A limit of inerrancy

The Bible is inerrant, but we are not: This is a fundamental proposition held by both Protestant literalists and by the Catholic Church. Both groups agree that the Bible is inspired by God such that all that Holy Scripture affirms is true and without error. This does not mean that there are not hard questions that still must be answered, and I for one am willing (where I once was not) to concede that perhaps I do not have all the answers to those questions.

Some of them are better than others. The claim that the Bible supposedly proposes a value of 3 for Pi is flatly absurd, for example. But there are others that are more difficult. For example, did Edom allow Israel to pass through its territory peaceably (Deuteronomy 2:29) or not (Numbers 20:18)? We can’t have it both ways in terms of the way the actual event took place; either Edom let them pass or they didn’t. So which is it?

Although I am willing to consider proposed resolutions of this difficulty that allow us to retain the idea that both Numbers and Deuteronomy are intended to be literal historical accounts both of which must be interpreted literally, I do not see how that notion can be retained in the face of this seeming contradiction. But the Bible is inerrant. This is an article of faith. There are two implications to this fact which we do well to keep in mind when struggling with difficulties like what Edom did (or didn’t) allow. One is that an article of faith requires the exercise of the virtue of faith, and that faith is addressed to things that we cannot or do not know by means of reason. It may well be the case, for example, that the Bible is inerrant just as we believe, but that we do not have a resolution for a difficulty like this. Faith does not pretend to answer literally all our questions; when it comes to an infinite God, there will always be things about Him that we will never understand just because we are not infinite. But there is a second implication I think is more helpful in addressing a seeming difficulty like what Edom did.

That implication is that we may be wrong though the Bible is not. It is often said that both Deuteronomy and Numbers present literal history to us, but let us be frank. In the absence of some unusually good harmonization of the seeming (?) contradiction between Deuteronomy 2 and Numbers 20, the only rational thing we can do is to acknowledge either that Deuteronomy or Numbers does not present literal history or that neither of them do. This choice by itself does not in any way imply that either of these books of Scripture contain error. It simply means that at least one of them is not intended to be understood in a flatly wooden and literalistic manner. Rather, at least one of them must be of a literary type that does not require literal truth in every detail. This is not a unique case, but it does emphasize once again the dangers of careless handling of God’s holy and inspired Word.

So what is the “limit” to inerrancy I reference in this post’s title? The limit is something in us, and it is that inerrancy does not mean there are no difficulties in biblical interpretation. Taking things literally does not solve all problems. Sometimes it actually creates difficulties. We are limited and fallible, and we need to keep this fact in mind when we come to biblical interpretation. This is yet another reason why we must seek to interpret the Scripture in keeping with the living tradition of the Church. The Lord promises to ensure that the Church is preserved from error when it comes to matters of faith and morals; He does not make that promise to you and me personally.

The Decision is Void

Just so that we are all clear with respect to the SCOTUS ruling yesterday: the decision is contrary to reason, contrary to the laws of men throughout history, and contrary to the law of God. Consequently the decision is entirely void and without force, and we are in no way, shape, or form obliged to recognize it as either a “new law” or as a binding interpretation of the Constitution. The decision is morally bankrupt and was a dead letter in the very moment of its promulgation.

This is not to say that we may in any way abuse or maltreat those people who experience same-sex attraction. They are our brothers and sisters.

On a related note, I observe that Henry VIII was excommunicated over a divorce, which is trivial in comparison to the judicial act which took place yesterday. I hope that the appropriate bishops and even the Holy Father are giving due consideration to an appropriate response with respect to the Catholics on SCOTUS who voted in favor of yesterday’s decision. Surely they must be called to repentance with utmost urgency. And the same goes for those in Ireland responsible for the same pseudo-law in that country.

Faith is not a special way of feeling

If I am waiting, hoping, looking, or longing for some subjective feeling or other to certify my belief in God, I am barking up the wrong tree. Completely. Not to pick on them especially (because they are by no means unique in this respect, but rarely is it institutionalized so explicitly as among them) but the LDS are notorious for this, with their alleged “burning in the bosom” which they claim validates the truth of their religion. The problem is that burning bosoms are a dime a dozen; I produced one in myself just now while typing this. Does that invalidate the LDS claim? Obviously not, by itself: it is subjective. But it does highlight the perils of relying upon such things to validate the truth.

The same reliance can be found whenever I say to myself that it feels as though my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, or when I hope for a sign to give me confidence about what I am supposed to do or think or believe. The problem is that God can’t be touched, can’t be felt, can’t be seen (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12). He may be heard, but He has spoken for the last time in His Son (Hebrews 1)…and even if He did speak, how would I know it is He and not Satan dressed up as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)?

Faith is in a real way a sort of darkness, which is why St. Paul says that we don’t walk by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). So when the way is blurry, or fogged, or just plain impossible to see with my eyes, with my senses, I can still know the way by faith. It is an uncomfortable thing, it is a sometimes painful thing, it often goes on longer than I think I can bear…but it is the only way I can go. By faith.

Externalities

Longtime readers of this blog may possibly have noticed that the argument of my last few posts is really nothing more than an expanded form of the argument I offered in an article I wrote a few years ago: The Accidental Catholic. Actually, as revisions of previous posts on an old blog of mine, these last few articles really precede TAC. The latter is really somewhat of a summary of the arguments I made in 2007. I don’t know that there is any particular significance to this, but perhaps some newer readers of the blog might be interested in TAC if they happened to like the “more recent” series.

To my knowledge there has been but one response to TAC and none at all to this older series of posts. I won’t presume to suppose that this says more than that I am an obscure nobody in a world of billions, but there are a couple of points that I would like to draw out from my reply to Dr. Anderson. First off (and fundamental to the second point I will make here) Dr. Anderson made the mistake of supposing that my argument in TAC (and by extension in these older/newer posts, though he has probably never read them) came from a Catholic point of view, and that consequently swaths of what I said could be ignored as mere external criticism. As an aside, it is ironic that at least one of Dr. Anderson’s fellow Presbyterians thinks that external criticisms can be legitimately made in such a way as to show that a given point of view is invalid. I do not think that Dr. Anderson makes the identical mistake, but rather I hope that he would agree that this oversight on his part undermines at least parts of his critique of my article.

For the simple fact is that TAC and these more recent articles are not external critiques of Protestantism at all but rather are founded upon the inner logic of the Protestant system. This is an internal critique meant to show that Protestantism is inconsistent, incoherent, self-contradictory, and therefore cannot possibly be the true, historic form of Christianity as its sons like to claim. Indeed, I am unaware of any argument against Protestantism that I have made which could reasonably be characterized as an external criticism.

An external critique is invalid (at least for the purposes of refuting, for example, Catholicism or Protestantism) because it relies upon measuring the subject of criticism against a standard to which it either flatly denies legitimacy or which has nothing to do with the subject of criticism’s actual points of view). For example, to say that Protestantism is wrong because it denies papal authority may be a true statement as far as it goes, but it does nothing to demonstrate that Protestantism as a system is wrong precisely because Protestants deny the legitimacy of papal authority. In order to make a valid criticism, I would either have to show that the Protestant denial is incoherent and/or logically invalid, or else demonstrate beyond question the legitimacy of papal authority. I have done neither of these things in this paragraph, so this paragraph by itself is worthless as an argument against anything except (hopefully) external critiques.

Returning to our main point: Anderson’s criticism of my article assumes a Catholic provenance for them. But they are not Catholic arguments, strictly speaking: I made them while I was Protestant. I had never read any Catholic apologetic literature until months after I had realized that I could no longer remain Protestant because Protestantism is self-contradictory. It disproves itself, as I hope I have shown in these posts and in TAC. It will not do to attempt to brush off these arguments as dependent upon Catholic assumptions. They’re not.

 

Aristotle, De Anima, and Aquinas

Alliteration always amuses me a lot.

Sorry about that. I’ve got it out of my system now.

I have written about St. Thomas’ commentary on De Anima before. I am going to do it again. Seriously: if you have any interest at all in Aristotle and/or Aquinas (and you should), this commentary is simply not to be missed. It is a tour de force, one of the best works of Aquinas that I have read. A lot of problems might have been avoided if Descartes and a few others I could name had read and understood this commentary. Yes, there are other (and undoubtedly more important) things Aquinas wrote that they should have read too, but this one is special. I commend it to you, dear reader.

Written with StackEdit.

Protestant Infallible Interpretation, Part 3

Last time, we ended with a question that becomes necessary as a consequence of certain opinions that were held by (for example) Martin Luther: to wit, that the Holy Spirit helps a person to correctly interpret the Bible. The question is this: Given two Protestant scholars of equal training, equal intelligence, equal acumen, equal reputations for godly character, and with equal access to all essential resources, except that one is Presbyterian and one is Baptist, which one of them is correct with regard to the doctrinal and theological issues over which they disagree?

Beyond any argument they cannot both be correct when it comes to their respective understandings of the doctrine of Baptism (to name just one). Which one, then, has the Spirit (assuming Luther is correct), and which one does not?

Or are they both wrong?

Let’s grant of course that not all things about which Christians disagree are truly significant. St. Paul says this in Romans 14, and there really is no good reason to quibble about it. But are the issues about which Protestants disagree truly all matters of indifference? It’s absurd even to suggest this, because it is inconceivable at the very least that God does not care about the truth with regard to the form and meaning of the sacraments. If He gave them to us, then the outward signs matter in terms of what they represent. If He gave them to us, then the outward signs are meant to represent something specific. These things being the case, it is simply and flatly inconceivable that error on our part in regard to the matter and form of the sacraments is a thing of indifference to God.

And now we are arriving at our destination. Because on Protestantism’s own terms, it is simply and flatly impossible to determine who is right and who is wrong about the sacraments. But if Protestantism cannot deliver the goods with respect to the sacraments, then what Protestants say about how we learn truth from God has fundamental problems. In particular, since there are godly men on all sides of Protestant disputes about the sacraments, on Protestantism’s terms it would be special pleading to pretend that this one or that one among them has the Spirit, while the others do not. But this means that what Protestants say about how the Spirit leads the Church into all truth is simply wrong. Without any argument the Holy Spirit does lead the Church into all truth. But the facts of the case indisputably demonstrate that He does not do so in the individualistic way that Protestants suppose.

Sadly, the pioneers of the Reformation unconsciously imbibed too much of the spirit of Renaissance humanism. In their sincere zeal to see the undeniable abuses in the Catholic Church corrected, they went too far, and asserted for themselves the right to decide for themselves what the Bible says – to decide for themselves what the Bible teaches. Man as the measure of all things – but in a baptized version. For they would not throw God out, but rather, they would decide for themselves what it is that God says, and then they would seek to be faithful to that. In the Lord’s good providence, they and their descendants have to a great degree remained faithful to much of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, so that Catholics do not need to be afraid to reckon them as brothers and sisters in Christ. But to the extent that they have arrived at correct answers by means of their chosen hermeneutical tools, we have to recognize the fact that they have done so using an invalid method. Contrary to what they say, it is not for them to decide what God’s truth is. It is not for me to say so. It is not for them to pass judgment upon God’s Church on the basis of their own opinions. Rather than the humanistic approach of deciding for themselves, Protestants must acknowledge that the Church is the guardian of Gospel Truth, and they need to come home to her.

[Adapted, with some minor revisions, from this older post of mine.]

Protestant Infallible Interpretation, Part 2

In our last episode, I examined the Reformed/Presbyterian notion that Scripture is the “infallible interpreter” of Scripture. This model of exegesis does not work, I argued, because the Bible is an object and objects do not interpret themselves. Interpretation is the work of a person. Consequently to expect a document — even the Word of God — to “tell us” what it means is to expect the impossible. It’s not going to happen. Hence it is even more absurd to expect it do so infallibly.

Now it might be said by some Reformed folks that I have misrepresented what the WCF means by this expression. They might say that persons must use Scripture to interpret Scripture: having determined the meaning of “clear” passages, they can then use those sections as a key for interpreting the “less clear” portions of the Bible. This is a fair response (and I might have made this very reply when I was a Presbyterian).

Unfortunately this response in no way solves the problem of interpretation. It simply changes its locus to the human interpreter, who decides for himself what the Bible says. As I have already argued it amounts to making man the measure of all things. Because it is the human interpreter who will decide what is “clear.” It is the human interpreter who will decide what is “not clear.” And it is the human interpreter who will decide how the clear passages are used in interpreting the unclear ones. We’ve discussed this problem somewhat already, and perhaps we’ll return to it again later. For now it is sufficient to point out that there doesn’t seem to be any construction of WCF I:IX wherein we have an objective, infallible rule for knowing what the Bible teaches. It is not going to do the job for us itself, because objects don’t interpret themselves, and that means that humans are going to be involved in this allegedly “infallible” work of interpretation.

Now I’d like to look briefly at WCF I:X, where it says:

X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

This sounds very fine on the surface, but let’s consider what it says for a moment. The WCF tells us here that the Holy Spirit “speaking in the Scripture” is the “supreme judge” in religious matters. Well, how do we know what He is telling us in the Scripture? Are we going to hear a voice? Are we going to receive an internal prompting of some sort? Clearly not: for we would be unable to distinguish such a voice or prompting from diabolic influence (and we would be unable to distinguish it from, for example, a very similar Mormon appeal to a “burning in the bosom”). On the other hand if that’s not what we may reasonably expect, then we find ourselves in the same position as we did with regard to WCF I:IX: that is, we are forced to conclude that humans must do the job of interpreting the Bible to determine what it is that the Holy Spirit is saying in the Bible. And that, once again, means that we are back in the position of man being the measure of all things (baptized version). He will decide for himself what God is telling him, which is the great unexamined presupposition of the Reformation, rooted in Renaissance humanism, and contrary to the whole history of the Church during her first 15 centuries.

We ought to point out two other things about where we find ourselves. First, this is the exact circumstance in which all Protestants find themselves, Presbyterian or not. They may not adhere to the WCF formulations, but it boils down to the same, whether they are similarly confessional (like the Lutherans) or not (like the Baptists). They have taken it upon themselves to decide independently what it is that God says.

Secondly: at least some Protestants will object that there is another way that they might escape from these circumstances (if they even consider themselves “trapped” by them in the first place). They might say that the Holy Spirit will individually enable them to understand the Bible correctly, appealing to a verse like, for example, John. 16:13: “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.” But is it reasonable to suppose that this verse may be applied individualistically, so that Joe or Bob can simply rely upon the Spirit to guide them into all the truth? I don’t see how.

Let’s set the stage first. Here is what Roland Bainton, the great Lutheran historian and biographer of Martin Luther, had to say about Luther’s view on how one might arrive at the truth:

Luther believed that if Scripture were studied with the aid of all linguistic and critical tools, its sense would become absolutely plain, and no honest and competent inquirer would fail to miss the meaning, because the Holy Spirit would guide him to the true sense. If there were actually divergent interpretations, one would have to be wrong, and the Spirit lacking in the case of him who erred. (The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, p. 215)

And:

Luther came to feel that the Holy Spirit was responsible not only for the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed but even for the Augsburg Confession. If the dissenter appealed to his conscience the reply was that conscience as such has no claims but only a right conscience. … Only the correct conscience therefore is to be respected. (ibid.; emphasis in original)

So Bainton tells us Luther would say that the Holy Spirit will guide a man to the “true sense” of the Bible, and if two men disagree…well, one of them is wrong, and the Holy Spirit has not led him at all. The obvious question then is: Who is right and who is wrong? Luther had his own personal answer to that, as we see above (and perhaps we may be forgiven for suspecting that it is a most convenient answer, if not entirely self-serving): The one who agrees with the Augsburg Confession is right!

But why should we believe him? It’s rather disingenuous of Luther to suppose that we ought to just take him at his word that the Augsburg Confession has God’s stamp of approval on it. Given his own measure (see above), how are we to know that the Lutherans have interpreted the Bible correctly rather than the Calvinists? Rather than the Catholics? Sure, Luther might be perfectly willing to say that the Catholics lack the Holy Spirit, but is he really going to insist that the Calvinists are similarly lacking? Apparently he would.

Okay, so there are some who are willing to play that game. But must we do so? Given that there are godly men on both sides of almost any theological debate, are we really going to insist – despite all evidence to the contrary – that one of them is lacking the witness of the Spirit? But if we are going to say that, then we must ask another question: Which one?

[This post is a re-publication (with some amendments) of an earlier article of mine on an old blog]

Protestant Infallible Interpretation

In my last post, I said that the Protestant has made himself the measure of all things when it comes to the Bible: he will decide for himself what the Bible teaches. This amounts to a sort of “baptized Renaissance humanism:” man as the measure of all things, because the individual Protestant determines for himself what truths are said to be taught in the Bible (which is at least formally the only source of religious truth that they consider to be valid).

As I conceded, that was a coarse way of putting things: because in many cases, this is not precisely how Protestants view the matter themselves. At least some of them might explicitly deny such a representation of their position. In this post I will be addressing the Presbyterian position on the subject. I’m selecting this one for two reasons: first, I think that it is at least representative of the better sort of Protestant viewpoint with respect to the question (I don’t necessarily mean to say that it is the best; Lutherans might say otherwise, for example, and some other groups might quibble as well, and I don’t mean to belittle the others. In fact, though, I think that for the most part their perspectives will be at least similar to the Presbyterian one). Secondly, as a former member (for 20 years) of the Presbyterian Church in America, it’s the Protestant perspective that is most familiar to me!

The Westminster Confession of Faith is the confessional standard for Presbyterians. What they mean by “confessional standard” is that they believe the WCF faithfully and accurately represents the system of doctrine to be found in the Bible. If there is an authoritative document among Presbyterians (other than the Bible itself), this is it. What does the WCF have to say about this subject? Who decides what the Bible teaches?

The answer, according to the WCF, is twofold. From Chapter I:

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

So the WCF says that Scripture is its own infallible interpreter, and that the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture is the “supreme judge.”

First of all, we should give credit where credit is due: the writers of the WCF clearly intended to avoid setting up man as the measure of what the Bible teaches. But do they succeed? I submit that the answer is an emphatic No.

In the first place, to make a book its own infallible interpreter is a circular argument: Why is the Bible infallible? Because it says so. Well, we might concede that an infallible book might make such a claim for itself, but that is hardly sufficient grounds for accepting the claim. Secondly, however, this claim by the WCF does nothing to settle any hermeneutical questions for us. How are we to know which are the “other places that speak more clearly?” How are we to know which clearer places (among all the clearer ones) are the ones to help us interpret this or that specific difficult one? Who is to say what is difficult and what is clear? The WCF has no answer for these questions, and I submit that Presbyterians have none that really work.

It might be asserted that the “assured results” of exegesis by competent scholars has established what are clear passages and what are not. The only problem with this is: Protestant scholars don’t agree either. More specifically, not even the Presbyterian ones agree! There are postmillennial Presbyterians, and premillennial Presbyterians, and sabbatarians, and non-sabbatarians, and New Perspective on Paul/Federal Vision Presbyterians, and so forth. It may be conceded that Presbyterians (at least in any specific Presbyterian denomination) agree about most things, but they most assuredly do not agree about everything. How then has the Bible as an “infallible interpreter” of itself enabled them to come to agreement about what the Bible says? Can it reasonably be said — even if this thesis be granted — that it has worked for them? No. It can’t. An “infallible interpreter” which produces such varied results is clearly not reliable, and cannot reasonably be said to be an “infallible interpreter.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that the Bible contains errors. It does not. What I am saying is that it cannot function as an “infallible interpreter.” It’s an object. Objects do not interpret themselves. Interpretation must be done by a person. But the Bible is not a person. Therefore it cannot be an interpreter. Therefore it cannot be an infallible interpreter.

This demonstrates, as far as I can tell, that at least one standard of Protestant interpretation is fallacious. When someone announces that “XYZ is true because the Bible says so!”, we have to recognize that what has really happened is that he (or someone) has interpreted the Bible, and it is his understanding that the Bible says XYZ. The Bible does not speak for itself. It is an object. It is the Holy Word of God, but that fact does not grant it powers to interpret itself anymore than any other book. A book must be interpreted by a person. Claims that “the Bible says so” demand that we ask: Who says that the Bible says so? And why should we believe what he says about the subject?

[Republished, with a few minor edits, from the original article]

Baptized Humanism?

The Reformation arose out of the Renaissance. Protestants are ready to acknowledge the fact that the Renaissance emphases upon classical literature and a return “ad fontes,” to the sources, played an important part in the birth of their movement. This dependency is obvious in the Protestant insistence upon Scripture alone. But were there any other Renaissance influences upon Luther and his allies?

It seems to me that the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Another element of Renaissance culture had its effects as well: humanism. I do not mean to say that the Reformers were secularists, nor that the Renaissance humanists were essentially no different from modern secular humanists. That would be anachronistic. But humanism emphasizes the human by its very definition. One author has said that the Renaissance humanists “asserted ‘the genius of man… the unique and extraordinary ability of the human mind.’”

Man as the measure of all things: this is the watchword of humanism. And this was an integral part of Renaissance culture. It would be absurd to pretend that such influences had no effect upon the Reformers, particularly given assertions such as this from Luther: “Accursed into the abyss of hell be all obedience that is rendered to government, father, and mother, yea, and the church, too, at the cost of being disobedient to God!” (The quotation is from a book called What Luther Says. I pulled this quotation from an email to a friend. I used to own this book, but I wound up giving it to a Lutheran friend who could make much better use of it than I; unfortunately, this means I cannot provide a full citation). There isn’t really much left to question here: Luther has rejected the authority of governments, of parents, and of the Church to instruct him as to what God requires of man.

Sola scriptura means that the Protestant not only rejects Sacred Tradition; it also means, on the assumption that all men err, that he will not submit to anyone else when it comes to understanding the Bible. Oh, he may do so formally speaking – that is, he may agree that a particular Protestant creedal formulation presents the truth of the Bible – but if at any time he finds himself in disagreement with that formulation, his sole allegiance becomes clear: he will deny the validity of that creed or confession, and stick to what he understands the Bible to be saying. Solo Scriptura.

Now it must be said that Protestant devotion to the Bible is a commendable thing. By no means do I wish to be misunderstood about that. But the point here is that Sola Scriptura is, it seems to me, clearly and unambiguously a fruit (a baptized fruit, but a fruit nonetheless) of Renaissance humanism: “I, with my Bible, will determine what it is that God says. I will ignore the testimony of the centuries, and return to the very sources themselves, and discover what it is that God says.”

This is what I mean by an unexamined presupposition of Protestantism: unwittingly they have not imported only the Renaissance interest in source documents, but just as significantly a measure of Renaissance humanism: “I will decide.” Man as the measure of all things. The Protestant declares that he will decide for himself.

I am admittedly putting things rather coarsely. What I want to show, however, is that – however unwittingly – the Reformers and their heirs owe more to the Renaissance than merely an interest in ancient manuscripts. They also owe their determination to decide for themselves what those manuscripts mean, without reference to the teaching of the Church. To this extent, the Protestant approach to the Bible’s meaning amounts to a sort of baptized humanism (please note that I am not saying that Protestantism in its entirety can be described this way).

[This post is drawn for the most part–with some amendments–from this article of mine written several years ago.]

On Grace and Merit

It is not news to say that many Protestants claim that the Catholic Church teaches a form of salvation by merit in contrast to their own belief in salvation by grace. This claim about the Church’s teaching is of course false, as we have observed many times at this blog. A long time ago I wrote on the same subject, and it seems like a good idea to rehearse the main points I made at that time (along with, perhaps, some additions).

That about covers the gamut, I think, but it is hardly the last word from the Church on the subject. The much-maligned Council of Trent has a thing or two to say as well. By way of summary: “…it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake” (Decree on Justification, chapter IX). Furthermore, the entire seventh chapter (see previous link) of the Decree enumerates the various causes of our justification. As anyone can see, none of them are human efforts; all of them are divine.

This hardly seems necessary since Protestants have been resorting to the “legalism” canard since the sixteenth century, but for the sake of completeness it’s worth observing that the Church today still affirms salvation by grace alone.

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God. (CCC 1996)

And: “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him” (CCC 153).

And: “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 154).

Our Protestant brothers’ claim is obviously based upon a deficit of information about the actual facts, which makes the claim invalid.

(This post borrows heavily from one that I wrote several years ago.)