Sunday, December 21, 2008

The thief, JBFA and Origen

If there is an example of a man in the Bible who got saved by faith in Christ alone, it has to be the thief at Calvary. This is recorded in Luke 23...

39(AH)One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? (AI)Save Yourself and us!"

40But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

41"And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."

42And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"

43And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in (AJ)Paradise." (NASB)



We note here that this man did not get a chance to do any good work, did not get the chance to undo what he had done. In fact this man was even a clear violator of the Law, he admitted his guilt. Lastly, this man did not even get a chance to cooperate with infused grace that manifests in action. This is simply a case of Acts 2:21.

It seems to me, the most offensive part of Justification By Faith Alone is the "ALONE" part. If one does not believe that it is by faith alone, then there must be something added along side faith.

I heard people claiming that this particle "alone" is not even used by ancient Christians in their language, that it was an invention of Luther. So I browsed through my book, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture VI Romans, edifted by Gerald Bray (I have not enough money to buy the entire set, so if there was a volume I had to get, it had to be Romans). On p.100, on Rom 3:28, Origen says this...

It remains for us who are trying to affirm everything the apostle says, and to do so in the proper order, to inquire who is justified by faith alone, apart from works. If an example is required, I think it must suffice to mention the thief on the cross, who asked Christ to save him and was told: "Truly, this day you will be with me in paradise"...A man is justified by faith. The works of the law can make no contribution to this. Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if there are works of the law these are not based on the foundation of faith. Even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

Now, this clearly shows it was not Luther who invented that kind of language. Further, I admit I have not studied all of Origen's doctrine, but let us say that in some portion he amplifies infused grace and righteousness. What can we conclude? Then at least we should conclude that Origen was not consistent with his own self! But surely we can not conclude that the "alone" language was invented by Luther... "alone". History is showing that the claim against Luther's contention is propaganda.


14 comments:

Past Elder said...

I saw an article on CNN.com about the Filipino movie Himala.

Seems like it ends as many modern treatments of religion do, rather like telling kids there is no Santa Claus (or Father Christmas, if you follow the English usage there).

So it's all works -- not faith and works, not faith alone -- that is salvation in this mindset, which has both a religious and non religious version.

L P Cruz said...

PE

Yes, it won CNN's Asia/Pacific Choice Award.

There is some truth to the socio-religious culture depicted there, it is quite close to reality.

My ancestors is said to hail from the central plains of the big island, but there is big mountain in the middle and it is the seat bed of home grown cults with Christo-voodoo combination. Guess what is common - morality teachings. Sure there is addition of teachings where to get special powers that should transcend human predicaments - but it is just a matter of technique, the common set is morality.

Absolutely correct - this morality has both a religious or non-religious version.

LPC

Augustinian Successor said...

Origen is of course one of the most oft-cited of the church fathers by the Reformation theologians on justification by faith alone. Lancelot Andrewes, the leading Caroline divines has cited Origen on faith alone. This makes nonsense of the Anglo-Catholics who want to use Andrewes as a kind of ecumenical bridge between Anglicanism and Rome. But Andrewes taught FORENSIC justification as did Hooker and Laud after them.

L P Cruz said...

AS,

Thanks for this input indeed, bro. I am still to do some more readings on the Fathers. Origen is quite early and earlier than Augustine.

I think it is proof that the concept of "faith alone" is not something weird or a new. Luther simply brought it up to its necessary implications, which Rome continues to deny.

LPC

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Kuya,

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you and your family!

Augustinian Successor said...

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all!

L P Cruz said...

You too, little bro.

And to all.

LPC

Past Elder said...

Venerable as the Fathers are, and helpful as it may be to use them in an effort to refute the idea that JBFA is not the central article on which the whole thing stands or falls but a later innovation of the the Reformers, JBFA and its demonstrations do not in the end rest on them.

Origen was a thorough going Platonist. The world is no longer muddling its way between Idealists and Realists. Nor was Jesus or the Apostles waiting until such time as religious thinkers could explain what they REALLY meant by recourse to the philosophical schools of the day.

Even Aquinas, the greatest of them all in that regard, cautioned that such things are useful insofar as they edify the belief of those who believe, but in no case are the basis for preaching to those who do not believe. That basis is Scripture.

And on that basis we preach JBFA, confirmed or not by ancient Platonists or contemporary phenomenologists or Druckerites.

L P Cruz said...

PE.

Thanks for that reminder, it is much appreciated.

Infact these Fathers have condemned each other but they have one thing in common they refer to Scripture for their positions.

Scripture alone is our basis for JBFA for that is the basis of these Fathers' use of "alone".

LPC

The Dude said...

"Where there is no faith which might justify the believer, even if there are works of the law these are not based on the foundation of faith. Even if they are good in themselves they cannot justify the one who does them, because faith is lacking, and faith is the mark of those who are justified by God."

Catholicism does not disagree with this; natural works are worthless. And I'm sure you know about the common RC view of the thief: initial grace of justification not based on terms of antecedent works, but that works itself out in public confession of Christ and rebuking of the other thief.

One has to be careful not to be too anachronistic with the fathers; just because they might use the term "sola fide" hardly means they have the Protestant notion in mind. Aquinas even uses the term; do we really think Aquinas was a forerunner of Protestant theology or held to forensic justification? On the other end, Pelagius also uses the term approvingly multiple times in his Romans and Galatians commentaries.

As for Origen specifically, there is a pretty well-researched and balanced article I found examining Melancthon and Origen here, even examining the citation you gave here.

While it is quite true that authors could be inconsistent, I think that should be a last resort - one should first try to harmonize their thought as much as possible and see what senses their words can be understood and perhaps see if other writings can shed light on more obscure ones (sound familiar? heh) - unless they offer explicit retractions of course - rather than immediately just giving up and claiming they are being inconsistent. I also offer this from De Principiis book 3 (from newadvent):

"You will find also innumerable other passages in holy Scripture, which manifestly show that we possess freedom of will. Otherwise there would be a contrariety in commandments being given us, by observing which we may be saved, or by transgressing which we may be condemned, if the power of keeping them were not implanted in us."

"As, therefore, when a field has brought good and rich crops to perfect maturity, no one would piously and logically assert that the husbandman had made those fruits, but would acknowledge that they had been produced by God; so also is our own perfection brought about, not indeed by our remaining inactive and idle, (but by some activity on our part): and yet the consummation of it will not be ascribed to us, but to God, who is the first and chief cause of the work. So, when a ship has overcome the dangers of the sea, although the result be accomplished by great labour on the part of the sailors, and by the aid of all the art of navigation, and by the zeal and carefulness of the pilot, and by the favouring influence of the breezes, and the careful observation of the signs of the stars, no one in his sound senses would ascribe the safety of the vessel, when, after being tossed by the waves, and wearied by the billows, it has at last reached the harbour in safety, to anything else than to the mercy of God. Not even the sailors or pilot venture to say, "I have saved the ship," but they refer all to the mercy of God; not that they feel that they have contributed no skill or labour to save the ship, but because they know that while they contributed the labour, the safety of the vessel was ensured by God. So also in the race of our life we ourselves must expend labour, and bring diligence and zeal to bear; but it is from God that salvation is to be hoped for as the fruit of our labour. Otherwise, if God demand none of our labour, His commandments will appear to be superfluous."

"And the apostle also must be understood in a similar manner, because the human will alone is not sufficient to obtain salvation; nor is any mortal running able to win the heavenly (rewards), and to obtain the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus, unless this very good will of ours, and ready purpose, and whatever that diligence within us may be, be aided or furnished with divine help."

"He, accordingly, who purges himself, is made a vessel unto honour, while he who has disdained to cleanse himself from his impurity is made a vessel unto dishonour. From such declarations, in my opinion, the cause of our actions can in no degree be referred to the Creator. For God the Creator makes a certain vessel unto honour, and other vessels to dishonour; but that vessel which has cleansed itself from all impurity He makes a vessel unto honour, while that which has stained itself with the filth of vice He makes a vessel unto dishonour."

Augustinian Successor said...

Dude,

Your point is well taken. It is just that sola fide is hardly a Protestant notion. Isn't it Pauline too? That we justified by faith apart from the deeds of the Law. Thus it does not matter if the Church Fathers were Protestants or not ... i mean classical Protestantism is not the same as modern evangelicalism. On a lot of issues, classical Protestants agree with the Church Fathers: e.g. the role of tradition, the use of the liturgy. As long as there is agreement of the Gospel ... and the Church Fathers on the whole would agree with classical Protestants, not Rome.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you.

The Dude said...

Hi AS,
Right the fathers weren't modern-day EOs (well the EOs might disagree there hah), Protestants, or RCs (or even Reformation-era Protestants or Tridentine RCs) and that's why we have all the theories of development on both sides (RCs for maintaining claims of infallibility/apostolic succession and the classical Protestants' attempts at answering the logical question of where were all the Christians before the Reformation/who was saved who didn't hold to your beliefs and so on). I am not sure I would agree that the fathers as a whole clearly align more with Reformation doctrines than with EO or Tridentine views, but that and development are a whole other thing - I was just focusing here on the post which seemed to try to give a little Protestant flavor to Origen - but I do appreciate LPC's main intent of the post to bring awareness that "sola fide" terminology was not some novelty Luther first used (the meaning of that - imputation vs. infusion, distinction between sanctification and justification is another question) - I have seen overzealous RC apologists assert that before.

"Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you."

Same to you.

L P Cruz said...

Dude,

Thanks for the input and what AS said...

One has to be careful not to be too anachronistic with the fathers;
just because they might use the term "sola fide" hardly means they have
the Protestant notion in mind. Aquinas even uses the term; do we really
think Aquinas was a forerunner of Protestant theology or held to
forensic justification? On the other end, Pelagius also uses the term
approvingly multiple times in his Romans and Galatians commentaries.



Not by any means, what I am saying is that linguistically and at least at that point of the comment this is sola fideistic. I am not saying they are Protestants per se, what I am pointing out is that it is not a new terminology invented by the Protestants. It has precedent and hence not an new invention. My point is the manner of speaking, Luther was not being original, notionally.

Attempting to harmonize someone's teaching is noble but I am not sure if it is necessarily sound scholarship. It is best to let the text speak for itself. The Fathers is not my specialty so I assume the worst scenario, that the Father in focus might contradicted himself by saying it is not by faith alone etc, somewhere in his works. Harmonizing is also not an exact science, and it is highly subjective. It is begging the question - it presupposes a stand point - that the Father is consistent - but that is what you are trying to prove but you already assumed it.

From a practical experience, again and again, it is not because the Father's said it, it is because Scripture says it, that has the ultimate source of comfort or discomfort. It is the snake that is infront of your nose, ready to bite you while you keep on lingering somewhere else.

AT the end Jesus said - it is his words that will judge us not the words of Luther or the Fathers.

My point is simply to say - Luther's language was not an original to him, he may have been more consistent as to what that "alone" implied perhaps following it where it led.

Peace and blessings too,

LPC

Lucian said...

Origen is of course one of the most oft-cited of the church fathers by the Reformation theologians on justification by faith alone.

Is this factually true? How come I've never heard of that? Frankly, I've never seen or heard any Protestant refering to him or quoting him as as to make a point (except for Canon). (Or were You just being subjective here and I'm reading to much into Your words?). And, most importantly, what passages from him are being cited or quoted?