This post is continuing my previous discussion on Saint Paul and his Catholicity. We remain interested in his epistle to the Church at Rome (the pontiff of which would later come to be understood by Christianity as the earthly authority for the body of Christ).
Romans 5:1First, while this verse (and a few others like it) are often quoted in support for sola fide, I really don't need to make a defense for it. It says nothing against the Catholic position. Do Catholics not believe we are justified through faith? Well let's take a look at what one of the earliest collections of Catholic dogma has to say on that subject...
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,(1)I even quoted from the NIV, but the Douay-Rheims version says "justified by faith" instead of through. Just remember, if it's in the Bible, the Church teaches it. Thats why the Church included it in the Bible because she believed and taught it already.
Now the issue one might have is, does this verse teach sola fide? Does it teach that faith is the only mechanism by which we are saved? The obvious answer is no. Is faith the only mechanism through which we are saved? You may choose to believe that, but you'll have to make your argument from other sources as Paul clearly does not say it. It is also clear that Paul doesnt have the intention of making an exclusive statement on the mechanics of justification here. That is to say: he is not attempting to prove that justification is through faith (and nothing else). Because later he says:
Romans 5:9-11If he were trying to make an exclusive statement in verse one, how is it that he contradicts himself only a few verses later by saying we are justified by "His blood, through Him, through the death of [God's] Son and through His life"? If verse one was intended to be exclusive (which it obviously isnt) then it would have been contradicted four times in verses 9-11.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Now I feel like I've spent a lot of energy tackling an issue that was self evident. But you never know with some people... Let's move on.
Romans 5:18This verse is commonly used in support of the Protestant understanding of salvation. Protestants have the view that Christ's death is the only way anyone can make it to heaven. Ok so far so good, Catholics agree. Where we differ is with what happens afterwards. Protestants typically believe that this gift is offered freely to anyone who will accept, and once they do (by faith) the righteousness of Christ is applied to their entire life before and after. This faith also leads the Christian into good works (but it is grace alone through faith alone that justified them).
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
Again, this is reading more into the verse than it is saying. First of all, we notice he is speaking in general terms and not being hyper-literal. Or did Christ's death bring life literally for all men? Many, indeed most, do not receive it (according to Christ's own words). Secondly, the first step to reading this verse in the passage is to understand that Paul is contrasting Christ's good work on the cross with Adam's sin in the garden. Paul is interested in the contrast presently, not in laying the foundation for the belief that once we believe, all future sins are eliminated by Christ's act of sacrifice. Again, you may still believe in that doctrine, you'll just have to make your arguments from elsewhere.
Indeed, it is Christ's sacrifice which enables all men to enter the kingdom of Heaven. This is sound Catholic doctrine. Christ Himself said at the last supper, "this is my blood of the new covenant which is poured out for many".
Romans 8:29-30Catholics and all non-Calvinists don't like this word "predestined". Some versions say merely "destined". Whatever the case, I think we all know what the meaning is intended to be for that word. The passage (among a few others) is one of the Calvinist's favorites. As Catholics, it should be one of ours too.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Jesus Himself did not say "all are called" but rather "many are called" and even still "few are chosen". So, I think it is safe to say, those growing up completely outside of the gospel and ignorant of it (not merely having not heard of it) was never 'predestined' or 'destined' to come to full communion with Christ on this earth. There have been many millions on the earth since the time of Christ who never had even the opportunity to become Christian and there are many now who still don't have a reasonable opportunity since they live completely outside of a Christian sphere of influence. Speaking in worldly terms, it is impossible for them to come to Christ. I think its reasonable to assume Paul may be speaking of this. (This would also be very harmonious with the Catholic teaching that it is possible for those outside of Christianity to be saved since they were not 'predestined' to begin with through no fault of their own).
It is important to note, however, that Catholics do not believe in pre-destination as taught by Calvin. I was a former Calvinist and now a Catholic so I understand both (always learning).
We also see in this passage that God is doing the justification. He initiated the process by a calling and we accept it by faith (as we know from other teachings) but it doesnt end there. The justification process must continue. Paul continues to say that He also glorifies us. We will find elsewhere in Paul's writings that He will continue to work in us until the work is complete and that we must be obedient to the gospel which is what Christ repeatedly taught.
From the Catechism:
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;(And Calvinists would also agree with that statement). Again I find nothing in Paul's writings to be in discord with Catholic teaching.
Romans 10:9-10Uh oh... Looks like trouble for the Church at Rome. But wait, why not keep reading?
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 10:13Now, is Paul talking about the "sinner's prayer" here? Is he talking about the quick prayer you mention at the altar call where by faith alone you are saved? Not by a long shot. If the proponents of sola fide can say that James 2:24 is taken out of context, then I can say this is taken out of context as well.
for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Here Paul quotes the prophet Joel who was of course Jewish as was Paul. Although Paul is writing to a predominantly gentile audience (I assume), he understood the context of Joel's original prophecy. In the Jewish culture and throughout redemptive history, the people of God turned to God or turned away from God not by merely believing or disbelieving but by obedience or disobedience. James makes this point in his second chapter when he talks about Abraham and it is often taken for granted in Paul's .
In this light, we can see how calling on the name of the Lord entails much more than merely believing that Christ died and raised, but by living in obedience to the gospel (thereby truly making Jesus Lord of your life). The only way to truly confess Jesus as Lord is to make Him your Lord. This understanding fits very well with the rest of Paul's writings, with the teachings of the Catholic Church and with the teachings of our Lord; namely - "he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (and not "he who is saved will stand firm to the end" and "you are my friends if you do what I command you".
Thus far I think I have reasonably demonstrated that the book of Romans can be easily reconciled with Catholic dogma. Even up to this point however, I would contest that merely saying 'it can be reconciled' doesn't do the Catholic position justice. To be more specific, the Church included Paul's writings in the Bible for a reason. That reason is that his teaching was exactly in unison with the traditions of the Church handed down over the centuries by apostolic succession.
Now on the subject of obedience, let's not forget how important obedience was to Paul (as I've already shown in my previous post a couple of examples):
Romans 1:5Notice obedience and faith are not contrasted; they work hand in hand. They are not contradictory and neither are they independent. Like James said, what good is faith without works (obedience)? And Paul said (in not so many words) you cannot have obedience without faith. Remember, Paul is calling Gentiles to obedience, not to faith (alone). Faith comes first of course. Why would you obey Christ if you had no faith in Him?
Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Romans 1:16Paul cant seem to make up his mind. Is it faith or obedience?! But, we all agree that he isnt contradicting himself. We just disagree as to how he is not contradicting himself. Does everyone who believes in Christ receive salvation? It depends on what you mean by 'believes'. Does merely believing He was a real person earn your way? We all say no. How about believing in His resurrection? Now the lines start to get fuzzy and we have some splits on beliefs. Then what did Christ mean when He said 'I will spew luke-warm Christians out of My mouth'? How could they be called Christians if they didn't believe in the resurrection? (Forget so called Catholics who are denying the resurrection, calling for women's ordination and voting in politicians who are pro-abortion.. funny how its the same ones doing all three huh)
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Obviously, Christ teaches that many who believed in Him (in at least some capacity) will not make it into heaven. Later on we will see some of Paul's writings that say pretty near the same thing as well. I know we are talking about Paul's writings now and not Christ's. (Because obviously if you read the gospels, Christ's words are much more explicitly anti-sola fide) But it is important as Christians to be able to read and understand what we believe to be infallible in light of what came before which we know to be infallible. In this case, it is the words of Christ preceding Paul's. Protestants have distorted Paul's writings to the point where some secular scholars have claimed that Paul founded Christianity. Indeed, many Protestant beliefs are grounded solely in Pauline teaching but not well expressed anywhere else in Scripture (which is why if you debate the subject, the proponent of sola-fide will usually quote exclusively from Paul). That is why it is extremely important to read Paul's writings in light of revealed truth (the words of Christ) and know that whatever Paul meant, he must not be contradicting Christ our Lord.
Romans 2:9-10Paul goes back to the issue of obedience again in perfect harmony with Catholic teaching and the teaching of Christ (and the rest of Scripture). We must acknowledge the primacy of grace and the channel of faith, but we must not deny the necessity of obedience to our Lord. (For if we do not obey, we cannot call Him Lord).
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law,
And once more, notice the contrast between these two verses:
Romans 9:30Paul has led the gentiles to obedience by what he has said. He did this because obedience is required as is faith.
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith;
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—
Romans 13:1-2I was particularly interested in that passage as again it clearly demonstrates the need for obedience. I suppose it could be argued that the judgment Paul speaks of is earthly judgement but I dont think that fits seeing how he is interested in showing that the authorities derive their authority ultimately from God and therefore.... if you disobey them you will bring judgment (from God) on yourself. I think it follows that this judgment is the kind awarded in the afterlife and not on earth.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
Though Christianity has many paradoxes (and as G. K. Chesterton put it, 'more than any Eastern religion') the paradox of our actions not having eternal consequences is not one of them. We know by observing God's creation that 'every action has an equal reaction'. Our sins must be accounted for as Christ said:
"I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."(2)And so Paul, Christ and the Catholic Church all teach in unison, obedience is necessary. You will be held responsible for every sin you commit. Only by Christ can you be freed from these sins. That is the doctrine of the Church. This is what Paul preached and that is what the Church shall continue to preach until Christ returns. Amen
This concludes the book of Romans. The rest of his writings are a piece of cake... I think I'm going to lump them all together in my final installment of my summary on Paul's Catholicity.