THE LOGOS IN ROMANS: A PLATONIC CONNECTION

Over the past few weeks I have been studying the philosophy of Plato, which is dominated by Socrates’ quest for “Justice”. Nearly every work Plato wrote is on this subject. Socrates wants to know what Justice is, what its value is, and how to best practice it. And it is not an exaggeration to say that Plato was by far the most influential, most widely known, most popular philosopher of the ancient world. At first I was little bored by all the talk about justice, but then it dawned on me: the possibility of a connection with the book of Romans.
 
You see, the Greek word for justification/righteousness in Romans is Dikaiosyne, and it can be translated justice, righteousness, righteous, justification, etc. When I remembered, this I immediately wondered if Plato was using the same word in his writings. Sure enough, the topic that dominates all of Plato’s works is Dikaiosyne. This is big time! We know that Paul was familiar with Greek philosophy, as he quotes from several different Greek philosophers throughout the New testament. Which means he was most certainly familiar with Plato and his fascination with Justice.
 
But let’s take a step back for a moment and look at another topic: the first verse of John’s Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Greek word translated “Word” is Logos, and in this passage what John is doing is drawing upon the Greek philosophical concept of the Logos (an eternal rational principle which holds the universe together), and the Jewish concept of God’s eternal, personified wisdom. John is speaking to both Jews and Gentiles, about a theological/philosophical concept they already had in mind, and telling them that Christ is the fulfillment and truth behind those concepts. Christ is the Logos, the rational principle that holds all things together and the eternal wisdom of God.
 
Now back to Romans. It would appear that what John did with Logos, Paul is doing with Dikaiosyne. Drawing upon Plato’s quest for Justice, which would be well known by his Gentile audience, and upon the Hebrew concept of righteousness (Tsedeqa/Dikaisoyne in the LXX), to show both Jews and Gentiles that Jesus is the fulfillment of these. Paul is speaking to the divided Jews and Gentiles in Rome, explaining to them how the Gospel answers their questions about righteousness and justice. For the Gentiles seeking after Justice, they can find it in Jesus. For the Jews seeking after the righteousness of Torah, they can find it only in Jesus. As he says in the thesis statement to the book, 1:116, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for in it the Dikaiosyne of God is revealed.”
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THE LOGOS IN ROMANS: A PLATONIC CONNECTION

 

Over the past few weeks I have been studying the philosophy of Plato, which is dominated by Socrates quest for “Justice”. Nearly every work Plato wrote is on this subject. Socrates wants to know what Justice is, what its value is, and how to best practice it. And it is not an exaggeration to say that Plato was by far the most influential, most widely known, most popular philosopher of the ancient world. At first I was little bored by all the talk about justice, but then it dawned on me: the possibility of a connection with the book of Romans.

 

You see, the Greek word for justification/righteousness in Romans is Dikaiosyne, and it can be translated justice, righteousness, righteous, justification, etc.  When I remembered, this I immediately wondered if Plato was using the same word in his writings. Sure enough, the topic that dominates all of Plato’s works is Dikaiosyne. This is big time! We know that Paul was familiar with Greek philosophy, as he quotes from several different Greek philosophers throughout the New testament. Which means he was most certainly familiar with Plato and his fascination with Justice.

 

But let’s take a step back for a moment and look at another topic: the first verse of John’s Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Greek word translated “Word” is Logos, and in this passage what Joh is doing is drawing upon the Greek philosophical concept of the Logos (an eternal rational principle which holds the universe together), and the Jewish concept of God’s eternal, personified wisdom. John is speaking to both Jews and Gentiles, about a theological/philosophical concept they already had in mind, and telling them that Christ is the fulfillment and truth behind those concepts. Christ is the Logos, the rational principle that holds all things together and the eternal wisdom of God.

 

Now back to Romans. It would appear that what John did with Logos, Paul is doing with Dikaiosyne. Drawing upon Plato’s quest for Justice, which would be well known by his Gentile audience, and upon the Hebrew concept of righteousness (Tsedeqa/Dikaisoyne in the LXX), to show both Jews and Gentiles that Jesus is the fulfillment of these. Paul is speaking to the divided Jews and Gentiles in Rome, explaining to them how the Gospel answers their questions about righteousness and justice. For the Gentiles seeking after Justice, they can find it in Jesus. For the Jews seeking after the righteousness of Torah, they can find it only in Jesus. As he says in the thesis statement to the book, 1:116, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for in it the Dikaiosyne of God is revealed.”

The Development of Papal Primacy

Taken from Schatz’s book on the history of Papal Primacy, a section entitled,
 
“Theological Assessment of the Development of the Idea of Primacy in the First Five Centuries”
 
In any case it is clear that Roman primacy was not a given from the outset; it underwent a long process of development whose initial phases extended well into the fifth century. The question is then: Can we reasonably say of this historically developed papacy that it was instituted by Christ and therefore must always exist? This seems a more radical question than the similar challenges posed to other Church offices (e.g., the episcopate) or the sacraments because in the case of the papal office the initial process lasted much longer and clearly extended beyond the “apostolic” era of the Church, however one might wish to define that time period. In the case of the episcopal office, or the threefold office of bishop, priest, and deacon, the fundamental process of formation was completed at least by the end of the second century. For papal primacy the process lasted another two or three centuries.
 
The first answer can only be that recognition of the need for an enduring Petrine office as a guarantor of unity presupposes the historical necessity of a multitude of experiences that build on one another and could not be completed in one or two centuries. That need is unrelated to the greater efficiency of a community with a unified head to coordinate its activities. In fact, until the modern era the Roman church constituted such a coordinating center only to a very limited degree, and not at all before the eleventh century, if only because very few popes pursued a consistent and active ecclesiastical policy; their actions were mainly reactions.
 
The need for an office that guaranteed unity presented itself on other than technical or rational grounds, but this presupposes a long period of development. If we do not understand the institution of the Church by Jesus Christ in an unhistorical sense, but rather in such a way that an awareness of what is essential and enduring in the Church develops only as a result of historical challenges and experiences, we cannot reasonably expect to discover a “primacy from the beginning” in the sense of a primacy of teaching and jurisdiction as defined by Vatican 1.
Instead, without doing violence to history we may interpret this process in terms of theology and salvation history somewhat as follows: Only in the course of history does the Church learn how to preserve both its connections with its historical origin (apostolicity), and at the same time and closely united with that origin its present unity as a visible community of faith and a society in communion (community of the body of Christ). When threatened by heresies, the Church learns that it draws its life from recollection of its apostolic origins. It realizes that tie to its origins in a twofold manner: through the canon of sacred Scripture, which is thus clearly distinguished from the “inauthentic” writings, and through the continuity and “apostolic succession” of office, primarily that of bishops. In both of these the Church’s apostolic origins are present. But in this not all churches are equally important. The “apostolic” churches have the greatest importance, because there the connection to the origins is somehow more tangible.
 
In a further process, the Church learns through the experience of schisms that it needs an enduring center of unity. But because the Church cannot “create” its essential elements, but lives its life as a Church founded by Jesus and endowed with certain gifts and traditions, it cannot produce such a center of unity out of nothing. It must seek within its apostolic traditions for such a point of unity. An artificially created center of unity devised for practical reasons could, of course, have a certain usefulness as an administrative clearinghouse and center for arbitration disputes, but in times of real crisis and when the faith is in danger there is no guarantee that the Church can maintain itself in truth purely by relying on such a manufactured office of unity. In effect, the Christian imperial throne from Constantine onward was such an “artificially manufactured,” humanly devised center, and it is a prime illustration of the problems involved. The Church must therefore seek within its own tradition to see whether it does not possess at least the elements of such a center. In the course of that search it discovers the Roman church, which has an advantage over all the other “apostolic” churches in its ties to the beginning by the fact that it is associated with Peter and Paul, and therefore has a potentior principalitas.

The Development of Papal Primacy

Taken from Schatz’s book on the history of Papal Primacy, a section entitled,
 
“Theological Assessment of the Development of the Idea of Primacy in the First Five Centuries”
 
In any case it is clear that Roman primacy was not a given from the outset; it underwent a long process of development whose initial phases extended well into the fifth century. The question is then: Can we reasonably say of this historically developed papacy that it was instituted by Christ and therefore must always exist? This seems a more radical question than the similar challenges posed to other Church offices (e.g., the episcopate) or the sacraments because in the case of the papal office the initial process lasted much longer and clearly extended beyond the “apostolic” era of the Church, however one might wish to define that time period. In the case of the episcopal office, or the threefold office of bishop, priest, and deacon, the fundamental process of formation was completed at least by the end of the second century. For papal primacy the process lasted another two or three centuries.
 
The first answer can only be that recognition of the need for an enduring Petrine office as a guarantor of unity presupposes the historical necessity of a multitude of experiences that build on one another and could not be completed in one or two centuries. That need is unrelated to the greater efficiency of a community with a unified head to coordinate its activities. In fact, until the modern era the Roman church constituted such a coordinating center only to a very limited degree, and not at all before the eleventh century, if only because very few popes pursued a consistent and active ecclesiastical policy; their actions were mainly reactions.
 
The need for an office that guaranteed unity presented itself on other than technical or rational grounds, but this presupposes a long period of development. If we do not understand the institution of the Church by Jesus Christ in an unhistorical sense, but rather in such a way that an awareness of what is essential and enduring in the Church develops only as a result of historical challenges and experiences, we cannot reasonably expect to discover a “primacy from the beginning” in the sense of a primacy of teaching and jurisdiction as defined by Vatican 1.
Instead, without doing violence to history we may interpret this process in terms of theology and salvation history somewhat as follows: Only in the course of history does the Church learn how to preserve both its connections with its historical origin (apostolicity), and at the same time and closely united with that origin its present unity as a visible community of faith and a society in communion (community of the body of Christ). When threatened by heresies, the Church learns that it draws its life from recollection of its apostolic origins. It realizes that tie to its origins in a twofold manner: through the canon of sacred Scripture, which is thus clearly distinguished from the “inauthentic” writings, and through the continuity and “apostolic succession” of office, primarily that of bishops. In both of these the Church’s apostolic origins are present. But in this not all churches are equally important. The “apostolic” churches have the greatest importance, because there the connection to the origins is somehow more tangible.
 
In a further process, the Church learns through the experience of schisms that it needs an enduring center of unity. But because the Church cannot “create” its essential elements, but lives its life as a Church founded by Jesus and endowed with certain gifts and traditions, it cannot produce such a center of unity out of nothing. It must seek within its apostolic traditions for such a point of unity. An artificially created center of unity devised for practical reasons could, of course, have a certain usefulness as an administrative clearinghouse and center for arbitration disputes, but in times of real crisis and when the faith is in danger there is no guarantee that the Church can maintain itself in truth purely by relying on such a manufactured office of unity. In effect, the Christian imperial throne from Constantine onward was such an “artificially manufactured,” humanly devised center, and it is a prime illustration of the problems involved. The Church must therefore seek within its own tradition to see whether it does not possess at least the elements of such a center. In the course of that search it discovers the Roman church, which has an advantage over all the other “apostolic” churches in its ties to the beginning by the fact that it is associated with Peter and Paul, and therefore has a potentior principalitas.

A brief walk through the Catholic understanding of the relationship between Sacraments and Salvation, in 5 easy steps.

A brief walk through the Catholic understanding of the relationship between Sacraments and Salvation, in 5 easy steps.

1. Ultimate Justification – our ability to stand in the presence of God – is based upon the presence of supernatural love (charity) in our heart (aka the presence of sanctifying grace in our soul).

2. The Sacraments are given to us a means of providing these graces, because we are utterly and completely unable to generate supernatural love for God through our own efforts.

3. God can and does, at times, work outside the Sacraments to provide these graces. Especially in regards adult converts and penitent Christians who do not have immediate access to the Sacraments, the graces of “Baptism of Desire” and “Perfect Contrition” are often given. This extra-sacramental graces provide supernatural love for God prior to, and without, reception of the Sacraments.

4. To willingly neglect or refuse reception of the Sacraments would only cause a loss of salvation if one was fully convinced that Christ desired them to receive the Sacraments and then, in direct, knowing, willful disobedience to Christ, refused to receive them.

5. Remember, the redemption won for us by Christ did not make it more difficult to be saved. What worked before He came will surely work after. That is to say, the fact that repentant faith saved in the Old Testament without reception of Sacraments and the Holy Spirit indicate that repentant faith, even if it does not receive the extra-sacramental graces of Baptism of Desire or Perfect Contrition, is by itself always going to be sufficient for salvation (remember, Old Testament saints died without the grace of the Sacraments or the indwelling Holy Spirit, and they were still saved on the basis of their repentant faith — the same principle applies “until the end of the age”). What the Sacraments do is provide an immediate, guaranteed infusion of salvation, right here and right now.

Litany of Salvation History

Adam and Eve, pray for us
Noah, pray for us
Job and Melchizedek, pray for us
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, pray for us
Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, pray for us
The holy Judges, pray for us
Samuel and David pray for us
Enoch, Elijah, and Elisha, pray for us
Isaiah, pray for us
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, pray for us
Daniel pray for us
Shadrack, Meshak, and Abednego, pray for us
Ezra and Nehemiah, pray for us
The holy Maccabees, pray for us!
St. Anne and Joachim, pray for us!
Elizabeth and Zechariah, pray for us
Mary and Joseph pray for us
John the Baptist pray for us
Peter and Paul pray for us
James and John pray for us
Mary Magdalene and Phoebe, pray for us
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, pray for us
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, pray for us
Thomas, Matthias, and Jude, pray for us
Timothy and Titus, pray for us
Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, pray for us
Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, pray for us
Anthony of the Desert, pray for us
Cyprian, pray for us
Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus, pray for us
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us
St. John Chrysostom, pray for us
Athanasius, Ambrose, and Augustine pray for us
Monica, pray for us
Leo the Great and Gregory the Great pray for us
Benedict and Patrick pray for us
St. Maximos the Confessor, pray for us
Anselm, pray for us
Dominic and Francis pray for us
Christopher, Anthony, and Bernard, pray for us
Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, pray for us
Catherine of Siena, pray for us
Thomas A Kempis pray for us
Ignatius Loyola, Francis Xavier, and Francis De Sales, pray for us
Therese of Lisieux, pray for us
John Vianney and Alphonsus Ligouri, pray for us
St. Faustina, pray for us!
Pio of Petrelcina, pray for us
Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us
Frances Xavier Cabrini, Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, Josephine Bakhita, Katherine Drexel, and Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!
Stanley Rother, pray us
 John Paul II and Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us
All blessed Saints of Heaven, who throughout salvation history have shown us the light of Christ, pray for us!

How Imputation, Alien Righteousness, and “Simul Iustus et Peccator” Can Be Understood In Catholic Theology

If “impute” is understood to mean credit or account, then God does impute righteousness to us – by way of infusion. That is to say, when God imputes us as righteous, He actually makes us so. This imputation involves an alien righteousness, not Christ’s per se, but it is in view of it. One could even say, when God looks at the sinner who comes to Christ for salvation, God sees the righteousness of Christ (ie. Christ’s obedience and death), and in view of it, God imputes and infuses an alien righteousness into the sinner, thereby making the unjust just. And while this means the justified Christian is no longer damnable (metaphysically), he is simultaneously both justified and unworthy sinner (based on his track record, his struggles with concupiscence, and his unceasing dependence on God’s grace and mercy).

The Sacraments As Means Of Grace

Some think that Catholics are alone in teaching that the Sacraments are a means of grace. Yet, it would be more true to say that those who deny the Sacraments are a means of grace are the ones who are alone. Indeed, a survey of historical Christian denominations shows broad agreement, though understood in different ways, that the Sacraments are indeed a means of grace. Not only Catholics and Orthodox, but Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anglicans believe so as well.

Traditional Lutherans believe in Baptismal Regeneration, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the existence of mortal sin and the use of the Sacrament of Confession. Anglo-Catholics also believe in Baptismal Regeneration, the Real Presence, and Sacramental Confession. Calvinists who adhere to the Westminster Confession reject the Sacrament of Confession and have a lower view of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but they do teach that graces are given through those Sacraments when the recipient has the proper disposition.

In fact, it is not only Magisterial Protestants, but also Methodists and even some Baptists and Pentecostals too. Methodists are basically a branch of Anglicanism, so it is no wonder that they believe in Baptismal Regeneration and teach that the Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. Now it might sound odd, but in fact, if you talk to individual Baptists, you will find that some of them do believe God blesses them and gives them grace through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, even if they do not believe in Baptismal Regeneration or any form of the Real Presence. And within Pentecostalism you may even find some who do believe in some form of The Real Presence and some form of Baptismal Regeneration as well.

Yes, nearly every Christian believes that God blesses and gives graces through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Not all of us agree on the specific details, about how this happens and how significant it is to salvation, but nearly all of us agree that it does happen to some meaningful extent. And while Catholics and Orthodox do not believe that Protestants have the Holy Orders necessary to guarantee that their celebration of the Lord’s Supper involves the fullness of the graces Christ intended for the Sacrament, nevertheless, we do affirm that any sincere Christian who desires Christ’s grace will be given it – even if schism and heresy has prevented them from having access to its fullness.

Why True Justification Cannot be An External Legal Declaration Alone

Some theologians teach that Justification (being made right with God) entails only an external legal declaration, by which God acquits the person of guilt. They claim it would be legalism to include within the basis of Justification the interior change by which God regenerates us and causes us to love Him. But I would argue their position is untenable.

What does it mean to be forgiven and made right with God? It means that God changes things so that you would go to Heaven rather than Hell. It is important here to understand what these places are. Indeed, Heaven and Hell are not so much places as they are states. See, we believe that God is Omnipresent, so no matter where you are, you are in His presence.

You can experience Heaven and Hell to some degree here on earth. Those who love God and are in communion with Him already experience a small taste of Heaven. Those who hate God and are at enmity with Him already experience a small taste of Hell. Whether in this life or the next, no matter where we might be, we are all in the presence of God. The only difference is: some love Him and enjoy His presence, others rebel and suffer the consequences.

To be in the presence of God when you do not love Him is to be tormented by fire. For God is a consuming fire. Therefore, if we are in a state of sin and want to be forgiven, so that we do not go to Hell but instead go to Heaven, what we are really asking is to be changed so that we enjoy the presence of God. What we are asking is for God to change us so that we love Him. And if He has not changed us so that we love Him, then He has not actually forgiven us. We are not right with Him if we do not love Him. There will only be Hell in the fire of His presence if we do not love Him.

Thus, to be forgiven and made righteous, to be justified and acquitted before God, does not happen except by being translated from the state of hating God and being at enmity with Him, to a state of loving God and being in communion with Him.

This is why a doctrine of Justification based on an external legal declaration alone is not tenable. Because to be made right with God is to be changed so that you love Him.

Three Tips To Convert Protestants On The Matter Of Justification

(1) Affirm the salvific nature of their relationship with Jesus. Many believe the Catholic Church denies that they have this, because there’s “No Salvation Outside The Church” and they thus start with the presupposition that the fact of their relationship with Christ already disproves the Infallibility and truth of the Church. Explain that we do affirm that they have been justified by faith and Baptism and are thus (implicit, imperfect) members of the Church.

(2) Protestants believe that a Lutheran and/or Baptist approach to Romans/Galatians is the essence of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ. You must learn to speak this language. You might not be able to convince them that their interpretation isn’t correct, but that is OK. Catholic doctrine is fully compatible with justification by grace through faith apart from any works of any law. Remember, Protestants understand this to include repentance from sin. And the Sacraments provide forgiveness and justification with absolutely zero works required on our part except for repentance from sin.

(3) The question of the necessity of the Sacraments and the existence of mortal sin can be addressed in a couple of ways. First, it can be helpful to point out that Martin Luther, Phillip Melanchton, and all the authors of the Protestants “Book of Concord” believed that mortal sin destroyed saving faith and justification, and that Baptism/Confession/Lord’s Supper were necessary means of grace for justification. Not many Protestants know this, and many are more open to Catholic teaching on this point once they find out. Also, reference to Scripture and common sense can also be helpful, as Scripture is clear about these things, and common sense agrees (you can’t remain in relationship with someone whom you grievously sin against). But you can also win ground by emphasizing that the Sacraments are not rigid requirements (ie. Baptism of Desire, perfect condition, etc) and mortal sin requires more than grave matter (you don’t lose salvation if your struggling against the sin). These points go a long way in helping Protestants see that we are not legalists.