"Evangelicals & Catholics Together"

"The Gift of Salvation," & Justification by Faith Alone

 

John W. Robbins

 


 

An excerpt From "Healing The Mortal Wound", Part 1. Page 1.

...In 1992 or 1993, Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus organized a joint project of the organizations they had founded, Prison Fellowship (founded in 1976, it had a budget of $38 million in 1997) and the Institute on Religion and Public Life (founded in 1989, it had a budget of $1.6 million in 1996). This "joint project" (the words are Neuhaus') invited both Roman Catholic and Evangelical theologians to participate in drafting a document published on March 29, 1994, under the title "Evangelicals and Catholics Together." "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" was an attack on the importance of Christian theology in general and the doctrine of justification by faith alone in particular, in favor of creating a united religious front for political and social action against secular humanism. The Colson-Neuhaus attack on doctrine and justification was so obvious that many leading churchmen--such as D. James Kennedy, John MacArthur, and R. C. Sproul--rejected it openly. The Trinity Foundation's response to "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" was to publish two books on justification: Charles Hodge's Justification by Faith Alone and Horatius Bonar's The Everlasting Righteousness.

Despite criticism from leaders such as Kennedy, Sproul, and MacArthur, the Colson-Neuhaus Group did not dissolve; instead, they renewed their efforts, meeting twice a year, burning up the fax and telephone lines between meetings, and continued to work quietly until November 1997. On November 12, they released a new document called "The Gift of Salvation." This document, unlike "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," is entirely theological in content; it is not characterized by expressions of concern about social and political action; it is designed, not to effect a political alliance, but to create a theological, and eventually an ecclesiastical, union.

"The Gift of Salvation," according to one of its signers, Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, "is being translated into various languages and will be distributed to pastors and church leaders around the world." In addition, "A volume of essays and papers presented at these meetings will be published in the near future." George reports that "The Gift of Salvation" is intended as a response to criticism that the 1994 manifesto slighted justification and missions (Christianity Today, December 8, 1997)...

 

An except "From Healing The Mortal Wound", Part 2. Page 4.

...The Reformation debate over justification centered on the question of whether justification is a forensic act (a legal act) or a moral act of God; that is, is justification objective or subjective; is it outside the believer, or inside the believer? Does justification--as a legal and judicial declaration of "Not Guilty"--rest on any virtue or merit in the sinner, either before or after conversion, or does it rest wholly on the perfect life and death of the sinner's substitute and legal representative, Jesus Christ? Does justification change the legal status of the believer before the law and justice of God, or does it change the believer's heart? The Reformers said that justification is a legal and objective, not a moral and subjective, act; that it is God's pardon and forgiveness, and God's legal imputation--not moral infusion--of Christ's righteousness to the believer, and the legal imputation--not infusion--of the believer's sin to Christ that saves a believer. In this legal transaction, faith is merely the instrument God uses to accomplish justification; it is the only means by which this legal transaction can be accomplished. The sinner is not made righteous by justification, any more than Christ was made sinful by his atonement. The heart of the sinner remains sinful, even though he is regenerate, and because it is sinful his righteousness can never merit salvation. "All our righteousnesses--Isaiah did not say unrighteousnesses--"are filthy rags."

In the nineteenth century, an Anglican churchman turned Roman Catholic, John Henry Newman, wrote An Essay on Justification in which he put forth what seems to have been a novel view. Newman understood the Reformers' position, and rejected it; he was looking for the middle way--the via media--between Rome and Protestantism. He hit upon an idea and an analogy that has been eagerly embraced ever since by ecumenicists of all denominations, whether Roman or non-Roman. Newman argued--just as "The Gift of Salvation" asserts--that if God said something, it must be so. He and his twentieth-century disciples gave the example of God's speaking in Genesis: "Let there be light." God's command made it so. Likewise, they asserted, in justification, when God says, "Let this man be righteous," he actually becomes righteous. Justification, Newman asserted, is both objective and subjective; God issues a command, but just because he is God, the command makes a moral change in the heart of the believer. And all of this, according to Newman, is justification. Newman--as cleverly and subtly as anyone in the history of Anglican or Roman theology--had thought of a way to overthrow the Protestant doctrine of justification. The issue is not whether justification is an external or an internal act; according to Newman, it is both. For his efforts at subverting the truth, Newman was later made a cardinal in the Roman State-Church.

In this century, prominent theologians such as the Roman Catholic Hans Kung and the neo-orthodox Karl Barth have both adopted Newman's Anglo-Catholic doctrine of justification. Hans Kung, for example, wrote in his book, Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection:

God's declaration of justice is, as God's declaration of justice, at the same time and in the same act, a making just. . . . The term "justification" as such expresses an actual declaration of justness and not an inner renewal. Does it follow from this that God's declaration of justice does not imply an inner renewal? On the contrary. It all comes down to this, that it is a matter of God's declaration of justice and not man's word: the utterance of the Lord, mighty in power. Unlike the word of man, the word of God does what it signifies. God said, "Let there be light," and there was lightThe sinner's justification is exactly like this. God pronounces the verdict, "You are just." And the sinner is just, really and truly, outwardly and inwardly, wholly and completely. His sins are forgiven, and man is just in his heart.

Karl Barth wrote this about justification:

Certainly we have to do with a declaring righteous, but it is a declaration about man which is fulfilled and therefore effective in this event, which corresponds to actuality because it creates and therefore reveals the actuality. It is a declaring righteous which without any reserve can be called a making righteous.

Kung wrote, "There is no essential difference between the Barthian and the Catholic position." We write: There is no essential difference between the Colson-Neuhaus Group's position and the Roman position.

Not only is there no essential difference between the neo-orthodox and the Roman position on justification, there is no essential difference between the Lutheran, liberal, neo-orthodox, Roman, ersatz-evangelical, Wesleyan, Arminian, holiness (re-read and note the perfectionism of Barth's and Kung's statements), charismatic, and pentecostal positions on justification. All the modern religionists agree--against the Reformers and the Bible--that justification is a making righteous, a subjective, moral change in the believer...

 

An Excerpt "From Healing The Mortal Wound", Part 3[final]. Page 1-2.

...Now, what is wrong with John Henry Newman's synthesis on justification, which has been adopted by so many pseudo-Christians in the twentieth century? It is afflicted by one small error that alone overthrows both the analogy and the Roman doctrine of justification. When God speaks his creative word in Genesis, he is giving a command; grammarians would point out that the sentence is in the imperative mood: "Let there be light." Since God is omnipotent--since none of his desires is frustrated, since he does all his holy will, and none can stay his hand--his command achieves exactly what he intended it to achieve, and the light shines forth. (How diabolically subtle for this group to attempt to use the omnipotence of God to subvert justification. They deny God's omnipotence in the election of sinners.)

The trouble with Newman's doctrine is that creation and justification are not "exactly alike." They are not even similar. When God justifies a person, he does not say, "Let this man be righteous"; he does not speak in the imperative mood; he does not give a command to anyone or anything. In justification, God declares the righteousness of the sinner on the basis of the substitution of his only legal representative, Jesus Christ; God speaks in the indicative mood; he speaks in declarative, not imperative, sentences; and consequently, justification does not involve any actual moral change in the believer. Justification remains purely an objective, legal act; it is not analogous to the creative words in Genesis. In justification, God the Judge, not God the Creator, declares--not commands--that his justice is already satisfied by the death of Christ for his people, that the sacrifice of Christ is enough, that he will not impute the sinner's sins to him, but to his representative, Christ, and that the sinner is pardoned completely for his sins. The sinner is not made just, to use Kung's own words, "outwardly and inwardly, wholly and completely." If words mean something, Kung was saying that he and all believers are perfect, sinless. If words mean something, "The Gift of Salvation" says the same thing: "And by virtue of this declaration, it is so."

Notice, more importantly, that this Newmanian-Kungian-Barthian-Roman theory of creative justification makes the incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, atonement, and resurrection of Christ--indeed much of Christian theology--unnecessary and irrelevant to justification. God makes sinners righteous merely by commanding them to be so. Justification is accomplished by the pure creative fiat of God, "exactly like" creation, Kung said. Therefore, justification is not a judicial or legal or forensic act at all; it is a creative act accomplished by the pure omnipotence of God. This Christ-less doctrine of justification, were it true, would have saved Christ a lot of trouble. God need merely have spoken, as he did in Genesis, and men would be just.

Furthermore, the doctrine of creative justification, by regarding Christ as, at best, superfluous, focuses on the sinner, not on Jesus Christ. The sinner--the man--is central; the work of Christ is unnecessary. Oh, the life and death of Christ may be useful as a moral example, or as a device to evoke our pity, but because justification is creative, not judicial, Christ's work does not satisfy the justice of the Father, nor legally benefit his church. This is religious subjectivism with a vengeance.

Now, "The Gift of Salvation" mentions Christ's righteousness as the "basis" for God's justifying act, but Christ's righteousness is really superfluous: The document says that it is by virtue of "God's declaration" that "it is so." Just like Newman, Kung, and Barth, the Cassidy Group makes Christ's active obedience, his atonement, suffering, and death, and the imputation of his righteousness to the sinner--and the sinner's sins to Christ--irrelevant to justification, which is accomplished by God's creative command.

Furthermore, the word justification itself has taken on a new meaning: In the mouths of the Cassidy Group, just as in the mouths of Newman, Kung, and Barth, justification means making righteous. It is the Roman doctrine of justification. That is why the Roman Cardinals and Bishops had no problem with this statement about justification. The ersatz-evangelicals were too witless, too stupid, to understand the statement they signed. Is that too cruel? Well, it would be much crueler to say that they understood what they signed and signed it anyway. I am trying to be as charitable as possible.

If Newman's, Kung's, Barth's, Cassidy's, Colson's, and Neuhaus' doctrine of justification were correct, it would not only make sinners actually righteous, it would make Christ actually sinful, for in the same divine act in which the sinner receives the righteousness of Christ, Christ receives the sins of the sinner. The notion that justification is a moral, internal change cuts both ways: The sinner becomes morally righteous, and Christ becomes morally sinful. If justification is a moral transaction, as the Roman State-Church teaches, then Jesus Christ is a sinful man. However, if justification is a legal exchange of the righteousness of Christ for the sin of his people, then there is no theological problem--and no blasphemy. Imputation makes the sinner legally righteous, but not actually righteous; imputation makes Christ legally sinful, and so liable to punishment on behalf of those he represents, but it does not make Christ actually sinful. But if justification is an internal moral change as the Roman State-Church teaches, and if it involves Christ's work at all, then not only does the sinner become actually righteous, but Christ becomes actually sinful. That is the price one pays for errors in the doctrine of justification: blasphemy.

The doctrine of justification in "The Gift of Salvation," like the doctrine of justification in "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," is the Roman doctrine. The Roman State-Church has yielded nothing in approving this document; that is why the papal representative--Cardinal Cassidy--at the Group's meetings put his stamp of approval on it. But the Roman State-Church has gained a great deal; it has confused and persuaded many non-Catholics; and it has successfully used Charles Colson as a dupe in its plans to achieve a new Roman Empire.

In paragraph 8, on faith, "The Gift of Salvation" asserts that "the gift of justification is received through faith." Not through "faith alone," please note. That little word alone is what makes the difference between Christianity and a false gospel at this point. Its absence is one more indication that the doctrine of justification espoused by the Cassidy-Colson-Neuhaus Group is not Christian. The Roman State-Church teaches that justification is also received through baptism, penance, and other rites and sacraments of the Roman State-Church...

 


Healing The Mortal Wound. John Robbins. The Trinity Review, P.O. Box 68, Unicoi, Tennessee 37692.