Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anathemas, Part III

For our next installation of what may become a four part series, I wanted to address what the canons of Trent actually say, and not follow the red herring of the anathemas. As it is beyond the scope of this blog to go over all of the canons, I will stick to the four which Candy found particularly offensive. She uses two each for the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, and the validity of the sacraments.

Now, if Candy hadn't gotten distracted by the anathemas, I think she could have made a very good post out of this material. I don't deny that there are differences between Catholic theology, and the theology that Candy follows. Perhaps she could have explained why she believed we are saved by faith alone, and why the sacraments are not necessary instead of saying that Catholics who believe in Jesus are anathema, which just isn't true.

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” Sixth Session CANON IX

“If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.” Sixth Session CANON XII

The Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by God's grace alone, through our faith, as is manifested by our works. We do not believe that we are saved by faith alone.

The only time that the words "faith" and "alone" appear together in the Bible are in James 2:14-26, where it is stating that we are NOT saved by faith alone. (Well, apparently not actually in the KJV, which I tend to use here in deference to Candy's preferences.)

James 2:14-26What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

You can read two excellent articles on the Catholic Answers website that deal with this issue.
Not By Faith Alone
Aren't We Saved By Faith Alone?

The Catholic Church DOES affirm the importance of faith:

CCC #161: Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"

#183: "Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16)."

So if the Catholic Church feels faith is so important, why did it condemn salvation by faith alone? Because salvation by faith alone discounts the work of God's grace in our salvation. Are we saved by God's grace, or do we save ourselves by OUR belief, OUR faith, OUR saying the Sinner's Prayer, etc. It is God's grace which prompts our faith, and therefore God deserves all the credit for our salvation, not our declaration of faith.

Grace is something that Candy doesn't really mention much on her blog, and I'm curious as to how she feels God's grace fits into the role of our salvation. Whereas, if you take the time to read the Canons of the Council of Trent, grace shows up time and time again.

Canon 2.
If anyone says that divine grace through Christ Jesus is given for this only, that man may be able more easily to live justly and to merit eternal life, as if by free will without grace he is able to do both, though with hardship and difficulty, let him be anathema.

Canon 29.
If anyone says that he who has fallen after baptism cannot by the grace of God rise again,[130] or that he can indeed recover again the lost justice but by faith alone without the sacrament of penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and Universal Church, instructed by Christ the Lord and His Apostles, has hitherto professed, observed and taught, let him be anathema.

Canon 32.
If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.

Further, if you read more than four canons of Trent quoted by Candy, you will see that even at the time the Church was condemning the idea of salvation by faith alone, it took the time to also condemn salvation by works.

Canon 1.
If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.

Wow! The very first canon, huh? Must be important.

Okay, let's move on to sacraments.

“If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord; or, that they are more, or less, than seven, to wit, Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony; or even that any one of these seven is not truly and properly a sacrament; let him be anathema.” Seventh Session CANON I

“If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not in deed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.” Seventh Session CANON IV

As far as I am aware, Candy believes that there are two ordinances, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, but no sacraments. There are other churches besides the Catholic Church which affirm that there are sacraments, and some also affirm that there are seven, while others feel the number is fewer. I think that sacraments, like infant versus believer baptism, is something that mature Christians should be able to agree to disagree about.

What is a sacrament? The short answer which people usually give to that question is "an outward sign of an inward grace." Sacraments are all about grace.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
It is the teaching of the Catholic Church and of Christians in general that, whilst God was nowise bound to make use of external ceremonies as symbols of things spiritual and sacred, it has pleased Him to do so, and this is the ordinary and most suitable manner of dealing with men. Writers on the sacraments refer to this as the necessitas convenientiae, the necessity of suitableness. It is not really a necessity, but the most appropriate manner of dealing with creatures that are at the same time spiritual and corporeal.

What does that mean? Because we are corporeal creatures, we deal with the material world. We understand things best through out senses. God dispenses graces through visible, material sacraments, just as our salvation depended on God taking flesh.

A Primer On Catholic Sacraments
The Catholic Catechism on Sacraments

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Clare said...

This is an excellent series, and very timely because my protestant friend is expressing an interest in RC teaching and this topic came up recently. We are having a wonderful conversation btw, it's incredibly gracious, authentic and humble ( all HER virtues!!)
I left this comment ( below) at Candys post on her testimony.
I duplicate it here 'just in case'. Thank you for giving me the means to do that.

"So glad for you that you have joy. You talk a great deal about your joy and how it is the evidence of the holy spirit at work in your life. Do you think you give enough attention to the remaining fruits of the spirit? Do you think it's sufficient to be manifesting just one in such abundance?
I'd love to hear what you have to say about how the Holy Spirit has been doing in you with regards to the OTHER fruits."

Sal said...

Your links remind me that Catholic Christianity has to be looked at as a whole.

If you 'proof-text' it, you distort it.

An excellent group of posts.

Kelly said...

Yes sal, it's just impossible to bring all of Catholicism into one little line, that you then criticize.

I'd love to hear what Candy has to say about the Council of Trent reiterating that one cannot earn their salvation by works. Of course, she wouldn't admit she's wrong in stating that is what Catholics believe.

At one point it time, I would have tried to leave it as a comment, but now I don't bother.

Dana said...

Kelly, great series, so informative and factual.
I just want to highlight one thing that may be the missing piece in Candy's beliefs is this line "when I was a horrible sinner".

There are many protestants that believe once saved they are no longer sinners, past present and future. This may be the mainline reasoning behind the consistent insulting of the Catholic Church.

Perplexity said...

Kelly, I have to say I have a difficult time grasping all of this, but you are doing a wonderful job in helping me muddle through it all.

I've had to read your posts several times each to really have it make sense, but I'm trying.

It is topics like this that my non Catholic upbringing is apparent, since my understanding is so limited. I think what Sal said is true, it needs to be seen as a whole, and I haven't seen it that way, thus, my understanding is very limited.

Anyway, even though I had nothing constructive to contribute, I wanted you to know that I am reading these posts, and trying to understand them and in the process, learning.


Kelly said...

Dana, I found this that Candy wrote in Jan 2006. (Was this you?):

Q I have a question for you about sin. Do you as a born again believer think that you do not sin any longer? -Dana

A Le't turn to Scripture for the answer. :

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. -1John 1:8-9

Whether one is saved or not, if they say they don't sin, then they are a liar. However, Christians have a advocate with the Father via Jesus Christ. If we confess our sins to God, he cleanses us from them. This is a promise only to those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

Kelly said...

I've had to read your posts several times each to really have it make sense, but I'm trying.

LOL! I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but feel free to ask me to elaborate on any points.

Esther said...

OT question to group: I saw on a Catholic blog that the blog is promoting Candy's blog or something to that effect. Does anyone have a direct link to any references? I tried searching their blog but couldn't find anything. I subscribe to the homeschooling blog awards blog but will no longer do so if that is true.
Thanks ladies and keep up the good work.

Kelly said...

Esther, Elena has done several posts on the homeschool blog awards. If you type "blog awards" in the search box at the top of the page, it will pull up those posts.

Esther said...

Thanks Kelly!

Dana said...

Hi Kelly, that was me. I remember vaguely the reason I wrote that was she had referenced in either one of her posts (possibly that post) someone who's readings/teachings were posted and they were explaining that people who love Jesus are incapable of sin.
When she answered me with that Scripture, it still didn't sit right with me. It still doesn't. I believe that they believe they are separated from sin because of their belief.
I cannot get my head around that. There are some groups of protestants, some are in the Calvanist group and I there are others too.
Just as Perplexity wrote, this site is so informative and enlightening in regards to Catholism. I am thoroughly enjoying this and I am finding that this is only enhancing my visits to the Catholic Mass. Thank you all.

Saved Sinner said...

"There are many protestants that believe once saved they are no longer sinners, past present and future. This may be the mainline reasoning behind the consistent insulting of the Catholic Church."
Obviously I cannot speak for all (or even the majority) of Protestants but this is not a view that I personally have come across. The Westminister Confession doesn't suport such a view.

Kelly said...

I hope this doesn't sound condescending, Saved Sinner, but it's probably just an American thing. We have allll kinds of crazy denominations/sects over here.

Did you hear about the snake handlers, yet?

I'm not at all surprised that there may be a group of sinless Christians running around out there. We're the land of the free, and the home of the unusual . . .

Perplexity said...

I've had to read your posts several times each to really have it make sense, but I'm trying.

LOL! I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but feel free to ask me to elaborate on any points.

Oh, Kelly, it's not a reflection on you at all. It's the fact that I don't have the background coming into all of this so many times, like with anathemas, it's a word, and concept, I've never even heard of before so I have to start at ground zero.

Barbara C. said...


If it's any consolation, I'm a cradle Catholic and never came across the term anathema, either. I've been trying to wrap my mind about a bit, too.

When it comes to Candy's constant use of the word, I keep thinking of the line from "Princess Bride":
"You keep using that word. I don't-a think it means what you think it means."

Kelly said...

I was going to say the same thing, Barbara!

Anathemas are very old and haven't been used in a long time. I had to look it up the first time Candy brought it up, myself.

We still have excommunication, and that is probably used as infrequently as anathemas were previously.

Dana said...

Saved Sinner: I have come across this in some of my readings. For instance, I believe some of Micheal Pearl's writings strongly suggest this idea.
If I am correct, it is within the Calvanist community, maybe an offshoot of their denomination. I have heard some sermons here in Massachusetts in regards to this belief as well. That was a check in my spirit especially considering David.