The Latest in Pastoral Challenges — 7 Days of Sex

sex_challenge.pngI’ve wrestled all week-end as to whether or not I was going to weigh in on this, but I guess I’m going to go ahead and do it knowing full well that I’m probably going to get blasted for some who will think I’m an old fogy or out-of-touch or being unnecessarily critical.  I’m really kind of interested to get some sort of measurement as to what others think of this new “trend” as well, so feel free to weigh in on it.

Ed Young, Jr. is the latest, and perhaps highest profile, pastor who has decided to challenge his audience to commit to seven consecutive days of sex.  (Note: this challenge is for married, heterosexual couples we can all safely assume.)  Here’s the link to the story HERE.  Ed, of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX and who has satellite campuses across the country — including here in Miami — is just the latest to do this.  In fact, while I lived in Charlotte, one couple blogged and later wrote a book about their 365-Day Challenge (yes, you read that correctly), but it wasn’t part of a church context.

I personally find this kind of trendy, flavor-of-the-month, pop-psychology type of “religion” distasteful and immensely irritating.  To me, this fits in with other “trends” in emergent-driven churches like wearing too much gel in one’s hair, wearing shirt tails out, giving away shot glasses with the church name on them out in bars, shocking signs (Flamingo Road Church recently had a huge banner on their building asking people to “Flip Someone the Bird” this Thanksgiving.  It was part of a Thanksgiving food drive.  Please excuse me while I roll my eyes.), Starbucks franchises in the lobbies, one-word church names and worship franchising.  None of these, on their own are intrinsically evil or always unBiblical — it’s just that if I were an unsaved person watching all these gyrations to get me to give them some attention, I’d be laughing hysterically at the antics and the seeming desperation.  In fact, I do laugh hysterically at it sometimes.  Other times, I just throw up a little bit in my mouth.

Should Pastor’s address sex as part of their ministry of the Word to believers?   Yes.  Have we always done a good job of that?  No.  In the process, have we made sex a “dirty word” and somehow damaged the psyche of married people everywhere?  I don’t know….I think the birthrate of evangelicals would argue otherwise.  And yes, I know that sex is a gift from God for Procreation AND recreation, but I don’t think any one’s suffering from a lack of encouragement and education in the latter department either.  Otherwise, why would I hear my youngest son running around the house singing “Viva Viagra” at the top of his lungs from hearing that stupid commercial all the time. (And he’s clueless about Viagra, I might add.)

From my perspective (and note that I’m going into personal opinion mode here), this kind of trendyism just irritates me to no end.  Sex happens.  It’s not bad; it’s good.  Yes, the world pollutes the beauty and sanctity of it.  Do I think that being pressured to take some sort of week-long love fest is going to solve the problems in most marriages?  Not on your life.  In fact, in many cases, it will make it worse.  It just adds more pressure into an arena that is far too delicate for mass therapy.

To me, this trivializes something that is private and personal and more than a little sacred.  I question the value for putting such a specific emphasis on the “act” in a group setting.  I wonder how this fits into the admonition from Scripture that warns us that it is better not to talk openly about those things done in secret and a reminder that the marriage bed is to be considered holy.

Do I think there are occasions when frank discussions about sexual matters are appropriate in a church context?  Without a doubt.  Are marriages under stress because of sexual dysfunction and unfilled sexual relationships?  Absolutely.  Does a lack of sex in a marriage lead to temptation that may drive one or both spouses to infidelity, pornography, anger, depression, etc…?  No question about it.  Is the quick and appropriate fix for it to do some sort of gimmicky sex challenge.  I think not.

So I’m disturbed — not just about the whole sex challenge thing, but about the tendency we have in evangelicalism today to jump on the latest “hot idea” and now, we’re going to see a thousand other hip pastors with too much gel and untucked shirts, grab a cup of Starbucks and scoot back on their stool (which is painted flat black, of course) and tell audiences that making a commitment for sex for a week will do a body good.

Sorry….I’m just not buying it.

What do you think?

101 thoughts on “The Latest in Pastoral Challenges — 7 Days of Sex

  1. Ed

    Maybe it is just me, but no one has to encourage me to have sex with my wife, I think God has did a good enough job of implanting that into human nature.

    I think your article is dead on. I find the trivializing of such a sacred union by these new evangelicals disgusting.

  2. Jim Peet

    God’s creation has managed to propagate without bill-boards, campaigns, and pulpit messages.

    ’7 days of sex’ is a cheap marketing gimmick. I personally would not be comfortable worshiping with the kind of fools drawn into this.

  3. Monroe Roark

    Jim, you just nailed it with the words “marketing gimmick.” I first heard about this, believe it or not, on the morning show for the Atlanta sports talk radio station I listen to (not exactly a group of guys that will be encouraging you to go to church this Sunday). I can only imagine how many secular media outlets across America have taken this as just one more reason to have a big belly laugh at the expense of the Christian community. The old rule “there is no such thing as bad publicity” does not apply to Christians.

  4. Eddie Sprouse


    Miss you in Charlotte brother! I could not agree more with what you wrote. Some of this kind of stuff makes me want to scream “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!” What is going on in the church these days? So many have moved passed the point of trying to be relevant to being outrageous. If this is what we have to do to be hip, cool, or relevant you can count me out.

    I know the church is feeling the pinch of tight budgets and empty pews, however, adopting worldly tactics is not the answer. What happens when the church can’t come up with another catchy series or a new hip slogan? What happens when those who come to here about the sex challenge get board and leave? I know some in the church feel that it should not matter how we get them in the door as long as the pews and the church coffers are full. But to me that is no different than the type of bait and switch tactics that the world is very good at.

    So what is the answer? The answer is to go back to our first love. Preach Jesus! Tell the world why they need a savior and then when they make a decision for Christ teach them how to make disciple others. The problem is that the body of Christ is acting so much like the rest of the world these days that the world does not see a difference in us to any other group of people.

    Maybe it is time to circle the wagons for a while and get things right with the people of God and then go out and tell the world about Jesus. The church is weak right now and is in need of a fresh experience with the Holy Spirit. We have forgotten what in means to live holy lives. We don’t want to stand out or look different. It is time for us as the body of Christ to repent and turn back to God.

  5. John The Baptist

    To what might be our mutual surprise, I agree with ever single word of your post.

    Well said.

    And I wish it was read by millions. Maybe you should submit this to USA today?

  6. Brian McCrorie


    I saw this too Sunday morning as I turned on my TV.

    But it not’s surprising. Didn’t Bill Hybels kick off his Willow Creek empire with a sermon on “What you always wanted to know about sex and were never told.”

    I heard it drew a crowd.

    So the temple of Artemis.

    Public expressions of sexuality usually do. But I agree with you. Shut the bedroom door. Keep the rest of the world out.

  7. VickiS.


    I have to agree with you. I follow a few emergent-church leaders via reader just to keep a pulse with what’s going on out there, and I heard about this series before it actually happened via those folks. In some ways I think the emergent church has been given a bad rap, but in others they’ve completely earned the disdain of the traditional church because of their over-the-top marketing. I think they fail to think of the youth who may never darken their doors, see their marketing, and think the church is giving an okay to sex whether their married or not. That makes me cringe quite a bit.

    The whole trend towards “branding” and “marketing” by the church and para-church organizations is quite unsettling. These ministries hire a bunch of MBA marketing gurus who tell them to shock and lure the citizenry into giving their church a try. I don’t think Jesus hired a MBA graduate from the top college in Jerusalem to market his ministry, and look how people flocked to Him?

    I think if you stick to the word, preach Jesus and the whole Word of God (not just the feel-good parts), concentrate on loving people, while addressing relevant issues I don’t think you will need “shock” marketing to have people coming to your church.

    Just my humble opinion.

  8. Rus

    I can’t even get past the idea of driving my 8 year old son by a billboard similar to the one in the pic. “Dad, what does ’30 Day Sex Challenge dot com’ mean?”

  9. Josh Benfield

    And, that’s the reason why my generation (the young’ns, new evangelicals, or whatever other weird phrase you choose to use) has become disengaged from the church.
    It seems like no one can do anything without you guys swarming to it like a bunch of vultures.
    I’m not saying I agree with Ed Young’s concept or everything he does. I don’t know the guy. But, I admit that I would prefer to think that he went before the Lord and prayed over this decision. Then, he brought it before his elders or pastors and prayed more.
    And, with all due respect to you, Pastor Burrell (and there’s a lot due), sometimes you seem to lump some valid thoughts together with ludicrous ones. I understand the problem you have with the church encouraging people to “flip the bird”, definitely is associated with vulgarity. But, too much gel, shirts untucked, really? Is that the same? I don’t understand your generation (including my dad) and your obsession with suit and tie at worship service.
    Again, all of this comes back to a point. My desire is to reach people who don’t know Jesus, the unchurched, unsaved, the ones who don’t care about Jesus or the church. And, I know you would say your desire is the same.
    I won’t try to use 1 Corinthians 9:22, I’m sure you’ll tear a hermeneutical hole in my interpretation of that Scripture. But, it boils down to this.
    What are we doing to reach the lost with Jesus? What are we doing for the kingdom of Jesus?
    Does it benefit the kingdom of Christ to rip into Ed Young and his attempt at encouraging sexually satisfied Godly marriages? I think not.
    Of course, here I am, arguing about it, too, not devoting my attention fully to the ministry of the word and prayer.
    I’m done.

  10. Josh Benfield

    One more thought, I know you’re just as tough on fundamentals as you are on emergents. I do appreciate your balanced approach. Just wanted to give credit there.

  11. Dan Burrell Post author

    Ah Josh….at last, someone who disagrees with me on the topic and had the courage to post! I was beginning to regret posting my thoughts as I wasn’t hearing from anyone who took another tack. Thank you! Of course, I will want to respond….today doesn’t look likely as it’s “appointment day” for me and that means no rest for the XP. But do stay tuned for some “push back”….you KNEW I would, right? Maybe some of my other readers will give you a thrashing while I’m meeting folks today, you young whippersnapper.

    Luvya, man and hope you have a good Thanksgiving. Tell your folks “hi”.


    BTW….I am NOT wearing a tie as I type this. :-)

  12. Jonathan Charles

    These campaigns may have more to do with changing the world’s perception of the church rather than the need to encourage Christian married couples to have more sex. The unsaved world probably thinks that the Christian church is anti-sex, so these seeker-sensitive types want to change that perception. I think there are other ways of changing that perception than to have a “sex challenge.” One is the point to the larger families that Christian families have. Like some of the above posts have said, I don’t think Christian couples are having sex any less than the general population. No one has to encourage me! When there are problems in a sex life, it has more to do with how the couple treat one another outside of the bedroom and with how a couple manages their time in the evening. If they are falling in bed dead-dog-tired at 11:30 each night, the excuse of being too tired will become routine.

    As a pastor, my bigger concern is any kind of sensational series used to attract a crowd. I’m sick of the stage props, the slick graphics, etc. While some of us might criticize suing sex as a topic to get a crowd, how many pastors have used the same approach with a series on prophecy? You can get a crowd with the tantalizing suggestion that your are going to fit today’s headlines (the dictator-of the-month and $4 a gallon gasoline) into Bible predictions. If some of these pastors started a year-and-a-half study in Genesis they’d thin their churches out pretty quickly

  13. Les Ismore

    I think it’s a travesty how the classic Viva Los Vegas has been made cheap and tawdry by being turned into a Viagra commerical jingle.

  14. Tim Decker

    So I have been staring at this white box trying to figure out how to respond. I got nothin’… Interesting article though. Thanks, Dr. Burrell (I still can’t bring myself to call you “Dan”).

  15. Brent

    I see where you are coming from on this post. I think Ed Young can at times get kind of silly. But if the 30 days of sex is not mere “marketing campaign” but a serious subject, than as an Emerging church pastor I think it is outstanding. You are right in questioning why sex needs to be emphasized in a culture obsessed with sex. You are wrong in thinking that the average Christian married couple, growing up in an extremely Victorian religious culture are sexually and intimacy healthy. Sexual intimacy or lack of it is one of the major reasons for divorce among the younger generation and I am glad sex is trying to be redeemed as an awesome recreational and procreational gift given to God’s people. This is why sex is being brought back to the conversation table. Our parents and grandparents didn’t talk about it, and frankly many of them had horrible sex lives. So it is a good thing to talk about.

  16. Brent

    Also, I would have to agree with the guy Josh that villifying untucked shirts and Starbucks actually weakens your argument. Pastor’s may un-tuck their shirts because culture does, and may drink Starbucks because it is possibly the best coffee experience ever invented. So to attack either is actually identifying one as anti-culture. Isn’t this the argument constantly made against Fundamentalists?

  17. Ed

    Brent, how do you know that many of our parents and grandparents had terrible sex lives, especially as a result of not talking about it. That is such an incredibly ridiculous argument that I am having a hard time fathoming it.

    Also, how do you know they didn’t talk about it? Just because they didn’t want to make it some public spectacle cheap marketing gimmick, does not mean they did not talk about it in private. My grandmother had seven kids, my mother five, so I don’t know if they enjoyed talking about it too much, but they sure did participate in it a lot.

  18. Justin Facenda

    When I first heard about this sex challange, I thought…YEAH…sex for a whole week…Wow! As a very busy family highly invovled in ministry, we tend to over-spend ourselves on others rather than by involving ourselves in each others lives spiritually, emotionally, and physically. So my first thought was…sounds good. I too, like some others mentioned, think that a lot of Christians along with the world have misconceptions about sex. I have seen too many teenagers that are either totally ruining their lives because of the misuse and misunderstanding of sex. I can’t walk through my little town without seeing teenagers that are all over each other sitting downtown, or two young ladies that are hugging and kissing outside of the local coffee shop (Not a Starbucks :)). So I think that the church as a whole needs to not only understand sexual matters more, but find ourselves in healthy sexual activity within God’s standards.

    And since we brought up the whole gel and shirt concept. If you know me, I have always had gel in my hair, and most likely always will. I want to be the person God made me to be, not the person that everyone else wants me to be; therefore, I chose to be myself. By the way, I do wear either a suit or at least a tie with my hair gel…:)

  19. Bill Rudolph

    I came from a fairly strict home with “victorian” values with no discussion of sex. When I was a kid I thought my parents had lots of money and no sex. But I finally realized as the unexpected surprise child in my Mom and Dad’s 40s (Dad – 48 and my Mom 42 when I was born) they probably had lots of sex and no money.
    Don’t let ‘em fool you. Just a thought.


  20. Dan Burrell Post author

    Still don’t have time for a lengthy post, but wanted to quickly state that I don’t have problem with gel, untucked shirts, stools painted flat-black and churches with only one name. You missed the point. What I have the problem with is trendy follow-the-leader church leadership who feels like pushing the envelope is proving that they care more about people’s souls that their more buttoned-down counterparts. But….now I do have another articles percolating in my wee brain which should be posted before too long where I will expand on my point and which will, I suspect, draw more debate.

    Josh, Brent, Justin….what do you guys think of the fact that Ed delivered a portion of this message lounging on a bed? Also, do you feel like anything goes in making a point? If not, where would YOU draw the line on a topic, title, presentation, etc…. I’d be interested in some Scriptural basis for your points also.

    Enjoying the perspectives….


  21. Jonathan Charles

    The biggest shortcut to seeming relevancy is to act brave by preaching on a “taboo” subject. Big deal! I frankly mention sex whenever it comes up in a text (ex. Prov. 5-7). Christian people DO NOT have any greater rate of sexual disfunction than the population as a whole. For those that do, in my experience, it has NOTHING to do with Victorian inhibitions but rather the overall state of the marriage. When there is not a sound marriage, the wife begins to shy away from sex because she knows it isn’t an act of love, it is just sex. Churches like Ed Young’s thrive on the sensational. If Ed started a 2 year verse by verse study through Romans, his church would move on to the next sensational, falsely relevant church.

  22. John The Baptist

    Amen JC

    All sizzle and thin bacon is what non expository preaching is.

    As for Victorian inhibitions , I am 35 yrs old and my Gen X generation has no such inhibitions and most dont even know what that means!

    Sex is casual and costly.

  23. Tim Decker

    “All sizzle and thin bacon is what non expository preaching is.” – John the Baptist. A laugh, a smile, and full agreement here.

    The preaching from a bed thing was kinda disturbing. Must be cultural. And leave it to an emerging church pastor to mention “conversation.” I love it. Do you bring in a lot from the ECM, Dr. Burrell?

  24. TJ

    I agree, Dr. Burrell. I agree that the 7 days thing is just another emergent gimmick.
    But, I also agree that the “Viva Viagra” song/commercial has to be one of the most annoying commercials of all time!

  25. Josh Benfield

    I am a big supporter of expository preaching. But, to say that all non expository preaching is “all sizzle and no bacon” is ridiculous. And, for many of the younger generation, we grew up with pastors who would preach through a book for 3 years and would bore us to death. Preaching through a book is great, but there has to be a goal, a mission to accomplish, a desire to apply the passage to the people sitting in the audience.
    It drives me nuts to see a bunch of pastors sitting around talking about the strengths of expository preaching and bashing everyone who doesn’t. Frankly, I think Jesus would slap us upside the head for thinking we’re so awesome.
    Like I said, I’m an expositor, but I don’t think that the guy who’s preaching topically is a false prophet, assuming he views Scripture as inerrant, holy and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and instructing.
    The truth of the matter is this, we all have different preferences, I like pizza, my wife doesn’t care for it. Same with the body of Christ. So, having different churches whose approach is a little different is ok with me. Tim, Justin and I all grew up at the same church, but we have ended up at different ends of the evangelical spectrum.
    This statement will get a lot of flack, but I want to give it a whirl. Jesus did things that were culturally unacceptable, right? Or were a little weird, whatever, right?
    I think the truth is, as Justin said, this generation needs to be spoken to frankly about sex. They treat it like dating, it’s just something that you do. And, most of the parents at my church have avoided discussing it with their teens. My first exposure to sex was as an 8th grader when a buddy of mine showed me a magazine. I never heard it taught about. I think it’s an important topic and it’s of great value to discuss in the body of Christ. So what if it makes you blush a little. Song of Solomon makes me blush (and there’s no way that’s a metaphor about Christ and the church).
    Ok, too long response. Anyways, I wouldn’t say you can do anything to make a point. But, laying in a bed for a little bit, who cares? I’m assuming he was clothed, right? Our culture is very visual. Ed is aware that when you incorporate hearing and seeing, it tends to stick with you longer and more effectively.
    Ahhh, too many thoughts in my head, but I should quit now.

  26. Jonathan Charles

    This thread has gotten off track onto expository vs. topical preaching. This is just my opinion, but many pastors preach topically because they CAN’T preach expository messages. They don’t have the training (original languages, theology, hermeneutics,etc.) to come to a text and let the text guide the shape and content of the message. Plus, they are looking for sizzle in every sermon, and I will honestly admit that many texts may not sizzle for today’s audience, but it is the word of God and the text needs to be preached. You seeker sensitive types can protest all you want, I would love to do a congregation to congregation comparison of a seeker sensitive church to a church like Grace Community (MacArthur) or Tenth Presbyterian (Ryken), the gap in Bible knowledge, knowledge of theology and in spiritual maturity would be vast (with the churches strong on expository preaching coming out far ahead).

  27. ben

    I am stupid.

    Me and my 20 something generation are stupid.

    I prefer creativity to content, music to a message and catchy media to consecrated meditation. Basically I don’t care what you say I only care how you say it. If your novel, innovative, different, and charismatic I accept you and your beliefs.

    How do I reach me, Dan?

    I cant say Ed is right. I cant say he is wrong either. I don’t know what the crap to say. I don’t think that your statement, “I personally find this kind of trendy, flavor-of-the-month, pop-psychology type of “religion” distasteful and immensely irritating” has any biblical basis.

    Just because it irritates you does that make it wrong?

    If creative marketing is not the way to reach people for Christ what is?

    In many ways I think Ed has connected to his culture. There is nothing inherently sinful about asking someone to have sex for 7 days is there?

    I am still thinking about this myself. As I said I am part of a stupid generation and I am trying to reach me and my other idiot twenty-something peeps.

    Thanks for your thoughts Dan. They stimulate the cerebrum. I will now return to watching reality tv. Man I am stupid.

  28. Rebekah Greco

    I find these “hip” churches to be obnoxious. The latest trends that they use are ridiculous. In church picking, it is so immature to choose a place of worship based on how “cool” they are. They are advertising their place of worship the same way that movies and CD’s are advertised. And yes, sex sells. As a practicing Catholic, I find this 30 day challenge insulting. Sex is not a contest. It is sacred and holy. Also, for women of childbearing age, during a 30 day period, there will typically be a time of fertility (about 5 days) where she will be able to conceive. And what if there is a grave circumstance that would render it imprudent to conceive at this time? With sex comes responsibility. Is this church wanting her to use contraception in order to fulfill her obligation of 30 straight days. The last time I checked, Onan was struck down for one well known method of birth control, which can also be applied to the use of barriers within the sex act. Birth control pills, shots, and IUD’s are known abortants, meaning that many times they do not prevent ovulation but instead keep the lining of the uterus artificially low, thus allowing conception to take place, but not allowing the baby to implant in the uterus.

    Margaret Sanger, who was a huge proponent in legalizing and implementing the use of birth control and abortion, was a follower of many occultic practices. “Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity no less than Capitalism.”

    So my question to these types of churches is: does the end justify the means in order to follow through with this 30 days straight of sex? While naturally the still infertile breastfeeding mother, menopausal wife , and those looking to conceive could possibly comply with this, but what about the others?

  29. Dan Burrell Post author

    Rebekah…Onan’s sin, for which he was killed, was not for his form of ‘birth control’, but for his rebellious refusal to conceive a son for his dead brother as had been commanded. One might make a case against birth control from another angle, but that passage has nothing to do with birth control and everything to do with rebellion and disobedience.

    Tell Alex to drop me a line sometime. I’d like to reconnect.

  30. Rebekah Greco

    No one took that stance on this passage until after the Reformation. Until the 1930′s all Christian churches condemned birth control due to this passage. Abraham wasn’t struck down for procreating with the wrong person. So if your reasoning is correct, then God should have killed him too.

    Interestingly, it was the Episcopal Church that first broke away from this teaching, and now, they are the first with an openly gay bishop. For further reading from a Protestant perspective read The Bible and Birth Control.

    Happy Holidays!

  31. Rebekah Greco

    When confronted with truth, such as my birth control arguement, which you didn’t comment on, it seems that you became uncomfortable and began attacking the Church that has this doctrine. While many Catholics and clergy are in a state of serious sin by not following the doctrines of the Church, the doctrines are still pure. Most intellectually honest scholars can agree that the Catholic Church can be traced back directly to the New Testament. Even the liberal, Christian unfriendly university I graduated from acknowledged this time and time again. I spent many of my years misinformed about the Catholic Church. I grew up thinking that it was the “The Whore of Babylon” full of pedophiles, mafia, and idol worshippers. While many of those who live in an unrepentant state continuosly identify themselves as Catholics, they are living in direct disobedience to Church teaching.

    The Roman Catholic Church and her doctrines have been what many other churches look to for guidance on issues such as abortion, cloning and human rights. The Protestant Churches were silent when it came to abortion, until the Church reiterated Her stance on this issue after shortly after Roe vs Wade.

    My challenge to you is to live and study with intellectual honesty. Ad hominem attacks are fruitless. I know, I used to toss them around like confetti. When confronted with Catholic doctrine and real Biblical truth, at first, it made me very uncomfortable and therefore, I would attack, even when I saw that it was true. Later, I came across a book called “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” by David B. Currie, that changed my mind slightly, but my heart was still tied to the Baptist Church. Another helpful one was “Rome, Sweet Home” by Scott Hahn. But what broke the camel’s back was a book by Kimberly Hahn called “Life Giving Love”. In this book she explains the Church’s teaching on being open to life and she shared her triumphs and struggles in this area. At the time I was still unmarried and childless, but the Church’s teaching on human value and the miracles of fertility and openess to God’s plan, not my agenda, were what grabbed my heart and softened it. I went back to this book since then time and time again. The first time was after I was married and of course we were open to life, yet I lost my first child in an excrutiating miscarriage. The second time was before the birth of my eldest, and the third time was before the birth of my second daughter that I bore five months ago. She reminded me with the Church’s teaching on childbirth, that we are to be Christ-like. Jesus gave up his body for us so that we may live, and as Christian women, to follow Christ, we must give up our bodies in order for our children to live.
    I now am a firm believer in all of the Church’s doctrines. It was the life issues that led me into something more wonderful than I have ever experienced. While many have questions like: do you worship idols, what’s the deal with Mary, do you work for your salvation…? Feel free to check out some simple questions and answers at I am not asking you to convert, but merely to have a responsible knowledge about the Catholic Church. For further questions or remarks you can contact me at
    You may also wonder why I read this blog. Even though Dan and I disagree on many issues, we also agree on many issues and I find his ideas and writing style to be superb.

  32. Ed

    I will answer more on this later, but I do have much knowledge of Catholic doctrines because I have studied them indepth.

    Also, attacking the catholic church is not attacking the individual, so I did not make an ad hominem attack. You were the one who said that the Episcopal church was the first to abandon the ban on birth control, and then insinuated this lead them to ordaining a homosexual bishop. Thus, you attacked a denomination within protestantism, but then claim I am attacking you by attacking the catholic church.

    I only had a short time to respond to your post, but I will return later to post more.

  33. Brent

    You said, “My grandmother had seven kids, my mother five, so I don’t know if they enjoyed talking about it too much, but they sure did participate in it a lot”. I find it very interested that both you and Bill support the fact people have good sex by the fact children were conceived. THAT is amazing, and is exactly why I think you don’t get it. I don’t even know how to give a short response on this. I am the pastor of an Emergent/ging church in Seattle and I grew up in Fundamental Baptist churches my entire life. Most of my friends had parents and pastors who never talked about sex in a positive, healthy, and yes honest way. Our parents handed us books like, “Preparing for Adolescents” and told us if we have any questions, go ahead and ask. Our parents didn’t have solid talks about masturbation, or other struggles every boy my age was going through other than it was wrong. You learned about sex from your public school friends and what you learned was warped, but the church had no response other than, sex is something you do at marriage. If you are married you should know it isn’t that simple. Having sex and making love are two different things. Sure, in the ideal open world of Christianity, every parent is knowledgable and sexually healthy and sits down with every child and really teaches about sex. That isn’t the world we live in.

    I counsel dozens of young couples whose marriages are on the rocks because of sexual intimacy issues many of which relate to church teaching. A wife who was raised fundamental and feels sex to be kind of dirty and so only has it once a month or so for procreation. Why does she feel it is dirty? Because her whole life she heard sermons about fornication, pornography as they attach to “hell”, but nothing on the fact that it can be a God-glorifying thing for a wife and a husband to have hot, passionate sex. The church did a great job at telling her how bad sex was, but a poor job telling her how great it is once one is married. Jesus doesn’t leave the room during sex, then come back in the room when you are having a Bible study.

    So like so many issues instead of the church having a healthy counter message that is SPECIFIC and DIRECT we speak in fuzzy generalities, talk about the cultures wrong view of sex, then go onto a more comfortable topic like the Holiness of God. You may not have a problem with a message about sex, it is just the SPECIFIC part that you prefer stay in the privacy of one’s home. If you are ministers and don’t know this is going on with the Genx and yers they are either lying to you, or you are out of touch culturally, or both.

  34. Brent

    You said, “Josh, Brent, Justin….what do you guys think of the fact that Ed delivered a portion of this message lounging on a bed? Also, do you feel like anything goes in making a point? If not, where would YOU draw the line on a topic, title, presentation, etc…. I’d be interested in some Scriptural basis for your points also.”

    I don’t know what “lounging on a bed” meant. Sounds corny, but I didn’t see the series. I don’t defend Ed, but I am defending and appreciate what a guy like him is trying to do in the very difficult task of undoing what in many ways the church has screwed up. The more you deal with messy people, the less “lines you draw”. You realize there isn’t always a formula for communicating or dealing with complex issues. You try things, experiment in different ways. Sometimes you did it well and others times you stepped over the line. But trying and trusting God to bring you balance is the difference between those who make decisions out of faith or fear. Fear based ministry has a lot of lines, but often goes over people’s heads. That is my opinion.

    In terms of Scripture I think there are many principles. “Speak truth in love”, “Communicate in ways that build up, don’t tear down.” If honesty is spoken motivated by love for the listeners to bring healing and change, and if the methodology builds people up, then it was good overall.

  35. Rebekah Greco

    “When confronted with truth, such as my birth control arguement, which you didn’t comment on, it seems that you became uncomfortable and began attacking the Church that has this doctrine”.

  36. Ed

    once again, I will reply extensively later. I certainly did not feel uncomfortable about your birth control argument, because I share the interpretation Dan does about Onan.

    I responded to your absurd statement about the Episcopal church. Ad hominem means to attack the person instead of the argument. I did not attack you, I stated a fact about the catholic church.

  37. Rebekah Greco

    You are correct that the official meaning of ad hominem attack is unsubstantiated claims that attack a person. When it occurs to a thing or an entity, I view unsubstantiated attacks within the same lenses. If you choose to not agree with this personal choice, that is okay, it is not an “official use”. Concerning your agreement with Dan on the “Onan incident” the punishment for the sin of refusing his brother’s widow children due to not having “relations” with her is public humiliation, not death. So, obviously some other sin occured there that God felt was punishable by death.
    Deuteronomy 25:7-10
    7And if the man does not wish to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to perpetuate his brother’s name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him, and if he persists, saying, ‘I do not wish to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face. And she shall answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal pulled off.

    By the way you wrote “I responded to your absurd statement about the Episcopal church”. -Ad hominem

  38. Ed

    Quickly, I wish I had more time to respond, but I will tommorow.

    Onan had sex with his brother’s wife, but didn’t fulfill his duty; it wasn’t just that he refused to take his brother’s wife. He wanted the pleasure without the obligation God requires, therefore God punished this wicked man. He wasn’t put to death by man, he was put to death by God.

    Your statement about the epsicopal church was absurd, I didn’t say you were absurd. -not ad hominem

  39. Alexander Greco

    Onan’s sin for which he received the death penalty was his withdrawal and spilling his seed. Calvin and Luther had seen it this way, and this was also the general understanding of the text until the recent pro-contraceptive mentality has pervaded modern man’s understanding of the sexual act. The Levirate-only argument is a recent development in biblical scholarship, but like other aspects of modern biblical scholarship (which even reduce the inspiration of Scripture to something definitively less than being God-breathed) this interpretation of the sin of Onan is a clear example of eisegesis.

    We know that the punishment given for violating the Levirate was humiliation, as described in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Within biblical interpretation there are certain rules to be followed. The text itself is what should be looked at first, then the immediate context, followed by the wider context of other biblical passages. In this case, we should look at condemnations for violations of the law of the Levirate. It is also interesting to note that Deuteronomy prescribes the death penalty for other deviant sexual sins (22:22-25).

    The operative sentence in the text is, “What he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also.” According to the text itself, God slew Onan due to the specific action he performed. What Onan did, his action, is what was found to be evil in God’s sight. Onan’s act of withdrawal and spilling his seed, a perverse act, is where the emphasis should be found in the text, and not on what Onan intended to achieve.

    In the wider context of the biblical account we find Judah admitting his fault in violating the Levirate. Shelah also was guilty of violating the Levirate by not assuming the duty to which he was bound. It should be noticed that three people are guilty of the same crime, but only one was slain. Why? If we were to use the Levirate-only interpretation, and not the perverse sexual act of Onan, then we will certainly arrive at an interpretive impasse. We clearly see that it was Onan alone who artificially separated the unitive from the procreative ends in the sexual act, thereby defrauding its purpose and meaning.

    It should also be mentioned that any pro-contraception mentality cannot logically argue against any other form of sexual deviancy among consenting adults. In light of this, we can see that arguments stating that Onan was slain by God simply for violation of the law of the Levirate are not sustained by the text itself and are further disproved by the text of Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

    Violating the law of the Levirate is violating the law of the Levirate. Humiliation is the punishment given for violating the law of the Levirate. Therefore, God must have seen something evil in the act itself of withdrawal and spilling the seed. Modern scholars conveniently ignoring the context does not help. The fact that this novel interpretation coincides with modern man’s progressivist understanding of the sexual act is not coincidental. Also, the fact that the Anglican Church was the first to accept contraception (to the outrage of others, including the Baptists) which debases the sexual act, is also the same church that finds itself unable to logically conclude that homosexuality is immoral due to its acceptance of artificially sterile sexual acts, and this likewise is not coincidental.

  40. Ed

    Sorry for taking an extra day to respond, Rebekah.

    Alexander, Onan lived before the Mosaic Law was put into place, so quoting Deuteronomy is not sufficient. Also, I think that you are misreading the context here. If Onan did not want to have the baby by Tamar, as his father had commanded him to, he should have refused. Instead, he wickedly had the pleasure of having sex with her, but was not willing to accept the responsibility of impregnating her with a child that he would have to raise.

    Alexander and Rebekah, I have studied that Roman Catholic church, although I will not claim to be an expert on it. That said, I think that both of you need to do some research on the church yourselves. The Roman Catholic Church, especially with a pope, definitely cannot be traced back to the New Testament church. It is intellectually dishonest to claim so.

    There is far too much to get into with the errors Catholic theology, but here are a few things that come to mind: Originally, the bishop of Rome had no authority over the other bishops of different churches. The doctrine of Papal supremacy came about almost 300 years after the time of Christ, it definitely did not start in the New testament church.

    Furthermore, the claim that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ and infallible is heresy. It is a well documented fact that Pope’s have issued decrees that have disagreed with previous papal decrees, and there have been times in history where there was more than one pope at the same time.

    If you can, please give me some evidence that Peter was the Bishop of Rome. Also, do you find it odd that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, Peter was the apostle to the Jews, (uncircumcision Gal. 2:7) yet Peter was allegedly the Vicar of Christ, the first pope? Do you believe that Peter had authority over Paul? Is it ironic that Paul found it necessary to confront Peter and correct him, even though, according to Catholic theology, Peter’s beliefs must have been infallible since he was the Pope. (Gal 2:11) Also, did Peter being married disqualify him from being the Pope?(Matt 8:14) Paul never married, maybe he would have been a better choice. In 1 Tim chapter 4, Paul says that in the latter days some will depart from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Two things he includes among the doctrines of devils are forbidding to marry and abstaining from meat. Can you explain Lent and the prohibition on Catholic priests to marry?

    According to 1 Tim 2:5 there is only one mediator between God and men, and that man is Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” I pray that you both will trust in Christ alone, not Mary, the Pope, or the saints.

  41. michael

    it still goes back to dan’s statement of disobedience and rebellion. the purpose of Onan laying with his brothers wife should have been to preserve the lineage. to “spill his seed” could be looked at as adultery because his personal agenda of laying with his brothers wife was not to preserve the lineage but gratification of sex. if he didnt want to take in his brothers wife, then shame alone would be just. Onan, however, did not refuse his duty but perverted his duty by sleeping with his brothers wife and then “spilling on the ground.” Rebellion and outright disobedience. what would have been his punishment for adultery?

  42. Rebekah Greco


    I would love to reply to your response, however, my husband is absolutely itching to reply himself, and he is currently working on call. Expect each one of your points to be addressed. I hope that you will find it informative, and yes, intellectually honest. Growing up in a Baptist pastor’s home, I have heard of all of these accusations and more. In the meantime, I will go to bed trusting the teaching of the Catholic Church in the Merits of Christ and Christ alone for my salvation.

  43. Ted


    While your discussion of the errors in Catholic teaching on the papacy are interesting, they seem to be entirely beside the point. The central question, it seems to me, is whether Catholic teaching on salvation/justification is correct or not.

    At the same time, Rebekah’s statement that she “will go to bed trusting the teaching of the Catholic Church in the Merits of Christ and Christ alone for my salvation” seems a bit problematic in light of the Council of Trent. I should note at the outset that most of the Council of Trent seems directed to the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy, which is not unique to Catholicism. In fact, I could envision some of the anathemas of Trent being delivered by Arminian Southern Baptists against Calvinist Southern Baptists. Most of the canons on justification didn’t trouble me, either because I agree with them or because I view them as asserting positions that Protestants hold even if I may disagree with them.

    But Canon XXXII seems really problematic, not only to me personally, but also because it appears to conflict with Rebekah’s statement that she is trusting “the Merits of Christ and Christ alone for salvation.” Canon XXXII declares it anathema to deny that someone, “by the good works which [one] performs through the grace of God . . . , does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of eternal life.” In other words, that Canon seems to pretty clearly state that there is merit not only in Christ, but also in my works. What is more, it seems sort of strange — at least if words have meaning — to refer to “merit[ing] . . . grace.” If it’s merited, then by definition it’s not grace. It is necessarily an oxymoron to speak of meriting grace.

    I’d be curious — and I mean that sincerely — to hear Rebekah’s response to this.

  44. Ed

    Thank you for touching on that subject, and adding much depth to the conversation. I was just throwing a few things out there for Rebekah to answer because she seems to have so much trust in the man-made organization of the Catholic church. Also, she seems blind to the many errors that the Catholic church has promoted throughout the centuries, but at the same time, can find much to blame in certain Protestant denominations.

  45. Rebekah Greco

    Great question Ted! My husband has been very busy with being in the on-call rotation, and will continue until Friday morning. I want to respond to Ted’s comments on the Catholic doctrine of Justification. I should start off by stating that it appears, and I could very well be wrong, that Ted is deriving his understanding of this topic from secondary sources, if not one secondary source. I state this for several reasons. For instance, why would he state that the Council mostly dealt with an Augustinian/Pelagian controversy? A summary reading of the texts discredits this notion outright. Pelagianism had been specifically dealt with in the Councils of Mileum (416), Carthage (418), Ephesus (431), and Orange II (529).Meanwhile, the Council of Trent dealt with a whole host of issues. Also, Ted should be very cautious with any attempt at carelessly labeling Augustine as a Calvinist, as can be inferred in his comments. I know Calvinists, and Augustine was no Calvinist. He did have stronger predestination themes in his theology than most, but nothing even remotely similar to Calvinism.

    Secondly, the hatchet quotation job is suspect as well, not to mention further context was not supplied. For example, Ted quoted Canon 32 as such:

    “by the good works which [one] performs through the grace of God . . . , does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of eternal life.”

    I do not know Ted, and I certainly have no reason to suspect that he would purposefully hide relevant material from the text in order to bolster his claim. It is for this reason that I suspect that Ted is using a secondary source. Whenever an ellipses is being used to suppress a part of the text, whether done to use space more efficiently and a college student would NEVER do that J, or in order to hide the full context, my curiosity invariably causes me to look up the full context of the passage.

    This is what Canon 32 says in context:

    “If anyone shall say that the good works of the man justified are in such a way the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him who is justified, or that the one justified by the good works, which are done by him through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (whose living member he is), does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life (if he should die in grace), and also an increase of glory: let him be anathema.”

    If you read chapters 8, 10 and 16 (you should actually read the entire document) in Session IV, the Decree on Justification, you can better understand the context of Canon 32. Those chapters are just too long to post here. Even so, we can clearly see that Ted has done a disservice to the text through his use of selective quoting. Very important distinctions were left out. For example, prior to Canon 32, I am not sure if Ted had read this but chapter 8 states regarding the Church’s teaching concerning justification that:

    “we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because ‘faith is the beginning of human salvation,’ the foundation and root of all justification, ‘without which it is impossible to please God’ [Heb. 11:6] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and are, therefore, said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things which precede justification, whether faith, or works merit the grace itself of justification; for, ‘if it is a grace, it is not now by reason of works; otherwise (as the same Apostle says) grace is no more grace [Rom. 11:6].”

    In other words, nothing that we do, either faith or works, merit justification itself. Let me be clear, God must supply us with grace in order to do good works, and even in order to have faith itself. Do you believe that you can have faith in God apart from his grace which enables you? I certainly don’t, and neither does the Church. Enabled by grace, the faith is ours to the extent of our cooperation in its attainment and doing. God certainly is not believing in Himself. So we can say that it is ours due to our cooperation, but it is God’s because he enables and sustains us. Without Christ’s sacrificial suffering, death, resurrection, and perpetual presentation of that sacrifice to the Father as the slain Lamb described in Hebrews 7:25 and Revelation 5:6, we could not have grace as adopted children of God. The same can be said of works, and faith without works is dead. It is all based upon Christ, his merit alone, and God’s enabling, being the acting Agent as the principal Mover, and sustaining grace.

    After studying the teachings of the Catholic Church I have come to the conclusion that it is not the religion for the intellectually lazy. The language used is important. The principles expounded upon are also important. There are important distinctions to be made in the terminology being used. For example, in the first sentence of Canon 32 we see that the subject under consideration is the “man justified,” meaning that he has already received that first grace. We should note that Ted did not make this distinction clear. Secondly, Ted deleted the phrase declaring that it is through not only God’s grace but also the merit of Jesus Christ solely through which man can do good works and attain merit. Instead, Ted follows the quote with his own interpretation stating, “that Canon seems to pretty clearly state that there is merit not only in Christ, but also in my works.” Within the context of the Canon, is ‘through’ semantically different than ‘in’ in the way Ted is using it? As my husband would say, it appears that Ted is setting forth a feigned controversy.

    Alex pointed out to me that Ted is here using the fallacy of selective emphasis. He is emphasizing ‘our works’ as creating a separate merit that is an isolated entity that manifests itself apart from the merit of Christ. It seems that he is suggesting that not only are there two types of merit, but more importantly by emphasizing the merit we attain through our works he seems to be saying that our merit is standing alone. This simply is not the case; our merit is actualized by the merit of Christ and cannot be separated from it. For example, let’s look at a representative syllogism based upon the classical syllogism regarding Socrates mortality:

    All men are mortal.

    Socrates is a man.

    Therefore Socrates is mortal.

    All our faith and good works are solely derived from Christ’s merit and grace.

    Our merit is solely derived from our faith and good works.

    Therefore, our merit is solely derived from Christ’s merit and grace.

    If the premises are true, then it is impossible for the conclusion to be false. So structurally, the syllogism is sound. Looking at the major premise, is there any way that our faith and good works can be derived apart from Christ’s merit and grace? The Church would say no. Regarding the minor premise, is there any way our merit can be derived from anything other than our faith and good works? The Church would say no. It is impossible to gain merit through bad faith and evil works. Therefore, any merit we may attain must come from Christ’s merit and grace which enables us.

    It is clearly the case that it is God acting through man, without suspending man’s free will, and instead man receives merit for his cooperation. Seriously, how is this concept not just? Man could have just rejected God and done nothing. It is almost equivalent in an imperfect way with a scenario of my husband, on his birthday, taking our daughter to the store, giving her the money, helping her to pick out the gift, helping her to purchase the gift, and then receiving the gift from her. By herself, she was not equipped to do any of those things because she was entirely dependent upon his help. Would you say that she had zero merit due to her cooperation? Would you honestly render her cooperation entirely mute? Should he have refused to say ‘thank you’ or deprive her of any affection because she had no merit in her cooperation? She did not earn anything independently of his help, but she did cooperate with him to her ability.

    Christ established a claim through His death. We were made children of God who did not earn that status because it was freely given to us. As children of God we have a new dignity to speak of, as well as a responsibility. We are now afforded due to this dignity and God’s continual grace and our cooperation the opportunity and responsibility to further merit additional graces. As Saint Paul stated at both the beginning and end of his epistle to the Romans we are called to the obedience of faith, and appealing to Saint James faith without good works is dead. Also, grace is more than just a merited favor. It is also an acting principle of regeneration, sanctification, a type of condition, and a virtue.

    This should be sufficient for now, and I promise that my husband will respond to the rest of the points which were made in the other post. As I have mentioned, he has been working pretty hard while being on call and this should end on Friday morning. He did tell me that he would try to post something substantial by today. We will try to address your supposed “errors of Catholicism” as they come up. However, I am not sure that Dan Burrell would like for his blog, or at least this comment section, to become the stomping ground for our conversations. We should await his verdict.

    God Bless.

  46. Dan Burrell Post author

    I’m not having a problem with the debate thus far. I think the world of the Greco’s and they fully understand my fundamental disagreements with their theology. Ted is one of my favorite posters and he’s been AWOL for a few weeks and I’m glad he’s back. I’ve enjoyed reading Ed’s arguments as well. So as long as no one is promoting a personal website/blog/agenda and everyone remains civil, I like the “free speech” zone of the WWW and am inclined to enjoy the back and forth.

    I’m really swamped this week, so I can’t really participate. This is a moderated blog, so I try to check a couple of times a day to see if there are any comments that need approval. If folks post too frequently, they sometimes get directed to a spam folder and that sometimes takes me longer to get to. So don’t be alarmed if there is a delay in submitting a post and see it show up.

    Carry on!

  47. Ted

    Ed, it seems to me that your reference to Rebekah’s “trust in the man-made organization of the Catholic church” assumes the very question at issue. If the Catholic church is a/the true chuch, then it is not “man-made”, since Christ said that He would build His church, and Rebekah would be right to trust in it. Conversely, if the Catholic church is not a/the true church, then it is fair to say it is “man-made” and her trust would be misplaced. You seem to assume that the Catholic church is not the true church because it has gotten some issues wrong, such as the papacy. In other words, you seem to assume that being wrong on any issue renders one a false church. But really? Does the fact that Baptists preached segregation as biblically-supported well into the second half of the 20th century render them a false church? It seems to me that the issue is not whether a church has some issues (whether the papacy or racism) wrong, but rather whether the church at issue is right or wrong on the central issue, that is the basis for salvation to eternal life.

    So focusing on that issue, here are some thoughts and responses:

    First of all I should state that I did not rely on any secondary sources whatsover for my comments regarding the Catholic doctrine of justification. My comments come from my review of the Council of Trent itself, which I read again several times before posting my comments. Perhaps I caused some confusion by my statement to the effect that “most of the Council fo Trent seems directed to the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy.” I should have stated more precisely that most of the Council of Trent’s discussion of the doctrine of justification seems directed to the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy. I am well aware that, over the course of more than one hundred years, four church councils prior to Trent addressed the Pelagian heresy. The fact that it took four councils and over a hundred years only goes to show that Pelagianism is hard to put down. It keeps rearing its head, even today, in both Catholic and Protestant churches. In fact, it has been my experience that the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy is not confined to any one denomination, but cuts across denominational lines. (In fact, in Protestant circles today, one need look no further than the current President of the SBC to see Pelagian tendencies.).

    Second, I did not mean to imply that Augustine was a Calvinist. Obviously, as a simple matter of historical timing he could not have been. But Calvin could have been (and, in my opinion was) Augustinian. And Luther was an Augustinian monk. Now, we can debate whether Calvin/Luther or the Catholic church are more closely aligned with the teachings of Augustine. My point was simply that the Arminian/Calvinist controversy has roots in the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy.

    Third, I do not believe my quotation of Canon XXXII was a “hatchet job.” Let me explain. I understand fully the Catholic view that works are the product of the grace of God and the merit of Christ. Rebekah states that “God must supply us with grace in order to do good works, and even in order to have faith itself.” I agree wholeheartedly. Rebekah asks whether I “believe that you can have faith in God apart from his grace which enables you?” My answer is, no you cannot. The ordo salutis (order of salvation) is new life by God’s grace, then faith (See 1 John 5:1). And I’m Baptist!!! In this respect at least, Rebekah and I are both apparently Augustinian. Which just goes to prove my point that the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy crosses denominational lines. So when I redacted the quote from Cannon XXXII, I didn’t do it to exclude something with which I disagreed. I agree with the language I redacted. I agree that good works are a result of the grace of God and the merit of Christ on the cross that freed us from the power of sin. My redaction was to emphasize, through the language I included, that Catholic doctrine says that “good works . . . merit increased grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life.” I recognize the Catholic view that those good works are enabled (for lack of a better word) by the grace of God and merit of Christ. But Catholic doctrine nonetheless teaches that those works do merit grace. And it is that notion with which I disagree, as explained below.

    Rebekah said that her husband thought I was “emphasizing ‘our works’ as creating a separate merit that is an isolated entity that manifests itself apart from the merit of Christ.” I don’t think I was doing that. At least I did not intend to. Again, I understand that Catholic position that our works are enabled by the merit of Christ. Nonetheless, those enabled works, in the Catholic view, merit grace and eternal life. Stated another way, good works are the means to obtaining additional grace. The Catholic view, as articulated in Trent (particularly Canon XXXII), is that by grace you are saved, through faith and works, and those not of yourselves, they are the gift of God. Which is similar to what the Bible teaches, but materially different. For the Bible says that by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works. (Eph. 2:8-9). As Rebekah says — and I agree — both faith and works are empowered by the grace of God and the merit of Christ. The question is whether these empowered faith and works are both the means by which grace is received. If so, then why does Paul go to such lengths to distinguish the two, stating that one (faith) is the means by which saving grace is applied and the other (works) is not? Paul seems pretty clear that the only means by which saving grace is applied to the individual is faith. Catholic doctrine says the means are faith and works.

    Which brings us to the central issue here: what are the means by which saving grace is applied to the individual? Is it by faith alone? Or is it by faith and works?

    Rebekah offers a syllogism to answer this question. But the syllogism doesn’t really prove the answer; it assumes it. Specifically, the minor premise of Rebekah’s syllogism is that “Our merit is derived from our faith and good works.” But what is the proof for this? Rebekah says that the Church says so. On what basis? She also says that “[i]t is impossible to gain merit through bad faith and evil works.” I agree with that, but that doesn’t prove her minor premise. In other words, it doesn’t disprove that merit might be gained through “good” faith alone.

    Rebekah writes much about grace and works with which I can agree, such as “we are called to the obedience of faith” and that “grace is more than just merited favor. It is also an acting principle of regeneration, santification, a type of condition, and a virtue.” Does God’s grace in our lives as a result of Christ’s work on the cross bring about good works in us? Absolutely!! But none of this proves that works (even works enabled in us by Christ’s merit) are a means by which we merit grace or eternal life. And that is where I think Rebekah’s argument breaks down, both in her failure to provide Scriptural support for the notion that grace is applied by means of faith and works (particularly in light of Eph. 2:8-9), and because speaking of “merit[ing] additional grace” is an oxymoron. When I have to cooperate (even Christ-enabled cooperation) in doing something to obtain the grace, then it’s not grace — it’s at least partially owed to me. Either it’s grace or it’s merited (at least in part), but it can’t logically be both.

  48. Ed

    Mr. and Mrs. Greco, if not too much trouble, could you please address the doctrines of transubstantiation, confession to priests, and also the immaculate conception. If too much, don’t worry about it. I would love to see your points of view on these Church teachings, though. Thanks.

  49. Ed

    I would like to add purgatory to that list as well. Thanks.

    By the way, I am genuinely interested in what you have to say about those things, especially since you were a former baptist. I am truly fascinated by much in Catholicism, believe it or not, I actually went to mass on Christmas eve last year. Lol. Unfortunately, I was choking throughout the whole thing due to not being used to the incense! Also, I had to bail out of there once they all started drinking out of the same cup! It was an interesting learning experience, I might even go again this year:) It was definitely unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

  50. Ed

    Ted, I appreciate your thorough comments. My problem with the Catholic “church” is that it, atleast in my opinion, claims equal authority with the Bible to govern men’s lives. It has a man-made hierarchy that vaults itself over the common believer. By the way, I do not consider any denomination to be the church of God. I believe that all believers are part of the “church” of God as being members of the body of Christ.

  51. Ted


    As a Baptist myself, I’m not trying to become the apologist for the Catholic church. At the same time, I think we have to be fair in our criticism and critique of opposing views. I don’t know your religious background, but I can at least say that I think two of the great shortcomings of the Baptist tradition are (1) the lack of respect for church history/tradition, and (2) the absence of a church hierarchy. In many ways, these two shortcomings are of a piece in that they reflect the “just-me-and-my-Bible” attitude that is an unfortunate hallmark of the Baptist tradition. It is not biblical to send people off to read and study the Bible for themselves, disconnected and usually entirely unfamiliar with the Christian faith as it has been passed down. In other words, it is dangerous to read the Bible apart from an understanding of the orthodox Christian theological tradition. Yet if you asked the average “Bible believing” Baptist who Pelagius or Augustine were and which of the two was deemed heretical by the Christian church, they couldn’t tell you. This is dangerous because, as the saying goes, those ignorant of history are bound to repeat it. While Baptists are quick to quote 2 Tim 3;16 regarding inspiration, they would be well advised to read verse 14 as well, where Paul tells Timothy not to go off a read the Bible for himself and trust his own interpretation of whatever he reads, but rather to hold fast to the doctrine that had been passed down to him by reliable teachers. Then and only then is Scripture, read in light of that tradition handed down, profitable for instruction in righteousness. (Vs. 16).

  52. Alexander Greco

    Sorry it took me so long to respond. I have been very busy and only afforded a little time here and there to write this.

    Historically the levirate marriage could have been a practice that the Israelites adopted and adapted to themselves due to the occupation of Palestine, or the custom was developed due to Canaanite influence. The probability of there being a corresponding influence is confirmed by noting the biblical fact that Judah’s wife Shua was a Canaanite. The point is that the law was not the sole property of the Israelites, but was a common law throughout western Asia and is clearly of greater antiquity than the Mosaic Law. We find the niyoga in India (which was more of a temporary purpose, being that when a child was conceived relations between the woman and her brother-in-law would cease), cakar marriage found amongst the Persians and Parsees, as well as other examples.

    There were seemingly important reasons for this practice. Among these reasons we can discern a desire to somehow preserve the father’s (husband of the wife that is) name through his brother’s act of copulation with his wife resulting in an heir, as well as providing a means for passing on the inheritance. There is even argumentation put forward which states that the sister-in-law via marriage has become the property of her deceased husband’s family; therefore, the inheritance being a part of the familial rights must be kept within the family via heirs. It is noteworthy though that within the scholarly literature it is apparent that amongst the Israelites the continuance of the deceased brother’s name was of primary importance. Likewise, it is noted that the symbolism of removing the sandal from the uncooperative brother-in-law’s foot was not an isolated custom of the Israelites, but was of legal significance throughout western Asia as well.

    Based upon what I have been able to conclude, the only relevant differences between the pre-Sinaitic Revelation and the Torah legislation is that under the Torah legislation the father-in-law does not seem to be permitted to “go in” to his daughter-in-law. Also, under the Torah legislation it is better determined that by the mere conjugal act the brother-in-law becomes married to his sister-in-law. Beyond this, I am unaware of there being any relevant differences between the two, especially in the punishment given for not bringing forth offspring for one’s brother.

    I am uncertain how pointing out the fact that Onan predates the legislation found in Deuteronomy provides any substantial difference in your argumentation. We know that this was an ancient, semi-universal practice. We also know that the punishment given was not isolated in the period described in Deuteronomy 25. Therefore it seems to me that it is incumbent upon you to provide further proof as to why this distinction provides merit towards your argumentation because I can’t find it.

    I find your argument to be quite curious. It seems to me that you would agree that Onan’s sin is not solely found in his selfish intent to deny offspring to his brother, but also his chosen method in doing so. However, it appears that you would stop short and focus solely on intent and not the actual method used. I do not see how your argument can withstand biblical, historical, philosophical, and logical scrutiny.

    The biblical text is clear, “And what he did was displeasing in the site of the Lord.” The historical understanding of Onan’s sin is also clear. This is not a Catholic concept. The reformers also held to this understanding as well as the Jews (read the entry on Birth Control in the Encyclopedia Judaica). I am curious as to why you have not addressed the correlation between the rise of man’s modernist understanding of the sexual act, and this novel interpretation. Indeed, correlation does not always imply causation. However, when the conditions match, and causation does exist, then it should be addressed as I believe this should.

    I can safely assume that you would agree with me in stating that Onan’s act was morally different than Shelah’s in that Onan actually began coitus with Tamar whereas Shelah did not; therefore, Onan merited death in God’s eyes. I am confident that you would agree with this because you have stated as much. However, we disagree in that you believe that God’s condemnation of Onan was ultimately due to his intentional disobedience of Judah’s command alone (remember, it was Judah who commanded Onan to go into Tamar, not God…as you have stated Deuteronomy 25 did not come about for sometime later). We likewise disagree that there is an inherent immoral quality to his act of coitus interruptus, I in the affirmative, and you in the negative. We disagree in your assumption that God would have been indifferent to Onan’s act of coitus interruptus if he did not have the obligation to bring forth offspring imposed upon him from Judah. I state that there always is an obligation present, and not just for Onan in this particular instance.

    It appears to me you are making the claim that there is nothing inherently immoral in the act of coitus interruptus, and as a means of avoiding children it is perfectly legitimate provided that you do not have the obligation to have children imposed upon you. I find this curious because you would state that the means itself is not immoral per se, but only when the obligation is present. However, other means are acceptable even when the same obligation is present.

    I am interested in finding out which means are acceptable in your eyes, and whether you would equally conclude that Onan would merit death if he had forgone the conjugal act altogether and opted instead for mutual masturbation with Tamar. In this scenario he is not engaging in coitus, so he is not simply enjoying sex itself without the imposed responsibility. You could certainly protest that he is enjoying climax with Tamar outside the conjugal act, still forgoing his duty, and probably still merit death. So we can conclude that this act if it took place, as a means, is immoral as well because he is unlawfully enjoying a property (climax) outside the fulfillment of his duty even if it is not coitus itself. Yet you would probably add the caveat that it was immoral solely due to the fact that he had a positive duty to fulfill.

    What if he opted instead to engage in masturbation alone? Would he likewise be condemned? As you’ve noted, he was duty bound to provide offspring, but he wanted the pleasure without the responsibility. While the means at attaining the climax is categorically different, Onan would still be attaining climax while forgoing his duty.

    Outside of Onan’s duty, I am not sure where you would stand on these issues. I have seen various responses from non-Catholics over the morality of masturbation. Some say that it is acceptable. Others state that it is wrong when done outside of marriage (so it is perfectly legitimate in marriage so long as one is thinking of his wife…however, I claim that in actuality he is objectifying her, turning her body into a means of deriving his own pleasure). Still others state that mutual masturbation between partners is okay (I would call this mutual objectification). Finally, there are others (ultimately you would find yourself in at least this group, if not in one of the earlier groups) who believe that mutual masturbation is acceptable provided that it proceeds coitus; ergo, ending as coitus interruptus. As a Catholic, and as someone who follows the natural law, I find each and every one of these acts to be intrinsically disordered, and therefore immoral when used.

    You stated: “Onan had sex with his brother’s wife, but didn’t fulfill his duty; it wasn’t just that he refused to take his brother’s wife. He wanted the pleasure without the obligation God requires, therefore God punished this wicked man.” I completely agree; however, God’s obligation extends to each and every sexual act due to the very nature of the sexual act (understood as being physiological, natural in regarding the generation of offspring, and a truly human act with human rationality and emotions corresponding to it). These aspects of the sexual act determine its quality in that the act itself must not become intrinsically disordered thereby depriving the couple from attaining their teleological ends consisting of the unitive and procreative goods which fulfill the act. When the moral agents deprive the attainment of these goods, by introducing artificial means of separating these goods, they selfishly strike at the heart of conjugal love and render it disordered which would certainly not lead to their flourishing as humans. Conjugal love becomes reduced to animalistic mutual pleasure; thereby, inhibiting their attainment of true fulfillment.

    It all boils down to defining what human sexuality is. Is it strictly equal to what we find amongst the beasts of the earth? Absolutely not!

    When we look at the moral agent (only humans who have the capacity to use their rational faculties are to be considered as moral agents; ergo, small children and those who have higher degrees of mentally retardation are not considered to be moral agents per se and therefore are unable to commit actual sin…after that there are certainly degrees to which one has the capacity to use their rational faculties which might be inhibited due to various types of forces, i.e. environment, brainwashing etc…at which point issues such as vincible and invincible ignorance relating to levels of culpability enter the conversation), we can see that when that agent acts, he/she acts towards a certain end. That end might be fulfilling of the human person leading to human flourishing, or it might not. However, to be considered a good end, a moral end, the end must result in human flourishing.

    There are different types of goods as perceived by the agent, actual/real goods which lead to human flourishing, and apparent/seemingly goods which do not. The human will is determined by the good, whether it is an actual or merely apparent good must be evaluated by the rational agent making use of his/her faculties of reason in conjunction with the virtues of prudence etc. derived by way of the grace of God in which our human freedom, i.e. ‘free will’ belongs, and to this we are said to be made in the Imago Dei.

    As members of the Elect (Mt 24:13; Heb. 3:12-15), our supernatural end is to be eternally united with God in Heaven. However, in speaking of our ultimate end we define it as human flourishing, or happiness. There are also intermediate ends which must lead to the ultimate end, human flourishing. The means employed are only good insofar as they are both a) intrinsically good (the moral imperative is true in that it is always wrong to do evil so that good may come from it), and b) they actually lead to human flourishing; otherwise they are morally indifferent. As a means, morally indifferent acts are acceptable; however, morally evil acts are never acceptable.

    This typically leads into the question of whether an evil effect along with a good effect can be tolerated, and the answer to this question is a conditional ‘yes’. It is basic knowledge that there is a cause and an effect in human acts. At times there can be multiple effects of the same cause, where one effect could actually be evil. The existence of the evil effect is generally acceptable upon four conditions: 1) the moral agent’s end must be morally acceptable, that is the goal for which the cause is engaged in and directed to, 2) the cause itself must have one of two qualities…it must be either good, or morally indifferent, 3) the good effect must immediately follow the cause in its relation to the cause (this would outlaw the idea that the evil effect could somehow be a means to the good effect; remember, it is never morally acceptable to do evil so that good may come from it), and lastly 4) the reason for positing the cause must be grave (this is more of a normative issue…however, there must be a grave reason involved in order for us to tolerate the foreseen evil effect). The typical and what I believe to be the clearest illustration of what is called the Doctrine of Double Effect is found in the example of a hysterectomy on a pregnant woman with cancer. The foreseen evil effect of the fetus’ death is tolerated, while the good effect of saving the mother’s life by using the moral means of a hysterectomy is employed.

    Human sexuality’s raison d’etre is multifold as reasonably understood by examining its nature. In the natural order the primary purpose is procreation and the education of offspring; however, the secondary purpose is unitive bonding and the enjoyment found therein. These constitute the goods of marriage, and as such they are inseparable. The goods of marriage and the conjugal act are not protected when any form of artificial contraception deprives the conjugal act of its natural end and the goods therein contained. Contraception actually renders the conjugal act into a deceptive act, and therefore a disordered act of merely mutual carnal pleasure. When the couple directly frustrates the generative end of the conjugal act by introduction of artificial means of contraception they introduce two antithetical loves into the conjugal act which should not be there. One is love of the other spouse as person (which is good), as opposed to viewing the other as the object of gratification.

    Think about the symbolism contained in the act of conjugal love. The couple gives to one another of their entire being without withholding of themselves. The woman communicates with her spouse by taking him and his substance into her with full receptivity. The man fully gives himself to his wife without holding back. They do not close their bodies off to one another, thereby creating the façade of love. In order for coitus to be truly an act of love, an act of communication, it must not be mediated. One reason why marriage cannot be dissolved is due to the fact that conjugal love is a total self giving. The two become one. When the man uses contraception he is lying to his spouse. He is telling her within the act itself that he will give her some affection but not his substance. When the woman uses contraception, she likewise is giving him the semblance of affection but renders his seed powerless over her body. The true union found in coitus in regards to the conjugal act does not exist. The communication is flawed. The sexual act is disordered.

    I am only discussing these basics of ethical and moral reasoning because proper moral reasoning is not typically discussed. Dr. Burrell did have a conference held when he was head pastor at his prior church where they discussed moral absolutes and instruction in ways of determining that moral absolutes do indeed exist in opposition to sophistry and moral relativism. I am unsure if the same level of moral education is taught to the general population in emergent churches or popular evangelical circles. So thank you for bearing with me. There was a point to this madness.

    Belkin, Samuel. (Apr., 1970). Levirate and Agnate Marriage in Rabbinic and Cognate Literature. The Jewish Quarterly Review. Vol. 60, No. 4 pp. 275-329

    Burrows, Millar. (Mar., 1940). Levirate Marriage in Israel. Journal of Biblical Literature. Vol. 59, No. 1. pp. 23-33

    Burrows, Millar. (Feb., 1940). The Ancient Oriental Background of Hebrew Levirate Marriage. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. No. 77. pp. 2-15

  53. Alexander Greco

    Ed, that is quite a list of topics. If you don’t mind I would like to jump into the discussion on justification. Also, I think that it would be best to address the other topics by way of you picking one topic, writing your thoughts about it, and going from there. What do you think?

  54. Alexander Greco

    Ed, I posted a lengthy resonse to the Onan bit. I’m not sure how it all works, but I am assuming that if the messages pass a certain word count Dr. Burrell must approve it, or they all need his approval and he will get to it when he has the time. I really do not know how it exactly works.

  55. Ted


    I guess I don’t know what you mean when you refer to a “man-made hierarchy that vaults itself over the common believer.” Every church with more than a single senior pastor has a “man-made hierarchy” that finds no basis whatsoever in Scripure. There is not a single Bible passage that speaks of the Associate Pastor or the Pastor of Christian Education or the Youth Pastor. As for “vaulting over the common believer”, isn’t that also known as “ruling” the church, which Paul specifically directs church leaders to do? (1 Tim 3)

    You might also want to take some time to review church history with regard to church hierarchy. By the end of the 1st century, the notion of a bishop leading the chuch in a particular region with presbyters (what we would call pastors) serving under his authority and over particular congregations was well established. This is critically important, for many of these people (such as Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna) had had direct contact and training by the apostles. If people who knew the Bible’s authors thought that this church hierarchy was appropriate, perhaps we should reconsider our condemnation of it as “man-made.”

  56. Ed

    Ted, by saying the Roman church vaulting itself over the common believer I am speaking of how the Roman Church has throughout history banned certain common people from being able to read the Bible. Also, I am speaking of “priests” to whom the believer must confess for forgiveness of sin, and the Pope who when speaking “ex cathedra” is infallible, and all must fall into line with whatever he says if he tells them to. There are numerous other examples of this in the Roman church. Priests, Popes, Cardinals-I think they are manmade positions that have too much power over the laity. I believe in the priesthood of every believer who all have direct access to God through Jesus. I do not believe we have to go through men to access to Him.

    My statement was probably not clear enough, so I can understand why you took it the way you did, sorry for the confusion.

    Alexander, thanks for the thorough post, I will try to respond tomorrow if possible. Thanks.

  57. Rebekah Greco


    I want to first start out by saying that this dialogue is truly so much fun. I also think that it is wonderful that you are aware of many of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Many people have no idea. Although I am in a rush, I am going to reply quickly, I’m sure I’ll have to further clarify some things. With that said, the statements that you made
    “the Roman church vaulting itself over the common believer I am speaking of how the Roman Church has throughout history banned certain common people from being able to read the Bible. Also, I am speaking of “priests” to whom the believer must confess for forgiveness of sin, and the Pope who when speaking “ex cathedra” is infallible, and all must fall into line with whatever he says if he tells them to. There are numerous other examples of this in the Roman church. Priests, Popes, Cardinals-I think they are manmade positions that have too much power over the laity. I believe in the priesthood of every believer who all have direct access to God through Jesus. I do not believe we have to go through men to access to Him”
    is a huge misrepresentation of easily verifiable evidence and a misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church teaches.
    For years I was told that the Catholic Church banned Bible reading and would not allow commoners access to the Bible. Lets take a look back into history and examine the times at which this took place. Before the wide scale emergence of the printing press and easily accessible and affordable materials on which to print, the Holy Scriptures were a very expensive luxury. Not only did they have to be meticulously hand copied, the animal skins on which they were written were numerous. It took dozens of animal skins just to produce one copy, so the Church and royalty had copies. The individual Church copies were literally chained to something within the Church so no one would walk off with it, much like phonebooks in phone booths. Now back to the individuals making copies bit, when certain individuals made scripture copies, some took it upon themselves to not stay true to the text and put in there own beliefs and assertions. That is why the Church condemned these “versions”. People were never banned from reading an available approved version that stayed true to the text.

    Priests and confession
    As Catholics we believe and history proves apostolic succession.
    John 20:21-23 (King James Version)
    21Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
    Furthermore, before pop psychology many people found great healing in going to confession. They had and still have accountability and counsel given in the confessional. In more recent times, those that have become more secular and have turned away from the Church have found that there is still this innate desire to discuss one’s shortcoming and failures in order to gain guidance, so they have turned to going to shrinks and therapists. Many times what is perceived to be a psychological problem is really a sin problem that needs the grace and counsel given by a successor of the apostles.
    The Pope’s infallibility:
    “The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor (in an unbroken chain of historical continuity) ‘is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.’ “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar (servant-representative) of Christ, and as pastor (shepherd) of the entire Church as full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church.- quoting Vatican II
    “The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head…(C 883).
    Vatican Council I defined what Catholics have always believed: that the Pope, when he speaks authoritatively in virtue of his office, like the Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils that speak in union with him, is infallible (preserved by God from error) when defining doctrine or morality for the whole Church. He is not infallible when he speaks personally, only when he speaks authoritatively in virtue of his office.
    God did not let us wonder and wander in darkness about the most important truths we had to know in order to fulfill our most important task in life, union with him. No human lover would allow that if he could help it. Neither did God. Papal infallibility, like every other Catholic dogma, is properly understood only by the primacy of love.
    Infallibility is God’s loving gift in response to our need to persevere in unity of love and truth-which is what God wants above all because that is what he is: love (I John 4: 18) and truth (John 6:14). Without infallibility, uncertainties and schisms are inevitable among us fallen and foolish humans for whom Christ designed His Church.
    The gift of infallibility flows from God’s character. He is so generous that He does not hold back anything that we need. He is not a stingy God! The creation of the world, the Incarnation and death of Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Eucharist, and Heaven are six spectacular examples of God’s unpredictable and amazing generosity. The gift of infallibility to the Church fits this same pattern”. (The Holy Catholic Church by Peter Kreft p.10-13)

    According to I Timothy 3: 15 “the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth”.

  58. Todd

    Can anyone else speak infallibly when “defining doctrine or morality for the whole Church” when it applies to their denomination or church?

  59. Rebekah Greco

    Vatican II explained the doctrine of infallibility as follows: “Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. This is so, even when they are dispersed around the world, provided that while maintaining the bond of unity among themselves and with Peter’s successor, and while teaching authentically on a matter of faith or morals, they concur in a single viewpoint as the one which must be held conclusively. This authority is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church. Their definitions must then be adhered to with the submission of faith” (Lumen Gentium 25).

    Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope “enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter.”

    The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 (“Feed my sheep . . . “), Luke 22:32 (“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”), and Matthew 16:18 (“You are Peter . . . “). (

  60. Ted

    I feel so neglected. Everybody wants to talk with Ed about conjugal acts and papal infallibility, and nobody wants to talk with me about justification. :)

    Rebekah, answering your question is a difficult one. I would like to think that my being a Baptist today is a product of my having thought through the theological issues for myself and having concluded that the doctrinal positions held by Baptist are, in the main, closest to the Scriptures. At the same time, I’m not so naive as to fail to recognize that, like all of us, my religious upbringing (as a Baptist) had an impact of my positions today.

    To try to answer your question, I guess I need to break it down into two parts: (1) why am I a Protestant rather than Catholic, and (2) why am I a Baptist rather than some other Protestant denomination.

    I am a Protestant rather than a Catholic because of my understanding of justification as an event rather than a process. I could point to other disagreements I have with Catholic doctrine (many of which Ed has been raising with you), but none of those explain why am I not a Catholic. My central disagreement with Catholicism is with regard to its understanding of justification as a process. I think Catholicism confuses justification (which I see as an event) with sanctification (which I see as a process, also entirely of God’s grace). And Catholicism wrongly, in my view, sees this process as involving some work (even a Christ-enabled work) on my part as bringing about (in part) that justification. But, in fairness, some Protestant faiths share this latter notion.

    As for why I am a Baptist as opposed to some other form of Protestant, it has largely to do with my understanding of the bases by which grace is applied to our lives. Most other Protestant faiths see saving/justifying grace as being applied to the life of the individual by something more than faith alone, whether by baptism, communion, works, etc. I know that Protestantism claims “faith alone”, but in fact much of Protestantism adds to faith in some respect. For example, the Augsburg (Lutheran) confession states in Article IX that “Baptism is necessary and that grace is offered through it.” (At the same time, the Augsburg Confession condemns the “use of the Mass by those who think that grace is obtained through the performance of this work.” So apparently, Lutherans think that Baptism is not a work but the Mass is a work????).

    This adding of some work to faith as a means of obtaining God’s grace strikes me as inconsistent with Paul’s teachings in Gal 2:16 (NASB), which says “that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus,” and Romans 3:288 (NASB), which says “that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Paul repeatedly distinguishes between faith (as a means of receiving grace) and works (not a means of receiving grace). At least when it comes to salvation/justification, Paul’s distinction is NOT between Christ-enabled faith and non-Christ-enabled faith, or between Christ-enabled works and non-Christ-enabled works. His distrinction is between faith (which is a means for obtaining faith) and works (which are not).

    I am also a Baptist, rather than some other strain of Protestant, because of my disagreement with the eschatology of much of non-Baptist Protestantism today. While I have great respect for church history/tradition on most topics, it seems to me that eschatology by its very nature is an area in which church tradition/history is of limited utility. Christ seemed to imply as much, telling His disciples that “when [they] see” certain events coming to pass they will then have a greater understanding of His teachings regarding ends times (see Matt. 24:15, 33). In other words, Christ seems to imply that, at least as to eschatology, the passage of time will actually bring more clarity. By contrast, the passage of time does not, for example, give us greater understanding of the doctrine of the person of Christ, but less. Those best able to understand who Jesus was are those who lived closer in time to His appearance on this earth than do I. Thus, I confess Nicea with regard to the doctrine of the person of Christ (and everything else Nicea confesses, for that matter).

  61. Rebekah Greco


    Don’t feel neglected! I understand your ideas on justification, but I don’t understand how you can come to these conclusion biblically.

    “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11)

    “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)

    I feel this is a better summary of “biblical salvation” and also what the Catholic Church teaches. “I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved.” (Jimmy Akin)

    Another topic that comes to mind is when I am asked about the “assurance of my salvation”. My assurance is that with my complete trust is in Christ, and I am doing my best to comply with His will. Should I fail grossly, as in mortal sin, Christ is waiting for me like the father of the Prodigal Son. I only have to confess my sins and he is “faithful and just to forgive me”.

  62. Alexander Greco

    I’m sorry Ted. I have been meaning to respond this past weekend, but I have been busily running around and yet doing very little. I will respond to you in a day or two.

    Very quickly though, and not to get too far into this, are you saying that you believe in the Left Behind-Rapture theory?

  63. Ted


    I guess I don’t know what a “Left Behind-Rapture theory” is, as I’ve never read those books. I find such pop culture theology to be more than a little schlocky.

    That said, yes, I believe in the rapture. But my statement about diagreeing with the eschatology of much of Protestantism runs much deeper than that, going to the whole issue of Israel’s continuing unique roll in God’s unfolding historical plan.

  64. Ed

    I am thoroughly enjoying this conversation.

    Ted, I really appreciate your understanding of theology and church history. I have only been in church for about 5 years, but I hope to learn theology as well as you have.

    Rebekah and Alexander, I have never encountered Catholics who understood and can defend Catholic Theology as well as you two. I really appreciate the friendliness of this dialogue. I am really sorry that I haven’t responded yet to your post. I want to respond intelligibly, but I have final exams this week, so it may take a while. Thanks for your patience.

    By the way, much to the chagrin of many of my baptist brethren, I think I will endure choking due to the incense throughout the entire mass again on Christmas Eve this year. Although I definitely will not allow the priest to stick the wafer in my mouth or drink from the same cup as everyone else, I find the experience of attending mass fascinating and enlightening to understanding the beliefs of Catholicism.

  65. Ted


    I don’t know you, so maybe I’m misreading you entirely, but it seems from your comments and questions to me that you are somewhat surprised by the views I hold as a Baptist. Which can only make me wonder whether you grew up in a Baptist church that did a very poor job of explaining the historic Protestant (and Baptist) position on some of these issues.

    For example, you refer to the Catholic (and biblical) view of salvation as being that “I have been saevd; I am being saved, and I will be saved.” But that’s the Baptist (and Protestant) view of salvation as well!!!! The Scofield Study Bible — a mainstay of Baptists — specifically discusses those three aspects of salvation in the footnote to Romans 1:16. The question isn’t whether salvation has past, present, and future aspects — Catholics and Protestants agree that it does. Final salvation will be realized when I enter the eternal state, a new heaven and a new earth in which the curse of sin is removed. I think you and I agree on this. Thus, I agree totally that every day that passes means that “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11). And tomorrow, that day of final salvation will be nearer still. But that doesn’t answer the question how that salvation is attained. Thus, my insistence that the central issue is the basis for salvation to eternal life.

    Your discussion of “assurance of salvaton” also seems to reflect a misunderstanding of the historic Baptist (and Protestant) position. This may be due to the two different ways in which “assurance” can be used. Do you mean “assurance” in the sense of my mental confidence that I will receive final salvation? Or do you mean what it is that assures my salvation? Asking what assures my salvation is just another way of asking what is the basis for my final salvation? When Baptists speak of “assurance of salvation,” they typically don’t mean what it is that assures their salvation, but what it is that gives them mental confidence that they will receive final salvation. To be sure, you will find contemporary Baptists who seek to provide peope with this mental confidence of their salvation by asking them to think back to the day they “prayed a prayer” or “walked an aisle” or whatever. This is a totally misguided way to give people assurance/confidence in their salvation, as I would defy anyone to point me to some Scripture that identifies this as the proper means of assurance/confidence. My confidence of my final salcation comes from my entire trust in Christ, the entire trustworthiness of Christ, and my life lived in a way that demonstrates that my trust/faith is a real and living faith. But again, the fact that these things give me confidence of my final salvation does not mean that these are the things that assure my final salvation. In other words, my works/obedience can give me confidence that my faith is real. But that doesn’t mean that my works/obedience bring about my salvation. So there we are again, back to the central issue of what is the basis that assures my final salvation.

    I’ve cited Eph 2:8-9, Rom 3:28, and Gal 2:16 for the proposition that the means/basis for saving grace is faith alone, not faith and works. It seems to me that someone asserting that faith and works together merit salvation/justification needs at least to address these passages. You cite Philippians 2:12 and its command that we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.” But that verse is entirely consistent with the Baptist view of justification. Those who have received saving grace should “work out” (i.e., live out) their salvation. Works should be an outworking of our salvation from sin. But that doesn’t mean that those works merit that salvation, saving grace, or justification. In other words, the passage says “work out” your salvation; it doesn’t say “work for” your salvation.

    Anyway, I look forward to hearing back from you and Alex and continuing this conversation.

  66. Rebekah Greco


    The only place in the entire Bible in which the words “faith alone” are found is the following:

    James 2:24

    “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone”.

    Alex or myself will write more later.

  67. Rebekah Greco


    I’m glad you are going to refrain from receiving communion when you attend mass. Only Catholics in a state of grace (not in mortal sin) are supposed to partake of it. With that being said, I hope that you get used to the incense. It can be overwhelming at first, but since it is going to be in heaven and the Mass is heaven on earth, it would be a good idea to get used to it. I found this easy to follow list online to read before attending Mass again.

    . The Book of Revelation and the Holy Mass
    The Book of Revelation shows us glimpses of the heavenly liturgy – Jesus Christ’s once and for all sacrifice eternally present in heaven. This is why the Church has always incorporated the elements that John saw in the heavenly liturgy into her earthly liturgy, for they are one and the same liturgical action of Jesus Christ our High Priest.

    Rev. 1:6, 20:6 – heaven’s identification of the priesthood of the faithful is the same as the Church’s identification on earth.

    Rev. 1:10 – John witnesses the heavenly liturgy on Sunday, the Lord’s day, which is a Catholic holy day of obligation for attending Mass on earth.

    Rev. 1:12, 2:5 – there are lampstands or Menorahs in heaven. These have always been used in the Holy Mass of the Church on earth.

    Rev. 1:13 – Jesus is clothed as High Priest. Our priests also clothe themselves as “alter Christuses” (other Christs) in offering His sacrifice in the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 1:13, 4:4, 6:11, 7:9, 15:6, 19:13-14 – priests wear special vestments in heaven. Our priests also wear special vestments in celebrating the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 2:5,16,21; 3:3; 16:11 – there is a penitential rite in heaven which is also part of the liturgy of the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 2:17 – there is manna in heaven given to the faithful. This is the same as the Eucharistic manna given to the faithful at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 4:4, 5:14; 11:16, 14:3, 19:4 – there are priests (“presbyteroi”) in heaven. Priests offer sacrifice. Our earthly priests participate with the heavenly priests in offering Jesus’ eternal sacrifice in the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 4:8 – heaven’s liturgical chant “Holy, Holy, Holy” is the same that is used in the liturgy of the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 4:8-11, 5:9-14, 7:10-12, 18:1-8 – the various antiphonal chants in the heavenly liturgy are similar to those used at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 5:1 – there is a book or scroll of God’s word in heaven. This is reflected in the Liturgy of the Word at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 5:6 and throughout – heaven’s description of Jesus as the “Lamb” is the same as the description of Jesus as the Lamb of God in the Eucharistic liturgy of the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 5:8, 6:9-11, 8:3-4 – heaven’s emphasis on the intercession of the saints is the same as the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 5:8, 8:3-4 – there is incense in heaven which has always been part of the liturgy of the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 5:14; 7:12; 19:4 – heaven’s concluding liturgical prayer “Amen” is the same as is used at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 6:9 – the martyrs who are seen under the heavenly altar is similar to the Church’s tradition of keeping relics of saints under the earthly altars.

    Rev. 7:3, 14:1, 22:4 – there is the sign of the cross (“tau”) in heaven. This sign is used during the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 7:9; 14:6 – the catholicity or universality of heaven as God’s family is the essence of the Catholic faith on earth.

    Rev. 8:1 – the silent contemplation in heaven is similar to our silent contemplation at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 8:3, 11:1, 14:18, 16:7 – there is an altar in heaven. But no altar is needed unless a sacrifice is being offered in heaven. This is the same sacrifice that is offered on the altars used in the Holy Masses on earth.

    Rev. 11:12 – the phrase “come up here” is similar to the priest’s charge to “lift up your hearts” at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 12:1-6, 13-17 – heaven’s emphasis on the Blessed Virgin Mary is the same as the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 12:7 – heaven’s emphasis on the Archangel Michael’s intercession is the same as the concluding prayers at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 14:4 – there are consecrated celibates in heaven, as there are with our Catholic priests and religious on earth.

    Rev. 15:7, 16:1-4,8,10,12,17; 21:9 – there are chalices (or bowls) in the heavenly liturgy. This is like the chalices used to offer Christ’s sacrifice in the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 15:3-4 – there is the recitation of the “Gloria” in heaven. This is also recited at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 15:5 – there is a tent or tabernacle in heaven. Tabernacles are used to store the Eucharist at the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 17, 19:9 – the consummation of the Lamb at heaven’s marriage supper is the same as the Lamb’s supper in the Holy Mass on earth.

    Rev. 19:1,3,4,6 – there is the recitation of the “Alleluia” in heaven. This is also recited at the Holy Mass on earth.


  68. Alexander Greco

    Hi Ted, sorry for the delay.

    Regarding the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy, I believe that this is an oversimplification, but there are obviously elements of their respective theologies present in the Decree on Justification. Also, those prior Councils took place not just a hundred or hundreds of years prior to Trent, but a thousand. This does indeed further your point in stating that elements of Pelagianism and then semi-Pelagianism continue to factor into certain theological conceptions of Justification. That being said, I would like for you to consider the possibility that you are creating a false dichotomy by posing the differences as being between just Augustinianism (and here you really mean Calvin) v. Pelagianism (or even semi-Pelagianism), Calvinism v. Arminianism, monergism v. synergism. I would posit that there is not just an either/or theological universe. There are a few theological conceptions of Justification, Salvation, and their relationship with man that were being considered at Trent. If we are going to stick to the dichotomy which you are proposing, then if I do not agree with Calvin by necessity I must therefore be a Pelagian. Pelagianism denies original sin, denies the possibility of man being elevated to the supernatural state, as well as claiming that man can earn Heaven by his own natural capacity. I certainly disagree with all of that. I would also hasten to add that I find the characterization of Augustine in the context you have placed him, where it is assumed that what Calvin has to say about Justification can also be found in Augustine, to be off-base. Calvin (and I assume you as well) believe in forensic justification. Augustine believed in intrinsic justification, and even Geisler and MacKenzie acknowledge that Augustine taught intrinsic justification (Roman Catholics and Evangelicals; Agreements and Differences pg 222). So I am not sure where you fall within the Augustinian model.

    Moving on, I am a Thomist. I would like to think that Rebekah is also a Thomist, but I have not discussed the finer points with her. Maybe you are on to something. I do believe that you missed her meaning though when she stated that Augustine was not a Calvinist. I can assure you that she knows that Calvin did not pop up on the scene until well over a thousand years after Augustine. After completing her Bachelor’s in Religious Studies, I would hope that her professors at least went over those two historical figures in between their Christianity-bashing sessions. The way I read her comments, she was indicating that Calvin and Augustine’s theological principles are not equivalent. You state that Calvin was a theologically-leaning Augustinian. I challenge this assertion. You also made the comment that Luther was an Augustinian monk. So what if he was? He did not maintain Augustine’s theological outlook. Then you juxtaposed Calvin/Luther against the Catholic Church alluding to some faux theological cohesion between Calvin and Luther over the issues of Justification/Sanctification etc., and I do not believe that you could make the case there either. Lastly, because Augustine had elements of predestination in his theology (Catholicism holds to elements of predestination as well) that does not mean that he would agree with Calvin. If you are making the assertion that they are the same, then the burden of proof is upon you to substantiate it.

    In the forth paragraph of your original response (I realize that I am a little late), I believe that while displaying a more reasonable understanding of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the relationship between God’s grace and human works, I can only infer from the language you used that you might not have the clearest understanding of the Catholic’s position. You use terminology that describes Catholicism’s conception of our works as the ‘product’ of God’s grace which as a ‘result’ of that grace ‘enables’ them. This is certainly accurate, but it does not go far enough because more importantly our works are done through God’s grace; and the emphasis is clearly on the term *through*. It would seem that your understanding of this is in terms of cause and effect. We are stating that God brings the effect about, yet he does not violate our will in so doing.

    If we oppose God, he allows us to engage in our sinful ways and he rewards our misdeeds accordingly. If we cooperate with God, he will conform us unto himself and we find our reward in him. ***Through*** the power and merciful grace that God freely gives to us due to the merits of Christ on the cross, God sees the good work done that he himself has initiated and brought about through us by enabling us to do good works; then ***through*** his mercy and goodwill and graciousness, God is pleased by seeing our cooperation (which can only come about ***through*** his grace), and therefore as a loving God, he then freely increases grace and conforms us unto himself. You can say that we merit that grace (meritum de congruo; i.e. reward out of graciousness) because God both equipped us and it was through his grace *alone* that we were able to cooperate with him, and by our cooperation he is pleased and rewards us accordingly. We are not speaking here of a merit that is a reward due to strict justice (meritum de condigno), for no one can achieve this type of merit before God. We cannot obligate God to save us, nor can we appeal to *our* works (i.e. works done absent God’s grace) in order to obligate God. However, after God enables and brings about good works in us through his grace due to the merits of Christ with our cooperation, then why would he not reward us (meritum de congruo)? Otherwise, you would be saying that God either despises our cooperation with his grace, or he is indifferent to it. Is there no reward for our obedience of faith? That being said, I believe that I have truly at least begun to satisfy your objection of the Catholic Church’s teaching that “good works . . . merit increased grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life.” Are good works indifferent to grace, eternal life, and the attainment of eternal life? As my wife had pointed out, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2:17) God desires to see our good works. He desires to see us willingly cooperate with his grace. “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Gen. 22:12) I believe that you hold a flawed understanding of this teaching.

    First of all, to the non-Catholic and their conditioned mind, seeing the terms good works, merit and grace, they do so with a certain amount of caution and bias. Assumptions are made about the terms and their relationship with God’s benevolent gratuitousness and how man could possibly ‘earn’ anything. Man’s merit itself is looked upon as something antithetical to grace. I believe that depending upon the context this can be an improper understanding of the term. However, it would be quite a large task to go through and define the various types of grace, merit, and works and then do proper justice to their definitions. For example, looking at a theological textbook we can see that there are various descriptions of grace and their operations, such as:
    Gratia gratis data
    Gratia gratum faciens
    Gratia illuminationis
    Gratia inspirationis
    Gratia Praeveniens
    Gratia subsequens
    Gratia sufficiens
    Gratia efficax, exc.
    There are also different types of merit; i.e. meritum de condigno, and meritum de congruo which I have gone through. More than likely we will eventually have to go through these, but as for now let it be said that I believe that the Protestant does not do justice to these distinctions, even if he uses the terminology, he confuses them and thereby renders the proper distinction mute.

    My bride used a syllogism in her argument:

    All our faith and good works are solely derived from Christ’s merit and grace.
    Our merit is solely derived from our faith and good works.
    Therefore, our merit is solely derived from Christ’s merit and grace.

    You appeared to agree with the major premise, so no problem there. In the minor premise you only seemed to challenge the idea that works are meritorious even if ‘enabled’ or as I would say ‘done through’ God’s grace and the merits of Christ. Rebekah assumed the minor premise in order to justify how it can be logically derived that any merit we gain is solely done through Christ’s merit, and not something that we can attain on our own through our own work. In other words, if we assume the validity and truthfulness of the minor premise, then the conclusion must follow declaring that any merit we gain must be through the merit of Christ and not of ourselves. The syllogism was only to show that if we could posit that if the major premise as well as the minor premise were true, then the conclusion must logically follow and therefore the Catholic Church is consistent.

    You also discussed my comment where I stated that you were engaging in selective emphasis. Allow me to explain my meaning here. Suppose that Christ’s merit were a large circle. The Church’s position is that our merit is a smaller circle found within the larger circle of Christ’s merit, and as such cannot be separated from it, inspected apart from it, or discussed absent of it. Its existence is entirely dependent upon it, and it is only through the merit of Christ that we can even begin to view it. If you emphasize that smaller circle apart from the larger one of Christ’s merit, you are engaging in fallacious reasoning.

    St. Paul is exactly drawing the same conclusion against those who emphasize their works apart from God’s grace and therefore attempting to obligate God to save them. We can appeal to St. Paul with a Catholic understanding and not render verse 10 either mute or contradictory as the Protestant conception necessarily does. For what does St. Paul say? “[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — [9] not because of works, lest any man should boast.” This is absolutely true. As I have stated before, on our own, absent God’s grace, we cannot obligate God to save us by our works. Remember, Trent stated in Canon 1, “If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.” The point is our works are not meritorious before God (meritum de condigno), only those good works as stated by Trent in Canon 32, “which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ” are meritum de congruo. God rewards us out of graciousness. He rewards us because of our faithfulness to him. It is still gracious because God is not being externally obligated. St. Paul continues with verse 10 saying, “[10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

    Your appeal to Galatians 2 would only apply if as Catholics we taught that one needed to become a Jew and engage in “works of the law” which we do not. Paul is specifically addressing this particular issue here, so within our discussion it is irrelevant. I promise that the Catholic Church does not teach that you must become a Jew and follow the laws of the “circumcision party.”

    Sorry for it taking so long for me to address your points. I appreciate the fact that you are reasonable (even through disagreement), and the fact that you are also charitable. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy writing and discussing my differences with Dr. Burrell. We can discuss our differences, he can really challenge me, but at the end of the day he always does so with grace and genuine respectfulness to which I could only hope to emulate.

  69. Ed


    can you explain to me what you mean by “Only Catholics in a state of grace (not in mortal sin) are supposed to partake of it.”? Do you believe protestants who do not convert to Catholicism can be saved? Don’t worry, I will not be offended by any of your answers. Thanks.

  70. Alexander Greco

    Hi Ed, I hope you do not mind if I answer for Rebekah.

    The short answer to your question is that it depends. Upon what? Upon the Protestant’s level and type of ignorance.

    There are differing levels, or rather types, of ignorance:

    A. Invincible ignorance: there is present ignorance, and the agent has no means of overcoming his/her ignorance

    B. Vincible ignorance: there is present ignorance, but the agent can overcome his or her ignorance

    Vincible ignorance is broken down into:

    B. 1) Inculpable vincible ignorance: agent is presently ignorant, though it is not the fault of the agent, there was no opportunity in the past to overcome the ignorance, nor is that opportunity currently present

    B. 2) Culpable vincible ignorance: agent is presently ignorant due to choice, choice made in the past or at the present

    Culpable vincible ignorance is broken down into:

    B. 2) (a) Simple culpable vincible ignorance: ignorance due to minor negligence (carelessness)

    B. 2) (b) Crass culpable vincible ignorance: ignorance due to the result of serious negligence

    B. 2) (c) Affected culpable vincible ignorance: agent expressly chooses a desire to be ignorant, and furthermore makes certain movements (i.e. obstinate choices) in order to remain ignorant

    The Church does teach that Salvation by necessity must come only through God’s grace and the merits of Jesus Christ as presented before the Father and by which we can come to know via orthodox Christian teachings (the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and all the means therein contained). If any Protestant, or any man for that matter, is saved, it is not due to their beliefs, but solely in a positive sense it is due to God’s grace, and in a negative sense it is due to the agent’s level of ignorance. There is no assurance as to whom that would apply; we can only have hope that God would save them. This is entirely an exception to the rule, and not to be confused as being the rule itself.

  71. Alexander Greco

    I should add that I gathered the information dealing with the various levels/types of ignorance from a textbook of one of my former seminarian professors (Dr. Swanke) entitled, “The Ethics of Determinism.”

  72. Alexander Greco

    I should also add that I paraphrased my former professor’s instruction on the various types of ignorance.

  73. Rebekah Greco

    When Alex called me to tell me you had posted, I was changing a diaper. Alex pretty much summed it up. However, the Catholic Church maintains many Protestant Churches have a lot of truth, just not the “fullness of the truth”. A lot of my initial investigation into the Church included Covenant Theology. I know pretty much every Bible story backwards and forwards due to the children’s Sunday School classes I attended in Florence, SC. So when I began to study the covenants, I had so many distinct memories from as young as two and three years old of being taught about Abraham, Moses, and the ark of the covenant. I also remember my dad baptizing me when I was nine years old “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”. When I decided to go through the process of becoming Catholic, I had easy proof of a Trinitarian baptism. I did not have to be re-baptized. What was interesting was that even though this baptism was supposed to be a symbol and an act of obedience, I was in actuality receiving a sacrament. I was baptized a Catholic. I had a Catholic baptism in a Baptist Church. I just was not in full communion with the Church, yet.
    When I came to the conclusion that, yes, the Catholic Church was indeed the Church instituted by Christ Himself, I had to make a decision. Should I follow a church that had a lot of truth, but not the “fullness of the truth” or should I go home and embrace Rome. I had to leave my selfish desires to not face condemnation from peers and family at the door, and follow Christ and His commands fully, and I have never once looked back. With the precious gift of Christ’s true presence, body, blood, soul and Divinity present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, I am in the presence of Christ Himself. It isn’t just a symbol, just like baptism isn’t just a symbol, it is real. When in an unconfessed state of mortal sin, partaking of this Sacrament 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, which says “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself.” Paul is talking about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. You wouldn’t be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord if it was just a symbol.

  74. Ed

    Thanks for the responding. Quick Question: What do you think is the likelihood that Martin Luther or John Calvin were/are saved? They certainly understood Catholic theology, so what level of ignorance would you assume they were under based on their positions?

  75. Ed

    Please do that because I would love to know how we can be sure “canonized” saints are in heaven, but not be sure that those Catholic believers that are not as famous, yet as faithful as the “canonized saints” are in heaven.

  76. Alexander Greco

    Ed, I am not so sure that Luther and Calvin did understand Catholic theology, or at least I doubt that they did due to how they wrote about Catholic theology. They could have wanted to willingly misrepresent Catholic teaching, but we could give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they did not truly understand. However, here is the caveat…as Catholics they were corrected by the Church, and they failed in their obedience to orthodox doctrine by not reconciling with the Church. It is one thing to have never been associated with the Church and find yourself in ignorance, but it is quite another thing to have been a member of the Church and obstinately deny fidelity and obedience to her teachings whether you are ignorant or not. That being said, only God knows the minds, hearts, and complexities of the human-animal. He is the Judge. It is important to remind yourself that while there might be exceptions, we must not make the mistake of conceiving of those exceptions as being the rule. The rule is that Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (Outside the Church there is no salvation). Heresy does not save. Heterodox teaching is not salvific; if you are saved it is in spite of your heresy (I am using ‘you’ in the general sense).

    You asked the question: “Please do that because I would love to know how we can be sure ‘canonized’ saints are in heaven, but not be sure that those Catholic believers that are not as famous, yet as faithful as the ‘canonized saints’ are in heaven.”

    Those Catholics who have persevered to the end, fully conformed to Christ and presently worshiping Him in Heaven are not in need of our assurance of the fact that they are there. Now I know that my next comment is going to open up a whole new discussion, but here it comes anyway. If we pray for someone who is presently in Heaven, our prayers are not useless. God can still be pleased with our prayers and apply them to whom He will.

  77. Alexander Greco

    Ed, are you finished with exams? I hope our conversation is not becoming too much of a distraction for you; if it is we can wait. Trust me, both Rebekah and I know how it can get during finals.

  78. Ed

    One more exam left.

    Actually, this conversation is giving me a well needed respite from studying. Also, I will not give up an opportunity to actually talk to practising Catholics who know what they are talking about! In my town there is probably 80 churches with only one being Catholic. That church probably has 50 regular attendees and most of them speak Spanish, so I don’t get this great opportunity everyday.

    By the way, I have aced all the exams so far. This conversation has not hurt me at all. I especially enjoy reading the conversation your and your wife are having with Ted. I wouldn’t mind seeing Dr. Burrell weigh in on this conversation as well.

  79. Alexander Greco

    Great job on the exams! What is your major? I majored in Political Science with the hope of attending law school in a year or so. Rebekah majored in Religious Studies.

    From what I remember of Dr. Burrell when he was in Charlotte, he normally keeps a busy schedule, but it would be great when he is able to drop a few lines here and there.

  80. Ed

    My major is history with a Bible minor. Hopefully, I will be attending law school next year as well! I will most likely attend one in the North Carolina area, but I am really impressed with Ava Maria school of law. Is that where you are going to attend? If not, where? Of course, if my lsat score was high enough and my wallet was a lot thicker, I would have loved to attend Notre Dame.

  81. Alexander Greco

    I would stay away from Ave Maria School of Law. Not only are they 4th tier, but I believe that they will loose their accredidation if they move to Florida. Now there are some good professors associated with them (at least in the past…like Judge Robert Bork…awesome), but they are going down hill fast.

    Liberty has a law school, but I have no idea where they would rank. I do know that they are only provisionally and not fully accredited.

    Catholic University of America has a pretty good law school.

    Notre Dame has an awesome law school.

    I’m planning on going to Stetson’s law school in Florida part time. It is a little more difficult going to law school when you need to work full time, are married, and have children. Stetson is a good law school (top tier), and they seem to have a good part time program. We shall see.

  82. Ed

    I have received some information from Stetson, but I want to live near NC. If you live in Florida, FSU and UF both are top tier, and you would get in-state tuition. Also, with being married and having kids you will receive massive amount of government aid. Also, with a high enough LSAT score you could attend law school in Florida for free. The Kaplan LSAT course is definitely worth the money. I recommend taking it.

  83. Ted

    Sorry I’ve been missing from the discussion for a few days. My internet was down last night.

    Anyway, with regard to Alex’s comments regarding Luther, Calvin, Pelagius, and the Catholic Church — I guess I can only say that I did not intend, from my early passing comments about the Council of Trent’s apparent response to Pelagianism, to lead us down the rabbit trail of Augustinian/Pelagian theology. I recognize: (1) that the Augustinian/Pelagian controversy covers a number of issues, including original sin, free will, grace, and predestination; (2) that Augustinian and Pelagian theology are not an either/or, but rather are two ends on a continuum; (3) that neither Calvin nor Luther adhered to all that Augustine taught, including all that Augustine taught on justification. We could debate ad nauseum whether Luther or Calvin or the Catholic Church is more closely aligned with Augustine. But that wasn’t and isn’t my point. My initial point was intended to be a narrow one, namely that the Augustine/Pelagian controversy crosses denominational boundaries and rages even today in both Catholic and Protestant denominations. I do not think that is a particularly controversial point.

    As for the importance of the word “through” to Catholic theology, I did not intend any material distinction between my use of the word “enabled” and Alexander’s use of the word “through.” I understand, and indeed affirm, that our good works are made possible only “through” the grace of God and merit of Christ on the cross. But that still doesn’t answer the question whether those good works (done through the merit of Christ) merit increased grace and eternal life.

    As I have said, I believe that the central and material point of disagreement between us is the means by which saving grace is applied by God to the individual. I have proposed that Eph 2:8-9 are critical to resolving that disagreement. Baptist theology says that these verses teach that saving grace is through faith alone. Alex, as I understand his response, posits that these verses do not support the Baptist position and further argues that these verses are at least not inconsistent with the Catholic view that saving grace is applied (“merited,” to use the Catholic term) through faith and works.

    Alex attempts to explain Eph 2:8-9 by stating that those verses simply state that “absent God’s grace, we cannot obligate God to save us by our works.” But the same could be said of faith — absent God’s grace, we cannot obligate God to save us through our faith. So Alex’s statement still fails to explain why Paul draws a distinction between faith and works in those verses. Which leaves us again with the question of what is the distinction between faith and works that Paul is proposing in those verses. Baptists answer that question by stating that faith is the means by which saving grace is applied to us, while works are not. I still have not heard an explanation for the faith/works distinction of verses 8-9 that is consistent with Catholic theology.

    Alex also states that the Baptist/Protestant position “necessarily” “render[s] verse 10 either mute or contradictory.” I don’t understand this assertion at all. To be clear, Protestants absolutely affirm that good works are only possible through God’s grace, that good works will necessarily come from the life of one who has been graciously saved, and that good works result in reward in the eternal state. Thus, Paul says in verse 10, we have been saved “for good works.” We have been saved from the power of sin so that good works can now be born in our lives. But nothing about verse 10 says that good works are necessary for our salvation, and verses 8 and 9 say just the opposite. Works bring reward in the eternal state, but works do not save one to the eternal state.

    I also suggested that the Catholic view must be reconciled with Gal 2:16, which states that “we may be justified by faith in Christ and not be works of the Law.” Alex explains away these verses by suggesting that they only apply to those who claim that “you must become a Jew and follow the laws of the ‘circumcision party.’” Really? Is that a reasonable interpretation of Gal 2 — that it only seeks to refute those who claim that you must abide by ALL of the Law for salvation, and that it says nothing about those who say you must abide by most or even part of the Law for salvation? Are we really to believe that, for example, if someone were to teach that you must keep all of the Law except circumcision (or all of the Law except the dietary rules) in order to obtain salvation, that Paul’s teaching in Gal 2 says nothing to refute that? Isn’t it more reasonable to read Paul as stating in Gal 2 that keeping the law, whether in whole or in part, is no means to justification? Isn’t Paul addressing the particular error of his day (i.e., that you need to keep the whole Law) to make a broader point, namely that works aren’t the means to justification at all? Isn’t this the most reasonable reading of Gal 2 in light of Rom 3 and Eph 2?

    Finally, Rebekah raised the issue of James 2:24, which states “that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” But Romans 3:28 seems to say just the opposite, stating that “a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (As does Gal 2). So which is it? How to reconcile these two verses? One option is to say that the verses are inconsistent and irreconcilable and chose one over the other. That’s what Luther did, in arguing that James wasn’t properly part of the canon. Another option is to chose one passage to emphasize (i.e., the one consistent with a particular theology) and ignore the other. Or, the third option is to reconcile the two verses.

    I happen to think that they are reconcilable. Frankly, Calvin does a better job than I at reconciling the two passages, so I will only summarize his position here. (See Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book Third, Chapter 17, Section 12). In short, Calvin explains that the Greek work translated “justify” in these passages has multiple meanings, just as it does in English. At times, it means “to make right” and at other times it means “to demonstrate that one is right.” In other words, sometimes “justify” means to manifest rightness, and other times “justify” means to impute rightness. We recognize these same two meanings in English. (See Webster’s Dictionary, defining “justify” as meaning “to show to be just” or “to free from blame”). So, James can simply be read as stating that we are shown to others to be just (as opposed to made just) by works and not by faith only. And that is the point of James 2, namely how we show others out faith. See James 2:18 (“I will show you my faith by my works”). But this doesn’t contradict in any way Paul’s assertion that we are made just by faith alone. Those made just by faith alone (Rom 3:28) will show by works that they have been made just (James 2:24).

  84. Alexander Greco

    Ted, I hope to address your comments ASAP. I will have a pretty busy weekend ahead of me. I will be working tonight until the morning. I will attend a conference on marriage tomorrow evening. Then on Saturday morning through the afternoon I will be attending a Mass in which a former Liberty University student will be formally coming into the Church, along with a reception afterwards. Saturday night I am going to a company party. Then on Sunday I am normally busy with Mass, as well as the fact that a group of us in the Latin Mass community get together (and you might find the name of our group to be somewhat amusing, we call our group ‘Anathema Sit’; we are a backwards non-pc group of all ages) and discuss theology, philosophy, ethics, and politics for a few hours. I truly enjoy and learn a lot from this group.

  85. Alexander Greco

    Hi Ted,

    I’ve gone from being addressed in the second person, to now being addressed in the third person. I am being phased out…just kidding. I have no problem with being talked about. :)

    I had brought up the fact that Trent addressed in her decree on justification something more than just an Augustinian/Pelagian controversy. You asserted that they are two ends on a continuum. I don’t think that Augustine’s theology is an end on the continuum by any means (not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t describe the various theologies as laying on a continuum; this would overlook important distinctions which indicate that they overlap in various ways, but this is a bit nit-picky). Would not Hyper-Calvinism be much further past Augustinianism on that continuum? Surely the Council addressed Calvin’s theology. Being the fact that we are discussing the Council’s decree on justification, and that you even admit that Luther and Calvin did not adhere to all that Augustine held on justification, a very important point must be made again in that Augustine did not teach extrinsic justification but intrinsic justification. I cannot see how Calvin and Luther can be reconciled with Augustine, but by examining Augustine’s theology, I can say that he was indeed Catholic.

    I am not sure what you mean by saving grace.

    Catholic theology is totally consistent with Sacred Scripture, whereas I believe that your Baptist theology is not. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul describes our calling by God. He makes it known that we are unable to save ourselves by our own works. We need the grace of God. Upon our entrance into the Christian life through God’s grace, we must have the obedience of faith. As Christians we are called to be holy and blameless before God, and God enables us to do so by cooperating through his grace.

    As free persons, God does not violate our freedom by keeping us against our will from sinning. By sinning we turn away from God, away from His grace, and toward ourselves. Absent God’s grace we cannot do good works, nor merit any favor. Instead, we become evil doers and not imitators of God as beloved children, and as such we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    What are good works but cooperating with God’s grace in a positive sense by building virtue and being obedient to what Christ had commanded us? Through our active obedience we are disposing ourselves with his grace to receive more of his grace; therefore, inheriting through his grace everlasting life. This must be done. God wants to see our faithful obedience, and to say otherwise is both unbiblical and deceptive.

    What is faith without works? James tells us that it is dead faith.
    [14] What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? [17] So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. [18] But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. [19] You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder. [20] Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? [22] You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, [23] and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God.[24] You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:14-24)

    James is clear. Why does he appeal to Abraham offering his son Isaac upon the altar? For the same reason I did. Protestants often confuse what James is saying by declaring that works are only meant to show others our faith. Not only does verse 14 clearly indicate that the Protestant interpretation is false, but James’ appeal to Abraham’s action clearly demonstrates that God himself wants to see our works and be pleased by them. Therefore, what did God say to Abraham? “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12) Was God not pleased with Abraham?

    The point is clear, without works (something that we do through the grace of God) we are not just before God. When we are called to be obedient, but we, through sin, turn away from God and are not disposed through his grace to receive his grace, we are not just…we have turned away from God’s grace. Therefore, what do we then say of faith? The Catholic position is that you cannot separate faith from faithful obedience. Saying that I believe in God is not enough; you must have the obedience of faith.

    Please read Galatians over again. Paul is specifically addressing the issue of the circumcision party attempting to have the Gentiles be circumcised and “become Jews” before becoming Gentiles. This is what Paul is addressing.

  86. Ted


    Sorry, my third person comments were simply a reflection that others had joined the discussion. No disrespect intended.

    You stated that you were “not sure what [I] mean by saving grace.” See Eph 2:8 (“By grace you are saved”)

    I agree with everything you said in your paragraph about the book of Ephesians. But none of that explains why Paul draws a distinction in Eph 2:8-9 between faith and works.

    I also agree that God was pleased with Abraham. But none of that means that Abrahams works were salvific, meriting eternal life. In fact, in Romans 4, Paul uses that exact same story about Abraham to prove that his works were not salvific.

    I also agree that a faith that is nothing more than a belief in factual information about God. See James 2:19 (“You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe.”). A saving faith is one that goes on to completion in good works. See James 2:22. But that is different than saying that the works (even works done through Christ) save us in the sense of providing us entrance into eternal life.

    It’s not enough to, in support of a theology, cite James or any other isolated passage. A legitimate theology needs to synthesize and reconcile all passages of Scripture. Catholic theology fails to do that with regard to Eph 2:8-9, Romans 3:28, Gal. 2, Romans 4, etc.

    At least that’s how I see it.

  87. Alexander Greco

    Hi Ted,

    No disrespect was felt. I was just having a little fun. (I wonder if anyone really has been following our conversation.)

    You asked me to go to Ephesians 2:8 in order to understand what you mean by saving grace. The passage only tells me, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” My question then becomes: Are you implying that this passage states that grace is not merely efficacious in its own right because it is God’s grace, but also it is as such in a deterministic/predestination fashion absent man’s obedient cooperation (filial love)?

    I submit that Paul draws a distinction between faith and works in the same way that the Catholic Church does. Trent taught that:

    CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.


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

    Keep in mind, the Church also teaches that:

    “…we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons…” (Chapter VIII)

    Ted, it is my understanding that Paul is drawing a dichotomy between faith and works, but not in the same way that you are doing it. The key element in the distinction is one of grace. It is my contention, and I believe it to be a thoroughly biblical one, that Paul is using the term ‘works’ in this case to mean that which is done absent God’s grace as a means of obligating God, leading to boasting in our own righteousness. The problem is that this is unworkable because the offense committed against God is of such value that we are unable to atone for the offense committed. This is a universal condition found within all humanity for all have sinned.

    If Paul were making a dichotomy between faith alone on the one hand and those works done absent God’s grace as well as those works done through God’s grace (which is completely ontologically different from works done absent God’s grace), then he would be reducing the other passages discussing the necessity of man’s filial obedience to mere superfluous rhetoric. The problem as I see it is in the view that faith is either a necessary condition for justification unto eternal salvation, or a mere sufficient condition.

    For those who do not know, the standard textbook definition of necessary condition would be as follows (and of course I am implying the presence of grace):

    Condition A (faith) is said to be necessary for condition B (justification), if (and only if) the nonexistence of A (faith) guarantees (brings about) the nonexistence of B (justification).

    Sufficient condition:

    Condition A (faith) is said to be sufficient for condition B (justification), if (and only if) the existence of A (faith) guarantees (brings about) the existence of B (justification).

    Put in another way, we can say that hydration is a necessary condition for human life, if (and only if) the lack of hydration guarantees (brings about) the lack of human life. This is a self-evident fact; if my body is not hydrated, then I will lose my life.

    However, it would be false to state that hydration is a sufficient condition for human life, if (and only if) the existence of hydration guarantees (brings about) the existence of human life. We know that this is false because the body also needs nutrition in order to maintain existence.

    By stating faith alone, faith becomes the sufficient condition for justification. Ted, the Catholic Church teaches that faith is a necessary condition (see above); while you seem to be stating through your interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9 that faith is the sufficient condition because your theology says sola fidei. This causes me some confusion because I have a hard time reconciling what you state here: “A saving faith is one that goes on to completion in good works.” You seem to imply that works (done through God’s grace) is also a necessary condition (which completes faith), but that would render the principle of faith alone (a sufficient condition) illogical. Moreover, James uses stronger language than you do, moving beyond stating that good works merely complete faith, to stating that faith alone without works is dead. (James 2:17)

    You state: “But that is different than saying that the works (even works done through Christ) save us in the sense of providing us entrance into eternal life.”

    Are you implying here that the Catholic Church teaches a ‘works alone’ justification? That is hardly the case as I have proven time and time again. The Catholic Church teaches that good works (done through God’s grace, i.e. filial obedience) is likewise a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one. What is required is both faith and good works. However, there is a lot of confusion that might be derived from this. You should not conceptualize me as stating that faith and good works are equal, yet opposite, sides of the same coin, for that would not be what the Church is stating. Remember the above quote from the Council of Trent:
    “…we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons…” (Chapter VIII)

    I believe that your statement that good works complete faith to be fallacious due to the ontological nature of faith itself. The Church helps enlighten our understanding of how works correspond to faith by stating: fides caritate formata (or faith informed by love). This is entirely in agreement with St. James stating “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

    When you cite Romans 3:28, Galatians 2, and Romans 4 as if they were opposed to Catholic doctrine, you engage in selective emphasis by ignoring both the full content of Church teaching, the teaching found in James, Ephesians 2:10 (etc.), and the particular context of what Paul is referring to by stating ‘works of law.’

    You also state: “In fact, in Romans 4, Paul uses that exact same story about Abraham to prove that his works were not salvific.”

    Actually, Romans 4 does not appeal to the same story of Abraham, but to God’s promise to Abram that the Lord will bless him with descendents, and Abram believed God. Paul appeals to this story because it showed that Abraham was righteous before God prior to the works of law, i.e. circumcision. The story of Isaac did not happen until some time later.

  88. Ted


    You explain that you read Eph 2:8 as a verse where “Paul is using the term ‘works’ in this case to mean that which is done absent God’s grace as a means of obligating God.” But if the distinction Paul is drawing in that verse is between works done absent God’s grace (which are no part of salvation) and works done through God’s grace (which you believe are part of salvation), then you have still failed to explain why Paul talks about faith at all. In other words, the distinction you are drawing is not the distinction Paul very clearly draws. His distinction is between faith and works — period. He makes no distiniction whatsover in that passage between different types (for lack of a better word) works. As I said very early on, you are reading the verse to say, “By grace you are saved, through works (or faith and works), and that (or those) not of yourselves, it (or they) are the gift of God, of works done through grace, so that no man can boast.” But that is not even close to what the verse actually says by its plain terms. Over and over the distinction Paul draws is not between works done through grace vs. works not done through grace. The distinction Paul continually draws — Gal 2, Rom 3, and Eph 2 — is between faith and works.

    So I still say that I have yet to hear an explanation for the distinction actually Paul draws that is consistent with Catholic theology. I understand what Trent says. I just have not heard how Trent is consistent with the distinction that the biblical text repeatedly draws — between faith and works.

    You state that my position that faith is a sufficient condition renders other passages regarding “man’s filial obedience man’s filial obedience to mere superfluous rhetoric.” Your conclusion doesn’t follow at all. Man’s obedience is necessary. But necessary for what is the question. Necessary to please God? Yes. Necessary to glorify God? Yes. Necessary for salvation or eternal life? Not at all. You read the Protestant position that good works are not necessary for salvation as meaning that good works are irrelevant. This is a gross distortion of the Protestant position. Good works are commanded. One who has truly believed in Christ will live a life of increasing obedience, though the degree of obedience will vary in the individual because God’s grace works to greater or lesser degrees in different people. But the only thing necessary for salvation is faith. It’s not of works — not grace enabled works or self-enabled works. The grace is through faith — period. I don’t see how Eph 2:8-9 could be any clearer on that.

  89. Alexander Greco

    Sorry for taking so long Ted. I have been a little busy.

    Ted, here is the chapter in question:
    [1] And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. [3] Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), [6] and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God — [9] not because of works, lest any man should boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — [12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. [13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. [14] For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, [15] by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, [16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. [17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; [18] for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. [19] So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; [22] in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    The above passage is making exactly the same distinction I am. Concerning works, Paul juxtaposes those works done by those in the flesh with those alive in Christ through grace. It is because Christ is the cornerstone that we become his workmanship. The good works that we now do, as a new creation in Christ, is not the same as the works done absent God’s grace through which we do not have peace with God. We have been reconciled to God through the expiatory sacrifice which Christ made on the cross. God excites and moves the will with his grace, and man for his part cooperates with this infusion of grace by assenting to it and for his part (again with God’s grace) disposes himself to receive more grace.

    Regarding faith Trent taught: “we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons.”

    To state that Paul is not making this distinction is turn his writings on their head. It is absolutely clear that Paul juxtaposes works done absent grace in order to obligate God (which would lead a man to boast) with the man living through the grace of God who is our peace. Ted, you have to deal with the passage. It is not enough to read the word ‘works’ and universalize it outside the context which Paul places it in. You must deal with the context.

    You stated that I am reading the verse to say: “By grace you are saved, through works (or faith and works), and that (or those) not of yourselves, it (or they) are the gift of God, of works done through grace, so that no man can boast.”

    This is a logical fallacy (straw man argument). It completely misrepresents a key element of my position. I have explicitly stated that while faith and works are derived from the same source, God’s grace, and that they are both brought to fulfillment with man’s assent (which could not have been done absent God’s grace), then therefore it would be a violent destruction of that new creation in Christ Jesus to separate faith from works and deprive our new ontology as Christ’s workmanship by being impious evildoers (read James). In other words, fides caritate formata (or faith informed by charity or love) is my position, and this is not logically equivalent to the sort of synergism which you are implying.

    Ephesians goes on with:
    [1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [3] But fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [7] Therefore do not associate with them, [8] for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5)

    But you state: “Man’s obedience is necessary. But necessary for what is the question. Necessary to please God? Yes. Necessary to glorify God? Yes. Necessary for salvation or eternal life? Not at all.”

    I am baffled by this because for starters it directly contradicts Scripture (read the above quote from Ephesians 5, and James), and secondly the thought itself is self-contradictory.

    A) Obedience is necessary to please God.
    B) Obedience is necessary to glorify God.
    C) Obedience is not necessary for salvation and eternal life.
    In other words:
    A) Disobedience is not pleasing to God.
    B) Disobedience is not glorifying to God.
    C) The disobedient (unpleasing and non-glorifying) will be saved.
    Is faith itself not an act of obedience? Is faith itself not something which must exist? We find in Romans 1:5-6, which defines the new creation as that which Christ our Lord, “[5] through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, [6] including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

    Ted, do you not remember that Christ’s sacrifice as applied to us made us a new creation which has found peace with God by reconciling us with him? Is there reconciliation and peace when the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience? How can we be children of light when we walk in darkness as evildoers especially when God supplies us with the grace to do otherwise?

    [35] “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, [36] and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. [37] Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them. [38] If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants! [39] But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. [40] You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.” [41] Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” [42] And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? [43] Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. [44] Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. [45] But if that servant says to himself, `My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, [46] the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful. [47] And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. [48] But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. (Luke 12)

    When discussing Paul, the distinction he makes over and over again in any passage you cite is between the new creation and the old. To suppose otherwise is not in accordance with the passages you’ve cited, in Ephesians, Galatians, or Romans. The distinction is between fides caritate formata as a new creation and those who attempt to obligate God outside of grace, leading to boasting. If you violate your new status as a child of God by living as a child of darkness, rejecting the movement of grace in your heart through commission of grievous unrepentant sin, then you will reap what you sow. As Galatians 6 states: “[7] Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. [8] For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. [9] And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” And Mark 4: “[20] But those that were sown upon the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

    In stating that a person can sow evildoing by being disobedient, yet still enter God’s perfect goodness would mock God’s righteousness. You are either a new creation, or not.

    Lastly you had stated that: “But the only thing necessary for salvation is faith. It’s not of works — not grace enabled works or self-enabled works. The grace is through faith — period. I don’t see how Eph 2:8-9 could be any clearer on that.”

    If I were to ask you the question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” You, as shown above, would say yes. I would repeat with James (and Paul) that: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” The new creation only exists and walks with God via fides caritate formata.

    I would be interested in finding out what others think about this, if indeed anyone is actually following the conversation. Where am I or Ted missing the point?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>