You must be Roman Catholic to think Hebrews 11 is about justifying faith?

I thought I was done responding to this really bad article purporting to deal with law and gospel (twice! and then gave a comparison to R. C. Sproul’s much more clear statement). But the fun never ends. A commenter raised a question:

Why would you say Jesus in his faith and perseverance is not a model for us? “Consider HIM (Jesus) who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” The author of Hebrews directs us to Jesus as the “captain of our faith” after listing a litany of “heroes” in chapter 11.

To which our intrepid theologian responded in part,

I don’t even think Heb. 11 is about saving faith

When that belief was questioned, the exchange became even more surreal. This Hebrew 11 exegesis shows Roman Catholic or “Federal Vision influence:

You can tell me you’re just reading the Bible and are not influenced either by Rome or Moscow, but I admit I would be skeptical of that claim.

So here is John Calvin, from his obscure and marginally Reformed (sarcasm, by the way) Institutes of the Christian Religion in Book Three, “The Way in Which We Receive the Grace of Christ” and chapter 2

Since the nature of faith could not be better or more clearly evinced than by the substance of the promise on which it leans as its proper foundation, and without which it immediately falls or rather vanishes away, we have derived our definition from it—a definition, however, not at all at variance with that definition, or rather description, which the Apostle accommodates to his discourse, when he says that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” Heb. 11:1). For by the term substance (ὑπόστασις), he means a kind of prop on which the pious mind rests and leans. As if he had said, that faith is a kind of certain and secure possession of those things which are promised to us by God; unless we prefer taking ὑπόστασις for confidence. I have no objection to this, though I am more inclined to adopt the other interpretation, which is more generally received. Again, to intimate that until the last day, when the books will be opened (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 20:12), the things pertaining to our salvation are too lofty to be perceived by our sense, seen by our eyes, or handled by our hands, and that in the meantime there is no possible way in which these can be possessed by us, unless we can transcend the reach of our own intellect, and raise our eye above all worldly objects; in short, surpass ourselves, he adds that this certainty of possession relates to things which are only hoped for, and therefore not seen. For as Paul says (Rom. 8:24), “A hope that is seen is not hope,” that we “hope for that we see not.” When he calls it the evidence or proof, or, as Augustine repeatedly renders it (see Hom. in Joann. 79 and 95), the conviction of things not present, the Greek term being ἔλενγχος, it is the same as if he had called it the appearance of things not apparent, the sight of things not seen, the clearness of things obscure, the presence of things absent, the manifestation of things hid. For the mysteries of God (and to this class belong the things which pertain to our salvation) cannot be discerned in themselves, or, as it is expressed, in their own nature; but we behold them only in his word, of the truth of which we ought to be as firmly persuaded as if we held that every thing which it says were done and completed. But how can the mind rise to such a perception and foretaste of the divine goodness, without being at the same time wholly inflamed with love to God? The abundance of joy which God has treasured up for those who fear him cannot be truly known without making a most powerful impression. He who is thus once affected is raised and carried entirely towards him. Hence it is not strange that no sinister perverse heart ever experiences this feeling, by which, transported to heaven itself, we are admitted to the most hidden treasures of God, and the holiest recesses of his kingdom, which must not be profaned by the entrance of a heart that is impure. For what the Schoolmen say as to the priority of love to faith and hope is a mere dream (see Sent. Lib. 3 Dist. 25, &c.) since it is faith alone that first engenders love. How much better is Bernard, “The testimony of conscience, which Paul calls ‘the rejoicing’ of believers, I believe to consist in three things. It is necessary, first of all, to believe that you cannot have remission of sins except by the indulgence of God; secondly, that you cannot have any good work at all unless he also give it; lastly, that you cannot by any works merit eternal life unless it also be freely given,” (Bernard, Serm. 1 in Annuntiatione). Shortly after he adds, “These things are not sufficient, but are a kind of commencement of faith; for while believing that your sins can only be forgiven by God, you must also hold that they are not forgiven until persuaded by the testimony of the Holy Spirit that salvation is treasured up for us; that as God pardons sins, and gives merits, and after merits rewards, you cannot halt at that beginning.” But these and other topics will be considered in their own place; let it suffice at present to understand what faith is.

Don’t know how Doug Wilson managed to turn back time and insert himself into the Institutes. Or is John Calvin a crypto-Roman Catholic?

This is no secret. No obscure passage. (What would be truly obscure would be to find notable Reformed writers from the Reformation or post-Reformation era who agreed with Jason.) This is at the center of John Calvin arguing for justification by faith against Roman Catholic soteriology. No one could have a passing knowledge of Calvin’s popular bombshell and not know this.

Here‘s another, from the heretical chapter entitled “The Beginning of Justification and Its Continual Progress.” later in Book III:

Lastly, as there is no sanctification without union with Christ, it is evident that they are bad trees which are beautiful and fair to look upon, and may even produce fruit, sweet to the taste, but are still very far from good. Hence we easily perceive that every thing which man thinks, designs, and performs, before he is reconciled to God by faith, is cursed, and not only of no avail for justification, but merits certain damnation. And why do we talk of this as if it were doubtful, when it has already been proved by the testimony of an apostle, that “without faith it is impossible to please God?” (Heb. 11:6).

Jason, of course, is free to disagree with Calvin and side with whatever his profs taught him this at Westminster West.  What I can’t abide is him pretending to be articulating anything like the Reformed mainstream and using vile associations (real and also totally imaginary, based on the same ignorance seen in this exchange) to dismiss people who read the Bible. We live in a wonderful intellectual environment where people who use the Bible just like all the other Protestants are written off as influence by Roman Catholics and “FV.”

Here is more of the Roman Catholic/Moscovite John Calvin, and Matthew Henry and more Mathew Henry. Notice, I don’t always agree with Matthew Henry, but I don’t pretend otherwise and assert everyone else must be corrupted by errorists.

1 thought on “You must be Roman Catholic to think Hebrews 11 is about justifying faith?

  1. Nick

    I think the real tragedy here is that on the “popular apologetics” realm, many ‘big names’ like James White (The God Who Jusitifies), RC Spoul (Faith Alone), John Piper (Counted As Righteous), etc, never reference Hebrews 11 in their major apologetics works specifically dealing with Sola Fide.

    For example: the only time James White mentions Hebrews 11 in his book “The God Who Justifies” is to respond to the Catholic appeal to Hebrews 11:8 on Abraham having saving faith as early as Genesis 12. Since White is adamant that Abraham was justified in Genesis 15:6, he says the faith Abraham had beforehand was non-saving. And White thinks that to allow Hebrews 11 to be talking about saving faith would undermine sola fide since all the examples given are of ‘faithful obedience’.

    p.s. You should enable your blog to ’email followup responses’ to people who post.

    Reply

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