Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Incarnation and Redemption

Just heard on "Our Life in Christ", an Eastern Orthodox podcast, the following quote, "The Incarnation changes everything."

In OT typology, the servant could go free after, I believe, 7 years of service. However, if he marries and has children during that time, he can't take them with him when he goes. If he wants to be with them, he must stay as a servant. This is a picture of Christ who came into the world and purchased a family for himself (the Church). He could have lived the perfect life and not endured the Cross and gone home, and he wouldn't have known the pain of separation from God. But He didn't. He shed His blood for us, and in so doing paid the price for our ransom. Paul makes much of the Cross. Probably more than he does of the Incarnation.

"Our Life in Christ" is big on Incarnational, Sacramental theology, where, since God became Matter (not to mention also becoming Man), Matter now has a new meaning, or at least a new potential meaning. (In the East, this leads to icons and prayer ropes, and in the West it leads to Rosaries and Scapulars, but this is beside the point.)

They're big on some of the essentials of the faith--Trinitarian Theology and Christology--for which we thank God. But where is Soteriology? Seems to take a back seat, much like it did in the early Church until Augustine (who, as it seems to me, never really hit it big in the East).

I must conclude that the above quote misses the mark. The Incarnation only changes at most half of everything. Redemption changes the other half.

Monday, December 17, 2007

More On James

Last week I was listening to Mitch Pacwa, a Roman Catholic priest and a Jesuit, on a podcast of his call-in radio program. Someone called up about faith or the letter of James. I forget what exactly Pacwa said about it, but it was the typical Catholic answer to salvation by faith alone. Now I remember. Pacwa took issue with Luther, who explicitly added the word 'alone' when he translated. This was meant to show that Luther was dishonest in his translation of Scripture. (Not to mention that many modern translations, NIV included, are concept-for-concept, not word-for-word, so I'm not sure why Pacwa takes issue, unless he wants to find another chance to swipe at the Great Reformer.) Luther indeed added the word 'alone' in his German translation of Paul's Letter to the Romans, chapter 3, verse 28, which in the ESV reads, "28. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." Luther put the word 'alone' after the word 'faith', and Catholics rail against him for that.

My question is, "What part of 'apart from' do you not understand?" What part of "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness," (Romans 4:2-3), don't you understand?

Whenever the topic of Salvation by grace alone through faith alone is brought up with a Catholic, set your watchclock and take bets on how many seconds the discussion will get to James chapter 2, where he says, in contradiction to Paul, that man is justified by works. They place a ton of weight on this little letter as though it should drive the doctrine. Even if one took the letter as Scripture (let's get this clear--I don't, along with the early church up to the end of the 3rd century, and along with Luther), you have whole didactic chapters in multiple letters of Paul showing how you are justified through faith, and this stuff is never contradicted by the likes of, say, John and Jesus. So it would be the tail wagging the dog to say that, because of the Letter of James, you're really not justified by faith alone. The speed with which one goes to the letter of James (or to the Catholic mistranslation of Galatians 5:6--it's not "faith formed by love," but "faith expressing itself in love") smells fishy to me.
The sola-fide deniers claim to go with "the whole counsel of God", as though holding two contradictory truths together is a good habit of reason. Ever since James, people obstinately resist the Great News that we're justified by Grace Alone through Faith Alone.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How I Know the Whole System is Wrong

I was listening to an mp3 of a Bible Answer Man radio program from around 1996 (#471 on James White's website: They talked a bit about sola fide, and Roman Catholic apologist Tim Staples threw in something from Romans 2 to justify (pardon the pun) the idea that you have to continue to do right in order to get eternal life (I think he was referring to Romans 2:6-7 "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;"). He took this out of context. Clearly, Romans 3 talks of another righteousness, another way to be right with God. Romans 3:21-22 says: "But now a righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, a righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all who believe...."

Later that week, when James White and Tim Staples debated sola scriptura (or maybe it was 4 years later, when they debated papal infallibility, #487 on James White's website), during Q&A, someone asked Tim Staples, roughly, "What is the Gospel? And what must I do to be saved?" Staples replied to the first question that the Gospel is all that Jesus commands us, through the Church. He replied to the second question that we must give full intellectual and willful assent to all that the Church teaches.

That's not what the Bible says. In answer to the question, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus said, in John 6:29,40 "29. The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.... 40. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Paul and Silas said, in Acts 16:31: "And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."