Justification 

JUSTIFICATION
Do you believe in being justified before God by faith alone? If you’re a non-Catholic or non-Eastern Orthodox and you attend a church, there is a ninety-nine percent chance you and/or your church does. To be justified means being made righteous, just, holy, and acceptable before God. Protestants will claim that to be justified means merely being declared righteous, just, and acceptable before God through faith alone while remaining in a perpetual state of depraved sin, simultaneously.

Faith alone (or sola fide) is a Christian theological doctrine that distinguishes most Protestant denominations from the Catholic Church. The doctrine asserts that God’s pardon for the forgiveness of sins excludes all goods works and is received through faith alone. Some common passages from Sacred Scripture that Protestant confessions of faith and denominations like to quote for the basis of this doctrine are:

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28 KJV

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 KJV

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:16 KJV

The case for the doctrine of faith alone, apart from any type of works, on the basis of these King James Version verses (among others) of Scripture alone, appears to be definitive. However, when you get to the canonical book of Saint James (accepted by Protestants), specifically the second chapter, the Protestant Christian runs into an inherent problem with this doctrine:

“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James 2:24 NIV

“Ye see that a man is justified of works, and not of faith only.” James 2:24 WYC

Personally, I have heard many different approachable defenses regarding this verse (and chapter) attempting to uphold the doctrine of ‘faith alone’. I have had Protestant ministers claim that this verse “is written to those already justified Christians”, to “we are justified by faith alone, but faith is never alone”, to “it is an enigma”, to “it is a straw man argument”, and then following up by rapid-firing seemingly ‘faith alone’ passages that outweigh the verse of James 2:24. However, it has been brought to my attention that Saint James’ discourse in his epistle on justification is that of justification before men, and NOT before God. I will post the entire passage from James chapter two:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

The following are quotes that I have been given attempting to validate the claim that Saint James is referring to ‘justification before men’ when he writes that we are justified by works, and not by faith alone:

“You can’t see faith. You can see works. And even if one professes faith, words mean nothing if they are not proved by works”

“Show me” referring to men showing other men their works to be justified before one another, and not God.”

“You see” referring to us men seeing with our eyes the works of other men to be justified before one another, and not God.”

“James 2:24 says a man is justified by works, it cannot possibly mean that God justifies such a man on the basis of his works for this would have God contradicting himself. Reading James in context reveals that James is talking about a justification that man can see. Show me, he argues. We cannot show faith. We can only show works.”

These arguments have been brought to me trying to substantiate that Saint James, in the aforementioned passage, is referring only to ‘justification before men’ and NOT before God. Before I get into the passage itself, let us examine the history behind this doctrine of ‘justification before men’.

First of all, it is unfounded by any early Church Father. There is no mention of anything remotely close to imagining such a conception that Saint James was referring to ‘justification before men’, absolutely nothing implicitly, ambiguously, or even accidentally, written and/or carried through oral tradition. Secondly, what is more revealing and even more shocking, is that not one 16th-century Reformer (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli etc.) even came close to imagining such a doctrine! There is absolutely nothing, zero, zilch that was written and/or carried on by oral tradition from the Reformers. What is even more telling, is that there is absolutely no mention whatsoever of this ‘justification before men’ in any Protestant Confession of faith and doctrine. You can examine the entire Formula of Concord (1577), the fullness of the Westminister Confession of Faith (1646), and/or the complete Baptist Confession of Faith (1644), among many others, and you will find no such declaration of Saint James referring to being justified before men only, and not before God. In fact, this is what Martin Luther, the founding father of the Protestant Reformation and the doctrine of ‘faith alone’, had to say about the Epistle of Saint James:

“In a word, St. John’s Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul’s Epistles, especially Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and St. Peter’s first Epistle are the books that show you Christ and that teach you all that is necessary and good for you to know, even though you never see or hear any other book or doctrine. Therefore, St. James’ Epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to them; for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel in it.”

“Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow.”

“In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task in spirit, thought, and words. He mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture. He tries to accomplish by harping on the law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love. Therefore I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. Therefore I will not have him in my Bible to be numbered among the true chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. One man is no man in worldly things; how then, should this single man alone avail against Paul and all Scripture”

“In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works”

Notice the last italicized portion of the last above-mentioned quote, “[Saint Jame’s Epistle] is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works”. Even Martin Luther knew that Saint James was referring to justification before God, and not men, hence his explicit, indignant and abhorrent contempt for the entire epistle! It is even more interesting that Luther parallels Saint James ‘justification to works’ going against St. Paul’s “justification to faith”. If Saint James was merely referring to the works performed to be justified before men, then why would he write that this contradicted St. Paul’s justification to faith before God?! Because, even the ‘doctor of doctors’ knew Saint James was referring to justification before God.

Now lets us analyze the text of Saint James in the proper Apostolic context. The most important words of this text, the entire basis for Saint James’ inspired reason for writing it are captured in the very first words:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

Read and understand the words “can such faith SAVE them”! Saint James is clearly and unambiguously talking about salvation and the faith required for it. Remember, as we know mentioned before, to be justified means being made (or declared if you’re Protestant) righteous, just, holy, and acceptable before God; justification equals salvation, even Protestants will agree. The topic here is salvation by justification! This following verse precedes what Saint James has to say how he will illustrate or expound on his point:

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.”

The key word here to focus on is ‘suppose’. Other transliterations will use the word ‘if’. Nonetheless, Saint James is using an analogy to illustrate his point on salvific faith. This analogy is the premise for the reasoning behind the exposition of explaining if such a faith can save them; hence why he follows up with a real world example displaying the efficacious completion of a salvific faith:

“If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Is Saint James telling us the only way to have real, non-lifeless faith is by solely and specifically keeping our brothers and sisters fed with food and clothed with clothes? Of course not! He is using an example to magnify his point that if your faith does not include works, your “justifying” faith is dead and you will not inherit eternal life, i.e. salvation (can such faith save you), hence, the reason for ‘suppose’.

“But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”

This portion of the passage is where Protestants start to develop and infer that the justification Saint James is referring to is ‘justification before men’, and not justification before God. Or, namely, that we stand “righteous, holy, just, and acceptable before men” by the works, but not by the faith. Their claim roots from the seemingly clear fact that men cannot ‘see’ other men’s faith, their salvific faith. Therefore, when Saint James writes “Show me” and/or “I will show you”, Protestants infer he is inexplicably referring to that which the human eye can ‘see’, viz. men can only see the external works of faith, and not the internal faith itself that alone justifies us before God.

There are two explicit and inherent problems with this claim. First, Saint James is still using an analogy to illustrate his point by prefacing with the initial food and clothes example, ‘suppose’ and/or ‘if’. We do not and cannot become justified before one another by solely feeding and clothing others in need! How can man substantiate, only by that which can be seen, i.e. external works (viz. clothing and feeding), that those who performed those works even had faith to begin with; e.g. an atheist can perfectly clothe the naked and feed the hungry, but do those works justify him before another Christian man?! If only God knows who truly does and does not have an internal, invisible, salvific faith, then how would anyone know for certain if those works were done in vain, without any kind of faith whatsoever? For example, a confession of faith in and of itself is an external work and not the faith itself, according to Protestants.

The second inherent and obvious problem is when Saint James says “Show me your faith without deeds”. Protestants exclaim that the words “show me” refer to men showing other men their deeds in order that they can be justified before each other, and not God. Here’s the issue, Saint James writes “show me your faith without deeds” and then immediately follows with “and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” Reread that, “I will SHOW YOU MY FAITH”. There it is! Crystal clear without an ounce of any obvious or implicit ambiguity! You can SHOW YOUR FAITH! Remember, Protestants will claim that faith is intrinsically internal, completely invisible, and can only be known by God and that men CANNOT ‘SEE’ the faith, only God can see the faith, but men can only ‘SEE’ the result, or the external works of that invisible faith, therefore we are justified before each other not by the faith, but only by the works seen by our eyes. The Protestant doctrine of ‘justification before men’ should have Saint James read this way:

“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my DEEDS by my faith” or I will show you my deeds from my faith”, or “I will show you my deeds through my faith”.

But Saint James does not write that. He states, “I will show you my faith”!

In other words, Saint James is stating that we cannot show a salvific and justifying faith before God without deeds, rather we CAN SHOW a salvific and justifying faith before God with deeds! An internal faith that cannot be seen without deeds is demonic! An internal faith that CAN BE SEEN with deeds, or by deeds, is justifying because “such a faith” CAN SAVE HIM! Hence the following line:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder”

Merely believing that there is one God, or faith without deeds, i.e. faith alone, correlates with what Saint James said prior, “show me your faith without deeds”. You CAN show your faith without deeds, just as the demons do! How do we know demons are not justified by faith alone? Because their faith is without deeds! Hence, with all due respect to Protestant’s and their beliefs, faith alone, or faith without deeds, is demonic!

“The apostle says that a man who believes and does not act has the faith of demons. If that is true, imagine the fate of a man who does not believe at all.” – Saint Caesarius of Arles (Sermons 12.5)

Now, comes the final portion of Saint James exhortation on justification by faith and works. This part alone, undoubtedly and without question completely and utterly refutes this ‘justification before men’ notion. Here is the last few verses:

“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.”

Again, Protestants will infer and claim the fact that Saint James used the words ‘you see’ intrinsically refers to what can be seen by the naked eye. The saying ‘you see’ is synonymous with ‘you understand’ with your mind and not merely seeing with your fleshy eyes. Did you and/or I actually see Abraham’s faith and actions? Did anyone else for that matter? Absolutely not! You see ‘you see’ is a figure of speech that equates to ‘you understand’.

Furthermore, Protestants claim faith cannot be seen by the naked eye. However, Saint James says “you see his faith”…how can you see faith; by the deeds. The problem is that Protestants claim that the works only flow from an already initiated faith and they are only the result of a salvific faith, but they have no way, shape, or form in justifying us before God, but only before other men. Intentional or inadvertent, they dichotomize faith from works in the realm of justification. However, Saint James says word-for-word verbatim; “his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did”.

Think about that, his invisible and salvific faith to be justified before God (remember, Protestants themselves will tell you only faith is what justifies and can only be seen by God) was what?….MADE COMPLETE BY WHAT HE DID! That invisible faith was made complete by external works! Abraham’s faith, only known to God, was completed by offering Isaac to who; other men? Absolutely not! Abraham’s ‘invisible faith’ was made complete by what he did! If anything that justifying and invisible faith became visible to other men and God because we can see what?… You see his faith AND his actions, you do not see just his actions, but you see with the naked eye if you so desire, both his faith and his actions.There is no separation of works and faith in this verse! Now, we will examine the precise Old Testament portion of Scripture involving Saint James use of Abraham offering Isaac.

Let us consider both the context and the exact situation, according to Scripture alone, of what Saint James is referring to in Genesis 22 regarding Abraham offering his son, Isaac. I will bold and italicize the key parts to offer proof from Scripture alone for refuting ‘justification before men’:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

Note: God tested Abraham; man did not test Abraham, but God alone.

“Here I am,” he replied.

Note: Here ‘I’ am, not here ‘we’ are (no other men to be justified before).

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Note: Abraham explicitly commands his servants to ‘stay here’ and ‘then we will come back to you’. Now, if Abraham is being justified before men by his external works to be seen by men, the offering of his son, do not you think he would have had them come with so that he could “show them his works” to be justified before them, or “you see”. 

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

Note: Did another man call out to Abraham to stop him? No, there were no other men even present! Hence, and angel of the Lord called out to him, and not another man.

“Here I am,” he replied.

 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Note: Who knows that Abraham fears God? A man? No, angel of the Lord. If anything, Protestants should claim we are justified by our works before angels, and not before other men!

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring[ all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Note: God swore by Himself! Not by a witness of two or three men, but by Himself that He will bless Him because of faith alone? No, but because “you have OBEYED me”!

Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

Note: Maybe Abraham only left his servants initially, or momentarily. Hardly, Sacred Scripture alone confirms that Abraham was alone as he then “returned to his servants”.

In conclusion, if Saint James were referring to justification before men and not before God, he used the poorest and seeming most contradictory example from all of Old Testament Scripture with the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his only son, Isaac. These theological questions yet remained unanswered in regards to the doctrine of ‘justification before men’ in James chapter two:

Why would sinful men need to be justified (declared or made holy) before other sinful men? If Saint James is indeed referring to ‘justification before men’ and not God, what is his point in doing so? Why do we need to be made, or declared right, just, holy and acceptable before other sinful men? Is that not the epitome of prideful boasting not in the Lord, but in men; in which Scripture alone condemns over and over again!:

 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 KJV

 

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another – Galatians 6:4 KJV

 

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain – 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV

 

But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. – John 3:21 NIV

 

Therefore let no man glory in men. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 KJV

 

Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory. – Psalm 115:1NIV

 

It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory. – Proverbs 25:27 KJV

 

 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

 

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:31/Jeremiah 9:24 NIV

 

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. – Hebrews 6:10 NIV

 

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. – Romans 6:22 KJV

 

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” – Matthew 6:1 NIV

 

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”. Matthew 6:3 NIV

 

“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”. Matthew 6:17,18 NIV[a]

 

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. – 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 NIV

 

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends – 2 Corinthians 10:12-18 NIV

– The Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, vol. II, The Spirit of the Protestant Reformation, translated and titled by Betram Lee Woolf (London: Lutherworth Press, 1956), ), p.35. Preface to James and Jude, pages 35-36.

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Are you saved?

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Are you saved? Do you have complete and ultimate, 100% positive assurance that you are going to Heaven? Are you one of God’s predestined chosen elect? These theological questions have been raised and perpetuated throughout Christianity, more so for the past century of Evangelical Christianity. On face-value, these questions are crucially important and bear soul-searching resemblances to each other – I give them sincere credence and the attention they deserve, in and of themselves. Let us face it, when a question involves our salvation and whether our name will be written in the Book of Life not to be blotted out, regardless of who asked it, a thorough examination and spiritual discernment should hopefully follow leading to an adequate and proper understanding.

The doctrines of free will and predestination are perhaps two of the most mysterious and intimidating topics in Christianity. They are the cause of debate among many Christian denominations. Yet, they invoke in an almost unfathomable way, this sense of morbid curiosity. After all, would you not want to know if you, among others, are predestined to Heaven? The teachings of free will and predestination and/or the lack thereof could be the utmost divisive sword in Evangelical Christianity, conceivably. Subsequently, it could be argued that Evangelicals have taken a keen interest in knowing not only their own personal eternal fate, but also the destiny of others as they perpetually evangelize common and widespread rhetorical questions; if you were to die today, what would you say to God to let you into Heaven; do you know where you will spend eternity; are you saved?

Is it possible that one of these doctrines gets completely rejected by the will itself, ironically, and the other should not even be of concern to us? Is it plausible that free will has everything to do with your entrance into Heaven, while predestination is nothing but an unmitigated distraction and downright waste of time as it relates to the economy of salvation? Lastly, is it imaginable that many Christians unknowingly and inadvertently turn these “doctrines” completely on their heads, spin them around in an unnecessary whirlwind, just for them to land in a complete backwards way of theological reasoning?

It would seem logical for us not to put the cart before the horse, and to examine the doctrine of predestination first, followed by the doctrine of free will (or no will). However, considering the fact that we have the will to accept or reject the ‘merit’ of predestination altogether, we will start with free will.

The idea that our will was enslaved beyond our control or that man in fact had no will (or at least the capability to act on it), was largely conceived, confessed, and defended by Martin Luther in the first quarter of the 16th century. He even compiled a work, entitled De Servo Arbitrio (On the Enslaved Will or On the Bondage of the Will) involving a critical discourse regarding the rejection of man’s free will and coincidentally, predestination. The literary genius of Luther goes to lengths attempting to use evidence from Scripture trying to disprove that man has a choice of whether he allows good (God) or evil (Satan) to rule us and guide us to our inevitable eternal destination. Here is a famous quote from his work:

“Man’s will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides, it wills and goes where God wills…If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan goes. Nor may it choose to which rider it will run, or which it will seek; but the riders themselves fight to decide who shall have and hold it.” (pp. 103f)

Eleven years later, the French Protestant theologian, John Calvin expanded and expounded Luther’s conception of the enslaved will. Unfortunately, he took Luther’s private and individual interpretation of Scripture masquerading as an apostolic doctrine, and raised it to the next level. Not only did God ordain us the incapability to rationally choose between who our “riders” will be, said Calvin, but he went so far as to teach and confess that God pre-ordained and authored evil, along with predestining certain souls to everlasting hell against their will, from all eternity. Here are a few samples of Calvin’s works:

“man by the righteous impulsion of God does that which is unlawful”, and that “man falls, the Providence of God so ordaining.” (Inst. IV, 18, 2; III, 23, 8)

“life and death are acts of God’s will rather than of his foreknowledge”, and “He foresees further events only in consequence of his decree that they shall happen.” (Ibid)

“eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.” (Inst. III, 21, 5)

The above-mentioned is only a mere glance and perhaps an oversimplification of Luther’s and Calvin’s doctrines. Nevertheless, most orthodox Lutherans and reformed Calvinists will fully agree with the quotes provided and unceasingly defend them.

Do we have free will, especially as it correlates with our eternal salvation and/or eternal damnation?

Is there a more terrifying thought, utterly horrifying feeling, or even depersonalized and derealized sensation that makes your heart race, teeth grind, and pores pour sweat, than to imagine experiencing the reality of eternal separation from God? Is there concurrently a more pacifying, consoling, and assuring message; a more comforting, soothing, and peaceful feeling than to be fully convinced beyond all reason, faith, and hope that your name is written in the Book of Life and nothing can expunge it, not even the gravest of sins?! The latter question is of greater concern than the former.

If we can convince ourselves, and others, using the great ‘convincer’ – God’s written Word alone, and that its authority conveys to us the idea that man’s will is but an illusory facade and our eternal fate is based solely on the supreme providence and preeminent sovereignty of God; then what an apparent beautiful and organic sedative for that original horrifying and terrifying possibility. But what if we could go to Scripture and not only convince ourselves that man is in fact endowed with free will, but prove it in an unbiased, exegetical, and historical substantiation that will ultimately and inherently lead us to the believe that the predestination of our souls is not really a matter for us to even weigh in on?

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. Genesis 1:26 NIV

God has free will, as He is free will Himself. God did not create out of necessity, but of love. God has no need for creation. Yet He wills what He will, bound by absolutely nothing but Himself. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3 NIV). God, who is freedom itself, even willed to choose the elect out of many that were called: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11 NIV). God did not have to choose to love us and/or redeem us. The Divine Will of God is a choice, not a necessity, but a choice that in His perfect freedom did not have to choose to love us and/or redeem us. “For God so loved the world that…” but bound by the chains of love, paradoxically (God is love), He freely chose to love poor sinners and humbled Himself to an Infant in flesh, perpetually sorrowful unto death on a cross. Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Lord Himself was and is everlasting the complete and ultimate encapsulation of free will, as He had two wills; one human, and one divine. The free will of Jesus was even prophesied in Isaiah 7:14-16 NIV: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste” and also “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8 NIV).

Moreover, even the created angels, Seraphim to guardian, Cherubim to fallen, were made in the image and likeness of the Trinity, endowed with free will and the gift of intellect to act on that will. The fall of Lucifer and his following angels were exactly the result of an independent choice enacted and ennobled by their free will: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling” (Jude 1:6 NIV), while Saint Michael and the other angels freely chose to adore God Incarnate, born of a Woman, for all eternity.

The only way us men have no free will, is if God is bound by something outside of Himself, which we know is not true. Adam and Eve, before their fall into the bondage of the devil and sin, had the freedom to will a choice of obeying God’s command or disobeying Him into knowing both good and evil, for they were both perfectly made in His image and likeness, freedom itself. The capability to choose, given to them, was not out of necessity, but again, love. Love is the choice of choices, and for Adam and Eve to be created in the image and likeness of God, that endowment could and would not be neglected or omitted. The real question is whether human free will was lost after the fall into sin, originally and perpetually. And also, could that freedom be restored?!

Let me put this simply, Jesus Christ was born to die so that we could live, and live freely. We were born to live, so by the grace of God we can choose to die to ourselves and allow His Spirit to make us truly alive in this life! “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (1 Thess 5:10 NIV). Our blessed Lord tells us, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” and more substantially, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (Matthew 16:24 NIV, John 12:24 KJV). This denial and death initially takes place in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. This is exactly where free will gets even more restored, elevated, and widened. Through Baptism, we have even more free will than both Adam and Eve put together before their fall! Not only are all of our sins (original and actual) forgiven, not only are all the effects of sin (corporeal and spiritual) and their due punishments remitted, and not only is all our guilt completely removed through Holy Baptism, we are  in every way possible renewed, reborn, and regenerated making us new creations! “By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” and “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (Titus 3:5,6 KJV, 2 Cor 5:17 KJV).

Great, so what on earth does this have to do with free will? Initially, we died to ourselves through Holy Baptism. But, there is even a greater calling to free will of the Baptized after we are reborn and regenerated anew. That calling is nothing but a choice of the will. As God first chose us, apart from our will, He wills and destines us to choose Him in return, hence the term ‘covenant’. God made a promise, a pact, a vow if you will, to each and every one of us when He made us clean through the washing of regeneration. His promise was this: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13 KJV). Every future evil inclination, every seemingly future impossible temptation to resist, each and every apparent diabolical tendency felt physically in our flesh, and all the battling against the arrows that the Devil shoots at us – comes down to a choice of the will; will we choose (that capability given to us already in being regenerated and renewed) to allow the Spirit to continue to live in us, rule us, and guide our every step towards complete sanctification, or, will we freely choose to reject the Mercy of God and His sanctifying grace (just as Adam and Eve did when they were Immaculate) by committing a deadly, mortal sin: “There is a sin that leads to death…and there is sin that does not lead to death” (1 John 5:16,17 NIV)? Let me reiterate, only by the pure grace of God being infused into us, “because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 NIV), are we even able to “endure to the end”. However, as we know, there are those who will not endure to the end and shall not be saved. This is just the reason, according to the Bible alone, that throughout the Old and New Testaments alike, we will be solely judged on our works. We will not be judged solely by the work of Christ, as nowhere does Scripture reveal that implicitly, explicitly, ambiguously, or unambiguously. Further, nowhere does the Holy Bible say we will be judged by faith, or even by grace! There are dozens of passages throughout the entire Bible that concretely, unambiguously, and straightforwardly declare that we will be judged by our works – not redeemed by, not saved by, not sanctified, not justified, not reconciled, but judged! I will give you two only:

“‘I the Lord have spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” Ezekiel 24:14 NIV

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”’ Romans 2:6-7 NIV

Redeemed by Jesus Christ, “who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Tim 2:6 NIV), “who [the Father] reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV), “for it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV) “since we have been justified through faith” (Romans 5:1 NIV), “and his faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22 NIV), “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us” (Romans 8:4 NIV), “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37 NIV), for as “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent –  the Lord detests them both” (Proverbs 17:15 NIV), “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV).

Saint Augustine once said, “if we have no free will, how will God judge us”?! What is there to judge?! Many souls claim that God will judge us solely on the merits of Christ outside of us letting His merits produce fruit in us. I have yet to find that claim in the Holy Bible. Moreover, if that were the case, what is the point of Judgement Day? If God judges Christ, on our behalf, then why would He need to set apart a specific place and time to profess that, and to separate the sheep from the goats?! Luther was on to something in the aforementioned quote. To remind you:

“Man’s will is like a beast standing between two riders. If God rides, it wills and goes where God wills…If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan goes. Nor may it choose to which rider it will run, or which it will seek; but the riders themselves fight to decide who shall have and hold it.” (pp. 103f)

I have absolutely no problem with the first three sentences. I completely agree that God or Satan wills and rides us to our eternal destination. Where Luther was wrong, was when he wrote: “Nor may it [man’s will] choose to which rider it will run”. The choice of allowing God or Satan to rule our lives is really the only thing that is really ours! God endowed us men, just like the angels, to choose upon whom we mount. We, at any given time, whether through grace or sin, can choose to even exchange which rider we let ride us. God can take our life, our wealth, our power, our health, anything and everything from us – the only thing he cannot and will not take from us is our free will; the choice of allowing Him to repose in our hearts forever, or our choice to reject Him and His free gift of sanctifying grace, thus choosing Satan as our rider straight into our own personal freedom of hell, forever.

For we are made in the image of the Trinity, but more importantly, we were and are remade, renewed, and regenerated to even a higher degree of freedom by abiding in Truth! Truth is not a mere message, or a sole line of philosophical reasoning, or a sheer doctrine substantiated by Holy Writ. Truth is a Person, and that person is Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. If we abide IN that Person, He will abide IN us. What better way to abide in that Person, than to experience something that even the highest Seraphim will never be able to do; to, with the aid of God’s grace, will to make the choice to go to the communion rail, and choose to allow that Truth’s body, blood, soul, and Divinity enter every part of your heart, body and soul to really allow you to “participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:4 NIV). Truth is indeed a Person, and if you want the Truth to set you free from the bondage of thinking you are not free by having no free will, humbly go to Lamb of God by choosing to allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to Him. It is there, where you can allow God to choose you eternally, to be among the predestined elect, as “many are called, but only few are chosen”. God predestined you to have free will, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it! So, instead of being unceasingly infatuated with whether or not others are among the chosen elect of God by asking those familiar Evangelical questions, why don’t you show them how you allowed God to come to you, and how He has worked through you, in you, and with you? After all, it is by your fruits that they will know you!

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go, I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8 NIV

One-world religion

We are dawning on the precise two thousandth year of the conception of the Church and Faith that Our Blessed Lord founded, built, and delivered (whether you believe that Church and Faith to be solely invisible or not). I can guarantee you, with as little or as much anecdotal or historical evidence, that there is not one church, one sect, one denomination, one branch, or one cafeteria flavor of Christianity, in the two thousand years of its public revelation, that has and currently receives as much globalized criticism, secular attention, theologically-cynical and over-sensationalized claims, disparaging accusations, and devil-infiltrated contentions and opinions as the Roman Catholic Church. Some of these ridiculous assertions have been planted and used for nearing almost exactly 500 years, i.e. “the Pope is the anti-Christ…the Catholic Church teaches salvation is earned by works…Catholics worship Mary”. However, a more recent and popular claim has trickled its way into our midst. Many have proposed that the Pope, along with the episcopate of the Catholic Church, has been plotting to establish a one-world religion by combining and uniting different aspects and doctrines of religions throughout the world.

About three weeks ago, the Vatican released an interfaith video displaying Pope Francis encouraging people of different faiths to increase their dialogue with each other and to acknowledge that we are “all children of God”. You can watch the video here:

Of course, without hesitation, this video went viral among non-Catholics in the United States and instantaneously regurgitated some of the same-old “disparaging accusations” and “over-sensationalized claims” against the Catholic Church. Lo and behold, I received three private messages and one public from four different non-Catholics, all within two weeks! On a side note, I fully encourage and welcome all and any private and/or public messages that include comments, questions, and/or remarks — rhetorical or genuinely inquisitive. The common theme among all four of these messages alluded to the 50-year old (post Vatican II Council, 1965) anti-Catholic claim that the RCC has been covertly strategizing to develop a globalized plan to mix and blend ideologies and theologies of various world religions, or the religions themselves, into an all-encompassing and encapsulating one-world religion – and thus fulfilling the prophecy of the foretold domination and rule of the anti-Christ and his deception of the entire planet. Remind you, I was an avid supporter of the aforementioned accusations against the Catholic Church, as I spent the vast majority of my life as a revolting and protesting anti-Catholic Confessional Lutheran. Until my recent reversion to the Catholic Church almost two years ago, I was protesting and toting this exact claim for many years.

This video, along with the one-world-religion claim, could supposedly hold concrete credibility and value, based upon its contextual arrangement. As we know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, or, deception begets a friendly smile, and theologically, the devil masquerades himself as an angel of light. As trite as those idioms appear, deception is obviously something not to be taken too lightly. This video, encouraging interfaith dialogue, could theoretically be a coercive tactic used to deceive many into the ever so promulgation of the inevitable one-world religion. But let us solely use the evidence in the Life of Christ, as recorded in Scripture (only), to once-and-for-all debunk the ignorance of this meritless and sophomoric claim!

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:9,10 NIV*

You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. – John 4:22 NIV*

So when the Samaritans came to him [Jesus], they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. – John 4:40 NIV*

So, what do these passages mean, as it relates to this tract and the claim of the Roman Catholic one-world religion? The Samaritans of Jesus’ day, a sect of Judaism, were not in full communion with ordinary Jews  (Jesus was an ordinary Jew at the time). Jews despised Samaritans and even avoided passing through Samaritan territory lest they become contaminated. Saint John the Evangelist even went so far as to include the inspired words “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans” in John 4:9 NIV*.  Likewise, the Samaritans did not care too much for the Jews: “And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem” Luke 9:52,53 NIV*. Samaritans were even a racially mixed society with Jewish and pagan ancestry. Hold on to this thought.

Let us look at another part of Scripture, perhaps one of the most notable and widely known throughout the entire world. It transcends creed, culture, language, and race – the Parable of the Good Samaritan. For the sake of effort and space, I will refer you to Luke 10 and encourage you to reread the parable, as you are probably well aware of its contents. You will notice that Our Blessed Lord used three different people in His illustration; a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan, four if you include the man who was attacked. The first two (priest and Levite) are ordinary Jews, just like Jesus was at the time of proclaiming His infamous allegory. In other words, Jesus, the priest, and Levite would all be considered to be belonging to the “true religion” of the time. Whereas the Samaritan, in addition to being a part of a schismatic and heretical sect, was detested and scorned by those belonging to the “true religion” of Judaism. Our loving Savior could have used any type of individual for explaining to the expert of the law, who exactly is “his neighbor”. Why would he dare to imagine using a Samaritan to point out who our neighbors are? Because, as the Holy Father, Pope Francis so beautifully said in Italian, “we are all children of God”. Simply exchange Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, or even Atheist for the Samaritan in the Parable, and you have a modern day perfect composition of a current Good Samaritan parable.

We are to interact with and love our neighbors as ourselves, but only those of the same faith!? No, we are to love and interact with all people, especially those of different faiths. How are we supposed to love our neighbor and spread the Gospel, if we cannot muster the audacity to even exchange words with them?! I will tell you why. Many of us have a tendency, an inclination if you will, to want to remain exclusive in our faith and in our relationship with our Creator, particularly when dealing with individuals who appear to have a relationship with a “different Creator” altogether, or when their religious/doctrinal views do not match ours. Moreover, much of us suffer, some more than others, from the concupiscence of sticking our necks out in gong-resounding boasts of spiritual pride. Claiming, that as we have the full deposit of faith once and forever delivered to the Saints by Jesus Christ Himself, and maintained perpetually by His Church, that we are somehow entitled to this gift, thus empowering us to rightly keep it all for ourselves. And as for those who do not possess this gift of the Good News, they are only entitled to their blasphemous and perverted “paths to God”. Did not Our Blessed Lord commission His Apostles to go and make disciples of all nations?! Let me let you in on a little secret. Many of those “nations” will inherently and initially have people of different faiths, among many other dissimilarities. How do you personally propose to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to foster the Kingdom of God, and to further the Mystical Body of Christ towards eternal life, if you will not have interfaith dialogue, while simultaneously preaching that only the “adopted sons of God through Holy Baptism” are in fact the only legitimate “children of God”?!

I have personally observed (and was a part of at one time) efforts to “proclaim” the Kingdom of God using two destructive methods. One, shoving doctrine down people’s throats, by rapid-firing Bible passages out of self-manifested spiritual pride, and two, literally not confessing or doing anything at all, stemmed from individuals’ seeming self-loathing lukewarmness of a relationship with their Savior. I have detected more antithetical energy geared towards dismembering the unity of the Catholic Church, for the past two thousand years (of which I have been around for 33), with false and naive protestations, than have I witnessed non-Catholics spending their time welcoming non-Christians into their flocks with charitable open arms, preceded by interfaith dialogue. No, the same antipathy towards the Catholic Church that many non-Catholics embrace, is the exact same antipathy that most non-Catholics hold for those of different faiths, inasmuch as it relates to interfaith dialogue and relationships. Therefore, the claim that the Pope along with the Catholic Church is conspiring to establish and maintain a one-world religion (in the way anti-Catholics propose) is nothing but a self-indicative insecurity of not being a part of the Oneness that Jesus prayed for:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23 NIV*

Notice, in this portion of Scripture, Jesus says “so that the world” and “then the world will know”. The ‘world’ in this prayerful context, does not ultimately refer only to future Christians who place their trust in their “Savior”, but rather every single living soul throughout the…world, until the consummation of all things. That includes Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics, Satanists, Quakers, Lutherans, Baptists, Free Masons, Calvinists, Anglicans, Amish, Mormons etc. Our Blessed Lord did not pray that we would be one in conjoining different religious beliefs into one massive one-world religion. Rather He prayed that His Church would be One as the Father and the Son are one, primarily by sharing the same Holy Spirit as He proceeds from both the Father and the Son in eternal unity. God is One, His Church is One.

How else would we evangelize, proclaim, and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Atheists, Jews, Muslims etc. if we do not implement interfaith dialogue?! Remember and note: dialogue is just that, dialogue! Dialogue does not intrinsically and unavoidably effect condoning and/or approval of another’s faith or teaching on “truth”. Just because you or I interact with someone of a different faith, does not mean that we accept, embrace, and/or confess what they confess and believe religiously. By Jesus interacting with tax collectors, prostitutes, and Samaritans, He obviously did not condone or approve their way of life or beliefs, but rather wanted to heal them. How do you heal the sick if you avoid being around them!?

Jesus Christ wants a one-world religion! He prayed for it! Not the one-world religion of mixing and blending different doctrines from various man-made religions and the Divine One, that several non-Catholics avow the Catholic Church of conspiring. He wants all people of all nations to be His disciples. He does not want any non-Christians to remain non-Christian, “Instead he is patient with [them], not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NIV* Most importantly, Our Blessed Lord “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4 NIV*

Pray for the conversion of souls. Pray for the gifts of the holy virtues of kindness and patience. Pray for the grace to love your enemies. Pray for me, as I pray for you. God love you!