Round Two - Mizzi

Round 2

John you have demonstrated that the Council of Trent ‘clearly teaches that we can do nothing pleasing to God in and of ourselves.’ I fully agree. Catholicism opposes the Pelagian heresy that we can merit eternal life by our natural ability.

Now if I wrote that the Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by our works ‘in and of themselves’, or if I taught that ‘Trent teaches we are saved by our good works… period!’, then I would have indeed misrepresented the Catholic position. But I wrote nothing of the sort! Not even did I give the impression that Catholicism teaches salvation by works ‘in and of themselves’, as I will presently show by asking you to read my words in context.

I quote at length from my article to which you referred (emphasis added). Trent’s decree on Justification can be read online (different translation).

In other words, Rome teaches that God helps man to do good works and hence to fully satisfy the Law. Only then is a person qualified to enter heaven. The Council of Trent elaborates this idea in chapter 16:

“For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified, – as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches, – and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God, – we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace…”

To be fair, we should acknowledge that a great emphasis is placed on Jesus Christ and the grace of God. Good works do not originate in man’s natural ability but can only be performed through Jesus Christ. Yet, it is also true that these works do not cease to be the good works of the Christian; personal works give him the right to heaven.

So then, what is required for a person to be justified at the end, that is, to be accounted to have fully satisfied divine law, and therefore to merit eternal life? Trent answers: THEIR GOOD WORKS! Their good works fully satisfy the divine law. Their works merit eternal life.

John, did I really state or imply that Catholicism teaches salvation by works ‘in and of themselves’? Did I not clarify that good works are done by God’s help; that Catholicism emphasizes God’s grace; that the works are performed through Jesus Christ? Did I not specifically refuse the false idea that Catholicism teaches that our works originate in our natural ability?

John, your allegation is false. You have falsely accused me of the very thing that I took pains to refute!

Moreover my assertion on the Catholic teaching on justification (that personal good works satisfy divine law and merit eternal life) is correct; it is deduced from Trent chapter 16 quoted above. For notwithstanding the grace of God and the merits of Jesus Christ, ultimately, your personal works are in a very real sense your own. Canon 32 places a curse on your head if you deny that your good works are not your own good merits.

Lord willing, next week we’ll compare the Catholic doctrine with the evangelical message of justification by faith apart from our merits.

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