Question about Divisions in the Church: Response from my Journey Home Interview

by Steve Ray on October 4, 2011

I received a LOT of response from my appearance on EWTN’s The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi. One letter arrived with this comment, which is followed by my response.

QUESTION FOR STEVE:

1 Corinthians 1:1:10-17 demonstrates that there was division among the churches and the the four groups were all acceptable. Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church did not exist until centuries later. Help me undersatnd why the RCC is now the only true church?

Also, not all “Seperated Brothers” do not believe that the sacrament of the table is just bread… John from Indiana

stignatiusantioch-lions-360ANSWER FROM STEVE:

John: Thanks for watching and thanks for asking this good question. I hope that my straight forward answer is not taken in an offensive manner. I am simply responding honestly from the heart in the few minutes I have available right now.

Yes, First Corinthians demonstrates that the church in Corinth had factions but they were roundly condemned, as are all divisions, schisms and factions in the one, holy Catholic and apostolic Church.

Why do you think they were acceptable? Paul clearly condemns factions (denominations).

Jesus makes his desire known for one, visibly unified Church as well in John 17:23: “I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.”

With all the splits and division among the Protest-ants it “proves” to the world the Father did NOT send the Son. I say this with tongue in cheek since – if the world concludes the Father sent the Sin because of Christians’ visible unity, what conclusions might they draw for a Christianity afflicted by multiple competing factions and sects?

And when Jesus says, “If you brother offends you … take it to THE Church” — which church did he mean?

The name you mention “Roman Catholic Church” is NOT the name of the universal Church Jesus founded. One needs to be precise in such things.

The name of the Church now and from the first century is “Catholic Church”. Roman is simply one rite among many all in union with Rome and under the successor of Peter.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was eaten by lions in 106 AD. He was a disciple of Paul, Peter and John long before the New Testament was collected into a book. In 106 AD he wrote as an old man “Wheresoever the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

Catholic was the name of the Church from the 1st century. I don’t see anywhere for the first 1500 years we see names such as “Baptist church”, Lutheran Church, Assemblies of God, …

Click here for the meaning and history of the name Catholic.

You are correct that not all separated brethren believe that the Eucharist is just bread, but precious few believe it actually CHANGES into the Body and Blood of Christ — and those without priests in the Apostolic Succession celebrate the “Eucharist” without realizing that their pastors are no longer able to consecrate the bread and wine.

I appreciate you taking the time to write. if you are serious about learning more about these matters, I suggest you read my book Upon this Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church along with Crossing the Tiber in which the last third deals with the Eucharist in the Scriptures and early Church — as well as the biblical concept of ONE CHURCH.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaina Lewis October 4, 2011 at 8:13 PM

Dear Steve,
Yes, I also enjoyed your chat with Marcus on Journey Home. But there is one comment I cannot understand.
You say that “With all the splits and divisions among Protestants it “proves” to the world that The Father did not send the Son.”
I understood that Jesus told the Apostles “Just as the Father sent Me so I a sending you.”
What do you mean by that sentence about proof to the world?
I would also like to join your scripture study – is it possible from Australia?

God Bless you and your family
Elaina Lewis

STEVE RAY HERE: Elaina, I revised that paragraph to read: “With all the splits and division among the Protest-ants it “proves” to the world the Father did NOT send the Son. I say this with tongue in cheek since – if the world concludes the Father sent the Sin because of Christians’ visible unity, what conclusions might they draw for a Christianity afflicted by multiple competing factions and sects?”

You CAN join our CatholicScriptureStudy.com from Australia. Many are already using our studies there. I will ask the founder Gail Buckley to contact you.

De Maria October 4, 2011 at 10:01 PM

Hello Steve,

First, I am a devout Catholic. I mention this because I have made the following observation to others and they questioned my faith. So, please read this with that in mind.

My question (for lack of a better word) is concerning some Catholic apologetics that I have heard which I believe add to the confusion between Protestants and Catholics.

Specifically, it is about justification. And specifically about St. Paul frequently saying, “not by works of the law”. A typical Catholic response is here illustrated:

Also, James talks about how Abraham was justified by works, and not by faith alone. In Romans 3:28, it contrasts works of the law and faith. Works of the law are dietary laws such as circumcision. The Jews believed that they can be justified just by doing the “works of the law” without faith. This is actually a great parallel to Ephesians.
This, however, seems wrong. In Romans 3:28, St. Paul is not talking about Justification by faith and works. He talked about that in Romans 2:13:

rom 2:13
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
St. Paul, in Romans 3:28, is talking about Justification by faith apart from works, which is not by faith alone, but by the Sacraments. They are God’s mighty works and we are to submit to them with a proper disposition which is a complicated way of saying, with faith. We don’t wash our sins away in Baptism! God does it.
Here is another Pauline statement:
titus 3:5
he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
Protestants get this one wrong because they don’t understand that FAITH is itself a work of righteousness. Trent says:
Chapter VIII
….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.
Neither faith nor works merit justification.
This is what St. Paul is saying. But further, if we go back to Rom 2:13, it is only those who do the Commandments who will be justified.
Do you see the implications? Martin Luther took Romans 3:28 and applied it to all justification. But not all justification is by faith apart from works. We only rest of our works when God works in us, in the Sacraments. The rest of the time, before and after the Sacraments, we work in accordance with our faith:
CHAPTER X?THE INCREASE OF THE JUSTIFICATION RECEIVED
Having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends and domestics of God,[49] advancing from virtue to virtue,[50] they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day,[51] that is, mortifying the members[52] of their flesh, and presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification,[53] they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith cooperating with good works, increase in that justice received through the grace of Christ and are further justified, as it is written:?He that is just, let him be justified still;[54] and, Be not afraid to be justified even to death;[55] and again, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?[56]
This increase of justice holy Church asks for when she prays:?”Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity.”[57]
Please let me know what you think.
Sincerely,
De Maria

De Maria October 5, 2011 at 9:54 PM

Steve,

You said in an email:
Steve Ray sray@me.com to me

I have to say it is very unclear. Might you simplify it for our readers?

I’ll do my best. If you’ll give me a hint where I lost you, it might help me. I’ll assume however, since this is what troubles most people, that it is the idea that St. Paul is teaching Sacramental justification.

In Catholic Teaching, we are justified by faith and works. That is the foundation and root of all justification. Faith is expressed and perfected in works.

However, the Church also teaches that we are justified in the Sacraments where we are washed in sanctifying grace. Especially Baptism. Sacraments are God’s mighty works. We don’t do anything except submit to His works in the proper dispostion, which is that of faith.

When St. Paul said, “justified by faith apart from works”, Luther interpreted that as faith “alone”: But that s not what St. Paul meant. St. Paul taught the Catholic Teaching that only those who do the works of the Law are justified (Romans 2:13). The process is evident in every RCIA term. By faith, we seek the Lord and study to show ourselves approved. Only those who undergo this process are then JUSTIFIED in Baptism.

Catholics, partly in a knee jerk response to Protestants, take the other extreme. They claim that when St. Paul says faith apart from works, he actually means faith and works. But I believe that is an error. Not on the part of the Church, but on the part of lay Catholic apologists.

Perhaps, going over the process in a daily Catholic setting would help.
RCIA is a classic example of justification by faith and works.
Baptism is a classic example of justification by faith apart from works.
The new Creature in Christ Jesus then continues to walk in the works which God created from the beginning that he should walk in them, being justified further by faith and works and in each of the Sacraments by faith apart from works.

Not by faith alone.

In my opinion, when St. Paul says, so frequently, “justified by faith apart from works of the law” or “not saved by any righteous works which we do but by his mercy in the washing of regeneration” or “no flesh is justified by works of the law”, etc. etc. He is making a reference to Sacramental justification.

I hope that helps.

Sincerely,

De Maria

De Maria December 26, 2011 at 7:59 PM

Hi,

I stumbled on this site again just now, and I remembered that I had received a response to the same question, worded differently and so perhaps a bit more easily understood, on Fr. Jo’s blog. If anyone is interested. Fr. Jo’s blog is here:
http://fiatvolvntastua.blogspot.com/2009/06/is-justification-legal-act-or-process.html#comment-form

Fr. Joseph said…
“I recently discovered your explanations on CARM and I searched for you on the Internet. I am a faithful Catholic. But I find that many Catholics even, misunderstand my position when I say that St. Paul was speaking of the Sacraments when he mentioned Titus 3:5 and Romans 3:28.”

Thank you very much for asking for my opinion on this issue. Let us look first at Titus 3:5….. This verse alludes to the Sacrament of Baptism specifically. This verse gives testimony that Baptism, not to the exclusion of any other Sacrament, produces its effect ex opere operato which means that it is independent of the disposition of the person receiving the Sacrament. Salvation is always the sole result of God’s mercy. We are not saved by any good works or works of justice.

As you aptly discerned the verses in Romans starting with verse 26 and continuing through verse 28 are also speaking of the Sacraments. In verse 26 we learn that it is Christ alone from whom all grace comes as it is He and He alone who justifies all men. Certainly the Gentiles are justified and sanctified outside of the written law of Moses. We also learn that the Jews cannot be justified and consequently saved without the faith and grace of Christ. St. Paul does not teach that faith alone will save which is the antithesis of the Gospel and the teaching of the Apostles.

“Here’s my logic Father. If we look at Romans 2:13, we see that St. Paul says:
Romans 2: 13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

That simple statement, reminds me of RCIA. Converts to the Church are taught to keep the Commandments and then to request Baptism.

Doers of the Law shall be justified.

There were no chapters back when the Scriptures were written. Therefore, it is in this same stream of thought, that St. Paul continues and says that:
Romans 3:28
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The CCC says:
1216 “This bath is called enlightenment,….It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; ….

In the Sacraments, all we bring is our faith. Therefore the Church says:
1127 Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify…..”

If I understand your position correctly, your understanding is orthodox and is in alignment with Catholic teaching not only in the Catechism but also in the decrees of the Council of Trent. It is all about grace…The grace that from the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ in faith and the grace that as a result of that faith prompts us to do God’s works in our life which earn merit but are not the cause or the impetus of our salvation.

“But, when I present these thoughts to even knowledgeable Catholics, they have said these are heretical and one asked, “do you think you have discovered something even St. Thomas Aquinas did not?””

There are two views of Catholic soteriology that are accepted by the Church, Molinism and Thomism. I am a Molinist and as a result I disagree with some of Thomas Aquinas’ teaching. That is perfectly acceptable to disagree with the great doctor of the Church who was not infallible in his teaching as none of us are. It sounds as if you are a Molinist as well. God bless and thanks for the commentary and the question.

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

————–

Sincerely,

De Maria

Leo Kuku June 18, 2012 at 6:12 AM

Just a few thoughts. Thomists or Molonists, there is one church and it is neither this nor that, but one truth that is taught. That we are enrolled for heaven through faith in Christ Jesus and this is a free gift of God; That we have a choice to respond to this grace to either do or not do God’s will; That we shall be judged not by whether we first agreed to follow God but by whether we actually followed through with our baptisimal promises. Indeed God shall render unto every man according to his works, (Rom2,6) which by the way are God’s works which we willingly allow him to do through us. Works done outside of God do not glorify God, as in Moses just striking the rock againts God’s will. But when we through faith allow God to work through us we become his workmanship(Eph2,10) and our works through Christ will save us at last. Look up all the places Christ was asked about being saved and see if he mentioned faith! It is always works, for what use is faith that has no works(Jam25,17)
Lets not forget that protestants who talk about justification often are referring to salvation all the way to heaven, and to think that this is possible through faith alone is wishful thinking, and not biblical. Infact, Fr Luther had to remove the book of James from the bible to prove salvation by faith alone, and it was after advice from friends that he put it back, referring to it as an epistle of straw!
The bible says the old testament was written down for our sakes. Show me where sin was rewarded! If the old inperfect law did not reward a breach of convenant how can the perfect convenat do so?
All the judgment accounts in the bible talk about faith AND works with a biase for works. If we give certificates not to people who have entered for courses but to those who sat and passed the exams, how do we hope to be treated differently by a God who saved us by works?

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