Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Beckwith Claims to Have Read Trent
08/08/2007 - James WhiteLet's make it clear. Frank Beckwith claims to have read the Council of Trent prior to January of this year, and, seemingly, he is going to use my pointing to his comments about Trent as his sole means of avoiding the dozen or so issues I have raised since yesterday (in the materials below, such as Canon 13 at Nicea/Canon 6, the actual development of the complex of beliefs giving rise to indulgences, patristic citations---all the things he has avoided even commenting upon even though he raised the issues to which they are relevant) and as his sole means of covering his retreat. And yes, I use the term retreat for the simple reason that it was Dr. Beckwith who has made particular theological and historical claims, but, when challenged, for some reason, refuses to back them up. Evidently, in the minds of many in the Roman communion (as evidenced by their comments on Jimmy Akin's blog, the Catholic Answers forums, and the STR comments thread), he doesn't have to back up what he says. That is only something those outside "Mother Church" have to do.
He likewise is referring to this statement as the genesis of "internet midrash," which I find an interesting use of the term. He has said so on the Catholic Answers forums. So I would like to offer Dr. Beckwith all the space he needs right here on my blog to explain how, if he in fact read the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent in his twenties, he could say the following Sunday evening on Stand to Reason 42:37 into the program:
"If you read the Council of Trent...which, by the way, really shocked me. I expected to read this sort of horrible document, you know, requiring people to stick pins in their eyes, you know, and flagellate themselves, you know, and it turns out that there are things in there that are quite amazing, that the initial grace is given to us by God, in fact, there's a condemnation in there for anyone who says that our works, apart from grace...I mean, I thought to myself, I had not been told...I had been misinformed!"Specifically, if Dr. Beckwith wishes to provide replies to the following, I will gladly post them:
1) How can a person be shocked by re-reading something they read twenty years ago. Is it your claim that you had completely forgotten everything you had read then? Or is it your claim that you were so completely prejudiced in your twenties that you could not even read the document in a meaningful fashion?
2) How can someone speak of "expecting to read" something in a document that they have already read? Are you claiming that your prejudices were so deep that you had actually made up in your mind things like "sticking pins in your eyes" and "flagellation"?
3) How can you find "amazing" things in a document you read twenty years ago? Did you simply not read it well enough to understand it then?
4) If you read this document, how is it relevant to claim that you had not been "told" the truth about it?
5) If you read the document, how could you be misinformed about its contents?
Finally, would not a perfectly fair minded reading of these statements lead any rational person to the conclusion that this was, in fact, your first reading of the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent?
I will gladly post Dr. Beckwith's response here on this blog for all to read, should he wish to respond to this "Internet midrash."
While reviewing the thread on the Catholic Answers forums I saw no meaningful response to any of the issues raised in the materials cited in the previous blog entry (from the comments thread on the STR blog).
So much has been said about Trent...but almost nothing has been quoted therefrom. So, let's read a few quotes from Trent, shall we? Remember now, read charitably! Please don't ask me what that means. I only know how to read a historical document in the context in which it was written so as to discern the intentions of the original authors. Possibly it means we should smile the whole time we read it? That's hard for me to do, since I know a little something about the history of these times. I know of many who died at the hands of Rome with these words being screamed in their faces, so maybe a "charitable" reading of these words is to actually ignore their historical context? Well, in any case, some words from the Council of Trent:
But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema. Let all, therefore, understand, in what order, and in what manner, the said Synod, after having laid the foundation of the Confession of faith, will proceed, and what testimonies and authorities it will mainly use in confirming dogmas, and in restoring morals in the Church. (Denzinger 784) (Don't forget, Rome even came up with an infallible Vulgate...for a while, anyway, until it was discovered to be...very fallible).
Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever. (785) (This part is sorta...not relevant anymore)
Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, --wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold; [Page 20] or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established. (786) (Sola ecclesia with a vengeance)
And whereas the Apostle saith, that man is justified by faith and freely, those words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed; to wit, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle says, grace is no more grace. (801) (Of course, Paul's enemies could have said the same things).
Having, therefore, been thus justified, and made the friends and domestics of God, advancing from virtue to virtue, they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day; that is, by mortifying the members of their own flesh, and by presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification, they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified (803) (Note the confusion of sanctification and justification, resulting in the rejection of the biblical truth of the imputation of Christ's righteousness as the grounds of our relationship to God).
As regards those who, by sin, have fallen from the received grace of Justification, they may be again justified, when, God exciting them, through the sacrament of Penance they shall have attained to the recovery, by the merit of Christ, of the grace lost: for this manner of Justification is of the fallen the reparation: which the holy Fathers have aptly called a second plank after the shipwreck of grace lost. For, on behalf of those who fall into sins after baptism, Christ Jesus instituted the sacrament of Penance, when He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Whence it is to be taught, that the penitence of a Christian, after his fall, is very different from that at (his) baptism; and that therein are included not only a cessation from sins, and a detestation thereof, or, a contrite and humble heart, but also the sacramental confession of the said sins,-at least in desire, and to be made in its season,-and sacerdotal absolution; and likewise satisfaction by fasts, alms, prayers, and the other pious exercises of a spiritual life; not indeed for the eternal punishment,-which is, together with the guilt, remitted, either by the sacrament, or by the desire of the sacrament,-but for the temporal punishment, which, as the sacred writings teach, is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism, to those who, ungrateful to the grace of God which they have received, have grieved the Holy Spirit, and have not feared to violate the temple of God. Concerning which penitence it is written; Be mindful whence thou art fallen; do penance, and do the first works. And again; The sorrow that is according to God worketh penance steadfast unto salvation. And again; Do penance, and bring forth fruits worthy of penance. (807) (Read that one again. Compare with Romans and Galatians.)
In opposition also to the subtle wits of certain men, who, by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained, that the received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost; thus defending the doctrine of the divine law, which excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of divine grace, they can refrain, and on account of which they are separated from the grace of Christ. (808)
Before men, therefore, who have been justified in this manner,-whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received, or whether they have recovered it when lost,-are to be set the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labour 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 your confidence, which hath a great reward. And, for this cause, life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God Himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits. For this is that crown of justice which the Apostle declared was, after his fight and course, laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming. 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: (809) (Note the bold!)Here are some of the canons attached to the chapter on justification:
CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.
CANON V.-If any one saith, that, since Adam's sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.
CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.
CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.
CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.
CANON XVII.-If any one saith, that the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.
CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.
CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.
CANON XXXIII.-If any one saith,that,by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.
I think a fair reading of the preceding yields all sorts of material contradictions to the biblical teaching of the nature of the work of Christ. You will find even more such contradictions in this material as well. Maybe someday a study of Trent on the Dividing Line would be useful.