Skip to comments.Justified by Baptism (fallout from the Beckwith conversion grows)
Posted on 05/09/2007 10:01:17 AM PDT by NYer
Francis Beckwith’s announced return to the Catholic Church has generated an avalanche of invective and revilement from evangelicals. I have been stunned by what I have read. It is clear that in the minds of many the Catholic Church remains the hated Antichrist. To enter into her communion is to abandon the faith of the Apostles and to jeopardize one’s eternal salvation.
But some evangelicals have responded with sobriety and directed their reflections to the important theological differences between Catholicism and evangelicalism. Guy Davies, a Welsh Reformed preacher, identifies justification by faith as the crucial difference between the two traditions:
The Roman teaching on justification is that we are justified by grace at baptism. But this initial justification must be improved by our works. Does this understanding of justification really have greater ‘explanatory power’ than the Protestant view? Where in the New Testament is justification related to baptism? In the teaching of Paul, we are justified by faith apart from works. God’s declaration that we are right with him in Christ cannot be improved upon. The Roman Catholic teaching is not straightforward justification by works, because it is held that we are graciously justified at baptism. But the notion that our justification by grace must be supplemented by works is at best semi-Pelagian. The Catholic teaching downplays the seriousness of sin and calls into question the the freeness of God’s grace. Perhaps the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement (here) has had the effect of blurring the dividing lines between Rome and the Reformation over justification? The new perspective on Paul has had a similar effect.
Davies rightly notes that the Catholic Church teaches that sinners are justified by grace, decisively communicated to the person in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. But he asks, “Where in the New Testament is justification related to baptism?” Here we see the terrible reductionism of sola scriptura at work. Scripture is ripped from the eucharistic life of the Church and becomes a free-floating entity to which the beliefs and practices of the Church are then subjected according to alien hermeneutical criteria. For all within the eucharistic community the intrinsic connection between justification and baptism/Church is so manifest, so obvious, so clear, that no prooftexts from Scripture are needed. To be baptized is to be incorporated into the Church; to be incorporated into the Church is to be made a member of the body of Christ; to be made a member of the body of Christ is to be adopted as a son in the Son and regenerated in the Holy Spirit; to be adopted in sonship and regenerated in the Holy Spirit is to be elevated into the divine life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. St Augustine saw clearly the union of justification and theosis:
It is clear that He calls men gods through their being deified by His grace and not born of His substance. For He justifies, who is just of Himself and not of another; and He deifies, who is God of Himself and not by participation in another. Now He who justifies, Himself deifies, because by justifying He makes sons of God. For to them gave He power to become the sons of God. If we are made sons of God, we are also made gods; but this is by grace of adoption, and not by generation. (Ennar. In Ps. 49.2)
Life in the Church is life in the Holy Trinity, and this simply is our justification. If a person cannot see this when he reads the New Testament, there can be only one response: read it again but this time read it with the Church and her Eucharist. It might also be noted that significant advances along these lines have been made in Lutheran-Orthodox ecumenical discussions (see One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen).
But the New Testament is hardly silent on the relation of baptism and justification, though the relation between the two may not be as explicit and obvious as our evangelical brethren would like it to be. Peter Leithart notes two passages in particular:
At least twice, Paul makes a direction connection between baptism and justification. Having reminded the Corinthians that they had been the kind of people who do not inherit the kingdom, he goes on to remind them that they are no longer such people: “but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of God” (6:11). Is Paul taking about water baptism when he refers to “washing” or to some spiritual and invisible washing? I believe the former; the phrase “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” echoes the baptismal formulae of Matthew 28 and Acts, and the reference to the Spirit also links with baptismal passages (Acts 2; 1 Cor 12:12-13). This whole passage is in fact embedded in a baptismal formula: “you were washed . . . in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Note too that Paul marks the shift from what the Corinthians “were” to what they “are” by a reference to their baptism. They have become different folk by being baptized. What, though, is the relationship between the baptism and sanctification and justification? The connection here is not absolutely clear, but I suggest that sanctification and justification are two implications of the event of baptism. The pagan Corinthians have been washed-sanctified-justified by their baptism into the name of Jesus and the concommitant action of the Spirit.
Romans 6:7 is another passage where Paul links baptism and justification. He who has died, Paul writes, is “justified from sin.” And when, in context, does one die? “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (vv. 3-4). Baptism into Christ means baptism into death; those who have been baptized have been crucified with Jesus; and those who are dead in and with Jesus have been justified from sin. Here, “justify” carries the connotation of deliverance from the power of sin. Through baptism, we die to our natural solidarity and society with Adam and brought into solidarity with and the society of Jesus.
I cite Leithart because he is a Reformed scholar. Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic testimony could be quickly produced, but would also be just as quickly dismissed by evangelicals. Having recently re-read Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, I truly wonder how anyone can miss the union of justification and baptism. Do evangelicals stop at Roman 4:25? How can they not see that Paul’s discussion of justification in the first four chapters must be interpreted in light of Paul’s subsequent discussion of the death and resurrection of the believer in baptism and his rebirth in the Holy Spirit? They do not see, because they are reading their Bible through evangelical spectacles. There is a blindness that only the healing of Eucharist and the authentic teaching of the Church can cure.
In the conclusion of his short article, Leithart makes a turn which Martin Luther would have thoroughly approved:
There is a key difference between the Word declared in the gospel, and the declaration effected by baptism. The Word offers the favor of God generally; baptism declares that God favors me in particular. If baptism is not the public declaration of justification, where does that public declaration take place? Is it ever heard on earth, about me in particular? Is it heard anywhere but in my heart? … It appears to me that justification by faith and forensic justification are difficult to maintain apart from a strong view of baptismal efficacy, without saying that in baptism God Himself says something about me in particular.
I would want to significantly expand the relation between justification and baptism (Leithart would also, I’m sure), but this is a good place to begin. As soon as one sees the intrinsic connection between justification and baptism, the New Testament begins to read very differently. Perhaps Dr Beckwith had this in mind when he wrote on his blog: “Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible, I think the Catholic view has more explanatory power to account for both all the biblical texts on justification as well as the churchs historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries.”
This is throughout the blogosphere.
I must be in the wrong blogosphere. I never get any of this stuff. I guess I just don’t care that much who is church-jumping. It’s not like he’s going to win them the pennant now, is it?
It’s really a shame, but perhaps in some way good will come of it.
Mr. Beckwith was a well respected Evangelical apologist. His decision to return to the Catholic Church of his youth has caused deep resentments in certain quarters. I can understand that feeling.
That is the nature of the post by NYer. No more, no less.
Ditto here. For that matter, I'd never even heard of the "Evangelical Theological Society" before this week, and I'm supposed to believe that the impact of Beckwith's conversion is equal to the Donut Repair Man's?
See, I’ve heard of the Donut Guy.
I had no idea your were a Catholic (and thus subject to Catholic church discipline) in the 1560's, Alex.
When's your birthday? Would this be number 479 or 481? ;-)
Next week, change your tagline to FR member Alex Murphy, declared by Vatican Council II to be a 'separated brother' in possession of many of the helps to salvation instituted by Christ".
Well, okay, so that won't exactly fit, will it?
If that is the gentleman I remember (and he may not be) then he might just become Eastern Orthodox next year.
Well, I guess that's a start, kinda sorta.
We Proddies stopped listening at Trent when Rome denied salvation by Faith.
That’s when Rome became anathema, according to the church fathers...
The council of Trent is still doctrine in the Catholic church and no where do its words SPECIFY that only Former Catholics are to be damned .
CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.
CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty; let him be anathema.
CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.
CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.
CANON V.-If any one saith, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.
CANON VI.-If any one saith, that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God worketh as well as those that are good, not permissively only, but properly, and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.
CANON VII.-If any one saith, that all works done before Justification, in whatsoever way they be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; or that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins: let him be anathema.
CANON VIII.-If any one saith, that the fear of hell,-whereby, by grieving for our sins, we flee unto the mercy of God, or refrain from sinning,-is a sin, or makes sinners worse; let him be anathema.
CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.
CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.
CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.
CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and
disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema.
CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.
CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.
CANON XVI.-If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.
CANON XVII.-If any one saith, that the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.
CANON XVIII.-If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.
CANON XIX.-If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free; or, that the ten commandments nowise appertain to Christians; let him be anathema.
CANON XX.-If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.
CANON XXI.-If any one saith, that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey; let him be anathema.
CANON XXII.-If any one saith, that the justified, either is able to persevere, without the special help of God, in the justice received; or that, with that help, he is not able; let him be anathema.
CANON XXIII.-lf any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,-except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.
CANON XXV.-If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or-which is more intolerable still-mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation; let him be anathema.
CANON XXVI.-If any one saith, that the just ought not, for their good works done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if so be that they persevere to the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.
CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity; let him be anathema.
CANON XXVIII.-If any one saith, that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or, that the faith which remains, though it be not a lively faith, is not a true faith; or, that he, who has faith without charity, is not a Chris taught; let him be anathema.
CANON XXIX.-If any one saith, that he, who has fallen after baptism, is not able by the grace of God to rise again; or, that he is able indeed to recover the justice which he has lost, but by faith alone without the sacrament of Penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and universal Church-instructed by Christ and his Apostles-has hitherto professed, observed, and taugh; let him be anathema.
CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.
CANON XXXI.-If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense; let him be anathema.
CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.
CANON XXXIII.-If any one saith,that,by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.
No, it is sad because it means the man was a Tare and never saved.
But if it were not for such people, how could you thank God for not being like them?
I am JUST like them and deserve exactly the same eternal fate as they do.
When I see the lost I thank God for Him loving and choosing me, because there is not one thing in me that makes me worthy of that salvation
no where do its words SPECIFY that only Former Catholics are to be damned
Who appointed you his judge?
That is the current definition as given by Rome, not the original greek rendering which by usage at Trent says nothing about "excommunication
Trent was directed at many that were already "excommunicated" . They just wanted to add some hatred and curses on those that would follow Christ and not Rome
a thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and if an animal, to be slain; therefore a person or thing doomed to destruction a) a curse b) a man accursed, devoted to the direst of woes
As seen in its usage here
Act 23:14 And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul.
1Cr 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
Your churches attempts to cover its ruthless hatred of the reformers is hollow