Ecclesia Augustana: Revisiting "Faith is a Cause" and the "Four Components of Justification":
Revisiting "Faith is a Cause" and the "Four Components of Justification"
Recently, Dr. Jack Kilcrease visited this blog and left a comment. Because the blogger system records referring sites, we realized that a number of users were accessing Ecclesia Augustanathrough his blog, Theologia Crucis. After visiting the blog, we discovered that he wrote an article about Ecclesia Augustana. I briefly hoped that it might result in an opportunity for meaningful dialogue. But before finishing the first sentence of Dr. Kilcrease’s post, I realized that the article was going to be little more than an attempt to demonstrate his own intellectual prowess at the expense of attacking Ecclesia and the competence of its authors.
He begins with the insinuation that this blog is little more than fanatics “fixated on the anti-objective justification heresy.” While I certainly do not deny the “heresy” of justification by faith alone, the fact is that justification has only been the topic of a mere seven posts on this blog. That’s barely 20% of our total posts, which discuss such varied themes as the necessity and ubiquity of Holy Baptism, the non-adiaphoric nature of the Divine Liturgy, the dangers of sectarian practices, the Church's perspective on contraception, the importance and meaning of the Hypostatic Union, and the paramount importance of the Blessed Means of Grace and their impact on Christian living and theology - among many other topics. In reality, justification has not been a topic of our posts more than twice per month in the four short months that this blog has been extant. I guess for that we ought to apologize to our readers. If justification is truly the chief doctrine of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, upon which its very existence stands or falls, it should occupy our thought more than a mere 20% of the time. Especially in a time when the very integrity of the doctrine is being assaulted on every hand.
All of that, of course, is tangential, though I find the context somewhat useful in demonstrating the character of the parties involved. The actual thrust of Dr. Kilcreae’s post is dedicated to examining one of the blurbs I wrote last month, “Faith is a Cause.” My post was written primarily to direct the reader to some of Pastor Paul Rydecki’s excellent translations of the Fathers of Lutheran Orthodoxy. Dr. Kilcrease summarizes my post as follows:
“The gist of what is said here is as follows: Polycarp Leyser states that faith is the ‘instrumental cause’ of justification. The theologians of the old Synodical Conference said that it was God's Word and the merit of Christ that was the cause of justification, and not faith in and of itself. Hence, they are out of step with orthodox Lutheran theology and wrong.”
Dr. Kilcrease seems to be saying that my article implies God’s Word and the merit of Christ are not causes of justification. I certainly am not making that implication. In fact, in an even earlier article I wrote entitled the “Four Components of Justification,” where I actually treat this topic in greater depth than the passing reference I give to it in the article Dr. Kilcrease is addressing, I demonstrate that the grace of God and the promise of the Gospel are integral parts of justification.
After this misleading summary, the doctor goes into a long diatribe about Aristotlean metaphysics and its influence on medieval scholastic theology. By virtue of our manifesto, as an Ecclesia Augustana contributor I admit to being less than the esteemed theologian and learned academic that Dr. Kilcrease imagines himself to be (as he puts it, most of the contributors here atEcclesia are just “college kids”). So I will defer to his explanations of the categories of cause for our purposes here. Using his classifications, the scheme of four causes can be understood in terms of the following example:
“For example, a hammer is the instrumental cause of a table. It is used by the efficient cause (the acting agent, the carpenter). It isn't the idea what what a table is (formal cause) or the wood the table is made out of (material cause). Neither is it an acting agent (the efficient cause). Rather it is merely the passive means through which the material receives its shape based on the idea of the mind of the builder.”
In the form of a list, we have:
Causes of a Table
1. The formal cause (“the idea what what [sic] a table is”)
2. The material cause (“the wood the table is made out of”)
3. The efficient cause (“an acting agent”)
4. The instrumental cause (“a hammer”)
When it comes to Justification, one could put it like this:
Causes of Justification
1. The formal cause (the grace of God)
2. The material cause (the merits of Christ)
3. The efficient cause (the Holy Spirit in the promises of the Gospel)
4. The instrumental cause (faith)
Well what do you know, this list looks strangely similar to the one that I drew up in the “Four Components" article. So let’s take faith out of the justification equation. The grace of God is still there. The merits of Christ are still there. The promises of the Holy Gospel are still there. But just as wood, the Carpeter, and His plan exist objectively, without that “hammer” by which the Holy Spirit puts it all together, there is no “table.”
Now I freely admit that the “scheme of causes” analogy isn’t perfect and I’d rather stick to the way I put it in the "Four Components" article, which is none other than the words of the Solid Declaration itself. Still, per Dr. Kilcrease’s own formula, I don’t see how he can claim that justification is an “existing reality.” Does the table exist before the hammer puts it together? It can surely be the desire of the Carpenter, but until that hammer is available, it’s just a desire. It isn’t a reality.
Dr. Kilcrease wants us to be familiar with the terminology he ostensibly learned after studying medieval scholastics. That is all well and good, and I freely admit that understanding the context of a given text is immensely helpful in reading it. But perhaps instead of directing us to the schematic formulas of Aristotle, Dr. Kilcrease could take some time to examine the plain words of Holy Writ, which clearly say that the reprobate are “condemned already,” not justified, and with the Confessions in saying that the unbeliving and unconverted person “is not reconciled to God” (FC:SD:IV:8).
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|McLaren is the guru of Emerging Churches,|
like The CORE in Fox Valley, CrossWalk in Phoenix.
Jeff Gunn should evangelize his atheist son, eh?
narrow-minded has left a new comment on your post "Ecclesia Augustana: Revisiting "Faith is a Cause" ...":
Jack-He must increase, but I must-Kilcrease seems to be very impressed with his "credentials." Did he actually earn his doctorate, or was it an honorary freebie? He should consider a career in politics, where saying a bunch, while saying absolutely nothing, is rewarded.
Apparently we uneducated peons don't see the light of UOJ. Thank God! I now see it as a blessing that going to Fort Wayne didn't work out for me.