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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Section 2. The Necessity Of Other Preparatory Acts Besides Faith

Grace Actual And Habitual by Joseph Pohle

Section 2. The Necessity Of Other Preparatory Acts Besides Faith

1. HERETICAL ERRORS AND THE TEACHING OF THE CHURCH. -- Martin Luther, to quiet his conscience, evolved the notion that faith alone justifies and that the Catholic doctrine of the necessity of good works is pharisaical and derogatory to the merits of Jesus Christ. This teaching was incorporated into the symbolic books of the Lutherans(811) and adopted by Calvin.(812) It has been called one of the two basic errors of Protestantism. The Tridentine Council solemnly condemns it as follows: |If anyone saith that by faith alone the impious is justified, in such wise as to mean that nothing else is required to cooeperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.|(813) Other acts that dispose or prepare the soul for justification, according to the same Council, are: the fear of divine justice; hope in God's mercy; charity, which is the font of all righteousness; detestation of sin, and penitence.(814)

2. REFUTATION OF THE SOLA FIDES THEORY. -- The Lutheran theory involves an open rupture with the traditional teaching of the Church and is positively unscriptural. Luther himself felt this, as appears from his interpolation of the word |alone| in Rom. III, 28 and his rejection of the entire canonical Epistle of St. James.(815)

a) The teaching of the Bible in regard to the role played by good works in the process of justification may be summarized as follows:

(1) A man may believe all that the Church teaches and yet be lost for want of good works or because he has not the love of God; consequently, faith alone does not justify or insure eternal salvation. Our Divine Saviour Himself declares: |Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.|(816) St. James says: |Do you not see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?|(817) And St. Paul: |If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.|(818)

(2) Besides faith, justification requires certain other preparatory or dispositive acts. There is, for example, the fear of divine justice. Cfr. Ecclus. I, 28: |He that is without fear cannot be justified.|(819) Also, hope in God's mercy. Cfr. Rom. VIII, 24: |For we are saved by hope.|(820) Again, charity. Cfr. Luke VII, 47: |Many sins are forgiven her because she hath loved much.|(821) Furthermore, contrition or penitence. Cfr. Luke XIII, 3: |Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.|(822) Finally, good works in general. Cfr. St. James II, 17: |So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.|(823) No one who ponders these and similar texts can maintain, as Calvin and Melanchthon did, that the good works mentioned merely accompany justification, for they are unmistakably described as causes which dispose and prepare the sinner for it.

(3) It is not faith alone that justifies, but faith informed and actuated by charity. Cfr. Gal. V, 6: |For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by charity.|(824) The Greek text shows that the word operatur in the Vulgate must be taken passively, so that a more correct translation would be: |... but faith effected or formed by charity.| But even if {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA} were used as a deponent ({GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH PERISPOMENI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}=agere, operari) the meaning would be substantially the same, i.e. a dead faith, without charity, avails nothing. Cfr. St. James II, 26: |For even as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.|(825)

In Rom. III, 28: |For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law,|(826) Luther deliberately inserted the word |alone.| The context shows that this is a falsification. The Apostle contrasts justifying faith, not with those preparatory acts of salvation which spring from it, but with the sterile |works of the law| (i.e. the Old Testament), which, as such, possessed no more power to justify than the good works of the heathen. Keeping this contrast in mind, it would not be incorrect to say, and St. Paul might well have said, that |supernatural faith alone (i.e. only) justifies, while the works of the law do not.| But if faith be taken in contradistinction to the other acts operative in the process of justification, such as fear, hope, contrition, love, -- and this is the sense in which Luther takes it, -- then it is false and contrary to the mind of St. Paul to say: |Faith alone justifies, nothing else is required.| For in this sense faith is merely the beginning, the foundation, the root of justification and cannot justify the sinner until it has absorbed the other preparatory acts required by Holy Scripture and transformed them into perfect love. This fact was already pointed out by St. Augustine. |Unintelligent persons,| he says, |with regard to the Apostle's statement: 'We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law,' have thought him to mean that faith is sufficient for a man, even if he leads a bad life and has no good deeds to allege. It is impossible that such a character should be deemed 'a vessel of election' by the Apostle, who, after declaring that 'in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision,' adds the important remark: 'but faith that worketh by charity.' It is such faith which separates the faithful children of God from unclean devils, -- for even these 'believe and tremble,' as the Apostle James says, but they do no good works. Therefore they possess not the faith by which the just man lives, -- the faith which operates through love in such wise that God recompenses it according to its works with eternal life.|(827)

There is another sense in which faith alone may be said to justify, viz.: if the term be taken to include all those things which God has ordained for our salvation, that is to say, the sum-total of |revelation| or |the true religion| as opposed to |heresy.| The term {GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA} (fides) is sometimes employed in this sense by the Fathers, but never in Sacred Scripture.(828)

b) There is a unanimous and unbroken tradition in favor of the Catholic doctrine. St. Polycarp writes in his Epistle to the Philippians: |... the faith ({GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER TAU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}) given you, which is the mother of us all when hope ({GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER LAMDA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER FINAL SIGMA}) follows and love ({GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH PSILI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER GAMMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA WITH OXIA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER PI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA}) goes before.|(829) St. Augustine teaches that while faith is per se separable from hope and love, it is ineffective without them. |Man begins with faith, but the demons, too, believe and tremble; to faith, therefore, must be added hope, and to hope, love.|(830) And again: |Without love, faith can indeed exist, but it availeth nothing.|(831) St. Gregory the Great, paraphrasing St. James, says: |Perhaps some one will say to himself: I have believed, I shall be saved. He speaks truly if he sustains faith by works. For that is true faith which does not contradict by deeds what it asserts in words.|(832)

c) This teaching is in perfect conformity with reason.

{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}) No supernatural enlightenment is needed to perceive the intrinsic propriety of a moral preparation for justification. Not only must the sinner learn to know God as His supernatural end and the source of all righteousness, but he must also be persuaded that it is his duty, with the help of sufficient grace, to direct his will towards this final end.

Every tendency or movement presupposes a terminus a quo, from which it starts, and a terminus ad quem, to which it tends. The movement of the will in the process of justification, besides faith, demands a voluntary withdrawal from sin (contrition, good resolutions) and an approach to righteousness (hope, love, desire).(833)

This argument would have made no impression on Luther, since he bluntly denied free-will in the moral order and regarded human nature as so radically depraved by original sin as to be incapable of cooeperating with divine grace. In fact he compared man to a |log, stick or stone.| This view was shared by Amsdorf, Flacius, and others, whereas Osiander and Butzer admitted that |inherent righteousness| is at least a partial factor in justification. Melanchthon, in an endeavor to reconcile the contradictions of this discordant system, unwittingly gave rise to the so-called Synergist dispute. When Pfeffinger(834) undertook the defence of free-will, many Lutheran theologians, especially of the University of Jena, boldly attacked the log-stick-and-stone theory(835) and tried to force their adversaries to admit that man is able to cooeperate with grace. The |Half-Melanchthonians,| as they were called, succeeded in smuggling Synergism into the |Book of Torgau;|(836) but before the |Formulary of Concord| was finally printed in the monastery of Bergen, near Magdeburg (A. D.1577), the strict Lutherans had eliminated that article as heterodox and substituted for it the log-stick-and-stone theory as it appears in the official symbols of the Lutheran Church. In the Syncretist dispute, and through the efforts of the Pietists, this harsh teaching was afterwards moderated. But what probably contributed most to the crumbling of the system was the rapid growth of Socinianism and Rationalism among the Lutherans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To-day, with the exception of a small band of |orthodox| Lutherans in Saxony and the United States, Protestants no longer hold the log-stick-and-stone theory. The school of Luther proclaimed it as the distinguishing tenet of Protestantism, as |the criterion of a standing or falling church,|(837) -- and by this criterion the Lutheran Church has indeed fallen. Common sense has led modern Protestants to admit that contrition and penance are quite as necessary for justification as faith, an opinion which, in the words of Dorner,(838) |comes dangerously near the Catholic system.| In Scandinavia, according to Dr. Krogh-Tonning,(839) the Lutheran Church has experienced a |quiet reformation| and now unconsciously defends the Catholic doctrine of justification.(840)

{GREEK SMALL LETTER BETA}) As the sufficiency of the Bible without Tradition is the formal principle of |orthodox| Protestantism, so justification by faith alone may be said to be its material principle. The absurdity of the Lutheran position is evident from the fact that these two principles are mutually destructive. So far from teaching justification by faith alone, the Bible inculcates the exact contrary, while its sufficiency as the source of faith could be proved from its own pages, if at all, only by a vicious circle.(841) Thus the whole Protestant system is based on contradiction.

The sola fides theory is open to serious objection also from the ethical point of view. It cannot be put into practice without grave danger. |Sin lustily,| writes Luther, |but be yet more lusty in faith.|(842) The first part at least of this injunction was promptly obeyed by his followers, and the rapid deterioration of morals which followed was but a natural sequel of the sola fides theory. If faith alone were sufficient for justification, it would make no difference what kind of life a man led, for unbelief, i.e. the loss of fiduciary faith, would be the only sin. No wonder this ethical antinomism of the Lutheran system, so radically opposed to the teaching of St. James, was rejected by Hugo Grotius, George Buller, and other honest Protestants.

Another weighty objection against the Lutheran theory of justification is that it disregards the law of causation. According to Luther a man is justified by the firm belief and trust that his sins are forgiven. This |belief| is either true or false. If it is false, I can have no certainty with regard to my salvation, but am deceiving myself. If true, it presupposes that which it is to effect, in other words, it puts the cause before the effect. An orthodox Lutheran theologian of the old school would probably retort: My sins are actually forgiven by virtue of the atonement, because all men without exception are redeemed through the merits of Jesus Christ. If this be true, then why not be consistent and say: All men are justified because all are redeemed, consequently there is no need of faith and sacraments, and keeping the commandments is a matter of indifference! It is at this point that the incompatibility of Luther's teaching with the Bible and sound ethics becomes most glaringly apparent. True, Luther himself at times emphasized the necessity of good works; but this merely proves that he had lucid intervals when his honest nature rebelled against the inconsistency of his teaching.(843)

3. EXPLANATION OF THE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE. -- The Council of Trent assigned to faith its proper place in the process of justification,(844) and gave a luminous and profound analysis of the process itself.(845) Scholastic theology, in elaborating the teaching of Scripture and Tradition, drew a distinction between fides formata, which truly justifies, and fides informis, which falls short of justification.

a) As regards the intrinsic relation of (dogmatic) faith to other preparatory acts in the process of justification, the Tridentine Council declares: |Faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and the root of all justification.|(846) Supernatural faith, therefore, is the beginning of salvation, and not, as Harnack makes Luther say, |at once the beginning, the middle, and the end,| because no man can be converted unless he has believingly embraced God as his final goal. This faith is preceded by certain preliminary conditions, of which the first is an illumination of the intellect and a strengthening of the will, which results in the affectus credulitatis (initia fidei). For justifying faith does not flash forth suddenly, like a deus ex machina, but requires time for its development, as the history of many conversions proves.(847)

Faith is called the |foundation| of justification because it not only marks its beginning, but constitutes the basis upon which all subsequent stages of the process rest. To exclude the mistaken notion that the process of justification is a series of mechanical and disconnected acts, the Council calls faith the |root| of justification, from which the other preparatory acts spring organically, as the trunk of a tree from its root.

The psychological description of the whole process given by the Tridentine Fathers, which even Harnack admits to be |a masterly piece of work,| runs as follows: |Now they [adults] are disposed unto justice when, excited and assisted by divine grace, conceiving faith by hearing, they are freely moved towards God, believing those things to be true which God has revealed and promised, -- and this especially, that God justifies the impious by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ; and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves from the fear of divine justice, whereby they are profitably agitated, to consider the mercy of God, are raised unto hope, confiding that God will be propitious to them for Christ's sake; and they begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice, and are therefore moved against sins by a certain hatred and detestation, to wit: by that penitence which must be performed before Baptism; lastly, when they purpose to receive Baptism, to begin a new life, and to keep the commandments of God....|(848) The four ordinary stages in the process of justification, therefore, are: (1) From faith to fear of divine justice; (2) from fear to hope; (3) from hope to initial love;(849) (4) from initial love to contrition and a firm purpose of amendment.(850) If contrition is dictated and transfused by perfect love,(851) and the sinner has an explicit or at least implicit desire for the Sacrament,(852) justification takes place at once. If, on the other hand, the sinner's sorrow is imperfect (attritio), he attains justification only by actual reception of the Sacrament (Baptism or Penance).(853)

b) Does conversion always follow this conciliary schema? No. The Council did not mean to define that these acts must follow one another in strict sequence or that they are one and all absolutely indispensable for justification. It is certain, however, that the process invariably begins with faith and ends with contrition accompanied by a firm purpose of amendment. In exceptional cases (e.g. the Prodigal Son, Mary Magdalen) perfect charity seems immediately to follow faith, and may then be said virtually to include the intermediate stages of fear, hope, and contrition. Yet this is not the usual way. Ordinarily faith elicits fear, which in turn produces two kinds of hope -- hope of forgiveness (spes veniae) and hope in God (spes theologica), which marks the beginning of charity (amor concupiscentiae). Contrition is always a conditio sine qua non, because there can be no forgiveness of sin without sorrow for it.(854) It is for this reason that, according to St. Thomas, explicit contrition for mortal sins is necessary for justification even when there is perfect charity, and the sufficiency of the so-called poenitentia virtualis is limited to venial offenses and such grievous sins as cannot be remembered.(855) Fear, while not absolutely indispensable, is seldom absent. Holy Scripture tells us that |the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,| and it is natural for the sinner seeking forgiveness to detest his sins out of fear of divine justice before he attains to the motive of perfect charity.(856)

c) Certain utterances of Scripture and the Fathers with regard to the possibility of a |dead| faith(857) have led theologians to distinguish between fides informis and fides formata. Fides informis is a dead faith, devoid of charity, and without justifying power. The only faith that can justify a man is that which is animated by charity and productive of good works.(858) This is the fides formata of the Schoolmen, which includes all the preparatory acts enumerated by the Tridentine Council, from fear to perfect charity. These acts, however, though united in the fides formata, retain their respective independence, and can disappear singly, one after another, as they came. Zwingli's assertion that faith, hope, and charity are identical, or at least inseparable, has been expressly condemned by the Tridentine Council: |If any one saith that, grace being lost through sin, faith also is always lost with it; or that the faith which remains, though it be no live faith, is not a true faith; or that he who has faith without charity is not a Christian; let him be anathema.|(859)

READINGS: -- Besides the respective chapters in the various text-books, the student may consult: *A. Vega, De Iustificatione Doctrina Universa Libris XV Absolute Tradita, Venice 1548 (reprinted at Cologne, 1572). -- *Bellarmine, De Iustificatione Impii, 1. V (ed. Fevre, Vol. VI, pp.149 sqq. Paris 1873). -- *Suarez, De Gratia, 1. VI sqq. -- Becanus, Theol. Scholast., |De Gratia Habituali,| Rouen 1658. -- L. Nussbaum, Die Lehre der kath. Kirche ueber die Rechtfertigung, Muenchen 1837. -- C. von Schaetzler, Neue Untersuchungen ueber das Dogma von der Gnade und das Wesen des christl. Glaubens, Mainz 1867. -- Oswald, Die Lehre von der Heiligung, § 5, 3rd ed., Paderborn 1885. -- B. Bartmann, St. Paulus und St. Jakobus und die Rechtfertigung, Freiburg 1897. -- L. Galey, La Foi et les Oeuvres, Montauban 1902. -- W. Liese, Der heilsnotwendige Glaube, sein Begriff und Inhalt, Freiburg 1902. -- Card. Newman, Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification, 8th impression, London 1900. -- Hugh Pope, O. P., art. |Faith| in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. V. -- J. Mausbach, Catholic Moral Teaching and its Antagonists (tr. by A. M. Buchanan), pp.150 sqq., New York 1914. -- L. Labauche, S. S., God and Man, pp.203 sqq., N. Y.1916.

On the teaching of the Reformers cfr. *Moehler, Symbolik, § 18 sqq., 11th ed., Mainz 1890 (English tr. by James Burton Robertson, pp.82 sqq., 5th ed., London 1906); Ad. Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, Vol. III, 4th ed., Freiburg 1910; Denifle-Weiss, O. P., Luther und Luthertum in der ersten Entwicklung, Vol. II, Mainz 1909; H. Grisar, S. J., Luther, Vol. I, Freiburg 1911 (English tr., Vols. I and II, London 1913).

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