Skip to comments.The Differences between Rome (infusion) and Geneva (imputation) in Justification
Posted on 10/19/2010 6:05:21 PM PDT by Gamecock
Do we really know what they (the Catholic church) believe in and why we cant compromise the differences for the sake of unity?
(Michael Horton assistant pastor at Santee United Reformed Church and professor at Westminster Seminary California on the White Horse Inn a few years ago, answers that question below: )
In the first week of October 1997 a coalition of individual Roman Catholics and evangelical protestants issued a joint statement of their common understanding of the Christian Gospel titled The Gift of Salvation. It was an earnest attempt to state the message of salvation in language acceptable to errors of the Protestant Reformation and to answer some of the objections that were raised to an earlier document known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together produced by many of the same people.
On the surface this new statement published Christianity Today seems greatly improved and to some respects it is. However we are profoundly distressed by its assertions and omissions which leave it seriously flawed. We understand it to be expressed in terms consistent with historic Roman Catholic theology while failing adequately express the essential Protestant understanding of the Gospel and we plead with our fellow evangelicals not to be deceived by this new and initiative but instead hold firm the doctrine of Justification by Grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone which is the biblical Gospel.
Now the first of these two documents Evangelicals and Catholics Together was a call to the Christian world to form a united front against the destructive influences of secular culture and such areas as ethics, statism, and the relativism of truth. In the context of this call to co-belligerency in the common sphere of cultural life which we hardly endorse, Evangelicals and Catholics Together affirmed a unity of faith among Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. Included in this common faith was an affirmation that we are Justified by Grace through faith because of Christ. Now many Christians were unsettled by that affirmation chiefly because in historic controversy between Protestants and Roman Catholics regarding the doctrine of Justification by faith alone, Sola Fide. Pleas were made to the signatories to provide greater clarity to this matter. The second document attempts to do this, unlike the first [document] the Gift of Salvation, the second document tries to clarify the unity of faith that was asserted earlier it emphasizes the grace of God and salvation, the atonement of Christ, and the gift of Justification is received through faith, but there is nothing new about in this language for the Roman Catholic perspective; Rome has always maintained it that salvation is based upon grace upon the work of Christ and upon faith. The council of Trent called faith the initiation, foundation, and root of Justification. The Gift of Salvation clearly acknowledges that Justification is central to the Scriptural account of Salvation. What is striking about this document is the joint affirmation by the signatories that quote We understand that what we affirm here is an agreement with what the Reformation traditions have meant by Justification by faith alone, Sola Fide. This statement would seem to indicate that the co-signers agree in affirming the biblical doctrine of Sola Fide if such is the case we rejoice. However although it is said that certain affirmations are in an agreement with Sola Fide, Sola Fide itself is not stated. The Gift of Salvation says that 1.) Justification is received through faith 2.) Justification is not earned by good works or merits of our own 3.) Justification is entirely Gods gift 4.) In Justification God declares us to be His friends on the basis of Christs righteousness alone and 5.) Faith is not merely intellectual assent, but the act of the whole person issuing in a changed life. Now each of these points agrees with Sola Fide, yet separately and together they fall short of both the biblical and Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide which is our concern.
Well why do they fall short? Central and essential to the Biblical doctrine of Justification and to Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide is the concept of the imputation of the Righteousness of Christ to the believer. Historically Rome has always contended that the basis of Justification is the righteousness of Christ, but its a righteousness infused into the believer rather than being imputed to him. This means that the believer must cooperate with and assent to that gracious work of God and only to the extent that Christ righteousness inheres in the believer will God declare that person Justified. Protestants disagree pointing to the critical difference between infused righteousness and imputed righteousness. Sola Fide affirms that you are Justified on the basis of Christs righteousness for us which is accomplished by Christ own perfect act of obedience apart from us not on the basis of Christs righteousness in us. So the good news of the Gospel is that we do not have to wait for a righteousness to be accomplished in us before God counts us as Righteous in his sight. He [God] declares us to be Just on the basis of Christs imputed righteousness. Without the imputation of righteousness the Gospel isnt Good News because we could never know if we are standing before God in a Justified therefore a saved state, well have to wait for some ultimate but by no means guaranteed salvation; the Gospel just isnt Good News if believers made face thousands of years in purgatory before they come at last to heaven. Toward the end of the Gift of Salvation the signers acknowledged that there are questions that require further and urgent exploration, among these are purgatory, indulgences, merit, and the language of imputed righteousness as well as the salvation of non-Christians. But if the matter of imputed righteousness remains on the table for further discussion, not to mention purgatory, the matter of indulgences and a need for human merit of some kind the Reformation doctrine of Justification is not being affirmed in the document whatever it may claim. Thus, the document is either dangerously ambiguous, meaning whatever either side wants it to mean or is deliberately deceptive. The historic controversy over imputed versus infused righteousness is a vital, essential matter that posits irreconcilable views of Justification.
The difference between inherent righteousness no matter how acquired [Roman Catholics] and being Justified by the imputation of Christs righteousness alone [Protestant, Christian] doesnt admit to compromise, nor do we view it as a matter that provokes as the [Roman Catholic] document puts it A needlessly decisive dispute. We [Christians] see it as the heart of the Gospel without which the Gospel is not true Gospel at all. The signatories have been careful to declare that they are not speaking for their respective communities but from and to them. But it must also be recognized that they are speaking about their communities; we want no one in those communities to be misled into thinking that whats affirmed in the Gift of Salvation is the historic doctrine of Sola Fide. In the discussion that followed the release of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together one of the participants in the drafting of the document repeatedly said that the parties to the declaration agreed to the words of the document but understood their meaning differently. Well when this occurs we maintain that the agreement isnt really agreement and that the declaration of unity is at best misleading, and at worse fraudulent. Attempts to bring harmony through ambiguous formulas were attempted in the past most notably the Diet of Ratisbon in 1541 on this occasion Rome switched from Sola Fide a novelty to arguing that it was always the position of the church. Nevertheless, the agreement at Ratisbon quickly unraveled over the issue of imputed versus infused righteousness. At Ratisbon the difference between the Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrines seem to resolve itself into this one point, and even on this, both sides had some views in common; it seemed that there was no radical or irreconcilable difference between them, yet when they came to explain what they meant by their choice of words it became obvious that they were contending for two opposite and irreconcilable methods of Justification one by an inherent the other by an imputed righteousnessone by the personal obedience of the believer, the other by the vicarious obedience of Christ. One by the on going work of the Spirit within us, the other by Christ finished work for us. Ratisbon demonstrated that there can be no honest compromise between the Roman Catholic and Protestant doctrines of Justification, therefore any agreement made on the basis of mutual concession can only be made by using ambiguous expressions and can amount to nothing more then a meaningless truce sure to be broken by either party as soon as the subject is brought again into serious discussion.
The true legacy of Ratisbon was not unity but the anathemas of the Council of Trent 1545 to 63. Seven months of deliberation were devoted to the doctrine of Justification in the sixth session, and the end result was to pronounce anathemas on Protestant teaching. Sadly, the canons and decrees of Trent still form the clearest expression of the official Roman Catholic doctrine of Justification as evidence by the recent Catholic catechism. The effort of some recent Roman Catholic theologians to distance themselves from Trent and dialogues with representatives of other communions have nevertheless not altered official Roman Catholic teaching. The irony that while Evangelical and Catholics Together express concern over the relativisation to truth in our day it has lead in the Gift of Salvation to a relativising important truth of all, namely the Gospel itself. At least some of the Roman Catholic signatories of these two documents have declared their continuing allegiance to the teaching of the Council of Trent as they should if they are truly Roman Catholics. The Gift of Salvation declares that quote that faith is not merely intellectual assent but the act of the whole person involving the mind, the will, and the affections issuing in a changed life. We agree that faith is not merely intellectual assent and that saving faith includes the whole person and that it issues in a changed life, but this formula fails to address the actual controversy about saving faith, the Reformers believed that we are justified by faith alone because only faith receives and rests upon the imputed righteousness of Christ alone and appropriates his righteousness as our sole grounds of our acceptance by God. True faith is immediately effectual in securing Justification, though faith works by love and produces the fruits of righteousness, its Justifying efficacy is due solely to its embracing Christ. Saving faith according to the Bible is not only a necessary condition but is sufficient condition for Justification. Rome declares that a person could have such faith without being justified if a person commits a mortal sin, such sin deemed mortal because it kills the grace of Justification even if faith remains intact. Thus, Rome teaches that one can have faith without Justification which is a clear and persistent denial of Sola Fide. We are also distressed by the Gift of Salvation speaks about evangelism, the document says quote We commit ourselves to evangelizing everyone. We must share the fullness of Gods saving truth with all including members of our several communities. Evangelicals must speak the Gospel to Catholics and Catholics to evangelicals. Now on the surface this sounds like statement that Evangelicals should endorse, but its another case of ambiguity one which tends to undermine evangelical missionary efforts and dominantly Roman Catholic countries and elsewhere. Evangelizing here does not mean preaching the Gospel with a view to converting those who hear because to preach the Gospel to Roman Catholics would mean proclaiming it to those who are already within the church and therefore are already in the process, in Roman Catholic theology there could be nothing else, of being saved. True heirs of the Reformation insist that evangelizing means preaching the Gospel of Christ all sufficient atoning work to lost people in the churches as well as outside of them so that they might repent of their sin, trust Christ alone for their Salvation and not perish in Gods judgment. Sadly, the publication of Evangelical and Catholics Together and now the Gift of Salvation has provoked a severe controversy within the ranks of professing evangelicals. It has divided evangelicals from evangelicals. To the degree it has done this it has disrupt much of the unity once enjoyed by evangelicals and has revealed the unity that we thought we had was not as deep as we believed. Many of us have been engaged in ministry for years and have had a policy for cooperating with evangelicals of many different communions and persuasions. We are deeply committed to the cause of evangelical unity. We believe that one of the great strengths of historic evangelicalism has been the ability to set aside nonessential differences as we work together for a common mission, but the heart and soul of that unity has been and must remain our unswerving commitment to Christ and His Gospel. We believe that indeed it is the Gospel that is the power of God for Salvation. Unity apart from the Gospel is not Biblical unity. In these troubled times we dare not compromise the Gospel in the slightest degree. We celebrate not only the common Gospel we share as Evangelicals but we honor the communion of saints particularly those who for the sake of the Gospel in all ages have endured persecution, suffered want and deprivation, and have given there lives for the sake of and in defense of the Gospel. Our times require the same commitment. We believe that there is value in dialogue with Roman Catholics and other groups, but we protest against declaring that evangelicals and Roman Catholics share a common faith and mission as long as crucial issues related to Justification, such as quote Imputation, the normative status of Justification and relation to all Christian doctrine, and diverse understandings of merit, reward, purgatory and indulgences, Mary and devotion and the assistance of the saints in the life of salvation, and the possibility of salvation for those to who have never been evangelized
remains unresolved. We are concerned about the flock of Jesus that it may not be confused or misled by ambiguous views of the Gospel. We are concerned about the missionary enterprise of evangelicals as they bring the Gospel to the nations. We are concerned for the task of the evangelism being convinced without the evangel there is no authentic evangelism. We agree with the Reformers that Justification by faith alone is the article by which the church stands or falls and is indeed the article in by which we stand or fall. We stand together on these truths. We call on all true evangelicals to stand with us.
Count down before I am accused of spewing anti Catholic Venom:
5, 4, 3....
There’s no reason to accuse you of venom...this looks like a fairly straightforward exposition of our theological differences.
For this to be correct, the Apostles, Fathers, and entire Church would have waited 1500 years for the Holy Ghost to bring that true understanding promised by Christ. Obviously, that cannot be so.
I remember a a number of years ago when Horton played a debate tape on his radio show. He had debated a Catholic. He lost so he ran only his own comments from the tape.
And this is precisely what I do not understand. A man who has righteousness imputed to him may well be saved from hell, but how does he stand before the Face of God in the perfection of heaven without a concomitant *infusion* of righteousness as well? You cannot possible live in heaven unless you are 100% perfect--and I cannot see how imputation alone gets you there.
Because Christ’s righteousness is given to us, that is what God sees, not my pathetic attempts that fall far short.
***For this to be correct, the Apostles, Fathers, and entire Church would have waited 1500 years for the Holy Ghost to bring that true understanding promised by Christ. Obviously, that cannot be so.***
Since it was the Apostles who taught it, they must have known.
***A man who has righteousness imputed to him may well be saved from hell, but how does he stand before the Face of God in the perfection of heaven without a concomitant *infusion* of righteousness as well? You cannot possible live in heaven unless you are 100% perfect—and I cannot see how imputation alone gets you there.***
A very good question. If there is an imputed righteousness, then nothing that you can do is necessary for salvation, it is all the work of Jesus. If it is infused righteousness, YOU are a necessary part of your salvation, and, if you were to fail, you perish forever in hell. How can a loving God who loves his children cause even one of them to perish? They don’t, because Jesus paid it all, every bit of your sin has already been paid for. This is the imputed righteousness that Jesus gives us on the cross.
When or where did the Apostles teach salvation by faith alone? Luther's German mistranslation of the Bible does not count.
***You cannot possible live in heaven unless you are 100% perfect—and I cannot see how imputation alone gets you there.***
Since all of your sins have been forgiven, you are a NEW creation, therefore acceptable to the Father. His love will be upon you, and not his wrath.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Note it doesn’t say... it is by grace you have been saved through faith and good deeds, saying the rosary, helping your neighbor, reading the Bible three times a day, and praying before meals. It is by faith, alone.
The doctrine you profess may sound agreeable to you, but it was nowhere taught by any of the Apostles, Fathers, and Doctors. It certainly is not found in Scripture, except by mistranslation.
He "hardly" endorses something so obviously good? Maybe he meant to say "heartily". This and countless other misspellings and missing words make it difficult to understand precisely what is being advocated in this essay.
And since the differences between Protestant and Catholic thought in this area are rather small, precision is of the essence.
But what God sees, IS. It's not like there's a hidden part of us that is shielded from His view.
Therefore Christ's righteousness has to be part of our *essence* not merely just our appearance. Infusion not imputation.
And your translation is perfect? I doubt it.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
The above is not in your Bible?
By faith alone, by faith alone....
You folks just don’t get it.
By faith........Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, etc. did things that were actions of faith. They lived in fleshly tabernacles. So, the only way to respond to God’s commands/ordinances/guidelines was to ‘shake a leg’, move a muscle.
Today the parameters remain: a soul in a fleshly tabernacle. The soul driven physical response to God = faith.
We can split hairs and try to find a time span between when Abram heard God’s call, then got moving. The fact is he moved. If he had nodded his head and said, “Yes, Lord you are great, but I prefer to serve you right here in Haran.”, there would have been someone else called instead.
If you don’t act upon God’s call, you don’t have faith.
Not sure what you are arguing here. Are you saying all men are saved??
We could go on forever quoting picked verses but only the Church received authority to interpret Scripture (Church = Apostles and their followers).
But you are just delaying the infusion then. If you really are a "New Creation", then the righteousness *has been infused* by that very fact. It cannot be otherwise.
Because God in his love gave us the freedom to accept or to reject salvation. Why are we told to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling?" I think it's because salvation is not like flipping a switch; it is a continuing process. Why else would even Protestants speak of "backsliding?"
The moment we are saved, we are in Christ and He is in us. Our lives are now hidden with Christ in God. Not because of our perfection, but because of Christ's perfection on our behalf. God sees us through Christ's sinless perfection. We are safely there, hidden with Christ. In God. Think about that. Whose life can be separated from God? No one who is saved. Because their life is now hidden. One would have to go through Christ and God the Father to take that life. So actually, there IS a hidden part of us. Hid BY HIM.
No, but all that God has chosen are saved. And he will not lose one of those he chose.
Oh, I would most heartily agree that to claim to have faith, but not demonstrating God’s love to others (deeds) would be a false faith. However, it is faith that drives our good works, and not good works that give us faith.
Read the rest of Colossians 3. “Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” The new self is being renewed?? Does that sound like imputation or infusion?
And I’m just stunned you seem to think (correct me if I am wrong) that there is a hidden imperfect part of us in heaven. How could anything imperfect exist in heaven, hidden or not? If heaven is perfect, then everything in heaven must be perfect.
Well, Gamecock, I just proved why the two sides will never agree. We look at things completely differently, and will never come to a conclusion.
I know my Redeemer lives, and that he died for me. My sins, though they are many, are forgiven. I bring NOTHING to the table, the Lord brings HIS righteousness. What else could I bring to assist?
True, but we are not in heaven, yet. When we get there, we will be perfect.
The Latin Vulgate translated by St. Jerome is the most reliable translation by far. Latin is a dead language that has hardly changed since the time of St. Jerome and is perfectly translatable to all Western European languages.
St. Jerome was a forth century native speaker of Greek and Latin. He learned Hebrew studying under a rabbi. He lived during a period where frames of reference used by First Century writers could be well understood.
Luther was a native German speaker and, as a Catholic monk, only a student of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Luther translated the Masoretic OT text. This version was written by rabbis well after the time of Christ to remove references that proved Christ was the Messiah. (Protestants like John Hagee preach that Christ was not the Messiah.)
St. Jerome translated the Septuigent OT text--directly quoted in the NT and used by Christ and His Apostles.
A keg of Jameson and half a dozen 20 centiliter glasses. :)
Ah, yes... :>)
We are perfect because Christ is perfect. And He is in us, if we are saved, and we are in Him. As for ‘the rest of Col. 3, it is about BEING what we already ARE. OWNING IT. We ARE COMPLETE IN HIM. NOT going to be. WE ARE. NOW. It is Christ’s FINISHED WORK that makes this so. Everything else is works of righteousness, the law, trying to establish righteousness. That is called infusion. He is our righteousness. Sorry if you cannot accept this. It’s what God says has happened, the moment we accept His sacrifice for our sin, imperfection.
Just a little some thing to wet the whistle... and to prevent snakebite. For medicinal purposes.
Anyone can say different but only the Catholic teaching is thoroughly consistent with Scripture and history-recorded Apostolic teaching.
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Precisely. We will BE perfect. Infusion.
In order to become a pastor in the PCA you MUST be able to read and translate both Greek and Hebrew. When a pastor looks at a translation, he also consults the Greek and Hebrew texts.
When you look at the ESV Bible, look at the people who have done the translating. I guarantee that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (and I know a few of them)are fluent in both Greek and Hebrew, and they translated from the best texts available.
Pretty words... not supported by Scripture according to Apostolic interpretation.
All those words. So little meaning.
Quick, while there's still time! Make a post on one of my threads!
NOTHING tells me MORE that I'm on the right track than to get a not according to 'Apostolic interpretation' post. Traditions and doctrines of men, and magisterium interpretations are not roads I follow. So thank you.
No, James said that a faith without work is a dead faith. I agree.
How many good works must you do to become saved? There must be a quantity, a threshold, a benchmark where you can say, “Whew, finally made it.”
Otherwise, you would never know when your works have saved you, if you happen to bypass that one event that “could” have saved you but you failed.
Jesus never fails, Jesus never loses one of his own, and no amount of work on your part will count towards your salvation... otherwise God would OWE you something.
But we ARE saved. Imputation.
The rest is SANCTIFICATION.
Do the pastors hold the same doctrine as the Sixteenth Century "reformers"? If not, then who is right and who is wrong?
“Count down before I am accused of spewing anti Catholic Venom:
5, 4, 3....”
Actually, no. It was a very interesting post and devoid of your normal foaming at the mouth rabid hatred of Catholics. Good for you. I thought it was quite informative and a great read.
Every one of them holds to the Westminster Standards.
“how does he stand before the Face of God in the perfection of heaven without a concomitant *infusion* of righteousness as well?”
I think the answer lies in distinguishing justification from sanctification. Sola Fide proposes we are justified (saved from death and eternal punishment) by faith alone, but sanctification (being made holy) is a process that is more gradual, and involves more than faith alone. Sanctification is what would allow a person to stand in the presence of the Lord, not simply justification.