Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dialogue With a Calvinist on Whether it is Possible to Fall Away from Grace or Salvation

[Beersheba.jpg]
Ruins of Beersheba, where Abraham made a treaty with Abimelech (Gen 21:22-34)

[ source ]

This exchange started in the combox for my paper, Great Calvinist Post About Assurance of Salvation and the Extreme Fundamentalistic "Faith Alone" Position of Virtual Antinomianism. Calvinist "Michael" commented (three typos corrected):
If it is God who saves sinners, then who might arise and declare unjust what the Lord of Glory has made anew? If it is God who regenerates (1Pet 1:3), if it is God who justifies (Rom 5:1), and if it is the Lord Jesus Christ who keeps His people and decrees that no one (not even one's self) can snatch them out of His hand (John 10:28) then who dares usurp the CLEAR teaching of scripture regarding the perseverance of God's people? This doctrine of Rome that supposes one might loose their salvation by some grievous sin or other action is ad hock and divorced from the text of scripture. In fact, the concept of the loss of one's salvation after regeneration undermines the effectiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ's atonement. Any and all who profess The Name should immediately repent of such nonsense and rest in the assurance of what has been done on Calvary alone.

(23 July 2009)
I then provided passages that suggest "the possibility of falling away from faith and justification and salvation" (from the first RSV draft my book, Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths), in three posts (one / two / three). I also noted (at no extra charge):
And of course, what we know from Scripture about how God judges us in the end is completely in accord with justification and sanctification being intertwined and organically related, and opposed to the strictness and separationism of sola fide:

Final Judgment in Scripture is Always Associated With Works And Never With Faith Alone (50 Passages)

Also, Paul's constant teaching shows how they cannot be separated:

St. Paul's Teaching on the Organic Relationship of Grace / Faith and Works / Action / Obedience (Collection of 50 Pauline Passages)

You reformed folks will be in big trouble if we delve into Scripture too deeply. All kinds of difficulties for your position arise. :-)
Pilgrimsarbour, a Reformed Presbyterian (OPC) who is (quite refreshingly) willing to intelligently interact with Catholics sans the insults and misrepresentations at every turn, then replied. His words will be in blue:

Don't you ever post anything, you know, short? You're killing me here! ;-) I'd love to post responses but I'm a bit overwhelmed by the volume of material presented and under time constraints, of course. I think what I'll do is take one thing at a time, make a few brief comments on it, then move on to the next point. In any case, I doubt I'll be able to respond to everything, and certainly not all at once.

Understood; same here. We have time to develop and pursue the conversation if we want to. No rush.

Quoting Scripture you said...
1 Samuel 11:6; 18:12 And the spirit of God came mightily upon Saul when he heard these words, . . . Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.
I gather from what you are saying the following premise: anytime we see the Spirit of God coming upon someone we should understand this to mean that that person is among the elect, or "saved."


Not necessarily; I agree with you. I do think, however, that it indicates that God is involved with the person to some extent, as opposed to them being totally depraved and capable of no good whatever. If the Spirit is there, there is something good going on, no?

And if the Spirit should remove Himself, this indicates that a saved or elect person can lose his salvation.

I think it is certainly consistent with that proposition, but not an absolute proof in and of itself, unless the question of their being saved or elect is specifically dealt with as well. There are proofs in Scripture and there are possible or likely indications that are harmonious with a particular theology. Likewise, there are passages that appear to be inconsistent with other belief-systems, such as the many Hebrew passages about "falling away" in relation to Calvinism.

I would argue that not every intervention in the lives of individuals (or whole peoples) by the Spirit of God means that they were regenerated by Him, that is, chosen, elect or saved, even those whom He has appointed to positions of authority within the Church (see my previous comments on Judas). [see that paper and exchanges afterwards]

A good example of this in the Old Testament is to be found in Genesis 20. Abraham tells Abimelech that Sarah is his sister instead of his wife, so Abimelech takes Sarah as his wife. When Abimelech finds out about Abraham's treachery, he has a discussion with the Lord Himself:
5 Did he not himself say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this." 6 Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours" (Genesis 20: 5-7 ESV, emphasis mine).
This is a good OT example of the Holy Spirit of God intervening in a non-elect gentile's heart and life to spare both His people and His non-people from His judgement. The Spirit essentially overrode Abimelech's will in order that God's purposes would be obtained.

But as far as I can tell, Scripture doesn't inform us that Abimelech is not of the elect. You have assumed that without proof. So your example proves little. We're both assuming things that we bring to the text (which is okay; everyone does it): you assume (far as I can tell) that a Gentile in Old Testament times isn't in the elect and I assume it is possible to fall away from grace.

Of course, the Spirit can remove His restraint on the sinner for God's purposes as he did with Pharoah in Exodus 9:12. This verse says that God actively hardened Pharoah's heart. I think that no one would make the case that either Abimelech or Pharoah were among those who would be saved.

Pharaoh was likely unsaved because of how he acted (everything we know is pretty much negative). But the record in Abimelech's case is a lot brighter. How do we know for sure he wasn't saved in the end? The "hardening of Pharaoh's heart" issue is somewhat complex. I've dealt with it in the past:

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? (Does God Positively Ordain Evil?) (vs. [atheist] "DagoodS")

Reply to a Calvinist Critique Concerning the "Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart" (+ Discussion) (vs. Colin Smith)

For one thing they were outside the covenant, and for another, their fruits or lack thereof do not give us confidence to view them as saved persons.

Romans 2:9-16 refers to those outside the law who could still be justified by doing good works and following their conscience. I think there is enough indication that non-Jews in the Old Covenant could possibly be saved. This is particularly the case in New Testament teaching, which could then be applied back to the Old Testament situation, as a fuller revelation of the place of Gentiles in the plan of salvation. People weren't automatically damned simply because they lived before Christ and weren't Jewish.

Interestingly, this is also a good verse to illustrate to some who would object to the idea of original sin. Adam is seen as the federal head of the human race. God does treat kings as a federal head of his people, and holds those people responsible for their king's behaviour. In this verse not only Abimelech was in danger but all his subjects as well. Thankfully, everyone was spared.

Original sin is not being questioned, so I'll pass on that for now . . . There is a sense of corporate judgment in Scripture (that I've also dealt with).

* * *

I agree with you whole-heartedly that we can't know Abimelech's final disposition regarding salvation. I did not mean to say that no Old Testament gentile could possibly be saved. I do believe that there are Old Testament gentiles that will be found among the elect in eternity. I think you would agree, though, that that is much more rare than what was to happen under the New Covenant. God expands His covenantal blessings in the New Testament to include the gentiles.

Yes, He makes it explicit at that time that Gentiles are included. But God doesn't change (and I'm sure you agree with that!). Whoever is saved at any time, whether it is 3000 BC or yesterday, is saved because of Jesus Christ and His work for us. I don't see that it makes any difference. If they haven't heard the gospel and accepted or rejected it, then they are judged by what they know (Romans 2). That would apply to Abimelech as much as it would to a person today or any time since the crucifixion.

But further, it seems clear to me that there was nothing which inhered in Abimelech which brought him into God's favour. It was, in fact, God Himself who placed integrity in Abimelech's heart:

Of course; that is true for all of us. But we have to cooperate with God's grace. That's the key. You guys make grace irresistible, so there is no sense of cooperation in the fundamental, causal sense. But I think that understanding distorts the biblical "both/and" outlook and makes it an "either/or" thing that is rather unbiblical.

"Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her."

There is always a sense of God's providence, that He ultimately causes every good thing to happen; thus He will say "I did [so-and-so]." It doesn't follow that the person didn't also freely do whatever it was. That was my argument in the case of Pharaoh. We see this clearly in the book of Job, where we know that Satan was doing the evil things to Job, yet 42:11 refers to "all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him". But God had said to Satan in 2:6: "Behold, he is in your power; only spare his life." Satan brought the evil, not God. God allowed it, but He didn't cause it.

Abimelech is pleading his case before God in this dream, based on his own understanding of his heart. He thinks he's a mighty good fellow, or at least he wants to persuade God that he is. But God is saying, "I know you have integrity; it is I who put it there."

That's not the whole picture of what occurred. Abraham had lied, that Sarah was his sister. How was Abimmy to be blamed for that (20:3-5)? He didn't know. God simply caused him not to approach her (sexually). God acknowledges the purity of his motives: "Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart" (20:6a). Then God said (20:6b): "it was I who kept you from sinning against me; therefore I did not let you touch her."

So the issue of his integrity and whether he engaged in sex with Sarah are separated. God prevented the thing that Abimmy didn't know about because Abraham lied. None of this suggests to me that Abimmy was an unutterably wicked fellow who couldn't possibly be saved. Yet you originally stated, in describing this scene, that it was "God intervening in a non-elect gentile's heart and life."

Now you admit that we can't know for sure if he was elect or not, so your argument falters, then, because it was based on that unknowable premise, that you now concede is unknowable.

If Abimelech's integrity was inherent, that is, his own,

It was not "his own" insofar as none of our integrity is ultimately our own (in origin). It comes from God's grace. The question here is whether God gave him grace or not. I am saying there is no compelling reason to think that He didn't, or that Abimmy is damned. He's not presented as that bad of a guy, in his outward actions. He gave Abraham stuff, even though it was Abraham who had wronged him (20:14-16) and God blessed his house with [implied] many children (20:17-18).

why should God punish him at all for taking Sarah?

I don't know. The text is unclear as to why that is, but it does show God agreeing that Abimmy hadn't wronged Sarah, because he didn't know she was married. It could have been as an outward display for those who didn't know all the details. This was, after all, a pretty primitive time in salvation history.

An argument could be made that A.D. 70 was the end of the Jewish age, and that with the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem God has abandoned His people in favour of the gentiles. The Reformed position is that there is a future work or other kind of inclusion for the nation of Israel based upon certain statements in the book of Revelation, but I have not studied that completely.

That wouldn't have any bearing on the question at hand, one way or the other. And even if God had abandoned the Jews entirely (which is another big question we don't need to pursue now), that is in a corporate sense, as in instances of the judgment of nations, and would still allow exceptions for righteous individuals who chose to follow Him, as is seen in the OT as well.

Now here is where the question of whether God abandons His elect or not comes up; that is, can the elect lose their salvation?

No, of course the elect cannot. Individuals can lose their salvation. If they lose it, they obviously are not of the elect, because that refers to eschatological salvation. Where Calvinists go awry is in going to extremes and denying that anyone (elect or no) could be "saved" (Protestant definition) or in God's graces (more how we Catholics put it) or regenerate or once filled with the Holy Spirit, and then fall away from that salvation and grace. You guys simply say (as you must, by the internal demands of your system) that they never possessed it in the first place. But you can't prove that, and denying the very possibility (because of false premises) seems to go against much biblical indication (hence my collection of passages to the contrary earlier on in this discussion).

I would answer this way.

The Jews were God's elect people in the sense that they as a nation were to be the bearers of the oracles of God. The covenant was made with Abraham, the father-to-be of a whole people, chosen by God for a very specific purpose. It was from this chosen or elect group that the Messiah, first referred to in Genesis 3, was to come. This is different than saying that every single Jew is destined for eternal life merely because he was a part of the covenant.

Yes, I agree. It is in the covenantal sense of "chosen."

We clearly see in our reading of the New Testament where Jesus has interactions with the Pharisees and Saducees, as well as others, that individuals are not guaranteed eternal life merely by being a part of the Abrahamic covenant.

Correct. Rightly understood, even the Jews (some of them, anyway: the more spiritually advanced) had a notion of salvation by faith and grace, not works alone, as Christians have typically portrayed them as "officially" believing.

So it could be said, if I may say it this way, that God has His elect among His elect; that is, among His chosen people are a remnant people He has chosen for eternal life. This is the Reformed position that so it is with His Church today.

No problem. None of this resolves the dilemma with Abimmy that you have gotten yourself into, with incoherent reasoning. I think you're now forced by logic to ditch his alleged "counter-example".

By this understanding, those who fall away were never elected to eternal life from the beginning, although they partook of the covenant:

But that is a truism and not under dispute (i.e., that the elect are those who actually make it to heaven: yes, of course!). We aren't saying that the elect fell away, but that persons can possess good graces and the spirit, etc., and fall away (which Calvinists deny).
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’" (Matthew 7:21).
Some people seem to be in the fold but never actually were, as this passage affirms. Others, however (based on many other passages) actually were in the fold. God did "know" them, and they fell away. Calvinists and Catholics agree on the first proposition, but greatly disagree on the second. I contend that it is because Calvinists have put their flawed system above the biblical data in this regard. They can't accept the plain teaching of the passages that refute their view on perseverance because that would knock out a plank of TULIP, and then the other ones would be in peril, too, because they all work together. I say, let it come down, because it is unbiblical in most respects.

Perhaps they grew up in the church. Perhaps they attended the worship service and Sunday school religiously. Perhaps they did all kinds of "mighty works" in His Name. But their hearts were never regenerated. They had never become "born again."

This is your Calvinist assumption, that cannot be absolutely proven in every case. Sometimes (part from our human interpretations of sad individual cases) this is true (without question), but not always, and the Bible seems to back up what I am maintaining here.

There was always some other agenda driving them quite aside from a desire to serve Jesus Christ.

We can't see into other people's hearts as God can.

To these people, identified as "tares" in Matthew 13, He says, "I never knew you." What the Reformed acknowledge is that we cannot know with absolute certainty who they are. Likewise, to reiterate what I said in another place, we do not require a standard of absolute certain knowledge when ordaining those to the ministry.

But also, in denying that anyone could fall away, the position goes too far, and stretches the biblical data beyond the breaking point. Something's gotta give: the Bible or Calvinism. I say (big surprise!) that the Bible teaches Catholic soteriology, not Calvinist.

I would add briefly these two things.

Non-Reformed folks tend to use the term "faith alone" to mean something other than the way we Reformed folks use it. They tend to use it to mean namely "belief alone," or "mental assent alone." This is not how we see it.

Faith alone is shorthand for "By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but a faith which is not alone." And what is meant by that is that simple belief or mental assent is not what the Bible has in view.

I agree, which is why I defended y'all from that charge in my last post along those lines, where this discussion got started. I commended your post that rightly pointed this out.

Now it's true that American Evangelical Protestantism of the 19th through 20th century Arminian variety often promulgates that anything other than a mere mental assent to some truths constitutes a "work" on our part and is to be disallowed doctrinally. This is not the Reformed view. We concur with James when he says:
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Good. So do we. But we tie together sanctification and justification in a way that you do not, since they were formally separated by Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin. It is that separation that (I would argue, and have argued) that has led (at least partially) to the state of affairs that Lutherans and Calvinists themselves decry, as you describe above. When one wrong move is made, then the devil has a field day bringing in other errors that either flow or falsely seem to the adherents to flow, from the prior false premise.

Paul uses faith to mean "belief in action," whereas James seems to make a distinction between the two. The result is the same, however, as we see works as integral to belief and indeed, inseparable.

I have also often noted in the past, that Catholic and Calvinist stress on the importance of good works come out the same way in practice, rightly understood. Now if your party would cease falsely accusing us of being Pelagians (let alone non-Christians, from many of your comrades), perhaps we could garner more unity than is usually present between us, and rejoice in practical common ground.

So when a comment is made about "faith alone," we must be sure that we're on the same page before the discussion can move forward. If one means "belief alone" without any actual change of attitude toward God and change in lifestyle, then any Reformed person would disavow that as a biblical doctrine.

I understand and agree with that point, but (on the other hand) by formally separating sanctification from justification and salvation, you leave yourself open to an easy misunderstanding and the internal logic creates further problems as time goes on. These have been fulfilled in the development of Protestantism.

A person who said a prayer, signed a paper or raised his hand but never grew in grace the rest of his life would likely be considered unregenerate in Reformed thinking (as much as could be discerned, and we are called to be discerning).

That's why I have written papers documenting how Luther and Calvin both taught that.

Secondly, the Reformed don't make as sharp a distinction between justification and sanctification as has been suggested. We view them as distinct, but not separable. They are, in fact, organically connected in the process of salvation.

You do connect them in some fashion, even significantly so, but not with regard to salvation itself. I agree that there is a closeness in Reformed thought that is often distorted by non-Reformed and poorly understood even by many within your camp (as is the case in all camps: ignorance and nominalism being unfortunately widespread). But Francois Wendel, in his Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1963; translated by Philip Mairet) confirms my observation that a formal separation was made between the two:
Sanctification is not the purpose of justification. It proceeds from the same source but remains independent, or, more correctly, is logically distinct from justification . . .

. . . it is important not to confuse them together, 'in order that the variety of the graces of God may so much the better appear to us . . . [St Paul] shows clearly enough that it is one thing to be justified and another to be made new creatures.' [Inst., III, 11, 6] . . .

The notion of justification does therefore include (as with Luther and Melanchthon) the idea of a righteousness which is extrinsic and is only imputed to us, without any prejudgment of the real state in which we happen to be. Since 1536 Calvin had affirmed that 'the righteousness of faith is Christ's righteousness, not our own, that it is in him and not in us, but that it becomes ours by imputation' . . . Thus we are not really righteous, except by imputation; and we are unrighteous but held to be righteous by imputation, in so far as we possess the righteousness of Christ by faith.' [Opp, 1, 60; O.S., vol. 1, p. 73] . . .

The logical consequence of that doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is that never, not even after the remission of our sins, are we really righteous. . . .

Even after we have received the faith, our works are still contaminated with sin: nevertheless God does not impute them to us as sins but holds them acceptable. Calvin is thus led to formulate the doctrine of double justification; first, the justification of the sinner, and then the justification of the justified, or more correctly of their works.

(pp. 256-260; ellipses and brackets in the middle of the second paragraph and ellipses in the middle of the third paragraph were in the original)
This is where the fundamental error lies: in the extreme emphasis on imputation and formal separation of justification and sanctification (and resultant denial of merit and infused justification and cooperation with God, etc.). That helps (even though Calvin would protest) produce the error of separating good works and charity and sanctity in general from justification and salvation itself, as in the evangelicalism that you decry (and that I also severely criticize).

From our point of view, Calvin is still wrong; just less wrong in degree or along the spectrum, than antinomian-types of evangelicals are. But I agree that aspects of his teaching, and of Reformed thought, are quite close to our own conception of faith and works in the practical sense and in terms of how a Christian ought to live his life day by day: things we can abundantly verify from the Bible itself.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,10:8-16) [Mass: False Worship? / "Human" Laws (and "Works") / Legalism / Ceremonies / Sacraments]

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

* * * * *

Book IV

CHAPTER 10

OF THE POWER OF MAKING LAWS. THE CRUELTY OF THE POPE AND HIS ADHERENTS, IN THIS RESPECT, IN TYRANNICALLY OPPRESSING AND DESTROYING SOULS.

8. The traditions of the Papacy contradictory to the Word of God.

Moreover, since the whole question depends on this, that God being the only lawgiver, it is unlawful for men to assume that honour to themselves, it will be proper to keep in mind the two reasons for which God claims this solely for himself. The one reason is, that his will is to us the perfect rule of all righteousness and holiness, and that thus in the knowledge of it we have a perfect rule of life.

We need not set God's chosen instruments against God. God is, of course, the ultimate lawgiver. No one denies that. But He uses people like Moses (as we saw in the previous section) and institutions like the Church to promulgate His laws and commands.

The other reason is, that when the right and proper method of worshipping him is in question, he whom we ought to obey, and on whose will we ought to depend, alone has authority over our souls.

This is untrue if it means that all proper ecclesiastical authority can be questioned by the individual. It has radical antinomian and anarchical implications if taken to its logical outcome. It becomes a "me, my Bible, and the Holy Spirit" scenario, which is not the biblical or historic Christian model at all.

When these two reasons are attended to, it will be easy to decide what human constitutions are contrary to the word of the Lord. Of this description are all those which are devised as part of the true worship of God, and the observance of which is bound upon the conscience, as of necessary obligation.

Obviously, Calvin makes his own judgment as to what constitutes "true worship" and decides to ditch the historic Christian worship of the previous 1500 years (the Mass) and outrageously redefine it as "idolatry" and "sacrilege" etc. Needless to say, he has no authority to do this (and even less biblical rationale).

Let us remember then to weigh all human laws in this balance, if we would have a sure test which will not allow us to go astray. The former reason is urged by Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians against the false apostles who attempted to lay new burdens on the churches. The second reason he more frequently employs in the Epistle to the Galatians in a similar case. In the Epistle to the Colossians, then, he maintains that the doctrine of the true worship of God is not to be sought from men, because the Lord has faithfully and fully taught us in what way he is to be worshipped.

Yes, and He is able to protect His Church from falling into false worship on a huge scale (universally for 1500 years, if the Mass is an example of this false worship).

To demonstrate this, he says in the first chapter, that in the gospel is contained all wisdom, that the man of God may be made perfect in Christ. In the beginning of the second chapter, he says that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, and from this he concludes that believers should beware of being led away from the flock of Christ by vain philosophy, according to the constitutions of men (Col. 2:10). In the end of the chapter, he still more decisively condemns all ἐθελοθρησκειας that is, fictitious modes of worship which men themselves devise or receive from others, and all precepts whatsoever which they presume to deliver at their own hand concerning the worship of God. We hold, therefore, that all constitutions are impious in the observance of which the worship of God is pretended to be placed. The passages in the Galatians in which he insists that fetters are not to be bound on the conscience (which ought to be ruled by God alone), are sufficiently plain, especially chapter 5. Let it, therefore, suffice to refer to them.

All this is well and good as it reads, but Calvin incorrectly applies it against Catholic worship. As so often, he is assuming what he needs to prove.

9. Ceremonial traditions of the Papists. Their impiety. Substituted for the true worship of God.
But that the whole matter may be made plainer by examples, it will be proper, before we proceed, to apply the doctrine to our own times. The constitutions which they call ecclesiastical, and by which the Pope, with his adherents, burdens the Church, we hold to be pernicious and impious, while our opponents defend them as sacred and salutary. Now there are two kinds of them, some relating to ceremonies and rites, and others more especially to discipline. Have we, then, any just cause for impugning both? Assuredly a juster cause than we could wish. First, do not their authors themselves distinctly declare that the very essence of the worship of God (so to speak) is contained in them? For what end do they bring forward their ceremonies but just that God may be worshipped by them? Nor is this done merely by error in the ignorant multitude, but with the approbation of those who hold the place of teachers. I am not now adverting to the gross abominations by which they have plotted the adulteration of all godliness, but they would not deem it to be so atrocious a crime to err in any minute tradition, did they not make the worship of God subordinate to their fictions.

It's always much easier to assume and pass over, rather than argue the point . . .

Since Paul then declares it to be intolerable that the legitimate worship of God should be subjected to the will of men, wherein do we err when we are unable to tolerate this in the present day? especially when we are enjoined to worship God according to the elements of this world—a thing which Paul declares to be adverse to Christ (Col 2:20). On the other hand, the mode in which they lay consciences under the strict necessity of observing whatever they enjoin, is not unknown. When we protest against this, we make common cause with Paul, who will on no account allow the consciences of believers to be brought under human bondage.

I guess, then, that the Council of Jerusalem put consciences under "human bondage" since it decreed:
Acts 15:28-29 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: [29] that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell."
St. Paul promulgated this "human" decree:
Acts 16:4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
Also, any number of arguments can be made concerning God's requirements of conduct, in order to be saved in the end, since we know that works are always the criteria of judgment, not faith alone, and that works cannot be separated from faith. See:

Final Judgment in Scripture is Always Associated With Works And Never With Faith Alone (50 Passages)

St. Paul's Teaching on the Organic Relationship of Grace / Faith and Works / Action / Obedience (Collection of 50 Pauline Passages)
In a sense, then, these are laws that we must keep in order to be saved. God said it in His revelation (not the Catholic Church). Thus, if we are asked the standard evangelical Protestant question: "If you died tonight and God asked you why you should be let into heaven, what would you say?," our answer to his question and to God when we stand before Him, could incorporate any one or all of the following 50 responses: all perfectly biblical, and many right from the words of God Himself:
1) I am characterized by righteousness.
2) I have integrity.
3) I'm not wicked.
4) I'm upright in heart.
5) I've done good deeds.
6) I have good ways.
7) I'm not committing abominations.
8) I have good conduct.
9) I'm not angry with my brother.
10) I'm not insulting my brother.
11) I'm not calling someone a fool.
12) I have good fruits.
13) I do the will of God.
14) I hear Jesus' words and do them.
15) I endured to the end.
16) I fed the hungry.
17) I provided drink to the thirsty.
18) I clothed the naked.
19) I welcomed strangers.
20) I visited the sick.
21) I visited prisoners.
22)
I invited the poor and the maimed to my feast.
23) I'm not weighed down with dissipation.
24) I'm not weighed down with drunkenness.
25) I'm not weighed down with the cares of this life.
26) I'm not ungodly.
27) I don't suppress the truth.
28) I've done good works.
29) I obeyed the truth.
30) I'm not doing evil.
31) I have been a "doer of the law."
32) I've been a good laborer and fellow worker with God.
33) I'm unblamable in holiness.
34) I've been wholly sanctified.
35) My spirit and soul and body are sound and blameless.
36) I know God.
37) I've obeyed the gospel.
38) I've shared Christ's sufferings.
39) I'm without spot or blemish.
40) I've repented.
41) I'm not a
coward.
42) I'm not faithless.
43) I'm not polluted.
44) I'm not a murderer.
45) I'm not a fornicator.
46) I'm not a sorcerer.
47) I'm not an idolater.
48) I'm not a liar.
49) I invited the lame to my feast.
50) I invited the blind to my feast.
What we never find in judgment scenes described in the Bible is "I am saved by faith alone." How ironic. Calvin and Calvinists have it exactly backwards. Where they place all emphasis on faith alone (in terms of how one is saved, not in terms of the Christian life: where Calvin and Calvinists fully agree on the necessity and prime importance of good works, in gratefulness to God), God places it in works.

10. Through these ceremonies the commandment of God made void.

Moreover, the worst of all is, that when once religion begins to be composed of such vain fictions,

We have yet to be told what all these abominable "fictions" are, according to Calvin.

the perversion is immediately succeeded by the abominable depravity with which our Lord upbraids the Pharisees of making the commandment of God void through their traditions (Mt. 15:3).

That has to be analyzed more closely, because Jesus also observed the Pharisaical traditions (the true ones), and Paul called himself a Pharisee. There are true and false traditions. Protestants often sweep the whole thing away, condemning all "traditions," as if they have none, and as if there are no true traditions described and sanctioned in Holy Scripture.

I am unwilling to dispute with our present legislators in my own words;—let them gain the victory if they can clear themselves from this accusation of Christ.

What accusation? If no specific content is provided, how can we reply?

But how can they do so, seeing they regard it as immeasurably more wicked to allow the year to pass without auricular confession, than to have spent it in the greatest iniquity: to have infected their tongue with a slight tasting of flesh on Friday, than to have daily polluted the whole body with whoredom: to have put their hand to honest labour on a day consecrated to some one or other of their saintlings, than to have constantly employed all their members in the greatest crimes: for a priest to be united to one in lawful wedlock, than to be engaged in a thousand adulteries: to have failed in performing a votive pilgrimage, than to have broken faith in every promise: not to have expended profusely on the monstrous, superfluous, and useless luxury of churches, than to have denied the poor in their greatest necessities: to have passed an idol without honour, than to have treated the whole human race with contumely: not to have muttered long unmeaning sentences at certain times, than never to have framed one proper prayer?

Apart from Calvin's swipes at various Catholic beliefs and traditions, and pitting things against each other necessarily (his constant tendency) he is dealing with individual sin and hypocrisy here, which is not an argument, but an accusation of sinfulness: sins that no one in their right mind, who has a slight acquaintance with Christianity, would deny. If Calvin condemns sinfulness, we happily agree with him. But this has no bearing on competing truth claims. Nor is it certain that 95-100% of Catholics or priests or bishops were guilty of this in Calvin's time, as he makes out. It's in his interest to say that, for propaganda's and extreme contrast's sake, but I highly doubt that things were that bad.

What is meant by making the word of God void by tradition, if this is not done when recommending the ordinances of God only frigidly and perfunctorily, they nevertheless studiously and anxiously urge strict obedience to their own ordinances, as if the whole power of piety was contained in them;

To the extent that promulgation of Church laws and divine laws were done in this legalistic, loveless fashion, sin occurred, just as Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their similar hypocrisy and rigid legalism and misplaced emphases (in Matthew 23). But Jesus also upheld the fundamental authority of the Pharisees in the early part of the chapter, just before he condemns their hypocrisy in practice. Therefore, the presence of hypocrisy (excessive rigidity, legalism, lack of love, etc.), does not in and of itself prove that the laws themselves are invalid, or that the authorities who proclaim them are no authorities at all. Jesus taught this first, not Catholics. We are not at liberty to disagree with Him.

—when vindicating the transgression of the divine Law with trivial satisfactions, they visit the minutest violation of one of their decrees with no lighter punishment than imprisonment, exile, fire, or sword? —When neither severe nor inexorable against the despisers of God, they persecute to extremity, with implacable hatred, those who despise themselves, and so train all those whose simplicity they hold in thraldom, that they would sooner see the whole law of God subverted than one iota of what they call the precepts of the Church infringed.

Calvinists are guilty of persecution, too. When the Anabaptists held to adult baptism, Calvinists, like Lutherans (and Catholics) persecuted them to the death. The argument from "who persecuted the most?" will not advance the Calvinist case over against Catholicism. That sin was widespread in the age, in all parties. There is a sense in which heresy could be logically regarded as punishable, but that is a big discussion, beyond our present purview. There are numerous accounts (that we won't even get into) of the ridiculous lengths that Calvin's Geneva went in policing its citizens if they went against Calvin's and the new so-called "Reformation's" desires. Calvin was no different from most people of his age, Catholic and Protestant. Yet he wants to condemn Catholic persecutions, while pretending that none emanated from his own ranks as well. I never tire of pointing out these simple facts, because it is ridiculous hypocrisy to pretend that it was otherwise.

First, there is a grievous delinquency in this, that one contemns, judges, and casts off his neighbour for trivial matters,—matters which, if the judgment of God is to decide, are free. But now, as if this were a small evil, those frivolous elements of this world (as Paul terms them in his Epistle to the Galatians, Gal. 4:9) are deemed of more value than the heavenly oracles of God.

Yes; many are prone to the legalistic sins of Pharisaism in its worst sense. That is not by any means confined to Catholics; nor does it disprove any Catholic belief. It's simply "throw out the baby with the bathwater" reasoning.

He who is all but acquitted for adultery is judged in meat; and he to whom whoredom is permitted is forbidden to marry. This, forsooth, is all that is gained by that prevaricating obedience, which only turns away from God to the same extent that it inclines to men.

More of the same anti-Catholic prattle, that exhibits the same fallacies already explained . . .

11. Some of these ceremonies useless and childish. Their endless variety. Introduce Judaism.

There are other two grave vices which we disapprove in these constitutions. First, They prescribe observances which are in a great measure useless, and are sometimes absurd; secondly, by the vast multitude of them, pious consciences are oppressed, and being carried back to a kind of Judaism, so cling to shadows that they cannot come to Christ.

Extreme "anti-law" rhetoric. One can hardly respond to general hostility of this sort, that always (quite dishonestly) attempts the worst caricature of the opposing position.

My allegation that they are useless and absurd will, I know, scarcely be credited by carnal wisdom, to which they are so pleasing, that the Church seems to be altogether defaced when they are taken away.

In other words, if any Catholic deigns to defend Catholic beliefs, he must be thoroughly carnal and un-Christian. This is how prejudice and propaganda cleverly (unethically) proceeds in its "reasonings."

But this is just what Paul says, that they “have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body” (Col. 2:23); a most salutary admonition, of which we ought never to lose sight.

Assumes what it needs to prove . . .

Human traditions, he says, deceive by an appearance of wisdom. Whence this show? Just that being framed by men, the human mind recognises in them that which is its own, and embraces it when recognised more willingly than anything, however good, which is less suitable to its vanity.

Catholic beliefs again, are carnal and merely human, according to Calvin. It is striking that Calvin seems utterly unable to see anything good whatever in Catholicism. It has to be pilloried as evil through and through. To some extent the Catholics of the age were guilty of the same uncharitable, inaccurate mindset, but at least they were defending existing tradition, and not a brand new, revolutionary innovation (a huge difference going into the disputes).

Secondly, That they seem to be a fit training to humility, while they keep the minds of men grovelling on the ground under their yoke; hence they have another recommendation.

The very motivations of Catholic teaching must be attacked as well, as nefarious and ignoble . . .

Lastly, Because they seem to have a tendency to curb the will of the flesh, and to subdue it by the rigour of abstinence, they seem to be wisely devised. But what does Paul say to all this? Does he pluck off those masks lest the simple should be deluded by a false pretext? Deeming it sufficient for their refutation to say that they were devices of men, he passes all these things without refutation, as things of no value.

Paul teaches a great deal about bodily suffering (eminently, his own) as a means to help save souls: Biblical Evidence for Penitential and Redemptive Suffering. If Catholics are guilty of some terrible thing in practicing penance and observing fasts and abstinences, then St. Paul is every bit subject to the same condemnations from Calvin. But he is obviously blind to that, only seeing in Paul what he wants to see.

Nay, because he knew that all fictitious worship is condemned in the Church, and is the more suspected by believers, the more pleasing it is to the human mind—because he knew that this false show of outward humility differs so widely from true humility that it can be easily discerned; —finally, because he knew that this tutelage is valued at no more than bodily exercise, he wished the very things which commended human traditions to the ignorant to be regarded by believers as the refutation of them.

St. Paul teaches plenty about valid, authentic biblical, apostolic traditions as well (reading Calvin, one would get the impression that he never did this, and condemned all tradition as "traditions of men"):
1 Corinthians 11:2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, . . .

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 . . . stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth, or by letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 . . . the tradition that you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14 If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

2 Timothy 2:2 And what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
12. Absurdity of these ceremonies borrowed from Judaism and Paganism.

Thus, in the present day, not only the unlearned vulgar, but every one in proportion as he is inflated by worldly wisdom, is wonderfully captivated by the glare of ceremonies, while hypocrites and silly women think that nothing can be imagined better or more beautiful.

I see: "ceremonies" as the epitome of worldly decadence (particularly beguiling for "hypocrites and silly women"); makes perfect sense, doesn't it? One thing is for sure: this section was written by one silly man indeed.

But those who thoroughly examine them, and weigh them more truly according to the rule of godliness, in regard to the value of all such ceremonies, know, first, that they are trifles of no utility; secondly, that they are impostures which delude the eyes of the spectators with empty show. I am speaking of those ceremonies which the Roman masters will have to be great mysteries, while we know by experience that they are mere mockery. Nor is it strange that their authors have gone the length of deluding themselves and others by mere frivolities, because they have taken their model partly from the dreams of the Gentiles, partly, like apes, have rashly imitated the ancient rites of the Mosaic Law, with which we have nothing more to do than with the sacrifices of animals and other similar things. Assuredly, were there no other proof, no sane man would expect any good from such an ill-assorted farrago. And the case itself plainly demonstrates that very many ceremonies have no other use than to stupify the people rather than teach them. In like manner, to those new canons which pervert discipline rather than preserve it, hypocrites attach much importance; but a closer examination will show that they are nothing but the shadowy and evanescent phantom of discipline.

I have no idea what he is talking about, since he never really says. Perhaps it is the Mass he has in mind. No argument is offered; instead the reader is assaulted with an incredibly arrogant series of colorful insults. The only value this has at all is as a classic illustration of anti-Catholic prejudice and lack of substantive (let alone effective) argument. I grant that Calvin makes many arguments (whether good or bad is another question), but this is not one of them.

13. Their intolerable number condemned by Augustine.

To come to the second fault, who sees not that ceremonies, by being heaped one upon another, have grown to such a multitude, that it is impossible to tolerate them in the Christian Church?

Well, Catholics and Orthodox and Anglicans and Lutherans and all the vast majority of Christians who observe "ceremonies," that's who.

Hence it is, that in ceremonies a strange mixture of Judaism is apparent,

I guess this is the same impulses that caused the early Christians, including St. Paul and our Lord Jesus Himself, to worship in synagogues and the temple. I happily stand in the tradition of those two, if the choice is between them and Calvin's arbitrary, self-important opinions.

while other observances prove a deadly snare to pious minds. Augustine complained that in his time, while the precepts of God were neglected, prejudice everywhere prevailed to such an extent, that he who touched the ground barefoot during his octave was censured more severely than he who buried his wits in wine. He complained that the Church, which God in mercy wished to be free, was so oppressed that the condition of the Jews was more tolerable (August. Ep. 119).

There were corruptions then as there were in Calvin's day and our own, and always; men being sinners. But one doesn't solve one corruption by introducing a far greater one.

Had that holy man fallen on our day, in what terms would he have deplored the bondage now existing?

He would have certainly deplored the schism and heresies of the so-called "Reformation" since he was a Catholic and not remotely similar in belief to Protestantism, as the common (and rather ludicrous and fact-challenged) myth would have it.

For the number is tenfold greater, and each iota is exacted a hundred times more rigidly than then. This is the usual course; when once those perverse legislators have usurped authority, they make no end of their commands and prohibitions until they reach the extreme of harshness. This Paul elegantly intimated by these words,—“If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? Touch not, taste not, handle not” (Col. 2:20, 21). For while the word ἅπτεσθαι signifies both to eat and to touch, it is doubtless taken in the former sense, that there may not be a superfluous repetition. Here, therefore, he most admirably describes the progress of false apostles. The way in which superstition begins is this: they forbid not only to eat, but even to chew gently; after they have obtained this, they forbid even to taste. This also being yielded to them, they deem it unlawful to touch even with the finger.

Unless Calvin blesses us with more specific information as to what it is he decries, we can hardly answer. If the Mass is in mind, St. Paul upheld the real presence in the Eucharist (1 Cor 10:16; 11:27-30) and refers to the "altar" or "table" of the Eucharist, over against the altars of the pagans (1 Cor 10:14-22), thus showing that the ceremony of the Sacrifice of the Mass is quite proper and necessary. It is not bare symbolism or a mystical presence only, as the Zwinglians and Anabaptists, and Calvin, respectively, held.

14. Injury thus done to the Church. They cannot be excused.

We justly condemn this tyranny in human constitutions, in consequence of which miserable consciences are strangely tormented by innumerable edicts, and the excessive exaction of them. Of the canons relating to discipline, we have spoken elsewhere (supra, sec. 12; also chapter 12). What shall I say of ceremonies, the effect of which has been, that we have almost buried Christ, and returned to Jewish figures? “Our Lord Christ (says Augustine, Ep. 118) bound together the society of his new people by sacraments, very few in number, most excellent in signification, most easy of observance.”

St. Augustine believed in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist:
I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. . . . That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ.

(Sermons 227 [A.D. 411])

What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction.

(Ibid., 272)
He believed in baptismal regeneration (sacrament number two):
It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture too.

(Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:24:34 [A.D. 412])

The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration.

(Ibid., 2:27:43)

Baptism washes away all, absolutely all, our sins, whether of deed, word, or thought, whether sins original or added, whether knowingly or unknowingly contracted.

(Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 3:3:5 [A.D. 420])

This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us: all who attain to this grace die thereby to sin—as he himself [Jesus] is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh (that is, ‘in the likeness of sin’)—and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man—since no one should be barred from baptism—just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth.

(Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 13[41] [A.D. 421])
He believed in the sacrament of confession (reconciliation) and absolution and penance (number three):
When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance.

(Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16 [A.D. 395])
He adhered to the sacrament of matrimony (number four):
Undoubtedly the substance of the sacrament is of this bond, so that when man and woman have been joined in marriage they must continue inseparably as long as they live, nor is it allowed for one spouse to be separated from the other except for cause of fornication. For this is preserved in the case of Christ and the Church, so that, as a living one with a living one, there is no divorce, no separation forever.

(Marriage and Concupiscence 1:10:11 [A.D. 419])

In marriage, however, let the blessings of marriage be loved: offspring, fidelity, and the sacramental bond. Offspring, not so much because it may be born, but because it can be reborn; for it is born to punishment unless it be reborn to life. Fidelity, but not such as even the unbelievers have among themselves, ardent as they are for the flesh. . . . The sacramental bond, which they lose neither through separation nor through adultery, this the spouses should guard chastely and harmoniously.

(Ibid., 1:17:19)
He believed in the sacrament of confirmation (number five):
Why, therefore, is the Head itself, whence that ointment of unity descended, that is, the spiritual fragrance of brotherly love,--why, I say, is the Head itself exposed to your resistance, while it testifies and declares that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem"? And by this ointment you wish the sacrament of chrism to be understood, which is indeed holy as among the class of visible signs, like baptism itself.

(Letters of Petilian the Donatist, 2,104:239 [A.D. 403], in NPNF 1, IV:592)
. . . and the sacrament of ordination (number six):
In like manner as if there take place an ordination of clergy in order to form a congregation of people, although the congregation of people follow not, yet there remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation.

(On the Good of Marriage, 24:32 [A.D. 401], in NPNF1, III:412)
He believed in the sacrament of extreme unction or anointing or "last rites":
In St. Augustine's Speculum de Scripturâ (an. 427); in P.L., XXXIV, 887-1040), which is made up almost entirely of Scriptural texts, without comment by the compiler, and is intended as a handy manual of Christian piety, doctrinal and practical, the injunction of St. James regarding the prayer-unction of the sick is quoted. This shows that the rite was a commonplace in the Christian practice of that age; and we are told by Possidius, in his Life of Augustine (c. xxvii, in P.L., XXXII, 56), that the saint himself "followed the rule laid down by the Apostle that he should visit only orphans and widows in their tribulation (James 1:27), and that if he happened to be asked by the sick to pray to the Lord for them and impose hands on them, he did so without delay" . . . It is fair, then, to conclude from the biographer's statement that, when called upon to do so, St. Augustine himself used to administer the Jacobean unction to the sick.

(The Catholic Encyclopedia, "Extreme Unction")
If St. Augustine believed in all seven Catholic sacraments, then, how and why does Calvin cite him as some kind of vindication of his own belief in two (and both watered-down at that), and as some sort of implied "pseudo-Protestant"? He is either abundantly ignorant of St. Augustine's true beliefs, or he is deliberately ignoring the "Catholic" beliefs of Augustine that go against his own novelties, which is dishonest, sophistical, and cynically selective, leading one to sadly conclude that he simply didn't care about the historical facts; he cares only about tearing down Catholicism, whether he uses facts or myths and historical fictions to do so.

The data is so clear, I don't see how any other conclusion could be drawn. If Calvin is this ignorant about St. Augustine, how can he be trusted when he makes claims about other Church fathers? Or if he is this dishonest with texts and historical facts, then we must be suspicious of his entire enterprise, and his credibility suffers to the degree that this sort of thing can be demonstrated. But Calvin and millions of Calvinists and other Protestants today are so misinformed as to routinely claim that St. Augustine was more of a "Protestant" than he was a Catholic. It is one of the inexplicable wonders to behold in Catholic-Protestant discussion.

How widely different this simplicity is from the multitude and variety of rites in which we see the Church entangled in the present day, cannot well be told.

If Calvin refers to Augustine's view of simplicity, the great father believed in seven sacraments, which is hardly harmonious with Calvin's Christianity Lite, whitewashed walls, smashed stain glass and statues of Christ, ceremony-free, traditional sacraments-free, Donatist-like version of Christianity.

I am aware of the artifice by which some acute men excuse this perverseness. They say that there are numbers among us equally rude as any among the Israelitish people, and that for their sakes has been introduced this tutelage, which though the stronger may do without, they, however, ought not to neglect, seeing that it is useful to weak brethren. I answer, that we are not unaware of what is due to the weakness of brethren, but, on the other hand, we object that the method of consulting for the weak is not to bury them under a great mass of ceremonies. It was not without cause that God distinguished between us and his ancient people, by training them like children by means of signs and figures, and training us more simply, without so much external show. Paul’s words are, “The heir, as long as he is a child,”—“is under tutors and governors” (Gal. 4:1, 2). This was the state of the Jews under the law. But we are like adults who, being freed from tutory and curatory, have no need of puerile rudiments. God certainly foresaw what kind of people he was to have in his Church, and in what way they were to be governed. Now, he distinguished between us and the Jews in the way which has been described. Therefore, it is a foolish method of consulting for the ignorant to set up the Judaism which Christ has abrogated.

Then why is St. Paul still associating an "altar" with Christian eucharistic worship (1 Cor 10:14-22) if New Covenant Christianity is completely different from the ritualism and sacrificial elements of the priestly Judaism of the Temple? Why is there an "altar" even in heaven (6:9; 8:3,5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:18; 16:7)? There is certainly much "ceremony" taking place in heaven, described in the book of Revelation. So we are to believe that ritual was fine and good in the Old Covenant, but not in the New Covenant, and then again in heaven at the end of the age? That makes no sense. If it is good in the past and future, then it is also good now.

This dissimilitude between the ancient and his new people Christ expressed when he said to the woman of Samaria, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).

The same Jesus worshiped in the Temple at the hour of sacrifice (Acts 3:1) and synagogues (Acts 13:13-15), and said "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18); and "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, . . . " (Matthew 23:2-3).

This, no doubt, had always been done; but the new worshippers differ from the old in this, that while under Moses the spiritual worship of God was shadowed, and, as it were, entangled by many ceremonies, these have been abolished, and worship is now more simple.

Calvin is making assumptions from the texts he (very selectively) cites, that do not follow, and which are in conflict to other clear NT indications, such as the ones I have been presenting above. St. Paul called himself a Pharisee three times (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phil 3:5), which means that he observed all the various ceremonies and rituals that characterized that Jewish practice. In Acts 26:5, addressing Jews, he refers to "our religion." He acknowledged the high priest's authority even when he was being persecuted by the Jews (Acts 23:2-5). The early Christians continued to observe the Jewish feasts (e.g., Jn 4:45; 5:1; 7:1-2,11,37; 12:20), including Passover (Matthew 26:17-19; Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:1-15; Jn 2:13,23). The Last Supper itself was a Passover ceremony.

Needless to say, all of this is scarcely compatible with a notion of the complete separation of Judaistic ceremony and ritual from Christianity: a mythical scenario that Calvin eisegetically imposes onto the NT.

Those, accordingly, who confound this distinction, subvert the order instituted and sanctioned by Christ.

Quite the opposite, as shown . . .

Therefore you will ask, Are no ceremonies to be given to the more ignorant, as a help to their ignorance?

Jesus and Paul and the early Christians weren't ignorant, and they certainly observed feasts (and feasts were quite "ceremonial"), and they are our models for behavior, not Calvin's arbitrary, exegetically-challenged pontifications.

I do not say so; for I think that help of this description is very useful to them.

Okay, so the ignorant are to have ceremonies and the smart people like Calvin and a few others can have a spiritually superior bland, so-called "scriptural" worship with no ritual, liturgy, or ceremony whatsoever? Are we supposed to have two separate church services: "ignorant" and "knowledgeable": sort of like the old "colored" and "white" water fountains and bathrooms of the Jim Crow era?

All I contend for is the employment of such a measure as may illustrate, not obscure Christ. Hence a few ceremonies have been divinely appointed, and these by no means laborious, in order that they may evince a present Christ.

Please do tell, Calvin, what they are! Don't keep us in suspense!

To the Jews a greater number were given, that they might be images of an absent Christ. In saying he was absent, I mean not in power, but in the mode of expression. Therefore, to secure due moderation, it is necessary to retain that fewness in number, facility in observance, and significancy of meaning which consists in clearness. Of what use is it to say that this is not done? The fact is obvious to every eye.

So it is his burden to show us what these "clear" and simple ceremonies, and to back it up with Holy Scripture for a change.

15. Mislead the superstitious. Used as a kind of show and for incantation. Prostituted to gain.

I here say nothing of the pernicious opinions with which the minds of men are imbued, as that these are sacrifices by which propitiation is made to God, by which sins are expiated, by which righteousness and salvation are procured. It will be maintained that things good in themselves are not vitiated by errors of this description, since in acts expressly enjoined by God similar errors may be committed.

See: Biblical Overview: The Sacrifice of the Mass.

There is nothing, however, more unbecoming than the fact, that works devised by the will of man are held in such estimation as to be thought worthy of eternal life. The works commanded by God receive a reward, because the Lawgiver himself accepts of them as marks of obedience. They do not, therefore, take their value from their own dignity or their own merit, but because God sets this high value on our obedience toward him.

As St. Augustine stated: in merit God "crowns his own gifts." See: Biblical Evidence For Merit and "Quantifiable" Grace.

I am here speaking of that perfection of works which is commanded by God, but is not performed by men. The works of the law are accepted merely by the free kindness of God, because the obedience is infirm and defective. But as we are not here considering how far works avail without Christ, let us omit that question. I again repeat, as properly belonging to the present subject, that whatever commendation works have, they have it in respect of obedience, which alone God regards, as he testifies by the prophet, “I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices: but this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice ” (Jer. 7:22).

This is untrue, since it is seen that at the last judgment, God is always taking into account what works men did, not how much faith they had: Final Judgment in Scripture is Always Associated With Works And Never With Faith Alone (50 Passages). If Calvin were correct, works (even the grace-enabled, God-ordained ones we are talking about) would hardly even be mentioned in the context of ultimate salvation and entrance into heaven, since (as he holds) they were irrelevant in determining that at all. But in reality they are universally present in these accounts.

Of fictitious works he elsewhere speaks, “Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is not bread”? (Isa. 55:2; 29:13). Again, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9). They cannot, therefore, excuse themselves from the charge of allowing wretched people to seek in these external frivolities a righteousness which they may present to God, and by which they may stand before the celestial tribunal.

Some people are following false traditions and observing empty rituals, not from the heart; of course.

Besides, it is not a fault deservedly stigmatised, that they exhibit unmeaning ceremonies as a kind of stage-play or magical incantation? For it is certain that all ceremonies are corrupt and noxious which do not direct men to Christ. But the ceremonies in use in the Papacy are separated from doctrine, so that they confine men to signs altogether devoid of meaning.

All empty rhetoric, minus rational argument . . .

Lastly (as the belly is an ingenious contriver), it is clear, that many of their ceremonies have been invented by greedy priests as lures for catching money. But whatever be their origin, they are all so prostituted to filthy lucre, that a great part of them must be rescinded if we would prevent a profane and sacrilegious traffic from being carried on in the Church.

Oh, of course. And we know that the early Protestants were not in the least greedy and had only the noblest of motives when they stole Catholic churches and monasteries by the hundreds and thousands.

16. All such traditions liable to similar objections.

Although I seem not to be delivering the general doctrine concerning human constitutions, but adapting my discourse wholly to our own age, yet nothing has been said which may not be useful to all ages.

Useful to illustrate lousy, almost content-less argumentation, I agree . . .

For whenever men begin the superstitious practice of worshipping God with their own fictions, all the laws enacted for this purpose forthwith degenerate into those gross abuses. For the curse which God denounces—viz. to strike those who worship him with the doctrines of men with stupor and blindness—is not confined to any one age, but applies to all ages.

No details are given, so we really don't know what Calvin is talking about.

The uniform result of this blindness is, that there is no kind of absurdity escaped by those who, despising the many admonitions of God, spontaneously entangle themselves in these deadly fetters. But if, without any regard to circumstances, you would simply know the character belonging at all times to those human traditions which ought to be repudiated by the Church, and condemned by all the godly, the definition which we formerly gave is clear and certain—viz. That they include all the laws enacted by men, without authority from the word of God, for the purpose either of prescribing the mode of divine worship, or laying a religious obligation on the conscience, as enjoining things necessary to salvation. If to one or both of these are added the other evils of obscuring the clearness of the Gospel by their multitude, of giving no edification, of being useless and frivolous occupations rather than true exercises of piety, of being set up for sordid ends and filthy lucre, of being difficult of observance, and contaminated by pernicious superstitions, we shall have the means of detecting the quantity of mischief which they occasion.

No specifics are provided, yet again. Failing that, it is difficult to directly respond.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

St. Mary Magdalene: Former Prostitute? The Repentant "Sinner" Woman of Luke 7 Who Washed Jesus' Feet With Her Hair? (Differing Opinions)

[MaryMagdalene.jpg]
(Donatello)

As I understand it, the notion that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute comes from conflating the woman who anointed Jesus' feet (Luke 7) with Mary Magdalene. Luke 7:39 seems to imply that the woman described was a harlot ("what sort of woman this is" in RSV). The Bible itself doesn't make this equation (at least not explicitly or directly). The Bible does plainly assert that she was cured of possession by seven demons (Lk 8:2; cf. Mk 16:9).

The Protestant New Bible Dictionary (edited by J.D. Douglas, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1962) states ("Mary", p. 792):

    There is really no justification for identifying Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalene, and certainly none for associating either with the sinful woman of Luke 7. . . .

    If Luke had known that the Mary of chapter 8 was the same person as the sinner of chapter 7 is it not probable that he would have made the connection explicit?

The Catholic Encyclopedia, however ("St. Mary Magdalen"), makes a different argument:

    The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the three persons:

    * the "sinner" of Luke 7:36-50;
    * the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Luke 10:38-42 and John 11; and
    * Mary Magdalen.

    On the other hand most of the Latins hold that these three were one and the same. Protestant critics, however, believe there were two, if not three, distinct persons. It is impossible to demonstrate the identity of the three; but those commentators undoubtedly go too far who assert, as does Westcott (on John 11:1), "that the identity of Mary with Mary Magdalene is a mere conjecture supported by no direct evidence, and opposed to the general tenour of the gospels." It is the identification of Mary of Bethany with the "sinner" of Luke 7:37, which is most combatted by Protestants. It almost seems as if this reluctance to identify the "sinner" with the sister of Martha were due to a failure to grasp the full significance of the forgiveness of sin.

The article does concede that if we had only Luke's Gospel to go by, this theory would be unsubstantiated:

    . . . here again we note that there is no suggestion of an identification of the three persons (the "sinner", Mary Magdalen, and Mary of Bethany), and if we had only St. Luke to guide us we should certainly have no grounds for so identifying them.

But it goes on to make various deductive arguments from the book of John (none, I think, compelling) and concludes triumphantly:

    If the foregoing argument holds good, Mary of Bethany and the "sinner" are one and the same. But an examination of St. John's Gospel makes it almost impossible to deny the identity of Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalen.

So there was a tradition in western, Latin Catholicism, of one person (Mary Magdalene = Mary of Bethany = the sinner woman of Lk 7:36-50, who anointed Jesus' feet). This article in The Catholic Encyclopedia was written by Hugh Pope in 1910. Not all traditions, however, carry equal weight, and not all are binding. Personally, I think the Greek fathers were right about this.

Nor do all Catholic sources agree with this older tradition. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Dom Bernard Orchard (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953) is a completely orthodox work, and it takes a different position. Commenting on Luke 7:36-50, it states:

    The similarities between this story and those recorded in Mt 26:6-13; Mk 14:3-9; Jn 12:1-8, have led to the opinion that the four evangelists narrate the same incident. Latin tradition since the time of St Gregory the Great has been in favour of identity; the general tradition among the Greeks (except for Origen) is that Lk's incident is altogether different and most modern Catholic commentators adopt this view. It must be admitted that the divergences seem irreconcilable . . . There is nothing in Lk which justifies identifying her with Mary of Magdala, 8:2, or Mary of Bethany, 10:38 ff. Greek tradition generally distinguishes them all.

Note also that the Catholic Church in its first thousand years was composed of both Latin and Greek traditions. They were both Catholic. So it is not disallowed to believe that a Greek, or eastern exegetical tradition was more correct than a Latin (western) one. I think this is one such instance.

In the article, posted at Catholic News Service, "Scholars seek to correct Christian tradition on Mary Magdalene,", written by Jerry Filteau, it is stated:

    In A.D. 591 Pope St. Gregory the Great preached a sermon in which he identified as one person the New Testament figures of Mary Magdalene, the sinful woman who anointed Jesus' feet and washed them with her tears, and the Mary who was the sister of Lazarus and Martha of Bethany.

    Although he was only reflecting a tradition that had gained some ground in the West (and was resisted by many of the church's early theologians), the sermon became a reference point for later scholarship, teaching and preaching in the West, Father Raymond F. Collins, a New Testament scholar at The Catholic University of America, said in an interview. . . .

    The identification of Mary Magdalene as a repentant sinful woman was solidified in the Latin Church for centuries by the use of that story, reported in the seventh chapter of Luke, as the Gospel reading for Mary Magdalene's feast, July 22. In fact, in the Roman Calendar before the Second Vatican Council, the day was called the feast of "Mary Magdalene, penitent."

    Father Collins noted that this changed in 1969 with the reform of the Roman Missal and the Roman Calendar. Since then the Gospel reading for Mary Magdalene's feast has been Chapter 20, verses 1-2 and 11-18, of the Gospel of John.

This seems to have been a rather late tradition, in terms of the fathers, with Gregory Great living into the 7th century. Thus, it is not particularly compelling as proof that this exegetical tradition was apostolic, and preserved in the first five centuries (when most of the well-known Church fathers lived). Further research along those lines would yield fascinating results, I'm sure.

Fr. William Saunders, on the other hand, in his article, "Who Really Was Mary Magdalene?," (Catholic Culture website), takes the traditional view expressed in The Catholic Encyclopedia.

The Catholics United for the Faith website put out a lengthy, informative article about Mary Magdalene, "St. Mary Magdalene: A Model Penitent," taking the traditional western view also, but noted (importantly for our purposes):

    Either way, although ancient, this tradition is not to be confused with an essential aspect of the Catholic faith. There are many reasons to accept this tradition, but it is not a doctrine of the Church.

Catholics (as seen in the above conflicting understandings) are at liberty to differ on this question. In any event, whatever her sins were, St. Mary repented of them and became a great saint and early witness of the resurrected Jesus, and that is far more important than these other "identity" disputes.