The next chapter of Sproul’s book deals with Luther at Worms, which can only be touched on briefly here. Sproul spends some time on Indulgences (three pages), and the fact that there was abuse going on among the clergy. No honest Catholic denies this. Was this brought up it to prove that there are sinners in the Catholic Church; then we are guilty? Is it to show that even bishops abused this doctrine? Guilty again. In fact, As Sheldon Vanauken wrote in A Severe Mercy, “In the very year that Henry VIII’s obedient Parliament named him head of the English church, Pope Paul III went through the streets of Rome in sackcloth and ashes for the sins of his predecessors.” Again, this was an error, an abuse, in the practice of a doctrine, not an error in the doctrine itself.
Sproul then adds an interesting quote from Luther: “The publicity did not appeal to me. For . . . I myself did not know what an indulgence was, and the song was getting too high for my voice.” Undoubtedly, the reason for this quote was to show how humble a man Luther was. Luther was in essence saying, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but whatever it is, it’s wrong.” Are we really to be expected to view as credible one such as Luther one who so forcefully argues against something he admits he doesn’t understand?
Justification and Faith
Chapter 4 deals with justification and faith. Here Luther is quoted as saying, “the article of justification is the master and prince, the lord, the ruler, and the judge over all kinds of doctrines; it preserves and governs all church doctrine and raises up our conscience before God. Without this article the world is utter death and darkness.” Sproul then quotes J. I. Packer speaking on Luther’s thesis that the church stands or falls on this doctrine. “By this he meant that when this doctrine is understood, believed, and preached, as it was in New Testament times, the church stands in the grace of God and is alive; but where it is neglected, overlaid, or denied, as it was in medieval Catholicism, the church falls from grace and its life drains away, leaving it in a state of darkness and death. The reason why the Reformation happened, and Protestant churches came into being, was that Luther and his fellow Reformers believed that Papal Rome had apostatized from the gospel so completely in this respect that no faithful Christian could with a good conscience continue within her ranks.” Sproul then adds; “Packer rightly observes that the issue of justification became an issue, not merely of errors or even heresy, but of apostasy. Rome considered Luther to be apostate. The Reformers likewise considered Rome to be Apostate.”
Now if the Reformers were correct, then what do we make of the statement in Matt 16:18; “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it?” Interestingly, if the Reformers accused Rome of being apostate, then they must have believed that she was originally the true church. In order to be apostate, you must first be teaching the truth. Thus, if Rome was first preaching the truth, it must have been Christ’s Church. So, I ask you dear reader, did Jesus lie, or was He just unable to keep His promise? Some Evangelicals respond by saying that it was just because Jesus kept His promise that the Reformation happened! What they are really, in effect, saying is that Rome was so corrupt that even God couldn’t fix the problem, so he built a second, or substitute church.
But how does that square with the Scriptures? “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church”; “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Christ and the Church are inseparable. The Church, being the body of Christ, cannot go astray, for you would then have the body going one way and the head another. The Church is the virgin bride of Christ! The Reformers want us to believe that the bride was unfaithful, so Christ divorced her and married another. As St. Cyprian said, “the pure and chaste bride of Christ is not able to commit adultery.” So in order for the Reformers to be right, we have to believe that Christ forsook his bride and married another which is, in a sense, accusing Christ of committing adultery. “Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” Christ purchased the Church with his own blood, but the Reformers say that Christ’s Church apostatized. In another vein they say that because Christ died for me, the true believer can never lose heaven. In other words, the individual is eternally secure, but the church built by Christ to lead that individual to salvation is not.
If the argument is that the early Church Fathers were in apostasy, being that there is no evidence in their writings of Sola Fide, then why did God wait 1500 years to correct this most important area of faith? This is an argument that the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses use to attempt to validate their own unusual doctrines.
Returning now to the J. I. Packer quote: “ . . .this doctrine is understood, believed, and preached, as it was in New Testament times . . .” Again we see this Evangelical idea that justification by faith alone was early Christian practice, yet still no evidence. There is, however, plenty of evidence that supports the Catholic Church’s position on this matter. One example is from Justin Martyr; “And reckon ye that it is for your sakes we have been saying these things; for it is in our power, when we are examined, to deny that we are Christians; but we would not live by telling a lie. For, impelled by the desire of the eternal and pure life, we seek the abode that is with God, the Father and Creator of all, and hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God (4) by their works that they followed Him, and loved to abide with Him where there is no sin to cause disturbance, can obtain these things.” You see Justin saying it is in our power to deny Him, that reminds us of the Scripture passage: “ but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” No, Justin Martyr did not preach “justification by faith alone,” nor did he preach that we cannot lose our salvation.
Then this from St. Ignatius; “And do ye, man by man, become a choir, that being harmonious in love, and taking up the song of God in unison, ye may with one voice sing to the Father through Jesus Christ, so that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son. It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus ye may always enjoy communion with God.” Note it is God doing the perceiving here. Ignatius says that God will “perceive by your works that ye are indeed the members of His Son.” He doesn’t say ‘perceive by your faith.’ Thus Ignatius does not believe that we are merely saved by faith alone.” Ignatius goes on to say it is profitable to “live” in unblameable unity so that “ye may always enjoy communion with God.” The assumption is that if you don’t live in this unity, you will no longer have communion with God. All this is from St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. Is it possible he got it so wrong so early on? That St. John didn’t teach him right? Or is it simply that Ignatius was never taught, nor did he himself teach, “justification by faith alone?”
How about this from St. Cyprian; “You, then, who are rich and wealthy, buy for yourself from Christ gold purified in fire, for with your filth, as if burned away in the fire, you can be like pure gold, if you are cleansed by almsgiving and by works of justice.”
A popular device used by Evangelical apologists today is what Catholic Apologist Pat Madrid refers to as “hijacking the Fathers.” “This ploy mimics the Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons, who also attempt to defend their unorthodox teachings from behind a carefully constructed facade of patristic quotes - quotes invariably taken out of their immediate context and without regard to the complete writings of the fathers.”
One example of this “hijacking” in Evangelical circles is the following quote from St. Clement of Rome around the year 95 AD used by James White in an on-line discussion with Art Sippo trying to prove ‘sola fide.’ “They all therefore were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous doing which they wrought, but through His will. And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
By this quote, Mr. White hoped to prove that Pope St. Clement preached “sola fide.” But note how Sippo responds; “As usual, Mr. White fails to complete the quotation and misrepresents it. Pope St. Clement I continues: “What then shall we do, brothers? Shall we idly abstain from doing good and forsake love? May the Master never allow this to happen, at least to us; but let us hasten with earnestness and zeal to accomplish every good work. For the Creator and Master of the universe Himself rejoices in his works... We have seen that all the righteous have been adorned with good works. Indeed the Lord himself having adorned himself with good works, rejoiced. So, since we have this pattern, let us unhesitatingly conform ourselves to his will; let us with all our strength do the work of righteousness.: The good worker receives the bread of his labor confidently, but the lazy and careless dares not look his employer in the face. It is therefore necessary that we should be zealous to do good, for all things come from him. For he forewarns us: "Behold, the Lord comes, and his reward is with him, to pay each one according to his work." He exhorts us, therefore, who believe in him with our whole heart, not to be idle or careless about any good work. Let our boasting and our confidence be in him; let us submit ourselves to his will; let us consider the whole host of his angels how they stand by and serve his will... Let us therefore make every effort to be found in the number of those who patiently wait for him, so that we may share in his promised gifts. But how shall this be, dear friends? If our mind is fixed on God through faith; if we seek out those things which are well-pleasing and acceptable to him; if we accomplish those things which are in harmony with his faultless will, and follow the way of truth, casting off from ourselves all unrighteousness and lawlessness, covetousness, strife, malice and deceit, gossip and slander, hatred of God, pride and arrogance, vanity and inhospitality. For those who do these things are hateful to God and not only those who do them, but also those who approve of them....” (Pope St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians 95 AD) Please note that in Chapter 35 of Pope St. Clement's epistle he says that having our mind "fixed on God through faith" is not enough. We must also seek to do things that please him and are in harmony with his will while casting off all connection to sin. It is obvious that the faith that Pope St. Clement spoke of in Chapter 32 was the complete "saving faith" that includes faith, hope and charity. This is the Catholic doctrine of justification. It is incompatible with the Reformation creed.”
It is most likely that in the passage Dr. White used, Clement was dealing with the idea of “boasting” that Paul so sharply criticized in Romans 4:2-3.
The Importance of Justification
Turning to the section titled “The Importance of Justification,” Dr. Sproul offers the following verse as evidence: “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all; for I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; . . . 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. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
This is how he explains this verse: “The ominous warning of the apostle is that ‘no flesh will be justified in His sight.’ Fortunately this is not the whole sentence. It is not an absolute denial of justification. If there will be no justification in his sight, then all disputes about the way of justification would be vain disputes, much ado about nothing, then there is no gospel - no good news, only bad news. But this is not the entire statement. Paul does not say there will be no justification. What he does say is that no flesh will be justified in God’s sight by the deeds of the law. Paul does not exclude justification altogether. He does exclude it by virtue of our doing deeds of the law. Justification on the grounds of our works is eliminated.” Sproul then adds “The verdict of the law on sinners was known in the Old Testament. Psalm 130 asks a question that is clearly rhetorical: “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand.” (130:3) The answer to the psalmist’s question is abundantly clear. Who could stand? No one, certainly not I. Certainly not you. If we are judged by the law in terms of our own righteousness, we will not stand; we are certainly fallen.”
Now, this certainly sounds like a reasonable argument. Certainly the law of God requires perfection, for he is perfect. But I believe there is more to this than meets the eye. After all, isn’t that just what Jesus demanded of us in Matthew’s Gospel: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Since God cannot deceive us by asking us to do something that is impossible, let us dig a little deeper into this and see what we come up with.
For starters, let’s look at Psalm 130 in its entirety: “Out of the depths I cry to thee, O LORD! Lord, hear my voice! Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” You see the Psalmist is asking a rhetorical question, but it is one that he answers himself saying “there is forgiveness with thee.” Note what the Psalmist says next: “My soul waits, and in his word I hope.” This describes an effort on the Psalmist’s part. He must be patient and maintain hope in his heart as he waits on the Lord. “Hope” as in “I don’t see it yet, although I long for it”(see Romans 8:24).
Let’s take a look at another Psalm: “ The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his ordinances were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.” In verse 23, David says he was “blameless before him.” Now here David clearly believes he is righteous. It is clear that it is David’s righteousness, and no one else’s. It is not to be viewed as an alien righteousness; that is, the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, as there is no evidence for this in the text. This is so because David is being viewed through the eyes of grace, not the Law. This quote is something that fits Catholic theology, but would be foreign in Protestant circles.
So how is it possible that in the Romans passage, quoting the Psalms, cited above it says “There is none righteous, no not one, and this Psalm has David declaring himself righteous and blameless before the Lord? We need to go back to the text. In the Romans citation Paul is quoting from Psalm 14, which reads: “"The fool says in his heart, "There is no God. "They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any that act wisely, that seek after God. They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt; there is none that does good, no, not one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD? There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.”
When read in context, you see two groups of people in the passage, the unrighteous, and the righteous. Those that the Psalmist says are “none that does good, no, not one” are the same ones who “eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the LORD.” Those spoken of who have all gone wrong are the fools who have said “in his heart, "There is no God." These “fools” are those who persecuted God’s people. As Dr. Scott Hahn points out, they are most likely the Jews themselves. Jews like king Saul who hunted David down. This passage goes on to say there are indeed those whom God views as righteous; “for God is with the generation of the righteous.” So to take the passage out of context and use it as a catchall for all peoples is to take the untenable position that Paul didn’t understand the context of Psalm 14 when he used it. Besides, as Hahn again argues, “How could Paul expect to win over his Jewish hearers by wrenching this text out of context?”
If the Protestant
will not accept this proof, then let him turn to some other
Scripture passages: “ . . .and her husband Joseph, being
a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce
her quietly. (Matt 1:19)”; “Now there was a man in
Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and
devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit
was upon him (Luke 2:25)”; “ . . . there
was a priest named Zachariah, of the division of Abi'jah; and he
had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the
commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (Luke 1:5-6).”
Realize that I am not speaking of a righteousness strictly received on our own strength and power, because we can’t do it on our own. But I speak of a righteousness that comes about as a result of placing your trust in the Lord and relying on Him to make up for ones deficiencies.
And what of this “deeds of the law” that Paul speaks? Dr. Sproul and other Protestants use Romans 3:28 as a proof text for their position: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” The meaning put forward then by the Protestant apologist is that “works of the law” is the same as “good deeds.” Is that the sense in which Paul is speaking here? We don’t think so. Although Paul was speaking here of the Mosaic Law, it could be argued that he had in mind ALL law, including the Ten Commandments. He was, after all, speaking to the Judaizers. He was trying to teach his listeners you can’t bargain with God. These Jews thought that if they obeyed the Law, they could ‘force’ God into rewarding them with salvation. That why Paul uses the ‘wages’ imagery in this book (Romans 4:4, 6:23). The Jews thought they could ‘earn’ salvation by following the Mosaic Law, but Paul corrects them saying that it is only in Christ do we merit salvation. Your works (of the Law), by themselves, are as “filthy rags”, as Isaiah says. But in Christ, they become stepping stones towards that eternal reward, which is heaven. That is why Paul could proclaim in Romans 2 that God will “render to every man according to his works.”
Sproul now turns to Romans 3:21-26: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation 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; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.”
“Here Paul declares a way of justification different from justification by the deeds of the law. It is not a novelty, proclaimed for the first time in the New Testament. This way of justification is witnessed to by the prophets and by the law itself. It is justification through faith in Jesus Christ. This justification is not given to everyone. It is provided to all, and on all, who believe. It is based on the righteousness of God that is provided to and on the redeeming work of Christ. This manner of justification demonstrates God Himself to be both the just and the justifier.”
“Again, the dilemma faced by the sinner summoned to the judgment seat of God is this: the sinner must appear before a divine judge who is perfectly just. Yet the sinner is unjust. How can he possibly be unjust and justified? The answer to this question touches the eye of the Reformation hurricane. For God to justify the impious and himself remain just in the process, the sinner must somehow become actually just by a righteousness supplied him by another.”
Here Dr. Sproul rightly identifies the problem, but comes up with an incorrect solution
“Sola Fide declares that the ground of our justification is solely the righteousness of Christ. It is a righteousness that is extra nos. It is apart from, or outside of us, not a part of us, before faith.”
One of the problems with the Protestant theology here is that it infringes upon the integrity of God, or at the very least, makes Him powerless. It, in essence, denies the sovereignty of the Almighty. It claims that Adam’s fall was so great that not even God, who created man from the dust of the earth, could make man right again. Or, to paraphrase Scott Hahn, does God say: “Oops, plan A didn’t work. We better try plan B.” While this doctrine says “God declares you righteous”, but you’re not righteous puts God in a precarious position, claiming something to be that it is not. God is Truth, and cannot lie, therefore there is an intrinsic problem to this teaching. After all, God’s word is all-powerful. Therefore, if God declares us righteous, we truly become righteous. Yes, we are sinners, and even after that declaration, we continue to sin. But as that bumper sticker reads “God isn’t finished with me yet,” God really does make us righteous. As you will see, God fills us with His Spirit, and that Spirit goes to work in us, cleansing us of sin, and making us able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven where “nothing unclean shall enter” (Rev 21:27).
It was because of this reasoning in the sixteenth century that the Catholic Church accused the Reformers that their concept of justification was a “legal fiction.” “The Church maintained that if justification is only a legal category into which God places a man without being truly just in his own person, then the justification is not real... This infringed upon the integrity of God, who was put in a position of calling something just that was not really just. Analogously, a gold-plated coin is real, but that does not mean that the metal underneath is real gold. Thus, for someone to call the coin a genuine gold coin would be a lie.”
In response to this charge, Sproul says: “Rome’s view presupposes that the only true justness or righteousness is inherent righteousness. It denies the truth of imputation. The Biblical doctrine of justification is not a ‘legal fiction’. It is a legal reality precisely because it is based on a real and true righteousness. Neither Christ’s righteousness nor its imputation to us is a matter of fiction. It represents the reality of divine grace.”
Sproul misses the point here. The charge of legal fiction as explained above deals with the fact that God, who is Truth itself, cannot call someone righteous, who is not righteous. Even if imputation were a reality, the fact remains that the individual being called righteous is not truly righteous. The righteousness of an individual who is not righteous interiorly, but only exteriorly, is an artificial righteousness. It is the same kind of righteousness that Jesus condemned in the Scribes and Pharisees when He said: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity.” What did Jesus command of them? “You blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” Jesus is concerned with the interior of man, as He says in another place: “there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” You might say that by these verses alone, “sola fide” is condemned. This is so because “sola fide” proponents say we are still defiled on the inside after we become saved, that is via imputation. Thus, the one to whom Christ’s righteousness is said to be imputed, is still defiled in the eyes of Jesus. This then, would make Jesus the biggest hypocrite of all. He who commands the Scribes and the Pharisees to do something, (cleanse the inside first) doesn’t command it of His own disciples. Yes, the concern of our God is to clean up the interior of man first, then worry about what is on the outside, the complete opposite of the Protestant ‘imputation’ theory.
Then, there is the problem dealing with the following passage: “He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God.” Here we have Paul saying that God’s praise is for those who have circumcised their hearts, that is became pure inwardly. You cannot impose a belief of imputation on this passage.
According to James Akin, there is another problem with the ‘imputation’ theory: “if God simply saw us as Christ, if he gave us Christ's own personal righteousness, then we would all be rewarded equally in heaven. We would all be as righteous as Christ and so we would all be rewarded equally. Since Scripture clearly teaches that there will be different degrees of reward in heaven (1 Cor. 3:12-15), we must conclude that we will have different degrees of righteousness. We may all be free of any unrighteousness. Second, and similarly, if we all received Christ's own personal righteousness then we would all be rewarded equally with Christ. We would all have exactly the same level of glory as our Savior who went to the Cross for us. This is clearly unacceptable. To begin with, Scripture teaches that because Christ went to the Cross, God gave him "the name above every name" (Phil. 2:8-9; cf. Eph 1:20-21). Having the name above every name is therefore a unique blessing Christ has received because he alone went to the Cross. He alone did that righteous act that got him the name above every name. But if we all received Christ's own personal righteousness, then we would all receive names as glorious as Christ's. So Christ would no longer have a name above everybody else's. Our names would be just as blessed as Christ's. Your name would be a name equal in glory to that of Jesus of Nazareth. This is clearly unacceptable. Christ alone has that uniquely glorious name because Christ alone went to the Cross and Christ alone has the level of righteousness that comes from going to the Cross.”
To put it another way, the Evangelical claims that we get to heaven on the basis of the merits and righteousness of Christ, and his merits only, that are imputed to us. Yet, because the Scriptures clearly teach that there are different levels of happiness in heaven, somehow what we do on earth “shines” through the righteousness that is imputed to us (Christ’s own righteousness), and is rewarded. Thus, we are to believe that our works done on earth are, in a sense, added to the “finished work of Christ.” This is untenable. How is it possible that our works, tainted by sin as they are, can possibly “shine” through the “blanket of righteousness” that is Christ? If God sees the righteousness of Christ covering you, then that’s all he would see, for there is nothing we can do that would add to His righteousness and subsequently add to our glory in heaven!
In the same vein, in James 5:16 we read: “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” Now, if everybody had the righteousness of Christ, they would have the same “righteousness.” This nullifies the impact of this verse, for then it wouldn’t matter who prayed, for all prayers would have the same effect because all believers, according to Protestant teaching, have the same righteousness. This verse only makes sense in Catholic theology.
The Evangelicals claim: “But this idea that we are righteous takes away from the glory of God by crediting to man something that belongs to God alone. You infringe upon the finished work of Christ on the cross.” Is that what we’re really doing? Not at all. To use an example of this idea, imagine yourself back in high school. You are the star quarterback for your football team. You’ve broken all the school records and made all state in the process. After you left the school, they retired your jersey for antiquity, and the state named you to their high school hall of fame. Now it’s 20 years later, and your son is now in that same high school where “dad” was, and still is, a legend. What would give you more glory, to have the coach come up to you and say “Johnny is not the athlete you were when you played here, but we’ll put him on the team anyway, even give him your same jersey number.” Or to have the coach say; “Boy, that kid of yours is every bit the player you were. In fact, he throws just like you did when you were here, and has the same leadership qualities you had. He even has the same attitude. There will be no problem finding him a spot on our team.”? Obviously, the second option brings the father more glory. Well, in the same way, God fathers us, by empowering us with His grace so we can become imitators of Christ as Paul was (1 Cor 11:1).
What is Faith?
What is “faith” to the Evangelical? The Evangelical proclaims “we are justified by faith alone,” but how does the Evangelical define this faith. Sproul says: “During the Reformation a threefold definition of saving faith emerged. The constituent elements of saving faith are (1) notitia, (2) assensus, and (3) fiducia. Each element was regarded as necessary for saving faith. None of these elements, even fiducia, taken alone or separately, is a sufficient condition for saving faith. All three are essential to it.”
Notitia refers to knowledge, assensus refers to intellectual assent, and fiducia refers to the inner aspect, the heart.
Notitia : “Notitia then refers to the content of faith. To be saved one must believe certain basic information. It may be bare minimum, but it must be something.”
Assensus : “Intellectual assent involves the assurance or conviction that a certain proposition is true. Luther spoke of the importance of the assurance in true faith: ‘faith is and, indeed, must be a steadfastness of the heart, which does not waver, wobble, shake, or tremble, or doubt, but stands firm and is sure of its case. . . .When this Word enters the heart by true faith, it makes the heart as firm, sure, and certain as it is itself, so that the heart is unmoved, stubborn and hard in the face of every temptation, the devil, death, and anything whatever, boldly and proudly despising and mocking everything that spells doubt, fear, evil, and wrath. For it knows God’s word cannot lie.’”
Fiducia : “Fiducia means a positive disposition of the soul or mind to an object. To see how this works with respect to the necessary condition for saving faith, let us consider the case of Satan and his response to Christ. Satan does not lack intelligence. He is aware - fully aware - of the identity of Christ. Satan has the notitia. He is also fully cognizant of the truth of the identity of Christ. Satan has the assensus. But Satan personally places no fiducia or trust in Christ. He resists Christ. In fact, he despises Christ. . . The disposition or inclination of Satan’s ‘heart’ is utterly negative. Therefore, it can be said Satan does not possess “faith” in Christ.”
Notice first of all what the Evangelical’s have done to the “simple” faith of the Gospel. They’ve compounded it into this complex formula that Fiducia + notitia + assensus = ‘saving faith.’ Where is the Scripture text that backs up this claim? How many individuals, going by “Scripture alone,” are going to come up with this same understanding of “faith?”
Secondly, regarding notitia. Note that the believer needs to do something; i.e. “believe certain basic information,” to qualify in this first of the three elements of ‘saving faith.’ For the believer to “believe certain basic information,” he must put forth a human effort of some sort, even if it is only minute, to acquire this information.
Thirdly, look at assensus. We are told that there must be a “steadfastness of heart” to such a degree “so that the heart is unmoved, stubborn and hard in the face of every temptation, the devil, death, and anything whatever. . .” Now, we ask you dear reader, how is one to know they have this “steadfastness of heart” until death?, or at the very least, till one undergoes many trials and tribulations in this life? Again, you see an element of this so-called ‘saving faith’ that requires the believer to put forth an effort to do something.
Finally, fiducia. This, we are told, is a “positive disposition of the soul or mind to an object.” One needs to place one’s trust in the Lord for this element to be a part of one’s “saving faith.” Again, another act on the part of the believer, that is, to place your trust and hope in Christ.
So, you have three parts of “saving faith.” Each part requires an effort on the part of the believer. Yet, Protestant theology tells us there is nothing man can do for his justification.
To let Sungenis say it, “This presents a huge problem for the imputation theory for the theory holds that those do not who exhibit faith cannot receive the imputed righteousness. To compound the problem, the Protestant understanding requires a high quality of faith in order to appropriate the alien righteousness of Christ. For the Protestant theory to be compatible with James (Chap 2), the individual’s faith must be of measurable quality that is then, and only then, able to be the instrument to receive the alien righteousness of Christ.” “As we have argued before, if justification is a one-time act dependent solely on faith, then there is no theological room for works to enter into a description of the moment of faith. In reality, the man could spend his whole life wondering if he has met the three conditions. If he sins and falls away from faith then he will be told that he never was a Christian originally because he never had “saving faith.” What a terrible predicament. In a system that boasts of giving the individual assurance that he is saved, he really has no assurance at all, for he can never be certain if he has exhibited “saving faith.”
24. The teaching on indulgences was true in
the Reformation years, as it is true today. The problem then was
in the practice of a few individuals in carrying out this
doctrine. In fact, performing practices contrary to Church
teaching. Similar to Paul’s rebuke of Peter in
Galatians, it wasn’t that Peter was teaching wrongly, he
wasn’t practicing what he was preaching