Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Jedi Knight School of Biblical Exegesis

Some of my readers may not be familiar with the Jedi mind tricks made famous by the Star Wars movies so I will explain. The Jedi Mind Trick is illustrated when a Jedi Knight with mind control powers waves his hand deftly and states something he wishes you to believe, you then believe it, (which is the actual opposite of your present reality.) When Obi Wan Kenobi and  R2D2 and C-3P0 were stopped by the stormtroopers at a check point he made great use of the ancient skill:

Stormtrooper: Let me see your identification.
Obi-Wan: [with a small wave of his hand] You don't need to see his identification.
Stormtrooper: We don't need to see his identification.
Obi-Wan: These aren't the droids you're looking for.
Stormtrooper: These aren't the droids we're looking for.
Obi-Wan: He can go about his business.
Stormtrooper: You can go about your business.
Obi-Wan: Move along.
Stormtrooper: Move along... move along.

Regarding the 2nd chapter of James in the New Testament, there is a verse that basically puts the nail in the coffin for Luther's new theology of salvation by faith alone.   "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." ESV  Unfortunately, this was a bit of a problem for the reformers. They had three choices:

1) Accept the Scripture at face value and repent realizing "faith alone" was a false doctrine not found in Holy Scripture.
2) Label the epistle of James as "an epistle of Straw" to be thrown into the fire and not worthy to be included in the canon (Martin Luther)
3) Use the Jedi Mind Trick to exegete the verse in such a way that the reader comes away believing the verses mean the opposite of what the Church believed for 1500 years.

14What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?
    15And if a brother or sister be naked, and want daily food:
    16And one of you say to them: Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; yet give them not those things that are necessary for the body, what shall it profit?
    17So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.
    18But some man will say: Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without works; and I will shew thee, by works, my faith.
    19Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble.
    20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
    21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar?
    22Seest thou, that faith did co-operate with his works; and by works faith was made perfect?
    23And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God.
    24Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?
    25And in like manner also Rahab the harlot, was not she justified by works, receiving the messengers, and sending them out another way?
    26For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead.

But many of our Protestant brothers read these verses differently and actually conclude this: 
"When James says: “Can faith save him?” his meaning is “Can the faith which he says he has save him?” that is, faith which is dead and produces no works; for that is the faith clearly* intended here, as it appears from what follows. To make the meaning more evident, Macknight renders the sentence thus, — “Can this faith save him?”
that is, the faith that has not works." (Commentary on the Epistle of James by John Calvin)
So according to some of our Protestant friends when Saint James says that faith with out works is dead, he really means "the kinda faith that has not works" without works can't save you. Does this give anybody else a headache? Wouldn't it just be easier to accept what is written by Saint James at face value that faith (not the dead kind as Calvinists claim) without works is dead, instead of John Calvin and others waving their fingers deftly so the reader comes away believing the opposite of what Scripture actually states? 
*Using the word "clearly"  is always a warning that the Jedi Mind Trick is about to occur because usually it is quite clear to the reader that the upcoming statement is not clear at all.
On a final note, Alec Guiness who played Obi Wan in Star Wars was a Catholic Convert coming to the faith while filming Bridge Over the River Kwai.


Anonymous herewegokids said...

I've come to really hate that phrase. "The Bible is clear..." or "The Bible clearly teaches..." I'm always standing there going, 'Yeah, well it ain't clear to me, & evidently hundreds of thousands of other people who have split off into any number of denominations b/c of it!" I didn't realize Jedi mind skilz were involved. That explains it.

February 23, 2012 9:51 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

hehehe...I like it!
If I remember right, it didn't work on Jabba though...are you saying Catholics are Jabba?

February 23, 2012 1:06 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

CAtholics are not Jabba, we just think like him LOL!

March 23, 2012 9:54 PM  
Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hi Russ!

I think what's in view is James' use of the word "faith." Protestants understand his use as that of merely "mental assent" to a set of facts based upon what he says in v. 19 about the demons "believing." Obviously, they don't have saving belief. In order to demonstrate that someone does indeed have true faith, works go hand-in-hand with the mental assent aspect as evidence (to ourselves, the brethren and the world) that we do, indeed, have saving faith. When James is understood this way, then his teaching harmonizes with what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9: 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV, emphasis mine) Protestants see harmonization of biblical texts as crucial to getting the whole picture.

Hope you and Deb are doing well. I continue to pray God's greatest blessings on you!


P.S. Saw Bill and the other siblings recently at my Dad's 90th birthday celebration in N.J.

March 25, 2012 4:39 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Glad everyone is doing well Tim. What brings you to Crossed the Tiber? The old piano is in need of much tuning ;(
I suspect that the Church has come to its view on justification by harmonizing the whole bible, and not just select verses. We can agree about that approach. Matthew 25 should work together with Saint James and Saint Paul should harmonize with Jesus and Saint James. I marvel that the reformation was predicated on the concept of "faith alone" when those two words are never actually found together in scripture, except when referring to the verse that we are not saved by faith alone. To me, Luther's wish to cast the epistle of strawinto the wood stove is more revealing than 500 years of arguments since.

I really can't add much to this:

Council of Trent, On Justification, Ch. VIII
When the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, "without which it is impossible to please God" and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. For, "if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise," as the Apostle says, "grace is no more grace."
The Council also reiterated the relationship of good works to man justified by faith....

Therefore, to men justified in this manner, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received or recovered it when lost, are to be pointed out the words of the Apostle: "Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name"; and "Do not lose confidence, which hath a great reward." Hence, to those who work well "unto the end" and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.

March 25, 2012 5:49 PM  

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