A doctrine according to the flesh, part 2


Last time I began dissecting a defense of the Catholic doctrine of salvation by the founder of Catholic Answers, Karl Keating, which he commenced by dismissing verses that appear to teach salvation by faith alone, citing “contrary” ones which he goes on to present. Today I continue carving up the frog (dissection…get it?…never mind) with his contention that the apostle who wrote most of the New Testament, including Romans, the great doctrinal treatise on the faith that includes the following…

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (3:21-14)

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (3:28)

since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. (3:30)

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (4:5)

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (10:4)

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10:9)

…the apostle Paul, actually believed that we are justified by faith PLUS works.

Quoting again Mr. Keating in his response to a questioner on Catholic Answers Live about whether we can know we are saved: [Keating is using a Bible translation by Msgr. Ronald Knox, in case the verses sound strange to those of you familiar with them.]

Romans 5:2 – “We are confident in the hope of attaining glory as the sons of God.” So we expect to be saved. So we are confident in the hope, we have hope to go to heaven. Romans 8:24, he elucidates on that. “Our salvation is founded on the hope of something. Hope would not be hope if its object were in view.” That is, you don’t hope for something that you know you’re going to get.

Keating is here understanding “hope” in the contemporary and common sense of wanting something to be the case but not confident of it, which is not how Paul uses it, as is demonstrated in the first verse Keating goes to. Keating even reiterates that “we are confident” in hope but then cites Romans 8:24 as arguing against that confidence. A more reliable translation has this for verse 24, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”

The Greek word elpis translated “hope” here and throughout the New Testament means, “favourable and confident expectation.”(1) The distinction Paul is making in verse 24 is between what we see and have now, and what will be but has yet to become our experience. It’s a distinction of tense…present or future, not of certainty…maybe, maybe not. If the object of hope is “something that you [don’t] know you’re going to get,” then we can’t be confident in:

the resurrection of our bodies (Acts 26:6),

the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:18)

the return of Christ (Titus 2:13)

God’s promises (Hebrews 10:23)

the grace that will be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

But as Paul continues in Romans 8:25, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” As Mr. Keating might say, you don’t wait patiently for something you’re not sure is going to come.

That’s why the saints in heaven…they have the virtue of charity. They don’t have the virtue of hope. They don’t need it. They’ve got God. They’ve got everything. So hope is useless in heaven. So, if you know you’re going to get something, you don’t have hope.

No…”if you know you’re going to get something” you do have “favourable and confident expectation.” But once you have gotten that something, as soon as it becomes present reality, then you discard the hope/expectation because, as Paul says, “who hopes for what he sees?”

To be continued…

(1) W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Regency Reference Library, 1940)