On Grace and Free Will

Throughout history, the Catholic Church has struggled to convey the balance necessary between grace and free will to her children. The Church Fathers repeatedly dealt with such issues against the Pelagians and the Manicheans. Again at the Reformation, Martin Luther accused the Church of preaching a gospel void of grace and teaching salvation earned by their own merit. He claimed that the good works and free will taught at the time debased the grace of God, even in our ability to turn to Him and seek salvation. Since Luther was a learned professor and monk, I must assume he knew the Church never actually taught in such a way despite what individual Catholics may have done or believed. I then must take all that he said to mean the practices alone of the Church encouraged the attitude he condemned. Yet in decrying these practices, he made the same mistake as heretics before him and affirmed grace to the point of denying free will. He lost the balance the Fathers so carefully struggled to maintain.

Below I will let the Church Fathers in their own beautiful words describe this fine line between grace and free will as maintained by the Catholic Church throughout history. I will also include excerpt from the Councils of Orange and Trent and the Catholic Catechism showing the official teachings on these issues.

The Church Fathers on Grace and Free Will

I have stolen the title of my compilation from Augustine’s book On Grace and Free Will. He says about his own book:

There are some persons who suppose that the freedom of the will is denied whenever God’s grace is maintained, and who on their side defend their liberty of will so peremptorily as to deny the grace of God. This grace, as they assert, is bestowed according to our own merits. It is in consequence of their opinions that I wrote the book entitled On Grace and Free Will.

Now if faith is simply of free will, and is not given by God, why do we pray for those who will not believe, that they may believe? This it would be absolutely useless to do, unless we believe, with perfect propriety, that Almighty God is able to turn to belief wills that are perverse and opposed to faith.
[Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, Ch. 29]

As far, then, as lay in our power, we have used our influence with them, as both your brethren and our own, with a view to their persevering in the soundness of the catholic faith, Which neither denies free will whether for an evil or a good life, nor attributes to it so much power that it can avail anything without God’s grace, whether that it may be changed from evil to good, or that it may persevere in the pursuit of good, or that it may attain to eternal good when there is no further fear of failure.
[Augustine, Letter to Valentinus, No. 215:4]

The freedom of the will is not destroyed by being helped, it is rather helped because it is not destroyed. He who says to God: ‘Be thou my helper,’ confesses that he wishes to carry out what is commanded, but asks help of Him who gave the command so that he may be able to do it.
[Augustine, Letter to Hilary, No. 157, 2:10]

Now for the commission of sin we get no help from God; but we are not able to do justly, and to fulfill the law of righteousness in every part thereof, except we are helped by God. For as the bodily eye is not helped by the light to turn away therefrom shut or averted, but is helped by it to see, and cannot see at all unless it help it; so God, who is the light of the inner man, helps our mental sight, in order that we may do some good, not according to our own, but according to His righteousness.
[Augustine, On the Merits and Remission of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants, Bk. 2, Ch. 5]

For if any of those who are present should think to tempt God’s grace, he deceives himself, and knows not its power. Keep your soul free from hypocrisy, O man, because of Him who searches hearts and reins. For as those who are going to make a levy for war examine the ages and the bodies of those who are taking service, so also the Lord in enlisting souls examines their purpose: and if any has a secret hypocrisy, He rejects the man as unfit for His true service; but if He finds one worthy, to him He readily gives His grace… For as a writing-reed or a dart has need of one to use it, so grace also has need of believing minds… As then it is His part to plant and to water , so it is thine to bear fruit: it is God’s to grant grace, but thine to receive and guard it. Despise not the grace because it is freely given, but receive and treasure it devoutly.
[Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechitical, Lecture 1:3]

“No man can come unto Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw Him.” (Jn. 6:44) The Manichæans spring upon these words, saying, “that nothing lies in our own power”; yet the expression shows that we are masters of our will. “For if a man comes to Him,” says some one, “what need is there of drawing?” But the words do not take away our free will, but show that we greatly need assistance. And He implies not an unwilling comer, but one enjoying much succor.
[John Chrysostom, Homilies on St. John, No. 46:1]

And if by grace, it will be said, how came we all not to be saved? Because ye would not. For grace, though it be grace, saves the willing, not those who will not have it, and turn away from it, who persist in fighting against it, and opposing themselves to it.
[John Chrysostom, Epistle to the Romans, 18:5]

The skill of God, therefore, is not defective, for He has power of the stones to raise up children to Abraham; Matthew 3:9 but the man who does not obtain it is the cause to himself of his own imperfection. Nor, [in like manner], does the light fail because of those who have blinded themselves; but while it remains the same as ever, those who are [thus] blinded are involved in darkness through their own fault. The light does never enslave any one by necessity; nor, again, does God exercise compulsion upon any one unwilling to accept the exercise of His skill. Those persons, therefore, who have apostatized from the light given by the Father, and transgressed the law of liberty, have done so through their own fault, since they have been created free agents, and possessed of power over themselves.
[Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. 4, Ch. 39]

Church Documents and Official teachings on Grace and Free Will

The following are excerpts from the Council of Orange and the Council of Trent and the Catholic Catechism. They show that the Catholic Church does not teach nor has ever taught that humans can merit their own salvation or earn their way to heaven through works. At the same time these documents affirm with the Church Fathers that what we do matters, we have ability to reject God’s grace, and we can do His work through His grace therefore not all that we do is sin.

The Canons of the Council of Orange

CANON 6: If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 9: Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.

CANON 18: That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.

CANON 20: That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.

CANON 23: Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.

The Decrees of the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent

Chapter 5: The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.

Chapter 8: And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

Chapter 10: They, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.”

Chapter 16: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord; for God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name; and, do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward. And, for this cause, life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God Himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits… Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ.

Canons of the Council of Trent

CANON 3: If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

CANON 4: If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

CANON 5: If any one saith, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

CANON 9: If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

CANON 10: If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just; let him be anathema.

CANON 11: If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

CANON 24: If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

CANON 25: If any one saith, that, in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or-which is more intolerable still-mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation; let him be anathema.

CANON 31: If any one saith, that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense; let him be anathema.

CANON 32: If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.

Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.

Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life.

Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:”

God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire.

Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord’s words “Thus you will know them by their fruits” – reflection on God’s blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. “Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s gifts.”

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

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35 Responses to On Grace and Free Will

  1. Carrie says:

    Again at the Reformation, Martin Luther accused the Church of preaching a gospel void of grace and teaching salvation earned by their own merit.

    Hi Stacey,

    What exactly did Luther say that you are referring to here?

    I think your emphasis in this post may be misplaced. The crux of the problem isn’t so much grace vs free will, but justification by grace alone through faith alone vs justification by grace plus faith plus works.

    “Trent CANON 9: If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

    VS.

    “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6

  2. Carrie says:

    Again at the Reformation, Martin Luther accused the Church of preaching a gospel void of grace and teaching salvation earned by their own merit.

    Hi Stacey,

    What exactly did Luther say that you are referring to here?

    I think your emphasis in this post may be misplaced. The crux of the problem isn’t so much grace vs free will, but justification by grace alone through faith alone vs justification by grace plus faith plus works.

    “Trent CANON 9: If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

    VS.

    “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6

  3. tap says:

    It interesting to see most internet Calvinist try to avoid the term Faith alone these days. They’d rather say Grace alone through faith alone. I guess it provides some sort or comfort against James 2:24

    Clear up terms:

    First things: Grace, Faith and Works. Because the councils don’t go into definition of terms and making distinctions, i’m going to go with the simplest straighfoward meaning and relationships. Anyone can go to new advent and search for santifying vs actual grace, e.t.c..e.t.c.

    ———-Grace——–
    ————|———-
    ——|————|—
    —-Faith——–Works-

    Grace: is a gratuitous favor, done by God, through no merits of our own.

    Faith: Is one of the manifestations of Grace. So if you are a believing christian. You believe because of God’s Grace working in you, not because of some form of reason or investigation on your part.

    Works: Is another one of the Manifestations of grace. So if you are doing those “works” that you will be judged on Its by the aid of God’s grace that you are doing this things.

    So when St. Paul says: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” He mean exactly what i’ve just defined, that neither the faith you have nor the works that you do are of your own merit. It’s by God’s grace that you are able to have faith and do good works.

    But God is not a dictator. He does not force you do start believing in him as trent points out and as it is written in Jer 15:19 : “Therefore thus saith the Lord: If thou wilt be converted, I will convert thee, and thou shalt stand before my face; and if thou wilt separate the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: they shall be turned to thee, and thou shalt not be turned to them [A theme throughout scripture]

    you need to co-operate with God’s grace.

    So trent is right in proclaiming that if you say ‘faith alone’ “in such a way as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate.*” Then you are indeed teaching a false doctrine as all of scripture testifies against.

    *co-operation can be futher distinguished, which which open a whole new can of worms, about instant vs progressive justification.

  4. tap says:

    1 more thing. Carrie. Read Chapter VIII

    but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

    It most fully agrees with St. Paul.

    and stacey sorry for polluting your blog with my constant deletions and typos.

  5. tap says:

    1 more thing. Carrie. Read Chapter VIII

    but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

    It most fully agrees with St. Paul.

    and stacey sorry for polluting your blog with my constant deletions and typos.

  6. Carrie says:

    It most fully agrees with St. Paul.

    No, that’s double speak.

    Look at the two canons:

    “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

    “but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.”

    The problem here is that one cannot “co-operate in order to the obtain the grace of Justification” and be “justified freely”.

    And of course, baptismal regeneration has been left out and the fact that you must keep yourself justified by good works to increase sanctifying grace so you can avoid a mortal sin. And if you commit a mortal sin, you must do penance to be re-justified plus you need to to keep up with all the “necessaries”.

    As a Catholic, if die in mortal sin, who failed? You or God? Assuming you answer “you”, then you are the deciding factor in your salvation. Your eternal destination is based on your ability to keep yourself in God’s grace until you die.

    That is not salvation by grace. That is why justification is through faith alone, so that it may be by grace alone.

  7. Stacey says:

    Carrie,

    What exactly did Luther say that you are referring to here?

    From this sermon:

    “That would be arrogance if you desired to be saved by your own merit and works, as the Papists teach.”

    “By this are condemned all those infamous doctrines of free will, which come from the pope, universities and monasteries. For all their teaching consists in that we are to begin and lay the first stone. We should by the power of free will first seek God, come to him, run after him and acquire his grace.”

    “Hence, the teaching of all the schools and monasteries is misleading, when they teach man to begin to pray and do good works, to found something, to give, to sing, to become spiritual and thereby to seek God’s grace.”

    I’m really not trying to deal with “the crux of the problem” here. I’m mainly trying to deal with a single unfounded recurring lie thrown at the Catholic Church. Catholics are often accused of trying to earn their salvation by their own merit and thereby denying God’s grace. Luther also said (as you can see above) that Catholics deny the grace of God even by seeking to “lay the first stone”.

    Contrary to his assertions, in every Church document, the grace of God is affirmed in every step of our salvation and not only salvation but also every good thing we do is only through the merit of Jesus Christ, as I have shown in this post. Yet at the same time, the Church does not deny our ability to reject God’s grace, thereby preserving free will. I love Augustine’s quote to explain this, that the light always shines on everyone equally, but we may shut our eye such that we cannot see, and at the same time we could not see without the light. Also, the Council of Orange explains it rather well by saying, “Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.”. Also, the Church affirms that Christ will “reward each person according to what he has done.” (Matt 16:27) such that the work we do, although firstly through the merit of Christ is also by grace attributed to us as our own merit. (see Canon 32 of Trent)

    You said: The problem here is that one cannot “co-operate in order to the obtain the grace of Justification” and be “justified freely”.

    My entire post is put forth to clear up that misunderstanding. That has been dealt with by the effortful explanations of the Fathers like the one by Augustine shown above. Of course justified freely, but not in such a way that some are predestined to hell and others to heaven. We can of our own free will reject God’s grace, because like tap says, God is not a dictator.

    So there real issue here is the fine line between grace and free will, that both must be affirmed, and all these quotes and documents explain that they are and how they are. That is the real issue of my post, and things like “faith alone”, meaning “belief alone” are just a fallout.

    Since I tailored my excerpts to deal only with the grace and free will issue, I would really encourage you to read the rest of the sixth session of the Council of Trent to get straight the Catholic Church’s teachings on justification. There’s a good deal about being fallen from grace and in mortal sin as well. Obviously, this council was convened to put the record straight after the Reformation, so they correct wrong assertions Luther made about the Church (like saying we merit our own salvation) and also take great pains to draw the line between grace and free will and faith and works.

    Here’s an example of canon’s dealing with the Reformation idea that faith = confidence in your salvation, which I see when Protestants throw around the verse “that you will know you are saved” (can’t find it) and say you ought to know you are saved. However, the verse doesn’t say you can only be saved if you know it, and it is wrong to say that you cannot be saved unless you know you are saved. Can you imagine if everyone who ever doubted their salvation was automatically condemned to hell? Rather severe for a common human frailty. Trent draws that line with the canons below:

    CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

    CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema.

    CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity ; let him be anathema.

    As far as the mortal sin issue goes, if you read Trent, it can explain quite well. It is my understanding that God’s grace is sufficient for us to resist mortal sin, such that if you do commit a mortal sin like murder or adultery, you have effectively rejected God’s grace and so fallen from it. However, Trent is careful to show that with mortal sin, faith is not always lost, and justification can be recovered. There’s hope! Reformation theology, on the other hand, said you cannot recover from a fall from grace and in fact if it happened, you were never justified in the first place. That does not compute with the testimonies of those I know. Also, Reformation theology protests that the only “mortal sin” is infidelity, i.e. doubting your salvation. So, Carrie, if you doubt, you are not and have never been justified and cannot recover your salvation. Which system is more merciful?

  8. Stacey says:

    Carrie,

    What exactly did Luther say that you are referring to here?

    From this sermon:

    “That would be arrogance if you desired to be saved by your own merit and works, as the Papists teach.”

    “By this are condemned all those infamous doctrines of free will, which come from the pope, universities and monasteries. For all their teaching consists in that we are to begin and lay the first stone. We should by the power of free will first seek God, come to him, run after him and acquire his grace.”

    “Hence, the teaching of all the schools and monasteries is misleading, when they teach man to begin to pray and do good works, to found something, to give, to sing, to become spiritual and thereby to seek God’s grace.”

    I’m really not trying to deal with “the crux of the problem” here. I’m mainly trying to deal with a single unfounded recurring lie thrown at the Catholic Church. Catholics are often accused of trying to earn their salvation by their own merit and thereby denying God’s grace. Luther also said (as you can see above) that Catholics deny the grace of God even by seeking to “lay the first stone”.

    Contrary to his assertions, in every Church document, the grace of God is affirmed in every step of our salvation and not only salvation but also every good thing we do is only through the merit of Jesus Christ, as I have shown in this post. Yet at the same time, the Church does not deny our ability to reject God’s grace, thereby preserving free will. I love Augustine’s quote to explain this, that the light always shines on everyone equally, but we may shut our eye such that we cannot see, and at the same time we could not see without the light. Also, the Council of Orange explains it rather well by saying, “Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.”. Also, the Church affirms that Christ will “reward each person according to what he has done.” (Matt 16:27) such that the work we do, although firstly through the merit of Christ is also by grace attributed to us as our own merit. (see Canon 32 of Trent)

    You said: The problem here is that one cannot “co-operate in order to the obtain the grace of Justification” and be “justified freely”.

    My entire post is put forth to clear up that misunderstanding. That has been dealt with by the effortful explanations of the Fathers like the one by Augustine shown above. Of course justified freely, but not in such a way that some are predestined to hell and others to heaven. We can of our own free will reject God’s grace, because like tap says, God is not a dictator.

    So there real issue here is the fine line between grace and free will, that both must be affirmed, and all these quotes and documents explain that they are and how they are. That is the real issue of my post, and things like “faith alone”, meaning “belief alone” are just a fallout.

    Since I tailored my excerpts to deal only with the grace and free will issue, I would really encourage you to read the rest of the sixth session of the Council of Trent to get straight the Catholic Church’s teachings on justification. There’s a good deal about being fallen from grace and in mortal sin as well. Obviously, this council was convened to put the record straight after the Reformation, so they correct wrong assertions Luther made about the Church (like saying we merit our own salvation) and also take great pains to draw the line between grace and free will and faith and works.

    Here’s an example of canon’s dealing with the Reformation idea that faith = confidence in your salvation, which I see when Protestants throw around the verse “that you will know you are saved” (can’t find it) and say you ought to know you are saved. However, the verse doesn’t say you can only be saved if you know it, and it is wrong to say that you cannot be saved unless you know you are saved. Can you imagine if everyone who ever doubted their salvation was automatically condemned to hell? Rather severe for a common human frailty. Trent draws that line with the canons below:

    CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

    CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema.

    CANON XXVII.-If any one saith, that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity; or, that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however grievous and enormous, save by that of infidelity ; let him be anathema.

    As far as the mortal sin issue goes, if you read Trent, it can explain quite well. It is my understanding that God’s grace is sufficient for us to resist mortal sin, such that if you do commit a mortal sin like murder or adultery, you have effectively rejected God’s grace and so fallen from it. However, Trent is careful to show that with mortal sin, faith is not always lost, and justification can be recovered. There’s hope! Reformation theology, on the other hand, said you cannot recover from a fall from grace and in fact if it happened, you were never justified in the first place. That does not compute with the testimonies of those I know. Also, Reformation theology protests that the only “mortal sin” is infidelity, i.e. doubting your salvation. So, Carrie, if you doubt, you are not and have never been justified and cannot recover your salvation. Which system is more merciful?

  9. Stacey says:

    tap,

    Pollute away! You’re much more experienced with these issues than I am. I’m glad to have you straightening things out with me.

  10. tap says:

    umm…sorry, its not double speak, it is quite explanatory. God’s grace is available. He does not force you to believe, nor does he force you to good works. His grace is there for you to co-operate. So if you claim that “that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification” you are indeed teaching a false doctrine. As St. James aptly puts it :

    “Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith alone?”

    If we go by your definition it would seem that God is double speaking through the scriptures.
    because by your definition, James 2:24 is opposed to Romans 11:6.

    they are not in conflict with Catholics. Your problem and the problem with a lot of protestants is they want to conflate grace and faith, and fail utterly explaining either.

    In the simplest terms i can put, Faith and Works are manifestation of Grace. Thats is why the Catholic Church teaches Grace alone. But not “faith alone.”

  11. tap says:

    umm…sorry, its not double speak, it is quite explanatory. God’s grace is available. He does not force you to believe, nor does he force you to good works. His grace is there for you to co-operate. So if you claim that “that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification” you are indeed teaching a false doctrine. As St. James aptly puts it :

    “Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith alone?”

    If we go by your definition it would seem that God is double speaking through the scriptures.
    because by your definition, James 2:24 is opposed to Romans 11:6.

    they are not in conflict with Catholics. Your problem and the problem with a lot of protestants is they want to conflate grace and faith, and fail utterly explaining either.

    In the simplest terms i can put, Faith and Works are manifestation of Grace. Thats is why the Catholic Church teaches Grace alone. But not “faith alone.”

  12. Carrie says:

    Luther also said (as you can see above) that Catholics deny the grace of God even by seeking to “lay the first stone”.

    And w/out the full context it is difficult to know exactly what he was saying, but even if I granted Trent’s definition of initial grace, Luther would have been speaking before Trent since he died right at the beginning of the Council. And before Trent there was no prevailing view on Justification as shown by the general confusion during that time period. So Luther may have been quite accurate in his assessment.

    Catholics are often accused of trying to earn their salvation by their own merit and thereby denying God’s grace.

    That’s b/c the type of grace that needs to be worked with to maintain is not the grace spoken of in scripture. If you are going to assert that Catholics are saved solely by grace, then your definition of grace needs to be consistent with scripture.

    I would really encourage you to read the rest of the sixth session of the Council of Trent to get straight the Catholic Church’s teachings on justification.

    I have read it. Trent’s teachings on justification are not consistent with scripture. I would encourage you to read Romans and Galatians.

    Here’s an example of canon’s dealing with the Reformation idea that faith = confidence in your salvation

    What? Can you actually find this “idea” in a Reformed document?

    However, the verse doesn’t say you can only be saved if you know it, and it is wrong to say that you cannot be saved unless you know you are saved. Can you imagine if everyone who ever doubted their salvation was automatically condemned to hell?

    Again, this is news to me. Can you provide Reformed documentation of this also?

    It is my understanding that God’s grace is sufficient for us to resist mortal sin, such that if you do commit a mortal sin like murder or adultery, you have effectively rejected God’s grace and so fallen from it. However, Trent is careful to show that with mortal sin, faith is not always lost, and justification can be recovered.

    Why would one accept God’s grace one moment and then reject it the next? Did they want to go to heaven for awhile and then changed their mind? And then they can change it back again through penance? This makes no sense to me.

    I think you missed my earlier point. Grace is unmerited favor. If you need to keep working or keep accepting to be saved in the end, you are the deciding factor in your salvation, not God. And if you “accept” the grace while your neighbor rejects it, you have a reason to boast.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:8-10

    All Catholics have done is taken biblical terminology, redefined the terms, then assert that they are biblically-consistent because they use terms like “grace”.

    “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Romans 11:6

    So, Carrie, if you doubt, you are not and have never been justified and cannot recover your salvation. Which system is more merciful?

    Again, huh? I’m not sure where you are getting this stuff but it is not Reformed theology.

    And I don’t really care which system is merciful, I care which is biblical. God’s revelation of how we are saved has been conveyed through the scriptures – any system needs to be evaluated for it’s consistency with scripture, not its emotional appeal.

    Stacey, I know you have already convinced yourself, but please believe me when I say that your understanding of Reformed/Protestant teaching on justification appears to be quite flawed, at a minimum. I would challenge you to try and get a better grip on this issue.

  13. Carrie says:

    If we go by your definition it would seem that God is double speaking through the scriptures.
    because by your definition, James 2:24 is opposed to Romans 11:6.

    Paul is speaking from God’s point of view, James from man’s point of view.

    We are justified through faith alone. But if we ARE justified, we will also have works. God justifies by grace alone (through faith), no works or grace is no longer grace (Paul). How do we know if we have been justified? By our works which shows our faith (James).

    Cause vs effect.

  14. Carrie says:

    If we go by your definition it would seem that God is double speaking through the scriptures.
    because by your definition, James 2:24 is opposed to Romans 11:6.

    Paul is speaking from God’s point of view, James from man’s point of view.

    We are justified through faith alone. But if we ARE justified, we will also have works. God justifies by grace alone (through faith), no works or grace is no longer grace (Paul). How do we know if we have been justified? By our works which shows our faith (James).

    Cause vs effect.

  15. tap says:

    Paul is speaking from God’s point of view, James from man’s point of view.

    We are justified through faith alone. But if we ARE justified, we will also have works. God justifies by grace alone (through faith), no works or grace is no longer grace (Paul). How do we know if we have been justified? By our works which shows our faith (James).

    Cause vs effect.

    Nice attempt at sophistry, and at trying to kill one verse of scripture using your “non-interpration” of another. You want to backfit your theology into scripture, i’m afraid things don’t work that way.

    James = Man’s point of View, Paul = God’s point of View. Lol, Get real, and for the sake of your conscience. Flee from this doctrine.

    Where does it say that in the Bible? Sola Scriptura remember?

    James 2:24 : “Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith alone?”

    Translation: Faith Alone does not justify*, but Faith and Works.

    Romans 11:6: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace

    Translation: Justifying* works are not of your own doing. But by the grace of God. Or Grace wouldn’t be grace.

  16. Stacey says:

    Carrie,

    Let me know if you wish to continue our dialogue.

  17. Stacey says:

    Carrie,

    Let me know if you wish to continue our dialogue.

  18. Carrie says:

    Carrie,

    Let me know if you wish to continue our dialogue.

    I would, but I will probably be offline soon due to a change in my personal situation. Maybe we can put this on hold.

  19. Carrie says:

    Carrie,

    Let me know if you wish to continue our dialogue.

    I would, but I will probably be offline soon due to a change in my personal situation. Maybe we can put this on hold.

  20. Carrie says:

    tap,

    I have decided to not spend my time conversing with people who resort to mocking. Good luck to you.

  21. tap says:

    I have decided to not spend my time conversing with people who resort to mocking.

    Good for you, so that means you won’t be interacting like you did here

    Specifically here and here

    Of course there a plenty other examples but, Check those links,at least now you know how some feel(not me though i’m really “hard hearted” 😀 ) about these kinds of things, and hopefully treat other like you want to be treated.

    Good luck to you as well.

  22. tap says:

    I have decided to not spend my time conversing with people who resort to mocking.

    Good for you, so that means you won’t be interacting like you did here

    Specifically here and here

    Of course there a plenty other examples but, Check those links,at least now you know how some feel(not me though i’m really “hard hearted” 😀 ) about these kinds of things, and hopefully treat other like you want to be treated.

    Good luck to you as well.

  23. Carrie says:

    tap,

    I was referring to you mocking me while trying to engage me in discussion. I answered you once but when your answer back resulted in mocking, I was no longer interested in continuing that particular discussion.

    I was not attempting to paint you out as a general mocker, so your reply back doesn’t hit the mark with me. Yes, I do joke around and sometimes at the expense of Catholic theology, but since I consider Catholicism false, I’m not really bothered by that.

    I do, though, try to be respectful towards those I am conversing with. No doubt I have probably missed the mark a few times as I am terribly sarcastic, but I do try.

  24. Chris says:

    Carrie,

    Yes, I do joke around and sometimes at the expense of Catholic theology, but since I consider Catholicism false, I’m not really bothered by that.

    I do, though, try to be respectful towards those I am conversing with. No doubt I have probably missed the mark a few times as I am terribly sarcastic, but I do try.

    I find your view of yourself to be terribly conceited. Your attitude, and the attitudes of your co-bloggers over at ‘Beggars All’, is nothing short of an absolute disgrace to the name of Jesus Christ. I beg you to carefully reconsider the way in which you behave on-line, and to examine why it is that you find it so easy to treat other human beings like garbage and denigrate with impunity beliefs that others hold sacred.

    No true follower of Jesus should be acting the way you and the other ‘Beggars All’ bloggers do, and I implore you to change your ways, and start treating others with considerably more kindness, patience, and respect.

  25. Chris says:

    Carrie,

    Yes, I do joke around and sometimes at the expense of Catholic theology, but since I consider Catholicism false, I’m not really bothered by that.

    I do, though, try to be respectful towards those I am conversing with. No doubt I have probably missed the mark a few times as I am terribly sarcastic, but I do try.

    I find your view of yourself to be terribly conceited. Your attitude, and the attitudes of your co-bloggers over at ‘Beggars All’, is nothing short of an absolute disgrace to the name of Jesus Christ. I beg you to carefully reconsider the way in which you behave on-line, and to examine why it is that you find it so easy to treat other human beings like garbage and denigrate with impunity beliefs that others hold sacred.

    No true follower of Jesus should be acting the way you and the other ‘Beggars All’ bloggers do, and I implore you to change your ways, and start treating others with considerably more kindness, patience, and respect.

  26. tap says:

    Carrie, is the email address on your profile is still valid?

    Please let me know, i want to send an email, and it will not be mocking or contain any derision [trust me]. Thanks

  27. tap says:

    How’s it going Chris?

  28. tap says:

    How’s it going Chris?

  29. Carrie says:

    beg you to carefully reconsider the way in which you behave on-line, and to examine why it is that you find it so easy to treat other human beings like garbage and denigrate with impunity beliefs that others hold sacred.

    Chris,

    Please email me with examples of this behavior so I can consider it. I don’t usually entertain these types of accusations as the proof behind them is usually lacking and I don’t hold myself accountable to just anybody, but I would like to know to what you are referring to.

    “thesearewritten” at “gmail” dot “com”

    tap,

    Yes, and that is my email above.

  30. Carrie says:

    beg you to carefully reconsider the way in which you behave on-line, and to examine why it is that you find it so easy to treat other human beings like garbage and denigrate with impunity beliefs that others hold sacred.

    Chris,

    Please email me with examples of this behavior so I can consider it. I don’t usually entertain these types of accusations as the proof behind them is usually lacking and I don’t hold myself accountable to just anybody, but I would like to know to what you are referring to.

    “thesearewritten” at “gmail” dot “com”

    tap,

    Yes, and that is my email above.

  31. Chris says:

    Carrie,

    Please email me with examples of this behavior so I can consider it. I don’t usually entertain these types of accusations as the proof behind them is usually lacking and I don’t hold myself accountable to just anybody, but I would like to know to what you are referring to.

    Please, do not try to feign ignorance and innocence with me after your last comment.

    I will not be emailing you. I have no interest in playing your tiresome, childish games. All the proof you need is over at ‘Beggars All’, in the posts and in the comboxes, anywhere your name appears. If you cannot see how your own behavior is an insult to Christ, then there is nothing that I can say to convince you.

  32. Stacey says:

    To be fair to Carrie, she has conversed with me pleasantly and seriously, even sincerely.

    But Carrie, it may help you understand to know that before we started conversing, I would not have commented on any of your posts because they were all based in ridicule, and only intended to malign the Catholic Church and show how “stupid” Catholicism is. I know this is your view, and you believe Catholicism is false. But there are those who believe it is true and this hurts them unnecessarily. You could take an approach akin to just sharing your position.

    There are those who believe Calvinism is false as well. Would you have them ridicule it secure in their belief?

  33. Stacey says:

    To be fair to Carrie, she has conversed with me pleasantly and seriously, even sincerely.

    But Carrie, it may help you understand to know that before we started conversing, I would not have commented on any of your posts because they were all based in ridicule, and only intended to malign the Catholic Church and show how “stupid” Catholicism is. I know this is your view, and you believe Catholicism is false. But there are those who believe it is true and this hurts them unnecessarily. You could take an approach akin to just sharing your position.

    There are those who believe Calvinism is false as well. Would you have them ridicule it secure in their belief?

  34. Carrie says:

    To be fair to Carrie, she has conversed with me pleasantly and seriously, even sincerely.

    Thanks Stacey, I appreciate your fairness.

    I do try to be respectful towards individuals even though I strongly disagree with their beliefs and methods. That is why I was serious about asking for examples where I “treated people like garbage”. I am sure I have offended things Catholic’s “hold sacred” but I don’t think that can be avoided.

    I would submit to you that anyone who openly opposes Catholicism would be viewed by yourself and other Catholics as “maligning and ridiculing”.

    But there are those who believe it is true and this hurts them unnecessarily.

    Think about it logically. If I think Catholicism is false and potentially damning, should I care if I offend someone’s false beliefs? Or should I risk some offense in hope for their soul.

    You could take an approach akin to just sharing your position.

    I could, but I don’t. Why care what my apologetic focus is.

    There are those who believe Calvinism is false as well. Would you have them ridicule it secure in their belief?

    Most of the time, yes. Maybe I would correct them if their understanding of Calvinism is incorrect. Would I show up in their combox questioning their motives and painting them out as mockers? I hope not.

    Perhaps the question you should have asked me is if my own beliefs would be shaken by the opinions of others? The answer is no.

  35. tap says:

    Stacey,

    My tranlation of Romans 11:6 : Justifying* works are not of your own doing. But by the grace of God. Or Grace wouldn’t be grace.

    St. Paul puts Romans 11:6 a different way in when talking about his own “works”1 Cor 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not found vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

    Actually this sentence by St. Paul is the best translation for Romans 11:6 you could ever get, and is more evidence for the Catholic teaching on this issue.

    St. Paul is saying:
    1. God bestowed grace on him.
    2. It was not found in vain, meaning that he did co-operate with that grace, and God did not force him to. The sentence posits that the opposite could have happened, i.e. that it could have been found in vain.
    3. He labored more abundantly that the rest. That is having been shown, that he was wrong in persecuting Christ previously. He he saw it an obligation to “work” harder than the rest toward his own justification/santification.
    4.“Yet not I,” essentially saying that his ability to do good “works” is by the grace of God

    I hope this helps

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