A Response to James White (On Salvation) ...by Matt1618


Refutation of his arguments found in his book, the Roman Catholic Controversy


Mr.White,
When you summarize the Baptist Confession of faith, which declares the forensic character of justification, you state something that must be examined. "Justification is an act undertaken by God, and it is not based on anything done in or done by us as believers. It is an act of sovereign grace, because it is something God does, not something we do." (p. 143) This statement leads to obvious untenable conclusions in regards to justification. If what you do has nothing to do with your salvation, what is the difference between you and the village atheist? It would not matter to God if one person puts his trust exclusively in God, and the other person is a violent, swearing atheist. If your logic is followed through the whole way, that it does not matter what people do in regards to justification, it leads to the absurd conclusion that there is no difference between the two.

I know that you accept most vehemently that there is a huge difference between an atheist and a justified individual. One person has a faith in Jesus as Lord, and the other person does not have this faith. You would also agree with Catholics that the only means that this person does have Jesus is Lord is that it is God's sovereign grace at work. One person has faith as an instrument (p. 144) to appropriate that justification. Once that is admitted, then the statement in the above paragraph is shown to be false. God's grace produces faith within the individual, which is the very means of justification. If God's grace is what produces faith, it also is the means to produce works, right in line with the Catholic view of justification. If you admit that it is God's grace that produces faith in the individual, then you must admit that his grace produces works. This radical separation that you create between what God does as opposed to what we do, is therefore not rational.

You misrepresent the Catholic position when you write about your own viewpoint (as opposed to Roman Catholic). "This viewpoint is God-centered, not man-centered. This is not merely a plan that we work to gain something from God. It is God's work and when God does something He does it well (p. 143)." Somehow you imply that Catholicism teaches that man is the cause of his own salvation and works to get something from God. On the contrary, we teach that God does justification so well that he makes man righteous (Rom. 5:19). God works through man so well that "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Gal. 2:20) (Phil. 2:13). From start to finish it is God who does everything. He even uses man to do this. He does not do some legal fiction, and then just turn his eyes away from the filthiness of man.

Your view of Titus 3:5-7 (p. 145) not only distorts the actual verses themselves, but ignores a description of grace that Paul had spelled out in the previous chapter. Yes grace is an obvious free gift from God, but Paul's definition of grace in (Tit. 2:11-14) belies the external, imputational assessment of grace that you spelled out. "The grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, so that we can live righteously, piously and godly lives in the present age, looking for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a special people, zealous for good works." According to Paul, why did Jesus send his son? To impute righteousness in a purely forensic manner? Apparently not. His definition of grace is that not only does it teach us to live righteously but the purpose of sending his Son was to purify (internal, subjective change in the individual) his people and redeem them from all iniquity. Paul does not say that this is a byproduct of his grace, but is grace. God's very purpose for sending Jesus thus includes this intrinsic change in the individuals. How can this vital description of grace be left out of your discussion of Titus 3:5-7?

When you actually get to Titus 3:5-7 itself, even leaving aside this description of grace already elaborated by Paul, there are definite problems. You are obviously well versed in church fathers. You well know that the church fathers used these verses to support baptismal regeneration, as a companion verse to John 3:5. Not one that I know of used these verses to even hint at salvation by faith alone. Does Paul contradict his earlier definition of grace (Tit. 2:11-14) and here state some extrinsic means of grace which produces no internal change in the individual, but becomes the basis for justification? The washing of regeneration (cf. Acts 22:16, baptism) is shown to be a renewal by the Holy Spirit. Paul is saying that that this grace from beginning to end is from God. No man can do anything good by his own power. The Holy Spirit through this washing renews the individual who produces the works as previously mentioned (Tit. 2:11-14). In Titus 3:5-6 Paul writes that "through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.." In other words, at the time of justification God infuses (that is what pours out means) his Holy Spirit into the individual. It is amazing that you use Titus 3:5 to show salvation by faith alone with an external imputation. The words themselves show that there is an objective change in the individual. The context shows Paul means grace which is active, cleanses and purifies, and applies what he did on the cross to one's life.

You say that justification is a once for all action, referring to Romans 5:1, "having been justified by faith." The context, and even the following verses you quote (Tit. 3:7; Rom. 3:24) show that to be incorrect. In regards to Romans 5:1-5 (why ignore the context?) we see at justification, faith, hope, and love are all a part of it. If you notice, v. 5 says "hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." This does two things that belie your interpretation. First it shows that when the Holy Spirit comes, it is poured out in the individual. That is intrinsic, an objective change. Second, we see that God "has poured out his love". That is the exact same past tense as was used in regards to justification. Using your hermeneutic principal you must say that love is only a past tense experience that was a once for all act. You know that is not correct, and that love is a process, just as justification is. If you try to say that love has no part in justification tell that to Paul who wrote (1 Cor. 13) that if you have all the faith (and you notice he does not write "said faith", as Hank Hannegraph puts it) in the world you have nothing. Third, Rom. 3:24 shows justification in the present tense. Tit. 3:7 says "being justified" (present tense) so that we have the hope of eternal life (future). Paul does not write that this faith give us an absolute guarantee. Elsewhere, in Rom. 8:24-25 Paul writes about this hope: "For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." Paul shows that hope, patience and waiting, all are part of justification, not merely one time past events. This necessarily leads to Paul's agreement with Jesus that he who endures to the end will be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16; Mt. 10:22; 24:13). This is future as well.

You next misrepresent the Catholic position by stating that we believe that God's grace is insufficient, and that we need to add human merit to grace (p. 146). As a scholar, you know that Catholicism teaches that the human merit that is necessary for justification is not added to grace, but part of it. The way you phrased it makes Catholicism Pelagian, which you know has been condemned by the church. God empowers us to obey him. We do not do it on our own. You set up a false and unbiblical antithesis between grace, works, and obedience. As we have seen, Paul's explains grace by writing that by it we learn to stay away from ungodliness, makes us live righteously, and is the means for God to purify his people (Tit. 2:11-14). That is Paul's definition of grace, not something in addition to it.

I next agree with your statement that "many times people build an entire theology on the minority of references to a subject while ignoring the majority (p. 146)." I also agree with you that Jesus did not address in detail some things about how the church exactly is to be run. But to state that Jesus did not show in detail how one is made right before God as well as how God judges individuals is false. Maybe it is because there is not even any way where you can foist your merely forensic interpretation of justification. For example Jesus speaks in detail about what it means to be born again in John 3. He says you must do this to enter the kingdom of heaven. Of course as a church historian you know that for 15 centuries every single Church Father believed that John 3 taught baptismal regeneration. Not even heretics questioned baptismal regeneration. In addition, Jesus is specifically asked (Mt. 19:16-30) by the rich young ruler how one gets to heaven. Jesus gives a detailed explanation. He says in order to enter heaven one must keep the commandments. He does not say that it is impossible to keep the commandments as the Reformers taught. As he is asked specifically what one must do in order to get to heaven, it is obvious that Jesus did answer that question. In John 15:1-17 Jesus talks about how God's grace works and what is needed to be his disciples (which by the way includes keeping the commandments). After talking about how one must believe in order to have eternal life (John 5:24), Jesus shows that those who do good will be judged fit to enter eternal life, and those who do evil will be condemned (Jn 5:29). On the Sermon on the Mount Jesus gives much teaching about how to attain eternal life (Mt. 5:1-7:23). For example he teaches that your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (Mt. 5:19-20) in order to attain eternal life. He gives no hint that the only way to achieve salvation is a mere forensic imputation. He concludes the section with declaring that those who do the will of the Father are the ones who go to heaven. Just this small section of Matthew (5:1-7:23) is as detailed as Paul on justification.

Matthew shows us Jesus' teaching on how he separates the sheeps and the goats (Mt. 25:31-46). What is the basis for Jesus sending some to heaven, and the rest to hell? Those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, etc. are the ones who received an eternal reward (vv. 34-40). Those who ignored these people were sent to hell (vv. 41-46). In fact those who were sent to hell called Jesus Lord, Lord. Apparently , these people believed in salvation by faith alone. You will notice that Jesus did not say "Those of you who really believed in me and really meant it, come join to your inheritance in heaven. Those of you who did not believe in me, you go to hell." On the contrary, the judgment on going to heaven and hell is based on how they lived their life. There are many passages that talk of the importance of belief for salvation, but those ones are not at issue, as you know that we believe that faith is the ground of justification. There are many other passages which Jesus speaks specifically in how to achieve eternal life, but this is a limited response to your chapter on justification. It is amazing that you write that Jesus only peripherally touches on how to be right before God. I guess the problem that you have is that the forensic, legal imputation interpretation is nowhere to be found in Jesus. In order to hold to your view of justification, Jesus must be ignored. In actual judgment scenes where the actual separation is made between heaven and hell, the judgment is based on works (Mt. 25:31-46; Mt. 7:15-23; Jn 5:29). No wonder you do not want to write about it. To say that Jesus did not teach on how one is made right before God, or the basis for justification ignores scripture and is a tradition of man.

James, John, and Peter also wrote fairly extensively on justification, but the problem that you had with Jesus is the same problem with them. They teach on justification (In regards to James 2, even John MacArthur writes that James is talking about justification before God.) It is amazing that you relegate James 2 to the end notes. Peter teaches that judgment is based on works (1 Pet. 1:13-17) with baptism being its basis (1 Pet. 3:21). John's first epistle ties specifically keeping the commandments to eternal life. John separates the children of the devil by the children by God by those who practice righteousness (1 Jn. 3:10). A mere extrinsic, alien righteousness is nowhere to be found. To say that these apostolic authors only in passing touch on how to be justified before God falsely represents scripture.

In fact you exactly do what you write one should not do: "Many times people build an entire theology on the minority of references to a subject while ignoring the majority." (p. 146) You totally ignore the mentioned scriptures which taught explicitly how one must get into heaven. The scriptures I mentioned are only a small fraction of the passages which explicitly teach by the non-Pauline authors how to attain eternal life. Then you focus really only on Rom. 4, and within that chapter only on vv. 2-8. All the other scriptures that you use (such as Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, other parts of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, etc.) are basically used to support your analysis of this small section of one chapter. You totally ignore Romans 2 which state that good works are necessary for salvation. You ignore a vital part of Romans 5 (5:17-19), Romans 6, and Rom 8:1-33. These all have to do with salvation, and justification before God. Why are they ignored? Apparently because they stress the inseparability of justification from good works and obedience. They do not fit your forensic scheme.

You make an unbiblical, and radical distinction between works, obedience, and grace (p. 150). You make a big thing about Rom. 11:6, (p. 150) which states "If it is grace, it is not of works, if it is works it is not of grace." What works are Paul writing about? If he is writing in regards to good works done by God's grace, he would be contradicting what he wrote in Rom. 2, 6, and 8 (I will get to that later). If we read the whole earlier section we see that circumcision are the works of the law that will not justify (I will get to that later as well) in Romans 2 through 8. Is Paul actually contradicting himself when he writes that grace is separate from good works, as you allege? Or is he writing specifically of Israel, and how relying on their ritual works, and works done by their own power are the works that are opposed to grace? If you examine the whole 11th chapter of Romans we indeed see that Paul is specifically writing about Israel, and how God has been faithful to Israel, even though most rejected Jesus. He is not writing anywhere in this chapter about good works being opposed to grace. What scriptures do Paul quote? He quotes (11:3-4) a scripture that shows how most of the Jews during Elijah's time rejected God, and followed after Baal (1 Kgs 19:10-18). All of the Jews were circumcised (works of the law), but that did not make them automatically follow after God. The works of the law did not save these circumcised Jews. God shows that he was faithful and there were 7000 that he preserved from such idolatry. It was not about people of the Old Testament who tried to do good works and were condemned by God. The unfaithful were circumcised Jews who turned their backs on God. His people were those who stayed faithful to God, were obedient and preserved by God's grace. This background shows that the analysis that you made on Rom 11:6 makes Paul totally nonsensical. In fact the following verses after v. 6 show Paul specifically writing of Israel, and how they became hardened to God in the Old Testament. He likewise preserved a remnant in the new covenant. He quotes no verses showing people who relied on God's grace to empower them to obey him, failed to meet with God's approval. You took a verse out of context to prove something totally at odds with Paul's intentions.

You then write that Paul writes strongly that faith is contrasted to works in the letter to the Galatians (p. 150). You are correct in stating that Paul's emphasizes that one can not combine works of the law with faith in Christ. That is exactly what the Catholic church teaches. However, nowhere does Paul write that good works done by the power of God's grace avails nothing before God. In fact chapters 5 and 6 of Galatians exactly show the opposite. Elsewhere you admit that Paul is writing against those who are trying to impose circumcision. That is exactly the works of the law that he is condemning relying upon. You then quote Gal. 2:21 as a proof text for contrasting faith and works (p. 151). The church exactly agrees with Paul that righteousness does not come through the law! In fact the point that the church makes is in full agreement with the prior verse,which lays the foundation for v. 21. "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." The grace of God which prevails is when Christ lives in me! The law provides guidelines but not the grace necessary. When Christ lives in me, he through the power of the Holy Spirit gives the grace necessary. The whole context as you know is about circumcision, and to impose your meaning on this one verse is unfortunate eisegesis.

What do Gal. 5 and 6 show us? Those who rely upon works of the law, circumcision, cut themselves off from Christ. Not only that, but in writing upon not only sanctification, but eternal life, good works are necessary.

The only thing that counts is faith working through love (Gal. 5:6). You unfortunately separate faith from love. He writes in v. 16 "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature". The context shows that he is addressing salvation, for he goes on to write about what is the result of living by this sinful nature in vv. 19-21. Those who live by this sinful nature will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

He then shows the fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23), which by direct inference shows that those who have this fruit will inherit the kingdom. Then in v. 24 he shows that those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. So both before and after writing about those who will or will not inherit the kingdom, he writes that it is necessary to put to death the deeds of the flesh, thus linking that with salvation. Paul shows that one can not do this on one's own power, but one must have the Holy Spirit to do this. Works and obedience are inextricably linked here by Paul to salvation yet you write that faith and works are mutually exclusive (p. 150).

Gal. 6 states the same thing in another way. Look at vv. 8-11, and tell me that good works are not a part of justification.. Here specifically v. 8 reveals "The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." After that Paul continues in the same vain. Paul is specifically writing here not of sanctification, but eternal life! If one sows good deeds by God's Spirit what will be the reward? According to Paul eternal life. He concludes his epistle by stating that circumcision counts for nothing, but what counts is a new creation (v. 15).

This new creation has no hint of a merely alien righteousness but one that is Christ living in him enabling him to perform these deeds from which he will get rewarded eternally. External imputation can not even be hinted at here. How can you look at these passages and in good conscience write that Paul in Galatians writes of faith and works in regards to grace and justification as mutually exclusive (pp. 150-151)? The rest of your statements in those pages ignore what Paul wrote about justification in Gal. 5 and 6.

We can not read Greek, are not Greek scholars and so we can not deal with you on Greek terms. I will leave that to Bob Sungenis on his forthcoming book (By the way, have you found any specific Church Father citations before 400 AD that the rock in Matt. 16:18 is Jesus? I hear Bob is still waiting).. But leaving aside the Greek, there are multiple problems with your analysis of Abraham and his justification in Romans 4. Most of the rest of your chapter deals with this forensic and external imputation of God's grace and Abraham. Your analysis of Abraham makes many assumptions that all must be held before for your analysis can be held to be true. In fact you assert some of these assumptions within your book. 1) In Genesis 15, here is where Abraham first comes to be a believer in God who trusts him for salvation. As scripture can not contradict scripture, as it is God breathed, your interpretation of Romans 4 must agree with Genesis 12-22, James, and Hebrews. This Pauline interpretation must be consistent with these scriptures. 2) When Paul writes about works that won't save, he is writing about good works done in a state of grace. He is not writing about circumcision in 4:2-8 (p. 149). 3) When the term credited for righteousness is used, it means that Christ's righteousness is imputed. It does not mean that the person is morally righteous, as this righteousness is not infused (pp. 154-156). This is not a case of an actual just man being rewarded by God. Any Old Testament references that deal with specifically deal with being righteous before God, must fit this interpretation. 4) Abraham himself is actually unrighteous, but only credited as righteous. Therefore your appeal to (pp. 154-155) Rom. 4:6-8 only speaks of covering, and the scripture quoted in the Psalm refers to an unrighteous person who is covered with an alien righteous. 5) This interpretation must be consistent with the rest of Romans.

1) Was Abraham indeed an unbeliever, and not right before God before this event in Genesis 15? A) Genesis 12 through 14 - God makes the call to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. An unbeliever would not respond positively. What does Abraham do? He departs as the Lord had said, took all his possessions to the land of Canaan. Abraham next builds an altar dedicated to the Lord (12:7). Abram calls on the name of the Lord (13:4). After separating himself from Lot Abraham is reminded by God of his promise (13:14-17) and tells him to what land to go to. In response, the supposed unbelieving Abram moved his tent, and built an altar there to the Lord (13:18). Next Abram rescues his brother Lot. Melchizedek king of Salem then blesses Abram and said (14:19) "Blessed be Abram of God most high, Possessor heaven and earth;.." Abram responds by proclaiming that he had lifted his hand to the Lord, God most high, the Possessor of heaven and earth (14:22). If you can put away your tradition for just a second, please analyze these scriptures in Genesis 12 through 14. Any honest reader will see that Abraham was already a believer. Any attempt to say that Abram was not a believer is contrary to the facts shown. Paul knows well this background to Genesis 15. B) Hebrews confirms that Abraham already was a believer years before Genesis 15. Hebrews 11:8 reads "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." This is consistent with what Moses wrote in Genesis 12 through 14. The author of Hebrews is writing about the heroes of the faith. He is not writing about unbelievers. According to Hebrews, Abraham was already of the faith years before Genesis 15. C) James 2:14-26 - It is unbelievable that you relegate James 2 to an end note in your book. James clearly writes of justification before God, as the question in the beginning of the section is about salvation (v. 14). In vv. 20-24 he shows through Abraham that he was not justified by faith alone, but by works. There is no record of James demonstrating his faith before anyone but God. God is the one who recognizes this demonstration of faith (Gen. 22:16-18). Abraham was three days away from anybody else, and had sent away the two people who came with them. Therefore Abraham is justified three times according to the various authors of scripture. If justification is a process, this makes perfect sense. If it is a one for all act, scripture contradicts scripture.

In order for your interpretation to be correct, you must make Paul distort Abraham's life. As scripture is inerrant it is not possible to do so. When a caller on the Bible Answer Man (when you were on with James Akin) asked you how Hebrews 11 does not contradict your analysis of Romans 4, you shrugged it off and said that Hebrews 11 did not relate to Romans 4. The Catholic view of justification makes Hebrews 11 fit smoothly with not only Romans 4, but James 2:20-24, and Genesis 12 through 14. Hebrews 11 by itself contradicts your interpretation of Romans 4. However, when we add both James 2 and Genesis 12 through 14 it shows that your interpretation can not even be within the realm of possibility.

2) In focusing exclusively on Rom. 4:2-8, you ignore both the introduction to this section on Abraham (3:28-4:1), and Paul's conclusion of Abraham's experience (Rom. 4:9-12). You then conclude that when Paul writes about works that won't save, he is specifically writing of good works, and even state that circumcision is nowhere mentioned (p. 149). The background shows that it is the works of the law which Paul writes are of no use. Paul begins chapter three by writing about circumcision. He ends that chapter by writing that one is not justified by works of the law (Rom. 3:28). Upon stating this he writes that God is of both Jews and Gentiles (v. 29) . Circumcision is part of what set apart the Jews from Gentiles. However, as soon as he writes that these works do not justify, he writes that what justifies is faith, for both the circumcised and uncircumcised (v. 30), exactly as the church teaches. Paul is writing that the mere work of circumcision does not justify. That is Paul's point that lays the foundation for Rom. 4:2-8. After Paul's analysis in Rom. 4:2-8, what does he conclude? That those who rely on good works empowered by the Holy Spirit done in a state of grace to achieve salvation are condemned to hell, as you imply? I'm sorry, you don't imply it, you state it (p. 149). On the contrary, Paul writes in 4:9 "Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? ...4:10- under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised." Read through v. 12, and you see that Paul is specifically mentioning only circumcision as not being the grounds of Abraham's justification. There is absolutely no mention of good works being of no relation to justification before God. How can you ignore this conclusion of what Paul stated?

The surrounding passages help us understand what Paul means is Rom. 4:2-8. The Judaizers were telling people you need to supplement faith with circumcision.. They were making it seem that God owed it to them if they did this act. That is how Paul could write "Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation." Circumcision does not lead to God's kindness, but God's mercy. This is right in line with Rom. 2:4 "Or do you shows contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" We agree that God's grace is not earned. His mercy is indeed his action.

You ignored the context of Rom. 4:2-8 and made your conclusions based on this. You saw the word works, and automatically thought he was condemning good works done in the state of grace in relation to justification. Is that not eisegesis? Also, by the way you mentioned that modern Catholic scholars came up with this novel idea that works of the law meant circumcision. Specifically, Jerome thought that the works of the law exclusively meant circumcision.

Augustine wrote that Jerome was incorrect in limiting Paul's description of works of the law to circumcision, but that Paul was also condemning trying to live up to the law by one's own strength. His supplemental interpretation of the phrase works of the law also fits Catholic interpretation of grace, and belies the merely declarative righteousness interpretation. According to Augustine, God provided the grace necessary through not an external, but internal grace.. I refer you to Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter. When Augustine compared the law of Moses to the new law he wrote "There it was on tables of stone that the finger of God operated; here it was on the hearts of men. There the law was given outwardly, so that the unrighteous might be terrified; here it was given inwardly, so that they might be justified. (Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, ch. 29, Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, p. 95). Augustine sees Paul condemning those "because they were working it out as it were by themselves, not believing that it is God who works within them... Then are we still in doubt what are those works of the law by which a man is not justified, if he believes them to be his own works, as it were, without the help and gift of God, which is by the faith of Jesus Christ?" . (Augustine, On th e Spirit and the Letter, ch. 50, Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, p. 105). Augustine also clearly refutes your attempt to use 2 Cor 5:21-"That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This is not the righteousness whereby God is himself righteous, but that whereby we are made righteous by him" (Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter, ch. 31, Schaff, NPNF, p. 97).

3) I listened to a debate that you had with Fr. Mitch Pacwa, and he mentioned that the Hebrew term for righteousness was used 80-90% of the time was used for moral righteousness, not in a legal way. You responded that the 10-20% that had a forensic manner was your point of focus because that was specifically in being right before God. I saw that as quite a leap to relegate such a huge percentage of righteousness to the back. The examples that you gave in the book (154-156) to prove the forensic character of imputation do not show these people being right specifically before God. There is one vital Old Testament passage that uses the exact same language of Paul in relation to justification before God. I'm sure as a scholar you are aware of it, but somehow you forgot to mention it. Ps. 106:31 : "Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, and the plague was stayed, and that has been reckoned to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever." Reckoned to him as righteousness, the exact language that Paul uses. Is this an external imputation? No! This shows that Phinehas was a righteous man who did an action, (actually killing fornicators, cf. Num. 25:25-30).. As a result of this action, God reckoned him as righteous and stopped the plague. He recognized a righteous action by a righteous man. There is no hint of a merely external righteousness. The forensic examples that you gave in Genesis and Leviticus had to do with being reckoned righteous before man.. You ignored the only Old Testament example that used Pauline language in regards to being reckoned righteous before God. Why? Maybe because it destroys your argument.

4) Do the scriptures quoted show a covenant context or a forensic one? Does Paul quote Roman law, like Cicero? He quotes all through the book of Romans figures such as Moses, David, Elijah, Abraham, etc. He does not quote one text of Roman, legal precedent. Instead he examines the Old Testament and compares the Old covenant to the new one. It is a covenantal context, familial. He calls those who walk by his spirit children who are heirs (Rom. 8:14). Is the quoting of Psalm 32 in Rom. 4:6-8, a quoting of one who is actually unrighteous, but declared righteous, solely through God's imputation just as you claimed Abraham was (though we've disproved).? Or does it quote David as though recognizing himself to be a sinner, who through God's grace and forgiveness becomes a righteous person. As you would agree Paul would not wrench scripture out of context, the best way to figure this out is looking at Psalm 32 itself. Paul quotes 32:1-2. David thanks God for his forgiveness and acknowledges himself to be a sinner. He shows his utter reliance on God's grace, no question. We both agree on that. The question is whether now that David is forgiven, is he an actually righteous person, or is only declared such.

You declare that there is no subjective change in the individual (pp. 154-155). He is only righteous in the sense of being declared so. Let us look at the context of Psalm 32, which Paul uses. David writes that his sin is covered, and not imputed (vv. 1-2a). When David was a sinner outside of God's grace he admits that his spirit was wasted away. However, David acknowledged his sin and confessed them to God. The question - "Is David and God's people unrighteous sinners who are only declared righteous?" Not only does he have no deceit (v. 2b), but every one who is godly offers prayer to God (v.6). God preserves David from trouble and is the means of deliverance (v. 7), not merely a covering.

David next contrasts the wicked from the righteous (vv. 10-11). He uses absolutely no courtroom language. Your theory holds that there are none intrinsically righteous before God. According to David "Steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, o righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart." God's people are actually righteous, godly, and have no deceit. God's people are actually upright in heart! Apparently when God imputes his righteousness, it is not external. He imparts his own life into the individual. You asked in your book (p. 155) "Where is the subjective change taught by Roman Catholic theology?" In the very text that Paul quotes from! We see in this very psalm a man who is not only declared, but actually upright in heart. That is Catholic theology at heart. God's grace transforms, makes this change in the individual, and is part of justification. Your reading of Paul in Romans 4 makes him not only distort Abraham, but twists David's psalm to say something totally at odds with the context.

5) Does the rest of Romans show a radical distinction from faith and works (p. 155)? According to your interpretation, though works are part of sanctification, and will necessarily follow, they are not part of keeping oneself right before God.

You left out much in the book of Romans that deals specifically with justification that show works as part of justification. In an honest analysis of Roman, how can you leave out Romans 2, where verses show good works are shown to be essential for salvation? "He will render to each man according to his work (v. 6)." "To those who by patience and well-ding seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (v. 7)..." Here after stating that it is only God's graciousness that causes people to repent (v.4), he specifically writes that God will judge for eternal life based on works. Man must have well-doing to be rewarded with eternal life, in contrast to those who disobey (v. 8) who are sent to hell. Next Paul writes "Glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek (v. 10)." One must do good for glory, honor, and salvation. "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law (v.13)." Paul explicates even further (vv. 14-15) that the doers of the law only will be justified. That is the purpose. Paul does not write that people can not do the law, or that this is only an ideal that can not be met.

In commenting on v. 13 Augustine even refers to Rom. 11:6 in exegeting this scripture. "For in another passage he expressly says, "If by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But the statement that the "doers of the law shall be justified must be so understood, as that we may know that they are not otherwise doers of the law, unless they be justified, so that justification does not subsequently accrue to them as doers of the law, but justification precedes them as doers of the law. For what else does the phrase "being justified" signify than "being MADE RIGHTEOUS," -- by him of course, who justifies the ungodly man, that he may become a godly one instead?...but when the allegation is "the doers of the law shall be justified," what else does it mean that that the just shall be justified? for of course the doers of the law are just persons. And thus it amounts to the same thing as if it were said, The doers of the law shall be created, -not those who were so already, but that they may become such; in order that the Jews who were hearers of the law might hereby understand that they wanted of the grace of the justifier, in order to be able to become its doers also" (Augustine, On the Spirit and the Letter., chapter 45, Schaff, NPNF, p. 102).

In vv. 17-29 we see Paul specifically writing of circumcision, but stresses that obedience is necessary for justification. For example, v. 25 reveals that one must obey the law. "Those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law (v. 27)." He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of heart, spiritual (v. 29)." All this has to do with justification. There is no hint anywhere in all of this chapter that it is impossible to keep the law. He takes it for granted that it can be done, states that it can be done, but can be done only based on God's beneficence (v. 4). Contrast these verses quoted with "Justification is an act undertaken by God and it is not bases on anything done in or by us as believers (p. 143)." Extensive commentary on chapter 2 is not needed. A mere reading of the chapter shows that it specifically contradicts your analysis of justification. However, it fits in perfectly with the Catholic view.

Chapter 5:17-19 - After declaring that Adam brought on original sin, Paul writes something that we all agree to. Through Adam, sin came to all. Notice that through Adam, sin was not only imputed, but infused into all of mankind. In 5:19 Paul writes that through Adam's trespasses all were made sinners. The question is does Paul state that Jesus really undid what Adam did? According to you Jesus' death on the cross really did not, as his death on the cross only declares one righteous. This righteousness is really imputed, but the fact is that according to the reformers, it is an alien righteousness. Thus his death is in fact insufficient to undo what Adam did. After all , according to the reformers our righteousness is as "filthy rags." (A misreading of Isaiah). Is that what Paul writes? On the contrary, Paul declares that by one man's obedience, many will be ma de righteous (5:19). How is it possible? "By those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (v. 17)." In other words, this grace is not a passive one, but an abundant one that transforms one's life enough to make one righteous. So when Jesus' righteousness is imputed, it is imparted to his believers. God is not in the habit of making filthy rags.

Chapter 6 - How does this grace come to his followers? According to Paul, baptism is the means to make us die to sin (6:2). Paul shows us that faith can not be pitted against baptism. Baptism makes one crucified with him to destroy the sinful body (v. 6). According to you, this sinful body still overpowers us, as we are still actually unrighteous. What did Christ do but set his followers free from sin (John 8:32, 36)? This is what Paul declares (v. 7). Paul maintains that sin does not have control over believers any more under Christ (vv. 1-15). However, is Paul only talking of sanctification? He is writing about justification because he tells us that baptism is the means to make us die to sin. Paul next writes "whereas sin leads to death, obedience (not mere forensic imputation) leads to righteousness (v. 16)." Again, obedience leads to righteousness!

Chapter 8 - It is amazing that you quoted 8:33-34 to try to prove a merely forensic view of justification, when you ignored what Paul wrote prior to that. Your theory holds that no one can meet the righteous requirement of the law, even if one leads a grace empowered life, except Jesus Christ. All of Chapter 8 deals with justification and here I can only quote a few of the verses that undermine the merely forensic view of justification.

Paul shows that the law did not give the power to meet the righteous requirement of the law. What does? "The just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit (v. 4)." God's spirit makes us fulfill the just requirement of the law. "If Christ is in you although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness" (v. 10). Sounds like a subjective change in the individual. Next Paul writes "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live (v. 13)." He is writing about eternal death and life based on how you live in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. Sins lead to death, cooperation leads to life. We are heirs of God "Provided we suffer with him, in order that we may also be glorified with him (v . 17)." We are given the spirit of sonship (v. 15) as adopted children of God. In using 8:33-34, you forget that the prior section lists these necessary ingredients for salvation. No courtroom scene prior to 8:33-34. Familial concepts, the necessity of putting to death the deeds of the flesh, necessity of suffering, and the Spirit enabling people to do such things all are tied in to justification in this chapter, before we even get to 8:33-34. Indeed for those who cooperate with the Spirit no one can bring a charge against them.

I await your thoughtful response, Mr.White.

Sincerely,
Matt

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An open Letter to James White... Matt1618... This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.