Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Anti-legomena

Moderation is off again. So go ahead and write.
This seems to be a good short article on what Luther said about James, Jude and Revelation.

http://www.bible-researcher.com/antilegomena.html

Here is a little quote:

Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, 1 I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle; and my reasons follow.

In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac; though in Romans 4 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. Now although this epistle might be helped and an interpretation 2 devised for this justification by works, it cannot be defended in its application to works of Moses' statement in Genesis 15. For Moses is speaking here only of Abraham's faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul demonstrates in Romans 4. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

29 comments:

Bror Erickson said...

So much for hating it.

Brigitte said...

Bror writes:

"I think Lutherans are about the only ones who still recognize these distinctions officially. This is why we really can't be fundamentalists by the way. Fundamentalists can't maintain distinctions and think that because the book is included between the covers of the Bible it has to be the inspired word of God. Rome canonized all these books at the council of Trent. And the reformed have followed Calvin (I believe) in considering them all as of equal value. Most don't know the history of the Canon we now have and so do not understand Luther's very cogent argument against it at all. They then pit James against Paul and go with James."

This is why we get all kinds of snide comments about Luther being "sola scriptura", but picking and chosing scriptura.

It all has to be explained very carefully. The Gospel is at stake, so it has to be discussed.

Just the little quote in the post, goes a long way, in my mind.

Bror Erickson said...

yes it does go a long way to clearing it up.

Bror Erickson said...

Brigitte,
I envited Fr. Ernesto over here for the discussion so as to not hijack the thread.

Fr. Ernesto,
In book 2 chapter 25 Eusebius lists the books of the New Testament and their ranking I will quote:
"at this point it may be appropriate to list the New Testament writings already referred to. The holy quartet of the Gospels are first followed by the Acts of The Apostles. Nest ate Paul's Epistles, 1 John and 1 Peter. The Revelation of John may be added, the arguments regarding which I shall discuss at the proper time. these are the recognized books. Those that are disputed yet known to most are the epistles called James, Jude, 2 peter and the so named 2 and 3 john, the work of the Evangelist or of someone else with the same name."
He goes on to list spurious books. I think what you had said about the early Church fathers was actually Eusebius discussing 2 Peter not James. Even Bellarmin (arch enemy of the Reformation, and staunch defender of the Pope) agreed that James was shaky ground.

steve martin said...

I like another quote from Luther..."If they use the scriptures against Christ, then we'll use Christ against the scriptures."

What does that do to a fundamentalist?

(drives 'em crazy...that's what!)

Brigitte said...

Steve, I find I haven't read that quote anywhere, yet. I think it needs to be couched a little more, so people know what is meant exactly and what the context is. I'd rather not have to use Christ against the scriptures. Rather I'd like to show how it all fits together.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Bror,

The only problem with that quote from Eusebius is that his claim about which books are disputed does not stack up either with what other Church Fathers said, nor with the extant old Bible manuscripts.

I already quoted Athanasius, who lists James right after the Acts of the Apostles, and as the first of the Catholic epistles. But, the equally important witnesses are the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaiticus. Both of those codexes date to the same century as Athanasius and Eusebius. Both of those list James as the first of the catholic epistles.

Finally, I have looked at my books again and even spent some reasonable Google research time (what did we ever do before it) and could not find that James was either doubted (outside of Eusebius) nor that there was argument about keeping it out, nor about its being used in an anti-legomena fashion. Ah, that is, outside the Western reformers.

This does not mean that I am correct. But, rather, it means that one Father does not a case prove.

Now, on to faith and works. St. Ambrose, the teacher of St. Augustine, says, "Faith is profitable, therefore, when her brow is bright with a fair crown of good works," commenting on James.

The Venerable Bede, in a commentary that reminds one of early Calvin says, ". . . for it must be understood there that only he truly believes who carries out in deed what he believes. . . appropriately the Apostle John brings forward a statement about charity akin to James' about faith, saying, 'But whosoever may have the world's mean of livelihood, and may observe his brother having need, and shutteth up from him his compassion from the inward parts, how doth the love of God abide in him?"

St. Symeon the New Theologian says, "'Even as the body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.' Those who confess that Christ is God and do not keep His commandments will not be reckoned merely as denying Him, but also as insulting Him. . . [they] will be justly condemned as mutilating God's commandments. . . If someone should say that no one is able to keep the commandments, let him know that he is slandering and condemning God as having ordered us to do what is impossible."

I could go on with several other Fathers, but you get the idea. The Early Church Fathers did not separate justification from sanctification in the way in which the Protestant Reformers did. The critique is not that we are justified by works. No Church Father did or would say that. Rather, the critique is that the separation of justification from sanctification, the isolation of justification as though it, by itself, is all that is needed, is repugnant to the whole of Scripture.

Bror Erickson said...

Cajetan (Catholic Cardinal in the Day of Luther):"It is still not certain whether this Epistle was written by James, the brother of the Lord. This salutation set down he is so pure that it is in conformity with no salutation of any other apostolic Epistle. You see, it gives no sound of God, no sound of Jesus Chris No sound of Grace, no sound of peace. Rather i has a greeting in the secular fashion. The author does not call himself and apostle but merely a servant of Jesus Christ."

Erasums: "There has been some doubt about the Epistle of James.... Regarding this Epistle, filled as it were with salutary precepts, there once was doubt as to whos work it was. Nowhere does it appear to relate that majestice apostolic gravity nor as much of Hebraism as one might expect from James who was bishop of Jerusalem."

Jerome: "There were many disciples who had this name. In the title of the Epistle he does not call himself and apostle, though in our versions the cognomen 'apostle' has been added. With great agreement, however, the Greek versions cry out against this"

I'll admit that I found all these sources in a single Source Johann Gerhard "Theological Commonplaces" For his part Gerhard though Lutheran even after citing these and others, and listing the arguments for and against does side with the Epistle. And that is fine, but from the earliest days there was and has been doubt concerning it, by even the best, and most sympathetic toward, of the scholars. Jerome, would hardly have had a problem with the law pounded out in the letter, but will not, even though he liked the Epistle, take truck with anyone who doesn't take it for apostolic."
Athanasius certainly did list it. And I don't have any trouble with that. I don't even have a problem with someone reading it in Church or preaching from it. I do have a problem with someone pitting it against what Paul says, trying to subordinate Paul's corpus to it, and basing the entirety of their doctrine from a misreading of it.

As for (And your types really need to learn to distinguish Lutherans from the other western reformers, we have as much of a problem with them as we do you) the western reformers and Justification and sanctification. I don't separate the two either, neither did Luther, what he said about justification he would also say about sanctification. They are interchangeable terms, we are justified and sanctified in the same way, by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Neither do we believe faith will not manifest itself in works, but we put our faith in Christ, and look not to our works. We do not believe in ourselves but in the death and resurrection of Christ. We don't preach against good works, we preach against selfishly using our neighbor to get our selves into heaven when Christ has already done all that we need in that way.

Brigitte said...

. If someone should say that no one is able to keep the commandments, let him know that he is slandering and condemning God as having ordered us to do what is impossible."

This is a point that can't be conceded. "Ought to" does not imply "can". There all kinds of commands; they are always in imperative form. It says: "do this and you will live!" and so on, but it never says: "you have done this and so you will live."

See the Bondage of the Will.

Bror Erickson said...

Just a little compendium in response to Fr. Ernesto's quote of st. Symeon The New Theologian.

Romans 2:23 (ESV)
You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.


Romans 3:19-21 (ESV)
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. [20] For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
[21] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—


Romans 3:28 (ESV)
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.


Romans 5:20 (ESV)
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Galatians 2:16 (ESV)
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.


Galatians 2:19 (ESV)
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ.


Galatians 2:21 (ESV)
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.


Galatians 3:10-13 (ESV)
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." [11] Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." [12] But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." [13] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"—


Galatians 4:21 (ESV)
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?


The only way we could keep the Ten Commandments would be to not listen to what scripture says about the law, and water the law down so that any decent person manages to do it. But if you hate your brother you have murdered him, If you look upon a woman with lust you have already committed adultery with her...
If you break any part of the law you break it all. You are guilty of it all.

Brigitte said...

Thanks for the St. Paul quotes, Bror, some legomena to help us see the point. That's the best.

Fr. Ernesto, I am not very familiar with your church. My only experience would be speaking with dear old friends from the country, (he was the school principal for decades), who now spend much of their time attending funerals all around in different congregations. In the area we also have a number of different orthodox churches (see Lamont county of Alberta, amazing number of churches and domes). Henry, that's his name, was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and was taught to fear hell-fire if he did not follow all the church's rules. He is surprised he ended up in any church after that.

However, now he comments on going to orthodox funerals: "So and so was such a good guy. He did this and he did that, surely he is going to heaven". Contrast that to a beautiful teaching about Christ's salvation, God's grace and doing in bringing to faith, forgiving sins and keeping in the faith and church. At my funeral I want such a sermon, not she was a pretty good person, so she'll be ok and that's supposed to be comforting to the people attending.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Hi, I am posting this from a friend's computer. I am out of town until late Monday. Please do not feel that I am ignoring you, but I am guest preaching in another city.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Sorry to hear about your spam. Try using the Akismet plug-in. It keeps the spam from being published and gives you a choice whether to erase it or not.

Here are the Scriptures I would tend to quote:

Matthew 7:21 - Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 25:41-43 - Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.

Hebrews 10:29-30 - How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."

Ephesians 2:8-10 - For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

1 John 3:17 & 4:7-8 - If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? . . . Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Again, let me repeat that I am not questioning justification by faith, per se. It is the keeping of the salvation only by faith without works that is the argument.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Here are a couple of more comments on some other points.

Briggitte, the Orthodox in the USA had a wonderful beginning, then fell into being an ethnic club. We have only been climbing out of that since the 1980's and too many of our churches are still ethnic clubs.

As to the wonderful beginning, look to the "tail" of Alaska. That is the extent of the Russian Orthodox missions in the New World. The Russians came within 1000 miles of the northernmost Roman Catholic mission in North America. We even have an indigenous martyr called Peter the Aleut.

Bror, those quotes doubting James were new to me. I will still argue that when the Scriptures were being listed, the widespread arguments were not over James, but rather over 2 Peter, Revelation, Hebrews, etc. So, while some may have doubted it, that was certainly not the majority case. In passing, in 1993 InterVarsity Press published a book on James in a series called the IVP New Testament Commentary Series, edited by Stuart Briscoe and Haddon Robinson. In it, the claim is made that James actually predates the Pauline corpus and is the earliest epistle.

Finally, while James, by itself, cannot be used to "undermine" the Pauline corpus, James with the words of our Lord (and Hebrews and John) trumps any interpretation of Paul that would lead to "once saved always saved."

Bror Erickson said...

Brigitte,
Did you get an earlier post from me if not I will re post it tomorrow.

Fr. Ernesto,
I do not and have never argued for once saved always saved. Again please remember here you are arguing with a Lutheran, not a Calvinist or anyone else in the reformed camp, such as Arminians. (I write that last bit just to tork off any lurking reformed proponent out there.)
What I argue for is justification, and sanctification by faith alone. I argue that the Gospel, not works feed faith. But that works do follow from faith. Though works follow from faith you can not put any trust in them, but only in Christ.
(Would you like a few book recommendations to inform yourself with the Lutheran Faith?)

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

LOL, sounds like I do need some book recommendations on Lutherans.

In passing, Wesley claimed that people could receive an experience of entire sanctification that would lead one to sinlessness. So, St. Symeon the New Theologian was not that odd in Christian circles.

This was possible because sin was defined as an action of the will. That is, one could not sin by simply breaking a law accidentally. Thus, if your will was "entirely" sanctified, you would not knowingly choose to sin. St. Symeon the Theologian would have had a similar definition of sin.

Many other Christians see sin as not only your voluntary choice but also even non-deliberate actions. Thus, to give a rather silly example, if you were supposed to fast but did not realize it and did not fast, you still would be responsible for your sin. This is akin to not knowing the speed limit, but still being legally responsible for it.

Moreover, many Christians would argue that you are also responsible for the unforeseen results of your actions, so that sinlessness is essentially impossible not simply because we are fallen and damaged but because we are not omniscient.

However, with a Wesley type definition of sin, then the question becomes whether your will can be sanctified enough to not sin. Wesley claimed it was possible but extremely rare, even so. I think I am more with Wesley than with St. Symeon on this one.

Bror Erickson said...

Fr. Ernesto,
I'm one that believe in the simul iustus et peccator. I am with neither saint Symeon on this, or Wesley. Sin is a much deeper problem than either of those two could ever have imagined. Sin is not essential to humanity, otherwise Christ would not have been human. However it has so corrupted us humans not conceived by the Holy Spirit that in this world it affects our very essence. We can never attain righteousness of our own volition. We cannot afford to ever believe we have not sinned. Every Sunday in our Lutheran Churches we begin the service with a somewhat general (we like to say "corporate") confession of sins. We together as one body confess:Most merciful god, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. we justly deserve you present and eternal punishment. For the sake of your son jesus Christ, have mercy on us Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy name."
in short we Lutherans believe that we sin in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and left undone. It really is a damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situation. We sin because we are sinners, we aren't sinners because we have sinned. Same way we do good works because we are saints. We are not saints because we did good works. We are saints because of the faith in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection which the Holy Spirit has worked in us.
O.K. here are some book recommendations. "The Small Catechism" Martin Luther ( as the title implies you could also get the Large. There is a two for one deal buying the Book of Concord, official Lutheran confessions) "Spirituality of the Cross" By Gene Veith. "The Defense Never Rests" by Craig Parton. If you have just a little time every morning but would like to familiarize yourself with Lutheran Doctrine over the course of a year You might pick up my recently published translation of "To Live with Christ," by Bo Giertz. I think any Christian would enjoy those devotions. But I am biased and not to humble to recommend my own book.

Bror Erickson said...

Fr. Ernesto,
Please also realize, that Lutherans have always had a hard time stomaching Wesley. It isn't that we hate him personally, but we absolutely despise his doctrine. That fruit, if we were to judge fruit here, is rotten to the core.

Brigitte said...

Dear Fr. Ernesto:

How was your trip?

This is what I would like to say:
When Jesus discussed the law, as in the Sermon on the Mount, he was completely serious. His fellow Jews were not keeping the law as intended, though some thought themselves quite holy. He explained how they went wrong and what ought to be done.

Yet, unlike Wesley and Methodists with their "attaintable perfection", we say that even though we are believers and are a new creation, we cannot keep the law perfectly, and certainly not inwardly as Jesus describes.

And our sins are not just things like "we did not know", etc. Those are really exuses and a self-made rightousness.

Our sins are real and deep. We don't love well enough. We are selfish. We are rarely humble. We are angry with our brother. We are jealous, etc.

Because of these sins we believe that repentance is ongoing. That daily we need to confess our sins and sinfulness, and start over. Because of God's faithfulness and mercy towards us, we are motivated to love him and forgive and love our neighbor and start over and over again, as needed.

We do not believe in "once saved always saved". The walk with the Lord is ongoing, daily, and daily we ask him to help us live a life that his pleasing to him.

However, to focus on our performance rather than God's doing and mercy will drive us to distraction and we will be hypocrites, or despair, or hate God. We need his mercy and indulgence constantly.

We need to know that his mercy endures forever and every day new for us. That does not mean we should go out and sin (Paul discusses all this in Romans, of course.)

Simul justus et peccator, as Bror writes, is an important insight of the reformation, that Wesley discarded (I think, at least the Methodists I've talked to have). We are saints and sinners at the same time; we know it in our hearts that we are still sinners and our neighbors know it too. Jesus is the only perfect one. We strive to be like him, but the old Adam is still with us.

We need the Gospel daily new.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Let me conserve energy and repost this that I just posted on InternetMonk. Busy day today. . .

========

Joe M made a good point. There are enough Scriptures in the New Testament, including from Jesus himself, that point to judgment including a behavioral component that it should warn us about any interpretation of Scripture that discounts our personal behavior.

Matthew 7:21 - Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

It is not my intention to get into a Scripture quotation battle, but only to say that St. Paul alone cannot a theology establish when there are multiple quotations from multiple other authors of the New Testament that go against a viewpoint that would see sanctification as faith alone.

Moreover, a viewpoint of justification by faith alone that results in an assurance that regardless of your actions you will be saved leads to a false sense of security. Even St. Paul had to end up writing that justification does not mean that we can sin more or without worry.

In fact, I would argue that it is St. Paul, not St. James, that has been misunderstood. I would further argue that an over-emphasis on the inability of humans has led not to a loving reliance on God’s grace but to St. Paul having to defend himself against the logical conclusion that grace abounds so much that our sins no longer matter as much. He did defend himself, but it points out how easy he is to misinterpret.

It is only when we do hold the New Testament balance that includes both what Jesus said about how he will not lose one that the Father has given him along with what Jesus said about those who say only “Lord, Lord” not making it in that we can come to a firm and balanced appreciation of salvation by grace.

There is no doubt that salvation is purely and only by grace. There is no doubt that we are then called to use our redeemed wills to follow our Lord. It is a false argument to try to state that unless we follow him perfectly then it matters naught. It clearly does matter since our Lord was the one who said that it matters whether you simply speak the words or whether you do the will of the Father.

Forgiveness of our failures was part of what our Lord built into the fabric of the Church, from the Divine Liturgy to the rest of the Sacraments to the indwelling Holy Spirit to the life of the community. It is that forgiveness that provides the wineskin within which we strive for Christian growth and work out our salvation in fear and trembling, which is from St. Paul, not from St. James. But, and here is the warning from Jesus, James, Paul, John, and the author of Hebrews, if we are not striving to grow, even if do so imperfectly, then the forgiveness may not be present.

Now, as to fear, the argument about fear and uncertainty has been wildly overdone as an argument for the five solas. First, both Solomon and St. Paul insist that fear is the beginning of wisdom. That is where we begin but not where we end. St. John is right that perfect love casts out fear. As we grow in Him, fear does give way to love. But, we tend to want to skip that stage nowadays and to explain it away simply as reverential awe. Rather we need to say with Jesus that we begin by fearing him who can destroy our soul so that we may learn to not fear him who can destroy only our body. But, we do not stop there; we go on.

That going on is called synergy. But that is another topic for another day.

Bror Erickson said...

Fr. Ernesto
If you want to put your faith in your works with the goats you go ahead. I can't stop you. You go and preach works, tell your people what they have to do. You will answer for it with the goats.
I believe that salvation is either by grace alone, or it is not. You can't have it both ways. I also believe that God became man for us men and our salvation, and He died on the Cross for me. If God dying on the cross is not enough to get me into heaven, then nothing is. No amount of helping old ladies cross the street, shoveling my neighbors walk way, giving the poor man strong drink to drink, throwing money in a salvation army kettle, or groveling on my knees before God is going to do it. Neither does any of that count for a damn thing if I'm doing it to keep my skin. Fear is the beginning, but Christ is the end. He forgives I need not fear, now I can love for he first loved me. Love fulfills the law. But as long as I am concerned about myself and my salvation I will not love anyone but myself. So go with the goats if you want. Or contemplate the fact that God died on the cross, so that you might be saved. He has freed us from the law. What has begun in the spirit cannot be finished in the flesh.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Hey Briggitte and Bror, I am not ignoring you but it seems as though this subject is going on on several blogs at the same time, and it is making my posting life interesting.

Bror, if you are correct, then I am not with the goats, am I? If salvation is by grace through faith alone, then what doctrinal mistakes I may have made in my teaching will not be sufficient to damn me to hell.

Believe me that I am not being facetious when I say that I have made a decision to follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I trust him and love him and honor him as my Lord. Thus, by your own definition, I have what is sufficient to be saved.

At worst, by your viewpoint, my mistaken (maybe even false) teaching will only result in those things which I taught wrongly being burned away as wood, hay, or stubble. Since I am advocating faith in God and choosing to do good works as the medicinal way to grow in salvation, then I am not guilty of steering people away from God.

Brigitte, I liked your post. I am not sure we are that far apart. It is Sunday, so I am tired, but give me a day to think of some alternate ways to phrase it. Sometimes, wording things in non-theological language makes it easier to communicate.

Bror, I did post a note for you on my blog under the comment you made on the poster I included. I think you will find it helpful.

Bror Erickson said...

Fr. Ernesto,
You write:
"Believe me that I am not being facetious when I say that I have made a decision to follow Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I trust him and love him and honor him as my Lord. Thus, by your own definition, I have what is sufficient to be saved."

And there is the crux of it you want me to believe that you made a choice that I believe is impossible to make. In so far as you believe in Jesus Christ, it was not your choice but the work of the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul means when he says:Ephes. 2:8 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
1 Cor. 12:3 (ESV)
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 10:10 (ESV)
For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Luther said it well in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles Creed: I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one true faith....

In other words I do not equate faith with your "decision" to follow Christ. That isn't faith in Christ, that is faith in you. It is faith in yourself to live up to the example of Christ. And I'm here to tell you you failed, and you will fail again tomorrow, and the next day.

We could go on here if you want.
I don't know if you will be with the goats or the sheep Fr. Ernesto, it is not my call. However, if I were you I would be careful to read Matthew 25 again. Many people call on the name of the Lord on the last day. The goats think they have been working for the Lord all their lives. Just look at their questions: "Lord when didn't we...?" And the Sheep have no recollection of doing a thing. The goats put their faith in their works, the Sheep put their faith in Jesus alone, His cross and resurrection. The goats acted out of selfishness, they did good works to save their hides from the tanning fires of hell. They didn't trust Jesus when he said: "it is finished." The sheep knew it was finished, they understood the love of God that died on the cross for them, they understood nothing more was to be done for their salvation, and they were moved by that love to do loving things for their neighbor and never realized it, or very rarely realized it.

There is forgiveness for all Fr. Ernesto even doctrinal sin, but we don't continue in it when we have been convicted, not willingly. We can't use our works as an insurance plan in case the cross wasn't sufficient. Works done for our neighbor out of love for our own skins are not good works anyway. The selfish motive undermines the whole enterprise. So teaching that works must augment faith, must add to faith etc. only robs a person of the consolation of the Gospel. This is what you have been doing with your "synergy." Take the works out of the realm of justification, sanctification, and salvation, let the work of Christ on the cross take care of that. Faith is passive in that regard, but it can't help to be active in love toward Christ, but the right hand does not then know what the left hand is doing. Faith reacts, if you will, out of thankfulness for the forgiveness of sins. And actually I give James (whoever he was) the benefit of the doubt that that is what he was trying to say. I think this is more obvious in the Greek where the word Pistis (faith or knowledge) is translated knowledge in regard to the demons, who also fear God. What the demons lack is not knowledge or fear, but love and trust. Us Lutherans believe all four make the living faith Paul talks about, but faith is essentially trust, out of which love flows. Thing is telling someone to love another someone is still law, which always accuses. And it is a pretty damn hard law to live up to for us sinful humans. We will never love our neighbors as we love ourselves, not on this side of glory. So we will always stand in need of Christ's forgiveness.

Brigitte said...

Ernesto writes:

"If salvation is by grace through faith alone, then what doctrinal mistakes I may have made in my teaching will not be sufficient to damn me to hell."

I think Bror addressed your comments very well.

In addition I want to say, that we distinguish carefully regarding doctrinal errors. A layperson in the pew may hold some inconsistent understanding and be a bit mixed up at times. He still may have saving faith in Christ, as he keeps growing in his understanding.

Someone, however, who is a teacher in the church and cares for souls does not have the luxury of being mixed up. He needs to take great care of the doctrine he promulgates as it not only affects him but all those who hear him. He needs to be a shepherd and a healer who dishes out the food and the medicine to the sheep appropriately.

Bror Erickson said...

Well Said Brigitte:
I would only add a scripture verse to back up what you write:1 Tim. 4:16 (ESV)
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

I pray that verse every morning I walk in the office.

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Bror, you are right, there is a basic difference present on free will.

In passing look at St. Philaret's catechism at http://www.pravoslavieto.com/docs/eng/Orthodox_Catechism_of_Philaret.htm

Bror Erickson said...

Perhaps you could point me to where I am to look in said Catechism?
Though I probably will not be convinced by anything but a clear exposition of Scripture. I don't see how dead corpses make decisions. (Ephesians 2).

Fr. Ernesto Obregon said...

Hey Brigitte and Bror, I have the flu. I hope I will be able to respond tomorrow, but my "thinker" is non-functional right now.

Brigitte said...

Dear Fr. Ernesto:

Are you not in Florida?! And you are the one with the flu! Hope it resolved quickly. I got the flu shot for the first time this year. See how it goes.

Thanks for posting the link to your catechism. It makes good reading. I am glad there is so much we agree on.

With James, though, I have to say, while he makes a point, he is pretty unsophisticated about it, unlike Christ and Paul, and there is so much else to clarify when we talk about works, as we are trying to do here. But we do know that we should be and want to be "good".