Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Pope Benedict XIII Extolls the Virtues of the Doctrines of Grace of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas

When Pope Clement XI published the bull Unigenitus in 1713, condemning the Jansenistic views of Pasquier Quesnel, there were some who were concerned that the Pope was condemning, by implication, the views on grace and free will of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas and of the Augustinian and Thomistic schools of Catholic thought.  This was understandable, because it is not always easy to distinguish Jansenist views from Augustinian/Thomistic views.  The differences can be difficult to detect due to complexities of language and other things.  (I talk about some of these difficulties in my article on Jansenism.)  But the popes had repeatedly reaffirmed their approbation of the doctrines of St. Augustine and St. Thomas and of the Catholic schools of thought named after them.

I came across recently a quotation from Pope Benedict the XIII in a brief he addressed to the Dominicans in, I think, 1723, once again reassuring them on this point.  The quotation illustrates the high regard the Church has for the doctrines of grace of St. Augustine and St. Thomas:

It is not surprising . . .that you should take amiss the malicious assertion which has been made, that Clement XI., in condemning the errors specified in his bull Unigenitus, designed in any sense whatever to attack the doctrine of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, or sought to diminish your reputation by subjecting the principal articles of your belief to the censures denounced in the said Constitution. I applaud your sensitiveness in this matter, and recognise you thereby as the true children of St. Thomas. In the whole of this affair your cause has never been separated from that of the Holy See; far from pitying you, I consider it highly to your honour to be identified with the Angelic Doctor, and to witness in your own persons that the agreement of his doctrine with the Divine oracles and the Apostolic decrees has not sufficed to restrain the unbridled license of these calumniators. It is strange that such insinuations should have been made, since the errors in question are distinctly condemned by the teaching of St. Thomas; and it has so happened, by a remarkable Providence, that his writings have been the means of overthrowing numberless forms of heresy which have arisen in the Church. I exhort you then to despise the slanders which it is attempted to propagate against your dogmas of grace efficacious by itself and of gratuitous predestination to glory without any prevision of merits, derived as they are from the works of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, from the word of God, from the decrees of Councils, and from the authority of the Fathers. We forbid, under canonical penalties, all persons whatsoever to give currency to such calumnies or spread such rumours. Continue to regulate yourselves by the teaching of our celebrated Doctor, which is more luminous than the day, and contains no alloy of error. Maintain and defend it with all vigour, inasmuch as it is the rule of Christian doctrine, and contains nothing but the pure verities of our holy religion. I announce this to you in order to dispel your fears, and to prove to you our deep interest in your welfare. This indeed is the least that we can do, having embraced your statutes, and made our profession of religion in your illustrious Order, from which Providence has now raised us to undertake the government of the Church.  (From The Gallican Church: A History of the Church of France, Volume 2, by Rev. W. Henley Jervis [London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1872], 254-255)

For more, see here.

Published on the feast of St. Paul Miki and Companions.

The Uncaring Impartial Spectator: A Theistic Response to Austin Dacey's Naturalistic Consequentialist Ethics

This is a paper I wrote back in 2008.


In his recently published book, The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life, Austin Dacey attempts to lay out a successful naturalistic account of ethics.  One of the major objections to naturalism from a theistic perspective is that it destroys the foundations of ethics.  Theists often assert that a naturalistic system cannot account for the reality of ethics.  Naturalists have responded to this charge in different ways.  Some have acknowledged the validity of the charge and have rejected the concept of ethics (at least in an objective sense). [ed. See a good example of this here.]  Others have attempted to ground ethics in an egoistic system, like that of the famous Roman orator Cicero. [ed. Others have attempted to produce an individual-desire-based ethical system that avoids a crass kind of egoism.  For example, see here.]

Dr. Dacey has taken a different approach.  He has attempted to present a case for a non-egoistic, objective system of ethics.  And he has attempted to show that such a system can be constructed within the confines of a naturalistic metaphysics, without reference to a theistic God.  I agree with much of Dacey’s approach, but I think his attempt ultimately falls flat because of his assumption of naturalism.  Naturalism lacks a certain vital ingredient necessary to make his method successful at establishing objective ethics.  That ingredient can only be found in a classical theistic metaphysics.  My intent in this article is to explore Dacey’s method, show where he goes right, show how naturalism causes his attempt to fail, and show how theism would cause it to succeed.

An Account of Objective Ethics

Dacey’s approach to ethics is basically a form of “consequentialism,” also known as “utilitarianism.”  This approach recognizes that ethics is ultimately about “the good,” or “values.”  This is evident in our normal use of language.  The concept of “ought,” as in “I ought to do such-and-such,” implies a goal, an ideal that someone is attempting to reach or attain.  “I ought to take out the trash.”  Why?  “Because if I don’t, my mother will kill me!”  Or another example:  “I ought to set aside some of my income to help the poor.”  Why?  “Because they are suffering and need food.”  In both these cases, and in any other example that could be thought of, there is a goal in mind that creates the “ought.”  In the first example, it is the goal of not being punished; in the second, it is the goal of alleviating the suffering of other people.  The bottom line here is that “oughts” are always related to goals, and goals are things that are desired.  To desire something is to place a bit of one’s happiness in the attaining of that thing.  It is to say, “Attaining this thing will complete or increase my happiness.”  Consequentialism therefore recognizes that happiness is really the only goal.  But we have to be careful of our language here.  Someone might say, “Happiness is not my only goal; I desire many other things as well, such as comfort, money, good friends, etc.”  The problem with this, of course, is that happiness is not some particular object that one might desire instead of, say, roast chicken.  Happiness is simply the state of being satisfied.  To say I am seeking happiness is simply to say that I am seeking something, but it doesn’t tell me what I am seeking.  I do not find happiness in the abstract; I find it in particular objects or states of affairs.  Therefore “seeking happiness” means the same thing as “pursuing some goal or desire, whatever it may be.”  Therefore, seeking any goal, any good, any valuable thing at all is a subset of “seeking happiness.”  When we understand this, we can see that since ethics is a matter of “ought” and “values,” it is therefore always connected to the seeking of happiness.    Consequentialism is basically the idea that ethics consists in seeking the greatest happiness of the greatest number of beings.1

A consequentialist approach allows us to find an objectively real, empirically verifiable foundation for basic ethical concepts like “good,” “bad,” “value,” “right,” “wrong,” etc.  Happiness and suffering, with all their variants, are objectively real things, and anyone who is human is confronted constantly with empirical manifestations of these states in his/her own experiences.  Therefore we have something real on which to begin to ground objective ethics.  Dacey puts it this way:

    Now it makes sense to think of values as real and objective even while they are not supernatural or transcendent, part of some eternal symphony.  A value is always a value to someone--it contributes to the well-being of some person or sentient creature.  Take away all the beings to whom anything can matter, and nothing matters.  But so long as we live here, in this world, values live with us, and they don’t disappear when no one is looking at them.  They are relational--they exist in relation to us--but they exist objectively.  In the same way, color and sounds exist in relation to our eyes and ears, but they don’t change depending on what we think about them.  Our good helps to explain our desires, decisions, aspirations, confusions, and regrets.  And that makes it as real as anything.2

Since happiness is something objective, Dacey points out that there is a distinction between what a person may want and what will actually make him/her happy.  Borrowing from philosopher Peter Railton, Dacey illustrates this point with the story of an imaginary tourist named Lonnie:

    Imagine a tourist names Lonnie who has fallen ill while traveling in a foreign country.  Lonnie is feeling miserable, and in thinking about what would settle his stomach, he finds himself craving a comforting glass of milk.  Lonnie desires milk.  However, one can ask whether it is desirable for him; that is, whether it would be good for him, whether it would make his life go better.  In fact, Lonnie is suffering from dehydration, something common to on-the-go tourists but difficult for them to self-diagnose.  Milk, difficult to digest as it is, would only make Lonnie’s condition worse, whereas a long drink of water would quickly improve it.  Now, if Lonnie were in possession of all the relevant information about his situation, he would see this.  The fully informed Lonnie--call him Lonnie-Plus--would realize that what Lonnie needs is water, not milk.  If Lonnie-Plus were not only fully informed but also rational, he would use this information to further his underlying goal of feeling better.  So, if Lonnie-Plus were advising Lonnie, he would want Lonnie to drink water rather than milk.  What is good for Lonnie--what satisfies a real interest of Lonnie--is what Lonnie-Plus would want Lonnie to want.3

Dacey points out here what is a very obvious fact upon reflection.  My conscious wants (or even unconscious wants) are not necessarily the same as the objective fact about what is really good for me, what will really make me happy or satisfy me.

But we do not yet have an account of objective ethics.  As far as we have come so far, we have only prudence and a form of egoism.  “Prudence” is the attitude of seeking wisely one’s own happiness.  Assuming that I want to be happy, the fact that my wants are not always the same as what will objectively make me happy is useful to me.  It helps me to be more accurate and objective in the search for my own happiness.  But Dacey rightly points out that prudence is not ethics.  The principles involved in prudence may be crucial components of ethics, but there is more to ethics than prudence.  Ethics is about “oughts”--What ought I to do?  How ought I to live?  Prudence gives us no oughts; at least it gives us no oughts in an ultimate sense.  Prudence only provides oughts within a limited sphere, a sphere which ultimately has no normative value.  For example, prudence can lead me to say that “I ought to go to the grocery store, because otherwise I shall have no food to eat.”  I can go on to ask, Why should I care if I have food to eat?  “Because I will starve if I don’t eat.”  Why should I care about that?  “Because I don’t want to starve.”  In other words, because I have placed my happiness at least partly in the ideal of not starving.  But why should I care about my happiness?  “Because I just do.”  There can be no other answer.  Prudence cannot tell me why I should or ought to care about my happiness--it simply assumes as a practical matter that I do.  Therefore the normative should or ought ultimately gives way to a merely descriptive do that has no normative content at all.  The oughts of mere prudence are like the rules of a football game.  The rules tell me what I ought to do in order to play the game right and in order to win, but these oughts are based on the purely descriptive, non-normative assumption that I in fact wish to play football.  They don’t tell me why I ought to play football.  However practically valid the oughts of prudence (or of football) are, they ultimately provide no normative content; and it is that normative content that is crucial to ethics.  It is that normative content that takes us out of simply asking what we want to do and instead gets us asking what we ought to do in an objective sense whether we want to or not. As Dacey puts it,

    A theory of objective well-being like the one sketched above gets us closer to the moral point of view, but not quite there.  The A-Plus [or Lonnie-Plus] point of view transcends your present point of view, but it is still a view of your good.  The next move in the direction of the moral point of view is to transcend your own good, to rise to a scale from which you can survey your good and the good of others with equal, impartial concern.4

As the above quote indicates, Dacey believes that the next step in developing a system of objective ethics is to rise above a simple egoistic prudential viewpoint and to seek an objective, impartial viewpoint.  This is a huge shift, because I am now no longer looking at things from my own partial perspective--what is valuable to me--but I am attempting to gain an objective, universal perspective.  What we need here is a reminder of reality.  I am only one person, and I am not the only person in existence.  There are lots of other people (not to mention other sentient beings) in the universe who are just as capable of happiness and suffering as I am.  To limit real value only to what is valuable to me is to confuse my partial perspective with the way things really are.  We need a viewpoint adjustment.  We need to see things as they really are and not just as they appear to our partial, biased perspective.  Dacey here is following the reasoning of the philosopher Adam Smith, who pointed out that “just as objects closer to our eyes appear larger than they are in reality, interests nearer to our own appear more important than they are, from the moral point of view.”5  Adam Smith realized the importance of this fact for ethics:

In the same manner, to the selfish and original passions of human nature, the loss or gain of a very small interest of our own, appears to be of vastly more importance, excites a much more passionate joy or sorrow, a much more ardent desire or aversion, than the greatest concern of another with whom we have no particular connexion.  His interest, as long as they are surveyed from this station, can never be put into the balance with our own, can never restrain us from doing whatever may tend to promote our own, how ruinous soever to him.  Before we can make any proper comparison of those opposite interests, we must change our position.  We must view them, neither from our own place nor yet from him, neither with our own eyes nor yet with his, but from the place and with the eyes of a third person, who has no particular connexion with either, and who judges with impartiality between us.6

Dacey summarizes Smith’s point:

This point of view--neither our own nor our neighbor’s--is what we call the moral point of view.  It belongs to the “impartial spectator,” and the voice of the impartial spectator is the voice of conscience. . . .
    The impartial spectator sees what we often lose sight of: that if our interests matter, then so do the interests of our neighbors.  What we ought to do is what we ought to do all things considered, and that means having considered their interests as well as our own.  Think about why it is so difficult for an honest, thinking person to be an egoist, someone who holds that his interests alone determine what he ought to do.  Try to put yourself in the mind-set of the egoist: You believe that your interests matter, in the sense that they provide strong reasons for action (for example, your interest in not starving provides a strong reason why you should get your next meal).  If your interests matter, what about the interests of your neighbors and fellow human beings?  Is there something special about you that your interests should be taken into consideration while theirs should not?  True, you are you and they are they.  But why should that make a difference?  Like you, they think their interests matter, too.  So if anyone’s interests matter, everyone’s interests matter.7

Dacey (along with Adam Smith) is clearly right here.  If I am to attain a system of objective ethics and transcend the purely prudential considerations of my own desires, I must have an objective view of reality.  And the fact is that I am no more important than anyone else from an objective perspective.  At least there is no reason to see why I would be.  My happiness and suffering are no more important than the happiness and suffering of every other person.  They may be more important to me, but from the universe’s perspective, we are all equal.  The moral point of view is the perspective of the universe, of objective reality as a whole, not the perspective of any one being in the universe, and it is the moral point of view which provides the foundation for objective ethics.

Where the Naturalistic View Fails

It is at this point that Dacey’s naturalistic worldview is going to begin to cause him problems.  The naturalistic worldview posits an ultimately impersonal universe.  This is in contrast to a theistic worldview, which posits a fundamentally personal universe.  In other words, theism starts out with a personal being--God--in whom all things consist and from whom all is derived.  Naturalism, on the other hand, starts out with impersonal matter, energy, and physical laws, of which all things consist and from which all is derived.  In theism, ultimate reality is a personal being.  In naturalism, ultimate reality is an impersonal system which produces persons (at least once) accidentally, without deliberate intention, just as it does everything else without deliberate intention, being impersonal and therefore mindless.

The impersonal character of the naturalistic universe has a crucial bearing on Dacey’s system.  Since the universe, or ultimate objective reality, is impersonal, it has no goals, ideals, values, or desires.  Therefore when we take that crucial step out of our own perspective (and everyone else’s) and adopt an objective, universal, impartial perspective, we enter into a perspective in which nothing matters at all.  In naturalism, things matter to me and they matter to you, but nothing matters to the universe.  Nothing matters objectively.  Objectively, there are no ideals, no good or bad, and no values.  Nothing is valuable at all to any degree, because as Dacey points out, “A value is always a value to someone.”  Value is inherently personal, not impersonal.  If we adopt an impartial, objective perspective in a naturalistic worldview, we will not be motivated to care about others in addition to ourselves; rather, we will care about nothing at all including ourselves and everyone else.  In naturalism, values cannot transcend particular evolved beings.  Therefore, when I attempt to leave my own perspective and adopt a position from outside my own interests, I automatically leave all value and therefore all oughts behind me.

Upon reaching the impartial point of view (which Dacey acknowledges to be the moral point of view) and finding that nothing matters and therefore there is no such thing as real ethics, I can then go two different ways.  I can keep up an objective viewpoint and stop caring about anything at all, or I can allow myself to fall back into my old biased, prudential viewpoint.  Either way is fine from the universe’s perspective.  There is no reason for me to try to keep an objective perspective.  Since nothing ultimately matters and yet I still find myself alive and possessing desires and a capacity for happiness and suffering which I cannot wholly escape, I might as well go back to the A-Plus view of things and attempt to maximize my own happiness.  That happiness will probably involve trying to promote the happiness of (some) others to some degree, since it is part of human nature to need some people and to care about them.  But I will recognize that they really have no value any more than I do, and their parochial practical value is based solely in their ability to help satisfy my desires.  It is likely that pursuing my own selfish interests will sometimes involve causing suffering to others as well, as Adam Smith noted, but this is of no consequence from an objective point of view.  Of course, I might find that I am not up to putting up the effort to find out even as much as I can about the A-Plus point of view.  I have no moral obligation to care about my own happiness any more than anyone else’s, so if I am content, why waste the effort?  If I cease to be content, I can change in the future; and if I can’t--well, there is always suicide.  I will die anyway someday, and death ends all suffering.  As Cicero said, I can walk out of life whenever I want just as I can walk out of a theater when the show no longer pleases me.

How Theism Succeeds

Naturalism therefore destroys all hopes of arriving at a system of objective or real ethics--that is, ethics that are distinct from prudence.  However, the missing component that dooms naturalism is present in theism.  In a theistic worldview, ultimate reality is a personal being.  Persons are not mere accidents of impersonal laws and chemistry but are a fundamental part of what the universe is all about.  We are not by-products of a mindless universe but have been designed to exist by a universal mind.  This changes the picture entirely.  Now when we take the crucial step of leaving our own perspective and adopting an impartial, universal, objective perspective, we find that this perspective is the perspective of an absolute person who has ideals, values, goals, and desires, to whom things matter.  Now things matter to the universe, to objective reality, and therefore there is an objective foundation for a real moral point of view.

We can think of God as the author of the universe.  In the naturalistic worldview, the universe and its history is like a novel written by no one for no purpose.  In this case, there really is no goal to the story, and characters and actions cannot be good or bad.  Things just happen, and none of it matters.  But if the novel has an author, the universe of the novel has a purpose and a goal.  The author’s values provide an objective viewpoint from which to derive objective values.  In my novel, my perspective as the author is by definition the way things really are.  If I see something as bad, it is bad.  If I see something as good, it is good.  If I see something as valuable, it is inherently valuable.  Moral evaluations are not just subjective desires of the characters in the novel, but they are objective, impartial facts built into the very fabric of reality.  So it is with the real universe in theism.  God’s viewpoint is the objective viewpoint, and therefore what matters to him really matters objectively.  This is the only possible way to ground a system of objective ethics.  Without God, such a thing is not possible.  Dacey’s method of going about to establish objective ethics is right, but he lacks the crucial ingredient of an absolute person who constitutes ultimate, objective reality.  We can sum up this conclusion with a nice, pithy phrase:  If it matters to the ultimate, it ultimately matters.  If it doesn’t matter to the ultimate, it doesn’t ultimately matter.

Responses to a Few Objections to Theistic Ethics

Before I conclude, I would like to respond to a couple of possible objections to the theistic solution to Dacey’s problem.  One objection might be that positing God as the foundation of ethics is arbitrary.  If the reason that human beings are objectively valuable is because God values them, couldn’t he stop valuing them tomorrow?  This objection overlooks the fact that in classical theism, God is an unchanging, timeless entity.  His viewpoint will never change, although it takes into account all the various circumstances people are in when they make decisions in this world.  Also, in theism God is not simply one more being floating about the universe; he is the very rock bottom foundation of reality.  Nothing could be conceived to be less arbitrary than grounding ethics in an unchanging being who constitutions the very foundation of reality.

A related objection might be that while God might be unchangeable, yet if ethics is based on his values doesn’t that imply that it is based on his whim, and therefore is it not still arbitrary?  The problem with this objection is that it assumes that God could have no reason for the values he has.  Of course, if his values are the source of ethics, he cannot look to any higher ethical standard as the basis of his values, but that does not mean he cannot look to anything at all.  One of the most important virtues of the consequentialist approach is that it grounds ethics in a rational psychology.  Consequentialism works as well as it does because, as Dacey points out, there are objective facts about what makes people happy and what makes them miserable.  It doesn’t take a genius to conclude that slapping people in the face is not a good way to improve people’s happiness, because that is pretty much universally (ignoring for the moment the complexity of masochism) something that people don’t like.  The Lonnie and Lonnie-Plus story illustrates the same point.  But this is as true of God as it is for human beings.  Any being, however, absolute, is going to have certain logical psychological traits.  Some of these traits are even pretty easily deducible without any special revelation.  For example, a classical theistic God is going to naturally desire the happiness of all beings and hate the suffering of all beings.  Why?  Because God is omniscient, and therefore has the foundation for infinite empathy.  (Note that this does not imply that God will always seek the pleasure of every being in every circumstance, but it does imply that he will always seek the greatest good of being in general and if he does ordain or allow suffering he will do it only because of the greater good.)  For another example, I think we can deduce that God would naturally love and value himself infinitely more than all other beings, because he is in fact greater in being than all other beings.

Another objection might be that we cannot know what God’s values are, and so they are of no practical use to us in forming our ethics.  But I have already partially answered this in the previous paragraph.  Also, in addition to things that can be rationally deduced about the character of God, we cannot rule out the possibility of additional revelation from God providing us even more insight.  How do we know if a revelation is from God?  That is a big question, but the broad and simple answer is the same way we know anything else--by looking to see if its claims have verifiable evidence of some kind supporting them.

Of course, another obvious objection could be that God in fact doesn’t exist or that we have no evidence that he does exist.  Well, I think otherwise, though I do not have time to go into my reasons here.  Many of these objections raise points that would require us to go far beyond the scope of this paper to answer thoroughly, but I believe they are answerable.  What I want to stress, though, in keeping with the main thrust of the paper, is that whether or not the theistic solution works, it is the only possible solution that can work.  I hope I have made clear that naturalism cannot provide a foundation for objective ethics, and that only theism has the ingredients to do so.  If theism fails for some other reason, the conclusion will not be that naturalism can do it, but that nothing can and therefore there is no such thing as objective ethics.  But I believe that theism can indeed provide a satisfactory account, and thus that our human intuition that there really is objective ethics can be rationally shown to be valid.

1 My explanation of and argument for consequentialism here is, of course, not a thorough one. If I had more time, I could relate consequentialism to supposed alternatives, such as virtue ethics. Dr. Dacey does some of this himself in the book (see pp. 179-182). Since it is not my main point in this paper to thoroughly defend consequentialism, I am content to leave the argument in its current state. Suffice it to say that I agree with Dacey that the valid points of other accounts of ethics can easily be accommodated in an ultimately consequentialist approach, and that those good points are ultimately reducible to consequentialist principles.

2 Austin Dacey, The Secular Conscience (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2008), 174.

3 Ibid., 172.

4 Ibid., 174.

5 Ibid., 176.

6 Ibid., 177, quoting Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, ed. D. D. Raphael and A. L. Macfie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1982), p. 135.

7 Ibid., 177, 178.

Published on the feast of St. Paul Miki and Companions.

The Doctrine of Justification in the Book of Galatians

Below is the Book of Galatians with my inline commentary, focusing on verses and ideas relevant particularly to the doctrine of justification.  This is a follow-up to my two earlier inline commentaries on Romans 1-8 and the Book of James.  Are we made right before God merely by an external imputation of the righteousness of Christ, without any regard whatsoever for our internal moral condition?  Or does our justification, to be fully complete and actualized, require and involve the inward transformation of our lives?  The former is what I call the "Anti-Augustinian" interpretation of the Protestant doctrine of justification.  The latter conforms to the Catholic doctrine of justification and to what I call the "Pro-Augustinian" interpretation of the Protestant doctrine.  You can read more about these two interpretations of the Protestant doctrine here.

My text is taken from the KJV text on the Bible Gateway website, tweaked and formatted to fit my purposes in this article.  I have removed chapter and verse numbers in order to preserve better the flow of the text.

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) and all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:

Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

There is only one true gospel.  All others are perversions.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.

Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Paul seems here to be referring to the same issues that come up in Acts 15, in the discussion of the Jerusalem Council.  Do Gentiles who become Christians have to be circumcised and required to keep the ceremonies of the Law of Moses?  Paul takes this issue very seriously, because for him, as we will see below, it is tied to the question of whether we will follow Christ or reject him to keep the pre-Christian Old Covenant.

But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Paul and the earlier leaders of the Church are fellow-workers, not rivals.  They preach the same gospel.

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Peter agreed with Paul that the Gentiles should be welcomed into the Church without having to become Jews and keep the ceremonies of the Old Covenant.  But during this period in Antioch, Peter failed to live up to his principles for fear of some who were still critical of a full intermixing between Jews and Gentiles.  Paul rebuked him.

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

For Paul, the issue of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles is inseparably tied up with the question of how we are made right with God--how we are justified.  In the Old Covenant system, Jews were separated from Gentiles.  Gentiles were, in general, excluded.  In the New Covenant, Jews and Gentiles are received into the one Body of Christ as equals.  Gentiles don't have to become Jews.  The ceremonial regulations that separated Jews from Gentiles no longer apply.  Now everyone enters into the covenant people of God by means of faith in Christ and baptism.  To require Gentiles to be circumcised and become Jews, for Paul, is to go back to the Old Covenant.  But to go back to the Old Covenant is to reject Christ who has brought the New Covenant and superseded the Old.  It is therefore to reject Christ and to seek to be justified by obedience to the Law of God without the grace of Christ.

But no one can be justified by obedience to the law of God, for we are all sinners.  We can only be justified by grace through faith in Christ.  We do not attain a right status before God by means of doing good works which God then rewards with the bestowal of his acceptance.  Rather, we, being sinners, receive a righteous status before God by means of receiving righteousness from God as a free gift through faith in Christ.  All of this follows the same trajectory we observed in our examination of Romans 1-8.

But is Christ a minister of sin because he justifies sinners?  No, because in justifying sinners, he does not approve of sin, but he destroys sin and makes us righteous.  Through faith in Christ, we have died to the law--not to its moral requirements, as if sin no longer brings punishment, but we have died to observance of the law as the way of obtaining our justification.  Now, through faith, we are united to Christ, and we live in him and he lives in us.  We do not work out our own righteousness which then earns God's favor; we receive righteousness from God as a free gift through faith in Christ.

We do not want to build up again the things we have destroyed.  That is, in coming to Christ, sin is not built up, but destroyed.  And we do not, after coming to Christ, go back to the law as our way of salvation, for that would be regress and not progress.  If we could produce our own righteousness by means of obedience to the law without grace, then Christ died in vain.

O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, "In thee shall all nations be blessed." So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

"Look, Galatians," says Paul, "why are you going back now to the law?  Is this how you started out when you came to Christ?  Did you receive all the things you have received--the Spirit and all his gifts--through earning then by your own obedience to the law, or did you receive them as a gift of grace through faith in Christ?  The latter, of course.  So then, why would you now try to go back to the law?  Do you think that having begun to receive righteousness by faith you can complete your righteousness by works?  No.  As Abraham discovered, our righteousness comes to us from faith, not from works.  If you want to be a son of Abraham, therefore, you've got to follow the way of justification by faith.

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, "The just shall live by faith." And the law is not of faith: but, "The man that doeth them shall live in them." Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree": That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Again, we do not receive righteousness by producing it ourselves by our works, but as a gift of grace.  The Spirit is given to us as a gift of grace, purchased for us through the redemption of Christ, who took our curse upon himself so as to communicate to us his blessings.  He died so we could live.  There is a clear contrast between the way of justification by faith and the way of justification by works.

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

The promise of righteousness as a gift of grace to be received by faith was already well in place hundreds of years before the Law of Moses was given, so the law is not the source of our righteousness.  The giving of the law did not annul the way of justification by faith already established with Abraham hundreds of years earlier.  The law was not given in order to provide a way of salvation other than that of faith.  It was given to help with sins until Christ should come to bring redemption.

If the law could have made us alive--if it could have changed our hearts and made us righteous--then it could have given us the righteousness we need.  But it can't make alive.  Only the grace of Christ can do this.

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The Law of Moses was our tutor until Christ should come.  It was never the way of justification, but it helped us learn what we needed to learn to be ready for the coming of Christ.  To go back to the ceremonies of the Law of Moses now would be to reject the coming of Christ and act as if the Law was all we ever needed.  It would be like having a Steward appointed over a kingdom until the return of the King, and then rejecting the King when he comes in favor of the Steward.  The Steward is not at odds with the King but his servant.  He only becomes a rival if he tries to become an alternative to the King.  There is nothing wrong with the Law of Moses.  It was from God.  But it was meant to lead us to Christ.  If, instead, we try to use it to replace Christ, we have created a false system of justification at enmity with God's way of grace.

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

We are no longer merely servants of God, or under-age children, under an inferior tutor.  We have now become children of God, full heirs of God, through Christ.

Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

Paul compares the previous idolatrous life of the Gentiles with the life of Jews under the Law of Moses before Christ.  In both cases, there was a kind of bondage to something inferior, something which, of itself, could not bring salvation.  Of course, Paul is not saying that the Law of Moses was evil or idolatrous, but only pointing out that, like the religions and philosophies of the Gentiles, it could not bring salvation.  For the Gentiles who have become Christians to try to take upon themselves the ceremonies of the Law of Moses would be, in a way, like going back to their pre-Christian religions--seeking some way of salvation other than through Christ and the grace of the true God.

Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.

Paul wonders how it is that those who were so passionate before about following the gospel brought by Paul should now so quickly be following the false teachers who are leading away from Christ and to justification by the works of the law.

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband." Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Paul applies to story of Hagar and Sarah to the relationship between the unbelieving Jews and the Christians.  The Jews, having rejected Christ to keep the Old Covenant, have abandoned the grace and Spirit of God for an attempt to be saved by their own human obedience to the law.  They have chosen the "flesh"--the merely human, bound to sin--over the "Spirit"--the grace of God which liberates us from sin and gives us a righteousness we could not attain for ourselves.  Paul exhorts the Galatians not to follow the way of the unbelieving Jews but the way of Christ.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Again, if you seek to be justified by obedience to the law, you are doomed, for you can't do it.  You are a sinner.  Instead, the people of faith wait for righteousness to be given to them by God.  They do not try to be saved by the ceremonies of the law but through the Spirit who will enable them, through faith, to truly live lives of love.

Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

We have been liberated from the law.  But that does not mean we have been liberated from the requirements of the law.  We have been liberated from our attempts to produce our own righteousness from ourselves in order to be justified before God's moral law.  We are no longer required to follow the ceremonies distinctive to the Old Covenant, but the moral law of God is still as much required of us now as ever.  Our salvation does not come in being released from these requirements, but in being given the Spirit of God, through whom we can put to death the evil workings in our hearts and cultivate instead good fruits of righteousness.

If we continue to live in sin, we will not attain the kingdom of God, for the moral law of God cannot tolerate such things, for God is holy.  But if, through the Spirit, we turn from evil living and live instead lives of righteousness, we will receive the kingdom of God, for the law will have no objection to us.  We will be living in accordance with love to God and neighbor, and so our lives will be in accord with God's law and acceptable to it.

We are to be justified by faith and not by works.  Just as we saw in Romans and in James, so we see here as well that this does not mean that we become acceptable to God merely by an external imputation of righteousness.  Rather, we become acceptable to God and thus gain eternal life because, through faith, the Spirit is given to us and we are made able to live lives of righteousness that fulfill the law.  The moral condition of our hearts and lives is not irrelevant to our moral status before God.  On the contrary, our status has everything to do with our moral condition.  We become justified before God only by having our lives changed by the Spirit to produce fruit that is acceptable to God.  It is not that Christ obeyed the law for us and provided for us an external imputation of his righteousness so that we no longer have to obey the law ourselves in order to be right with God.  Rather, Christ merited for us through his life and through his death a righteousness which is given to us through faith by the Holy Spirit, a righteousness that comes to live in us and enables us to meet the law's requirements by our holy living.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

We "fulfill the law of Christ" when we bear one another's burdens.

Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

We will reap what we sow.  Our justification does not come from God annulling for us the requirements of his law and accepting us as righteous merely because another is righteous in our place.  Rather, God justifies us by giving us his Spirit, who enables and causes us to live righteously and so to sow with our lives that which will reap eternal life.  God is not mocked.  His law will not tolerate sin.  We must therefore be freed from sin and made righteous to be acceptable before God's law.  We don't need our sin covered up externally, like snow on a dunghill.  We need the dung to be turned to gold.  Anything else is a mockery of God's moral law.

Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Let us glory only in the cross of Christ.  For through the cross we are crucified to the world.  In Christ, the ceremonies of the law are done away with, and what really counts is (not merely an external imputation of righteousness, but) a new creation, a creation that bears righteous fruit to God and so fulfills the law.

Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

In closing, the whole idea of Paul's doctrine of justification which he articulates so thoroughly in Romans and Galatians is summed up succinctly in his letter to the Ephesians, 2:8-10:  "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

Two errors are repudiated here.  1. Paul repudiates the idea that we are justified by our own works--that is, that we can produce our own righteousness and so earn for ourselves a right relationship with God.  It is, rather, by grace and not by works that we are saved.  2. But Paul also repudiates the idea that our justification by grace means that the law's requirements have been removed from us, that we no longer have to be righteous, that we are saved by becoming exempt somehow from having to live in accordance with God's moral law and be judged according to the conformity of our lives to that law.  On the contrary, while our own works do not save us, yet what our salvation does is produce in us good works that please God and fulfill the requirements of his law.  The grace of Christ does not mean that we no longer have to be righteous to be right with God; the grace of Christ means that we are now given the ability to be righteous and so right with God.

For more, see here.

Published on the feast of St. Paul Miki and Companions.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

John the Baptist, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and the Danger of Taking Scripture Out of Context

We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honour to the Lord; for from Him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin. 

- St. Augustine, "On Nature and Grace"

Does the Immaculate Conception of Mary Contradict Scripture?

Protestants sometimes accuse Catholic Tradition of contradicting Scripture.  Here is one example from evangelical apologist Dr. Gregg Allison's book, Roman Catholic Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014), p. 90:

Without question, Scripture affirms the sinfulness of all human beings and does not allow for any exceptions; every human person, as a descendant of Adam, is conceived in sin, has a sinful nature, and sins in word, deed, thought, intention, and so forth. According to Catholic Tradition, however, there is one individual who was conceived without sin, did not possess a sinful nature, and never sinned in word, deed, thought, intention, or in any other way. In this clear case, Scripture and Tradition are diametrically opposed to each other; equally clearly, the Church has sided with Tradition over against Scripture and affirmed the immaculate conception of Mary.

Scripture verses Allison has in mind include ones like Romans 3:23--"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."-- and Ecclesiastes 7:20--"For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not."--among several others.  Certainly, it looks like Allison is correct.  These passages do not acknowledge any exceptions.  They seem to be universal and general.  If we take them at face value, we will have to say that Mary, too, like the rest of the human race, committed sin.  We will also have to say that Jesus committed sin.  But Protestants will agree with Catholics that Jesus is an exception to these passages.  No, the passages themselves do not say that Jesus is an exception, but other places in Scripture affirm that Jesus was sinless.  Perhaps an argument from Scripture could have made against Jesus on this point during his earthly ministry--"You say that you do not sin, but the Bible (the Old Testament) says that there is no one who does not sin, so we know you're wrong."  They would seem to have a point, except that we know from our acceptance of the New Testament revelation that such passages in the Old Testament were not meant to exclude the idea of a future sinless Messiah (even though they themselves do not even hint at such an exception).  So we see the importance of interpreting Old Testament passages in their full context--including the context of the New Testament revelation--instead of trying to pit those passages against the wider context within which they are supposed to be interpreted.  Likewise, with passages like Romans 3:23, we recognize the importance of interpreting New Testament passages in the light of and not against other New Testament passages.  Though Paul says "all have sinned," and the New Testament elsewhere affirms that Jesus was sinless (Hebrews 4:15, etc.), we know not to interpret Romans 3:23 in such a way as to oppose Hebrews 4:15 but rather to allow Hebrews 4:15 to inform and alter what would otherwise most likely be our interpretation of Romans 3:23.

And, of course, Catholics would make a similar argument, but they would expand the appropriate context for the interpretation of Scripture to include not just Scripture but the Tradition of the Catholic Church, for the Catholic doctrine is that both Scripture and Tradition are the Word of God and authoritative as such, and that the Church is the divinely-guided and divinely-authorized interpreter and applier of Scripture and Tradition.  (See, for example, Dei Verbum, Chapter II.)  According to Catholic doctrine, it would be just as inappropriate to interpret Scripture in ways that are contrary to the Tradition of the Church as it would be to interpret Old Testament passages to be contrary to New Testament passages, or New Testament passages to be contrary to Old Testament passages or other New Testament passages, etc.  Rather, Scripture should be interpreted in light of Tradition (and other Scripture).  With regard to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, for example, though the Bible says that all have sinned and nowhere do we find any explicit exception made with regard to Mary (though we do with regard to Jesus), we know from Tradition that Mary was an exception.  Catholic teaching holds that, unlike the rest of us, who were born with original sin and commit actual sin and are rescued from both by the atonement of Christ and the grace of God, Mary was rescued from sin by Christ in an even greater way--by being prevented by grace from falling into sin in the first place.  It was not Mary's own native abilities that kept her out of sin, but the grace of God through the merits of Christ.  Mary could rejoice in God her Savior in an extra-special way.  So, in reading passages like Romans 3:23, Catholics will say that Paul is speaking generally, but not intending to address the special case of the Virgin Mary (or the special case of Christ).  We could also say that, in a sense, Mary is included in the "all have sinned," in the sense that she too needed to be rescued from sin by the grace of Christ.  All people besides Christ, including Mary, would be lost in sin forever without the atonement of Christ.  He is the Savior of all.  Nothing in this interpretation contradicts anything in Romans 3:23, though it goes beyond what Paul says there.  Now, if Paul had said, "All have sinned, including Mary--she committed sin as well," then it's hard to see how we could escape a contradiction.  But he didn't say that.  He didn't address the question of Mary's sin, and we can make such an inference from Paul's general statement only by assuming what cannot actually be proven from the text.

Protestants are thus guilty of begging the question when they use this kind of argument against Catholicism.  Romans 3:23 and similar passages only constitute proof against the Immaculate Conception of Mary if we assume that Scripture should not be interpreted in the light of Catholic Tradition (and should even be interpreted in opposition to it).  But Catholics do not agree to that assumption, so the assumption must be proved before it can be used in an anti-Catholic argument.  To simply assume without proof a Protestant principle of biblical interpretation in an argument with a Catholic is to commit the fallacy of begging the question.

Two More Examples

The principles and assumptions one brings to biblical interpretation often affect the outcome of such interpretation, as our examples above illustrate, and so what may seem to be proved may not be so proved once one's assumptions have been questioned and it is shown that one is leaving out important relevant contextual information.  Here are a couple more examples to further illustrate this.

In John 1:19-23, we read this exchange between John the Baptist and the Jewish leaders:

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who art thou?" And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, "I am not the Christ." And they asked him, "What then? Art thou Elijah?" And he saith, "I am not." "Art thou that prophet?" And he answered, "No." Then said they unto him, "Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?" He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias."

John says here that he is not Elijah.  The reference is clearly to Malachi 4:5-6:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

From this, the Jews derived the idea that Elijah the prophet would come ahead of the Messiah.  The Jewish leaders, in John 1, are asking John if he is Elijah the prophet come before the Messiah.  His answer is that he is not.  So we know from this that John the Baptist was not the Elijah prophesied in Malachi 4.  He is not the fulfillment of that prophecy.  It seems like a pretty watertight case.

However, then we have Matthew 17:10-13:

And his disciples asked him, saying, "Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?" And Jesus answered and said unto them, "Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them." Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Wait a second!  I thought that John the Baptist wasn't Elijah!  We have a clear contradiction here between John 1 and Matthew 17, don't we?

Sure, it sounds like a contradiction.  It could be taken as a contradiction.  But it is not necessary that it be interpreted as a contradiction.  Since we know that Matthew and John are both parts of the inerrant Word of God, we will go with a non-contradictory sense and not jump to the conclusion of contradiction where we do not have to.  John the Baptist is not literally Elijah the prophet, for he is a different person.  However, he is the fulfillment of Malachi 4, as he has come "in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).  Why did John say he wasn't Elijah to the Jewish leaders?  Perhaps he didn't want to identify himself with false ideas about the coming of Elijah they would have imputed to him if he had said yes.  But at any rate, there is no necessary contradiction here.  However, if we only believed in the Gospel of John, and we assumed that the synoptic gospels were not the Word of God, we would probably tend to interpret their difference as a contradiction and argue against the synoptic view on the ground of what St. John says--just as Protestants argue against the Immaculate Conception on the ground of Romans 3:23 and similar verses.

Likewise, consider Matthew 27:38-44:

Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, "Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross." Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, "He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

How many thieves were crucified with Jesus?  Two.  How did they treat him?  They mocked and reviled him.  What if I said that only one of them did so, but the other one was humble and righteous towards him?  You might respond by saying that I was contradicting what St. Matthew says, for he seems clearly to indicate that both thieves reviled and mocked Jesus.  He says "the thieves," plural, "cast the same in his teeth."  Since there were only two thieves, the plural must imply that both of them were involved.

Ah, but then we have Luke 23:39-43:

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, "If thou be Christ, save thyself and us." But the other answering rebuked him, saying, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss." And he said unto Jesus, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Is this a contradiction?  It could be seen as such.  But not necessarily, because the two are harmonizable.  We can say that Matthew was not intending to deny that one of the thieves was penitent, but he was also not interested in calling attention to that fact.  He gave a more shorthanded version of the event, emphasizing how everyone around Jesus, even those crucified with him, mocked him.  Luke expands on Matthew's shorthand account and fills in further details.  If we didn't accept Luke as the Word of God, however, we might try to use Matthew to argue against him.

In all of these cases, we have passages that, on the surface, have some appearance of contradiction.  They could be interpreted to be contradictory.  But they do not necessarily have to be interpreted in a contradictory manner, for they can also be reasonably and plausibly understood to harmonize with each other.  Whether we tend to want to interpret them as contradictory or as harmonized depends partly on our prior attitude towards the texts--whether we think they are the Word of God or simply human ideas, whether we are prone to be hostile and suspicious towards them or whether we are prone to think them reliable and accurate.


Do Romans 3:23 and similar texts contradict the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary?  Only if we take the most hostile interpretation rather than a more favorable one.  Both interpretations are possible and reasonably plausible in themselves, for the biblical texts are very general and do not directly address the question of Mary and whether she might be a special case in some ways.  So why do Protestants often interpret these passages as contradictory to rather than as harmonizable with the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?  Because Protestants do not accept Catholic Tradition as divine but as only human, and because they are prone to be suspicious of Catholic Tradition and to see it as unreliable.  Once these deeper assumptions and nuances are recognized, it will be seen that the Protestant objection to the Immaculate Conception from these verses is merely an exercise in question-begging, for the argument only works if we assume beforehand that the Protestant view of Scripture and Tradition is correct and the Catholic view is wrong (and that one should go with the Scriptural interpretation most hostile to Catholic Tradition).  One has to assume already that Catholicism is wrong in order to use this argument against Catholicism.

For more on the Immaculate Conception, see here and here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Letter of James and the Protestant Doctrine of Justification

The Book of James has always been a source of difficulty for Protestants with regard to the doctrine of justification.  From the way James deals with this subject, it almost looks as though he had in mind the Protestant doctrine and intended to explicitly attack it.

James's discussion of justification looks as though it is a response to or a commentary on St. Paul's discussion of justification in his letter to the Romans.  To some, St. James's ideas appear to directly contradict Paul's.  Martin Luther famously held that James contradicted Paul.  Others have seen the two views as compatible and even complementary.

I think that if we have a proper understanding of Paul's doctrine of justification, we will find James's position to be complementary rather than contradictory to it.  I think the appearance of contradiction stems to a great degree from a misinterpretation of Paul, and particularly the attempt to read Paul's teaching as supporting what I call the Anti-Augustinian interpretation of the Protestant doctrine of justification.  (I discuss the two different interpretations of the Protestant doctrine here.)  The Anti-Augustinian Protestant view holds that we are justified--made right with God--solely by the legal imputation of the righteousness of Christ in such a way as to remove internal sanctification by the Spirit from contributing anything to this.  In this view, our internal moral condition and outward moral behavior has nothing whatsoever to do with whether we are seen as righteous or unrighteous by God; all that matters is whether we have the legal imputation of Christ's righteousness.  (Anti-Augustinians will add that all who are justified are also always sanctified, but they insist that sanctification makes no contribution whatsoever to a person's moral standing before God.)  One need not spend a great deal of time in James before it becomes clear that James will have nothing to do with an idea like this.

Protestants have developed schemes by which they attempt to reconcile James with an Anti-Augustinian Protestant interpretation of Paul.  One of the most popular of these is to say that Paul and James, despite amazing similarities in their discussions, are actually talking about two different things.  Paul is talking about our justification before God--what actually makes us right with God, makes us acceptable to him--while James is talking about our justification before men--how we show men that we are right with God, that God has accepted us.

I do not believe these schemes to reconcile James with an Anti-Augustinian Protestant view are successful.  I think it is clear that James is talking about exactly the same subject as Paul is in his letter to the Romans, and that James is bringing out clearly--as does Paul himself if we read the whole of his letter--the incompatibility of the biblical doctrine of justification with any view that would divorce good works from our moral status before God.  What you will find below is an inline commentary on the Book of James, focusing specifically on elements of James relevant to the doctrine of justification.  My goal is to exhibit James's doctrine of justification from a systematic, careful look at what he actually says in its full context, and so to shed light on what the Bible has to say about the doctrine of justification.

My text is taken from the KJV text on the Bible Gateway website, tweaked and formatted to fit my purposes in this article.  I have printed out the entirety of James's letter, as it is relatively short, in order to ensure as full a context as possible for the examination of key sections.  As I mentioned, however, I will keep my comments, for the most part, focused only on those parts of the text that seem particularly relevant to the doctrine of justification.  I have removed chapter and verse numbers in order to preserve better the flow of the text.

Since I intend to compare St. James's comments with St. Paul's in his Letter to the Romans, and since this commentary on James is intended partly as a follow-up to my inline commentary on Romans 1-8, here is a link to that Romans commentary.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

James is concerned with the moral development of Christians.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

We receive "the crown of life" when we love God and continue to love him even through the enduring of temptations.  Eternal life is given as a reward for perseverance in the love of God.

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Sin inherently bears fruit in death.  That is its natural end.

Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Blessedness is a reward for those who are not only hearers but also doers of the law.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

A man is not truly pious unless he lives in the love of his neighbor.  Otherwise, his religion is "in vain."

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

We must live in obedience to the law, for we shall be judged by the law.  If we show no mercy, we shall not have mercy, for the law commands us to love our neighbors and to be merciful, to be compassionate to the poor and less privileged.  The law is a "law of liberty," for it is meant to bring us blessing if we will follow it.

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Faith without good works is just as useless as telling someone "Be warm and well fed!" without actually giving them what they need.  "Faith" here obviously means "belief," for James points out that the demons themselves believe, and it doesn't lead to blessedness for them.  It is not enough to simply believe in Christ intellectually.  We must live out Christ's commands and do good works.

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Here James takes up the language of justification, and his comments mirror very closely St. Paul's discourse on justification in his letter to the Romans.  He uses the same terminology.  He even uses the same primary example that Paul uses--that of Abraham--even quoting the same text about how righteousness was "imputed" to Abraham because of his faith.  James may have Paul's letter in his mind, or, if not that, he may have Paul's general way of speaking in his mind.  Or perhaps Paul's way of speaking contributed to or was derived from common ways of speaking in the Christian community at this time, and James is drawing on that.  We cannot say for sure, for St. James does not tell us.

But his basic teaching is clear.  James is using the language of justification to discuss the very same issue St. Paul discussed in Romans--how to be right with God.  He is talking about the very same doctrine of justification.  The idea that he is describing the different subject of how we show our right relationship with God to men has no evidence in the text.  Rather the contrary.  He does not say that no one would know that we are justified before God if we didn't have works.  He says that justification by faith without works is dead and has no use.  It is worthless.  Justification before God is not complete without works.  "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness."  Abraham's faith resulted in Abraham being declared righteous by God.  But this process was not complete apart from Abraham's works.  Without those works, it would have been dead and meaningless.  The fulfillment of God's declaration of Abraham's righteousness came only when he did good works.  James could hardly be more clear:  "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God."  Notice that the result of this justification was that Abraham was called "the Friend of God."  We are not talking about how other men viewed Abraham, but about Abraham's relationship with God.  God credited Abraham with a righteous status because of his faith, but this was not made complete until Abraham actually lived out that righteous status in his life.  The righteousness given to Abraham through faith was not merely a legal status, divorced from his internal moral condition and outward behavior.  Rather, Abraham's actual moral condition was a fundamental component of that righteous status, without which the declaration of Abraham's righteousness would have been nothing but a mockery, a legal fiction, declaring what is not true.  It was Abraham's works which provided the substance and the fulfillment of the declaration.

St. James's teaching here does not contradict that of St. Paul, for St. Paul made it just as clear in his writings that God's gift to us of righteousness through faith is not merely a legal status divorced from the moral state of our life but is fulfilled and actualized in our putting to death the deeds of the flesh and our living righteously.  "For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6).  Faith works not by itself, but by love.  It is not enough to simply believe, or to rely on some kind of legal status separated from the state of one's life.  To reap the true fruit of that righteous status--eternal life--we must live out the righteousness God has given us in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

However, St. James's teaching here does hit directly at the Anti-Augustinian Protestant view, because that view wants to say that our right relationship--our friendship--with God is based solely and completely--in principle and in full actualization--on the legal imputation of the satisfaction and righteousness of Christ to believers, without any consideration whatsoever of the state of their inward moral life or their outward moral behavior.  Anti-Augustinians grant that internal sanctification and good works always accompany legal justification, but they insist that these play no part in the basis of God's moral acceptance of us, of our friendship with and acceptance by God.  St. James asserts the exact opposite.  The declaration of Abraham's state of righteousness and friendship with God was not fully fulfilled merely when he believed, merely by virtue of the legal declaration itself apart from any internal sanctification, but it was fulfilled when it became a reality in Abraham's life manifested in his good works.  The good works were not added afterwards as some by-product, adding nothing to Abraham's acceptance and friendship with God, but they were a fundamental part of that acceptance and friendship, the actualization and fulfillment of the righteous status God graciously credited to Abraham because of his faith.  Justification is not merely a legal matter; it involves the transformation of one's life and the fruit of sanctification to be fully actualized.

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. Condemnation does not come merely as a result of not having the right legal status, apart from any consideration of one's inward moral state, but it comes as a result of how one actually lives. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

But according to the Anti-Augustinian view, God doesn't care a bit about whether we live in such a morally repellent way or not.  All he cares about in terms of his moral nature is whether we have the legal declaration of righteousness or not.  If we've got that, our internal righteous state and the moral condition of our lives has no effect whatsoever on God's view of our moral condition.  He's quite happy with us apart from any consideration of the latter.

Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.  But according to Anti-Augustinianism, being a friend of God has nothing to do with our inward moral condition.  We could love the world and hate God, but as long as we had the legal imputation, God would keep smiling on and not care a bit.  We would be perfectly pleasing to him, and his moral nature would not find a single problem with us. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  He resisteth the proud?  It sounds like his moral nature cares if we are proud or humble--contrary to Anti-Augustinianism. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.  It sounds as if God is offended by our inward sins, and the way to avoid that offense is to turn from those sins and get rid of them.  It doesn't sound like a mere legal declaration will do the trick, but only the change of our actual lives.

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

It sounds like God cares about our actual moral condition, and will even judge us on the basis of this!  We are not justified--made right with God and his moral law--merely by a legal imputation covering up our actual sinfulness.  God's judgment will be on the basis of our actual state, not merely abstract legal declarations separate from that state.

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. What?  Do good, lest ye be condemned?  The judge standeth at the door?  Shame on you, James, for preaching works-righteousness, as if God will actually decide our moral acceptability based not only on some legal imputation but on the actual state of our lives!  No wonder Luther hated this book!  (But wait--unfortunately, this kind of talk and doctrine is throughout Scripture, even in the beloved St. Paul!) Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. They are happy which endure, not just which have a legal imputation. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  I wonder why, if all God cares about is our legal status, and never finds acceptable our actual internal righteousness. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

For more biblical and philosophical argumentation against the Anti-Augustinian position, see here.