A Brief Refutation of Gregg R. Allison's Critique of Catholicism
In a recent book of essays from the Protestant perspective (The Lord's Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes edited by Thomas Schreiner and Matthew R Crawford) Gregg R. Allison wrote an article “The Theology of the Eucharist according to the Catholic Church.” In this article, Mr. Allison portrays himself as an ‘expert’ on Catholicism alleging that he had worked closely with various Catholic evangelistic organizations. Maybe he was around those organizations, but not as a sympathetic observer. Rather he was an undercover saboteur trying to find fault with Catholicism. Mr. Allison’s hatchet job on the Eucharist and the Catholic understanding of it is quite typical of Protestants. He first asserts the superiority of his own personal interpretation of the Bible and then acts as if the Catholic Church is remiss for not agreeing with him. It never dawns on him that much of his interpretations are colored by modernist skepticism and confessional bias. His presupposition is always that the Catholic Church is wrong and the Protestant Deformers were right. He is never able to transcend his own wishful thinking and to confront the reality that the religions that have resulted from Protestant Pandemonium are in direct contradiction with the LITERAL words of Scripture at the most fundamental point imaginable and that there may be other ways of interpreting the Bible other than his own.
As a Catholic, I have always attempted to understand the Protestant viewpoint from their perspective of Sola Scriptura. Invariably, when doing so, I have found that their interpretations were forced, highly selective, and contradictory to the very words of Scripture. It is particularly disturbing that they ignore what Jesus Christ himself had to say and put their misrepresentations of St. Paul in pride of place over the clear literal words of my Lord and Savior.
It is also quite disturbing that so much of their objections to Catholicism are virtually identical with secular skepticism. When they attack the Church, they act like infidels. When they confront atheists, they fall back on Catholic authorities such as St. Augustine, St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, Molinos, and G. K. Chesterton. Furthermore, they advance the Bible as an independent authority with which to attack historic Catholicism while ignoring the fact that everything they claim about the Bible (authority, inspiration, canon, devotion, etc.) is derived from the actions and teaching of the Church. The false religions of the Deformation presuppose the authority of the Catholic Church while simultaneously denying that authority and in fact mocking it.
And to make matters worse, the scions of the Deformation assert that the authority of mere human scholarship is capable of discerning the eternal verities revealed in Scripture. Meanwhile they dismiss the Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church as if it were mere human opinion, identical in kind to their own man-made systems of thinking.
In fact Catholicism has always taught that the Scriptures, Tradition, and the Magisterium all have the Holy Spirit as their guarantor of truth. Human scholarly efforts have always been made subservient to the superintendence of the Holy Spirit in the church throughout the ages. The opinions of mere men – no matter how educated or erudite – must be subservient to the Gospel which has been preserved in the Catholic Church.
By comparison, the multitudinous and contradictory ravings of the Deformers and those whom they have duped is merely the attempt of sinful men to create for themselves religions that ‘tickle their ears’ and have no divine warrant behind them. This is nothing more than disobedience and rebellion against God, his Christ, his Spirit, and the Church that they have founded for us. Protestantism is theological Pelagianism where the grace of God is absent in ecclesial affairs and in teaching doctrine. Instead, glib demagogues oppress people searching for Christ using mere human rhetoric.
There is a large amount of objectionable nonsense in Mr. Allison’s article. I will focus on just a few themes to demonstrate how poorly he understands the topics he claims to know and to show how fallacious certain of his assertions truly are.
The following is a quotation from pages 180-181 of the book cited above:
The formal principle of Protestantism is Scripture only; its material principle is justification by grace through faith alone. This doctrine also clashes with the Catholic doctrine of salvation and its insistence that the call to God's beatitude is experienced through (1) keeping the law; (2) justification, consisting not only of the reception of forgiveness of sins and divine righteousness, but including the renewal of sinful human nature. (3) cooperation with grace so as to love and engage in good deeds, by which sanctification is increased and eternal life is merited; and (4) involvement in the sacramental economy of the Church, especially through participation in the seven sacraments by which grace is communicated. From an evangelical perspective, (1) no one can keep the law and be justified before God (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16-21); (2) justification is the forensic declaration of God that one is not guilty, but righteous instead, not because of any intrinsic righteousness of one's own or infused righteousness from the sacraments, but because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to one's account (Rom 3:21-4:8); and (3) the synergy of the heart in the Catholic notion of human cooperation with divine grace destroys grace and merits nothing more than condemnation, for salvation leading to eternal life is the gift of God apart from human works (Eph 2: 1-10).
As for (4) the sacramental economy of the Catholic Church, this concept is so far removed from Scripture (and even early church history) that no Protestant denomination has an ecclesiology that even remotely resembles it. The explanation for how Christ's sacrifice on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago is re-presented each time that Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated -- an appeal to the Pascal mystery's participation in the eternality of God -- is a theological construct without biblical warrant.
Mr. Allison begins by asserting without warrant – biblical or otherwise – what he considers to be the formal and material principles of Protestantism. The claim that the Scriptures alone should formally determine doctrine is NOT taught in the Bible. Nor was it ever held in the Church prior to the Deformation. In fact there are several places where it is clearly stated in Scripture that the Bible does no stand alone as the source of the Christian religion.
2Th 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
2Th 3:6 ¶ Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
So we can see that St. Paul himself clearly advocated the authority of Christian tradition. So much so that he equated such traditions to the Scriptures themselves.
This next quotation is critically important because it relates some post-resurrection appearances of Christ that are attested to nowhere else in Scripture. The entire Church had received these stories as part of their traditions and St. Paul bears witness to the authority of those traditions:
1 Cr 15:
1 Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand,
2 by which you are saved, if you hold it fast -- unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
The next quotation is often twisted by Protestants to mean the exact opposite of what it says. It is critically important to read this quotation IN CONTEXT to fully understand it:
12 Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
13 while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
In this quotation St. Paul says that there are 3 sources for sound doctrine and moral teaching:
1. Continue in what you have learned (Tradition)
2. Knowing from whom you learned it (Magisterium)
3. And… you have been acquainted with the sacred writings (Scripture)
Note well that Tradition comes first, Magisterium comes second, and Scripture comes third. This is not a minor matter. What distinguished the early Christians from the Pharisees was not that the use of Scripture because the Pharisees themselves were Scriptural experts. What distinguished the early Christians from their Jewish counterparts was their INTERPRETATION of the Scriptures (i.e., the Christian Tradition) and the TEACHING AUTHORITY of the Apostles who because of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were ALONE capable of rightly dividing the word.
The position of Scripture in this quotation therefore was as a SUPPLEMENT to Tradition and Magisterium. It does not stand on its own and it certainly is not considered to be solitary in its importance. It is by adding Scripture to Tradition and the Magisterium that the man of God is made complete.
Pope St. Peter in his second Encyclical wrote to confirm this:
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder,
14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.
15 And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,"
18 we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,
21 because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
Pope St. Peter makes it clear that the Christian people have the “prophetic word made more sure.” The ‘prophetic word’ here clearly refers to the Bible. St. Peter reminds the reader that he was present at the Transfiguration and the deepest of truths was revealed to him by God himself. He and the other Apostles were “men moved by the Holy Spirit who spoke from God” and were not the purveyors of their “own interpretation” as Protestants claim to be. The Holy Spirit revealed guided St. Peter and the Apostles so that their teaching is “a lamp shining in a dark place” and so the Christian people “do well to pay attention to” them.
This echoes the words of Jesus in St. John’s Gospel:
12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.
13 Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;
14 if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever,
17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you…
25 "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you.
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;
27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
8 And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more;
11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Jesus clearly says that he will send the Holy Spirit to the Church after his Ascension (which is what happened at Pentecost). That Spirit will be the spirit of truth that will not only remind us of what Jesus said but also lead us into all truth. That Spirit will be “he dwells with you, and will be in you.” Clearly this is referring to the Spirit that St. Paul describes as being given at the time of ordination of the Apostle St. Timothy to the Christian ministry:
6 Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;
7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.
Jesus also taught this to the Apostles:
17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues,
18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.
19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour;
20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
So obviously this promise of the Spirit was to those in ordained ministry which is why Apostolic Succession is critical. No Protestant sect has Apostolic Succession and thus none of them are protected from error or guaranteed to teach sound doctrine. The minister ordained in Apostolic Succession receives the Holy Spirit and will not speak by his own authority (or his own scholarship, or his own opinion). He will rather bear witness to Christ and glorify only him.
Another serious deficiency in Sola Scriptura should be noted. Protestants constantly refer to the Pauline Epistles – most notably Romans and Galatians – as the very touchstones through which sound doctrine should be defined, yet the Book of Acts which describes the time period in St. Paul’s career when the major Pauline epistles were written makes no mention of their composition or their collection. Neither does Acts mention the composition of any of the Four Gospels even though we know that at least one of them (i.e., Luke) was written before Acts. In short, the Epistles of St. Paul and the Gospels were not considered important enough to be mention in Acts. The authority, collection, exposition, and inspiration of the New Testament is a dogma of the Church, not a teaching of the Bible. The Protestant claim otherwise is pure hypocrisy.
Now I am aware that Protestants have tried to cobble together new interpretations of some of these verses in order to justify their disobedience and rebellion. I have read their objections and they are laughable. They do exactly what Pope St. Peter warned us about in his Second Encyclical:
14 Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
15 And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
We see that the formal principle of Protestantism is not biblical. The material principle fairs no better.
‘Justification by faith alone’ was called by Luther “the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls.” Mr. Allison rephrases this material principle of the Deformation as ‘justification by grace through faith alone.’ It doesn’t matter. Neither formulation is present in the Bible, his alleged ‘sole rule of faith.’
In fact there is only one verse in all of scripture in which the words ‘to justify’, ‘faith,’ and ‘alone’ occur together:
James 2: 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
This fact always astonished me. Protestants are arrogant and self-righteous. They treat Catholic as if we were morons who do not know the Bible. Yet here the material principle upon which their entire apostasy was based LITERALLY CONTRADICTS the simple words of Scripture.
As a Catholic, I am not interested in slogans or snippets taken out of context as the Protestants do so often. I will quote the larger context in which this verse occurs so there will be no ambiguity as to what St. James writing under divine inspiration was clearly saying.
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder.
20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,
23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God.
24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.
Protestant controversialists have several dodges for avoiding the obvious problems here. Some claim that St. James was not talking about justification in the soteriological sense but merely in the simple demonstrative sense before men. They try to justify themselves by pointing to verse 18 and claiming that good works are merely the fruit of justification so that other people can see that you are saved. Verse 14 above, though, demonstrates that this won’t work. It asks the rhetorical question whether a faith without good works save a man. The implied answer in the Koine Greek idiom and in English is “No.” Clearly, the justification St. James has in mind is soteriological. Furthermore, verse 18 is pointing out the hypocrisy of the claim that faith lone saves. Anybody can say they believe and there is no way to prove it one way or the other. But real faith results in actions. (N.B. - It does not START with actions but results in them. Mr. Allison in his essay repeats the common slander that Catholics think that their works done in co-operation with grace saves them. This is a lie as I will show later.)
St. James clarifies his position in verse 22 where he says that “that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works.” St. James sees good works as an integral part of faith, not an optional or merely incidental result of it. In fact faith in jesus is INCOMPLETE without good works.
None of this is new. It echoes the teachings of both Jesus himself and St. Paul:
13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?
17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.
18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.
21 "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'
23 And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'
This following quotation from Jesus is most important because in it, he roundly condemns the whole idea of ‘justification by faith alone’ and the external imputation of an alien righteousness to one’s account.’ Clearly Jesus wants his disciples to have an intrinsic righteousness.
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity.
26 You blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Jesus also tells us several times that we are to keep the commandments::
16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?"
17 And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
18 He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?"
27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
28 And he said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this, and you will live."
John 14: 15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
St. Paul echoes this:
5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.
6 For he will render to every man according to his works:
7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
11 For God shows no partiality.
12 All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
14 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them
16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
3 I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law.
4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love…
13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself…"
19 Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit,
21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Mr. Allison claims that Rom 3:20 and Gal 2:16ff show that a man cannot be justified by works. Strictly speaking, we Catholics agree with this. Works ALONE cannot save. Neither can works after justification merit eternal life in the strict sense. Yet it is clear that the Bible teaches that good works are necessary for salvation. We will explore how this is explained later on.
The problem with Mr. Allison is that he has been duped by the errors of Luther in reading St. Paul. Luther assumed that the phrase ‘works of the law’ used by St. Paul meant that no works done according to any moral principle could possibly please God. This lead him to misinterpret these following verses:
Rom 3:20 20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Gal 2: 16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.
Happily, the New Perspective on St. Paul (a Protestant scholarly movement based on Sola Scriptura) has pointed out the deficiency here and is trying to correct it. The phrase ‘works of the law’ does not refer to all attempts at acting according to moral principal. Rather it is referring SPECIFICALLY to keeping all of the precepts of the Mosaic law according to the Sinai Covenant.
This was obvious to me when I first read Romans and Galatians. I was shocked to find out that Protestants who allegedly were committed to the Bible could not see this.
This quotation in Romans makes the point succinctly:
28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law,
29 or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.
31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
According to St. Paul, the ‘works of the law’ that he is opposing are those that God expects of Jews and not from Gentiles. The only law that fits this profile is the Mosaic law. So it is only distinctly JEWISH works that St. Paul finds to be unnecessary. Truly good works that proceed from love of neighbor actually fulfill the moral requirements inherent in the Law of Moses (Rom 13). It is the LETTER of the Mosaic Law that is not necessary. The SPIRIT of that law is still required.
St. Paul gives us a clear definition of what it means to be saved in Romans 6. Sadly for Mr. Allison and his co-religionists, it is the diametric OPPOSITE of what they believe. I will quote that chapter in its entirety:
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
7 For he who has died is freed from sin.
8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.
13 Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
16 Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
21 But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
St. Paul tells us here that we are regenerated by baptism and made into a new creation. That means that we are truly made righteous and have been infused with the very Spirit of Christ himself. We are no longer slaves of sin but now we have become slaves of righteousness. We have: “become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (v. 17). But even more importantly, “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.” So we find that it is not justification that gains us eternal life but sanctification which even Protestants agree is the renewal of the whole person by the grace of God working within us.
So in Romans 6 we see:
1. The necessity of the sacramental life for the salvation of the Christian
2. Baptismal regeneration
3. The renewal of the inner man that make the baptized Christian inherently righteous
4. We become a new creation and are now empowered to please God
5. Our walking in newness of life sanctifies us more and more
6. It is this process of sanctification that secures for us eternal life
7. The entire process is by grace and thus is a gift from God and not from our own efforts.
8. Nor is this a combination of our efforts and God’s grace.
9. Grace works within us and all the responsibility for our salvation rests in God
This 9 point schema is in fact the Catholic dogma with regard to salvation.
One last point I want to confront is Mr. Allison’s assertion that “The explanation for how Christ's sacrifice on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago is re-presented each time that Liturgy of the Eucharist is celebrated -- an appeal to the Pascal mystery's participation in the eternality of God -- is a theological construct without biblical warrant.”
First of all the New Testament is clear that Jesus Christ offered himself as an eternal sacrifice and an ongpoing mediator for mankind:
14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek,
16 who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life.
17 For it is witnessed of him, "Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
18 On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
19 (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
20 And it was not without an oath.
21 Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, `Thou art a priest forever.'"
22 This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant.
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office;
24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever.
25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
28 Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
13 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh,
14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.
Heb 9:24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
Rom 8:34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
1 John 2:
1 My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2 and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
We also have the clear words of Jesus that the Eucharist IS his body and blood and not a mere representation of it:
48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever."
59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.
65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
The usual Protestant denial of the clear meaning of this quotation is that Jesus was merely speaking figuratively, not literally. It is easily refuted. First of all, the Jews obviously took Jesus at his word and did not think that a figurative explanation was what he intended. Secondly, Jesus could very easily have allayed the objections of the Jews by saying that he was merely talking in symbols, but he did not. He insisted that they take him literally.
Another Protestant objection is that in verse 63, Jesus says that he is talking “in spirit and in truth” which they claim once again implies a merely ‘spiritual’ or symbolic meaning. But Jesus is saying something far more profound and disturbing. He is warning the crowds that they who do not accept the necessity of eating his literal body and blood are not true believers and have not received the Holy Spirit. They are merely carnal people who cannot discern the truth of God’s word. In short, those who deny the Substantial Presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist are manifesting a sign of not being members of the Elect of God.
Finally, Mr. Allison and others of his ilk fall back on the old standby that Jesus was OBVIOUSLY talking symbolically about the Eucharist. Sadly, this is the most egregious calumny of all. Mr. Allison and his confreres try to force fit their modern secular skepticism as if it were normative in the First Century. As I noted earlier, the Jews who heard Jesus did not think he was speaking figuratively and neither did the Christians who followed the teachings of the Apostles. The Consensus of the Church Fathers was that Christ was substantially present – body, blood, soul, and divinity – in the Eucharist. Retrojecting modern skepticism into the New Testament is poor scholarship. Jesus meant LITERALLY what he said and I have faith in him. I will follow what he has taught. I have no faith at all in Protestant dissembling.
With regard to the ‘re-presentation’ of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, it was no accident that Jesus chose the Passover Seder for the institution of the Eucharist. The Seder was regarded by the Jewish people (and still is regarded by Orthodox Jews) as a‘re-presentation’ of the Exodus of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt. In fact, participation in the Passover Seder was a biblical requirement for all members of the Mosaic Covenant as an eternal ordinance. One who failed to keep the Passover was to be banished from the Land of Israel. According to Numbers 9, if a stranger was in a Jewish home over Passover he was not permitted to participate in the Seder unless he and his entire household (including man servants and slaves) were circumcised and took on the obligation to live according to the Torah from that day forth.
Modern Rabbinic commentators see the obligation to celebrate the Passover as an act of covenant renewal between God and the Jewish people. The Passover is celebrated synchronically in order to capture the original experience of the Hebrews Exodus from Egypt under Moses. This is not merely a remembering but a full participation in this historical event.
In like fashion, the Holy Eucharist is a synchronic celebration of the sacrifice of Christ started at the Last Supper, and ongoing through Jesus’ death and resurrection, culminating in his Ascension into Heaven as an eternal Ascension Offering.
As in Baptism, in the Eucharist we participate in the death, resurrection, and eternal offering of Christ to the Father in Heaven. I cannot imagine anything that is more biblical than that.
A lot more could be said, but I wanted to make my remarks as brief as possible without sacrificing the necessary contextual citing of the Scriptures to give a robust biblical defense of the Catholic faith. Me. Allison obvious does not know his Bible very well. Even worse, he is still blinded by his confessional bias so that he refuses to see what is clearly in Scripture. He is not the expert on Catholicism or on Scripture that he thinks he is. He needs to stop and reflect on his own inadequacies and accept that the modernist views of Protestants are not the only possible ways of interpreting Scripture.