Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Response to

I, Gregory, am a fairly recent convert to Catholicism from Pentecostal Protestantism (Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada). I converted in 2004 after more than 3 years of really digging in and researching the Catholic Faith (often to the neglect of my other studies). I had been brought up in the Pentecostal Church by two loving Christian people (my parents), who taught me to know and love Our Saviour, Jesus. When I converted to Catholicism, understandably they took it somewhat hard, though they have been loving and supportive of me all the same. The subject and reasons for my conversion are things that I am not overly free to discuss with them still, because of the emotional tension, and the respect and honour that I have for them.

However, recently, in their mailbox, my mom found a pamphlet or booklet titled "Be Careful of Protestant Teachings." It had no other identification--who sent it, or what organisation published it, except for its website,, which, because of its name, caused my mom to believe that this was a Catholic publication. At first, I think that she thought that I had put it in the mailbox, and after I told her I hadn't, she criticised the methodology of an organisation that would evangelise with such a rude, frontal attack on a person's beliefs. Saying that I didn't think this technique sounded very "Catholic" from my experience of Catholics evangelising (Does that happen? ;-) ), I asked her to tell me about its contents. The segments that she read to me sounded very not Catholic at all, and in a few places contradicted Catholic teaching as well as Protestant teaching. I went to the website to try to contact these people, but there is no contact option anywhere. While I was there, however, I found out that the publication that my mom received was posted in its entirety on the site.

Seeing as I am unable to reply directly to the people, and seeing that I have such an otherwise difficult time discussing my faith with my parents, I have decided with the advent of this new blog, to respond point-by-point to the publication, "Be Careful of Protestant Teachings."

Note, should not be confused with the reputably Catholic "". However, the similarities do help obfuscate the true affiliation of the group at hand.

Their homepage states:

With turmoil, uncertainty, terror and moral decay being the order of the day, more and more sincere Catholics are turning to the Savior Jesus for answers. This website is designed for those seeking to re-discover the universal (catholic) teachings of Jesus about life, truth, and the way of peace and ultimate happiness.

May the intercessory prayer of Jesus Christ the Redeemer be fulfilled:

"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17).
("", Homepage)
A few things to note are
1. The statement "more and more sincere Catholics are turning to the Savior Jesus for answers." On the surface, this statement seems harmless enough. But beneath it is the assumption that, typically, Catholics don't seek Jesus.
2. It goes on to imply that the large-C Catholic needs to rediscover a different, small-c catholic teaching of Jesus, because the Catholic Church's teachings aren't quite up to par. Yet still, this opening is ambiguous at best. Are they Catholic or aren't they? The answer only truly becomes clear in their article about Protestant teachings (ironically).

Quickly, a breakdown of the 12 "chapters" of "Be Careful of Protestant Teachings":
1-Christ's Invitation
2-Who are the Protestants
3-Eternal Burning Torment
4-Life After Death
5-The End Time Judgment
6-The Lord's Day
7-Christ Our Full Salvation
8-New Birth
9-Christ, Our Example
10-Christian Perfection
11-The Man Jesus Christ
12-Acceptance and Assurance
("Be Careful of Protestant Teachings", Table of Contents)
In this post, I will only and briefly deal with the first 2 chapters, since they are mostly uncontroversial. My main goal in responding to this publication is not the history of the Church but the beliefs taught by this group, and their identity.

Chapter 1: Christ's Invitation is a largely uncontroversial introduction exhorting through various appeals to Scripture to study and know our faith, so that we are not deceived by false teachings. It says nothing negative about either Protestants or Catholics, and still leaves us with the question of "who are these guys?"

Chapter 2: Who Are the Protestants proposes to give a very brief history of the Church, focussing mainly on the origins of Protestantism, and especially their name. It highlights the divisions that spread throughout Protestantism early and rapidly, but points out that the thing that they all have in common is the belief in "Sola Scriptura".
In other words they rejected church tradition as a basis of faith and practice and accepted the concept that "the Bible and the Bible alone is the foundation of faith and practice." Yet a study of the history of most Protestant churches demonstrates that they were much more likely to express this concept of "sola scriptura" rather than to follow it and most of them have fallen back to human tradition at least to a significant extent. ("Be Careful", chapter 2)
Here finally we begin to catch a glimpse of what's really going on. The people at Catholicquest are criticising the Protestants, not for their belief in sola scriptura, which Catholics don't believe, but for not practicing sola scriptura, which means that this group seems to believe in sola scriptura, and it critiques Protestant teachings that they feel aren't based on that principle.

The very next paragraph seems to confirm that:
In this booklet our aim is to help Roman Catholics, as well as Protestants, examine some of the most prominent beliefs commonly held by a majority of Protestants around the world to help the reader understand these beliefs and to evaluate them from the perspective of the claim to "sola scriptura."(Ibid.)
The goal of this site is to help both Catholics and Protestants decipher the truth of Protestant claims. This still can sort of sound as though the Catholics are being helped to defend themselves against these beliefs, but when we actually examine them in depth, we'll find, ironically, that this attack on Protestantism is an indirect appeal to Catholics to join the affiliation of the group publishing the piece.

This is ironic for two reasons. #1, they're trying to convert Catholics by telling them that Protestantism (which Catholics already don't believe) is wrong (thanks for the tip). #2, the organisation that publishes this caution never actually reveals what tradition, denomination, sect, or religion it is that they themselves belong to!

Over the next little while, I will comprehensively respond to each of the 10 topics that are brought up in "Be Careful of Protestant Teachings," chapters 3-12. We'll examine what they teach, what Catholicism believes, and what the Bible really says about it.

God bless

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Defense of the Eucharist

The Eucharist and Baptism are couched in the Word, and not a means of grace if separated from the Word. Christ Himself (the Word) instituted the Holy Supper on the eve of the Passover (cf. Luke 22:1, 7). The significance of the Passover cannot be dismissed here: by instituting the Holy Supper on the eve of the Passover, Christ tied the Old Testament in with the New. Hence the words Christ spoke, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). What Christ spoke then lives on to eternity, and any hermeneutic that separates Christ’s words from his intended declaration are ipso facto heretical. To wit, the Eucharist is not simply a nice memory, but a hypostatic union with the very real presence of Christ in both Word, and substance. It is thereby a means of grace, because in the taking of the Eucharist, one takes in the very Word of God Himself: “This is my body… This is my blood” (cf. Matt. 26:26, 28; Luke 22:19, 20).

The Calvinist and Zwinglian interpretation of the Eucharist fly in the face of the above description of the Holy Supper. They hold the view that Communion is only a memorial for Christ. Several problems present themselves here. First, Christians don’t function only on a reflective level. They live in the reality of Christ’s salvation who overcame the flesh, the world, death, and the devil, and in doing so was nailed to a cross only to rise again three days later. What memorial needs to be held here? Christ is alive! We are not at a graveside recounting the wonderful things He did. We are living just as surely as Christ is living, and as such are participating in His life. Hence the memorial aspect of Communion forsakes the living reality of Christ. “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22).

Second, Christ first said, “This is my body,” then he said, “do this in remembrance of me.” Is there any rational reason why one would accept only half of what Christ says, if they are truly Christian?

Third, we believe in the physical incarnation of Christ, the physical means by which He died, and the literal, physical resurrection; yet, by some strange twist of logic, we are willing not to believe that Christ really meant that the Holy Supper is what He declared it to be ~ His body, and His blood. One is either willing to take all of what Christ said as the truth, or one may as well disbelieve all of it. For to accept His words as only half-true is to reject the whole truth. And if it still seems a fiction that Christ literally meant His body, and His blood, then perhaps a remark from G.K. Chesterton would be appropriate here: “Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.”[1]

Christopher J. Freeman
[1] Chesterton, G.K. “Heretics” Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, U.S.A., 2000, p. 28.

(Category: Catholic Distinctives: Sacraments--The Eucharist)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Stone Paradox: A Response

The following is a response I wrote to an atheist, who, for his own anonymity shall be referred to as Mr. X.

Mr. X wrote:

Along the lines of the old saying, "Could god create a rock so large even he couldn't lift it" there is another thought-experiment that I like to offer to theists in an attempt to let them consider the shortcomings of a belief in an omnipotent being.
Thanks for the offer, Mr. X. Being a theist, I have to say that I cannot accept your offer because it's not much of an offer; that is, it amounts to nothing. Here's why:

The Paradox of the Stone, and the idea you listed as "Along the [same] lines", are questions designed to trap the person being asked in a contradiction. That is, the person answering either has to contradict their beliefs, or fail to answer because they don't know. I say the person who contradicts their beliefs is worse off than the person who fails to answer, because the person who fails to answer has at least been consistent with the logic of the question: namely, that it is a senseless, gibberish-like question, and is therefore unanswerable.

God can do things we don't understand; that's a given. This is so, most likely because of those things' boggling complexity. But this is not at all the same as saying there are things that God cannot do because we don't understand them. More, it is not a breach of logic to ask God to do something beyond our understanding because it implies the principle of that things' doability, and is hence doable by an all-knowing, all-powerful God. Conversely, to ask God to

"do a 'thing' the description of which is contradictory is to ask God to do what is by definition not a thing, since the description fails to refer and cannot refer. Hence, the 'thing' is not doable. To hold anyone in disrespect for not doing what is in principle not doable is to be literally stupid." (Hendrick van der Breggen)
Thus, both your question about God's ability to cause himself not to exist, and the inane question about God creating a rock he cannot lift, are questions formulated in contradiction, and amount to gibberish. The very words of the question cancel each other out. It's like asking: Can God, the most powerful of all things, make a situation that is in every respect more powerful than himself? Or, if you like:

Can God make it be the case that with regards to this particular respect the most powerful force is at the same time and in the same sense not the most powerful force?" (Hendrick van der Breggen)
You may as well ask, "Can God blah-blah-blah, and do-dee-do-dee-do?" It would be just as effective due to its total lack of reference to anything referable. It's simply a string of words failing to mean anything in particular.

Christopher J. Freeman

(Category: Theology Proper: God/The Holy Trinity)

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Conclusion...?

Was (or is) The Reformation Necessary?

Originally, at Three Nails, I concluded Jacob's and my debate with two posts, Seventh Inning Stretch, where we took a break over the Christmas season and I summed up the debate so far, and The Conclusion...?, where, after Christmas, Jacob decided not to return to the discussion, but ended the debate. Besides putting the links to those posts above, I also am posting an edited version of Seventh Inning Stretch here, with a few comments from Conclusion...? As I state below, I do not believe this debate was satisfactorily carried out or completed, and I again issue the challenge to anyone out there, to pick up where Jacob left off.

Jacob had stated that he would give a thorough point-by-point reply to my arguments, so to make it easier for him, I took the time during a lull in things over at To Die is Gain to take stock of where we were in the debate, and how well everything had been responded to, and whether everything in fact was responded to. The reason for this is simple enough, in my mind. The Debate is attempting to discuss the two Pillars of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide. Since we are trying to tackle two related but very distinct topics at the same time, it can be very difficult to stay on topic. This is compounded by the fact that these two issues are so immense, that it is easy to get lost. From the beginning that is why I committed to reposting the debate at Three Nails, and to replying by copy-pasting everything that Jacob put forward as an argument, and then replying to it point-by-point, specifically so that I did not miss anything.

Jacob, for his part, started out trying to do that, but then claimed that time constraints caused him to only select "pertinent parts" to tackle and respond to. This is okay as far as it goes--I did it too, in the comments section on his blog; but I always made sure I went back and replied to everything else, as well. The problem comes in what are viewed to be "pertinent parts", since they were "pertinent" to Jacob, specifically. Moreover, he never did go back to give a full and thorough reply to my entire arguments.

This made the debate somewhat more challenging and less enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. It also makes things much more confusing, because out of 7 parts here at Three Nails, 4 are labelled "interludes" because they were replies to the "pertinent parts" that Jacob picked out to reply to (one of those 4 was actually a response to another person, David, who had some concerns about the nature of Catholic Ecclesiology, but even so, that's a clear half of the debate so far that is "interlude"). Moreover, instead of then going back and dealing more fully with the arguments for and against Sola Scriptura, Jacob moved on to post about Sola Fide, the second topic, to which I thoroughly replied to in Part 7.

The debate began with Sola Scriptura, which is obvious, since it is the basis for what Protestants believe. It is their authority. Catholics operate under a different system, including not just Scripture, but Apostolic Tradition and the Magesterium of the Church.

In Part One, Jacob posted his initial argument for Sola Scriptura. I replied here, replying to each point that Jacob made in the first part.

From there, we moved on to Part 2, Jacob gave his formal response to my reply.

In his original post, and in my reply, the issue of motive came up when discussing the Pharisaical Traditions that Jacob compared Catholic Apostolic Tradition to. The Pharisees made traditions to suit their dishonest and impure motives. Thus, I said, it is a fallacy to compare those traditions with Apostolic Tradition, because Jacob was overlooking the motivating aspect. When I made a point of it, Jacob never replied to the question of motive at all. Maybe it seemed like a minor point to him, but I hinged a large argument in my reply based on that question.

When it came to the Corban Rule specifically being discussed, for example, Jacob made the point that the reason their tradition was false was because, or a result of, them setting it up as equal to Scripture. To that I replied by saying that its authoritative weight did not make the tradition wrong, but the motives that originated that tradition. In other words, the tradition would still be wrong if they still considered it secondary to Scripture, because it out and out contradicted Scripture. The tradition was not a result of the leading of the Holy Spirit or of studied application of the Law, but a result of their greedy motives. Yet Jacob does not utter one word in reply.

He moves on to quoting the proposed burden of proof, without contesting it, so I assume he desires to prove it, and then replies to my statement that he is trying to prove point A--that SS is taught in the Bible.

Jacob makes the point that Sola Scriptura is implicitly taught in Scripture--that if you compile texts that allude to it, you'll come up with a fully-developed conclusion, just like with the Trinity. However, he doesn't provide even the implicit texts that could be used to support that fact, but instead moves on from there.

When it came to my statement that if the Bible mentions tradition positively (since Jacob was picking on texts that refer to corrupt human traditions) then Sola Scriptura can't hold, since it claims that the Bible Alone, and no tradition (human or otherwise) is authoritative. To this, Jacob made a blanket statement that Tradition must submit to Scripture, and that the Bible is talking about traditions that receive their authority from Scripture. But again, he never proved that assumption, just assumed it.

When it comes to my reply to Jacob's use of Colossians 2:8-10, again Jacob's reply is a blanket claim with no support from Scripture, that tradition must line up with Scripture and is not itself authoritative. Since this is a) not backed up with Scripture, and b) believed by Catholics that this is the case anyway (that Tradition does not contradict Scripture), it's not much of an argument at all.

Jacob then quotes 2 Thess 2:15, which proves my point admirably well, and Jacob even admits that it does. So when I said so, he replied that this tradition is valid only because it comes from Paul, who is an apostle authorised to do so. But this fails as a defence because a) that's why we call Tradition "Apostolic Tradition", and b) it's still a non-Scriptural tradition that he is referring to! He makes no reply to the fact that we believe that our tradition comes to us from the Apostles through the Fathers and leaders of the Church, and instead just assumes that we cannot know what those traditions were. This doesn't work because on the one hand, the Early Church Fathers claimed their teachings were passed down from the Apostles, and second, the Bible is still referring to some tradition or other (whether it be Catholic or not) that is equal to it, thus debunking SS. So his response here is at best incomplete, and at worst, not responding to my argument at all.

That is all the, in my opinion, incomplete parts of Jacob's Part 2. I replied to it here, in my Part 2.

From here, it gets really confusing, because Jacob's Part 3 is not even a response to me! A thorough, point-by-point reply to my Part 2 has never materialised, but his Part 4 replied to one point that I made in part 2. Even then, it went off on an entirely different subject that hardly relates to Catholicism vs. Protestantism at all, but is something that Catholics agree with many different forms of Protestantism about, but Jacob doesn't. As such, unless Jacob wants to make the debate "Was (or is) the Southern Baptist Convention Necessary?" his argument in his Part 4 is one giant non-sequitur. Nonetheless, I replied thoroughly here in my Part 5.

Part 3 is my response to Jacob's response to Jon, and Part 4 is my reply to David. Part 4 is a dead debate, because Jacob isn't interested in it per se, and David has said he won't be able to reply.

In Jacob's Part 5, he is replying to my Part 5, replying to his huge non sequitur argument. Since I don't think that it is especially relevant to our debate (since it is a divisive issue among Protestantism itself, and not specifically a Catholic-Protestant issue) I won't bother going through any inadequacies in his reply to my reply. However, I will say that my Part 6 is a thorough response to his Part 5.

Maybe he understood that his argument wasn't a valid disproof of Catholic Tradition, because he never went back to it, but instead moved on to his Part 6. Does he go back to where he left off, namely, my reply to Part 2? No. Rather, he begins discussing the second issue, "Faith Alone". I thoroughly responded with my Part 7.

That brings my brief summary to a conclusion. Where does that leave us? I would say that Jacob needs to return to here and adequately defend his position of Sola Scriptura. Specifically, he needs to meet the requirements of the Burden of Proof:

...The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a) that Sola Scriptura is actually taught in the Bible, b) why the Church somehow missed this teaching for nearly 1500 years, if indeed it is so clear in the Bible, and c) that it is in fact a workable theory in the promotion of Christian truth and unity, despite the glaring evidences to the contrary.
Jacob has not even successfully demonstrated A) that Sola Scriptura is actually taught in the Bible. This is important because if Sola Scriptura is not taught in the Bible, then by its own definition it is contradictory and thus not true. Now, I'm willing to accept that it is implicitly taught in the Bible--after all, many Catholic doctrines like the Trinity, the 2 Natures of Christ, the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, Purgatory, and many others are so taught. So I obviously am not ruling out SS for not being explicit. But Jacob has not demonstrated even an implicit teaching. If he does so, it still would have to stand up to a cross-examination from me, withstand that scrutiny (such as the explicit statements in the Bible in support of Tradition, such as 1 Thess 2:13, which calls such, "The Word of God.").

Of course, that would only lead to the conclusion that Sola Scriptura is a possible interpretation of what the Bible says, which leads to Point B) Why did none of the Early Church Fathers believe it? Why did no Christian in history follow it until Martin Luther came along? The reason why this is important is because it tests the validity of Jacob's interpretation of the Scripture. He would have to demonstrate either that the earliest Christians did in fact teach and believe Sola Scriptura, or explain how or why they could have missed it. If he could manage to do that, then he still comes to the third part.

C) Jacob would have to show that Sola Scriptura is an effective doctrine for preserving and maintaining the Unity of the Church. Since the Unity of the Church is something that is commanded by the Bible itself (and we mean especially doctrinal as well as visible unity), and since it is the opinion of myself, most Catholic scholars, and many Protestant Scholars (including Luther and Calvin themselves, notably) that Sola Scriptura has led to the myriad of divisions in Protestantism, Jacob must demonstrate that other reasons than SS have led to divisions, and at the same time demonstrate how SS has led to greater unity among Christians.

Now in my mind, "A" is extremely unlikely, and "B" and "C" are nigh impossible. When I applied these tests to Sola Scriptura in my journey to Catholicism, it failed miserably.

As for the interludes, in my mind we could pursue them or not. They relate indirectly to the whole discussion, but are more specifically about Catholicism than about Protestantism. Since the debate is why the Reformation is allegedly necessary, and not why Catholicism is allegedly wrong, then it is necessary to demonstrate the truth of Protestantism, not the error of Catholicism. Even if you could demonstrate the error of Catholicism, it still would not prove that the Reformation was or is necessary, since the Reformation could be equally wrong. Thus attacking Catholicism does not further the debate at all, except only incidentally. If Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide can be proven true, then there is no point in disproving specific points of Catholicism, since those points are the essential places where we differ. On the other hand, if those same points cannot be proven true, then Protestantism is at least as in error as Catholicism, and therefore cannot be considered a "necessary" solution to Catholicism's supposed errors.

All that is to say, I will defend my faith as well as I can, but the interludes have not added to the discussion.

Finally, when we come to the second topic, Sola Fide, again, for it to be true, it must be demonstrated to be taught in Scripture. Now, it could be true even if Sola Scriptura is proven wrong (or at any rate, left unproven), but then the added requirement of proving it according to the Tradition of the Church comes into place.

In my mind, proving (or disproving) Sola Fide is a more straightforward matter. Does the Bible teach faith alone saves, or that Grace alone saves us, and we respond to it with the salutary acts of Faith and Good Works, that are empowered by that Grace? In other words, to put it in similar terms as the Sola Scriptura thesis:
The Burden of Proof is on you A) to demonstrate that the Bible teaches that faith, by itself and independent of any work on our part, gains salvation--that is, i) that the Bible teaches affirmatively that faith is necessary for salvation, and ii) that the Bible never teaches affirmatively that works are necessary for salvation; and B) to either explain that this was believed by the Early Church Fathers, or to explain why it was not.
In my mind, while in the Sola Scriptura burden, A is most likely, and B and C are next to impossible, here I would suggest that A is exceedingly unlikely, but B (if A is true) should be easy enough!

Either way, providing a positive proof for these doctrines is an uphill battle, which is why I converted, and why many Protestants simply assume that these things are true and instead attack specific things in Catholicism.

And so it ends, unless Jacob decides that it will continue after all, or unless someone else wants to pick up where he left off. I'm pretty confident that had this been an official debate with a moderator and a score, I would have won cleanly. In the absense of that, I'll let you, the reader, be the judge.

God bless.

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations)

Was (or is) the Reformation Necessary? An examination of Protestantism’s doctrinal Pillars: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide -- 7

Sola Fide--Part 1

In a rather indirect way, and, in my opinion, leaving the first part of this debate largely unresolved, we've managed to stumble into the discussion of the Second Pillar of the Reformation, Sola Fide, or, formally stated, Salvation is a result of our faith in God and not dependent upon our works. Now, admittedly, it is a tricky and nuanced question, and someone could criticise me for misdefining and misrepresenting the belief. To hopefully avoid that, I will define, for the record, the notion of Sola Fide using the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms compiled and edited by Protestant scholars Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling.

sola fide. Latin for "faith only," the Lutheran Reformation doctrine that the only way to be justified and receive God's grace is through faith, that is, by accepting Jesus' merits on one's own behalf.
So yeah, pretty much what I said. Formulated that way, it seems rather hard to argue with, and we would have to delve into what is meant by "Faith." However, that will probably surface later, so I won't waste too much time on it.

The argument in a practical sense has become focused on the term "only" since faith is something both Catholics and Protestants teach is necessary for salvation. So the question is, simply put, is faith all we need, in the sense that it doesn't matter what we do, or do we need to do works as well as have faith, in order to be saved? The Protestant view--especially Jacob's view, is that no, works are not necessary for salvation. The Catholic view is that you cannot even claim to have faith unless you are doing the works, and as such, works and faith go together and are both necessary. If one element is missing (either faith or works) then the other is dead and therefore also missing--or at least not in any way meritorious.

That preamble aside, let's move on to the discussion, titled at Jacob's blog, Why the Reformation Was and Still is Necessary: Part 6. As per usual, my current words are in the default white. Jacob's are in blue. The fellow Catholic in this debate, Jon's words will be brown. Since there are as of right now 29 comments in the comments section at Jacob's blog for this topic, I will probably add relevant ones here, and assign random colours of my liking.

As usual, my words are in blue, and Jon's are in green.

As usual, disregard Jacob's colour reference here, since it's not applicable. They're the colours which are quite suitable on his template.

Do feel free to read his comment I am replying to in it's entirety on the comment section of Part 3.

By all means. Jon has a wonderful mind for drawing conclusions to their logical extentions, and he reasons about Catholicism admirably well. I'm blessed to have such an ally in this debate!

"Works are an indicator that faith exists." (Quoting me.)

well, let's follow the philosophical train of thought stemming from sola fide: taken to its logical end, it should mean i do nothing and merely BELIEVE i am saved in order to be so.

You bet. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. It's all a credit to Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, who paid the penalty of sin for us. He fulfilled the Law of God that we break in our every day lives. He lived sinlessly, died on the cross as a propitiation for sin (that is he turned away the wrath of God for sin) and raised from the dead for our justification 3 days later. He did this so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. To God alone be the glory! (Romans 3:21-28)

Well, Jacob has clearly stated his position in this paragraph, and it echoes very emphatically my definition above--and agreed wholeheartedly with Jon's assessment. What Jacob wrote is true as far as it goes. There indeed is nothing we can do to save ourselves! But that does not mean that we then do nothing to apply or cooperate in Christ's gift of salvation.

because if i make an alter call, if i recite the sinner's prayer printed on the last page of every gideon's bible, am i not, in effect, DOING something that brings about my salvation? i mean, for it to be sola, *SOLA* fide, all i have to do is believe, as many do, that i shall go to heaven in order to get there.

The sinners prayer is a joke. I'm in complete opposition to telling someone to recite a prayer to be saved. Why? Because it's faith alone that saves. Alter [sic] calls and all that junk needs to die. People simply need to hear the gospel and respond in faith for salvation. Now there is nothing wrong with praying as an expression of trusting Jesus as Lord, but it's the trust/faith in Jesus alone that saves, not the prayer.

Here Jacob has made a startling statement about typical Protestant methods of evangelisation, calling them a "joke"! That's fine, but as I have said before, Jacob's issue about the faith stems deeper than merely being against Catholicism. In his rhetoric, he has branded the vast majority of Protestants as seriously in error, as well.

I am also curious what "responding in faith/trust" looks like? Isn't "responding" a work of some sort? How does one respond? And if Jacob wants to argue that a response is as simple as thinking in one's head that Jesus is God and all the rest of the Gospel is true, and trusting in that, then he is saved even if he never does a thing about it, then I would say that is a direct contradiction of James 2:14-26. Verse 17 calls that faith "dead", and verse 20 calls such faith "useless". Verse 24 explicitly says "You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that someone is justified." This verse alone shatters the position that Jacob puts forward that James is really saying that works are proof of faith, but aren't themselves necessary. James has just explicitly said that faith and works are necessary for justification! Verse 26 hammers it home by saying that faith without works is like a body without a spirit: It is dead and dead faith is not faith at all!

in scripture, on the other hand, salvation is always linked to belief AND works: "repent AND be baptized," etc.

That is a flat out lie. Repentance and faith are a mutual idea. One who truly comes to faith in Christ comes to repentance. After all the word "repent" carries the idea of a change of mind and/or direction.

Repentance is the works part of faith. Where this notion that "repentance" is simply a matter of intellect comes from, I have no idea at all. Yes, it is a turning around, 180 degrees, but that turning around happens more than just in the mind! After all, if I change my mind about something, my actions follow! So if I truly repent, then I will do the works befitting of repentance. In fact, the Bible talks very explicitly about that!
"Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:7-8).
See also,
"On the contrary I started preaching, first to the people of Damascus, then to those of Jerusalem and all Judaean territory, and also to the gentiles, urging them to repent and turn to God, proving their change of heart by their deeds" (Acts 26:20).
Thus we see that yes, repentance begins in the mind/heart, but must be demonstrated by works (note, contrary to Jacob's thought, the works don't prove faith, they prove repentance). More to the point, it was St. Paul (the vaunted alleged champion of "sola fide") who here is speaking about doing the works worthy of repentance!

In other words repentance is no longer trusting in what you can do but turning away from that mind set and trusting what Christ has already done.

According to the dictionary, Repentance is:
1. To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite.
2. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it: repented of intemperate behavior.
3. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.
So we see that actions are required.

A common analogy for salvation is that God gives us a gift. If someone gives us a gift, and we never open it, it does not benefit us. This opening is faith. However, if we open a gift (and admittedly, I have done this with a few things) and never use it but leave it hidden in a closet, it is still useless. Using the gift, is works. And from this analogy, we see that faith and works are both essential to the applying of Christ's sacrifice to ourselves.

The phrase "repent and be baptized" appears a marginal amount of times in the New Testament, where as almost every other time salvation is explained there is simply the message of faith.

Since "Repent and be baptised" was cited by Jon as one example of the faith-works formula described, its lack of repetition is rather immaterial. And besides, this does not negate the fact that the phrase is there! Repeated biblical mention of something does not make that something necessarily more important. It means, specifically, that it was a point that needed to be brought home to the community to whom the author was writing! In Galatians, for example, it makes sense that Paul is harping on faith, since they were being led astray by a group that denied that faith was the issue, but that gentile Christians needed to become Jews in order to be saved. On the other hand, James was writing to a community that was being lax in their works because they felt that faith was all they needed, so James emphasises the correction of that error. The message of the Bible is a cohesive one, and all elements must be combined and harmonised equally, not some left out or reinterpreted to square with "more important" doctrines. If the Bible mentions something explicitly and clearly, even once, we cannot dismiss it because "more verses say something else."

[By the way, all the bolding in the references that Jacob provides to make his case are his own, not mine nor the Bible's itself, in case there is any confusion.]

John 3:1-23;
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God."
Believe = not condemned, unbelief=condemned

I find it very humourous that this, of all passages, would be marshalled in your defence. I find it even more humourous that you cite up to verse 23, but only quote to verse 21. I find it exceedingly humourous that you can quote verse 21 with a straight face and tell me "faith alone" is true. And I find it most humourous of all that you can quote to me Jesus telling Nicodemus that one is born again in baptism and yet write another post saying baptism isn't necessary.

Let's dissect the humour:
First, this passage has Jesus teaching Nicodemus about salvation and His Own Identity. First thing Jesus gets across is that one must be born again. "How?" Nicky wants to know. "Through water and the Spirit," Jesus replies. I.e., through baptism, as the earliest Christians taught unanimously right up until the Reformation, when John Calvin wasn't too keen on that idea, and Ulrich Zwingly denied it altogether! But the notable thing is that we have testimony from disciples of John (like Irenaeus) who say that John was talking about baptism! Hmm, I wonder where the disciples of John got that crazy notion, eh?

Second, the connection to baptism is strengthened when we read verses 22 and 23 (which are in Jacob's reference preceeding the quotation, but not in the quotation itself. I wonder why?):
After this, Jesus went with His disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptised. John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptised.
(Emphasis mine)

Verse 23 has nothing really relevant to say, but I quoted it since Jacob had listed his citation to verse 23. After Jesus' long talk about being born again with Nicodemus, what's the first thing He does? Goes and baptises people! The Gospel of John is organised more like a deductive essay than a narrative, when you study it, and John tends to loop themes together like subtopics. It is no coincidence that he wrote about Jesus baptising after talking to Nicodemus, because it is the same subject: baptismal regeneration!

Third, let me requote verse 21--the conclusion of Jesus' discourse. Like a joke, this is the punchline: "but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God." Emphasis mine. What's that? "Does the truth"? Wait, Jesus, don't you mean "believes the truth?" That's not what He said. So in this text, Jesus has taught that one must be baptised to be born again, must believe in Jesus to not be condemned and have eternal life, and must do the truth (other translations say "live the truth") in order to come into the light. And Jesus said them all in about the span of three breaths! Jesus is either very confused about Salvation, or Jacob is.

How about the thief on the cross? Luke 23:40-43;
But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
He certainly didn't have time to be baptized. But he believed that Jesus was God, and believed that only He could redeem him from his sin.

*sigh* Two things: Number 1--baptism is normatively necessary for salvation, not absolutely necessary. What that means is, when a person knows and is able to be baptised, he must be. When there are extenuating circumstances (and let me say, hanging on a cross and meeting Jesus for the first time definitely qualifies as an extenuating circumstance!) where baptism is impossible, the desire for baptism suffices. Also, there is the notion of the "baptism of blood" or the ultimate sacrifice of self for Jesus, that stands in for baptism in water. Number 2--Jesus said it. It was ipso facto reality. Jesus is not limited to the sacraments! However, that does not mean that the thief did not do any works, even hanging from that tree: He defended the name of Jesus to the other criminal, and offered his punishment up, when he acknowledged that he deserved it. These two penitent acts, plus his supplicating Jesus in humility, were works that cooperated with his new faith in the Messiah, and these things met the qualifications of true discipleship.

Romans 1:16;
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul understands though that one who believes will live that belief. It is assumed for him. He contrasts it with ungodliness and injustice (v. 18ff), showing therefore that faith is itself godliness and goes with godly and just behaviour. But nothing in a verse that talks about faith necessitates faith alone.

Doesn't he mean believes and is baptized? No. The emphasis is on faith.

Yes, the emphasis is on faith, but if you have to emphasise something, that means there are other things not being emphasised, because they are understood already. So for Paul to emphasise the role of faith, it shows that he is already assuming the role of works--which is indeed implicit in the contrast between one who has faith and the ungodly living of one who doesn't which takes up the rest of the chapter (indeed, the rest of the first three chapters!).

Romans 3:22;
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
If you work to receive a gift it's not a gift.

It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
It is exceedingly interesting to me that Paul calls faith itself a "law". Your verses seem to minimise the Law that Paul is referring to--the Mosaic Law, specifically, since he is in this context just come out of explaining why the Jews did not have any particular advantage due to the Law. So, Paul says, that is not the Law that counts, but the Law of Faith. In fact, the last verse of chapter three says that in this, we put the Law "on its true footing" or we "establish" it.

Romans 4:1-5;
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
It seems to me that James was specifically replying to misunderstandings of Paul's illustration in this passage in James 2:21-23:
Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? So you can see that his faith was working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did. In this way the scripture was fulfilled: 'Abraham put his faith in God, and it was considered as making him upright;' and he received the name 'friend of God'.
So we have Paul saying it was faith, and James saying it was works and faith. Neither are contradicting the other, but James is elaborating on Paul's writings (since James was writing later, this is the conclusion, rather than Paul elaborating on James). Moreover, James shows us by calling Abraham "justified" because of his offering Isaac that there is more than one stage to justification (David "Mark 1:17" tried to make a point that Abraham wasn't actually justified for offering Isaac, but earlier. Well, that doesn't fly, because the inspired text of James says that he was justified for offering Isaac). It is past (initial justification), ongoing, and ultimately future (as even Paul indicates in Romans 2:13 and 3:20, referring to final judgement). Fully exploring this would take us back into the Once Saved Always Saved discussion, so I'll bypass it for now. I bring it up to mention only that justification in Romans 4:1-5 is not a final thing. Our works cannot earn forgiveness. Only God's grace makes forgiveness possible--but our works are essential to living the Law of Faith and thus persevering in justification. It is on this point specifically that we need emphasis and clarification:

St. Paul is not denying that good works are essential to living a faith-filled life. He is saying that the Works of the Law (the OT Mosaic Law) are not essential. St. James is saying, on the other hand, that good works are necessary for saving faith to exist--but James is saying nothing regarding the Mosaic Law. Therefore, there is no contradiction between Paul and James. However, in this light, we see that Paul does not support Faith Alone, and James still contradicts it. Thus, marshalling the words of Paul denying the efficacy of the works of the Law is a waste of time, since he is specifically referring to a certain code of behaviour. However, what is necessary is obedience to the Law of Faith, or the Law of Liberty (as James terms it, in 1:25), which even Paul makes clear two chapters later, in Romans 6.

If you are working your way, you'll fail because if you try and live by the law, you'll be judged by the law. (Romans 2:12b)

Again, this is specifically the OT Law, and does not bear on the faith/works sola fide controversy. We are not demanding circumcision and abstinence from pork or anything else of the sort. We are not Judaisers!

The fact that we can't complete the law in a satisfactory manner is why Jesus had to come. It's by faith that we are counted righteous in Christ. All to His glory and not to us at all. I have nothing to boast about when it comes to my salvation.

Again, you are talking about something quite different than what Catholicism actually teaches. We have no room to boast because it is only by God's Grace that we are saved, and only by His Grace that we can cooperate with Him and thus be obedient to the Law of Faith that saves.

Ephesians 1:13-14;
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Again, this is not denying the importance of works. Here it has not mentioned works either way. In context, the first three chapters of Ephesians talk about God's Grace in electing them to salvation (with a reference to their responsibility to do "the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life" [2:10], and having a faith "planted in love and built on love" [3:17]). Then, right off the bat from Chapter 4 verse 1, Paul talks about our response to God's grace, and that is "to lead a life worthy of the vocation to which you were called." He then takes the rest of the book to teach us what that worthy life consists of, and the good works that are to make up our way of life.

But by all means, continue to pull phrases and verses out of context.

Ephesians 2:8-9;
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
You enjoy leaving verse 10 out of this! The very context sets it up that God's Grace that predestines us to Salvation also predestines us to Good Works, and those Good Works are how we respond to Grace by faith:
For we are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.
That word "for" tells us that this verse isn't just some nice platitude that happens to be called "verse 10", but rather, it is intrinsically connected to verses 1-9, and sums up what has been said. The performing of these good works is the reason why God has saved us, so that He will be glorified in His Workmanship. So we see that even in Ephesians 8-9, Protestantism's pet verses, the conclusive force is that works are necessary, because their glorification of God is the whole point! And God doesn't do pointless things.

To say that I must work to attain or maintain my salvation is nothing short of spitting in the face of Christ and all that He did for me.

Good thing no one is saying that, least of all St. Paul!
So work out your own salvation in fear and trembling. It is God who, for His own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act. (Philippians 2:12b-13)
Gee, that's just awful of Paul to spit in Jesus' face like that!

Wait, what's this?
"Think of where you were before you fell; repent, and behave as you did at first, or else, if you will not repent, I shall come to you and take your lamp-stand from its place" (Revelation 2:5, cf. the entire letter to Sardis, 3:1-6)
I wonder, is pondering whether it is possible for Jesus to spit in His own face similar to pondering whether He could microwave that burrito so hot even He couldn't eat it?

Poor little God couldn't quite save me completely, I have to help Him out because I'm only partially saved.

I'm honestly glad I'm not sitting next to you. I'd be worried about lightning! Honestly, this is such nonsense that it's almost not worth replying to! God Himself has called us to partner with Him in our salvation, as revealed in Philippians 2:12-13 above! It is not a matter of need on His part, but of choice--and more, a matter of need on our part so that we do not take His Grace for granted!

The Roman Catholic gospel robs glory from God by saying that we must or even can merit salvation for ourselves.

Yeah, you're right. Good thing we don't teach that at all!
The "Jacob Allee" gospel, on the other hand, promotes "Cheap Grace."

It's Christ in His might alone that has the power to forgive sins by His bloody atonement on the cross.

But the grace that He gives us energises our works (Phil 2:13) so that what we do is worth something to Him! The paradox is that our feeble efforts are only worth anything because He made it so by doing everything! He then allows us to participate, and even gives us credit for what He Himself enables us to do! It's a very little like a Father helping his infant child learn to walk, by holding him up by the arms while the child kicks his legs to get the feel for how the muscles operate. Then, when the child takes those one or two first steps, the Father is overjoyed with the progress of his son, even though at that point, the son can only really walk as the Father holds him up. But little by little we learn to walk farther and farther. As Christians, we will never be able to let go of the Father's hand and walk on our own until we are perfected in His glory--and then, we will not want to!

Or, as St. Augustine once said, "All our good merits are wrought through grace, so that God, in crowning our merits, is crowning nothing but His gifts."

So to make the statement "in scripture, on the other hand, salvation is always linked to belief AND works" (emphasis of the word always is [Jacob's]) is an absolute lie and it's a foolish statement.

Kept in context, all the verses that you put forward that seem to speak only of "faith" do in fact speak of the need for godly living! Moreover, since the antithesis of faith or belief in these passages is not simply "doubt" or "unbelief" but often "disobedience" or "ungodliness", it is evident that the faith of which we speak itself incorporates the idea of obedience to God, which is technically "works." It is you who is "lying" if you want to go to the extreme of uncharitability, or you are at least misguided! You speak of the need for "proper hermeneutics" yet seem incapable of practicing it!

It's only a very few times that scripture word it "repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins."

Again, I stress that A) that phrase was put forth by Jon as one example among many; B) the amount of times something is mentioned in Scripture bears little importance as to the truthfulness or necessity of believing it, since "All Scripture is God-breathed" and not just the parts that are repeated; and C) repentance itself is just as much about doing something as it is about believing something!

And even then when you look in the Greek you see that it's the repentance/faith that is the forgiving agent and not the baptism.

This coming from the guy who admits to not knowing much Greek (so little in fact that he hinged one whole argument in another post on a word that didn't exist in the Greek)? On what do you base that statement? And what do you do then with verses such as John 3:5, Romans 6:1-11, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:20-21, all of which clearly state that Baptism is regenerative (not to mention the prophecy in Ezekiel 36:25-27)? There is no Scripture anywhere in the Bible that teaches that Baptism is simply symbolic, and here are at least 4 or 5 of many that teach that it is efficaceous for the forgiveness of sins and regeneration of the soul. Finally, how can you so easily dismiss the unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers, who immediately taught (this wasn't something later on, "after Constatine", as if that somehow made any difference) baptismal regeneration?

Baptism is a commandment that all believers should submit to,

Oh ho ho! So it is a commandment that we should submit to! It's a good idea. You'd recommend it, for sure. Jacob, are you familiar with the definition of commandment? Jesus clearly tells us that if we don't do what He commands, we ain't His friends. I'm pretty sure He's not going to let His "business acquaintances" into Heaven, you know what I mean? A Commandment is something necessary!

but it does not regenerate. Faith does.

Again, show me one reference that says baptism doesn't regenerate. I've given you 5 that say it does. Just one. I've never seen any, so it would be new to me. Where is it?

There is much more scripture that could be given, but the point is, if baptism or any other work were truly necessary for salvation, it would be emphatically emphasized every single time the gospel is mentioned.

By what logic? I can point out times where salvation is mentioned without reference to faith at all. But if faith is necessary, shouldn't it be mentioned emphatically, every time? Or is the fact that it is not mentioned every time, proof that it is not necessary? Please, do try not to make such ridiculous claims! Often, things aren't mentioned explicitly because they are tacitly assumed as obvious, or because the author needs to emphasise a different element of the teaching!

However, clearly, it is not. But what is mentioned in every instance of the gospel being explained in scripture? FAITH!

Is it now?
Luke 1:67-79, the Benedictus, does not mention faith in connection with Salvation!
Luke 2:29-32, the Nunc Dimittis, does not mention faith.
Luke 3:1-18, the ministry of John the Baptist, does not mention faith.
Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus' conversion, does not mention faith.
Acts 4:12 doesn't mention faith, but simply that the Name of Jesus is what saves.
Acts 13:16-41, Paul's sermon to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, doesn't mention faith.
Romans 10:10: If the sinner's prayer is a work, then this passage advocates works, because one must confess with the mouth, speaking aloud his faith, "unto salvation".
2 Corinthians 1:6 Paul says that the sufferings of others and of themselves contribute to their salvation, just as Jesus' sufferings overflow into their lives.
2 Corinthians 6:1-10 Paul makes it clear that a) he and his partners are God's fellow-workers thus co-operating with God again! There he goes, spitting in Jesus' face again! More, he again fails to mention "faith" but works are mentioned a lot!
2 Corinthians 7:8-13: Sorrow and repentance are mentioned as leading to salvation (notably, in those who are already Christians) and yet faith is again conspicuously absent.
Philippians 1:19, Paul says that his persecutions will contribute to his salvation!
Philippians 2:12, again, no mention of faith, just works!
2 Timothy 2:8-13, The Gospel is summed up. No mention of faith. Perseverance is mentioned, however. Moreover, similar to Phil 1:19, Paul says his sufferings contribute to salvation, but this time not his own, but for the elect!
Titus 2:11-14, again, the Gospel without faith, but a string of works are listed!
Hebrews 5:9, salvation comes to all who obey Jesus!

That's just a search of the times "Salvation" occurs, and references to it that don't mention faith. And they are all New Testament references! The following are references based on a search for save*.

Matthew 1:21, the angel didn't tell Joseph that Jesus would save the people who had faith from their sins.
Matthew 10:22, Jesus says that those who endure persecutions will be saved (but those who do not endure to the end, by inference, are not. Thus, perseverance is necessary for Salvation.
Matthew 18:1-11, innocence of a child is necessary for salvation. Conversion and removal of sin is necessary.
Matthew 19:16-30, willingness to forsake all for Christ brings salvation. Still faith is not mentioned.
Matthew 24:12-13, enduring in love is necessary for salvation.
Mark 10:17-31, same as Matthew 19:16-30
Mark 13:13, same as Matthew 10:22
Mark 16:16 includes baptism with faith in order to be saved.
Luke 13:23-24, "Strive to enter the the narrow gate"? Striving is working!
Luke 18:18ff, same as Matthew 19:16-30 again.
John 10:1-18, no mention of faith.
Acts 2:14-19, very first sermon, absolutely no mention of faith! Only repentance (v.38), baptism (v. 38), and calling on the name of Jesus (v.21)--all actions, all works. And yet, 3000 were saved (v. 41)! In fact, in verse 40, Peter tells the crowd to "save yourselves"!
Acts 4:12 again (repeat from the "Salvation" list, since it says both "salvation" and "saved").
Acts 15:1-21 (and following), never mentions faith, even when it rebukes the Judaisers for adding works into the mix! In fact, Grace alone is mentioned, and then, at the end, James still adds four works that should be followed!
Acts 21:25 confirming the decision of Acts 15.
Romans 8 doesn't talk about faith, but says we are saved who "walk after the Spirit", are "spiritually minded", we must "suffer with Christ", we are "saved by hope", by God's calling and predestination--but in all of that, Faith is never mentioned!
Romans 10:13, you must call (an action) on the Name of the Lord.
1 Timothy 4:16, being careful of how you live and of true doctrine will not only save you, but others!
2 Timothy 1:8-11 doesn't mention faith at all!
Titus 3:4-8 doesn't mention faith, but grace and baptism--and goes further, saying that baptism doesn't count as "works of righteousness which we have done"!
James 1:21-25, we must hear and do the Word.
1 Peter 3:20-21, Baptism saves us (no mention of faith!)
1 Peter 4:17-19, suffering and obedience save us (no mention of faith!)

The following are references based on a search for Gospel:

Romans 10:16, the Gospel is something that must be obeyed, not simply believed
Colossians 1:22-23, we must continue in the Gospel.

The following are references based on a search for eternal life:

Matthew 19:16ff, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18ff, are repeats.
Matthew 25:31-46 never once mentions faith, but works, as being what gains eternal life!
Luke 10:25-28, eternal life comes from obeying the Great Commandments, love God and love your neighbour. Faith is not mentioned.
John 6:26-58, the Eucharist, Jesus' flesh and blood, is necessary for eternal life.
John 17:3, knowing Jesus is eternal life!
Romans 2:7, "patient continuing in well doing" brings eternal life.
1 Timothy 6:12, contending for the faith brings eternal life.
1 Timothy 6:17-21, a list of good deeds that bring eternal life. Faith is not mentioned.
Titus 3:4-8 again.
1 John 1:1-7, fellowship with believers (which is fellowship with God) and honest, godly living, bring eternal life.
1 John 2:24-25, persevering in the truth of Jesus brings eternal life. Forsaking Him loses it.
Jude 21, keeping in the love of God leads to eternal life.

Now, does citing this multitude of texts that speak of salvation by works, or at least salvation without mentioning faith, mean that I don't believe that faith is necessary (since it isn't emphatically emphasised every time)? By Jacob's logic, yes! But his logic is no logic at all, any more than his prooftexts are proof at all! Obviously Scripture must be viewed in harmony and unity with the whole message. Ripping passages out of context as Jacob has done (and as I have parodied as a reductio ad absurdum) does not make a good case. To demonstrate that, I have shown that even in the immediate context (often one or two verses away, but if not, certainly within the same book!) works are being taught as necessary for salvation as well as faith! And again, I will show this is the case with nearly every reference Jacob leaves below.

(For the record, in case you weren't counting, that's 53 references to salvation that don't mention faith! So much for Jacob's claim!)

IN HIM -Jacob

Romans 10:9-13;
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Note in this passage, that Jacob didn't bother to bold anything in verse 10 (which I reference above, in my loooong list). Verse 10 adds "confession" and specifies that it must be a verbal confession, as necessary for salvation. Jacob has denied that the "Sinner's Prayer" is of any merit (calling it a "joke" that "should die") because it is "doing" something to receive Jesus. Thus, by his own logic, the verse he himself quotes shows that actions (confessing, which is the purpose of the sinner's prayer in Protestant circles, as well as what Jacob thinks baptism is for) are necessary. (Therefore, even if his purely symbolic view of baptism is to be taken seriously, it is still necessary for salvation since it is a public confession of faith!)

Other scripture that refers to salvation by faith and not by works,

As soon as I read this list, even before I'd read any of the passages, I said, just as Jon said above, that faith and works always go together in Scripture, so anything Jacob throws at me in the Bible will be easy enough to refute, based on context! And it was!

Acts 15:6-11
That's almost too funny, because not only are the works that are condemned specifically the Old Testament works of the Law (which no Christian believes is necessary for salvation!) but faith is never once mentioned in chapter 15! In fact, as I pointed out above, in verse 20 a list of necessary works is given!

Acts 26:18
This is perhaps the closest that Jacob could come of this list of not having works mentioned in the immediate context. Does this then make Jacob's case? Hardly, since it is a brief description of the Gospel given to his captors at his trial. He is not trying to convert them, but only to explain what's got everyone so riled up. Further, in other places in Acts and other of Paul's writings, works are indeed mentioned as necessary. This is why "prooftexts" don't work out so well.

Acts 16:29-32
In this story, we see that the Philippian jailer's faith saves his whole household and that as a result, they were baptised immediately. So somewhere Paul made it clear to them that it was an issue.

Romans 5:1-2
The context (reading forward to chapter 6) shows that if one continues to sin they will not continue in salvation, but be slaves again to sin (and therefore not saved). Thus, works are important.

Galatians 2:16, we are saved in Jesus Christ, not by the works of the OT LAW which is different than saying "not by good works". Further, verse 17 says that if we are saved in Jesus, but continue to sin, we make Jesus in the service of sin! In other words, we must do good!

Galatians 3:8-9
Galatians 3:23-26

I'll take these together, since the immediate context is the same. We find first, that Jacob left off verse 27, which says that we are Christ's through faith, "since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. So we see that baptism is necessary for this whole argument to stand up. Further, in the rest of the book (especially chapter 5, verses 21-23) we see that we who are baptised and walk in the Spirit, must continue to do so since Paul warns that those who fall again into sins such as he listed will not inherit the Kingdom. Rather, we must be producing the Fruit of the Spirit!

Ephesians 3:17
This faith must be planted and grounded in love which is a work! Further, a whole 5 verses later Paul again demands works, urging us to "lead a life worthy of the vocation to which you were called" (4:1)! Chapter 4 to the end of the book are all about how we must live!

Philippians 3:9
Don't forget verse 10! It says that it's not just faith, but knowing Christ, being upright in God, and "participating in Christ's sufferings"!

2 Timothy 3:15
Hey! Check out verse 14! We must remain faithful to our faith! That takes work!

You know what else takes work? Replying to something like this without losing your mind! Jacob has consistently misrepresented our faith, and then defended his with prooftexts with no regard to contexts, in order to "prove" that "Faith Alone" is true! Well, having thoroughly dismantled each text that he has provided, demonstrating that Grace given through Christ Jesus alone is what saves, and our necessary response of faith and works is how we respond to His grace and appropriate it to our lives in order that we may be saved. This is the biblical view, taken together whole and entire, and it is the Catholic view.

I may add some of the 29 comments on Jacob's original post to the discussion here. But not now. This has been exhausting!

I'm eager to know how Jacob will respond...
God bless


jon said...
"You bet. The sinners prayer is a joke. Alter calls and all that junk needs to die. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves."

excellent! [but my, how FAR prots have come--that would've been enough to have you tossed out of nearly every prot church in america fifty years ago! we can only hope that when your heads stop spinning, you'll be facing forward again!] than broad indeed is the way, for many, many believe that they too will be saved and do absolutely nothing. how many times have you heard, "sure, we all go to heaven!" in fact, it seems *better* not to do anything at all lest we confuse attempting to *work* for our salvation and salvation itself! you've given hope to millions today...

Matthew Karabela said...
Well, i definitely don't beleive that you have to only have faith to be saved. To me it sounds completely backwards. Now I dont have any fancy bible quotes to back me up on this, except that one passage in James, i beleive it states that faith without deeds is dead. hmmm. Can It get more obvious that this?. I don't think so. I don't understand how this can be contradicted. Many people have faith in God; faith that they'll be saved; faith that God is there, faith that God will save you. This is all nice, but if you have faith that God will save you, but you don't give him any incentive to save you, why should he? You can beleive god is there, so in a sense having faith in him, but you can still lead a sinful life. Why would God accept into his kingdom someone who did not try to get there. Generally, I'm pretty sure you're going to heaven jacob. You seem to have actions (this blog) to go with youre faith.
Thanks for allowing me to view my point.

Jacob said...
Hey Matt,

Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your thoughts. As far as the passage in James chapter 2 goes, I understand how it sounds. And it is certainly a fine line, but a definite one.

In a since, the fromula goes like this.

We are justified by faith, and our faith is justified by works.

Now you can just call this samantics if you want, but I think there is a very important thing to understand here.

I really do think I would call this "semantics". If our faith is justified by our works then works are necessary and "faith alone" is defeated. Unjustified or unjustifiable faith does not justify anyone! That's what James is saying!

Faith comes first, and works follow. The Old Testament passages quoted in James are from two parts of Genesis. The part where Abraham was going to offer his son Isaac as a sacrafice to the Lord was in Genesis 22. The part that says "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness" was in Genesis 15. So you see that God counted Abraham as righteous because of his faith before Abraham even did anything but believe. And then later on when he is faithul to follow a command from the Lord, his work justified his faith. But Abraham was alread counted righteous because of his faith.

I dealt with this above. I'll just add the comment that "Faith first" is a different thing than "Faith alone." In the end, "Faith + Works" and "Faith before Works" come out to pretty much the exact same thing, because either way, Works are Necessary.

So, Jacob, if you want to hold to "Faith First", then stop trying to defend "Faith Alone." I can accept faith first as a Catholic. If that's the truth of the matter, then that is what Catholicism teaches. But you say we teach "works first" as if works precede grace, even. This is absolutely not true. We don't even teach that works precede faith. Either they happen together so there is no meaningful distinction, or faith precedes and produces works. But either way, our faith and our works are gifts of God's Grace, and are necessary responses to it.

So unless you want to retract your "faith first" position, then you need to retract your "Catholics teach a false gospel and are therefore not Christian" position.

Now if God had waited to count Abraham as righteous until after the "work" that he did, this would be another story. But when we study scripture we have to take it in its entirety.

Sounds funny coming from you. Genesis, James, and Hebrews all say that Abraham was justified at a different point in time. Since you are bound to believing that Justification is a one-time event, this makes no sense to you and so you do violence to God's inspired Word in Hebrews and James. Catholics, on the other hand, realise that Justification is an ongoing thing, only fully completed at the Second Coming or our own death, and is synonymous with Sanctification. As such, we take Genesis, Hebrews, and James all at their words, and find no problem or contradiction in doing so.

Just because one or two scripture appear to say one thing, what about when you have many, many scripture that disagree with the conclusion you've drawn from one or two? That's why we have to be very careful in our methods of interpretation.

Hopefully that makes some sense.

Yes, but Biblical hermeneutics is not a democracy. The majority of verses do not "win", but rather, we must harmonise one or two verses with the greater number so that both verses are allowed to mean what they say without contradiction. Your method of interpretation does not do this.

As far as giving incentive to God for Him to save us. God loves us very much and desires for all of us to be saved. (John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:4) God paid the price of sin that was ours in order to make the way for us to be saved. We must recognize that our debt is too high for anyone of us to be able to pay, and that's why God in His love and mercy paid it for us. And it's simply by trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone that we are saved. Our sin is put upon the cross of Christ and Christ righteousness is put upon us.

Yeah, Matt, I have to say you might have worded that a bit poorly. However, Jacob, I think Matt's thought stands. Jesus paid the debt, but that doesn't let us off the hook with no responsibility. Otherwise the Bible would say nothing at all about good works (necessary or otherwise).

From that point on God uses the Holy Spirit and the word of God to sanctify us in His truth. So we become less like sin and more like Christ until we die. And then when we are ressurected on the day of the Lord, we will be glorified. Our sinful flesh will be done away with and we will be made perfect, able to enjoy Christ for eternity.

Yeah, incidentally, Jacob, we believe the last paragraph, too. In fact, the last sentence is what we call "Purgatory."

God bless you!

tank said...
This is for Matt - The problem that comes from putting faith on the same level as works is that we as fallen humans can begin to put our faith in our works...meaning, we begin to believe that the works are saving us. Basically, you can have works without faith, but you can't have faith without works. REAL faith produces the works.But no matter what, salvation isn't by faith or works. Salvation comes by grace. We wouldn't even have our faith if not for God's grace. We can't take credit for a single good thing within ourselves. God deserves every bit of the glory. He produces the faith and the good works.Sometimes we...I know I sometimes do...forget that good works in God's eyes and the human version of "good" are not always the same. In His kingdom, the weak are actually the strong. So when we start to think to ourselves, "Man, I sure am 'strong' in my good works this month," God is saying, "Oh, but I see how weak you really are."

To this I replied:
Tank, I agree with everything you said in your above comment (and Matt probably would, too).

When I teach that faith and works are on the same level (and even that faith itself is a work of sorts--even Jesus calls it such in John 6:29) is simply in order to emphasise that it is only by Grace Alone that we are saved. Our Faith and our Works are the result only of Christ's Grace.

Is it possible to work without faith? Yes, but what are you working toward? If you have no faith, then your works are nothing, since they are not done for the right motives. Works done without faith are not done to glorify God, and are not done as a result of God's Grace. Therefore, they are, as Paul quotes Isaiah in Romans, "filthy rags".

However, if our works are energised by God's Grace, then they cannot be done without faith, since faith is a gift of God's Grace. God will not grace us with faith but not the ability to work, and God will not grace us with the ability to do works pleasing to Him without granting us the grace of faith! The two are inseparable. Often Catholics emphasise the works aspect to the exclusion of faith, but that is not because we believe in works to the exclusion of faith, but because usually when we do this, it is talking to protestants who emphasise faith to the exclusion of works.

Works and Faith are not exclusive of each other. They are, in fact, two equal sides of the same coin.

As for saying "I am doing well in my good works", you are absolutely right that we are then at our weakest! We have allowed the deadly sin of pride to creep in (and the worst kind of pride--spiritual pride!) and that pride will kill any and all value our works to that point have accomplished in God's eyes, as you said.

But then, that is why the Virtues that we work towards are so key. Humility is needed always. But humility does not come by the theology of faith alone, but by the understanding that all that we do is by Grace alone. Keeping that doctrine clearly in sight at all times is crucial to humility, and humility is crucial to effective faith and works. After all, "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble."

God bless

That's all the relevant comments, adding some extra material to the debate.
God bless!

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations
Soteriology: Justification)

Was (or is) the Reformation Necessary? An examination of Protestantism’s doctrinal Pillars: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide -- 6

Interlude--Part 4

This post is in direct reply to the last one about Universalism. Jacob's words are blue, my old words are orange, and everything else is same as always...

It's important that you know for yourself everything that Gregory said, as I am not going to repeat every word of his, but I don't want to mis-quote him either. So please by all means everyone keep us both accountable.

I appreciate the thought. Now were sort of getting down to brass tacks.

Gregory, regarding your response to part 4, I believe that this is very much on the topic of Sola Scriptura. Though I admit in a abstract way. Simply because If I can show contradictions between scripture and Roman Catholic doctrine/tradition, then one of the two has to be wrong.

It is, to an extent. But I accused you of being off topic because it isn't specifically proving the thesis:

...The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate a) that Sola Scriptura is actually taught in the Bible, b) why the Church somehow missed this teaching for nearly 1500 years, if indeed it is so clear in the Bible, and c) that it is in fact a workable theory in the promotion of Christian truth and unity, despite the glaring evidences to the contrary."
Since that is technically the topic of Sola Scriptura that was agreed upon way back in the first post, anything that doesn't further a proof of it is at best tangental. Attacking my beliefs don't actually support yours. They might, at best, demonstrate that a reformation was or is still necessary, but it does not prove that The Protestant Reformation is the reformation that is possibly necessary. The only way to do that is to demonstrate that Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide are valid doctrines. So far we've discussed only Sola Scriptura, and you need to demonstrate the three points in the thesis before anyone can satisfactorily hold to such a doctrine.

Thus, straightaway we find that attacking Catholic Tradition will not prove Sola Scriptura. That is why I say you are off topic.

And seeing as how the scripture came first

First in what sense? Scripture is itself a product of Sacred Tradition, in the sense that it was the Sacred Tradition of Conciliar Ecumenical Councils that determined what, in fact, was Scripture! You seem to miss or ignore that point: The Bible is a product of the Church

and years and years of RC tradition have been built on top of them, I believe it would point towards the tradition being faulty and not the scripture.

Yet this is not the historical reality of it, at all. Scripture and Tradition developed simultaneously (much like faith and works) and if not for Tradition, we would not know what Scripture was! Since we believe (because of the infallible ruling of the Councils) that the 73 books of the Bible are in fact God's Word, yes, it is, in your estimation, more likely that the Bible (which we both agree on) is right and the Traditions (which we disagree on many) are wrong--but then, the question is less "Is the Bible right or true?" as "Is my interpretation of the Bible right or true?" On the one hand, we both take the Bible as an authority on our faith. On the other, your interpretation of it contradicts Catholic Tradition while mine does not. It all comes right back to the issue of whose interpretation is correct and why.

After all the claim is that everything the RCC teaches is contained in scripture in "seed form." So if contradiction appears between tradition and scripture it's the tradition that is in the wrong.

Yes, if it can be proven that the interpretation of Scripture is correct, and still contradicts Tradition, then indeed, the Tradition is wrong. So then instead of quoting Scripture at me, you would need to rather demonstrate why you have more authority to interpret that Scripture correctly than the Magisterium.

"Your part 4 would have been a lot better put if you had asked how we reconcile those passages of the Catechism with the plain teaching of Scripture rather than just telling us what we supposedly believe and then labeling it a false Gospel."

First of all let me say you are right that I should give you an opportunity to reconcile your beliefs with scripture. I'm guilty of not being friendly, and I apologize. I have a tendency to get over-zealous.

As is demonstrated by my reply, I do too. All is forgiven. I appreciate the apology :)

That said, now that you have given your defense, I think your defense did nothing but back up my claim. Which simply put was that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that it is possible to be saved apart from knowing the name of Jesus or ever hearing His gospel. And not only that but that a person can be justified through the works of the law.

I would say that we are all justified by the works of the Law. The only question is, "Who is doing the works?" Only Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law, and when we place our faith in Him, He washes away our sins and gives us the grace to live in Him. He paid the penalty against us.

Now the hypothetical question is, what if a person never sinned but kept the Law perfectly? He would not need Jesus to justify him. Of course, because of Adam and Eve, we know that the sin nature inside of us, devoid of grace, cannot keep the Law perfectly, so really, that's a moot point.

However, by your description of who can be saved and how, you would condemn the Old Testament faithful to Hell as well. Since we know that's not the case, we see that there is an exception (namely, that their faith looking forward was salvific through the sacrifice of Calvary which extended backwards as well as forwards).
Romans 2:12ff: "All those who have sinned without the Law will perish without the Law; and those under the Law who have sinned will be judged by the Law. For the ones that God will justify are not those who have heard the Law but those who have kept the Law. So, when gentiles, not having the Law, still through their own innate sense behave as the Law commands, then, even though they have no Law, they are a law for themselves. They can demonstrate the effect of the Law engraved on their hearts, to which their own conscience bears witness; since they are aware of various considerations, some of which accuse them, while others provide them with a defense...On the day when, according to the gospel that I preach, God, through Jesus Christ, judges all human secrets."
Ok, I of course agree with the scripture. Now, your interpretation.....

"What is this saying? That God's Law is on the hearts of every man, and that as a man is able, as he follows that law in his conscience, he is following God whether he knows it or not. Since, as Romans 2 clearly states, God judges us by our deeds, there is the possibility that such a man, who, through no fault of his own, does not know the fullness of the Gospel. However, if such a man is saved, it is still due to the unmerited life of Grace at work in him through Jesus Christ.This is what the Catechism is saying. But even the Catechism isn't declaring it to be a sure thing, but says that "those too may achieve eternal salvation" [emphasis mine]. The only sure way is through Christ Jesus, and that is why evangelisation is so crucial--in fact, the Bible says and the Catechism echoes, that evangelisation is itself necessary for salvation!"

Starting with the last thing you said in the above paragraph, I'll be honest and just say I don't follow what you mean. Are you saying that evangelism is something a Christian needs to do for their own salvation or are you saying that it is necessary to be evangelized to become a Christian? Maybe if you explain this I'll understand better what you mean. If it's the latter, then this sounds like it's in stark contrast to what you've just said right before that. If it's the first, then that's a work and I would say it's not necessary for salvation.

What I said, I had thought was pretty clear. If we will not spread the Gospel, we will not be saved. Jesus Himself said that if we fail to acknowledge Him before men (evangelisation), He will not acknowledge us before the Father (justification). Doesn't get much clearer than that! Philippians 2:12-16:
So, my dear friends, you have always been obedient; your obedience must not be limited to times when I am present. Now that I am absent it must be more in evidence, so work out your salvation in fear and trembling. It is God who, for His own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act. Let your behaviour be free of murmuring and complaining so that you remain faultless and pure, 'unspoilt children of God' surrounded by 'a deceitful and underhand brood,' shining out among them like bright stars in the world, proffering to it the Word of life. Then I shall have reason to be proud on the Day of Christ, for it will not be for nothing that I have run the race and toiled so hard.
What is Paul saying? He tells us first that we must work out our own salvation! But, he says, that working out comes only by the grace of God! All our works are nothing if they are not energised by God's Grace, but through God's Grace, He gives us the ability to work righteousness for Him! Now, if He gives us that grace, and we fail to work said righteousness, then we are forfeiting our salvation (Revelation 3:3-5). Back to the text: Paul continues to describe the behaviour of those who are working out their salvation--free of murmuring and complaining, faultless and pure, and "proffering to [the world] the Word of life." Earlier in the epistle, Paul's chief joy is that the Church has been doing just that--helping him to spread the Gospel!

Finally, if Christ has given us the Great Commission, and we do not obey it, how can we expect to be saved? He said, "You are My disciples if you do what I command." Anything further I'll save for an actual discussion of Sola Fide.

Because it seems to me what you have just said is that even if a person has never heard of Christ or His gospel, but they obey the law that is written on their heart, though it's a slim chance, it's possible they might be saved.

This is a point of division even among Protestants, so we must not try to make it a "Catholic-Protestant" issue! I looked up the phrase "Salvation haven't heard Gospel" on Yahoo. I looked at the first two articles. The first was a well-written and biblically (with help from RC Sproul) defended treatise giving the answer that no, those who have not heard the Gospel are not saved (Your position). The very next article (very Protestant indeed!) gave the opposite answer (with a little help from Don Richardson (and his book "Eternity In Their Hearts") after thorough biblical reasoning, as well (My position).

Thus it is plain to see that the issue is not simply Protestant-Catholic, and therefore can't really enter into this debate at all, in the long run--because if you succeeded in proving your position, you would still have to exclude the vast majority of Christian denominations as teaching a "false Gospel." Yet this should not surprise me, because time and time again you have shown yourself willing to reject all but the Calvinist point of view (and a very narrow version of that, since Calvin himself believed in infant baptism, such Marian doctrines as her perpetual virginity, and opposed things like birth control--all of which you disagree on). So in the end, I'm not sure which denominational version of Christianity you would accept outside of the SBC--which you admitted that you aligned yourself with because it taught what you believe.

(For the record, the two sites were The Necessity of Christ as the Conscious Focus of all Saving Faith--your position; and What happens to people who have never heard the gospel?--My position.)

"On the one hand we believe that God is merciful and compassionate, and that He doesn't want to condemn."

I fully agree with this. And it's in this compassion (I think you'll agree) that He sent Jesus into the world so that the world might be saved. (John 3:17)


"On the other, we know that He is holy and just and must condemn.

Right. (Romans 1:18)

But the harmony is found in Jesus. But where is justice in condemning someone who doesn't know about Jesus? There is none,

Actually there is plenty. Romans 3:10-12;
"as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
And Romans 1:28-32;
"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."
We all have rejected God. We all deserve Hell. If we got what we deserve and God didn't die in our place we would all die and go to Hell. And because we rebel in our sin against God, He would be just to send us there. Praise the Lord that He loved us enough to make a way for us, but He sure didn't have to.

The question, hypothetically, was not whether all men or women who had not heard the Gospel were saved regardless of their lives, but whether any man or woman who had not heard the Gospel, but did respond to the grace of Christ in whatever way that grace made itself known to them could then be saved? Therefore the Scriptural indictments against actual sins do not apply to a hypothetical person. Moreover, quoting poetical hyperbole doesn't make a good case. But then, we have a different definition of "Total Depravity", too.

without the possibility, however remote, that even St. Paul describes in Romans, that they might seek for God anyway and live according to what knowledge He has given them! Paul says all men are without excuse. But if they are without excuse, then it cannot be possible that they are also without the grace of salvation!

Wrong. Romans 7:7-10;
"What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me."
Knowledge of the law reveals sin! That's the whole point of why Jesus had to come, because no one was capable of fulfilling the law, and it is indeed the law that condemns us and reveals our sin. There is absolutely no way to inherit salvation apart from faith in the name and gospel of Jesus Christ! That is why the great commission is so important.

But we are talking specifically of those who don't know the law! Paul himself, in the very text which you cited says, "I was once alive apart from the law"! Therefore, if one does not know the Law, they fall into that category! The Law about which Paul is talking here is not the law written on men's hearts by general revelation, but specifically the OT Law, specially revealed to the Jewish people! This is evident by the very fact that St. Paul quotes it!

However, unfortunately, the majority of people will not take even the "easy" version through Jesus!

I wouldn't call it the easy version.

That's why I put easy in ""s. It's a lot easier to get to heaven with Jesus than without Him!

It's tough to forsake yourself and take up your cross. But it is indeed the only version and only way to Heaven. Place your faith in Christ alone, deny yourself and walk the narrow road home.

I just wanted to point out that "deny[ing] yourself and walk[ing] the narrow road home" are "works."

How much less will those who have never heard of the guarantee of salvation from Him not meet even the remote exception? Yet the Bible is clear that just because the chance is remote, does not mean there is no chance!"

I couldn't disagree more. (Shocking I know) The Bible is clear that there is no exception to be made. There is no other chance. Salvation is by calling on the name of the Lord. And you can't call on the name of the Lord unless you've received the gospel to know what the name is. Romans 10:13-15;
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
Romans 3:26;
"It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
John 3:16;
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Romans 10:9;
"because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Ephesians 1:13;
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,"
And of course there is more in the scripture that backs up this point. It is necessary to know about Jesus, the Christ of God, who he is, what He has done, and why He did it, in order to be saved.

The law does not justify, it condemns. But as Paul says, the law is good. Without it we would not know our helpless estate.

But again, we are discussing those without the Law, but still with the grace of Christ--like those written about in different books on missions that I studied when I was working toward a Bachelor of Religious Studies in Missions as a Protestant. For example, the tribe that had a legend about a man who would come and bring them a book of how to be reconciled to God, because generations ago, a tribal chief had been revealed this in a dream. When the missionary finally showed up, they readily received the Gospel because of this--but the question is, what about those who died before the missionary arrived, yet hoped for his arrival? Are they condemned simply because they did not know Jesus' name? Or does His grace cover them as it covered the Old Testament saints who were saved through their faith in God and in His Christ, though their notion of Him was vague and incomplete?

Gregory, you have to concede that it's in the known name of Jesus and faith in Him and what He has done that brings upon salvation. Put aside the fact that we have different views about faith and works, the gospel must be known and understood for salvation to occur. If you haven't heard the message of the cross, there is no chance for salvation.

Later, Jacob wrote in the comments:
A lot has been said here, but the question still remains. Is it possible for someone to achieve salvation outside of hearing the gospel of Christ and responding in faith?

Put aside all our other differences for a moment on faith alone versus faith + works. Gregory made the statement regarding this issue:

"Yet the Bible is clear that just because the chance is remote, does not mean there is no chance!"

Gregory did I understand you right? Am I misinterpreting you? Or did you say that the possibility is, while remote, there for someone by works of the law to secure eternity with Christ?

Because if that's the case, that person has something to brag about.

I replied:

No, that is not what I said, nor is it what the Bible or the Church teaches.

To be as clear as I possibly can, let me attempt to explain.

Christ died for all people, of all times, in all places. But not all of these people in all times or in all places have had the opportunity to hear of Christ. For example, Old Testament Saints who very obviously did not have the fulness of the Gospel preached to them, babies who could not comprehend the Gospel if it was preached to them, and various though precious few others who through no fault of their own are currently out of reach for various reasons of having the Gospel preached to them.

We know, though, that the Old Testament Saints, while not perfectly fulfilling the Law, are nonetheless saved through their faith and hope in salvation and obedience to the law as much as they were able. Why? Because Christ's Sacrifice was retroactive, to speak from our point of view (but eternal, to speak from His).

Babies we honestly cannot be sure about, but we entrust them to God's mercy if they die unbaptised and to His grace if they die baptised--even though they could not respond in faith to the Gospel. Why? Because even though they are born in sin, they themselves have not committed sin through any fault of their own, and we can trust that because God wants them to be saved, that He can and will save them.

Now, that's two very plain exceptions of groups of people who are saved without placing their faith explicitly in the Gospel of Christ, that I assume we both agree on (if not, then there are issues at stake here that run miles deeper than I first supposed!).

In light of the fact that A) these two groups were not at fault for not placing their faith explicitly in Jesus, and B) that they are saved regardless of the fact that they did not (indeed, could not) place their faith consciously in Jesus Christ, but were judged and saved rather on what they had the ability to believe in, and how they responded to the grace they had been given, then why is it not just as logical that the third group, who meets the same qualifiers as the other two saved groups (namely that they do not place their trust in Jesus through no fault of their own and that they respond to whatever graces God has given to them), especially in light of the fact that Jesus died for them just as much as He died for us, and that God is not willing that any should perish, why is it obvious, biblical teaching that these people are ipso facto condemned because of something that they had no control over?!

Now note carefully what I am not saying:
I am not saying that this "loophole" is likely (indeed, in our day and age, it is almost impossible to not have faith in Jesus through no fault of your own, let alone respond to God's graces without knowing the Gospel).
I am not saying that these people are saved without Christ. In fact, I have tried to make it as explicit as possible that if these people are saved at all, it is only because of Christ that they could be!

I hope that is clear now.

Any teaching divergent to this, is indeed a false gospel. And if this is what the Roman Catholic Chruch teaches, this is part of "Why the reformation was and still is necessary."


Actually, this isn't the case, because, as I demonstrated above, this isn't simply a Protestant-Catholic issue, but one that divides Protestants (indeed, even hard-core, conservative, Bible-believing Protestants). So before you turn this issue into one allowing you to write of Catholicism, you'd better be willing to write off all who don't agree with you.

Of course, the reverse of that is those that you write off will most likely write off your opinion or that of the SBC, and we'll get rather nowhere. Moreover, it is yet one more issue where Sola Scriptura has led to a multitude of competing and contradictory opinions, and spread more disunity.

God bless

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus
Soteriology: Salvation)