning Luther that the German Reformer denied that a change takes place in the person who is justified. “He remains exactly as he was before” and the believer is never transformed. This demonstrates a remarkable lack of familiarity with the Protestant position. We affirm conversion and the life-long process of growing in sanctifying grace.

54) Dr. Horton knows what Leslie Rumble is trying to say, but he pretends that he doesn’t. It is a fact, and Leslie Rumble is correct, that in Luther’s and Calvin’s Justification (not Sanctification), there is no change in the individual. It is simply and only a forensic enterprise. The only internal change that occurs in the individual is in Luther’s and Calvin’s understanding of Sanctification. That is the only time that the individual begins to deal with his internal sinful condition.

This is why we do not find a problem with James, although Roman Catholics find great problems with the rest of Scripture on this subject.

55) No, Dr. Horton and company have great problems with James, as I pointed out earlier in this rebuttal (see Answer #2). Luther had so many problems with James that he wanted to take him out of the canon of the New Testament. Here’s what Luther said about James:

“Therefore James concludes falsely that now at last Abraham was justified after that obedience; for faith and righteousness are known by works as by the fruits. But it does not follow, as James raves: ‘Hence the fruits justify,’ just as it does not follow: ‘I know a tree by its fruit; therefore the tree becomes good as a result of its fruit. Therefore let our opponents be done with their James, whom they throw up to us so often.”

Therefore St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it. The epistle of James gives us much trouble, for the papists embrace it alone and leave out all the rest…Accordingly, if they will not admit my interpretations, then I shall make rubble also of it. I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove, as the priest in Kalenberg did.

Besides, he [James] throws things together so chaotically that is seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few saying from the disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper…In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task. He tries to accomplish by harping on the law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love. Therefore I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him.

Four years before his death, Luther still viewed James with contempt. In his Table Talk lectures of 1542 he wrote:

We should throw the epistle of James out of this school [Wittenberg], for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ, except at the beginning. I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any. Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment! I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’ This he did. He wrote not a word about the suffering and resurrection of Christ, although this is what all the apostles preached about. Besides, there is no order or method in the epistle. Now he discusses clothing and then he writes about wrath and is constantly shifting from one to the other. He presents a comparison: ‘As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.’ O Mary, mother of God! What a terrible comparison that is!

For Paul, speaking to new converts who have been steeped in legalism and paganism, the content of the Gospel is uppermost. For James, addressing believers who gloried in what they called “faith,” but did not seem to think that works were a necessary consequence of saving faith, justification was a matter of making your claim to being justified stand up in a court of law. For Paul, the court of law is God’s and it is heavenly; for James, it is man’s and it is earthly. For Paul, the fact of justification is in view; for James, the proof of justification is the concern. Therefore, when James declares that faith is dead if it is alone, how could one object? Luther himself said that we were justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. This is James’ point: Anything that you call faith that does not love or serve is not really justifying faith, but is “dead.” Of course, this faith– “dead” faith, cannot save anybody. Only living, active, working faith is the genuine article. However, it is not the fruit of faith that justifies. It does not justify in acting, working, loving, or serving, but in believing and receiving Christ’s gift of righteousness. The faith that Paul described is not the faith the James sees in those antinomians who thought that faith was nothing more than an assent to certain facts.

56) No, James does not talk about works as “proof” of our faith. He teaches specifically we are justified by works. If James wanted to say that the works he has in view are merely for the purpose of proving whether we had “saving faith,” he could have done so very easily, but he did not. The reader should consult my earlier rebuttal concerning the problems in James for the Protestant view (see Answer #2). Here is another problem. Protestants, like Dr. Horton, are always talking about “saving faith” when they come to the epistle of James. Why is that? James never uses the phrase “saving faith.” He just says “faith.”

The reason is that the phrase “saving faith” is an invention of Protestantism so that they can try to address, however menially, the challenges that the epistle of James gives them. They don’t want to relinquish the place of faith as the sole means of justification, thus, when they see the emphasis James puts on works as salvific, they must shift the emphasis back to faith by saying that James means that the faith has to be of a certain kind in order to procure justification. That is why some Protestant translations of James 2:14 will say: “Can that kind of faith save him” or “Can that faith save him,” when in reality, the Greek actually says, “Can the faith save him.” In doing so, they take the focus off of works and put it on faith. So, to them, its not that works have to be added to faith; its that works only qualify the faith.

In the end, the Protestant can say, “Yes, we are justified by faith alone, but it has to be a good faith, a ‘saving’ kind of faith.” But James doesn’t qualify the faith, he only says that works, in themselves when added to faith, are a cause of justification. Works are not a secondary issue, they are a primary issue.

In fact, Protestants believe so firmly in “saving faith” as the answer to the epistle of James that they also claim that once a person has “saving faith,” then good works will automatically flow out of him, as if once the button of faith is pushed the conveyor belt of works will start rolling. But that is not the case at all. Works do not automatically flow from the person who has faith. In fact, that is precisely the problem with the people to whom James is writing. The are recognized as “believers in the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 2:1) but their problem is that they have not even begun to win the battle between the spirit and the flesh. The result of this is that they show favoritism to the rich and depise the poor (James 2:2-8). By this sin they were committing spiritual murder and adultery (James 2:11-13; 1 John 3:15).

Now, were the works James requires just flowing from them like water from a fountain? Of course not. James drives home the point by giving them the picture of a man in need of food and clothing, challenging them to care for him (James 2:15-16). If the people to whom James is writing had a hard time with the poor man who came to their worship assembly, what do you think they are going to do with the poor man who needs food and shelter? Yes, it will be an intense struggle in their soul to extend a helping hand to him. Yes, they all have “faith,” but will they extend a helping hand? If they don’t, it is sin (James 4:17). And because it is a matter of sin, that’s why James’ teaching on works becomes so very important. If you have faith but are in sin, you cannot be justified. The same was true of David, as we have seen earlier. He had faith but he had committed the sins of murder and adultery and thereby lost his justification, the very same sins about which James warns his people against in a chapter also dealing with Justification (James 2:11-13; 1 John 3:15).

Please consult pages 117-175 and 226-234 in Not By Faith Alone for further details concerning the epistle of James.

But is this doctrine fundamental to our faith? Isn’t it simply a matter of fine-tuning things? In our day zeal is more important than knowledge. As long as people “love the Lord” and seek to live the Christian life, such doctrinal debates as these can only serve to distract us from our common mission in the world. And yet, Paul tells us that his fellow-Israelites were zealous indeed. “For I can bear witness of them that they have a great zeal for God, but it is not according to knowledge.” Knowledge of certain things is essential for salvation, and the particular piece of knowledge Paul has in mind is the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone: “Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not accept God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:1-4).

57) To wrap things up, let me say that although Dr. Horton and company have almost made a mantra out of the saying “grace alone, through faith alone,” Scripture does not use either of those phrases. Oh, yes, without God’s grace we can do nothing, but Scripture does not teach we are saved by “grace alone.” People like Dr. Horton use “grace alone” in order to teach the Calvinistic doctrine that all those who are justified are predestined without the use of free will to accept or reject the call of God. They come to God because the grace is “irresistible,” and therefore it is “grace alone.” The rest, who are not justified, are predestined to eternal damnation, also without the use of free will to accept or reject the call of God. That is the system of Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Why does God do it that way? Because, they say, for no other reason than that God uses man to show his mercy and his justice. Dr. Horton’s God is in the business of promoting himself at the expense of man. He just picks some, damns the rest, without any consent of theirs, just so he can show how great he is. So the next time you see the phrase “grace alone,” don’t be fooled into thinking that there is some bridge between Protestants and Catholics because we both believe in grace. No, the Council of Trent anathematized the Protestant concept of “grace alone,” as they did the concept of “faith alone.” Here’s what the Council said about man’s free will cooperating with God’s grace:

Chapter 5: On the Necessity of Preparation for Justification of Adults, and Whence it Proceeds: It furthermore declares that in adults the beginning of that justification must be derived from the predisposing grace [Canon 3] of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from his vocation, whereby without any existing merits on their part they are called, so that they who by sin were turned away from God, through His stimulating and assisting grace are disposed to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and cooperating with the same grace [Canons 4 and 5], in such wise that , while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself receiving that inspiration does nothing at all inasmuch as he can indeed reject it, nor on the other hand can he of his own free will without the grace of God move himself to justice before Him. Hence, when it is said in the Sacred Writings: ‘Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you,’ we are reminded of our liberty; when we reply: ‘Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted,’ we confess that we are anticipated by the grace of God.

Chapter 6: The Manner of Preparation: Now they are disposed to that justice [Canon 7 and 9] when, aroused and assisted by divine grace, receiving faith ‘by hearing,’ they are freely moved toward God, believing that to be true which has been divinely revealed and promised [Canon 12 and 14], and this especially, that the sinner is justified by God through his grace, ‘through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus,’ and when knowing that they are sinners, turning themselves away from the fear of divine justice, by which they are profitably aroused [Canon 8], to a consideration of the mercy of God, they are raised to hope, trusting that God will be merciful to them for the sake of Christ, and they begin to love him as the source of all justice and are therefore moved against sins by a certain hatred and detestation [Canon 9], that is, by that repentance, which must be performed before baptism; and finally when they resolves to receive baptism, to begin a new life and to keep the commandments of God. Concerning this disposition it is written: ‘He that cometh to God must believe, that he is and is a rewarder to them that seek him,’ and, ‘Be of good faith, son, they sins are forgiven thee,’ and, ‘The fear of the Lord driveth out sin’ [Eccl 1:27], and, ‘Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the Holy Spirit,’ and, ‘Going therefore teach al nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and finally, ‘Prepare your hearts unto the Lord’ [1 Kings 7:3].

And for the record, the Council of Trent condemned the phrase “faith alone” thirteen different ways in thirteen different contexts.

1) Those who believe with certainty that they are absolved from sin (Chapter 9, Canon 14 on Justification)

2) Those who say that faith makes one automatically an heir that God cannot reject (Chapter 11 on Justification)

3) Those who say that they don’t need to suffer (Chapter 11 on Justification)

4) Those who say nothing else is required to cooperate to attain the grace of justification (Canon 9 on Justification)

5) Those that say it is not necessary to be prepared and disposed by an action of his own will (Canon 9 on Justification)

6) Those that say that nothing but faith is commanded in the gospel (Canon 19 on Justification)

7) Those that say other things are indifferent, only faith counts (Canon 19 on Justification)

8) Those that say the Ten Commandments are not necessary for Christians (Canon 19 on Justification)

9) Those that say that mortal sin can be absolved by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance (Canon 29 on Justification)

10) Those that say that without the sacraments, or the desire for them, men can be justified (Canon 4 on Sacraments)

11) Those that say faith alone is nourished by sacraments (Canon 5 on Sacraments)

12) Those that say grace is not conferred by the sacraments (Canon 8 on Sacraments)

13) Those that say baptism makes one obliged to attribute justification to faith alone (Canon 7 on Baptism).

May the grace of God be with you all, and may you have the courage to respond to it.  

Sungenis-1Robert A. Sungenis, Ph.D., is the founder and president of Catholic Apologetics International Publishing, a non-profit corporation. He holds advanced degrees in Theology and Religious Studies from George Washington University, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Calamus International University. Robert is presently seeking a second doctorate in religious studies at Maryvale Institute/Liverpool Hope University.

He is the author of many books and articles on religion, politics, science and culture, including: The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible, Vol. 5, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (CAI Publishing, Inc., 2008); The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible, Vol. 4, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-11 (CAI Publishing, Inc., 2008); The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible, Vol. 3, The Epistles of Romans and James (CAI Publishing, Inc., 2008); The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible, Vol. 2, The Apocalypse of St. John (Queenship Publishing, 2007); The Catholic Apologetics Study Bible, Vol. 1, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Queenship Publishing, 2003); Not By Bread Alone: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Queenship Publishing, 2000); How Can I Get to Heaven: The Bible’s Teaching on Salvation Made Easy to Understand (Queenship Publishing, 1998); Not By Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification (Queenship Publishing, 1997); Not By Scripture Alone: A Catholic Critique of the Protestant Doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Queenship Publishing, 1997). He has appeared on radio and television, including programs on CNN, the BBC and EWTN. He has authored all the chapters and appendices for Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, except for Chapter 10.

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