rosie harper general synod assisted suicide
Church of England

Senior Anglican priest slams continuation of General Synod as ‘pure fatalism and superstition’

Canon Ronnie Harpoon, the chaplain to the Bishop of Barchester and a member of the Church’s General Synod, has written a controversial post, suggesting that the famously tedious legislative body should be allowed to vote itself out of existence.

In it, he writes: “Don’t tell me that three-hour debates on financial management motions are purely God’s business. Satan clearly has a hand in it all as well. Especially when the air-con’s conked out.”

“I can’t believe that at the moment when all a human soul wants is for it to end, God stands in the press gallery and says: ‘No my child, it is my will that you suffer just a few more days.’ That is pure fatalism and superstition.”

He adds: “When the Established Church is nearing the end of its life there are now many societies where they kindly take it to the legislative knacker’s yard. That is not the case in England.

“Just when you might think we need our freedom, the most the Synodical Government Measure 1969 takes it away from us. Just when you might think that God would most honour the freedom he has given us to wind the whole thing up, 900,000 selfish buggers take it away from us by still going to church on Sunday.

“If ever you’ve attended General Synod you’ll know the refrain: ‘please, dear God, please help me to die’.”

Invoking the Christian concept of free will, Canon Harpoon goes on: “Even people who would use language such as ‘God has a plan for the Church of England’ don’t actually mean that everything that Synod does is His will. Of course not. The will of God? Throughout our lives we make choices and many of them are life and death choices. To flog all our property at the bottom of the market or constantly argue about sex or spend hours debating which outfits we wear and when. For all those things we choose and we also take responsibility.”

Synodical government remains legal in the UK. The Church of England continues officially to support the current Synod set up, though some church figures, including anyone who’s sat through a session, have said they are in favour of sticking pins in their eyes rather than do so again.

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    This made Mr Slope sit up somewhat – he thought he was chaplain to my Lord the Bishop.

  • Father David

    I’ll gladly give a fiver towards the £10,000 fee for a one way ticket to send the General Synod to Switzerland. But what’s the alternative Canon Harpoon? If we are Synodically governed and Episcopally led – that just leaves us with the episcopate – once the General Synod has been humanely put to sleep?

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      A good point…all those lefty bishops…perhaps we could have a re-run of James II’s clap ’em in the Tower approach…

      • Father David

        The Sea of Faith
        Was once, too; at full, and round earth’s shore….
        But now I only hear
        Its melancholy, long withdrawing roar.

        The only thing that will save the Church of England is more good men like the current Bishop of Barchester – so long as they have strong women behind the cathedra to prod and poke ’em in the right direction.

      • Carole Sasaki

        Where is the emoji finder when you need one? I want to put the rolling on the floor laughing emoji on here.

  • Brian

    Chaplain Rosie and her “bishop” (pray tell, why does a bishop need a £40k+ p.a. chaplain?) must have great conversations in Buckingham Palace:
    “Oh Rosie! You crazy publicity hound! Have you been talking to the press again? That’s my job, you know! ”
    “You’re just jealous because I believe less than you, Alan!”
    “Oh really, Rosie, where *do you get your ideas from?”
    “From your blog, Alan!”
    “Have you thought of parish ministry, Rosie?”
    “What have you got in mind, Alan?”
    “Oh it will suit you to a t! A united benefice of 15 parishes in The Chilterns, nobody under 80, all ready for Switzerland. I’ve been trying to close that benefice for years. Well, how about it? More cider, Rosie? Or maybe cyanide?”

  • magnolia

    The system as it is does not appear to mirror the more considered within the C of E, and particularly on the vexatiously repetitive motions intent on loosening sexual morals to close to zero, no matter how many wasteful dead-end, decoy, and distracting debates and votings it takes.

  • Inspector General

    Absolute crap, aren’t they. These female priest imposters.

    The Church of England is becoming a very scary place. For Christ’s sake, keep the children well away from it…

  • Manfarang

    “sticking pins in their eyes”
    Well I had a needle pushed into my eye just yesterday.
    Painful indeed.

    • Jilly

      I think stick with Lucentis…
      Mud has so many imponderables.

      • Manfarang

        I hope your vision remains clear.

        • Jilly

          Thank you. I hope so too.

        • Jilly

          Meant to say I hope yours does too.

  • Albert

    Don’t tell me that the time of someone’s death is purely God’s business. That at the moment when all a human soul wants is for it to end, God stands at the end of the bed and says: ‘No my child, it is my will that you suffer just a few more days.’

    That is pure fatalism and superstition.

    While Rosie Harper accuses her opponents of superstitious fatalism, her own comment looks emotional rather than rational, and its language looks like a set of rhetorical devices to shut down discussion. If you’re going to be rude about your opponents (“superstitious fatalists”) you need to show more courtesy to their actual opinions and clarity about your own than Rosie Harper does. It might have looked a little better if she had written (as I think she means):

    “God is more democratic than to regard himself as the sole-determiner of the time of death. And he does not wish someone to suffer longer than the soul wishes to suffer. Anything other than this is pure fatalism and superstition”

    And that now becomes a set of propositions one can discuss rationally:

    1. Is it pure fatalism and superstition to deny God is democratic in regard to his agency?
    2. Is it pure fatalism and superstition to believe God does not wish someone to suffer longer than they do?

    My own responses are that 1. If Christianity is true, God is not democratic in regard to his agency and 2. It is evidently the case, indeed experienced by most people every day, that God wishes us to suffer for longer than we wish to suffer.

    Why things are this way is a different discussion and perhaps it is there, that the conversation should be taking place.

    But then, what would I know? I’m just a superstitious fatalist.

    • “Why things are this way is a different discussion and perhaps it is there, that the conversation should be taking place.”

      Precisely so. Is there a theology of suffering in Anglicanism?

      • Albert

        I wouldn’t say there is a distinct theology of suffering in Anglicanism. Anglicans, quite reasonably, will simply look at the responses and decide which one to go for. I think the problem here is with the doctrine of God. God seems to have been reduced to a fellow-sufferer. A kindly, but non-omnipotent being among other beings. In other words, I suspect there is too much process theology in the background. And this does seem to be more of a problem in Anglicanism. Because of the lack of philosophical training, Anglicans are often drawn to theologies on the basis of the fact that they find those theologies more emotionally conducive. As a result there is insufficient critique of those ideas. Indeed, the rhetoric employed is designed to prevent such a critique.

  • Dolphinfish

    You hammer one little list of theses onto a cathedral door, and next thing you know……

  • Norman Yardy

    Where is the Holy Spirit in all this? He does not come just by asking. For Christians his presence is only invoked by conforming to Biblical requirements of holiness and without Him, there will be no unity.
    Those that are most vehement in their arguments are most likely to be those who speak in the flesh from their own heart and not as led by by the Spirit.

  • Graham Wood

    “When the Established Church is nearing the end of its life” This I suggest is the issue whether we speak of Synod or the C of E itself (not the issue of the “right to die” which is a distraction – a red herring)
    By the “end of its life” must mean the end of its whole position as a Christ confessing church in terms of its doctrine and practice. Arguably it reached the end of its life in these terms long ago, and the question is rightly asked as to whether the C of E can be identified in New Testament terms as being a Christian church any longer.
    That is not to argue that there are not faithful Christ honouring men who regularly preach and teach the Gospel of Christ within its ranks, but numerically they are a tiny minority and the historic division between these and the majority of theologically liberal leaders from Archbishops, bishops and clergy remain.
    Clearly then the historic schism exists and continues to mar the precious and once held inviolability of the unity of the body of Christ. So there is already a strong potential for that schism to deepen and to find expression in a move by evangelicals to break away from the institutional established C of E in order to effect reform and reflect faithfulness to the Gospel of Christ in separation.
    This move would be hastened by the further failure of both Synod and leadership of the church to clearly reach a biblical position on the definition of sexual ethics and specifically recognising homosexual practices as sinful – so dividing the church further.
    Clearly, if only two archbishops (apart from Synod) are unable to articulate a clear biblical stance on what the Bible clearly teaches is sin, then the church is already deeply compromised doctrinally, and such a position is incompatible with the Gospel itself and a biblical view of the church.
    There are many other grounds for asserting that structurally the C of E historically, and in its existing ministry is so far removed from the norms of a New Testament pattern that separation on such grounds can be fully justified anyway – but those are further and complicating issues which could and should be raised and discussed.
    My own view is that if the church collectively refuses to reform current practice according to the New Testament pattern then the time has come for it to recognise that its useful life as an instrument for the Gospel of Christ has come to an end.
    As the book of Proverbs reminds us: “There is a time to rend, and a time to sew, a time to keep silence, and a time to speak. I believe that “time” for the C of E has come now to speak on such issues by archbishops and bishops, clearly and unambiguously.
    Reform or die are the only alternatives

  • It is the atheist who thinks suffering is ultimately meaningless and pointless. The Christian believes that no suffering is ultimately meaningless or pointless because we believe that a loving God is providentially orchestrating all things, in a way that upholds our freedom. For that reason, when God allows us to suffer, He is doing so to protect us from a greater evil, or to lift us to a far greater and outweighing good. God always has a good purpose in allowing suffering, even when that purpose is inscrutable to us. As is written in the first century work, the Didache, “The workings that befall you receive as good, knowing that apart from God nothing comes to pass.” We always have a choice in our suffering, whether to trust God as our loving Father, and receive the good gift that He is giving us, or to rail against God in distrust and anger, as though we know better than He does what is ultimately good for us.

    Saint Paul writes: “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8-11)

    Suffering is a participation in the mystery of Christ and is the way we can become like Christ. Suffering is our way of “becoming like him (Christ) in his death” so that he “may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Through suffering, Paul sees himself as participating in the Passion of Christ. Because we are being saved through the death and resurrection of Christ we must participate in his Passion to obtain salvation.

    Another dimension of Saint Paul’s teaching on the meaning of suffering is his conception of suffering as a means for sanctification, keeping pride at a minimum and trust in God at a maximum. He says: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

    It is in weakness that we trust in Christ because we realize that what we accomplish is not of our own doing, but the grace of Christ is working in us. It is in our weakness and suffering that we grow in humility and cannot pride ourselves in our accomplishments. We suffer “to make us rely, not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

    We suffer “for the sake of Christ.” It is through grace that we can be content with suffering. Grace helps us to participate in the salvific act of suffering and to be content with it. “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

    • Albert

      Cracking post. However, I remember that when this kind of theology was expressed, the reply would always be to assume that the speaker could only say such things because he had no idea of real suffering. Doubtless, you’ve never suffered yourself Jack, and that’s why you write such things!

  • Carole Sasaki

    I will never eat my lunch whilst reading Archbishop Cranmer`s missives again. I nearly choked to death from laughing! Many a true word spoken in jest. Seriously, though, those who hold to the Bible will have to leave soon, I think. That includes me although I have only been going to C of E a couple of years. It really does have some good things going for it. But I am now stepping out of my place seeing as women should keep silent in the church and all that 🙂

    • pobjoy

      ‘stepping out of my place’

      Remember that Deborah led the ‘church’ when men were too faithless and feckless to do so.

      • Carole Sasaki

        I was kind of joking but you know what? I needed to be reminded of what you just wrote. Love the alliteration. Thanks

        • pobjoy

          M’ pleasure, ma’am.

  • dannybhoy

    “In it, she writes: ‘Don’t tell me that the time of someone’s death is purely God’s business. That at the moment when all a human soul wants is for it to end, God stands at the end of the bed and says: “No my child, it is my will that you suffer just a few more days.” That is pure fatalism and superstition.”

    Am I the only one who has sympathy with this view?
    As a ‘born again’ Christian, I accept that my times are in his hands. The day of departure grows ever closer, and one occasionally reflects on the form death will take.
    I am fortunate; no cancer yet, no heart disease. But as a human being I cannot rule anything out for the future!
    Were it to be a virulent cancer I would prefer being humanely put to sleep. Why prolong suffering?
    Those who believe there is value in physical suffering and we should somehow embrace it as some kind of atonal suffering for sin, I think misguided.
    “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive in the spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18
    If there were value in suffering, why would we seek to alleviate it through medication? Why not embrace it in all its full blown pain and distress?

    Just as I don’t believe God’s desire is for us to be born deformed or minus vital organs (what kind of a God would will that?), nor do I believe illness and suffering are a part of His great master plan for us.
    Nor that He planned that down through the ages millions upon millions of soldiers and civilians should be killed, maimed, raped and left without families through wars..
    So I coudn’t choose to have myself put down because my life is not my own, it belongs to God. Similarly I could not end the life a person suffering from teminal illness, because it is not my decision to make.
    But please, let’s not try and dress this up in some kind of “God’s plan for you ” thing..

    • carl jacobs

      Have you never read of the man born blind?

      • dannybhoy

        Yes I have read about him. Have you read anywhere in Scripture that God decreed a person be born deformed or lacking organs? Have you ever worked with such?
        Nowhere does God say illness and deformity are a part of His plan, and where the crippled and lame are mentioned, apart from this instance it never says God chose this for them…

        Gen 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’
        Leviticus 21 16 “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying: ‘No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, 19 a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, 20 or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch.”

        Rom 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”
        Death and sickness not God’s choice for us, but He does use it for His purposes.

        • carl jacobs

          What, you mean beside the man born blind? Of whom it was specifically declared that he was born blind precisely so that the Glory of God could be displayed in him? Intentional. Purposeful. John 9 is the explicit case of God doing exactly what you said He doesn’t do.

          • dannybhoy

            “Nowhere does God say illness and deformity are a part of His plan, and where the crippled and lame are mentioned, apart from this instance it never says God chose this for them…”

          • You are sounding like an atheist. Nature is ultimately impersonal, indifferent and apathetic; suffering just is. We do not like suffering, but ultimately, suffering is neither evil or good, because ultimately there is no good or evil; there is just matter and energy and the fundamental laws of physics. Some suffering is the result of the actions of other people, but much suffering is simply gratuitous, pointless, and outside the bounds of human control.

            For Christians, the Creator of all things is a perfectly good, perfectly just, and perfectly loving Father. Suffering and death, and all the evils we experience in this life, have their origin in human sin against God our Father.

            The purpose of our present life is the same purpose for which Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden. This present life is for us a period of testing, to determine where we shall be for eternity, either with God or separated from God.

            All the suffering that God allows us to experience in this life, is ultimately medicinal, i.e. for our good in some respect, even when we do not see that we need any treatment. God, our Father, is like a loving parent who agrees to subject his child to a regimen of chemotherapy to cure a cancer, though the child does not see the need for the chemotherapy, because the child does not see the cancer or its danger. You’re like the child who says to his parent, “If you loved me you wouldn’t be putting me through this chemotherapy.” The parent is thinking, “If only you could see the danger of this cancer, you would understand that I am subjecting you to this painful treatment only because I love you, and want you to live.” And this too, is the heart of our heavenly Father, when He allows us to endure the sufferings of this life.

            What is the great cancer, the one infinitely worse than physical cancer? The great cancer is sin, and it leads to hell, i.e. eternal separation from God. There is no greater evil than that one, nothing worse to suffer than eternal separation from God. It is far worse to be comfortable in this life, and suffer eternal separation from God in the life to come, than to suffer in this life, and yet enjoy the Beatific Vision with God eternally.

          • orthodoxgirl

            Nicely put! It’s hard for us as flawed humans to understand and accept this, but I agree with your points.

          • dannybhoy

            “For Christians, the Creator of all things is a perfectly good, perfectly just, and perfectly loving Father. Suffering and death, and all the evils we experience in this life, have their origin in human sin against God our Father.”

            That’s what I said! But the earth too groaneth in travail and things go wrong in the environment.
            I believe God is in control and will achieve all His purposes, but there are consequences of the Fall that He doesn’t interfere with, and we endure them, whilst seeking to find solutions.
            Are we wrong to seek solutions Jack?

          • “I believe God is in control and will achieve all His purposes, but there are consequences of the Fall that He doesn’t interfere with, and we endure them, whilst seeking to find solutions.”

            No Danny. God is in control of all things – including all our human suffering – and He is a perfectly good, perfectly just and perfectly loving Father.

            These tests are opportunities for us to choose whom we will serve. They demonstrate whether we truly love God, or whether we only have a ‘friendship of utility’ with God. If we continue to trust and serve God, even in the midst of suffering, we show that our friendship with God is not one of utility. But if in response to the removal of the comforts of this life we turn against God and curse Him, we show that our ‘love’ for God is only for what He gives us, and not a “love of friendship.”

            “Are we wrong to seek solutions Jack?”

            Of course not. To alleviate pain and suffering is a Christian act of mercy. However, when there is no *solution* we should not despair but accept God’s will for us and see its meaning.

          • dannybhoy

            “However, when there is no *solution* we should not despair but accept God’s will for us and see its meaning.”
            As a Christian yes, but my attitude is that for example, God did not choose me to have asthma; that was a heredity thing from my father’s side.
            I sought healing and didn’t get healed. I examined myself for sin, for unbelief etc.
            but in the end I just accepted I had it. There was no significance in having it. It just IS.
            But as I grow in grace and surrender more of myself through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment I accept all that I am and give it to Him.
            I don’t blame God for any suffering, it’s a fallen world and things go wrong.
            This once perfect world is now a training ground for Heaven and God can use bad stuff for ultimate good. But my concept of God is built on His revealed nature, His reasonableness, compassion, love for fallen mankind and His redemptive creativity.
            I don’t worry myself with “God’s inscrutable/unknowable/incomprehensible will”.
            I just trust in His love and His grace as revealed in out Lord Jesus Christ who out of love for me and all mankind allowed Himself to be put to death on the Cross.

          • You don’t consider that God knew you would have asthma before you were conceived? it didn’t form a part of His plan for your salvation? That It doesn’t have to be a result of personal sin or unbelief.

            This is a very Catholic understanding of suffering: “But as I grow in grace and surrender more of myself through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment I accept all that I am and give it to Him.”

          • dannybhoy

            “You don’t consider that God knew you would have asthma before you were conceived?”
            Yes, He knew it, but He didn’t give it to me; and yes He used it in that process of salvation.
            But where we differ is that I came to the conclusion that God made a world that is pretty much designed to run itself.
            Cause and effect and consequences.
            He made man and gave us sentience and free will and like all other living things the the ability to reproduce.
            Cause and effect and consequences.
            He can intervene,
            He can choose to heal, but He doesn’t do it all the time, because by and large this world He has made is wonderfully designed so that there are consequences and accidents and natural calamities.
            What I can do is surrender everything to Him and believe that He can take any situation and bring some good out of it.
            So I don’t need worry making excuses for untimely deaths or accidents. I just put it all down to the nature of the world and how I think it works and that God if He is asked,
            can come in and fix it,
            may not fix it,
            but will always go through it with us.

          • “But where we differ is that I came to the conclusion that God made a world that is pretty much designed to run itself.”

            Open theism? We’ve discussed this before. It is not what Jesus taught in the passages Jack has already cited or scripture as a whole.

            Never heard of the concept of the “ Sovereignty of God”? God’s sovereignty is defined as His complete and total oversight of every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history – which all exists as a single moment for God. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent, God does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. God is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes.

            “The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand’ (Isaiah 14:24). Nothing is random or comes by chance. He “purposed” it. That means to deliberately resolve to do something. God has resolved to do what He will do, and nothing and no one stands in His way. “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10). This is our powerful, purposeful God who is in control of everything. “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”(Daniel 4:35).

            As the Catechism puts it:

            “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.”blockquote> (CCC, 600)

          • dannybhoy

            “Never heard of the concept of the “ Sovereignty of God”? God’s sovereignty is defined as His complete and total oversight of every creature, event, and circumstance at every moment in history – which all exists as a single moment for God. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent, God does what He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. God is in complete control of every molecule in the universe at every moment, and everything that happens is either caused or allowed by Him for His own perfect purposes.”
            Hmm.
            I think I prefer my understanding, and I bet I could build a reasonable case from
            Scripture to give it legs…
            Otherwise it sounds incredibly ….heavy and controlling..

          • Go on then …. build a “reasonable case” from scripture.

          • Goodness HJ. You are a Calvinist!. In Him we live and move and have our being.

          • Ssssh …. Carl may be around!

            A Calvinist who believes in free will.

            As the Catechism puts it:

            “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of “predestination”, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.”

            (CCC, 600)

          • A well, here I’m differing. Perhaps a little more in expression than substance. I believe, as does Carl, that every person is free to act according to his nature. However, as we are naturally, our nature is not free. We are all held in the grip of sin. We have free will in the sense of free choice, our wills however, are determined by our nature and always choose rebellion, hence the need for a new life/nature.

            That being said, God being God he is able to both control all things and simultaneously grant freedom. When we act we always act according to our preferences and inclinations yet behind our actions is a God in control of every detail working his purposes big and small through all things. We can understand this to a degree but only a degree.

            For me the illustration of a novel sheds some light. The author is omnipotent. Everything in the novel works out entirely as he decides. Yet the characters in the novel act consistent with their own nature. They are free and authentic yet controlled. Of course, the illustration has its limitations.

            PS you wrote a comment the other day to me which deserved a response. I wrote it, a fairly long one, but it disappeared when I tried to post it. I hadn’t the inclination or time to rewrite it. Apologies.

          • I don’t believe that all suffering works in a naturalistic cause and effect matrix. Some suffering does; put your hand in a fire you’ll be burned. But even where cause and effect is present the bible never presents the events of lif to a naturalistic determinism. It always presents events as coming from God. The Psalms are full of this. Suffering is always ‘your waves and billows’. This is part of the agony of the believing sufferer. He asks ‘why’ because he knows suffering is not purely natural determinism but is divine ordaining.

            Further, there is suffering that is clearly not simply naturalistic cause and effect. Think of the suffering of Job. His suffering is disproportionate and apparently chaotic. Yet Job knows it is not. He doesn’t attribute it to natural cause and effect and adopt a fatalistic resignation. Rather he sees it all as coming from God and that is precisely the source of his complaint.

          • It is a Reformed Protestant understanding too.

          • dannybhoy

            “You are sounding like an atheist.”
            And who says Christians as well as atheists can’t ponder these things?
            It is because men question that we discover things and grow in understanding, how we find cures for illnesses, deal with genetic conditions, make scientific discoveries and teach others how to farm, provide clean water supplies and so on.
            Otherwise we rely on superstition and nothing much changes…

          • Sarky

            Sounding like an atheist??
            He says it like its a bad thing!!
            All I know is that shit happens and that we as humans have learnt to deal with it the best we can.
            Can i ask you a question??
            Do you think the universe looks like one created by a loving god or does the universe look like it is impersonal, indifferent and apathetic?

          • dannybhoy

            I think it looks awe inspiring, especially when you see close up pictures and Hubble pics of galaxies and nebulae, and I think God’s intention is that amongst other things, we will get to explore it.
            I don’t know what a loving God universe would like Sarks. It’s said to be scientifically possible that there are other dimensions we are unable to see, but as God is in terms of power, knowledge and everything else incomprehensible to us limited creatures, I think its going to be exciting.
            “All I know is that shit happens and that we as humans have learnt to deal with it the best we can.”
            Crudely put, but I basically agree. The advantage a Christian has is that God will go through it with us..

          • Sarky

            But the outcome will be the same.

          • dannybhoy

            Been looking for your response for a while..
            The outcome is what?

          • Sarky

            What i mean is if you have two people going through the same thing, one with god, one without, their experience will be pretty much the same. Having a belief doesnt actually change anything, just your perception.

          • Royinsouthwest

            How much do we know about the universe? We think we know a lot about the solar system which is just one speck in our galaxy which is just a speck in the universe.

          • Sarky

            That doesn’t mean ‘god did it’

          • So humanity is personal and all else is impersonal. The impersonal has birthed the personal.

          • Sarky

            Who said humanity is personal?? Do you not watch the news??

          • You’re confusing personal and good. Humanity is composed of ‘persons’. Self-consciousness. Moral awareness. Language.

          • Sarky

            So you don’t understand evolution?
            Are you saying something with self awareness is unable to come from something that has none?

          • I understand evolution but I disagree with it. I do not believe in macro evolution ( one species evolving into another) nor is there any proof of this.

          • Sarky

            Your last sentence proves you don’t understand evolution.

          • Terry Mushroom

            “All the suffering that God allows us to experience in this life is ultimately medicinal.” I believe you have some Jewish heritage, Jack. The Jews must have been very ill for the medicine they’ve had to take.

            A variant is the story about Theresa of Avila (I think) who fell off a horse while attempting to cross a stream that suddenly flooded. “I did that to test you,” said the Lord in a vision. I’m with Tess when she allegedly replied, “Then it’s not surprising that you haven’t got many friends.”

          • “Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance. The purpose of penance is to overcome evil, which under different forms lies dormant in man. Its purpose is also to strengthen goodness both in man himself and in his relationships with others and especially with God.”

            (Saint John Paul II, Salvici Doloris)

            Here’s a quote from Saint Theresa of Avila:

            “I had many friends to help me to fall; but as to rising again, I was so much left to myself, that I wonder now I was not always on the ground. I praise God for His mercy; for it was He only Who stretched out His hand to me. May He be blessed for ever! Amen.”

          • Terry Mushroom

            After visiting Auschwitz, I was told by a witness how Jews were whipped as they were taken to a wall to be shot. How did their suffering serve for converting who?

            I was also told by a Pole who visited the camp in the early 50s how skin still stuck to the barbed wire. It came from despairing prisoners who flung themselves on it to electrocute themselves. Same question.

          • “How did their suffering serve for converting who?”

            We’ll learn this in the next life. Did God bring good from this moral evil? Why *blame* God for not intervening to curtail the evil of man?

            The Holocaust attacks faith right at the concept of God’s intervention. How, the atheist secularist demands, can you believe God would refuse to stop the Nazis from devastating European Jewry? How can you believe God would cast fire and brimstone on Sodom because a few men tried to rape an angel, yet wouldn’t do as much for Auschwitz or Dachau? What Moses was sent to der Führer to demand, “Let my people go”?

            Classically, Judaism explains suffering as temporal punishment for individual sins; by contrast, Christianity has explained it as a physical and moral consequence of original sin. Christianity has never foreseen the end of suffering at any time prior to the Second Coming. Christianity has never seen a logical contradiction between the occurrence of evil and an interventionist God who performs miracles.

            God wants us to be holy … not under compulsion but from our own desire. Christianity teaches, that man can’t become whole without becoming holy, that sanctity is a necessary precondition to wholeness. In human terms, that sanctity finds its natural expression in acts of love, mercy and compassion for others, especially those who suffer. To be holy we must seek not only to avoid evil but to do good, even if doing so causes us suffering and loss.

            Because man possesses free will, it’s our responsibility, not God’s, to prevent ourselves from causing others to suffer, or to prevent others from causing suffering. Human beings created the social contexts that allowed psychopaths like Hitler to come to power; human beings developed and taught the inhuman philosophies which fed his murderous mind; human beings remorselessly translated his orders into atrocities with little resistance.

            Ultimately, we can’t blame God for any act of human evil without implying that the humans who did the evil were little more than robots carrying out an inflexible programming. Such an implication is incompatible with the existence of free will; without free will, reason and scientific knowledge are illusions.

            The story of Job teaches us that the ways of a transcendent, eternal God are beyond our complete understanding. But “beyond understanding” doesn’t mean “beyond belief”. If, in the end, we can’t fully comprehend how suffering plays a part in God’s design, it doesn’t follow that the design is either hostile or indifferent to man. We still know that God calls us to avoid evil and to do good. This, by itself, is our best indication that God is indeed good.

          • Terry Mushroom

            I’m not blaming God for anything. I get the respecting free will and loving Father bit that allows a son to learn the hard way. And I was deeply moved when the Pole who saw the skin in my previous posting gave me a carved statue of the crucified Christ. It was hideous in its portrayal of His suffering.

            “Take it and believe,” she said, ”for He is the Lord of history and has us in His care.” I get that too.

            But not that Auschwitz serves to convert people or the misery, sadness, suffering and deaths of all those people was for them some or us some kind of “test”.

          • Terry, what wonderful and inspiring words by that woman! We can’t know this side of eternity the impact of the Holocaust on the individuals slaughtered, their family and friends, those actively and tacitly complicit in it, those witnessing it, or, indeed, the world. The history of the Jewish people is a deep mystery.
            As Jack said, the ways of a transcendent, eternal God are beyond our understanding and we can’t comprehend how suffering plays a part in God’s design.

          • Terry Mushroom

            Someone said, I believe, that the Jews are one of the proofs of God’s existence. Part of my shock at Auschwitz was discovering that my Catholic friend was born a Jew who had lost close family there.

            I grasped at hope when we stood in the cell where St Maximillian Kolbe died. And there is surely something of God overcoming evil when a Polish Pope came to pray there not 40 years later.

            We have an icon of Our Lady by our front door which elicits the occasional curious comment as if we are witnessing to, say, being vegans. The standard Catholic crucifix in our study excites a little more interest. I wonder what people would say if I put my statue out as its far closer to the truth of the scandal of Christ crucified?

          • Give its provenance, you should display that Crucifix.

            Providential purpose in history is a troubled subject. Without the Jewish prosecution and subsequent Christian reflection, the self-examination resulting in the changes in inter-faith dialogue might not have happened. As it is said: God writes straight with crooked lines.

            Have you seen ‘The White Crucifixion’ by Marc Chagal – a Jewish artist who’s work is steeped in Biblical imagery. It portrays the suffering of Jesus and the Jewish people.

            A green figure carrying a sack is shown crossing the foreground. This figure, who appears in several of Chagall’s works, has been interpreted as being either a Jewish wanderer from Yiddish tradition or the Prophet Elijah. At the sides of the painting violent acts against Jews occur such as the burning of a synagogue and invaders. And, in the centre, Jesus is shown crucified.

            The work is startling as the crucifixion, often seen as a symbol of oppression by the Jewish people, is instead used to represent their suffering. Jesus is shown crucified wearing a prayer shawl, a symbol he is Jewish. Like all art, it speaks to individuals and can be interpreted in different ways.

            https://static1.squarespace.com/static/526d656de4b0f35a9f02d174/t/5661ecdbe4b008bd034b1100/1449258206215/

          • Terry Mushroom

            Thanks for this. Will explore and reflect.

          • I agree with this… but only for the believer. All suffering for the believer is therapeutic and comes from a loving father who disciplines/trains his children.

            The suffering of the unbeliever is different. It may be a wake up call. But it may also be the birth pangs of ultimate judgement.

          • Jack believes suffering for those with faith is a process of sanctification and closer union with Our Lord. As for those without faith, let us pray that their times of trial become the former.

          • Indeed.

          • carl jacobs

            Both the question and the response presuppose purpose. “Why was this man born blind?” The disciples presumed the cause was sin. The Lord Jesus said “Not sin, but the glory of God.” Jesus said the man was born blind so that the glory of God might be displayed in him. How was the glory of God displayed in him? Jesus healed him. He was born blind so that Jesus could give him sight. The entire event was purposeful. You are suggesting that the answer to the disciples question ” Oh, it just sort of happened but its fortunate that I am here to heal him.” That isn’t the answer that Jesus gave.

          • dannybhoy

            I’m not denying that. I said, “apart from this instance”.
            But in contrast there are many places in Scripture where it is clear that corruption is not what God had planned for us. That he uses it I don’t doubt, and for example I accept my own ailment in the light of God allowing it (as a genetic fault through the Fall) and by my learning how to cope with it, to be more sensitive to others.
            But would I rather not have it?
            You betcha!
            Now another thing, if illness is something God gives, why does mankind (including Christians seek to find cures? Surely we are trying to thwart his purposes by wiping out one of His means of disciplining us..

          • carl jacobs

            The story of the man born blind cannot stand alone. Why was it exceptional? Because of all those other people who were born blind and never healed. There needs to be a background of suffering to establish the point of the miracle.

            Did you ever think about why Goliath was raised up as a mighty soldier? So that David could kill him. But to make it significant, Goliath had to appear invincible in the eyes of the world. How did he get that reputation? By killing lots and lots of people. Those people died to establish the Glory of God in the death of Goliath at David’s hands. This is not God playing chess with creation. This is God purposefully determining the End from the Beginning.

            Do you want another example? Consider the Assyrian Army before Jerusalem. The whole of Israel outside of Jerusalem was conquered. Only Jerusalem remained. And God killed the entire Assyrian Army in one night. Why? To demonstrate that God saved Israel because there was no other salvation. But what about everyone in Israel outside of Jerusalem? What do you think happened to them while the Assyrians were sweeping towards Jerusalem? They died. They were conquered. They were made slaves. Why? To establish the truth that God saved Israel and would not share the credit with man.

            You need to lift up your eyes, Danny. You don’t understand what is going on.

          • dannybhoy

            I can’t be bothered to answer that one. I think I’ve covered it elsewhere in responses to Jack.

          • Or to use an example the bible uses… pharaoh was raised up to be an object of judgement specifically to reveal the glory of God’s redemptive power in delivering Israel. Romans 9.

          • Royinsouthwest

            What about other people who are born blind?

          • God manifested His Glory in Jesus Christ to reveal His Goodness, Mercy and Love for rebellious man. The power of God extends over the whole world. His Glory is shown in his dominion over all nations and all creatures.

          • Albert

            A lot depends here by what you mean by “part of his plan”. Was it God’s plan for Judas to betray Jesus? At one level no – clearly Judas had to go against God’s will or it wouldn’t be a sin. But at another level yes – God clearly permitted the sin, because it enabled the redemption of the world. God permits evil, so that out of it he can produce good, as Augustine says. So does God’s plan include illness and deformity? At one level no, and at one level yes.

    • “Am I the only one who has sympathy with this view?”

      Nope … It’s the root of many modern heresies. It’s called emotionalism.

      • dannybhoy

        Rubbish.
        It’s called realism.

        • Martin

          I have to agree with HJ.

          • dannybhoy

            You’re welcome.
            Convince me that I’m wrong.
            Look, if we shroud everything under the heading “God’s inscrutable purpose”
            then frankly anything becomes possible. Man has advanced in all kinds of ways because Christianity and Judaism teach a reasonable God who encourages man to use his reason also.
            I guarantee that many on this blog would be dead and buried were it not for the medical advances made by mankind. If you really believe pain and suffering are God’s will for you, why would any good Christian disobey His will by taking medication, having operations, bad bits taken out and new bits put in?

          • Alleviating suffering is not, in and of itself, an evil. Indeed, it is a good. Terminating life in the name of *dignity in death* or *avoiding unnecessary suffering* is an evil.

            Some basic principles apply: First, to make an attempt on the life of or to kill an innocent person is an evil action. Second, each person is bound to lead his life in accord with God’s plan and with an openness to His will, looking to life’s fulfilment in heaven. Finally, intentionally committing suicide is a murder of oneself and a rejection of God’s plan.

          • dannybhoy

            “Alleviating suffering is not, in and of itself, an evil.”
            Now you’re introducing categories Jack.
            Blanket statement:
            “If physical/mental suffering is allowed by God for all our spiritual good,
            then surely we are wrong -or missing out on a blessing, when we take medicine or have an operation?”
            Nobody Jack welcomes pain and suffering as some kind of long term divine training programme. Everybody will seek a cure or alleviation, through medicine or surgery.
            Unless God has revealed to the individual sufferer that the affliction is for a purpose…

          • What Jack has introduced is morality.

            Some things are good, e.g. alleviating human suffering and misery through legitimate means. Some things are evil, e.g. seeking to avoid suffering through illicit means.

            Saint Paul (and many great Saints) welcomed their earthly sufferings. Give Jack a short, painful earthly life and Heaven, rather than a long, comfortable earthly life and Hell.

          • dannybhoy

            ” Some things are evil, e.g. seeking to avoid suffering through illicit means.”
            Explain please.
            I would have said that taking medical help when I preached that suffering is good for us is dishonest.

          • Morality 101 – Do not do evil that good may come from it.

            Even Jesus was helped to carry His Cross to Calvary .

          • dannybhoy

            Does having the Israelites kill babies and children so as they could secure the promised land come under the banner of Morality 101?
            I don’t have a problem with it, but then I’m not arguing your corner…

          • God is God. He’s the author of life and death – not man.

          • HJ. In one sense I agree with this since God is sovereign over all things. He is the creator and all else is creation. Yet in another, I wish to qualify it, nuance it. Scripture speaks of God as the author of life. Life and light are who he is and what he gives. I’m not sure it would say ‘the author of death’. Death is the entail of sin. Although he creates all things, He is not ‘the author of sin’.

            Death, like his wrath, is his ‘strange’ work. That is, it is not that most expressive of his nature and being. It is a necessary corollary to his wrath in a sinful world. Scripture normally reveals God’s purposes in a sinful world. That is, it assumes the presence of sin and God acting righteously and yet freely within this context. Why he allowed sin, how sin originated, is not expressly revealed. Lucifers fall is hinted at but any sense of God as it’s author is strenuously resisted.

            Yet, again, I understand and agree with your basic argument.

          • Or, Paul’s advice to the Corinthian slaves to accept the situation they found themselves in, however, if they could gain their freedom to do so.

          • Danny, you seem to me to think and believe biblically part from this area of God’s sovereignty. It is admittedly a big area. I’m not sure why you feel so strongly resistant to accepting what the bible says. Don’t you see the weakness of saying that every example in Scripture of God’s direct ordaining of suffering, and there are many, is an exception. Why should it be an exception? Is it not the way all those of faith in Scripture think? I submit it is. Can you give any example where events are attributed to merely cause and effect?

            Scripture does admit secondary causes; Jesus dies because he is crucified by the Jews and gentile powers. And men are responsible for what they do. But the primary cause is God; all was according to the determined plan of God. We may not fully understand the interface between primary and secondary causes or between divine sovereignty and human responsibility but we don’t need to to affirm it. Faith affirms/confesses what Scripture teaches.

            Brother, I know you struggle to see this. But I know too you believe the bible. I urge you to read Romans 9 and to grapple with what it teaches. Start by believing it. Don’t resist it. And the Lord will give understanding in all things.

            Forgive me if this seems patronising. I don’t intend it to do so.

            John

          • dannybhoy

            Even though I am not the brightest of bulbs, I always try to understand what somebody else says , and certainly as a Christian I respect the views of my Christian brothers and sisters.
            “Brother, I know you struggle to see this. But I know too you believe the bible. I urge you to read Romans 9 and to grapple with what it teaches. Start by believing it. Don’t resist it. And the Lord will give understanding in all things.”
            I can’t answer that John, only to say that because
            “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes ( accepts and follows) Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.”

            I believe His character is one of holiness, love, purity, compassion and grace.
            Therefore I accept all that He is Sovereign God, and all He did in the OT in establishing His covenant people in Israel, I accept His moral laws, and Jesus as our Messiah/Deliverer, and that God never acts out of character with His revealed nature, whatever words might seem to say to the contrary.

            So if God were to strike me down dead, He would be justified in doing so. Not because I am a child of Adam , but because I myself through my own choices have validated that I am a sinner and a rebel. I only called out to Him for rescue because He revealed to me that I really am a sinner.
            I think it’s all down to what you believe about the nature of God.

          • Suicide is as your answer implies, a failure of faith.

          • dannybhoy

            Someone wrote recently on the subject of dementia that whatever they became as a consequence of dementia, the fact that with all their faculties working they believed and followed Christ is the deciding factor.
            Likewise with suicide only God can know what was going on in their minds. On what I believe about the nature of God I would be unable to make any judgement.

          • Martin

            And to Adam he said,
            Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
            and have eaten of the tree
            of which I commanded you,
            You shall not eat of it,
            cursed is the ground because of you;
            in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
            thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
            and you shall eat the plants of the field.
            By the sweat of your face
            you shall eat bread,
            till you return to the ground,
            for out of it you were taken;
            for you are dust,
            and to dust you shall return.
            (Genesis 3:17-19 [ESV])

          • dannybhoy

            In the context of,
            “Look, if we shroud everything under the heading “God’s inscrutable purpose”
            then frankly anything becomes possible. Man has advanced in all kinds of ways because Christianity and Judaism teach a reasonable God who encourages man to use his reason also.”
            I don’t follow you Martin.

          • He simply quoted scripture which sheds light on the mystery of evil in this world..

          • Martin

            We should expect pain and suffering, even as believers. And as believers, all thinks work together for our good.

          • Is it God’s will that man should live longer than he was originally meant to? After all everything has a life cycle for a purpose.
            Matthew 19:26 Jesus said “With God all things are possible”.
            Christianity and Judaism are life supporting.
            It has been possible to find cures, and cut bad bits out to live longer. In a way pain and suffering has driven longevity. Do we need longevity to survive and get to our next planet, yes.

          • carl jacobs

            *faints* [Thunk]

          • dannybhoy

            (He feels sorry for you ‘cos you get a lot of stick on this blog..)

          • Albert

            Martin is very generous in his up-votes. He and I argue incessantly about justification. But he has no difficulty in up-voting me on matters we agree on (which inevitably, are actually quite a lot).

          • carl jacobs

            But … Martin and Jack are the Yin and Yang of the board. The Light and the Darkness. The Matter and the Anti-matter. And Danny has managed to unite them together without inducing an Earth-shaking ka-BOOM!

            It’s extraordinary. It’s not even possible. And yet it happened …

          • Albert

            Gosh. The encounter could create a time paradox, the result of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe! Granted, that’s worst-case scenario. The destruction might in fact be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy.

        • It’s that kind of *realism* that embraces homosexuality, abortion, divorce and remarriage, and now euthanasia.

          The early Christian martyrs rejoiced in their sufferings. You think that suffering is pointless. The early Christians saw things differently. They saw this present world from the perspective of the life to come. Suffering for Christ, in this present life, is a great honour, when seen from the Divine perspective. When we suffer, our suffering is an opportunity both to grow in our faith and love for God, but also to honour and glorify God, by loving Him in the midst of our sufferings.

          Contrast this perspective on suffering with yours. There is no point to suffering, because Christ has already suffered for us. All suffering must therefore be of the devil. This is a logical extension of the error of monergism. The monergistic idea is that since Christ suffered for us, therefore we do not need to suffer. And since Christ’s suffering was redemptive, therefore our suffering is not redemptive. Your position fails to recognize that in our suffering we are given the great gift, through our union with Christ, of participating in Christ’s own sufferings. Our suffering is not meaningless, but meaningful precisely because it is joined to Christ’s own sufferings, as a sharing in His suffering.

          In Romans 8, St. Paul writes: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

          • dannybhoy

            It’s that kind of *realism* that embraces homosexuality, abortion, divorce and remarriage, and now euthanasia.
            Old ground.
            It’s been discussed before and neither of us changed our minds.
            PS What do you think St Paul meant by sufferings and where does he attribute them all to God?

          • Do you believe God is all powerful, and truly seeks our good? Or are you saying that suffering, tragedy, and loss are ultimately meaningless and pointless, and hence to be avoided at all costs? That there is no higher meaning or purpose for this suffering, nothing redemptive about it?

            This is precisely the thinking that leads toward euthanasia, the killing of the aged, the terminally ill, infants born with Down Syndrome, and others judged to be incapable of attaining a quality of life that outweighs their suffering. It is not the Christian understanding of suffering.

            ” “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:5-11)

            A Christian knows that God has some good reason for allowing us to suffer and responds to this suffering by seeking to learn what He is trying to teach us.

          • dannybhoy

            “Do you believe God is all powerful, and truly seeks our good? Or are you saying that suffering, tragedy, and loss are ultimately meaningless and pointless, and hence to be avoided at all costs?”
            God is all powerful, but we have a fallen world with disease and natural disasters.
            Do you believe all natural disasters are sent by God?
            I don’t. I see them as ‘just how it is in a fallen world.’
            God uses the natural world for His own purposes, but He’s not causing every single thing that happens. He set the cosmos and our world up, and in one sense it runs itself, being undergirded by Him.

          • God, Our Father, has each of us in His care – always.

            As Jesus said: “Are not sparrows sold five for two pence? And yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. As for you, he takes every hair of your head into his reckoning; do not be afraid, then; you count for more than a host of sparrows.”

            And again: “I say to you, then, do not fret over your life, how to support it with food and drink; over your body, how to keep it clothed. Is not life itself a greater gift than food, the body than clothing? See how the birds of the air never sow, or reap, or gather grain into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them; have you not an excellence beyond theirs? Can any one of you, for all his anxiety, add a cubit’s growth to his height? And why should you be anxious over clothing? See how the wild lilies grow; they do not toil or spin; and yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
            If God, then, so clothes the grasses of the field, which to-day live and will feed the oven to-morrow, will he not be much more ready to clothe you, men of little faith? Do not fret, then, asking, What are we to eat? or What are we to drink? or How shall we find clothing? It is for the heathen to busy themselves over such things; you have a Father in heaven who knows that you need them all. Make it your first care to find the kingdom of God, and his approval, and all these things shall be yours without the asking. Do not fret, then, over to-morrow; leave to-morrow to fret over its own needs; for to-day, to-day’s troubles are enough.”

          • dannybhoy

            Yes, so God through seeds, fruit and vegetation provides food for all living things.
            He doesn’t need to create them new every day because he designed a bio system
            which is self sustaining. The weather too self regulates, the tides, the winds etc. All sustained and held together by God’s power.

          • But what does ‘held together by his power’ mean? It means that the apparent laws of nature are actually God holding all things together. Nothing happens independently of God. At every moment God gives existence, energy, and effect. Indeed the moment itself is ‘of God’.

            Yes, there is a sense in which these will normally act consistently, according to the purpose and design of their creation. Thus science can observe cause and effect. This too is God’s doing. We must not put secondary nd primary causes into conflict. It is not an either/or but a both/and. And faith looks not at secondary causes but the primary cause.

          • dannybhoy

            So we agree.
            God created the cosmos and our world to function according to laws which He set in motion.
            So the world spins, creating winds and tides affected by the moon, the earth’s crust is stable, inner heat from its molten core cause volcanoes, the plates moving cause earthquakes etc.
            But the thing is all is held together by His power, all those atoms, all that energy, all brought into being and sustained by Him.
            Does God therefore need to make everything ‘happen’, or does it happen because of the way He designed it?

          • It is not simply that he created all things he actually holds all things together. He sustains all things. He rules all things. All things work as he ordains. We read Scripture and the rain and sun are sent by him. He bestows and he withholds. This is not to say that there is no order and mechanism but the mechanism functions and disfunctions as God determines. Again, behind any secondary cause is a primary cause and it is the primary cause that Scripture overwhelmlmingly focus on.

            Things happen because God designed it to happen that way and because he makes it happen that way. The two are not in conflict. God ordains not only the end but the means to the end. If God wishes to have someone like Paul to lead the early church he doesn’t just hope that someone like him exists and look around to discover him; he creates a Paul. He orders his genes, his background, his life experience to create the person he wants.

            Your creating conflict where none exists. The primary cause creates and orders the secondary causes.

          • But Danny, when we read Scripture, the writers and saints in the narratives DO attribute all disasters to God. Think of Job. You focus on secondary causes while the writers of Scripture and those believers suffering disaster focus on the primary cause.

          • dannybhoy

            Good observation, but I think I have made this point before, that the Scriptures are overwhelmingly concerned with Israel as the focus of His purposes in human affairs, including the countries that interact with her or are used as a means of chastisement.
            Nothing about China or the far East, or the Americas or Australia and the bulk of Africa.
            But these places existed and were populated. So what was happening there?
            My understanding is that God sovereignly intervened/guided/imposed His will on those areas having to do with His covenant people Israel.That included some suprenatural acts such as the parting of the Red Sea, the standing still of the Sun, and other natural happenings such as plagues and famines..

          • But, again I say, Scripture gives no other scenario. The assumption everywhere for all nations is God Order’s their circumstances. There is no sense that it is only the elect that he rules. All nations, indeed, all things, conform to the counsel of his will.

            If Israel and the nations around it, all the areas about which Scripture speaks are ordained by God is it not reasonable to assume all other areas of history are under his providential ordering too. Does not the burden of proof lie with any who say otherwise to so prove? And, as in paragraph one, does not Scripture expand his sovereignty (rule) into every inch of the universe?

          • dannybhoy

            “is it not reasonable to assume all other areas of history are under his providential ordering too.”
            I do believe that, but it’s how He exercises it that we may differ on.
            “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is”
            and Romans 2
            “12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

            I will again recommend “God’s strategy in human history” volumes 1 and 2
            by Forster and Marston.

          • Royinsouthwest

            When Hebrews was written there was not much that doctors could do to prolong life in the case of people with severe medical problems. There is today. Do you think it is a good idea to prolong human suffering?

          • You think it would be a good idea to return to the medicine of first century Palestine?

          • Royinsouthwest

            No, but common sense should be applied to medical treatment. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean that it should always be done. Do you think that everybody in the country, regardless of their present state of health, should be taking statins on the off chance that the medication will make them live longer?

          • No medication is prescribed “regardless of present state of health” Statins are not universally prescribed. They carry health risks of their own and are given to those with a risk of artery disease resulting from high cholesterol.

      • Or Arminianism.

    • Jilly

      I cannot argue from a theological angle but observe on a practical level.
      The ‘right time’ of dying when old has, for many, already been subject to interference. The medical saying about pneumonia being ‘the old person’s friend – who would keep a friend away at the end?’ was a good one. People in the later stages of dementia, multiple sclerosis and other wasting diseases could slip away peacefully after a few hours of pneumococcal bronchopneumonia. But now they may have been given the pneumococcus vaccine along with their flu jab. So they linger, almost immune to death.
      I hope someone would ease my passing if I developed a dementia. Anyone who has seen the devastation of these diseases when all memory and awareness, all control over bodily functions have gone can not suppose this is the Will of God or that it serves any divine or human(e) purpose.
      Is there a redemptive component to suffering? C.S.Lewis seemed to think so tho I must confess to being little the wiser after The Problem of Pain.

      I have been the happy carer of generations of pets: dogs, cats, hens. When terminally ill, in pain and clearly not enjoying their lives you know that the vet’s visit is the last decent caring thing you can do. Sharing the experience with other pet owners always provokes the comment ‘we ought to be doing this for humans … I remember my Grandad/ mother/ sister when they died… lonely, undignified, unwanted’.

      And medics (probably less so in these litigious times) have long ‘eased the passing’, giving opiates for severe pain, knowing that life will be shortened.

      I wonder if withholding analgesia lest life be shortened is a religious view or a sadistic one…. A GP of my close acquaintance was puzzled when a terminally ill patient he was caring for at home with therapeutic doses of diamorphine was for days crying out for more pain relief. On challenging the nurse, she admitted she hadn’t been giving any of it because it was ‘against her religion’.

      We all want a ‘good death’ … peaceful, knowing we have run a good race and that we are loved by family and will be remembered kindly. I rather think they are in a minority.

      • dannybhoy

        That’s a great and honest post Jilly.
        Incidentally where do you stand on abortion? I am basically against it except in certain situations like rape or terrible biological damage to the baby in the womb, meaning that the child will be in a vegetative state. Then I believe the woman or the parents have the right to choose abortion..

        • “I am basically against it except in certain situations like rape or terrible biological damage to the baby in the womb …”

          Which means you’re not actually against abortion. You just have a particular threshold for justifying this intrinsically evil act.

          • dannybhoy

            I am against abortion, but I make exceptions for those two categories. I think those who insist that the mother to be should have the baby, should be legally required to assist financially.
            Long, boney fingers trembling with indignation have their place, but ….

          • As Jack said, you support abortion.

            Never forget that the child in the womb is an innocent human being, made in the image and likeness of God. As Christians, we bear the cross and suffer for the love of God. A mother in such a case must love as Christ would truly love, and give life to the innocent child.

          • dannybhoy

            I’m talking about people in general. Not a Christian woman who gets raped or a Christian couple.

          • So are you saying: it’s okay to kill innocent life if you’re not a Christian?
            God’s commandments apply to all of us – not just to Christians.

          • dannybhoy

            No I’m not saying that. I am saying that non Christians do not take that same view.

          • But it’s you who is taking this view. You support abortion in principle.

          • dannybhoy

            No, I am against abortion in principle. I make exceptions for rape victims and couples facing a severely handicapped child, and I don’t see how you can make a moral judgement against them, especially when there are examples in Scripture where innocent babies and children were put to death by decree of the Almighty.
            But then, you might argue that that is God’s sovereign will at work.
            And if you keep going down that route, then historically you end up excusing the torture and murder of those that disagree with your own doctrines of faith..
            All can be covered by the belief that God’s ways are beyond our understanding, so God gave His unlimited endorsement of power to a church on rather shaky theological grounds, allows them to amass great wealth and so on..

          • Stop deflecting into anti-Catholic polemics.

            You clearly agree with abortion in principle otherwise you wouldn’t support it in the cases you cite.

            Now you’re going down the path of Richard Dawkins!

            As the author of life, God has sovereign rights concerning the death of creatures He brought into being and can will any kind of death He chooses for them. He is God.

            The “violence” of God in the Old Testament was never arbitrary; rather, it was the consequence of disobedience or to rescue His people. The most difficult passages of Scripture involve the complete annihilation of a tribe or people. This must be seen in the larger context of creating a land for his Chosen People and protecting them from the idolatry of the nations.

          • dannybhoy

            “This must be seen in the larger context of creating a land for his Chosen People and protecting them from the idolatry of the nations.”
            So Morality 101 does apply!!

          • As Jack said: “As the author of life, God has sovereign rights concerning the death of creatures He brought into being and can will any kind of death He chooses for them. He is God.”

          • dannybhoy

            So He erm.. does what He likes. Jack.
            Isn’t, isn’t that what Islam teaches?
            Are you a closet Muslim Jack?

          • He is God. You want to question His motives by applying the standards of His creatures? God could legitimately wipe us all off the face of the earth. Instead He sent His Son.

            You go ahead and question God and hold Him to account. Jack accepts He loves us and knows what He’s doing and, as Saint Paul teaches, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

            Islam teaches God acts arbitrarily and inconsistently. As Jack said, the “violence” of God in the Old Testament was never arbitrary. It was the consequence of disobedience and evil, was intended to rescue His people or to create a land for His Chosen People.

          • Anton

            Either God was setting us a poor example or your principles are not so universal as you say.

          • Eh?
            Another who seeks to question the acts of our Creator?!

          • Anton

            You are replying to what you thought I said, presumably because it is easier.

            Of course I am not.

          • Jilly

            You make it sound so clear and clean, Happy Jack. I admire your certainty (and that’s not sarcasm).
            In my experience where a baby has been born severely physically and mentally handicapped, if the mother chooses to keep the baby at home the husband often deserts, she then can’t cope and the child goes into residential care. There follows a short life of urinary, chest and dental infections before dying. If the husband stays and help is given at home, existing children suffer, multiple resentments and guilt build up. If the whole family share your certainties they may come through with faith strengthened but, I believe, few do.
            As with other choices, there is often no one good outcome but in those real situations one must choose the lesser evil. I know you will disagree and have sound moral and theological arguments but maybe one has to live it as well as believe it.

          • dannybhoy

            “In my experience where a baby has been born severely physically and mentally handicapped, if the mother chooses to keep the baby at home the husband often deserts, she then can’t cope and the child goes into residential care. There follows a short life of urinary, chest and dental infections before dying. If the husband stays and help is given at home, existing children suffer, multiple resentments and guilt build up. If the whole family share your certainties they may come through with faith strengthened but, I believe, few do.”
            Do I know you Jilly?
            My own thinking on the issue has in part been shaped by working with profoundly
            physically and mentally handicapped children in care. (I know ‘handicapped’ isn’t pc but it is accurate. None of the kids I worked with were going to overcome their ‘challenges’. Many had few years and endured a lot of discomfort during their ‘learning through suffering’ module..

          • Jilly

            Yes, those poor little kids with twisted spines, propped up in wheelchairs, heads lolling, dribbling and moaning, jaws which did not properly occlude so teeth sticking out at all angles, no discernible speech, being fed mashed-up institutional mush, thick nappies…. They seemed permanently on one antibiotic or another. Most didn’t get visits from parents. I so admired a couple of the nurses who would cuddle them and not mind the drool or regurgitated food.
            My over-riding instinct was ‘This is not right. No-one should want this for a child.’ It it had been up to me I would not have given antibiotics for the chest infections but the parents always insisted. By phone.

          • dannybhoy

            I couldn’t allow them to die, but I sure as heck would want everything possible done to minimise it happening in the future. I had one lovely little girl with big brown eyes and enormous glasses. She had cystic fibrosis amongst other things. It would take me ages to feed her meals. As you said earlier there’s a big difference between debating morality and living with the reality..

          • Albert

            I sure as heck would want everything possible done to minimise it happening in the future. I had one lovely little girl with big brown eyes and enormous glasses. She had cystic fibrosis amongst other things. It would take me ages to feed her meals.

            What exactly are you proposing here? That she should have been killed? Obviously not, since you just said you couldn’t allow them to die. But what do you mean by trying to minimise it happening in the future?

          • dannybhoy

            What do you think I meant Albert?
            Obviously that we continue in ethical medical research to find better ways to prevent these things happening. If a child is born and survives then let’s do all that we can to nurture them comfort them and love them. because we recognise that they have worth, even for a short time.
            But to ethically work towards minimising these occurences is also right.

          • Albert

            If that’s what you meant then no problem, and I withdraw my bewilderment. But the comment came in a discussion about abortion in which I had understood you to accept abortion in cases of terrible biological damage to the baby in the womb, meaning that the child will be in a vegetative state. And so I thought you were saying such children should have been aborted.

          • dannybhoy

            No Albert,
            To clarify, I said I am against abortion in principle, but make an exception for women who have been raped or a couple who have been told their baby will be born severely handicapped.

            Elsewhere (it’s been a long thread), I tried to examine the logic behind the assertion by Jack and others that it was wrong to allow abortion of innocent children, when the Old Testament records that God commanded that the Israelites put to death ‘innocent’ babes and children.

            Further I said that if a child was born severely handicapped we should look after it and show it love and respect.
            Abortion is a horrible horrible thing and should be seriously restricted.

          • Albert

            To clarify, I said I am against abortion in principle, but make an exception for women who have been raped or a couple who have been told their baby will be born severely handicapped.

            That’s what I thought you meant, and the view I was attributing to you. Now since you also say if a child was born severely handicapped we should look after it and show it love and respect I am left wondering why you think it would be okay to kill the child before birth.

          • Jilly

            You have a reply (below) which seems to wilfully misunderstand what you have said. It is strange how people can interpret not actively prolonging life as ‘killing’. I am reminded of that baby last year with the mitochondrial disease which meant that his cells were slowly and irreversibly dying with no treatment available. The doctors were accused by supporters of the parents of ‘killing’ the baby when they wanted to withdraw the supportive care which kept him breathing.

            Anyway, I was going to say that academic debates about morality without reference to the reality are sterile and put people off. Dry debates which do not take account of the human condition as it is in all it’s fallen state are not helpful. I like your responses which show compassion rather than dogmatism.
            I had a much loved dog which was on her last legs. I didn’t want to lose her though I knew she was terminally ill and kept her going for several days more. Finally, I did the decent thing and she was put to sleep. I looked back later at the days of delay and wasn’t proud. She suffered more than she needed to. It served no useful or spiritual purpose for her and was entirely due to my reluctance to let her die. I knew I would miss her.
            I think that is similar to when faced with the kids. It is not moral nor legal to kill a child but a terminally ill child or one with no quality of life ( that definition can be argued) who gets pneumonia – to treat or not treat? When one of the kids died of an overwhelming chest infection in spite of antibiotics I looked back at his last six months – almost constantly on one drug or another, some of which probably made him nauseous – and wondered if he had been well served. Enhancing his life or officiously keeping alive…?

          • I think most would agree there is a grey area where decisions about how far to sustain life have to be made. Withdrawing treatment and alleviating suffering are however, different from advocating euthanasia.

          • Jilly

            Exactly, John.
            I think the main promoters of euthanasia refer to end of life euthanasia for the elderly and adults with terminal illnesses with legal consent given and / or backed up by Power of Attorney (Health). I support someone’s right to choose if they want to go down that path, being fully informed and being aware of the options if they choose not to. Of course that is controversial.
            I don’t think anyone apart from some very weird midwives are advocating very late abortions or euthanising born babies and children.
            And grey areas…. yep. Plenty of those.

          • Anton

            These things were simpler before State healthcare and the debate should be taken together with how healthcare should be funded. We are all discussing how to spend other people’s money…

          • Albert

            May I ask about a related scenario? The child is born with a severe physical or mental disability. For some reason, it wasn’t picked up before birth. Would you accept the killing of the child then? What would be the basis of your decision?

          • Jilly

            Infanticide is an offence in law and killing a born child is legally and morally wrong. However, these children usually die young after a truly miserable life. A doctor might be able to prolong that misery but a sensible practitioner would not strive officiously to keep that child alive.

          • Albert

            Infanticide is an offence in law and killing a born child is legally and morally wrong.

            Human law comes and goes, so let’s forget that. If killing a born child is morally wrong, why is it okay to kill an unborn child?

            However, these children usually die young after a truly miserable life. A doctor might be able to prolong that misery but a sensible practitioner would not strive officiously to keep that child alive.

            I don’t think Happy Jack will disagree with you there. But morally, there is a world of difference between not imposing futile and burdensome medical treatment and actively killing someone.

          • Jilly

            I’m not sure what you are getting at. …

          • Albert

            What I’m saying is that there is world of difference between keeping someone alive with unnecessary and burdensome treatment and actually killing them. In the first one just acknowledges that the illness has killed them. In the second we kill them.

            If I understand you, you think it is okay to kill an unborn child in certain circumstances, but not a born child. Why make the distinction?

          • Anton

            I would have no hesitation in advising a girl raped the previous night to take the morning-after pill. What ceases to grow at that point is a collection of about a dozen undifferentiated cells. Rome’s position is based on the strange notion that a fully human spirit is slipped into the growing collection of cells at some point. More sensible is that or spiritual capacities grow with our bodies, and I notice that Rome does not have all of the trappings of a funeral when a woman miscarries within a few weeks of conception.

            Don’t be bothered that Jack calls you, and presumably me, a “supporter of abortion” (even though I am in SPUC). He lets mediaeval philosophers do his thinking for him. God wants us to do our own based on His scriptures.

        • Jilly

          I am firmly against abortion for all ‘social’ including gender reasons.

          There are very few genuine circumstances where a mother’s life is endangered by a continuing pregnancy (tho if up against a reluctant doctor a woman can say she will kill herself rather than have the baby and force the issue). If it really is the mother or a foetus I would save the mother.

          Like you I would countenance abortion if a baby were to be born so damaged that there was no chance of a ‘meaningful’ life. I am appalled that cleft palate and other minor deformities are a reason to abort.
          I am firmly in favour of contraception: not all babies are wanted, the world population is becoming unsustainable. The alternative is sexual abstinence – unrealistic in a cultural context and raging hormones!
          (I’ve long been amused by the claim to celibacy in this context – there are several celibates who are not at all chaste…)
          Given a choice of the morning-after pill and a six week abortion, the pill is preferable although one could argue its purpose is procuring an abortion by preventing implantation of a fertilised ovum.
          I do not approve of abortion being regarded as a form of contraception.
          It is truly shocking that many midwives are advocating late abortions even up to term – which must rank with infanticide. (I wonder where Sarah Mullally stands on this.)

          Happy Jack (below) takes a strict traditional view but real life often forces one to make choices on the basis of the lesser of evils.

          • dannybhoy

            Well put.

          • ” … real life often forces one to make choices on the basis of the lesser of evils.”

            The notion that good ends do justify evil means – “consequentialism” – is probably the most popular moral heresy in the world. It’s what Adam and Eve attempted when they sought the good end of “wisdom” by the evil means of disobeying God.

            Most sin is committed in pursuit of something good. It’s only when we try to achieve good by disordered means that evil comes into the picture. We delude ourselves by claiming we only choose evil because there is no other way to achieve our noble goals. Consequentialism remains a perennial favourite of both liberal arguments for abortion and conservative arguments for torture.

            In practical terms, the theory of consequentialism is generally used to enable people to have a clear conscience when they feel a conflict between the desirable consequences which recommend an action to them and a moral principle which tells them not to do it.

          • Albert

            Most sin is committed in pursuit of something good.

            All sin, I think.

          • Yes, agreed, Jack just hesitated to state this.

          • Albert

            Summa Contra Gentiles, book 3:

            Chapter 3
            THAT EVERY AGENT ACTS FOR A GOOD

          • dannybhoy

            But you guys don’t face up to the logical conclusions of your beliefs.
            If we refuse to use birth control the world will not be able to cope with all the children.
            Why did the Chinese authorities limit couples to one child? Because the population was growing too quickly.
            Now granted, it created problems of in balance and abandoned children, but to have no restraint could have created chaos and then starvation.
            There are lots of examples of populations where food production can’t keep up with population growth.
            Your attitude seems to imply we should accept whatever comes as being God’s will.
            Which encourages apathy and fatalism.

          • No. It encourages trust and faith in Our Father. Not apathy or fatalism.
            You agreed with the Chinese policy?!!!!

          • Manfarang

            Look at the Philippines and see how overpopulation has impoverished it..

          • Look at the West and see how contraception has morally impoverished it.

          • Manfarang

            The Philippines is a rather dangerous place. They are not paragons of moral virtue hence low tourist arrivals.

          • Anton

            No: nonmarital sex has. Contraception facilitates that, of course, but it is up to people to use guns responsibly too.

          • Using a gun is not intrinsically evil. Artificial contraception is and the unintended (but predictable) consequences have been the destruction of sexual morality.

          • Anton

            Ah, you are assuming what you wish to demonstrate.

          • CliveM

            There have been periods of equal sexual immorality in our countries history, the lack of contraception didn’t seem to play to much on people’s minds.

          • carl jacobs

            Oh that’s OK. Thanks to their one-child policy (unless you are part of the CCP of course) the Chinese have a serious shortage of women. So maybe they can take those 50 million excess males and put them in the People’s Liberation Army. Then China can send them to invade the Phillipines, kill all the men and take the women for themselves. Problem solved. (OK. Maybe only partially solved.) That after all is the traditional solution to the problem of excess male population.

            Well. My solution might not be so desirable for the Phillipines. But, we all must sacrifice for the greater good. Right?

          • Irony, Carl? Goodness!

          • Manfarang

            No. There is a very large Chinese population outside of China. Marriage between Chinese of different nationalities is not uncommon. Plenty of Thai, Vietnamese, and other women available too. No need to invade anywhere.
            PS Men in the Faroe islands have married Thai brides as have the Japanese in the rural areas of Japan.

          • carl jacobs

            Which explains why China is so sanguine about its unbalanced ratio of boys to girls.

          • Albert

            If we refuse to use birth control the world will not be able to cope with all the children.

            So we’ve slipped over into post-Christian consequentialism.

            Why did the Chinese authorities limit couples to one child? Because the population was growing too quickly.

            Oh, this is heading for the buffers…

            Now granted, it created problems of in balance and abandoned children,

            And there it is – the law that always undermines consequentualism – the law of unwanted consequences.

            but to have no restraint could have created chaos and then starvation.

            Oh well, at least we know the infanticide, gendercide and abandoning of children was done in a good cause. I hope that was explained to the children first “We’re abandoning/killing you for the sake of others.” But hang on, back up a bit, “no restraint” you say. Who said anything about no restraint? Restraint is the solution here. I does not violate natural law and it does not result in infanticide, gendercide and infant abandonment. But since you seem to value such methods, will you volunteer?

            There are lots of examples of populations where food production can’t keep up with population growth.
            Your attitude seems to imply we should accept whatever comes as being God’s will.
            Which encourages apathy and fatalism.

            No it doesn’t. Responsible family planning is perfectly moral. Artificial contraception is intrinsically wicked.

          • Chefofsinners

            Really? What good were James Bulger’s killers pursuing?

          • Albert

            Their own pleasure. An end to their inner pain. Either is a good, viewed in itself. The evil is that they sought that pleasure (or lack of pain) at someone else’s expense. That’s how evil works and what makes it insidious.

          • Chefofsinners

            So you think the pleasure derived by a sick mind from killing is ‘good’?
            Jesus said: “Only God is good.”

          • Albert

            Pleasure in itself is good. Do you really mean to move from “Only God is good” to nothing else is good in any sense?

          • Chefofsinners

            ‘Pleasure in itself is good’. Why?
            I move from “only God is good” to “therefore evil and pleasures derived from evil cannot be good.”

          • Albert

            The good is that which things desire. Things desire pleasure. Therefore pleasure, viewed in itself is good. But notice, I am not saying it is good that people derive pleasure from evil. I am saying that is evil, but the pleasure viewed in itself is good.

            Alternatively, goodness is an integral part of everything that is. If pleasure is not good, then either pleasure is not created by God, or God has created something that is not good. But neither is Christian, in fact, either position is a kind of manicheeism.

          • Chefofsinners

            Your definition of ‘good’ contradicts scripture.
            You say “good is that which things desire” but in Genesis 6:5 God says that the desires of man’s heart were “only evil continually.”
            And this is an awful argument: ’God made it so it must be good’. Mankind is fallen, so his desires are evil.

          • Albert

            Your position assumes the point you wish to prove. I am not denying that there are evil acts, only that in the core of the evil act is a desire for something good. What makes it evil is the fact that one desires this good at the expense of a more important or more relevant good. Thus, when scripture says man desires only evil continually, this is perfectly consistent with the traditional Christian position.

            And this is an awful argument: ’God made it so it must be good’. Mankind is fallen, so his desires are evil.

            So believe that evil is something God has created?

          • Anton

            Isaiah 45:7 says so. All that is not God is created by him. Evil exists. Therefore….

            There is no get-out by claiming that evil is the absence of good. Evil is patently an active agent.

          • Albert

            Evil is the absence of goodness, to say it exists is therefore confusing. There is no such substance as evil. It is better to say it is real than that it exists.

            Isaiah 45.7 does not help for the word “evil” is used in multiple ways in the OT. It can just mean punishment: as in Exodus 5.22. Punishment is a good thing if it is just.
            Everything that exists is created by God. Everything that God creates is good. Therefore…

          • Anton

            Your error begins in your first sentence. Empty space is neither good nor evil yet it conflicts with your opening clause.

          • Albert

            Really? You really think you can overthrow the majority of Christian thought like that? Space is a kind of thing, therefore it is good.

          • Anton

            The trouble is that you are reasoning that evil is merely absence of good extremely indirectly, from the axiom “God is good therefore he could not create anything that is not good”. Any Christian peasant is wiser than every Christian philosopher, it seems, in knowing that evil is an active agent. If your philosophy conflicts with that, you would do better to junk your philosophy!

          • Albert

            Any Christian peasant is wiser than every Christian philosopher, it seems, in knowing that evil is an active agent.

            Poor St Augustine – he was such a dunce.

            The trouble is that you don’t see that Augustine’s position makes evil an extremely powerful force. Consider the emptiness and power of a black hole, and you’ll see what I mean. Now as for a personal agent, I believe the devil is real. So I have the full power of evil in my metaphysics and I have a personal agent of it. So what’s lacking? But I don’t have the idea that God some of the things God creates are evil or that God’s creation is incomplete because there are some things (evil substances) God has not created.

          • Pleasure is only good in itself in an unfallen world. Only in the most abstract sense is pleasure good in itself. I think here moral philosophy is moving away from a plainer biblical thinking.

          • Albert

            No. To defend what you say, you would have to defend the proposition that something exists which is not good. But that makes God the author of something that is not good, or else it says something exists that God is not the creator of. Neither of these positions is acceptable biblically, and neither of them is remotely close to standard Christian theology. Pleasure in itself is good. But choosing to obtain it in the wrong way (or choosing the wrong kind of pleasure) is plainly evil.

          • Sin exists and it is not good.

          • Albert

            Obviously sin is not good. But evil is not an existent substance. How precisely does your post answer mine?

          • Evil is as much an existent substance as pleasure. Sin is a power, an entity, an act. It is abstract but no less real.

          • Albert

            Sin and evil are absences of goodness. That does not make them unreal, on the contrary, the absence of goodness (=the absence of being) is very powerful. As Herbert McCabe OP put it

            Nothing in the wrong place can be just as real and just as important as something in the wrong place. If you inadvertently drive your car over a cliff you will have nothing to worry about; it is precisely the nothing that you will have to worry about.

          • Sin is not merely the absence of goodness. It is wilful rebellion. It is culpable disobedience. It is not merely a negation. Darkness is not merely the absence of light any more than light is merely the absence of darkness. Sin and evil are violence and corruption. They are destructive forces, powers that Christ overthrew in his death.

          • Albert

            The idea that evil is the absence of goodness is the mainstream Christian view. It has been considered for centuries, it’s unlikely that one can knock it down so easily.

            Sin is not merely the absence of goodness. It is wilful rebellion. It is culpable disobedience.

            But what does that mean? It means it is an act that falls short (the very meaning of the word sin) of what it should be. It is therefore necessarily a lack. It is a lack of obedience (the good), necessarily it is therefore a lack of goodness.

            It seems to me that you worry that by saying evil is absence of goodness you think I am soft-pedalling the horror of evil. But the doctrine is precisely designed to show the opposite. God is supreme being, he is the great I am who I am. Existence (being) is the most basic attribute of God. He is the necessarily existent being. Thus evil, being the absence of goodness is the very opposite of God. But if you make evil a substance of some sort, you make evil something like God. And that means either God has created an evil substance (but scripture says creation (as God creates it) is good), or you hold that there is a substance that exists that God has not created and yet (despite being evil) is somehow like God. If you think I am soft-pedalling the horror of evil, I can only say that I shudder at what you are doing with it.

          • Why all sin? Some murder just because they wish to kill. There is pursuit of good involved.

          • Albert

            Yes. The murderer may get some kind of pleasure from killing, or it may stop some kind of narcissistic pain. Both these things in themselves are good. But obtained in this way is to choose evil.

          • Jilly

            Can I ask you to comment further, Happy Jack: take contraception- would I be correct in thinking your beliefs forbid it? The logical end to unrestricted population growth which would ultimately follow without contraception (or a genocidal plague or a sudden conversion to sexual abstinence) would be famine, starvation, depredations of wild life and natural resources, continental migration, extinction of species…etc etc. I’m not trying to be tricky but how far does a belief that contraception as a method of population control is wrong go? Is it better that all the sequelae of overpopulation occur than contraception is not used? Is that ‘consequentialism’? And therefore evil?
            I’m sure this has been covered before but I would like to understand.

          • The Church views artificial contraception as an intrinsic evil that cannot be used to avoid conception.

            A single date can be identified as the historical break with traditional Christian values – August 14, 1930. Until this day, all Christian churches were unanimous in their opposition to artificial birth control, notwithstanding the usual small group of loud dissenters.

            Resolution 15 of August 15, 1930, passed by a vote of 193 to 67 at the Lambeth Conference :

            Where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipleship and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception-control for motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.

            Notice, just as the ‘hard cases’ were used to obtain abortion on demand and are now being used to lobby for euthanasia on demand they were used sixty years ago to get artificial birth control.

            Notice too that the allowable ‘methods’ are not defined by Resolution 15, nor is the term ‘Christian principles’ defined. Using the statement above, abortion and even infanticide could easily be justified if the “conscientious” individual thought that the child would be a burden or an inconvenience in any way.

            Yes, it is moral consequentialism. The inevitable progression from the approval of artificial contraception in just the “hard cases” to all cases continued unabated. The National Council of Churches proclaimed on February 23, 1961 that:

            Most of the Protestant churches hold contraception and periodic abstinence to be morally right when the motives are right. The general Protestant conviction is that motives, rather than methods, form the primary moral issue provided the methods are limited to the prevention of conception. Protestant Christians are agreed in condemning abortion or any method which destroys human life, except when the health or life of the mother is at stake.

            This statement constitutes an acceptance of situational ethics.

          • Anton

            The Church views artificial contraception as an intrinsic evil

            No it doesn’t. Your denomination does. My congregation is fully part of the church and takes a different view.

          • Albert

            There is one true, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and it is Roman.

          • Chefofsinners

            Flatly stating something neither makes it true nor convinces anyone.

          • Albert

            That’s fair enough. But then I wasn’t pretending it was an argument, neither was I expecting to convince anyone. Sometimes faith just ha to be proclaimed. That’s the nature of it. God is good. He’s given us one true Church, his body. I will proclaim that good news from the roof-tops.

          • Chefofsinners

            OK. In that case all I need to say is: You’re wrong.

          • Albert

            Absolutely. If you think God’s gift is less, then proclaim away.

          • Chefofsinners

            I think the Catholic Church so-called is apostate, evil and destined for fire. Despite this, there are individuals within it who have a strong faith, but are blind to its failings.

          • Albert

            Happily, I have confidence that Christ will not so punish those who blaspheme his bride and body. Bur yes, the Church has wicked members, but her head and faith is not wicked, and that’s all that count.

          • Chefofsinners

            Happily, I have Jesus Christ as my Head, and as the author and finisher of my faith.

          • Albert

            Is that so, though? You are assured about your interpretation of scripture. But are you right to be so assured. BTW I’m not challenging that Christ is your Head (incidentally, when I spoke of Head, I meant the same). It’s whether your faith is authored ind finished by him. I cannot see that you can have the certitude of faith on that if it is simply a matter of your own interpretation.

          • Anton

            No, he’s right. He proclaimed his faith – in the Church of Rome.

          • dannybhoy

            Nonsense.
            There is but one Body of Christ and if we own Christ as Saviour and Lord we are a part of it.

          • Albert

            In which case it would not be possible for believers to be excluded from the Church. But scripture shows they can be. ergo…

          • Anton

            That is merely your opinion and I am free to deny it. As I do.

          • Jilly

            Yes. But in 1930 and even in 1961 the consequences of global overpopulation hadn’t been envisaged. I can understand that irresponsible sex was something to be discouraged, that it could be seen as violating the sacrament of marriage and went against marriage being for, among other things, the procreation of children.
            But now, the consequences could be catastrophic.
            Is there not a sense of hubris in the church sticking to a view which was about individual family ethics when so much else is at stake? Can it not say that we as the custodians of our planet have so monumentally screwed up that we must ask permission to do what is necessary to save God’s creation on earth?

          • Albert

            If something is wrong, it remains wrong even if you do it for a good reason. That is the very nature of evil. Thus, we can argue about the rightness (or not) of any number of things, but we will not be able to do so on the basis only of consequences.

          • “But now, the consequences could be catastrophic.”

            You don’t think imposed population control isn’t catastrophic?

            “Is there not a sense of hubris in the church sticking to a view which was about individual family ethics when so much else is at stake?”

            The Church understands that following an intrinsically evil path, regardless of motives, will have unpredictable and unintended consequences. That’s the history of all compromises with evil.

            “Can it not say that we as the custodians of our planet have so monumentally screwed up that we must ask permission to do what is necessary to save God’s creation on earth?”

            The end – preventing overpopulation – does not justify the means – contraception. Contraception is a worldly, materialistic response. It lacks Christian faith, hope and love. Contraception can never replace our duty to practice almsgiving and mercy (Luke 11:41; 12:33; Acts 10:4,31; Matt. 6:4; Sirach 3:29; 29:8-12; Tobit 4:7-8; 12:8-9; 14:11). Love is unlimited and drives out all fears (1 John 4:18).

            As yourself, f overpopulation is truly a concern, then why is there interest in human cloning and in anti-aging research? If there were too many people, then it would be insane to clone more or indefinitely extend human life. Our attitude stems from the desire to enjoy the pleasure without taking responsibility for the act. If the end is not wanted, then the means should not be abused. Some see children as a burden. This attitude is both pessimistic and antihumanitarian.

            There are serious problems in the world. Death and suffering will never be eliminated on earth, yet both remind us about our dependence on God (2 Cor. 1:8-10). For Christians, there is God’s grace which is limitless. As sinners, we should be concerned about the consequences of our sins, yet we have nothing to fear in doing God’s will under His grace. With God’s help, we can solve many problems until His Kingdom comes. Simply denying God and acting accordingly is not the answer. Our final destiny does not end with this worldly life.

          • Jilly

            Agree with you re cloning and anti-aging.
            We’ll have to agree to differ on contraception especially in global overpopulation.
            But thank you for putting forward your views.

          • Albert

            The general Protestant conviction is that motives, rather than methods, form the primary moral issue provided the methods are limited to the prevention of conception.

            Good grief. Enough said!

          • It is an astonishing admission.

          • carl jacobs

            Just out of curiosity, who cares what the National Council of Churches thinks?

          • They illustrate a certain moral predisposition prevalent among progressives.

            Their website states:

            Since 1950, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has served as a leading voice of witness to the living Christ. NCC unifies a diverse covenant community of 38 member communions and over 40 million individuals –100,000 congregations from Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African-American, and Living Peace traditions – in a common commitment to advocate and represent God’s love and promise of unity in our public square. NCC partners with secular and interfaith partners to advance a shared agenda of peace, progress, and positive change.

            You’re a moral consequentialist. Jack assumes that, like most protestants, you accept the conviction that it is motives rather than methods that constitute the primary moral issue.

          • carl jacobs

            No, Jack. I just understand that war requires deciding between who lives and who dies, and that those decisions can’t be filed into neat little moral boxes.

            If A doesn’t kill B1, then B2 will kill C.

            A can’t kill B1. It would be wrong.

            Do you suppose C would agree? Killing B1 will stop B2.

            Doesn’t matter. We can’t differentiate between B1 and C.

            No, you’re right. It doesn’t matter. C is dead now. B2 just killed him.

            Take comfort in knowing that C died for a good cause.

            What good cause would that be?

            Well, look how righteous A is. He did the right thing.

            B2 is looking at D now.

            It’s terrible, I know. But every death makes A look better. Think of A’s suffering.

            D is asking for help.

            If only A could do something for him?

            Yes. If only.

          • As Jack said, and as you’ve just demonstrated, you’re a moral consequentialist. You go way, way further than ” deciding between who lives and who dies.”

            Morality demands a nation waging war avoids: attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners; genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities; and the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

          • carl jacobs

            As I have told you many times. If the war doesn’t end in August 1945, then 400,000 Allied POWs held by the Japanese would have been dead by November. The Japanese were planning to kill them all. Remember, the Japanese Gov’t was already accepting the inevitability of a major famine in 1946. POWs were at the absolute bottom of the hierarchy in such a circumstance. So, yes. The decisions made determined who lived and who died. Spare Hiroshima and condemn the POWs. The choice was that stark.

            Now your response to this is “Those deaths are on the Japanese.” Well, no they are not. Because your philosophy doesn’t alleviate a commander’s force protection responsibility. Failing to act is not a morally indifferent choice. Your whole pointless distinction between “allowing” and “doing” collapses under that weight.

            I wouldn’t sacrifice 400,000 of my own non-combatants in order to spare 100,000 of his. It’s just that simple. If that sort of decision troubles you, then leave war to those with the stomach to fight it.

          • dannybhoy

            Quite so.
            To make subtle nuances of theology might satisfy the intellectual mind but they don’t work in real life, and I say real life because this life is currently the only one I know.
            It seems to me there is a tendency in Catholic theology to argue for the status quo; that what exists is because God wills it so; and we as poor miserable sinners have no right to question what is, we must just get on with it..
            It’s a kind of masochistic fatalism.
            The reason why human existence gradually improves is because we apply discoveries and values that improve our overall situation.
            We do this because God has given us intelligence and creativity and yes, emotional intelligence also.

          • “It seems to me there is a tendency in Catholic theology to argue for the status quo; that what exists is because God wills it so; and we as poor miserable sinners have no right to question what is, we must just get on with ii. It’s a kind of masochistic fatalism.”

            Then you clearly don’t understand Catholic moral theology. You’ve created a straw man in order to justify your lukewarm moral consequentialism.

          • dannybhoy

            That’s what comes over, Jack..

          • What moral limits, if any, would you place on waging war?

            Would you accept the principles put forward preventing: attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners; genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities; and the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

          • Anton

            In most circumstances, Yes. The problem is the raising of these principles to absolutes. What if you know that a spy who has got hold of your plans is on a civilian ship with many hundreds of noncombatants, and you have the chance to sink it?

          • As Caiaphas said: “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
            Was he right?

          • carl jacobs

            So then let’s make this real. Say you are a submarine commander and you see a Japanese merchant ship carrying war material and civilians as hostages. What do you do?

            You torpedo the ship.

            Why?

            1. To demonstrate that hostages will not protect a ship from destruction.

            2. Because you have to consider the lives put a risk by the successful delivery of the war material.

            3. Because it will hasten the end of the war.

            This is what I keep telling you. These decisions are not clear cut. They are messy and ugly and brutal.

          • But you’re not targeting civilians or directly intending their deaths – the enemy has deliberately and illicitly placed them in harms way to secure an advantage.

            In your example it comes down to weighting the consequences of an act that is not illicit in itself, i.e. destroying a legitimate military target in a just war.
            The Catechism puts it thus:

            Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.

            There’s a difference between the intentional terror bombing of non-combatants and an act of strategic bombing that harms non-combatants with foresight but without intent as a side effect of destroying a legitimate military target.

            The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. “The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.”

          • Anton

            You answer my question, I’ll answer yours.

          • That was an answer.

            Let’s put it another way: “You do not realize that it is better for you that hundreds of innocent people die than risk the whole nation perishing.”

          • carl jacobs

            When you take responsibility for people as a governing or occupying power, then things change. But as for fighting the war? I’ve already told you. There is literally no boundary I wouldn’t have crossed to keep Germany from winning WWII. The only Law in such a war is “Win.” That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to employ any measure. It means you have to be willing to employ any measure should it become necessary. As the existential threat of the war decreases, the ability to impose IHL increases. So it’s not a clear-cut question. The Iraq war is a much different case than WWII.

            You are very concerned about means. I am very concerned about ends. One of the two principle components of Japan’s defeat was the destruction of its merchant marine. That accomplishment deprived Japan of goods and materials – especially food. The famine that was going to occur in Japan in 1946 was the direct result of allied strategic warfare. And yet you never mention it. The looming famine would have killed 50 times the number of people who died in Hiroshima. You show more concern for the means of death than for those who would die. I just don’t understand this attitude.

          • “That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to employ any measure. It means you have to be willing to employ any measure should it become necessary.”

            Any measure? The end justifies any means? That’s the very definition of moral consequentialism.
            This was the thinking of Stalin too when he let millions die of famine in the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932–33. A man-made famine that killed an officially estimated 7 to 10 million people.

          • carl jacobs

            Did you read my first sentence? When you are in authority over a people, you have responsibilities and obligations toward those people. Stalin wasn’t at war with Ukraine in November 1932.

          • Stalin considered himself to be at war against reactionary forces and was seeking to preserve the Communist Revolutionary.

            Like you, there was “literally no boundary” he wouldn’t have crossed to win.

          • carl jacobs

            That’s ridiculously weak, Jack. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. There was no war and no amount of metaphor can bootstrap one into existence. There was no division across a line of political sovereignty. Stalin was the ruler of Ukraine.

            Here you are condemning the Harvest of Sorrow. And yet you would willingly subject your own people to exactly that outcome for the sake of principle. What do you think would have happened if the Germans had conquered Britain in 1940?

            Let me be explicit. When people fall on my side of the battle line, then rules apply. When those people are still on the other side of the battle line, the rules apply according to my assessment of the consequences of defeat.

          • It’s about “national interest” and perceived threats to the State. The principle at play is the same. Victory over one’s enemy is what matters.

            What you’re saying is that there are no moral boundaries in executing war – just win. Presumably this could include the intentional killing of civilians or prisoners, torture, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, perfidy, terror through rape and pillaging, using child soldiers, declaring that no quarter will be given, and no principles of distinction and proportionality, such as strategic bombing of civilian populations.

          • dannybhoy

            Jack on what grounds would you defend the Catholic Church when it persecuted, tortured and put to death those who didn’t agree with it?
            Was that not a form of war?

          • *sigh*
            Jack wouldn’t seek to “defend” the Church’s behaviour – just attempt to understand the actions of her flawed individuals in the culture and politico-social circumstances of the various times these took place. Remember, the line between sedition/treason and Christian orthodoxy was a thin one and there were many economic and political forces at play.

          • dannybhoy

            You’re equivocating Jack.
            You cannot seriously defend the actions of a Christian Church in slaying torturing its perceived enemies and then take Carl to task..

          • Do you have a problem with English comprehension?

            Jack repeats ….. “Jack wouldn’t seek to “defend” the Church’s behaviour – just attempt to understand the actions of her flawed individuals in the culture and politico-social circumstances of the various times these took place.”

            Let’s define the term “persecution”. In general, it is the unlawful coercion of another’s liberty or unlawful punishment. The Church claims to carry a command from God and to be God’s only messenger – the accredited and infallible ambassador of God, and claims the right to coerce her own subjects. This position was supported by the State.

            The Albigenses and Wyclifites were held to be personally responsible for their apostasy; and the Church enforced her legitimate and lawful authority over them. In many cases the heretics were rebels against the State also. Her purpose was not only to protect the faith of the orthodox, but also to punish the apostates. Formal apostasy was then looked upon as treason against God – a more heinous crime than treason against a civil ruler. And remember, when she did use her right to exercise physical coercion over formal apostates, that right was then universally accepted, i.e. it was lawful.
            The Reformers were no less intolerant – in fact, more so. From their own standpoint, it was unjustifiable. First, they were in revolt against the established authority of the Church, and secondly they could hardly use force to compel conformity to their own principle of private judgment.

            [Context and the socio-political structures of the time]

            Saint Pope John Paul II in March 2000 made a sweeping apology for 2,000 years of violence, persecution and error. From the altar of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome he sought forgiveness for sins committed against Jews, heretics, women, Gypsies and native peoples. “Never again””, he said. “We forgive and we ask forgiveness. We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed towards followers of other religions.”

          • There are to my mind acts which in themselves are morally indifferent or morally neutral. In these motive supplies the moral imperative.

          • Would you accept too that there are acts which are in and of themselves morally evil regardless of motive?

          • Yes indeed. Many. Lying, murder, theft etc.

            In immediate context, I’m not convinced contraception falls into this category of intrinsically evil. It seems to me there is no clear cut prohibition of contraception. Intercourse is not simply for procreation. I would also allow for abortion IF the life of the mother is clearly in danger. The OT places a greater value on the life of the mother than that of the unborn child.

            However, I am much more with you than agin you in these matters.

          • Well, using scripture, natural law and human reason, to say nothing of nigh on 2000 years of constant Christian teaching, Jack would contend that both artificial contraception and abortion are intrinsically evil whatever the circumstances and can never justified.
            [You’ll know the Church’s moral arguments]

          • Rhoda

            Have you read the book “Shaming the Strong” by Sarah Williams?
            One family’s response to being told their baby would not survive birth.

      • gadjodilo

        Yes, those practical things needed saying, Jilly. It seems sometimes that there was more common sense back in the old days concerning such things, and I honestly don’t know how that can be recovered (except by possibly moving to a country which lives somewhat in the past…. as I fancy I have done….).

        • Jilly

          Thank you, gadjodilo. In the old days people saw what needed to be done and got on and did it without the need for clip boards, box-ticking, committees, risk assessments, protocols, revalidations etc.
          Which country have you found that still has ‘old-fashioned’ values?
          Or maybe you oughtnt to say lest we all move there!

          • gadjodilo

            Romania. And I don’t fancy so many will be moving here soon! It’s a beautiful country in many ways, but with low wages and corruption. I’m the lucky as my wife has many contacts in the health service, which is a kind of insurance, though I still hope they’ll let me die of pneumonia when the time comes 🙂 I experience an old-fashioned vibe here in that communism made the commited Christians more determined to cling to their traditional values.

          • Jilly

            I’m sure you are right about communism making Christians want to hold on to traditional values. I think we face a more sinister adversary here, one which has infected every institution including the church.

          • gadjodilo

            Yes, I think I know what you are saying. Maybe it’s a bit like the story of the oppresive wind and the seductive sun trying to get the man to remove his coat; the former fails as the man just pulls his coat closer to himself, but the latter succeeds easily.

          • Jilly

            A very good analogy.

      • “I cannot argue from a theological angle but observe on a practical level.”

        As a Christian, you should reflect on the revelations in scripture about human life and death, the omnipotence of God and the purpose of suffering in this life.

        God’s will is found in the Cross of Christ.

        • dannybhoy

          Consider God’s attitude to all the people who died in Biblical wars, who were reduced to eating their own children etc. What was going on there would you say?

          • Did God show His mercy to Israel?

            The meal that two women shared in 2 Kings 6 shocked a man as wicked as the king of Israel when he heard what they had done. As I read the king’s response to this woman, he tells her not to cry out to him for help, but to God. It’s not good to boil and eat children. Despair and a lack of faith in God leads to great evils.

        • Jilly

          Perhaps I ought to have written ‘I *will*not argue from a theological
          angle..’.
          Having read the theological ping-pong whizzing back and forth, I really wouldn’t like to get caught in the crossfire….

          Surely God’s will is similarly to be found in the Resurrection?
          To dwell too long voluntarily in the shadow of the Cross may not be healthy without knowing the joy and wholeness of Resurrection.

          • You can’t have the Resurrection to Life without the Cross of Christ.

          • Royinsouthwest

            He died for us. We don’t have to pay the penalty as well.

          • Albert

            Fine. But you do need to ensure your theology can also accommodate:

            we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8

            I think this touches on a central issue over the nature of justification. Is it a declaration and imputed, or is it a transformation and infused? Paul here clearly sides with the latter, I think.

          • pobjoy

            Those in Christ suffer due to their witness to Christ. They witness *because* they are justified, not to acquire justification.

          • Albert

            This assumes that one is justified by faith alone. Which the Bible says we are not (Jas 2). Moreover, if you look at the text I quoted, it makes our reigning with him contingent on us suffering with him. Finally, if you consider this text:

            I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church

            it makes it clear that the fact that Christ suffered for us all suffered for sins once for all in no way means we would not suffer, not that this suffering is not effective. Hence, as scripture says:

            we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

            In the end, the issue is not how we are justified: we are justified by grace received through faith. The issue is what it means to be justified: imputed or infused?

          • pobjoy

            ‘This assumes that one is justified by faith alone’

            Why is that?

            ‘(Jas 2)’

            Justified before men, not God.

            ‘Moreover, if you look at the text I quoted, it makes our reigning with him contingent on us suffering with him.’

            That’s because to back out of suffering is to lose justifying faith.

            ‘we are justified by grace received through faith.’

            Vice versa. Grace made justifying faith possible. Christianity is living in gratitude for that grace.

          • Albert

            Justified before men, not God.

            I was surprised to here Protestants argue this, because it seems an utterly hopeless interpretation.

            That’s because to back out of suffering is to lose justifying faith.</i.

            But there we may be a little closer to each other.

            Vice versa. Grace made justifying faith possible. Christianity is living in gratitude for that grace.

            Certainly, although I wonder if an agreement on words here hides a deeper disagreement. But I still think the issue is this one:

            what it means to be justified: imputed or infused?

          • pobjoy

            ‘it seems an utterly hopeless interpretation’

            Do go on.

          • Albert

            The key line is here is in verses 23-24. Here we find the meaning of the word “justification” (as in “not justified by faith alone”) is provided by the quote from Genesis 15.6. But in Gen.15.6, and in the other quotations from the NT, “justification” (or righteousness, it’s the same word in Greek), means justified before God (not men). Therefore the meaning of the word “justified” in verse 24 is the normal meaning of justified that we find elsewhere. Attempts to short circuit this with reference 2.18 are implausible for multiple reasons: the fact that 2.18 is not talking about justification, and is in any case, rather more distant from 24 to provide the context, and so the context and meaning is drawn from 23.

          • pobjoy

            ‘The key line is here is in verses 23-24.’

            The key is in v.21: ‘Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works
            when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?’

            So Abraham demonstrated his faith outwardly (to himself and Isaac) even though God knew he was justified by his faith. The whole letter has James telling his readers that they likewise needed to get some evidence of their own faith. Paul did similarly for his readers, in other ways.

            How can justification be infused?

          • Albert

            Since good works come from faith (our own works being worth nothing), Abraham’s good works are evidence of faith. This scripture says. But it does not say that Abraham’s works are simply evidence of faith. It says he was justified by works in the passage you quote:

            Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

            Now you wish to say that when James uses the word “justification” he is using it in a unique way, to mean justified before men (himself and Isaac). This is unique, insofar as the NT never uses the word in this way, so you must make a special case for that usage here. But verse 23 excludes that usage, since it refers to a passage (Genesis 15) which does not mean justified before men and is always taken elsewhere as justified before God. Thus, when we get to the very next line, Jas 2.24:

            You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

            we know Jas is using the word “justified” in the normal sense – before God, not men.

            Why would we take it any other way? Why would we believe that in 23 Jas means “before God” but in 24 Jas means (uniquely, without warning and contrary to the immediate context) “before men”?

            Now as for infused righteousness, my question would be how can righteousness be imputed? Righteousness, in the NT means being righteous. It’s a not a declaration, it’s a state. We know this because it is an attribute of God. When the Bible speaks of the righteousness of God, it does not mean God has some kind of forensic righteousness (as if God is actually evil, but said to be good), it means he really is righteous (God is light and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1). Thus, when it speaks of us being righteous, it means we really are righteous:

            I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Romans 1

            Again, in order to avoid this conclusion, we must radically and without warning, alter the meaning of the word “righteous”.

            And notice the parallelism here:

            For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

            Adam makes us truly sinners (sin is not merely imputed to otherwise righteous people), so therefore Christ makes us truly righteous (righteousness is not merely imputed to otherwise sinful people). And indeed, to exclude all doubt, Paul says this:

            For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

            If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

            The righteousness that Christ gives is greater than the sinfulness that Adam gives. As Adam truly makes us sinners, so then, must more does Christ makes us truly righteous. Thus righteousness has to be infused (not merely imputed).

          • pobjoy

            ‘Now you wish to say that when James uses the word “justification” he is using it in a unique way, to mean justified before men (himself and Isaac). This is unique’

            That doesn’t make it wrong. Neither the Hebrew nor the Greek nor the English words used have any special sense of justification, meaning anything more than it means in this sentence:

            “Now, Mr Clogg, how do you justify your interference in the democratic process, now that you are unelected?”

            James was writing to insincere people who had taken the correct teaching of justification by faith to mean justification by saying you have faith. Which not only cannot fool God, it does not fool all of humanity, all of the time, either.

            2:18-19: But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.’ (NIV)

            If it cannot be proved that James did not mean justification before men, and his whole letter concerns the failure of people claiming to be Christians who were not acting as Christians, his letter cannot be used to justify (before men) the doctrine of justification by works.

            ‘But verse 23 excludes that usage, since it refers to a passage
            (Genesis 15) which does not mean justified before men and is always taken elsewhere as justified before God.’

            That was precisely the problem. James’ audience was using that as excuse for treating people in an appalling way. So James quoted Gen 15 in showing that God’s opinion was vindicated by Gen 22, albeit many years later. So God was justitified in justifying Abraham, but for people who claim to be justified, but don’t ‘walk the walk’, it will all end in tears. They actually have no faith at all, except in the gullibility or corruption of humanity.

            You’re right, James is unique. No other apostle was quite so forthright to his own readers, and here he is talking about justification before men.There are of course religious followings that make excuses for egregious historic wrongdoings, so it’s no surprise if this view of James’ letter goes without welcome.

          • Albert

            That doesn’t make it wrong.

            I agree. But if the use of “justification” is unique in James an argument has to made for it. I have made an argument against it.

            James was writing to insincere people who had taken the correct teaching of justification by faith to mean justification by saying you have faith.

            Is he just referring to people who say they have faith, or to people who say they have faith because they have faith?

            What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?

            So first they say it, and then he agrees: “can his faith save him?” This question implies he has faith. And that is perfectly consistent with the man saying he has faith. And again, James says:

            as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

            Just as a body is still a body, so faith apart from works, though it is dead, is still faith. And this means that when James’ audience say they have faith, he does not mean us to assume (as I think you do) that they only say they have faith, but really they don’t. They have faith, but they are not justified, because a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

            And this is of course exactly what Paul teacheswhen he says:

            if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

            This is clearly not a man who merely says he has faith (but really has no faith), but a man who really has faith. But it is faith alone, and so the man is “nothing” . But you say (I assume) he is justified.

            So James quoted Gen 15 in showing that God’s opinion was vindicated by Gen 22, albeit many years later.

            This is a little obscure, but I assume that you think (i) Justification is a once for all event (ii) it happens at the time of faith, so (iii) Jas 2 cannot mean Abraham is actually justified in Genesis 22. Rather, as he is already justified (Genesis 15), it is merely a vindication of what has already happened. And that would mean the justification in Jas 2 is, after all, justification before men and not God. Is that your view?

            If so, it struggles to be consistent with the NT’s interpretation of the events around Abraham’s justification in Genesis.

            By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8)

            I don’t think you are going to dispute that Hebrews 11 is speaking of saving faith here. Now, if he has saving faith, you will have to admit that he is therefore justified. But this is referring to events in Genesis 12.1-4. Therefore, if one is justified by faith (and especially sola fide), we have to say that Abraham receives a once and for all justification in Genesis 12.

            The trouble is of course, that scripture then speaks of Abraham receiving justification in Genesis 15. And this cannot be reduced to a mere vindication because (i) that’s clearly contrary to what Genesis 15 means and (ii) it’s clearly contrary to how Paul uses it in Romans and Galatians. Therefore, we have two options:

            1. Accept that although Abraham had saving faith in Genesis 12, he was not thereby justified because that does not come until Genesis 15. And this would show justification is not by faith alone.

            2. Accept that although Abraham received justified in Genesis 12 he nevertheless received it again in Genesis 15. But this would undermine any idea that justification is a once and for all event.

            Now, if we accept 1, then sola fide has already been destroyed, and so there is no problem (but also no need) to take Jas 2.24 as referring to justification before God.

            If we accept option 2 then the fact that Abraham has received justification in Genesis 15 does not preclude him receiving it again in Genesis 22. For the very fact of him receiving it in Genesis 15 shows justification is not a once and for all event. Now if justification is not a once and for all event, then it seems to follow that justification cannot be sola fide. And so again, there is no difficulty (but also no need) to accept Jas 2.24 as referring to justification in the sight of God.

            Now what this shows is that justification is something dynamic and also a transformation. And that is exactly what Catholics believe, and, to be clear, what we think Paul means. We just think that Evangelicals have badly misunderstood Paul and so struggle with accepting that James means what he says and what scripture always means in the use of justification, when he says

            You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

          • pobjoy

            Is he just referring to people who say they have faith, or to people who say they have faith because they have faith?

            Had James been writing to people who had faith, he would have written as Paul did to the Roman church. But James was writing to people who had become of nominal faith, or were in danger of that. They were the first indication of the tendency to treat as merely intellectual the Hebrew and Greek concepts of faith as involving both intellect and will, a tendency that was to grow considerably.

            If Christians thought that James taught justification by works, they would not account his letter canonical.

            This question implies he has faith.

            It implies that a listener (as letters were read to assemblies) thought he had faith.

            Just as a dead body is still a body, so faith apart from works, though it is dead, is still faith.

            So what was wrong with Richard III, who asked for a horse when he already had one?

            if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains

            Paul referred to prophecy and faith as gifts of the Spirit, that not all have.

            I assume that you think (i) Justification is a once for all event

            Justification lasts as long as faith lasts. Abram was justified when he left Ur, and as Abraham he was justified when he died, and all the time in between. He was justified before he was circumcised.

            that is exactly what Catholics believe

            Catholics, otoh, think that they lose justification because they sin, and have to go to the supposed sacrifice of Mass in order to get re-justified. No Catholic dies knowing that he/she will go to heaven.

            If we have read Scripture, and don’t know we’re going to heaven, we aren’t going there.

          • Albert

            Had James been writing to people who had faith, he would have written as Paul did to the Roman church.

            But the message is the same. You seem to think it is different, but I do not.

            But James was writing to people who had become of nominal faith, or were in danger of that.

            You don’t think there were any such people in Paul’s congregations? Really? Surely not! Therefore, you can’t make an argument about Paul writing to people of faith but James only writes to people of nominal faith. Incidentally, if someone sees that they only have nominal faith, what are they expected to do about this?

            If Christians thought that James taught justification by works, they would not account his letter canonical.</i.

            Well just to clarify the doctrine is faith and works, or as Paul prefers to put it "faith working through love". And that is exactly what early Christians believed when James was canonised. The doctrine of sola fide is not at all the doctrine of the early Church. For them justification was not merely a declaration, but a state in which someone was really made righteous.

            It implies that a listener (as letters were read to assemblies) said he had faith.

            I think that’s stretching it, but that wasn’t the only plank in my argument on this point .

            So what was wrong with Richard III, who asked for a horse when he already had one?

            It seems to me that in order press a point from there you must disagree with scripture. A dead body is still a body, as sentence requires, and so dead faith is still faith.

            Paul referred to prophecy and faith as gifts of the Spirit, that not all have.

            My goodness that really is quite an expedient! Yes prophesy, faith no. As before, you must change the normal meaning of words to make them fit your theology. I am happy to leave them as they are. I can see where this comes from (1 Cor.12), but really don’t think that help here. I Cor.12 presumably means someone having great strength of faith. And it is clear that in 1 Cor.13 the man has “all faith”. You can’t reduce that down and say someone who has less than all faith somehow has more faith or that “all faith” is less than faith as in “justification by faith”. That really is special pleading.

            Justification lasts as long as faith lasts. Abram was justified when he left Ur, and as Abraham he was justified when he died, and in all the time between. He was justified before he was circumcised.

            You will have to admit he is clearly justified in Genesis 12 when Hebrews says he has faith. But in Genesis 15 he is given justification again – it’s not just an acknowledgement that he is already justified. It says it is reckoned to him as righteousness. There is action going on here. I’m afraid, your position just cannot be reconciled with the scripture, and the attempt to do so simply shows how hard it is to do.

            Catholics, otoh, think that they lose justification because they sin,

            That’s what Catholicism teaches because that’s what the Bible clearly teaches. See how many times believers are warned that if they commit certain sins, they will fall away from God and never enter heaven. The only way to avoid that is to try to pretend that such persons do not have faith, but it’s clear from the passages that they do.

            and have to go to the supposed sacrifice of Mass in order to get re-justified.

            Not quite. The normal remedy for falling from a state of grace is absolution through confession.

            If we have read Scripture, and don’t know we’re going to heaven, we aren’t going there.

            That’s just an example of presumption. Scripture warns you of losing heaven by sin. It is a mistake to think scripture is not talking to you.

            But beneath all this is a further Protestant problem. In order to maintain your position you have to make so many distinctions and so many awkward moves. Now a doctrine related to sola scriptura is the perspicuity of scripture. If your position is true, then it is very hard to get it from scripture. We have to imagine Tyndale’s ploughboy sitting with his Bible, going through all these passages and coming to the same conclusion as you. It’s utterly implausible.

          • pobjoy

            But the message is the same.

            Paul wrote to say that the faith of the Romans was known throughout the world.

            You don’t think there were any such people in Paul’s congregations?

            Paul’s problem was convincing his Romano-Greek converts that they should be respectable. James’ was that his Jewish converts knew very well how to be respectable.

            if someone sees that they only have nominal faith, what are they expected to do about this?

            That depends on whether they care about going to hell, or not. Many nominal people don’t change, so don’t care.

            Paul prefers to put it “faith working through love”.

            That’s the same as James, who wrote that he would show his faith by his works..

            that is exactly what early Christians believed when James was canonised.

            Early Christians were long gone by the time the imperial caricature of them got its act together. The giveaway is that its own, johnny-come-lately authors were not canonised.

            I think that’s stretching it

            Because?

            A dead body is still a body, as sentence requires, and so dead faith is still faith.

            James said it did not justify, however. But, one may flog a dead horse, if one insists.

            Yes prophesy, faith no

            ‘Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.’ 1 Co 12:7-11 NIV

            But in Genesis 15 he is given justification again

            Ge 15 does not say so.

            See how many times believers are warned that if they commit certain sins, they will fall away from God and never enter heaven

            How many times can they do that?

            . The normal remedy for falling from a state of grace is absolution through confession.

            Mass is canonically described as efficacious sacrifice for sins. So anyone who goes to Mass declares him/herself unjustified, not in Christ.

            That’s just an example of presumption.

            Apostolic presumption, then.

            ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.’ 1 Jn 5:13 NIV

            By contrast, an august American Catholic bishop posted at least two pages of reasons, in close type, of why Catholics could not be certain of salvation, even on their deathbeds. It’s been taken down since I mentioned it!

          • Albert

            Paul’s problem was convincing his Romano-Greek converts that they should be respectable. James’ was that his Jewish converts knew very well how to be respectable.

            What on earth do you mean?

            That depends on whether they care about going to hell, or not. Many nominal people don’t change, so don’t care.

            So there is something they should do then?

            That’s the same as James, who wrote that he would show his faith by his works.

            That’s not all that James says, and it isn’t what Paul says. Faith working through love means love must be added to faith, although it comes through faith.

            Early Christians were long gone by the time the imperial caricature of them got its act together. The giveaway is that its own, johnny-come-lately authors were not canonised.

            Of course, James was not always accepted in the earliest church. Perhaps you shouldn’t be so rude about the body of Christ in the time of Constantine. BTW, you are aware of the difficulties Luther had with James? He’s surely not the first to think he teaches, err, justification by faith and work, not by faith alone.

            I think that’s stretching it…Because?

            Because when someone says they have faith, they may have faith, and James continues speaking not saying “they say they have faith” but simply “Can his faith save him?” Besides, the whole passage is based on the assumption that they have faith. How else can you speak of faith alone, except to people who have faith? Moreover, you have not addressed the argument that follows my point there (about bodies).

            1 Co 12:7-11 NIV

            I’m a bit surprised you just quoted this, because I had already referred to it and answered it. So your quotation without comment does not get you any further. Moreover, you do not address my argument that follows it (about “all faith” in 1 Cor.13 – I could add that the word “all” there has a universality about it, being related to “pan” as in pantheism or pan-european).

            Ge 15 does not say so.

            That’s an extraordinary expedient. Genesis 15 reads:

            Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspringd be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

            Now it is clear that what it is that Abraham believes is the promise about his off-spring and that justification is on the basis of that faith. If you deny it, you will also undermine Paul’s argument in Romans and Galatians. In Romans 4 Paul again links Abraham’s with his belief in the off-spring (vs.11 and 17-25) and he does the same in Galatians 3.8. This point is so obvious I never hear someone doubt until now. So there’s no avoiding this: Abraham clearly receives justification Genesis 15, even though he receives justification in Genesis 12. And that means he can again receive justification in Genesis 22. And so that is what is meant in Jas 2.23, and therefore, it is a description of how we are justified ourselves, as 2.24 puts it:

            You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

            I recognise that this is not the tradition you have been taught, but it is what the Bible says. Why deny the scripture to uphold human teaching?

            How many times can they do that?

            Depends where you look.

            Mass is canonically described as efficacious sacrifice for sins. So anyone who goes to Mass declares him/herself unjustified, not in Christ.

            That’s so confused, but I can’t be bothered to explain it at the moment. That you can’t see the grace of Christ at work in Holy Communion (So anyone who goes to Mass declares him/herself unjustified, not in Christ) is telling.

            Apostolic presumption, then.

            Only if your doctrine is apostolic, which it isn’t. If it were, you would be able to defend it without endless distinctions.

            By contrast, an august American Catholic bishop posted at least two pages of reasons, in close type, of why Catholics could not be certain of salvation, even on their deathbeds. It’s been taken down since I mentioned it!

            That’s just very confused. When a person has faith and is justified, they have eternal life, but that is a millions miles away from saying they cannot lose eternal life.

          • pobjoy

            Faith working through love means love must be added to faith

            But it doesn’t justify.

            Perhaps you shouldn’t be so rude about the body of Christ in the time of Constantine.

            ‘Body of poltroons’ would be closer.

            Because when someone says they have faith, they may have faith.

            But if they are snobs, they are liars.

            Abraham clearly receives justification Genesis 15.

            Abram was justified when he was in Ur, married to Sarai, who was infertile.

            Depends where you look.

            Some recall seeing a BBC program that showed British teenagers saying they could have illicit relations Monday to Fridays, go to Confession Saturdays, Mass Sundays, start again Mondays. Now they just don’t bother with the ritual.

            That’s so confused, but I can’t be bothered to explain it at the moment.

            Don’t even try. It’s inexplicable. It’s what comes from taking orders from Roman Emperors, who were not noted for their comprehension of anything much more complicated than a cavalry charge.

            That’s just very confused..

            Exactly. John wrote ‘so that you will know’, and a claimed follower says, ‘That’s the very last thing we want, certainty.’ But Catholics don’t read the Bible. And don’t want to, very often.

            saying they cannot lose eternal life..

            No-one’s doing that. Justification lasts as long as faith does, remember.

          • Albert

            But it doesn’t justify.

            I think we need to understand what is meant by cause. There are different types of causes. What you’ve just said sounds to me like someone saying “the fact that this chair is made of wood, isn’t a cause of it being a wooden chair.” True the wood did not assemble the chair, but it is part of the cause of it being what it is (as opposed to a metal chair, for example). Love just is, I think, what it means to be justified. Love is to justification what wood is to the chair. Here’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia says:

            For according to the teaching of the Catholic Church the righteousness and sanctity which justification confers, although given to us by God as efficient cause (causa efficiens) and merited by Christ as meritorious cause (causa meritoria), become an interior sanctifying quality or formal cause (causa formalis) in the soul itself, which it makes truly just and holy in the sight of God.

            And continues:

            the formal cause of justification (i.e. sanctifying grace) is nothing less than the Person of the Holy Ghost, Who is the hypostatic holiness and charity

            Hence my point about love. Now when one looks at this, and sees that God is the cause of all these elements of justification, is it not obvious that the Protestant Reformation is fighting a straw man? The issue is not whether God or we justify ourselves (God does clearly), but what it means to be justified.

            ‘Body of poltroons’ would be closer

            Dear me. The judgementalism. St Athanasius was a coward? You don’t know what courage is.

            But if they are snobs, they are liars</i.

            My point is that Jas 2.18 is open to both interpretations. You cannot therefore rely on it. However the rest of Jas 2 excludes your interpretation.

            Abram was justified when he was in Ur, married to Sarai, who was infertile.

            And then he receive justification again in Genesis 15 (“reckoned” – it’s an active word, not simply an acknowledgement).

            Some recall seeing a BBC program that showed British teenagers saying they could have illicit relations Monday to Friday, go to Confession Saturday, Mass Sunday, start again Monday.

            Presumably you think that somehow falsifies Catholicism.

            It’s what comes from taking orders from Roman Emperors, who were not noted for their comprehension of anything much more complicated than a cavalry charge.

            The confusion is yours about what we believe. It’s what comes from being taught by a bunch of 16th Century theologians, some at least of whom needed a course of psychotherapy, not a Reformation.

            John wrote ‘so that you will know’, and a claimed follower says, ‘That’s the very last thing we want, certainty.’ But Catholics don’t read the Bible. And don’t want to, very often.

            I’m staggered that you can claim I do not read the Bible. No one who reads this thread will take you seriously. But since you want to argue about it, consider this saying, also in 1 John:

            We know that any one born of God does not sin 1 John 5.19. But a corner stone of your doctrine of justification by faith alone is that we are simul iustus et peccator. So there you are, a proof text that proves your position is wrong.

            What’s going on here is to do with the use of the word “know”. It can also mean “see”. Consider this verse:

            Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11.1

            So there’s a paradox: on the one hand we know (see) we have eternal life and on the other hand, the articles of our faith are not seen. The point is to express the confidence of faith (we see) alongside its obscurity (it’s not seen). That’s the nature of faith. For you to try to build a system on 1 John 5.13 is like trying to build a doctrine of the Trinity on John 14.28. Scripture is subtle, the mysteries are often paradoxical because the glory is so great.

            Now if we look at the passage itself, it says:

            I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

            So they already believe, but have to be written to to know that they have eternal life. Whereas, you seem to believe that the person of faith already knows they have eternal life. How extraordinary! What you believe contradicts the very passage you cite in its defence!

            And how do we know that we have eternal life?

            by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected.

            Evidently, we must keep his commandments, otherwise, we are only saying “I know him”!

            So John’s passage is to help us to move from having faith to keeping his commandments, that the love of God may dwell in us and that we may be sure that we know him. And this is of course, exactly the Catholic doctrine.

            No-one’s doing that. Justification lasts as long as faith does, remember.

            So you can lose justification?

          • pobjoy

            True the wood did not assemble the chair, but it is part of the cause of it being what it is (as opposed to a metal chair, for example).

            But love is the result of justification, which is the cause. ‘We love because Christ first loved us’, John wrote. But of course, one must first believe that Christ loved us.

            Abraham was justified when he believed what God told him. Those are justified who believe that their sins are no longer held against them because Jesus took the blame for them, and react as is natural, with gratitude, with love. That’s what Jesus meant when he said that he would draw all men to him.

            Reacting with gratitude means doing as Jesus wants, though not out of a sense of grudging duty, but because what Jesus wants is best for everyone; ‘do as you would be done by’. It’s actually the very minimum that any self-respecting deity can ask, to do justly, to love mercy; and that comes through walking humbly with God.

            Now many, many people believe that Jesus died for them, and are initially grateful, but as the parable of the sower illustrates, they have no long term wish to do as they would be done by. They want others to treat them better than they intend to treat others. This was the cause of the favouritism to which James alluded, that, if left unchecked, would have destroyed the whole church.

            The patricians of Rome were the world’s leading exponents of wanting others to treat them better than they intend to treat others. It was they who hired an emperor to ensure that millions of people treated them better than they were going to treat them. So these many people lived lives of quiet desperation, while the few lived in luxury.

            The same emperors were employed to set up a new religion in the interests of maintaing that status quo, so avarice with indolence is the basis of the Roman ‘church’ that they set up. With the old pagan religions of Rome, priests were appointed to offer sacrifices to invented deities, and, as long as plebeians stayed on the right side of priests, they would get along ok. This system was transferred, pretty well lock, stock and barrel into the mock Christianity that they were forced to adopt, because, try as they might, they could not eradicate the real sort.

            And it worked, for a thousand years, with no trace of the real thing, into feudal Europe; until education let the cat out of the bag, the Vatican caught unawares. The new Bible scholars disagreed about many things, but they were unanimous that the Roman ‘church’ was actually antichrist. They did so because they had to; ordinary people believed it, and for two reasons. First, because the extraordinary liberties taken by priests, friars, bishops etc. could not be the behaviour of the righteous deity they professed to exist. Second, because, when they eventually got to read the Bible, they saw no trace of popes, diocesan bishops, Masses, Confessions, Mary worship and all the paraphernalia of state religion that was forced upon them, like it or not. So much of Europe felt conned.

            So any attack on Protestantism must take account of its inevitability in a Europe that had more common sense, indignation, information and sense of purpose than it had even before the Roman legions trampled over the continent.

            And then he receive justification again in Genesis 15 (“reckoned” – it’s an active word, not simply an acknowledgement).

            To receive justification again implies that it has been lost. What caused Abram to lose justification?

            Presumably you think that somehow falsifies Catholicism.

            It confirmed to thousands that Catholicism is imaginary…

            I’m staggered that you can claim I do not read the Bible.

            …so it’s unsurprising if Catholics imagine stuff!

            Catholicism survived as a catholic religion only while populaces remained ignorant of the Bible. At the Renaissance, a papal legate, intending to travel from Rome to Munich, reckoned to enquire of priests along the way for directions. But he found so few priests who knew Latin that he arrived hundreds of miles from Munich, and was presumably late for his appointment. That shows how much the Catholic heart actually loves the Bible.

            We know that any one born of God does not sin 1 John 5.19.

            That means that Christians do not continue to sin after being made aware of sin by the Holy Spirit. Those teenagers were under the direction of humans, not the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

            So they already believe, but have to be written to to know that they have eternal life.

            Some of them may. They need to see the fruits of the Spirit, cheerfulness, patience, kindness, trustworthiness, sincerity and self-control in their lives, according to his individual promptings, to know that they have eternal life. Those fruits are the outward evidence of love for Christ ‘because he first loved us’.

            So you can lose justification?

            The parable of the sower indicates so.

          • Albert

            But love is the result of justification,

            No love is part of the justification.

            ‘We love because Christ first loved us’, John wrote. But of course, one must first believe that Christ loved us.

            Yes it is a process of which Christ is the author.

            Now as for all the stuff about the Empire that’s just doggerel. Even if it were accurate it wouldn’t make a difference to the issues of the theology of justification.

            To receive justification again implies that it has been lost. What caused Abram to lose justification?

            It could do, but not necessarily, it could just be part of the on-going process, like receiving grace upon grace.

            It confirmed to thousands that Catholicism is imaginary…

            It would be a pretty irrational argument.

            [I’m staggered that you can claim I do not read the Bible.]

            …so it’s unsurprising if Catholics imagine stuff!

            I just ask you to look at the evidence of my posts. Clearly I read the Bible.

            Catholicism survived as a catholic religion only while populaces remained ignorant of the Bible.

            Obviously in a period of high illiteracy, there was little popular reading of the Bible. But you must recall that every copy of the Bible had to be made by hand prior to the invention of the printing press. Clearly they thought it was important and were reading it. How and why would you copy it otherwise?

            That means that Christians do not continue to sin after being made aware of sin by the Holy Spirit.

            So are you without sin then? And what about all that stuff about simul iustus et peccator?

            They need to see the fruits of the Spirit, cheerfulness, patience, kindness, trustworthiness, sincerity and self-control in their lives, according to his individual promptings, to know that they have eternal life. Those fruits are the outward evidence of love for Christ ‘because he first loved us’.

            That’s the second time you’ve quoted 1 John 4.19. I’m beginning to think that you keep quoting it because you think we don’t believe that. Is that right?

            The parable of the sower indicates so.

            I agree. But classical Evangelical teaching says not. They say that if someone really has faith, they will retain their faith and justification.

          • pobjoy

            No love is part of the justification.

            Let’s suppose that is true, and in a sense it is, because faith is more than head belief. It involves personal trust, like stepping into the boat with Jesus.

            ‘When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

            Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

            Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

            Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.’ Mt 8:18-23 NIV

            But Catholicism can forget about that. Has the Vatican ever shown the least practical interest in love as a work of faith? Or is it that the only works that are of interest are attending rituals? Every papalist distinctive is directed away from the Holy Spirit’s working in the lives of Christians, and towards the placing of a man who may be a terrible criminal in his place.

            What Catholics need to be aware of is that not one of them could become a member of a church, because the record of the RC’C’ is far too disreputable to the name of Christ. It would be greatly laughable that the organisation that makes so much of works is so bereft of them. But, as Catholicism was made possible only by coercion, it is not so laughable.

            like receiving grace upon grace.

            If a person is accounted righteous, that cannot be improved on.

            I just ask you to look at the evidence of my posts. Clearly I read the Bible.

            Check the thread. Has anyone suggested otherwise?

            Obviously in a period of high illiteracy, there was little popular reading of the Bible.

            So the illiteracy was deliberate.

            But you must recall that every copy of the Bible had to be made by hand prior to the invention of the printing press.

            As obtained in the apostles’ time, when the church spread for thousands of miles. Oral transmission was commonplace until modern times, asisted by prodigious memories, in many cases. Troubadors and mnistrels relayed famous stories throughout Europe. But nobody relayed the gospel, because they would not survive long if they did.

            But classical Evangelical teaching says not.

            Not so. Catholicism teaches that salvation can be lost, because it wants that threat against its followers. If it says otherwise, it will lose its grip on the minds of the ‘faithful’. But a Catholic can be an egregious criminal, and still permitted membership; especially if a cleric!

            Christians teach the same, but because any who fail to maintain the good name of Christ are not permitted church membership, as Scripture commands.

          • Albert

            The first half of this is just prejudice and not worth my time.

            If a person is accounted righteous, that cannot be improved on.

            Really? You hold that justification is a mere declaration, not an actual righteousness. Do you think then that God cannot then make someone righteous having declared them so?

            Check the thread. Has anyone suggested otherwise?

            I am a Catholic. You said But Catholics don’t read the Bible therefore you hold that I do not read the Bible. Which is manifestly false, and really shows just how silly and uninformed you are.

            As obtained in the apostles’ time, when the church spread for thousands of miles. Oral transmission was commonplace until modern times, assisted by prodigious memories, in many cases. Troubadors and minstrels relayed famous stories throughout Europe. But nobody relayed the gospel, because they would not survive long if they did.

            That does not address my point and it isn’t true anyway. They did relay the Gospel, just not your “gospel” but your gospel isn’t in the Bible, which is why you have now resorted to being offensive rather than addressing the arguments I have given.

            Not so.

            So Evangelicalism teaches justification can be lost?

          • pobjoy

            The first half of this is just prejudice and not worth my time.

            Or is it that the only works that are of interest really are attending rituals?

            Really? You hold that justification is a mere declaration, not an
            actual righteousness.

            If justification means that the justified are friends of God, along with Abraham, there is not much ‘mere’ about it.

            Do you think then that God cannot then make someone righteous having declared them so?

            God cannot make a god (for so we are described) do anything. But sanctification is part of the divine plan for all, justification being the means, the only means, other than the operations of the Holy Spirit..

            You said But Catholics don’t read the Bible therefore you hold that I do not read the Bible.

            That’s not the same as ‘No Catholic reads the Bible.’ I did not intend to include yourself, as I can read your quotes of the Bible, or the ‘professional’ Catholics who claim to interpret the Bible, as I have obviously read those attempts.

            But this distracts attention from the fact that many if not most Catholics do not read the Bible, and often do not wish to. “Leave the Bible to priests,” is (or was) a not uncommon instruction from Catholic parents.

            That does not address my point

            Of course it does. Illiteracy does not excuse absence of knowledge of the Bible.

            They did relay the Gospel,

            The people didn’t think so, did they, else they would not have rejected Catholic rule in favour of what they called the gospel.

            So Evangelicalism teaches justification can be lost?

            The Bible says so, and evangelicalism is based on sola Scriptura.

          • Albert

            Or is it that the only works that are of interest really are attending rituals?

            You have a lot of prejudices and not very much evidence.

            If justification means that the justified are friends of God, along with Abraham, there is not much ‘mere’ about it.

            “Mere” as opposed to an actual being made righteous. Do you think that nothing more happens after the declaration of righteousness? Now clearly you do think there is more to it that than for you then say:

            But sanctification is part of the divine plan for all, justification being the means, the only means, other than the operations of the Holy Spirit.

            So the fact that we become friends of God does not mean there is nothing more to be said. And that means “mere” is right if it means only a declaration which is to be followed by sanctification.

            That’s not the same as ‘No Catholic reads the Bible.’

            Yes it is. “Catholics do not read the Bible” clearly entails “No Catholic reads the Bible.” “Muslims do believe in Jesus” clearly means “No Muslim believes in Jesus.”

            The people didn’t think so, did they, else they would not have rejected Catholic rule in favour of what they called the gospel.

            Your doctrine is not in the Bible, so Bible reading would not have given it to them. Your doctrine is a misunderstanding that your teachers hand on to you, and that you then read into the Bible.

            The Bible says so, and evangelicalism is based on sola Scriptura.

            Where does the Bible say justification can be lost?

          • pobjoy

            You have a lot of prejudices and not very much evidence.

            History is replete with evidence; but common sense is enough, without it.

            ‘Catholicism was made possible only by coercion.’

            If a pollster walked down an average London street, asking 100 people at random which religion they followed, if any, what do you think would be the probability of them all citing just one religion?

            Do you think that nothing more happens after the declaration of righteousness?

            Sanctification takes place, as stated; provided faith is maintained, of course.

            So the fact that we become friends of God does not mean there is nothing more to be said.

            The Holy Spirit constantly guides the convert.

            “Catholics do not read the Bible” clearly entails “No Catholic reads the Bible.”

            As much as ‘Americans don’t play cricket,’ a statement with which most would agree, in most contexts. There are Americans who play cricket, but the proportion of all USA citizens who play cricket may be approximately the same proportion of all Catholics who read the Bible on their own.

            Your doctrine is not in the Bible

            The doctrine of justification by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross is clearly declared in the statements of faith of every Protestant organisation, including the CoE, and including university Christian unions. It was unanimously agreed by Reformers in every major country in Europe, with the Catholic doctrine of justification likewise specifically condemned.

            The reason for this relatively sudden change of view was the new ability of Europeans to read the Bible for themselves, and the contemporaneous reducing power of Catholic authorities to silence dissent. That power is a first reason that no Catholic, or indeed any who assent to the validity of Catholicism, can become a member of a church.

            Where does the Bible say justification can be lost?

            ‘The parable of the sower indicates so.’

            “I agree.”

          • Albert

            The doctrine of justification by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross is clearly declared in the statements of faith of every Protestant organisation, including the CoE, and including university Christian unions.

            If you speak only of justification by faith then I have no beef with that. But if you wish to distinguish yourself from Catholicism, you will need to add to that expression – and that will take you beyond what the Bible says.

            In holding that justification can be lost, I would say that yours is a minority position among Evangelicals.

          • pobjoy

            If you speak only of justification by faith then I have no beef with that.

            Then you disagree with the Tridentine Canons, that do have a beef with it.

            If you speak only of justification by faith then I have no beef with that.

          • Albert

            Then you disagree with the Tridentine Canons, that do have a beef with it.

            This is your confusion. The Biblical/Catholic doctrine is justification by faith. The Protestant doctrine is justification by faith alone. As Trent says:

            In what manner it is to be understood, that the impious is justified by faith, and gratuitously.

            And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace.

            You say:

            So the failure to canonise the imperial ‘fathers’ is rather telling, after all.

            If that’s meant to be an argument, it is utterly obscure.

            So it’s not just my position, and it’s one less accusation to make about Protestantism.

            I couldn’t say if others hold it. I’ve never come across in an Evangelical before. I thought the whole point of justification by faith alone was to be certain of your salvation.

          • pobjoy

            The Biblical/Catholic doctrine is justification by faith.

            The Catholic dooctrine is of justifying faith in…. what?

            it is utterly obscure.

            Unless I am mistaken, the proposition made is that Catholic doctrine depends on extra-Biblical material not canonised in the late 4th century or at Trent. Appeal for recognition of a doctrine that rests on material in which one does not have full confidence is surely unconvincing.

            I’ve never come across in an Evangelical before.

            My view is that everyone believes it, but doesn’t always say so. Anglican evangelicals hold to this view, as do Methodists, some Baptists, Brethren and many other smaller (arguably, more effective) groups. There are fuzzy in-betweens, who maintain that some cannot lose salvation, but, as nobody knows who they are, it’s not a lot of use. But that goes for Calvinism, too, when all’s said and done. Nobody can prove that anyone has ever died a Christian, except maybe Peter, whose martyrdom was prophesied by Jesus. Only God knows, and he’s not telling. So the important point, as far as mere mortals is concerned, is that the practical evidence of faith is seen in one’s life, and one has a clear conscience.

          • Albert

            The Catholic doctrine is of justifying faith in…. what?</i.

            The saving works of Christ.

            Unless I am mistaken, the proposition made is that Catholic doctrine depends on extra-Biblical material not canonised in the late 4th century or at Trent. Appeal for recognition of a doctrine that rests on material in which one does not have full confidence is surely unconvincing.

            Oh. So all you meant was that the Catholic Church rests on scripture and tradition. Funny how I didn’t manage to deduce your meaning from what you said: So the failure to canonise the imperial ‘fathers’ is rather telling, after all.

            Actually, everyone rests on scripture and tradition, indeed the canon itself is part of the tradition (it didn’t fall out of the sky did it?). And this is entirely reasonable. Scripture tells us this:

            So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

            We’re just honest about it.

            My view is that everyone believes it, but doesn’t always say so.

            I’ve never known an Evangelical hold it down here.

            Nobody can prove that anyone has ever died a Christian, except maybe Peter, whose martyrdom was prophesied by Jesus. Only God knows, and he’s not telling. So the important point, as far as mere mortals is concerned, is that the practical evidence of faith is seen in one’s life, and one has a clear conscience.

            I thought the whole point of Evangelicalism on justification by faith is that a Christian be certain of his salvation. Granted I think that is flawed, for the reasons you give, but I still think your position, though honest, is very eccentric for an Evangelical.

          • pobjoy

            The saving works of Christ.

            What are those, please?

          • Albert

            His death and resurrection.

          • pobjoy

            How are those saving works?

          • Albert

            They take away sins, create the medicine of immortality, which, through the Holy Spirit are both infused into us.

          • pobjoy

            So does that mean that Catholics never sin, and are guaranteed immortal life in heaven?

          • Albert

            Are you seriously asking that question? Why on earth would that follow?

          • pobjoy

            So, if Catholics sin, what sins do the death arnd resurrection of Christ take away?

          • Albert

            Where are you going with this?

          • pobjoy

            I’m giving the Vatican opportunity to explain its theology, to refute the accusation of every Reformer and many since that it is antichrist.

            So all you meant was that the Catholic Church rests on scripture and tradition

            What I wrote was that the proposition seems to be made that Catholic doctrine depends on extra-Biblical material not canonised in the late 4th century or at Trent. Now as the word canonised’ infers that written material is divinely revealed, it must also mean that whatsoever is not canonised may not be divinely revealed, and may in fact be erroneous.

            So appeal for recognition of a doctrine that rests on material in which one does not have full confidence is surely unconvincing. Now if all of one’s distinctive teachings rest on what one cannot be sure of, and that may seem to be the case, how sensible must any others be if they are to take notice of any of them? How easy does it make it for them to convince that the Vatican actually is antichrist?

            Actually, everyone rests on scripture and tradition, indeed the canon itself is part of the tradition (it didn’t fall out of the sky did it?).

            The canon is not part of ‘the tradition’, because people are not born into a tradition, as pertained by force majeure in the Middle Ages. So those Catholics who imagine that Protestants accept Bible canon because the Vatican’s ‘church’ decided on it (though there is no agreement as to a date) are fooling themselves. Not only must all genuine Protestants regard every single Catholic in need of conversion to Christ, they don’t accept the Vatican’s canon, anyway, because of its so-called Deuterocanon— whatever that concept is supposed to mean!

            People make up their own minds about what they consider divine revelation, if they decide that there is any. So one person decides for Vedas, another rejects them for, say, the Book of Mormon. Some select Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, others reject it as being in contradiction of the tradition to which it is claimed to belong. Others dismiss the letters of Ignatius and Irenaeus for the same reason.

            Now one of the most remarkable facts of history, for which historians may seem to have a blind spot, is that among the many ‘denominations’ and movements that arose after the Reformation, there was virtually no disagreement about the Bible canon, New Testament or Old. There was disagreement about everything else, except that (and the antichrist status of the Vatican).

            That’s because the books selected are so different from anything else, the gustatory gap between chalk and cheese pales into
            insignificance. The historians are correct if they admit that
            recognising the NT is no great feat; but if they say so, they opine
            that the whole Bible is divinely inspired, which historians don’t think is quite their concern; and their publishers are even more convinced of that.

            So the Vatican gets no kudos for picking the NT.

            So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

            This is 2 Thessalonians 2:15. What were these ‘traditions’ taught by Paul, Silas and Timothy?

          • Albert

            This is far too long for me to read at prevent – especially as it begins is such a childish way. It ought to be obvious that I am the Vatican. Secondly, Catholic teaching is not hidden. If you want to know what it is, it is all published. The Church does not have to explain itself to you if you cannot be bothered to research it. I would say that your objection to tradition (as far as I can make it out from a skim read) shows a lack of belief in the nature of the Church as the body of Christ and a lack of faith in the Holy Spirit.

          • pobjoy

            What were the ‘traditions’ taught by Paul, Silas and Timothy?

          • Albert

            The reality of the mystery of God himself, into communion with whom, we are brought through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The tradition of the Church contains and conveys that. It is that life in the Spirit – with all the realities which scripture refers, that Paul handed on to Silas and Timothy.

          • pobjoy

            The reality of the mystery of God himself, into communion with whom, we
            are brought through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit

            As found in Thessalonians 1 and in the rest of the NT, no doubt!

            The mere word ‘traditions’, even if reliably rendered from Greek, is no excuse for what may well be ‘things taught by demons’. But that Greek word translated ‘traditions’ is probably far better translated ‘teachings’ (as in the NIV). So ‘word-search theology’ doesn’t work, as so often, except to justify the Vatican as an organisation for those susceptible to perhaps the most inept people in the history of the world.

          • Albert

            Is that an argument? It’s just more prejudice and bile.

          • pobjoy

            “Prejudice and bile” may be what a judge hands down to a ‘banged to rights’ felon. So the Vatican needs far better than that, if it is not to be suspected as lawless.

            A week is a long time in politics, said an expert politician. So what is two hundred years, in matters religious? Because intelligent people are here expected to believe that what Paul et al. told the church in Thessaloniki justifies what may well be the errors, two hundred years later, of lawless people (of which Peter warned the church) and novelties of those Paul described as grievous wolves, Any judge would throw the claim out of court, saying, “Is that an argument?”, the press also mocking in derision.

            So where is Scriptural basis for ‘tradition’? On the contrary, both OT and NT specify that only ‘that which is written’ is to be treated as authoritative. Ergo:

            ‘Tradition’ = novelty = hearsay = heresy

            So, unless the Vatican’s representatives can here justify their myriad accretions as what Paul et al. taught, the safest conclusion to reach is that the Vatican is a haunt of grievous wolves.

          • Albert

            A week is a long time in politics, said an expert politician. So what is two hundred years, in matters religious? Because intelligent people are here expected to believe that what Paul et al. told the church in Thessaloniki justifies what may well be the errors, two hundred years later, of lawless people (of whom Peter warned the church) and novelties of those Paul described as grievous wolves. Any judge would throw the claim out of court, saying, “Is that an argument?”, the press also mocking in derision.

            Straw man. Why don’t you try arguing against my position, instead of what you would like my position to be?

            On the contrary, both OT and NT specify that only ‘that which is written’ is to be treated as authoritative.

            Where?

            So, unless the Vatican’s representatives can here justify their myriad accretions as what Paul et al. taught, the safest conclusion to reach is that the Vatican is a haunt of grievous wolves.

            Answer the position I’ve set out.

          • pobjoy

            Where?

            Where is the written evidence that Paul, Silas and Timothy passed on the contents of the Catholic Catechism, or anything that could lead to the publication of that volume?

          • Albert

            You asked for tradition, and I said this:

            The reality of the mystery of God himself, into communion with whom, we are brought through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The tradition of the Church contains and conveys that. It is that life in the Spirit – with all the realities which scripture refers, that Paul handed on to Silas and Timothy.

            I recognise that this is not what you wanted me to say. But perhaps your theology, in which everything seems to need to be explicitly expressed in the days of the apostles, is logically incoherent, given that the infinite reality of the faith. What is given to us in Christ, is God himself. He cannot be reduced to scripture, or even the apostles’ teaching. However, he is conveyed in both, and we will plumb these inexhaustible mysteries until the end of time. If you want to limit yourself, to something less than that, up to you. But at least have the courtesy to attack what we believe, rather than what you wish we believed.

          • pobjoy

            Paul handed on to Silas and Timothy.

            All three of them wrote 2 Thessalonians, and 1 Thessalonians. Have a look!

          • Albert

            I misread what you wrote and thought I was just copying that. However, it is an absurd literalism you are following there. Clearly Timothy received traditions from Paul. Timothy even received circumcision from Paul. Have a look! The idea that Paul spent all that time with Timothy and Silas, and they learnt nothing from him is too absurd for words.
            Amazing that a discussion about scripture and tradition has been brought so low…

          • pobjoy

            The issue is what Paul, Silas and Timothy together passed on to the Thessalonian church. Perhaps a contributor will consider dealing with it.

          • dannybhoy

            This is an interesting article about Chigwell Christian Fellowship and how it is structured. Not a lot of theology but looking at what Paul’s gospel and traditions were..
            http://www.house-church.org/apol_partfour.htm

          • pobjoy

            Thank you. It does indeed look interesting.

          • dannybhoy

            Another link you may find of value has to do with God’s sovereignty in human history and man’s free will; a theme we discussed recently. That’s why I won’t take up the cudgels re your invitation!
            Although I mostly agree with you I am not sufficiently intelligent or educated to engage wIth Albert. Not that I wouldn’t even so, but I’m tired..
            Here’s the link..
            https://www.pushpublishing.co.uk/interview-roger-forster-gods-strategy-human-history/

          • pobjoy

            Thank you again. It also looks interesting. I don’t use the word ‘Arminian’; doctrines are either orthodox or heretical. The doctrine that salvation could be lost was one of the very few orthodoxies of medieval religion, that terrified people with that very claim! The notion that God created some for glory and others reprobate suited the economies of nascent capitalism, as the owners could claim to be predestined for glory, the people who worked for them poor because God had intended them to be so! A sort of early Prosperity Gospel.

            That’s not really the case today, but this doctrine does encourage people to take less note of Peter’s warning to guard against the one who prowls around, ‘seeking whom he may devour’.

          • dannybhoy

            Agreed. The bigger problem for me is that believing God has everything all worked out – ‘micromanages’ then we need do nothing. I believe in God’s sovereignty, but. I think free will means we get to choose how much we are able and willing to serve Him (sanctification).

          • pobjoy

            I entirely agree.

          • Albert

            I’ve answer this twice already: they handed on communion with the infinite God through Jesus Christ.

          • pobjoy

            They had that already, via conversion.

          • Albert

            Really? Exhaustively? Without danger of error? You do know that when Paul says Already you are filled! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! he was being sarcastic?

          • pobjoy

            sarcastic?

            Not to the Thessalonians.

            ‘We always thank God for all of you, remembering you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labour of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing your election, brothers loved by God.
            For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit, and you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit.

            As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, because the Lord’s message rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith in God has been known. So, we don’t need to say anything, as they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.’ 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

            Which Catholic meeting is like that?

          • Albert

            Yet again, I just marvel that you think that is answer to my point. Have you ever considered being a logical positivist?

          • pobjoy

            So how does ‘We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labour of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’ fail to reflect ‘communion with the infinite God through Jesus Christ’ in the Thessalonian church?

          • Albert

            I never said anything about it not reflecting. The issue is about whether that infinity can be expressed exhaustively in such letters. Do you think it can?

          • pobjoy

            Is understanding the infinity of deity necessary for salvation? Is infinity what deity wants humanity to understand? Did Jesus or any apostle concern himself with that notion?

            Can humanity even understand infinity?

          • pobjoy

            Timothy even received circumcision from Paul

            Indeed, he did. It might lend a litte comfort to those who hope that it lends authority to those who, in fear of the challenge of the gospel, run under the umbrella of those who allow such people to call themselves Christians.

          • Albert

            I haven’t the faintest idea what’s that’s about. But it one thing seems clear: it lacks charity.

          • pobjoy

            One sentence contradicts the other.

          • Albert

            No it doesn’t. If I hear someone shouting at another in foreign language I can still understand they lack charity, even if I don’t understand what is said. I don’t understand what you meant. But it is clear that it is snide.

          • pobjoy

            If I hear someone shouting at another in foreign language I can still understand they lack charity.

            Perhaps. But you can’t hear me. 🙂

          • Albert

            Are you really that lacking in imagination?

          • pobjoy

            Imagination, or common sense?

          • Albert

            Imagination, clearly.

          • pobjoy

            Do explain.

          • Justification is forensic. It is declaration made. It is a verdict. James, not withstanding, justification is in Scripture a verdict based on believing. In this sense it is imputed. The righteous verdict is not based on a life lived but on the death of Christ.

            However, a Christian will show he is justified by living th life of one who realises his sin is forgiven. He will live the life of one conscious of his justification. To my mind, as we read Sripture infused righteousness is a consequence of justification rather than the act of justification. It is part of that more encompassing term ‘salvation’ and more closely associated with sanctification.

            In Romans 3,4 Paul speaks of justification by faith through grace. In Ch 5 he begins to spell out the implications of this developing the wider implications of the salvation this justifying verdict has brought us into.

            His argument is not God’s justification is a moral transformation but God’s justification, the new standing in Christ, contains a moral imperative to holiness…. how can you who have died to sin live any longer therein. Holy living is the logic of the new standing justification confers. God has made a pauper a Prince, therefore live as a prince.

            A new nature is the consequence of justification, a corollary of justification but not justification itself. Justification is a verdict based on the finished work of Christ received by faith. A new nature is tied to the new birth, the indwelling Spirit, and growing in the grace of God, that grace in which through justification we stand.

            Big subject I know. I believe the Reformers got the balance/perspective of Scripture right here.

          • Albert

            I would just point out that this post gives no quotations from scripture at all. It goes without saying that I think the one reference, to Romans, does not support the Protestant view, and since no argument has been given in support of how the passages support that view, I hope no one will think it amiss, if I fail to answer an argument that has not been made.

          • I agree Albert. It was an assertion of May Protestant beliefs here rather than an attempt to prove it. I do think you need to grapple with the Romans argument from standing rather than state. I think Paul’s argument ‘how can he who has died to sin live any longer therein’. Paul does not argue from a changed inner heart but from a changed standing or position before God. Elsewhere he does argue from a changed inner heart but not here. This is salutary in a book where the focus is on justification and it’s implications.

            Re James 2 and justification by works, I agree it is not merely about how we appear to others though this is present (you show me your faith apart from works and I’ll show you mine by my works…). However, the justification in James 2 is before God. The question is how do we reconcile this with Paul’s emphatic declaration that a man is justified by faith and not by works. To my mind, the issue here is not the source of justification (grace) or the basis of justification (blood) or the means of justification (faith) but the proof of justification – works. James is concerned with concrete evidence of a standing before God. He wants evidence for God and man that the faith is authentic. The evidence is ‘works’. This seems to me the best way of understanding the various aspects of justification found in Scripture.

            Again, not proof, but a perspective. I believe a few RC theologians concede this exegetically. Joseph Fitzmyer for example.

          • ardenjm

            If memory serves me correctly NT Wright tries to cut this Gordian Knot of “how do we reconcile this with Paul’s emphatic declaration that a man is justified by faith and not by works” by arguing that Paul means ritual works in Romans: A man isn’t justified by getting circumcised, or performing any of the other 613 Mitzvot and thus laying claim to righteousness through law-observing or ‘works’ in the sense meant by Paul in Romans – rather than ALL actions done by a person. So, with that particular understanding of works as ritual works, what alternative does St Paul present? Is it not that a Christian is justified by belief in Christ which is (literally) animated (i.e. made living) by God’s Love and thus manifests itself in a new way of life (Christ’s own life, THE Life) and so the person in that relation of loving trust with Christ therefore, very simply, strives to do as Christ does, and indeed, allows Christ to ‘work’ in and through us.
            That explains St Paul’s: “No longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” And all those sublime passages in St John about God dwelling within us.

            I like NT Wright’s suggestion.
            It fits in with Catholic teaching by and large – and is consistent with Albert’s excellent, accurate and, again, Catholic exegesis.

          • Albert

            There’s a lot of truth in this. Paul is basically talking about works of the law, not (as our separated brethren think) works per se. Hence the example of a work that Paul repeatedly speaks about is circumcision – the one that requires no effort on the part of the person receiving it. That alone ought to warn us that Paul is talking about something quite different from what Luther is talking about.

          • Yes, but he’s wrong. Wright tended to buy into Sanders argument that the problem confronted in Romans and Galatians is not legalism but racism. Paul’s contention so it goes is not with the judaistic legalisers but with those intending to impose the Jewish identity markers such as circumcision etc on gentile believers as necessary to be part of the new Messianic community (the church).

            The problem is as has been clearly demonstrated this is far too reductionistic. To be sure the material point of contention was the Jewish identity markers associated with the law. However, these were but the presenting issue of a more general intention to impose the mosaic covenant as a whole. Indeed Paul himself argues that if one aspect of the mosaic covenant is binding then the whole covenant is binding. A covenant is unitary; it either all is binding or none is binding.

            Further Paul, points out that this covenant is a covenant of works. It is essentially legalistic; this do and live was its premise and principle. Paul argues strongly that salvation arises not from works (covenant or otherwise) but from grace. It is faith not works that saves. Abraham was justified before he was circumcised, before the law and by faith.

            It needs little more than a cursory reading of Romans and Galatians to see this. Wright later clarified that he did not deny the wider implications of the covenant are present in Paul. It is equally clear that not only is he opposing the law as a covenant of works but in fact he opposes all works as a basis of justification. Where we see our standing with God as based on our effort, where we think what we do is the principle upon which eternal life is received we are legalists and have fallen away from grace. Righteousness and life is a gift given not the result of merit or performance, moral or religious.

          • ardenjm

            Why on earth would one think that Paul or James mean ‘works righteousness’ as things ‘done’ apart from grace, belief and charity.
            Clearly this is NOT what they mean nor what Catholic theology has ever taught.
            Works Righteousness is a Reformation Strawman.
            Abraham’s Faith expressed itself in an obedient action – a work – in response to God. He did, indeed, take himself and his family to the Land the Lord showed him. He wasn’t justified by his circumcision. His belief wasn’t a static ‘assent to a revealed truth’ it was also a dynamic trusting action to a command. The circumcision becomes a proto-sacramental confirmation of that fiducial ACT. And this, to my mind, is what Paul and James are talking about – as distinct from ritual works that risk becoming empty gestures, formulae or mere rites unanimated by love. And thus – as per Matthew 7 – not justifying nor saving.

            So the parsing of legalism/racism above is a bit of a red herring I suggest and one almost certainly informed (deformed) by a debate set uniquely (and restrictively) by Protestant anguishes generated by their Ockhamist Occasionalism and fear of his Arbitrary Tyrant God, their HyperAugustinianised “concupiscence is sin” not just a tendency to sin and the conviction that we are not free in our will at all – so everything we ‘do’ is a sin.
            The shorthand then to this debate is, “How can corrupt man and his sinful works ever be involved in the process of justification?” Answer: they can’t. All he can do is assent to Christ in an act (oops, do I mean to call it an act?) of Faith. Which is where we get sola fide from.
            Erroneously.

          • I never said this was part of Catholic theology. I totally agree justifying faith is a dynamic trusting. I agree Abraham’s works were a response. Yet I know Catholics and many Protestants who think that God will accept them because they live a good life. They think they are right with God by their own merits. They know nothing of Christ as Lord, and faith in Christ as one who died for their sins. Good works are not gratitude to grace or recognised as sourced in grace but are simply the basis of their righteousness before God. Like the Pharisee ‘they trust inthemselves that they are righteous’. It was endemic in C1 Judaism and is found in every branch of the church. The default position of the human heart is self-righteousness, self-trust.

            In fact, the epoch of law was intended to teach Israel, and through Israel the world, that human self righteousness is never the basis for life and a relationship with God. It is a dead-end, literally. Yet many, Jew and gentile, then and now, have not learned this lesson. Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector precisely because many ‘trusted in themselves that they were righteous.’

            Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            Legalism or works righteousness is the default position of the fleshly religious and moralistic heart. The Pharisees knew about grace and ought to have known about faith yet they ‘trusted in themselves that they were righteous’.

          • dannybhoy

            Good post John.
            As I understand it, works acceptable to God proceed from the conversion of the heart by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
            As do changes in attitudes, changes in character, changes in temperament even.
            All these things flow from salvation; both a ‘done deed’ (You were sealed with the Holy Spirit) and ‘a work in progress’.
            You belong to God through Christ Jesus and provided you heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit you will grow in grace and good works (including ministry) until the day of Jesus Christ.

          • “How can corrupt man and his sinful works ever be involved in the process of justification?” Answer: they can’t. All he can do is assent to Christ in an act (oops, do I mean to call it an act?) of Faith. Which is where we get sola fide from.”

            It’s far worse than. They don’t get any say or chance as grace is irresistible and arbitrarily distributed to some to demonstrate the Glory of God to those poor souls consigned to Hell.

          • dannybhoy

            Good post John.
            As I understand it, works acceptable to God proceed from the conversion of the heart by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
            As do changes in attitudes, changes in character, changes in temperament even.
            All these things flow from Salvation; both a ‘done deed’ (You were sealed with the Holy Spirit) and ‘a work in progress’.
            You belong to God through Christ Jesus and provided you heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit you will grow in grace and good works (including ministry) until the day of Jesus Christ.

          • dannybhoy

            Kinda out there I know, but there’s something about N T Wright that doesn’t quite seem right to me. Presumptuous I know, but there it is.

          • Albert

            The question is how do we reconcile this with Paul’s emphatic declaration that a man is justified by faith and not by works.

            We don’t have to, because Paul does not say that. He speaks of works of the law (except for once Romans 3.27, where it appears he has slipped into a kind of short-hand – the context is clearly works of the law). I think this is part of the problem. Evangelicals tend not to notice that Catholics believe we are justified by faith, and they tend not to notice that Paul puts the opposition not to works but to works of the law. Clarify both points and all the passages fit together.

            He wants evidence for God and man that the faith is authentic.

            No it is not merely evidence, James is clear that we are justified by works and not by faith alone, and he means (as you rightly say) justified before God and not men.

            Regarding Romans, I suppose my question would be, what happens to someone who has justifying faith (Romans 3,4) but then does not follow the implications of that faith in his life. In other words, what happens to the man who though he has justifying faith lives according to the flesh?

          • See a recent comment I made. While it is the works of the law to which Paul specifically refers he is dealing with the premise or principle upon which a man is made right with God. The law was a covenant of works. It as not ‘of faith’. It promised life upon obedience; this do and live. To insist on being ‘under law’ or obligated to the mosaic law was to place yourself in a covenant of works. It was to base your relationship with God on self-effort. Now while the specific case is the ‘works of the law’ where anyone seeks to base their relationship with God on their own righteousness and their own efforts (moral or religious) Paul’s argument stands. Indeed, sometimes law fades into the background and it is simply the principle of ‘works’ that is discussed where works stands in contradistinction to grace and faith.

            It is a mistake to narrow the issue to actual works of the law. It is the principle of work-based righteousness as a basis for justification he opposes. In any case, almost all modern day ‘works’ are likely to be an echo of the laws contained in the mosaic covenant.

            That I not to say that ‘works’ are not a vital part of the Christian life. Works do not justify but where works are absent so too is justification. We do not work to be justified, we are justified as soon as we believe in Jesus. However, if good works are absent then it is clear we have never believed in Jesus. In the day of judgement it is our works that reveal our faith (just as it is in the present) and so our right to enter the eternal kingdom.

            There is a fine line in all of this. Paul, combats legalism, or justification by self-effort. He champions justification (a verdict of being in the right) by grace through faith. James combats empty profession. He stresses the necessity of works in justification.

          • Albert

            I think the difficulty with your position here is that (apparently) it doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny. Luther thought he was fighting some kind of pelagianism (he wasn’t) and he assumed that Paul was having the same conversation. In other words, he thought that Jews believed they were justified by works righteousness. It turns out that Jews didn’t believe that. And so the conversation Paul is having is not quite what Luther thought. And that means the “of the law” cannot be ditched so easily. Having said that, there is an issue here of whether our works are efficacious. But this comes back to Luther’s other error. In Catholicism our works are not efficacious. But works done by God in us through grace, that is another matter.

            The problem comes down to this: Luther saw the world through late Medieval nominalist eyes. Paul didn’t. The problem with nominalism, is that it reduces everything to the will. God comes to be in conflict with us. So if we do something, God is not doing it, if God does something, we are not doing it. But scripture clearly does not see it this way, for God can never be seen on the same ontological level as us. Hence, Paul says:

            God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure

            Or one might say that God causes my free actions.

            However, if good works are absent then it is clear we have never believed in Jesus.

            This is the only move an Evangelical can make to hold the thing together. I do not think it is tenable, since there are numerous passages where those who have faith are warned of not doing good works. 1 Cor.13 says the man who has faith but not love is “nothing” (he can hardly be justified). Hebrews warns those who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. I cannot see a clearer statement of someone who has faith.

            Again Hebrews says:

            Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.

            You cannot fall away from the living God unless you have first been raised up to him and that cannot happen except by faith.

            Thus, I think again, the Evangelical doctrine just cannot be defended at the bar of scripture. There are multiple problems and even special pleading cannot get rid of them. Moreover, the fight is unnecessary, for provided one understands the good works necessary for justification as God’s good works in us, done by grace received through faith, what is the problem? Is it lack of faith that God can do this?

          • Albert

            Thankyou for a full and thoughtful reply. The trouble with posts like these is it is hard to develop anything in any depth mainly because it takes so long to do so.

            I cannot comment on the particular situation Luther combatted in the Church in his time. My reading suggests he was combatting what he considered an endemic pelagianism. This would not surprise me for pelagianism tends to be the default position of the human heart. People in one way or another wish to earn their salvation. Islam seems to be pure pelagianism. Much of modern Protestantism is functional pelagianism. My evangelistic efforts almost always elicit the response among those with any kind of Christian belief ‘I’m just trying to do the best I can’. When asked why Jesus needed to die there tends to be silence. Catholics when asked why they hope to be in heaven tend to find their security in being a member of the Catholic Church. If pressed further, their security lies in religious rituals (baptism, confession etc). Few, of any Christian persuasion, even allowing for different ways of expressing things, will say in some form of words that their hope of heaven is rooted in Jesus and his death and resurrection. All my experience points to pandemic pelagianism among professing Christians.

            As for Luther, a reading of his life clearly shows that before he ‘discovered’ the truth that ‘righteousness was a gift of grace received by faith’ was a very conscientious pelagian. His church environment must surely have contributed to this belief. He was after all a committed son of the church.

            Actually, I believe Luther was right when he thought Paul was countering works-righteousness. Sanders and Some others have said the problem he was combatting was race not legalism; the issue for the judaisers was not that the Gentiles were being converted by grace but that they were not becoming Jews (not being circumcised etc). There is an element of truth in this. Certainly they were calling for a Jewish Christianity. They wanted Jewish cultural/religious markers to be mandatory. However, this is by no means the whole of it and as a viewpoint it is reductionistic.

            This is an area where you and I can interact with confidence with scholarly opinion for we have the same primary source documents that they have, namely Scripture. Studies by scholars of documents outside the NT have shown that the conclusions of Sanders (the new perspective) are mistaken. C1 Jewish believe is not nearly as monolithic as Sanders suggests. As with today in Christianity (and other faiths) there was a wide variety of contending versions of which works-righteousness was one, and by no means a minor one.

            As I say, however, we are not captive to scholarly study of secondary sources, we have the primary source available to us- Scripture. In studying Scripture it is not hard to discover what OT prophets and in particular Christ and Paul in the NT combating Judaism, and without a shadow of a doubt legalism, works-based righteousness, is one of their main concerns.

            I cannot possibly prove this here – the problem of these posts. Many articles online can be found doing so. Here I will give just a few pointers.

            OT

            The OT narrative Commences by showing that God’s salvation in a fallen world is all of grace through faith. It is not by accident that Paul cites Abraham’s response to he covenant promises (the gospel) given to Abraham. Genesis says ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness’. Grace through faith (dynamic trust) was always God’s way of blessing. Later Haggai would reassert it; the just will live by faith. Circumcised hearts in the OT lived by faith. The Psalms are replete with confessions of faith. The Abrahamic covenant demanded only the response of believing committed faith. There were no long lists of what Abraham must do only what God would do. However, the Mosaic covenant was a different kind of covenant. It was a covenant of works (the NT expressly says the law was not of faith). It’s premise was ‘this do and live’ (cited at least three times in the NT). It consisted of many rules/laws/demands placed upon Israel if they were to be blessed. There was no promise of grace to enable them to keep it. Indeed, in its initial giving there was no sacrificial system to provide for failure.

            Israel enthusiastically embraced the covenant committing herself to its terms including its curses and blessings. There was no dismay at its terms. No pleading with the Lord that it was beyond them. No asking for grace and empowering. They had pelagian hearts. They believed they could ‘do’ and so earn ‘life’. Of course they broke it. They broke it immediately, even before it had been properly given. Moses was on his way down the mountain bearing the covenant words and the people were worshipping a golden calf.

            And they continued to break it and the covenant curses began to fall on them. They tried, as Paul says in Romans 10, ‘they tried to establish their own righteousness’ and of course abysmally failed. The wilderness generation were not allowed into Canaan (the promised land where ‘life’ would flourish. Even Moses was barred ( he represented the law and the law could not bring God’s blessing). The generation who because of God’s promise to the patriarchs (covenants of grace) were given entry to the land were eventually expelled. The ultimate mosaic covenant curse fell on them. The lesson that God was teaching Israel and everyone else through Israel was that works-based righteousness, self-saving-righteousness, is totally bankrupt. Man cannot by self effort achieve saving righteousness. He cannot justify himself. As Paul says in Romans 3, ‘by the law is the knowledge of sin’.

            Thus a large part of the OT narrative, and of God’s working with Israel, was to teach moralistic religious flesh what God already knew that all attempts at salvation, utopia, through human righteousness is redundant, futile. It is hard to believe that God would go to such lengths if pelagianism was not a default, central drive, of the human heart.

            The OT prophets faced again and again with Israel’s failure and the problem of unrighteousness and the devastating judgement it brings spoke of a righteousness to come. It would not be a righteousness achieved by man but achieved by God. Isaiah in particular speaks of this. He equates this righteousness with a coming eschatological salvation. Jeremiah and Ezekiel find the answer to Israel’s unrighteousness in a new covenant. The old covenant was inadequate (weak through the flesh as Paul says) and a new covenant was needed which was not based on demand but supply, not works but grace. The law would be written on the heart, the Spirit would indwelling and empower, sins would be forgiven, and dead (bones) would live.

            As Peter reminds us these prophets were ll anticipating the salvation that would arrive in Christ, the age of salvation when righteousness would reign.

            Again, the vivid contrast between works-based righteousness and the gift of righteousness is the stuff of the OT drama. That pelagian problems is central to this narrative is evident.

            Tomorrow I will add a subsequent post examining the pelagianism of C1 Judaism as confronted by Jesus and Paul.

          • Albert

            Thank you for yours

            My reading suggests he was combatting what he considered an endemic pelagianism

            Yes, but the key word there is “considered”. I have no doubt that at the extreme end of Catholicism (what’s called the via moderna if memory serves) they had ended up in an unhelpful place, but Luther then took the most extreme interpretation of that and projected it onto the whole Church.

            Catholics when asked why they hope to be in heaven tend to find their security in being a member of the Catholic Church. If pressed further, their security lies in religious rituals (baptism, confession etc).

            But keep in mind that when they say this they mean grace, not as it appears to Protestants, works.

            As for Luther, a reading of his life clearly shows that before he ‘discovered’ the truth that ‘righteousness was a gift of grace received by faith’ was a very conscientious pelagian. His church environment must surely have contributed to this belief. He was after all a committed son of the church.

            Actually, I think Luther’s real problem was with the confessional. And if you look at what his confessors were saying to him, the problem is clearly in Luther. Luther was terribly worried whether he had confessed everything because he was terribly worried by God’s wrath. He saw only that, and not God’s mercy. On one occasion his confessor said “Man, God is not angry with you. You are angry with God. Don’t you know that God commands you to hope?” And on another occasions “if you expect Christ to forgive you, come in with something to forgive-parricide, blasphemy, adultery-instead of all these peccadilloes.” One can really feel for Luther’s pain, but it is clear that it is his misunderstanding that is the cause, and these beautiful responses from his long suffering confessors show that. So I really feel for Luther, but the man is unhinged, doesn’t present what he attacks fairly, and therefore shouldn’t be the foundation of one’s religious tradition. He needed a course of psychotherapy, not a reformation.

            Funnily enough, I am not convinced by Sanders either. But I think he is on to something, and that something means the conversation Paul is having is slightly different from Luther. The person to teach me about this was a Presbyterian minister when I was 16. He simply taught sola fide. Somehow, even then, I could see that it simply did not account for everything that the scripture says. It’s almost like this is what happens when you play music with the wrong key signature. Somehow, some bits just don’t fit.

            You refer to Romans 10 and this is crucial: being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

            But this does not exclude good works as part of righteousness, what it excludes is “their own righteousness” and wishes to have “the righteousness that comes from God.” Now the righteousness of God, at least is not forensic (as if God is somehow simul iustus et peccator – I shudder to even write those words). Thus his righteousness in us cannot be forensic. The issue then is not the cause of justification, but what it means to be justified. Consider this from the Catholic Encyclopedia setting out what Trent says:

            For according to the teaching of the Catholic Church the righteousness and sanctity which justification confers, although given to us by God as efficient cause (causa efficiens) and merited by Christ as meritorious cause (causa meritoria), become an interior sanctifying quality or formal cause (causa formalis) in the soul itself, which it makes truly just and holy in the sight of God.

            And continues:

            the formal cause of justification (i.e. sanctifying grace) is nothing less than the Person of the Holy Ghost, Who is the hypostatic holiness and charity

            Now clearly, this sees God (and not our efforts) as the cause of justification. So where is the difference between us? It seems to me that it is in the nature of justification. We see the formal cause (i.e. what it means to be justified) as a genuine change in us through the Holy Spirit by the merits of Christ. You don’t see it that way. But how can the Catholic view be pelagian, when every single one of the causes of justification is God?

            Tomorrow I will add a subsequent post examining the pelagianism of C1 Judaism as confronted by Jesus and Paul.

            If I may, I would recommend McGrath’s book Iustitia Dei, if you haven’t read it already. He’s an Evangelical so when he tells you that Luther’s doctrine of justification is novel and that the Medieval Church was not pelagian in its faith, you can trust him!

          • Albert

            I’ll reply to your response in due course. In the meantime here is the second part of my post above arguing works-based righteousness was well established in Israel and combatted by Paul. Incidentally, I am not saying that good works are not part of Christianity and even have a place in justification though I do think your horror at forensic justification is mistaken and indeed wrong. More of that perhaps later.

            NT legalism

            Given the works-righteousness of OT Israel it is hardly surprising that this is part of Jesus’ controversy with C1 Judaism and Israel. Indeed Paul argues that this works righteousness is a major reason why Christ was rejected; Israel’s works righteousness blinded her to God’s saving righteousness that had appeared in Christ.

            Roms 10: 1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

            There are a number of places where this is confidence in one’s own righteousness implicitly criticised. For example, Jesus speaks of his mission as ‘not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance’. He asserts that there will be more joy in heaven ‘over one sinner who repents than ninety and nine who need no repentance’. In the same chapter (Luke 15) he tells the parable of the prodigal son which has an elder Son who is convinced of his own righteousness (a side-swipe at the Pharisees who were criticising him. Indeed, the Pharisees, a holiness movement in Israel, come in for particularly severe criticism precisely for their self-righteousness. In Luke 18 he confronts this by telling a parable about ‘some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others’. A self-righteous Pharisee is the focus of the parable. Their righteousness will never give access to the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:20). John the Baptist had heralded the way of true righteousness (humble repentance in readiness for the arriving Messiah) but they did not believe (Matt 21:32). This pelagian blindness led to them rejecting Christ and he becomes a stumbling stone (Matt 21:42,43). Paul’s commentary is,

            Roms 10: 30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it [righteousness] by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,
            “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
            and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

            Clearly works-righteousness was a major problem in the C1 Israel to which Jesus is sent.

            Paul

            Some of the evidence that Paul combats works-righteousness we have cited above. Romans and Galatians in particular deal with legal righteousness by law-keeping. Paul hearalds from the outset of Romans that the gospel is ‘righteousness of God’. It is that promised righteousness of which the OT prophets spoke. They saw the futility and failure of any attempts at human righteousness and stressed that if there was to be a saving righteousness it must come from Gods it must be a gift. Paul is at pains to point out to Israel who ‘rely on the law’ (Roms 2:17) that law-righteousness stands in contrast to gospel-righteousness. The former is a human righteousness the other God’s righteousness.

            Roms 3: 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

            Notice the failure of law-based-righteousness in Israel shows that humanity can never achieve righteousness by works-righteousness (3:19,20). It is a mistake to say that Paul is only condemning law-works. This is a wooden literalism that misses the point. Law-righteousness (a standing before God based on self-effort) is the God-given proof that all efforts to attain justification by confidence in our own works is doomed to failure. In Ch 4 Paul says that Abraham’s justification was by faith and not works. He does not say ‘works of the law’ because the law had not been given when Abraham was alive. ‘Works of the law’ is simply a term for any attempt to be justified by self effort, by the principle of works (Roms 3:27). God will give no one the opportunity to boast before him. By Roms 11 Paul speaks simply of two contrasting principles works and grace.

            Roms 11: 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

            God’s salvation at any time is based on his call and not works.

            Roms 9: 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

            It is to my mind beyond dispute that works-righteousness existed in Israel and is combatted by Jesus and Paul. It is beyond dispute that Paul’s criticism of the Judaisers was not merely social but soteriological. The root problem was not merely ethnicity but evangelical. Both tackle not merely nationalism but also legalism. Indeed in Galatians Paul shows the close relationship between both. The Judaisers by insisting on circumcision were not simply imposing Jewishness upon the Gentiles but also legalism or nomism. To insist upon any part of the law as binding was to make the whole binding.

            Gals 5: 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace’.

            A covenant must be embraced entirely or not at all and the law was a covenant. What is more, failure in one part meant failure in all. Paul is clear that the Judaisers are removing the Galatians from the principle of grace and justification by faith and placing them on the principle of works-righteousness and flesh (Gals 3;1-4). Impose circumcision and other law-covenant rituals and you must impose the whole law, the whole covenant.

            Gal 3:7 10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

            Much more could be said but I hope this is enough to establish that works-based-righteousness or pelagianism was very much part of Israel’s problem and combatted strenuously by both Jesus and Paul. Whatever, James may mean by being ‘justified by works’ must be understood within this framework of opposition to works-righteousness.

          • Albert

            Thank you. Oddly, I think we are very close on all this – and my concerns about Sanders (although I think he is on to something) are a sign of this.

            Clearly works-righteousness was a major problem in the C1 Israel to which Jesus is sent.

            Works-righteousness is clearly a problem, but the issue is, what is works-righteousness? I would say it is the idea that we are justified by our own works – as opposed to the good works God does in us by grace received through faith. Works righteousness, also includes works of the law, not just because these are ethnic but because they are prior to grace:

            For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

            and

            Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness [δικαιοσύνη – the word for justification].

            I suspect you disagree, and think even God’s works in us do not justify us. What I would like to suggest is that if one admits, for the sake of argument, my understanding of works righeousness, then those passages in scripture against works-righteousness do not falsify Catholicism.

            Now it is true that Jesus speaks a great deal of repentance, but this also happens with fair frequency:

            And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

            So for eternal life we need to keep these commandments. It is noteworthy (with Sanders in the background) that these are moral commands and not ethnic or ritual commands. And Catholicism teaches exactly that. We must keep these commands to enter eternal life, and we must avoid the corresponding sins. Or as Paul says:

            Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

            But neither Jesus, nor Paul is teaching works-righteousness, for these works are not our own effort, as it were, rather:

            work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

            Which is exactly what we believe.

            PS I don’t know how to use bold or italics (to make easier reading) in posting from an iPad.

            No worries, it was clear.

          • Hi Albert

            I will try to respond to this comment and your previous one. Again, it is hard to do so in few words as you appreciate.

            1. Luther and medieval Catholicism.

            I accept the Medieval Church was not formally pelagian. From my admittedly scant understanding would probably class it has a halfway house between Augustinian and Pelagius in its soteriology – Cassian??. Certainly not Augustinian (which would be my own position). The issue of course is not what formal Catholic belief was but what actual Catholic belief was. At the time of the Reformation the Church was in a bad way. Protestants generally understand that official Church doctrine was both reduced and corrupted into faith as mere assent, salvation as membership of the church coupled with works which were often superficial, not closely affirmed as works arising from believing faith, and tied into means of raising capital for the church.

            Luther did not wish to renounce the church but reform it and history seems be clear in this he was right, it needed reformed. I think your probably right, he did have an oversensitive conscience, even morbid one. Exactly the opposite is true of most professing Christians today – there is not nearly enough sensitivity to sin. However, the trouble is Catholic teaching did not seem to have an answer for a sensitive conscience. P I understand a little where Luther was coming from. Like Luther I struggle at times with depression. During these episodes my conscience becomes highly sensitive and over-vigilant. At this point if I look at my past life I see sinfulness that is so pervasive and endemic I wonder if I am a Christian or not. Even giving my Protestant understanding of justification I still wonder if my life is sufficiently righteous to permit entrance to heaven. If I subscribed to a view that works (albeit) grace empowered were the basis of my standing with God my agitation and despair would be even greater. I find solid ground by recognising that the basis of my relationship with God is the death of Christ and his blood cleanses me from all sin. From there my perspective can shift to viewing works as the fruit of my justification rather than the foundation or basis of it. There is all the difference in the world between serving God because we are accepted and serving God to be accepted. Catholic views on the place of works in justification can easily feed into the latter, what Paul calls ‘a spirit of slavery’.

            When we make law-keeping (even the moral law) at the heart of justification we easily fall into ‘a spirit of slavery’. This is why Paul goes to such lengths, apparently antinomian lengths, to insist the believer is not under law. We have died to the law in our death with Christ and so it has no authority over us. It cannot make demands of us nor curse us when we fail to meet these demands. And by law, he means the whole mosaic covenant not just the civic and ceremonial laws but also the so-called moral. Indeed, in Romans 7 where Paul insists we are dead to the law the specific example he cites is from the Decalogue and the most internal of thes at that, ‘you shall not covet’. Paul insists that we must serve ‘in the new way of the Spirit and not the old way of the flesh (law obedience)’ which will create only a sense of wretchedness and frustration due to comprehensive failure.

            Of course, this is only apparently antinomian for while the believer is not ‘under law’ he is under law to Christ. He still serves and in his service through the Spirit fulfils (I think an important word, not keeps) ‘the just requirement of the law’ (Roms 8). But the impetus, and method of obedience is not law-keeping but ‘faith working trough love’.

            Gals 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

            Indeed our standard is Christ and not the Ten Commandments and Christ is more demanding. The law did not demand that a man walk a second mile, die to self, lay down our life for our brothers but Christ did. Christ reveals not simply God’s righteous demands for relationships (which the law did) but his grace in a heart of love and sacrificial self-giving. This is much more demanding. Actually, I think classic Reformed thinking is remiss at this point as it too makes the law a ‘rule of life’ for the believer. Paul will have none of it. He insists in an entire disconnect between the old covenant of law and the believer precisely because it leads inevitably into a works-based righteousness for that was the nature of the covenant.

            Incidentally, I think the encounter with the rich young ruler you cite illustrates work based righteousness. The young ruler asks what he he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus cites to him the premise of the law; to keep it was to live. The ruler felt he had done this. Jesus reveals he hasn’t. He tells him to sell his possessions and follow him. The young man goes away. Jesus has revealed his failure to obtain law righteousness. He was covetous. He loved his wealth more than he loved God (revealed in Christ). Actually the instruction to sell all he had and follow Christ, revealed the young man’s failure in law-righteousness (his covetousness) and indicated the need to follow Christ to find life.

            It would be a mistake in the light of Romans or Galatians to suggest this narrative supports works-righteousness. In fact it shows the weakness of this kind of righteousness. Only after the cross will Paul make clear just how impossible this method of being justified and obtaining life really is. What is largely implicit before Christ’s death and resurrection is explicit thereafter for the new era has fully come. The transition period (Christ on earth) is over. The New covenant has been established, the Spirit has been given, the era of the old is over. Indeed we may perhaps even say that the epoch where righteousness was offered through law-keeping is now past. Even at a formal level this was no longer an option.

            Albert, I know and acknowledge that the works-righteousness of law is not what you mean when our speak of works. You are referring to the ‘good works God has prepared for us to walk in’. Indeed the Eph 2 text distinguishes between both types of works.

            Eph 2: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

            My controversy is not with the language of works, nor even their necessity (we are judged by our works) for without them faith is dead. My concern is linking them specifically with justification and making them, it seems to me the basis or part of the basis of our justification. With the possible exception of Jas 2 justification by works has a negative press. Also works are not elsewhere directly linked to justification.

            I think it is also worth pointing out that the Jews did not see their relationship with God as purely one of works. They too believed they had covenant links by grace. They believed they were God’s covenant people. Birth brought them into the people of God and circumcision sealed this. Ring any bells. Quite how they related the Mosaic covenant demand for works to this privilege is difficult to be dogmatic about. Perhaps it was a form of covenant nomism; grace/birth got them in and works kept them in. Again, are there echoes here with Catholicism?

            The important point I think is that whatever the theory (or theology) functionally grace had been replaced by works. They ‘sought to establish their own righteousness’ and so could not see and submit to Christ ‘the righteousness of God’. And this seems to me the problem of Christianity. I think pure Christianity and the gospel of grace ever tends to a corruption which creates a gospel of works, which is ‘another gospel’. Such a gospel is rampant in liberal Protestantism. Despite clear catechisms, even Augustinian soteriology, the vast majority of Protestant is pelagian, functionally and even often theoretically.

            I am a bit woolly about the details of Catholic belief. I ‘think’ it subscribes to a view that at some point Christ must be chosen without divine grace/enabling though everything thereafter is enabled. I may be wrong. Such a view is certainly present in popular Protestant evangelicalism (of a non-reformed ilk). I think the emphasis in salvation through the church and justification through works (divinely enabled) creates the same kind of pelagianism within the Catholic Church. I see a vast nominalism in it too.

            Wherever we see this nominalism or pelagianism we must ask what our members ‘hear’. We need to focus on these truths that correct mistaken impressions. And of course, ask if we have some truths wrong in the first place. I appreciate for you this latter question is more difficult, even unthinkable, since you view the official church teaching as inspired and beyond criticism. Here again of course we differ and here I think the difference is much more serious and far reaching.

            I have not, as yet addressed imputed or imparted righteousness but this has been so long I’ll leave it to another post. It is healthy for me to work through these issues again and helpful to have you to point out my misunderstandings of Catholic theology (and perhaps biblical passages). Some of my errors are due to ignorance and others are due to forgetting what I once knew but because I’m not interacting with RC theology regularly easily forget. I bemoan my appalling and increasing deteriorating memory.

            John

          • Albert

            I accept the Medieval Church was not formally pelagian. From my admittedly scant understanding would probably class it has a halfway house between Augustinian and Pelagius in its soteriology – Cassian??. Certainly not Augustinian (which would be my own position).

            There were different schools, so it probably doesn’t work to define it – except to say what it was not. As for whether it was Cassianesque, I think I need more details of what you mean by that.

            Certainly not Augustinian (which would be my own position).

            What do you mean by that?

            At the time of the Reformation the Church was in a bad way. Protestants generally understand that official Church doctrine was both reduced and corrupted into faith as mere assent, salvation as membership of the church coupled with works which were often superficial, not closely affirmed as works arising from believing faith, and tied into means of raising capital for the church.

            The victors in the English speaking world were Protestants, so they wrote the history. Clearly there were some dodgy popes, but the Church is never reducible to popes. I would look at the devotion, charity and spirituality and would suggest that the late Medieval Church was anything but moribund.

            Like Luther I struggle at times with depression. During these episodes my conscience becomes highly sensitive and over-vigilant.

            I’m sorry to hear that, and I am touched at you being so open. You say the Church did not seem to have an answer to Luther. If this is about certainty and individual salvation, then I have to say that cannot be got (short of a revelation from God). Yes, that places a weight on the conscience, but it is not the Church’s role to adapt the faith to psychological needs. Respond to psychological needs yes (and we can see Luther’s confessors did that), but not adapt it. Luther’s need for certainty troubles me. He was surrounded by the poor, but spent sometimes 6 hours in the confessional. Surely the solution to his predicament is more generosity in life?

            And is certainty really found on Luther’s model? In the end, we still have passages like Matt.25.32-end. Now while holding sola fide, the issue of works does not go away. We are told that someone who is justified will do good works. So will not a believer in sola fide then have grounds to worry about whether the works he has done are enough to prove he has living faith and is therefore justified? I can’t see how that works, myself.

            On coveting and Romans 7. Surely the issue is not about whether or not we must keep the moral law, but whether the works of the law (i.e. prior to grace) can be kept? As Paul continues:

            For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God… So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.

            So it’s not that I can be simul iustus et covertor (!), it’s that God makes me righteous so I do not covet. Hence, Paul says later on:

            The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

            Here he keeps the requirement but without the legalism.

            And again in Ephesians he says:

            Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

            You say:

            Indeed our standard is Christ and not the Ten Commandments and Christ is more demanding.

            Yes, but also more generous, for he provides the grace to fulfil his commands.

            Incidentally, I think the encounter with the rich young ruler you cite illustrates work based righteousness. The young ruler asks what he he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus cites to him the premise of the law; to keep it was to live. The ruler felt he had done this. Jesus reveals he hasn’t. He tells him to sell his possessions and follow him. The young man goes away.

            That’s interesting. In Catholicism, we distinguish between the commandments and counsels. To inherit eternal life he must keep the commandments, to be perfect he must give more. If he doesn’t he will run the risk of not keeping the commandments.

            My concern is linking them specifically with justification and making them, it seems to me the basis or part of the basis of our justification. With the possible exception of Jas 2 justification by works has a negative press. Also works are not elsewhere directly linked to justification.

            Except that we think the word “justification” means being righteous (and not just declared or regarded as such). And that means that every reference to justification has at least an element of genuine sinlessness and love in the soul about it.

            Again, are there echoes here with Catholicism?

            Yes, but not enough. I think the concept of grace in the OT is somewhat shadowy, and in any case, it isn’t the grace we receive in Christ. As I have quoted already:

            the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ

            and

            For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

            In a nutshell, to get where we are, you need to read every reference to justification as at least the real removal of sin (so there is no sin in the soul) and its replacement with the love of God, the Holy Spirit.

            I ‘think’ it subscribes to a view that at some point Christ must be chosen without divine grace/enabling though everything thereafter is enabled.

            Most certainly not. Saving faith is a work of grace, it is a fundamentally supernatural state, as if the justification that follows.

            I think the emphasis in salvation through the church and justification through works (divinely enabled) creates the same kind of pelagianism within the Catholic Church.

            I hope I have now clarified that for you.

            I see a vast nominalism in it too.

            When I use the word “nominalism” I am using it in the philosophical sense – or denying the reality of natures and reducing everything to names. This is a key move in the creation of Protestantism, I think.

            I appreciate for you this latter question is more difficult, even unthinkable, since you view the official church teaching as inspired and beyond criticism.

            Whoa! I do not think church teaching is inspired. Only scripture is inspired. Church teaching is assisted, but not inspired. It can be infallible, but not inspired. I must believe it, but I can still critique whether it has been well expressed or whether the teaching was wisely given. For example, some felt the Assumption should not have been defined in 1950, but they did not doubt that it was true.

            Thank you for being such a good correspondent on this.

          • Albert

            Sorry I have not been able to respond. This has, for me, been a helpful discussion as we have explored our differences. I had hoped to write the case for imputed righteousness – as much for my sake as yours (it’s good to do little refresher courses). There is virtue in studying these topics together and being obliged to reflect more deeply. However, I have been too busy recently.

            I intend still to write something on this topic and will post it for your consideration and criticism if you have the time and inclination to respond. In the meantime thanks for your thoughtful replies.

            One question. Do you allow forensic righteousness any place in justification? I’m thinking of the value of the death of Christ. Is there a verdict of justified that flows from this that you consider forensic even if it is also transformative or rectifying?

          • dannybhoy

            “14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

            What James is saying is that ‘having faith’ is not sufficient evidence of salvation unless it is accompanied with works that are pleasing unto God, and evidence of a change of attitude.
            Not that faith isn’t the grounds of our faith (salvation) but that it is validated by works pleasing to God.

          • Albert

            What James is saying is that ‘having faith’ is not sufficient evidence of salvation unless it is accompanied with works that are pleasing unto God, and evidence of a change of attitude.

            No that’s plainly not what he’s saying. He says firstly “Can his faith save him?” This is a rhetorical question, but the answer is clearly meant to be “No” – it’s so obvious by the scorn with which it is stated.

            And lest we are in any doubt, he continues:

            You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe [ πιστεύω – the word used for faith] — and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith [πίστις – the same word as for the demons] apart from works is barren? [Barren, he says, not still needs evidence]
            Was not Abraham our father justified [δικαιόω] by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
            You see that faith [πίστις – the same word again] was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness [δικαιοσύνη]”; and he was called the friend of God.
            You see that a man is justified [δικαιόω – the same word as the previous verse meaning the meaning is the same] by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified [δικαιόω] by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

            This is not just about evidence. Works complete faith it says. It does not say works are simply evidence for faith or that they merely validate faith. Thus a man is justified by works and not by faith alone

          • Jilly

            So how are you differing from what dannybhoy is saying? In English?
            I appreciate the role of Classical Greek in the finer NT interpretations but that doesn’t cut it with those whose Greek doesn’t get much beyond the level of trans. of hippopotamus and rhododendron!

            I think of the Leigh Hunt poem : ‘ Abou Ben Adam ( may his tribe increase)’ and wonder if this is, in simple terms, what you are teaching? Abou Ben Adam’s love of his fellow man would, in Islamic tradition, have involved alms giving and similar charitable works. Is this what you mean by ‘works’? In context with the poem?

          • Albert

            This is a very good question! A lot of the problem is that Evangelicals tend to accuse us Catholics of things we don’t believe.

            They think Catholics believe we get into heaven on the basis of our own efforts. We don’t.

            The difference is we think justification is the work of God in us, they think justification is merely the declaration of God that a man is justified.

            We think justification means someone really becomes righteous (by the grace of Christ), they think we are merely declared to be righteous by God, even though we are still sinners (simul iustus et peccator).

            We think that when someone has faith, God removes their sins (so they are now righteous in the sense of being without sin) and the work and process of grace begins in them so that they freely act righteously. But that emphasis on free will means conversely, that we can still sin and justification can be lost (and regained by repentance). They think that when someone has faith, they can never lose their righteousness even when they sin (since the righteousness was never an actual reality in the person, only a declaration of God).

            This actually is the reason Luther and Protestants broke from Rome. It seems odd in some ways that such a difference could have such an effect. However, from the Protestant point of view, Catholicism was teaching we need to add good works because the grace of Christ is insufficient (this is not true but Luther was sincere in believing this was Catholic doctrine). But from the Catholic point of view, Protestantism looked like the dangerously false teaching that someone could just have faith in Christ, rely only on that but remain wicked and still go to heaven. But that would have terrible consequences for their immortal souls (see Matthew 25.31-46) since it isn’t true.

            If you get really into the discussion, then at the time of the Protestant Reformation there was a great deal of denial by Luther and the Protestants of human free-will. This is probably quite central actually, but it has the corollary that God picked some to go to hell before the beginning of time, and that there was nothing they could (or would) do to stop it. This doctrine is regarded as quite wicked by Catholics who always maintain free-will and deny any sense that God picks people to go to hell or causes them to do evil.

            I’m not sure how many Evangelical still believe that doctrine about predestination to hell, but it seems to me to be the only logical outcome of their position. This is because the moment, one allows free-will then (according to their understanding) there is something we are supposed to do that Christ does not, and that takes us back to the beginning of the discussion!

            Is that at all clear?!

          • Jilly

            No quick answer – I’ll have to read it through a few times…. no reflection on the clarity of your explanation just there’s a lot to digest.

            One further question: some years ago I went on a retreat led by an elderly Discalced Carmelite priest (now deceased). In the course of his talks, he spoke of predestination of souls – that a fixed number of souls had already been chosen for heaven and the rest were to be consigned to hell. And one needed to be RC to be in the running.
            I found this unacceptable and other people said was this pre-Vatican 2 teaching. I found it very disturbing. It conjured up medieval Doom paintings of Hieronymus Bosch but he was pretty adamant that was the way it is.
            (The rest of the talks were on St John of the Cross and contemplative prayer, uplifting and beautiful but spoiled by the Doom scenario.)
            Is this doctrine of predestination still current? Or is this what you allude to in your final paragraph?

          • Albert

            It strikes me as being very odd that he should say this. Predestination can be held (I hold it myself) but the basis for predestination and the size of the elect (could be everyone) is an open question and I have no answer to it. However, the Church explicitly hopes for the salvation of non-Catholics along with Catholics. It could be that he meant that a Catholic needed to remain a Catholic. The point of view being, as I understand it, that someone who knows that the Catholic Church is the true Church needs to belong to it. But that clearly does not apply to those who in good faith do not realise that. Is that any help?

          • Jilly

            Yes. It is. Thank you for that and your earlier post which I find most interesting. I may want to ask questions later when I have more understanding…. Faith, grace, works: little words but big implications in their context.

          • Pubcrawler

            Albert

            Out of interest, what bearing do you think Jesus’ words as reported in Matthew 19:16–19 have on this matter?

          • Albert

            I take them as they are. You must keep the commandments. Of course one does this by grace received through faith. But the idea that one must keep these commandments, is thoroughly Pauline:

            Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5

          • Pubcrawler

            “the role of Classical Greek in the finer NT interpretations”

            Not much use, actually. Of course it helps a bit, but Koine is quite a different beast (it is separated from Classical Attic by the same distance of years as Shakespeare and Spencer are from us), and the Koine of the NT is generally rather bad ‘second language’ Koine.

          • Jilly

            That’s interesting… presumably the alphabet is the same? So what is Albert writing in above? Classical or Koine? Are the meanings the same?
            Are you a classicist?

          • Pubcrawler

            Oh, the similarities are indeed greater than the differences, but therein lies the trap for the unwary. Albert is quoting the Koine of the NT. These words are familiar to those who know Classical Greek, but their meanings/connotations might not be the same as a Classicist would expect. There is the possibility, for example, that the words were ‘repurposed’ and given new, extended meanings by the NT writers and Fathers as part of the centuries-long process of developing a suitable language for expressing Christian theology. Knowing what these words meant in c5 Athens is only a key, not the full story. Greek is no more static and monolithic than any other natural language.

            Re your second question: once, in a past life.

          • Jilly

            Fascinating! I recently read Sisters of Sinai (Janet Soskice) and was so impressed by the women’s ability to learn the ancient languages and dialects they found in the ancient manuscripts in Cairo and the monastery in Sinai. What adventures they had!

          • Pubcrawler

            Fascinating indeed. Some have a natural bent for this, I have to work at it.

            A personal example of where Classical Greek doesn’t always help, from that rather fluid and imprecise region of prepositions: with my Classicist hat on I was always puzzled how John 1.1 could be translated as it regularly is. But referring to Charlie Moule’s Idiom-book of New Testament Greek all is clear.

          • Jilly

            Enlighten me please…

          • Pubcrawler

            The phrase in question is πρὸς τὸν θεόν (“with God”).

            Now, as anyone with any formal learning in Greek, especially if that includes composition, knows, the preposition πρός can be used with the following noun in either the accusative, genitive or dative case. They each mean different things, the dative implying ‘at’ or ‘near’. But the accusative, as we have here, implies some sort of motion towards or view from a distance. So, in Classical Greek, whatever this phrase might mean, it does not imply ‘with God’ — quite the opposite. This puzzled me for ages.

            However, in NT Greek (which is to mainstream Koine probably as say Hinglish is to Modern British English) I learn that πρός is used almost exclusively with the accusative, and that as well as the existing ‘motion towards’ sense (and a plethora of others) it can also denote proximate position, something like ‘in company with’. Which makes far more sense.

          • Jilly

            Of course, one follows the other. The Cross alone would not have inspired 2000 years of the church.
            In the depths of misery and despair we must always hope for the bright Day of Resurrection.

          • Through grace, dying to self and surrendering ourselves to the Will of God, is the message of the Cross.

          • pobjoy

            Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter, the son of a widow, and Lazarus, too. So his own resurrection was nothing special, except that it confirmed that Jesus had taken the blame for, and the punishment due to, everyone else. So anyone who admits that they have done wrong, and accepts Jesus’ payment in lieu of their own, lives a life of gratitude to him, because that continued gratitude will see them welcomed by Jesus in heaven, not punished in hell, as they deserve. In theology, that’s called Penal Substitutionary Atonement, PSA for short.

            For Christians, PSA, personally applied, is more important than anything that can happen to the body in this life. What is more, Jesus said that fear of the future is not appropriate, because he would look after those who followed him, down to the last hair of the head.

            So the church should be saying all of this, not getting too concerned about euthanasia. But it’s not too surprising that tangents are discussed by Anglican clerics if their bishops seem unconcerned about transmission of the Christian message, and are more concerned about not offending people whose own beliefs are completely opposed to PSA.

          • Jilly

            Yes, it’s interesting that Archbishop Carey, who I think was on the Evangelical wing of the Church of England, is saying he has changed his mind and inclines towards euthanasia under certain circumstances.
            Of course he,like us all,is growing older. And I think the prospect of lying in a nursing home in the final stages of a dementia or wasting disease concentrates the mind. It seems pointless – surely redemptive suffering is supposed to be experienced by the sufferer so they can make some sense of it by faith which is not really possible if one’s brain has ceased to function except at basic brain stem level.
            Anyway – thank you for introducing me to PSA. Another one to look up!
            (If I can be picky, I’m sure you didn’t really mean to write ‘his [Jesus] own resurrection was nothing special’… even in the context of Jairus’ daughter and Lazarus…. I might venture to suggest that Jesus gave them their mortal lives back while God the Father gave Jesus a glorious transcended immortal life or, given the doctrine of the Trinity, God the Son took back his immortal eternal life to co-exist with the Father… Complicated, isn’t it…)

          • pobjoy

            Jesus’ resurrection was not special as a miracle, a fact that the general public does not seem to appreciate. More importantly, neither was death on a cross, suffered by many thousands. It was the unseen penalty suffered that was different. Had Jesus not died and taken that penalty, each of us would have had to pay it ourselves, and that eternally.

            So it was PSA that made the Fatherhood of God possible. It was PSA that brought the Holy Spirit into the world in order to testify to it.

          • Jilly

            As a member of ‘the general public’ I think Jesus’ Resurrection *was* pretty special at all levels: the physical fact of it as well as the theology accompanying it.
            The average joe doesn’t expect to have a risen body visible and active on earth, nor angels present nor the furniture moved around…

          • pobjoy

            ‘While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”

            Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”

            But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).

            Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.’ Mk 5:35-43 (NIV)

          • Jilly

            Yes, I know that story. Jesus restored the little girl to her mortal life – as he did with Lazarus. You quoted it yesterday. And my reply remains the same – Jesus’ Resurrection was of a different order.
            It was not to continue His mortal life but to take up His immortal life where for forty days He appeared among them.

          • pobjoy

            So does Jesus now have the same body that he had on earth?

          • Jilly

            You mean before death or immediately after His Resurrection? Or after that? No idea…

          • pobjoy

            The body that Jairus’ daughter had after resurrection was as biological as the body that Jesus had after his, as Thomas discovered. It’s absurd, therefore to claim that Jesus’ immortal life began on earth.

          • Jilly

            Ok, if that is what you believe that’s fine by me.

          • pobjoy

            Good. Agreement at last.

          • dannybhoy

            PSA?

          • pobjoy

            Jesus’ resurrection confirmed that he had taken the blame for, and the punishment due to, the wickednesses of everyone else. So anyone who admits that they have done wrong, and accepts Jesus’ payment in lieu of their own, lives a life of gratitude to him, because that continued gratitude will see them welcomed by Jesus in heaven, not punished in hell, as they deserve. In theology, that’s called Penal Substitutionary Atonement, PSA for short.

          • dannybhoy

            “, because that continued gratitude…”
            {resulting in a change of heart and consequent (Darn, there’s that word again!)
            discipleship/sanctification} will see them welcomed by Jesus into Heaven…

          • ardenjm

            “It seems pointless – surely redemptive suffering is supposed to be experienced by the sufferer so they can make some sense of it by faith which is not really possible if one’s brain has ceased to function except at basic brain stem level.”
            Not necessarily.
            One hopes, no, that the Christian, when lucid, united him or herself to the Crucified Lord and that their ‘will’ to do that, their ‘choice’ or trustful abandonment to God’s Providence and care carried them through even to that point when they are no longer fully lucid about any of it – at a later, final, stage in their life.
            And then it seems to me that we are into the mystery of the Communion of the Saints by that point. I can illustrate what I mean with a seemingly odd example from the other end of the spectrum: The Holy Innocents. They didn’t consciously nor willingly die as martyrs for Christ and yet that is what they are. Their pain and dying didn’t make sense to them nor, presumably, to their grieving parents, unless they came in time to hear of a certain Jesus of Nazareth. Any yet their short lives and deaths bear witness to Christ within a few weeks of His birth and their witness echoes down the centuries to us. Accordingly, the dementia patient, no longer actively bearing witness to Christ might not even be known by those around him or her as someone united to Christ until God calls them home, yet that is what they are. At which point, then, their “meaningless” lives become occasions for US – i.e. those around them, to grow in charity and compassion.
            Or not. If their lives are suppressed.
            I’ve met a number of ‘stuff and nonsense’ Anglicans of a certain age – upper middle class, immensely likeable, sincere in their Christian Faith – who, precisely because they don’t like any ‘bother’ envisage taking the path to euthanasia. This is where a little more contemplative appreciation of the Communion of the Saints is needed: the story is about more than our typically British pragmatic solutions to problems. It’s about the salvation of souls: our own and those Our Lord puts into our path. And in that sense, suffering with love is possibly the most redemptive thing of all. Our Lord’s saved the world, after all. Ours, united to Him, might indeed work wonders of grace since God is pleased to have ‘good and trusty servants’ that do His will. That, it seems to me, is the way to approach the End of Life in all its smelly, undignified, forgetful moments: as our widow’s mite offered to the Lord’s Temple: for the salvation of souls.
            Pax.

          • Jilly

            And pax to you also.
            Thank you for your long post. I understand the essence of what you say and it’s lovely. Uplifting and theologically sound. A counsel of perfection. I mean it. And if life were like that I would agree with you.

            But the reality (that word again) means you are more likely to be in an understaffed nursing home smelling of urine with poorly trained carers who may not speak your language. They mostly work for the money, not the inner joy of helping a person through their last weeks with love, not receptive to the courage you hope you are showing. You may be handled roughly, bruised and abused. Your dignity gone. You will say this melds you to the suffering of Christ on the Cross.
            I think at that stage you would be crying out to die, for it all to stop and, the worst, ‘God, why have you deserted me?’ The theologian would say this is all of a piece. I (not a theologian and someone who doesn’t particularly love my neighbour/other humans) say it is cruel, verging on sadistic, and unnecessary. A managed death in a Christian or properly run caring hospice might do the job, with spiritual counselling and support on hand. But there aren’t many of them, even fewer available for dementia sufferers.
            Those souls who understand the gist of what you say but who know the reality and find it so full of horror and terror that they opt for euthanasia need to be understood and loved, not judged harshly. Many older people have endured much more hardship (think poverty pre and post-WW2, austerity, no NHS when young,etc etc) than today’s younger people and with all the health problems of old age they are tired and have fought enough. It is not a decision easily made and made harder when their faith, perhaps a bit wobbly, is turned against them to make them fear being outcast. Think Garden of Gethsemane, the agony of knowing what is to come.
            I don’t think individuals will be judged harshly because they don’t have the courage to aspire to sainthood and I wonder whether Jesus decided He’d had enough when He offered up His spirit.

            You won’t agree with me but we ‘ll just have to accept and respect our differences and I hope your faith continues to sustain you when you are old and possibly lonely, helpless and suffering – because that is the crunch.

            I’ve learned some new words on this thread: emotionalism, consequentialism, PSA… allusions to heresy for anyone having a different point of view. And seen the Scriptures used as a weapon: it reminds me of the duelling between Harry Potter and Voldemort…. whack! Take that! Thwack! That’s a stronger one!
            I suppose it was the same at Reformation heresy trials without the bonfire… 🙂

          • dannybhoy

            I’m so pleased you remain a poster here Jilly, you present a clarity of thought to the ‘heavier’ discussions we sometimes have on the blog.
            We tackle such big moral and theological issues that it really requires a book to explain why we believe what we believe, and some (ahem!) struggle to make their thinking intelligible to others..

          • Jilly

            Thank you Danny!
            I appreciate your support immensely. Venturing on a site which is full of theologians who all know they are right can be – interesting. I am reminded of my student days when, for a while, I hung out with a group which included a bunch of theological students. Who all knew they were right. And argument does lead one to clarify one’s ideas. I’ve replied to you above. It took a while: technical issues. And I was angry, not with you but over something I consider dangerous.

          • dannybhoy

            Your post demonstrates why this is such a great blogsite. We seek to understand each other as Christians, as fallen human beings redeemed by His grace.
            “Behold how these Christians love one another!
            That love is given us by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. It doesn’t mean we will agree with each other, but we will see our Lord’s grace reflected..

          • A wonderful post, Arden.

          • Jilly

            You know, I think it was my returning your ‘pax’ which caused discus to balk and my post was moderated. Clearly discus did not have a classical education and has never attended a Latin Mass.
            In sincerity and testing the system : pax tecum.

          • dannybhoy

            “Of course he,like us all,is growing older.”
            :0)
            Now you’re hinting at moral relativism..

          • Jilly

            Ooooh Danny – another one of those long words…..

          • ardenjm

            Hi Jilly. Strangely your initial reply to my response is being ‘moderated’ – which means I can’t reply to it directly. So I’m doing so here.
            Thank you for taking the time to reply so fully and give food for thought.
            Like you say, we have different views. I’m not sure you have the monopoly of the grasp of just how grim the “reality” of nursing-home experience is but that’s only a way in to looking at the point I’d want to make:

            You describe the following:

            “But the reality (that word again) means you are more likely to be in an understaffed nursing home smelling of urine with poorly trained carers who may not speak your language etc…
            A managed death in a Christian or properly run caring hospice might do the job, with spiritual counselling and support on hand. But there aren’t many of them, even fewer available for dementia sufferers.”

            So what you seem to be concluding is this:
            The harshness of conditions for many people are more or less unreformable and unimprovable. What we need to do is dispatch people as humanely as possible – much like the Vetinarian does to a sick animal.
            Presumably, as in the Netherlands and Belgium, being in that state isn’t restricted to those at the end of a long life? In those countries voluntary euthanasia is permitted for those – of any age – who are “tired of life.” Not only that, but children can also be included in that category.
            In very short order, then, the “arbiters of compassion” will be the State’s professionals who will intervene when uncaring and religiously dogmatic individuals inflict unnecessary suffering on non-autonomous family members – a dementia patient, a sick child. It will all seem so much more decent and the religious will be cruel and sadistic. Indeed, how far away are we from saying that already?

            The reponse then, that a Christian must make is surely to ask this:
            Why ARE there so few appropriate end-of-life palliative care places?
            The answer we know already:
            Limited resources.
            But now see what conclusion is already being drawn:
            It will be cheaper AND more compassionate to euthanise. What an unexpected win for government! They can show they care by spending less. That’s a first.

            The tactic which will be deployed of course will be the following – as for abortion: If you don’t want it, don’t do it but people should be free to choose for themselves. Since nominal and even sincere Christians will be amongst that number they will need some kind of Christian rationalisation to justify it: God doesn’t want us to suffer “needlessly”.
            This is no longer Christ of course. It’s John Stuart Mill.

            Mind how you go.

          • Disqus occasionally gets over-zealous with newcomers. The ‘moderation’ has now been sorted.

          • Jilly

            Hello to you, ardenjm.
            The notification of your post arrived this morning hence the delay. I felt a response was necessary as you make very profound points.

            I agree with you about the pitfalls which could lead to the nightmare scenario you describe.

            I disagree with your interpretation of some of what I said.

            If the system for providing end of life care, to make it compassionate and effective, can be reformed then it ought to be. It is shocking that hospices depend on charitable giving and volunteers to function.
            Even when private funding is available, there are not sufficient nurses and carers available, no doubt because of the derisory pay given to workers by agencies which cream off large sums in profits. (Personal experience)
            I certainly to not think people should be euthanised as easily as an animal. My referencing animal care was to illustrate a popular response of many people who see what they believe to be prolonged and unnecessary suffering of friends and relative. Populism more and more is driving political decisions, so in order to reach an outcome which avoids that scenario an informed, thoughtful and broad approach in essential.

            You are right to raise the shambles of the abortion legislation: it was far too loose, it set the gestation limits too low, it was hi-jacked by feminists – many of whom work in midwifery- and perversely linked to women’s rights and offered nothing to balance with the rights of the unborn child. David Steele admitted as much a few years ago.

            Then the issue of ‘mission creep’ which we see in just about every piece of ‘liberal, progressive’ legislation in recent years, in Parliament and the churches.
            My personal view is the the Netherlands and Belgium are far too lax though I don’t have figures to show how many people are dying because they are ‘tired of life’. Lots of grey areas such as terminally ill children, though I suspect in many instances already life is shortened by use of pain relief medication. So legislation will be slow, based on fully informed consent, as it must recognise and prevent corruption of the intent behind it. Euthanasia ought not to be ‘easy’ but difficult trips by very sick people to Dignitas Switzerland to die is not how it ought to be.

            One concern is that because Christians are seen to be putting the brakes on the rush to legislate ( Carey and Harper obvious exceptions) it could be interpreted by the public that ‘Christians want people to suffer.’ I recognise that is a travesty – this thread demonstrates that sensible people can have different views on the value of suffering but most would not insist and impose ‘unnecessary suffering’ on others although might recommend it as a spiritual good and would accept it for themselves.

            There could be a lengthy discussion… but I’ll leave it there except to say I don’t see the wholesale dispatching of sick people as a ‘good thing’ but the current situation seems to me inhumane.

          • dannybhoy

            “If the system for providing end of life care, to make it compassionate and effective, can be reformed then it ought to be. It is shocking that hospices depend on charitable giving and volunteers to function.”
            Absolutely, and following on..
            “Are the concerned, the pontificating Christians of ALL denominations making their voice heard in demanding more State assistance?”

            It’s all very well to make our views known on an internet blog, but what in reality are we doing to get things changed?
            Or as St James wrote..

            14 “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

            18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”

          • dannybhoy

            It is a difference of viewpoint Jilly.
            One seems to see suffering, pain, self affliction, even guilt as necessary to our life as Christians
            The other, the one I subscribe to is to rejoice in our salvation, in God’s acceptance of me despite all my nasty bits, quirks and failings. I am a new creation in Christ – Halleluia!
            I rejoice in believing that “He who has begun a good work in me will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6
            I rejoice because in spite of everything that comes my way, God is at work both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
            I’ve been adopted into His family, I am being sanctified, and I am growing (in fits and starts sometimes), in His grace and underdstanding of His wonderful love for us .
            So we wrestle with the knotty ethical questions and developments that face us, always seeking to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

          • Jilly

            Yes. I go along with your view. Life can be bloody enough without looking for and relishing unnecessary suffering.
            All that self flagellation stuff, physical and mental seems to me to be unhealthy and masochistic but whatever gives them joy …

            In the world God created, its wondrous variety of life, its beauty, rythyms, complexity and, now that so much is under threat from that most vicious and destructive of species – us -, there is so much more to consider rather than angels on pinheads. I suppose that is why I was truly shocked by the idea that the destruction of the natural world is preferable to adopting contraception. Humans think too much of themselves – elephants, our cousins the great apes, whales for starters, down to the insects which pollinate – who gave us the right to annihilate them? Who the *HELL* do we think we are?

            Of course we have a ‘special relationship’ courtesy of God’s will but we’ve done precious little to deserve it. And I think we ought be exercising some loving stewardship towards the rest of His creation which we can see and do something about.
            By our fruits shall we be known… and those fruits are…? Well, we’ve stood by while sea creatures are dying of starvation with their insides full of plastic rubbish, while large animals which used to roam in herds are verging on extinction, rain forests destroyed along with their primate inhabitants… And the Bishops warming their backsides on red benches do not condemn halal slaughter but agonise over other peoples’ private bedroom behaviour.
            Theology and church history are not my ‘specialist subjects’ and I am happy to be corrected and advised (well, mostly). I seem to recall that the early English church had been shaped by Columba and other Celts and humble monks. They had an affinity with animals and the natural world and allowed priests to marry. Then Rome sent followers of St Augustine to bring them back into orthodoxy. I understand one result was the insistence of Man’s dominion over the earth and celibacy for priests. Well, that really worked well. Not.
            As a species we’ve screwed up and we ought to be doing something to put things right so I’m impatient when told that would be wrong so I doubt the goodness of that underlying ideology. Fortunately I reckon the development of that ideology is man-led so can make allowances.
            Thank you for your support, Danny. You seem to be the main voice of reason, well informed theologically and based in faith of the love from and for God, kind and – normal.
            I reminded of a rabbi who said he wasn’t interested in obtaining heaven. All he wanted was God.

            (Note for the suffering brigade – I said *unnecessary* suffering!)

            This has taken a long time. Blessed thing keeps freezing.

          • dannybhoy

            “Who the *HELL* do we think we are?
            Lol!
            My thoughts exactly. Mrs Danny often listens to my rants on the subject..
            I believe the Bible teaches that we are stewards over the earth, and on a personal level as Christians we are stewards of all we have and are. Our belongings and ourselves are there at God’s disposal. Our world and all living things are His creation. maybe He was in a humorous mood when He designed some of them, but ultimately all are entrusted to our care, our stewardship.

            If you ever came to live in our corner of Norfolk, you’d be welcome to join our home group!

          • Jilly

            Exactly!
            And my best wishes to Mrs Danny! It takes a lot of patience, as my nearest and dearest would testify!

          • Jilly

            Have just seen your final para.. somehow it didn’t come thro earlier. Thank you for your kind invitation!

      • Royinsouthwest

        I agree with what you wrote about pneumonia. As I am of the age at which doctors offer the vaccination against pneumonia and as I am still pretty fit the idea of being given immunity to pneumonia had obvious appeal and I had the injection and did not think anything more about it until a few days later. Then it occurred to me that perhaps it would have been better to have refused the vaccination because when I am older I might regret having had it.

        Immunity is highly desirable when you are in good health but you would probably be less likely to catch pneumonia then anyway. Immunity has fewer attractions when you are pretty decrepit and is quite undesirable if you are dying anyway, I knew someone bedridden with terminal cancer. He might well have survived for another two or three months but he developed pneumonia and died about 12 hours later.

        Sometimes it is best to let nature take its course rather than for doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive. Similarly if someone is in great pain they should be given enough morphine to get rid of the pain, even if the drug does shorten their life.

        • Jilly

          You are right. Part of the Hippocratic Oath (which doctors do not swear but ought to be reminded of) is firstly to do no harm and then not to strive officiously to keep alive.
          Nature might be red in tooth and claw but she is also, paradoxically, wise and compassionate.

      • Jilly, I doubt if any of us would disagree with this.

        • dannybhoy

          But the issue is John, our attitudes to physical suffering and death and how we seek to alleviate people’s pain and distress in line with our faith and the teachings of Scripture. Same with birth control and abortion. We seek to be true to the faith and our understanding of the nature of God, whilst confronting the realities of life around us.

        • Jilly

          Thank you…
          You’d be surprised…

      • CliveM

        I must confess to finding this disturbing. Which religion withholds pain relief on religious grounds? If I found a relative of mine had died in pain in this manner I would take legal action and get the ‘nurse’ struck off.

        There maybe a ‘purpose and good’ in painful suffering, but I will be happy to be excused such a good. As long as the purpose of the pain relief and not euthanasia any amount of diamorphine is morally correct even if it does shorten lives.

        The actions of the nurse was borderline evil.

        • Jilly

          She was RC. Acting in ignorance.
          The GP responded by going in himself during the next few days to check up on things. And he read the nurse her horoscope.

          • CliveM

            Did you mean to say horoscope?

          • dannybhoy

            Stethescope don’t fit Clive..

          • CliveM

            Yes thank you DB!

          • Jilly

            Yes . He told her what would happen if she carried on like that.
            Foretelling her future … sort of…

          • CliveM

            Oh I now understand.

          • Pubcrawler

            Virgo?

          • Jilly

            Good morning, pubcrawler.
            I can’t track down your most interesting response on the Koine. So am replying here. It was most interesting and challenging to my basic understanding of Greek – Latin considerably easier… but makes me want to dig out those old textbooks. Thank you.

          • Pubcrawler

            You’re very kind. soli Deo gloria.

            Those little words, prepositions and particles, have long been a particular interest of mine. Frequently overlooked, but so often important nuances of meaning hang from them.

    • Albert

      Everyone can have sympathy for the ideas in themselves. But look at your post and then compare it to Jack’s (above). What does scripture actually say (as opposed to, how would we like it to be?)?

      • dannybhoy

        Yes I accept that, but I think there are other Scriptures that support my understanding ☺️
        It’s not a disagreement over God’s sovereignty but how He exercises that sovereignty.

        • Albert

          You said this

          Those who believe there is value in physical suffering and we should somehow embrace it as some kind of atonal suffering for sin, I think misguided.”For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive in the spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18

          And this of course links the discussion to wider theological commitments. The Evangelical wishes to say “Christ suffered once and for all.” But scripture says “Yes, and we can be fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” So you can’t short circuit this, for the theology appears to be, Christ suffers, therefore we must suffer.

          Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

          It’s all there.

          • pobjoy

            ‘Christ suffers.’

            ‘I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.’ Ep 1:19-21 (NLT)

          • Albert

            Okay. I’m not sure how this adds to the discussion.

          • pobjoy

            OK.

          • dannybhoy

            One has to ask what is meant by ‘suffering’.
            What did our Lord say about suffering, how did He who suffered once for all describe it?

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Suffering is when you turn on the BBC…

          • dannybhoy

            :0)

          • Albert

            He said he had to suffer for us. How does that advance the discussion?

          • dannybhoy

            I was in a hurry, couldn’t finish my thoughts. It was more of an introduction than a statement!
            Please see my response to Martin Marprelate right near the top, where I try to explain myself more fully…

  • carl jacobs

    If you want to understand the religion of this age, you should study this post. It’s all there:

    1. The primacy of human will.
    2. God as validater of human choice.
    3. Creation as a chaotic set of actions and events beyond the control of a not-so-sovereign god.

    Man seeks to diminish God in order to inflate himself. He sets his own will upon the altar, he worships it, and he says to himself “God declares it good.” But the interesting thing is that this revelation is only received while man is staring at himself in the mirror. As it is written “Man created God in his own image. And there evening and morning of the first day. And man said that it was very good.”

    • Albert

      Thank you Carl. You’ve expressed the thinking of my own post rather more succinctly than I did! There’s something about the theology expressed in all this that I find uniquely annoying. It seems narcissistic to me.

      • carl jacobs

        narcissistic

        Precisely.

        • Brian

          There once was a chaplain Narcissus
          Who fancied her thoughts as delicious.
          She stared like a fool
          At her face in a pool
          And alas, the folly’s still with us.

  • Inspector General

    This utterly stupid woman takes no account of what medical intervention can be used towards the end that can never ever be written down. It is not the stuff for committees to muse over. She should leave it at that.

    • Mike Stallard

      But her alb, specially designed and made, and stole are superb are they not? What an elegant fashion statement that would be if it were not for the fact that she is only obeying the vocational call to the Priesthood which nobody – nobody – can call into question.

  • Anton

    There once was a Chaplain in Buckingham…

    • Brian

      Who thought: ‘Instead of ducking ’em,
      I can solve all conundra
      From here to the tundra
      By finding a bin and chucking ’em.

  • gadjodilo

    This was really very funny. I’m quite challenged on the subject as, like this lady chaplain, I believe in God-given free will, plus, if I was in great and unending pain I reckon I’d want to die.
    As usual, the best thing to do is to ask oneself what Jesus would think. “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here” (John 7:6). So, He believed in ‘pure fatalism’, then, and He also wanted to avoid the pain when it was His turn. Then there’s always Ecclesiastes 9:12: “Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come”.

    • dannybhoy

      You’d want to die, as would I, but it would be wrong to take one’s own life and so one embraces pain and agony because ‘it’s good for you,’ or you chicken out and ask for more morphine..

  • David

    This presents many questions, they key ones being.
    1. Is this person a Christian, in the orthodox, conservative and Biblical sense ? It seems very unlikely to me.
    2. Does the chaplain want all Christian churches in the UK, or elsewhere maybe, to be wound up ? If so why ?
    3. If the answer to 1 is yes, is he (?) a Christian in the sense I ask, what does he want to replace the
    C of E ?
    There are obviously many more questions that flow from this strange piece.

  • gadjodilo

    For inspiration about great faith while in great pain I was inspired by the life of Chiara “Luce” Badano.

    • Blessed Chiara Badano is currently in the process of being pronounced a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

      Chiara refused to take any morphine so she could stay aware. She felt it was important to know her illness and pain so she could offer up her sufferings. She said, “It reduces my lucidity and there’s only one thing I can do now: to offer my suffering to Jesus because I want to share as much as possible in his sufferings on the cross.” During her stays in the hospital, she would take the time to go on walks with another patient who was struggling with depression. These walks were beneficial to the other patient but caused Chiara great pain. Her parents often encouraged her to stay and rest but she would simply reply, “I’ll be able to sleep later on.”

      One of her doctors, Dr. Antonio Delogu, said, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” A friend from the Focolare Movement said, “At first we thought we’d visit her to keep her spirits up, but very soon we understood that, in fact, we were the ones who needed her. Her life was like a magnet drawing us to her.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiara_Badano

      • gadjodilo

        Exactly. Her story should be known by any serious Christian who is contemplating the whys and wherefores of euthanasia.

  • pobjoy

    ‘Invoking the Christian concept of free will, Canon Harpoon goes on: “Even people who would use language such as ‘God has a plan for the Church of England’ don’t actually mean that everything that Synod does is His will. Of course not’

    It’s okay if mistakes are made; free will guarantees mistakes, though, as Paul wrote, God gives victory despite mistakes, if the mistakes are those of his true followers. It’s not okay if the Christian concept of free will is displaced, because then there *cannot* be Christianity.

    Synod may be tedious, at times, but so is Parliament, at times. Democracy is like that, but the alternatives are unstable, quite apart from any moral consideration. Synod couild be improved, if it was *more* democratic. It is quite possible that the Greeks got the idea of democracy from pre-monarchy Israelites, whose only governors were elders, or presbyters, guided by a judge, ‘raised up’ and recognised by prophetic utterance. So any young Israelite man could, with patience, expect to join the Lord’s own synod.

    So to have not one, not two, but three Houses in a Synod gives the impression to both Anglicans and members of the public with interest sufficent to enquire that, like the fretful Mr Blair, the Establishment does not quite trust the people to make the right decisions. A bit of slimming down might make the CoE more relevant, and those pins in eyes rather less of a good idea.

  • Rosie Harper says: “I’m with Hans Küng.”

    Yep, you are. Be careful where this might ultimately lead. Kung is celebrated amongst modernists for his denial of certain key Catholic doctrines – abortion, contraception, homosexuality, papal infallibility and the inadmissibility of female ordination to the priesthood.

    Happy Jack says: “He’s with Saint Paul.”

    What is faith about if it is not about trust in God, especially at the darkest moments of earthly existence? God does not condemn us to unbearable suffering. Life is full of suffering, as a matter of experience and observation. It is how we face it that divides people of faith from those without it. Kung and Harper put their trust in their own mental powers and bodily health. When these wane, without faith in the goodness of God, the prospect can be terrifying.

  • Some of us have gone further and following Olly C of blessed memory have rid our churches of the whole episcopate.

  • betteroffoutofit

    And there I thought it must be April Fool’s day again, Your Grace . . . . . until I clicked on the link in your post!!!

  • Oh! very good YG.

  • magnolia

    Jesus can take away extreme pain in seconds. Somehow we rarely ask him to, especially in prolonged Christian soaking prayer with a supportive group, belief that he can and will act, and experience of how and when he does.. I think much pain has little to no redemptive power, though God will undoubtedly use it insofar as he can, not least to drive us toward him. Often it is the desperate who most see God act. No pain, no miracle…no valley, no mountain top; there is a mystery there…

  • Ian

    Canon Harper’s god is a figment of her imagination. Pray the One True God would regenerate or remove her from post before she does any more damage in his name.

    • Brian

      I fear your analysis is correct. Rosie Harper’s god is very evidently a projection of her own consciousness. Long ago, in his ‘Biglietto’ speech, J H Newman predicted that English Protestantism, succumbing to Rationalism, would logically conclude in atheism. This is Rosie Harper’s actual position, even if she is too slow to see it. Her ‘god’ is exactly as Feuerbach pictured it: the projection of one’s one (sub-) consciousness, like one’s immense shadow cast onto the mists on looking down from the Brocken.

  • worrywort

    That Rosie Harper is a pain in the Arse. Can I have her put down with my consent?

  • len

    Canon Harpoon has a point. Let the Synod go the way of the Oozelum bird, then perhaps we can get on with the Gospel?.

  • Chefofsinners

    I’m completely opposed to euthanasia, but in Ronnie Harpoon’s case I’d be willing to make an exception. One can only take so much misery and suffering. The garbled thoughts, the dribbling, the verbal incontinence. It’s just not dignified.

    • carl jacobs

      I dunno. He made good sense to me.

  • Philippians 1:29. ‘For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.’ The Greek word translated ‘granted’ is charizomai from which we get the word ‘charismatic.’ So suffering is actually a charismatic gift, though it is not usually the one that people most desire.
    Suffering, bravely borne in the name of Christ, can have a deep effect upon unsaved doctors, nurses and others who witness it.

    • It also saves the sufferer by bringing him into a closer union with Christ.

    • dannybhoy

      From Oswald Chambers “My utmost for His highest..”

      “Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good..”
      1 Peter 4:19

      Choosing to suffer means that there must be something wrong with you, but choosing God’s will— even if it means you will suffer— is something very different. No normal, healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he simply chooses God’s will, just as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. And no saint should ever dare to interfere with the lesson of suffering being taught in another saint’s life.

      The saint who satisfies the heart of Jesus will make other saints strong and mature for God. But the people used to strengthen us are never those who sympathize with us; in fact, we are hindered by those who give us their sympathy, because sympathy only serves to weaken us. No one better understands a saint than the saint who is as close and as intimate with Jesus as possible. If we accept the sympathy of another saint, our spontaneous feeling is, “God is dealing too harshly with me and making my life too difficult.” That is why Jesus said that self-pity was of the devil (see Matthew 16:21-23). We must be merciful to God’s reputation. It is easy for us to tarnish God’s character because He never argues back; He never tries to defend or vindicate Himself. Beware of thinking that Jesus needed sympathy during His life on earth. He refused the sympathy of people because in His great wisdom He knew that no one on earth understood His purpose (see Matthew 16:23). He accepted only the sympathy of His Father and the angels (see Luke 15:10).
      https://utmost.org/the-holy-suffering-of-the-saint/

      We have been discussing two points here; the sovereignty of God and how he exercises it.
      and two,
      going on from our attitudes to the value of life and how we as people deal with suffering (from Rosie Harper’s article)
      to what is meant by the suffering of Christ for us,
      and how we as Christians are both called to suffer for His sake, and indeed will suffer for our faith.
      It seems to me that one can overemphasise physical suffering as a part of our suffering for Christ, so that physical pain such as literally being nailed to a cross, or being scourged, or self flagellation or the wearing of circlets or garments designed to cause pain and discomfort is actually thought to show our devotion to Christ.
      But from that view can flow the idea that disease, deformity, poverty are also signs of our suffering for Christ, our as is were, due remorse or even punishment for all the consequences of Adam’s fall.
      Nowhere is it suggested in the New Testament that Christ’s sufferings were physical in nature i.e.disease or deformity. He suffered tiredness, hunger and thirst. He suffered anguish over the hard hearts of men, he suffered physical pain throughout His trial and execution.
      Then on the Cross He bore all our sins, all the consequences of the Fall, culminating in separation from His Father,
      “My God, my God; lama sabacthani?”

      So sickness. physical infirmity and physical death are a major consequence of the Fall, but evil, moral evil and corruption of spirit is the ongoing source of rebellion, cruelty and exploitation amongst us human beings.
      I would suggest that the suffering being spoken of has much more to do with that than physical dis-ease.
      Infirmity and ultimately death is common to us all, but a Christian can rejoice and serve God despite his or her circumstances. Our sufferings come from our striving to live a life pleasing to God in a fallen and rebellious world..

      “10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 1st Timothy 3.

      • “Blessed be He, Who came into the world for no other purpose than to suffer.”
        St. Teresa of Avila

        “God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”
        Saint Augustine of Hippo

        “If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint.”
        St. Ignatius Loyola

        “As iron is fashioned by fire and on the anvil, so in the fire of suffering and under the weight of trials, our souls receive that form which our Lord desires them to have.”
        St. Madeline Sophie Barat

        “If we only knew the precious treasure hidden in infirmities, we would receive them with the same joy with which we receive the greatest benefits, and we would bear them without ever complaining or showing signs of weariness.”
        St. Vincent de Paul

        “One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end of the road without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And there numbers were so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.”
        Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska,

  • carl jacobs

    So this Rosie Harper. She seems to have all the right qualifications to become a bishop in the CoE. We should all look forward to the spectacle.

  • carl jacobs

    Completely off topic, but I thought the board might enjoy this film for obvious reasons.

    A Welcome to Britain
    U.K. Culture for G.I.s in WW2 (1943)

    • dannybhoy

      It’s incredible to watch it now. When I was a little kid those very British attitudes were still around. We were a very structured rather parochial society.
      And weren’t we British all so very pale…(!)
      And personally although I prefer real ales, I like ’em cold..

    • Brian

      A great piece. Loved the wooden recitation of lines in General Lee at 27 minutes about white soldiers taking ‘nigroes’ along with them. And the cameos of Mr Chips and Bob Hope. But Aberystwyth the capital of Wales? And why was the “English girl” riding her bike on the wrong side of the road? Was she an American actress who didn’t know any better?
      Incidentally, I was in Brisbane in 2010, staying with relatives in an apartment block called ‘Mararthur Mansion’ or something similar. I recalled that Macarthur had been in Brisbane during the war and wondered if there was any connection. Sure enough, a couple of floors above our apartment was where Macarthur’s HQ had been, now turned into a museum on the war in the Pacific and the defence of Australia. There was also displays of a famous riot in the city between diggers and GIs.

  • Father David

    Isn’t Canon Harpoon simply parroting what Lord Carey, that beached whale, has already spouted?

    • Brian

      Yes, the whale without a license to officiate as well – the first former Archbishop of Canterbury to be in this situation since, er, His Grace ….

    • Jilly

      Beached whales cannot spout. Spouting requires water.

  • carl jacobs

    Hrmmm

  • magnolia

    From a lost fragment:

    They brought all their sick to Jesus, and when he saw them his heart was moved, and he said, “let’s sit down on the grass and have an impassioned debate as to whether mercy killing or pumping them full of morphine is the more humane solution.”

    Oh we of little faith….

  • Jilly

    That’s a good one! I hadn’t heard it before. Reminds me – ‘it’s better to seek truth than to possess it’.
    So keep on talking..:)

  • dannybhoy

    Could anyone please tell me how to adjust Discus settings, so that I can get back to where Discus emails only informed me when someone had responded to a post of mine?
    I am utterly befuddled!
    For whatever reason I now have to receive ALL postings; and whilst I respect all of you, it was better when I only had to deal with responses to my own posts.
    Over the last week I have tried adjusting email notifications and web notifications, but I either get nothing or everything.
    Help me please!

  • The Church s only infallible in matters of doctrine concerning faith and morals – not in the exercise of its legitimate authority. And it was acting legitimately and lawfully during the Inquisition.

    No amount of misguided zeal or cruelty by Catholics can undo the divine foundation of the Church, though these things are stumbling blocks to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. What you refuse to grasp is that the Church contains within itself all sorts of sinners and knaves, and some obtain positions of responsibility. Paul and Christ himself warned us that there would be ravenous wolves among Church leaders (Acts 20:29; Matt. 7:15).

    What does the existence of the Inquisition demonstrate? That Catholics are sinners? Guilty as charged. That at times people in positions of authority have used poor judgment? Guilty as charged. That otherwise good Catholics, afire with zeal, sometimes lose their balance? All true!

    Let’s look at the Catharists (Albigensians). A curious religion that apparently came to France from Bulgaria. Catharism was a blend of Gnosticism, which claimed to have access to a secret source of religious knowledge, and of Manichaeism, which said matter is evil. The Catharists believed in two gods: the “good” God of the New Testament, who sent Jesus to save our souls from being trapped in matter; and the “evil” God of the Old Testament, who created the material world in the first place. The Catharists’ beliefs entailed serious, truly civilization-destroying, social consequences. Marriage was scorned because it legitimized sexual relations, which Catharists identified as the Original Sin. But fornication was permitted because it was temporary, secret, and was not generally approved of; while marriage was permanent, open, and publicly sanctioned.

    The ramifications of such theories are not hard to imagine. In addition, ritualistic suicide was encouraged (those who would not take their own lives were frequently “helped” along), and Catharists refused to take oaths, which, in a feudal society, meant they opposed all governmental authority. Catharism was both a moral and a political danger. The cause of orthodoxy was (and still is) the cause of progress and civilization. Had Catharism become dominant, or allowed to exist on equal terms, its influence would have become disastrous.

    It is easy to see how those who led the Inquisitions could think their actions were justified. The Bible itself records instances where God commanded that formal, legal inquiries (inquisitions) be carried out to expose secret believers in false religions. In Deuteronomy 17:2–5 God said: “If there is found among you, within any of your towns which the Lord your God gives you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it; then you shall inquire diligently and if it is true and certain that such an abominable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring forth to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.”

    To protect the kingdom from such hidden heresy, these practitioners of false religions had to be rooted out and expelled from the community. This directive from the Lord applied even to whole cities that turned away from the true religion (Deut. 13:12–18). Like Israel, medieval Europe was a society of Christian kingdoms that were formally consecrated to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is therefore understandable that these Catholics would read their Bibles and conclude that for the good of their Christian society they, like the Israelites before them, “must purge the evil from the midst of you” (Deut. 13:5, 17:7, 12). Paul repeats this principle in 1 Corinthians 5:13.

    Both Luther and Calvin endorsed the right of the state to protect society by purging false religion. In fact, Calvin not only banished from Geneva those who did not share his views, he permitted and in some cases ordered others to be executed for “heresy”. In England and Ireland, Reformers engaged in their own ruthless inquisitions and executions. Thousands of English and Irish Catholics were put to death for practicing the Catholic faith and refusing to become Protestant. The situation was a two-way street; and both sides easily understood the Bible to require the use of penal sanctions to root out false religion from Christian society.

    So, no, Jack’s position is not the same as Carl’s – at all. He wouldn’t seek to defend the excesses of the Inquisition as proper because there are no moral limits in war and winning is all that counts (Carl’s positon). And Jack’s not looing for some sort of misguided “empathy”. Understand the facts and understand medieval society before you determine the “truth” and attempt to beat the Church over the head with the Inquisition.

    • dannybhoy

      ” What you refuse to grasp is that the Church contains within itself all sorts of sinners and knaves, and some obtain positions of responsibility. Paul and Christ himself warned us that there would b e ravenous wolves among Church leaders (Acts 20:29; Matt. 7:15).”

      Fine then Jack, so please, please, please accept that your Church is no better and no worse than any other Church/denomination, and accept that within those churches and denominations are to be found the Body of Christ, of which you and I and all who accept Christ as Saviour and Lord, and the reality of the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to do that work of salvation are united.
      I have to arrange for a Sister of Mercy to come and speak at our all lady home group. I am not interested in getting into the same verbal sparring we do on this blog: I want to have this dear lady share with us her journey of faith. It will be received with interest and respect.
      I can assure you that if she tried to tell us where we as protestants or nonconformists are wrong and need to return to the True Church, she would get short shrift from me; but I know she won’t, because she is wise enoug to recognise theological differences and devoted enough to recognise it is the fruit of the Spirit that matters, not hoiw we got there.

      • “Fine then Jack, so please, please, please accept that your Church is no better and no worse than any other Church/denomination … “

        And there we have it. The real source of your *questions*.

        Essentially your claim is that the existence of the Inquisition somehow proves the Catholic Church could not be the Church founded by our Lord. You use the Inquisition to demonstrate this, thinking it shows that the Catholic Church is illegitimate. But it doesn’t. Not at all.

        Jack has attempted to explain how the Inquisition could have been associated with a Divinely established Church and why it is not proper to conclude from its existence that the Catholic Church is not the Church of Christ.