Volume Twenty — Article 10 Volume 20 | Home

Some Reflections

1. It is true that Reformation theology taught that man is justified by an extrinsic righteousness and that, in itself, justification does not mean a process of renovation within man. But the Reformers, in the true evangelical sense, taught that justification bears the fruit of a regenerate life.

2. Whereas the Council of Trent condemned the Reformation for a theology that "reduced [justification] to something purely external," the Reformers opposed Rome for reducing God's infinite justifying grace to the dimensions of an intrahuman experience.

3. In the controversy it was Romanism that gave itself the stance of contending for a real, "within" righteousness rather than a "pasted on, as if" righteousness. It was the papacy that put itself forward as the champion of the reality of sanctifying grace, charging the Protestants with denying God's sanctifying power in the heart. It was the Catholic party that appeared to be the advocate of internal righteousness.

4. The Reformation is a paradox in this respect: It wrought a mighty reformation, not by placing the main emphasis on the need for righteousness within man, but by placing its supreme emphasis on extrinsic grace and God's work outside of man.

5. Catholicism is a paradox in this respect: It wrought a mighty deformation, not by placing its emphasis on grace external to man, but by placing supreme emphasis on God's sanctifying grace within man.

6. Roman Catholic theology is a veiled righteousness by works for these reasons:

a. Infused righteousness is an active principle revealed in good works.

b. Justification by, or on the condition of, infused righteousness is justification by means of good works.

When Paul declares that we are saved apart from "works of righteousness" which we have done (Titus 3:5), he does not mean "works of self-righteousness" or "works of so-called righteousness." He means exactly what he says — "works of righteousness" — and they include all those works wrought in the life by the Holy Spirit.

7. Roman Catholic theology utterly confounds the two aspects of redemption — Christ's work of doing and dying and interceding for us, and Christ's work in us. Thus it confounds gospel and law. Antinomianism falls into the opposite error and divorces the law from the gospel.