Tagged: merit

Can a man do meritorious works before regeneration (i.e. being justified)?

Can a man do meritorious works before regeneration (i.e. being justified)?

Some Protestants say that man can do nothing good in God’s eyes.  Ever.  They claim that man is “totally depraved” and therefore, his works are like filthy rags in God’s eyes. If you don’t believe me, here’s an example:

All we assign to man is that, by his impurity he pollutes and contaminates the very works which were good. The most perfect thing which proceeds from man is always polluted by some stain. (Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion)

Thus we sin even when we do good, unless God through Christ covers this imperfection and does not impute it to us. (Luther’s works, Vol 25).

Some Catholics, although they would disagree with these statements, say something similar.  They will say something like:

The Catholic Church teaches that good works done before regeneration, have no merit in God’s eyes.

Are these statements true?  You be the judge.

The documents of the Council of Trent contain the infallible Teaching of the Catholic Church.

In the Council of Trent, Session 6, Canon 7, the Council says:

Canon 7.

If anyone says that all works done before justification, in whatever manner they may be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins, let him be anathema.

Let’s break that down.

If anyone says that all works done before justification,

Anybody who says that works doen before Baptism

in whatever manner they may be done,

Whether they be good or bad

are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God;

are all against God’s law and deserve His punishment

that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins,

or if anyone says that the more an unregenerate man tries to do good, the more he does evil

let him be anathema.

Let that man who says these things be condemned.

Let me explain.

Before justification means before Baptism.  And it is in Baptism that we are regenerated.  Therefore, the context here is the man who has not yet been regenerated.

This canon, then, condemns the idea that one who is not baptized can only do evil in the eyes of God.    If we flip that around then, it means that the unbaptized can do good and meritorious works in the eyes of God.

That is the Council of Trent, there is no higher authority for a Catholic.  But, there is another authority which is very highly regarded in the Catholic Church.  It is that of St. Thomas Aquinas, who is called the Angelic Doctor of the Catholic Church.

What does he say?

Summa Theologica > First Part of the Second Part > Question 21

Article 4. Whether a human action is meritorious or demeritorious before God, according as it is good or evil?

A human action, as stated above (Article 3), acquires merit or demerit, through being ordained to someone else, either by reason of himself, or by reason of the community: and in each way, our actions, good and evil, acquire merit or demerit, in the sight of God. On the part of God Himself, inasmuch as He is man’s last end; and it is our duty to refer all our actions to the last end, as stated above (Question 19, Article 10). Consequently, whoever does an evil deed, not referable to God, does not give God the honor due to Him as our last end. On the part of the whole community of the universe, because in every community, he who governs the community, cares, first of all, for the common good; wherefore it is his business to award retribution for such things as are done well or ill in the community. Now God is the governor and ruler of the whole universe, as stated in the I, 103, 5: and especially of rational creatures. Consequently it is evident that human actions acquire merit or demerit in reference to Him: else it would follow that human actions are no business of God’s.

What does it all mean?

I know, St. Thomas’ writings are difficult to understand.  But let’s  unpack that:

A human action, as stated above (Article 3), acquires merit or demerit, through being ordained to someone else, either by reason of himself, or by reason of the community:

1st, he says that all human actions have merit or demerit with regard to someone else.  In other words, you might do something that your mom or dad or you club, might like or dislike.  People around you, then, judge the merit of your actions.

our actions, good and evil, acquire merit or demerit, in the sight of God.  On the part of God Himself, inasmuch as He is man’s last end; and it is our duty to refer all our actions to the last end,

2nd, he focuses on God.  And he says that our actions are also judged by God.  Why?  Because all men are made in His image and are made for Him.  He is the “last end” of men.  In other words, God wills that all men be saved and judges their actions in accordance with that criteria in mind.

Consequently, whoever does an evil deed, not referable to God, does not give God the honor due to Him as our last end. On the part of the whole community of the universe, because in every community, he who governs the community, cares, first of all, for the common good; 

3rd, then he says, that all man’s actions are God’s business.  Because all our actions either move us in God’s direction or away.  They are either meritorious or demeritorious in His eyes.

wherefore it is his business to award retribution for such things as are done well or ill in the community. Now God is the governor and ruler of the whole universe, as stated in the I, 103, 5: and especially of rational creatures. Consequently it is evident that human actions acquire merit or demerit in reference to Him:

4th, he concludes with this.  If men’s actions are not judged by God, then that would mean that man is God’s superior and can tell God to stay out of His business.  But that is wrong.  Everything that man does is God’s business.  God is sovereign over the entire world.

wherefore it is his business to award retribution for such things as are done well or ill in the community. Now God is the governor and ruler of the whole universe, as stated in the I, 103, 5: and especially of rational creatures. Consequently it is evident that human actions acquire merit or demerit in reference to Him: else it would follow that human actions are no business of God’s.

Let me explain:

St. Thomas is saying that all men’s actions are God’s business.  It doesn’t matter if they are regenerated or not.  It doesn’t matter if they are pagan or Christian.  All human actions are God’s business and He judges them as to whether they are meritorious or not.

Let’s play a game.  What do you think, merit or demerit?

A non-believer, who has never been baptized, murders his parents.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

A Christian who has been baptized and church goer, murders his parents.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

A non-believer, who has never been baptized, helps a little old lady across the street.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

A non-believer, who has never been baptized, feeds the hungry, helps the poor, heals the sick and helps orphans and widows in their afflictions.  Merit or demerit in the eyes of God?

Have you ever read the Scripture which says:

Matthew 21:31…. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Conclusion

God is the Judge of all men’s actions.  Whether they are baptized or not.  Whether they are regenerated or not.

Acts 10:34…. God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

They never did answer the question

ERIC May 17, 2015 at 7:52 pm
Mateo–
We don’t cherish the “ability to sin” but the assurance that we will be forgiven. 

If you repent. Repentance is key.

But then, you already knew that.

No, I don’t. Now, you are saying you don’t cherish the ability to sin. But you know you will be forgiven IF you sin. That is totally different. And that is Catholic Doctrine. We also believe that God will forgive us, when we repent of our sins.

So Bird and Magic gave themselves athletic talent

Yes. They are both known as hard workers who would practice longer hours than their contemporaries.

and grew themselves to be 6 feet 9 inches tall?

Are you insinuating that any man who is 6 foot 9 inches tall would be considered an all star in the NBA and NCAA?

What we have here is an example of synergism. Even if God had given them all the ability in the world, they would still have to put that into practice and show up for the games and do the things they needed to do to win. They did what they had to do to win their perishable crowns.

Merit. All merit, you say.

That is correct. They merited their position in the NCAA and NBA. There were plenty of other people 6 feet 9 inches tall who were not even considered for these positions.

(For the sake of the analogy, let’s just call them “freaks of nature” who never had to practice or train a single day of their lives. Happy now? No merit involved.)

Did they have to show up for the games? Did they have to run and play and master their positions? Yeah. There’s merit involved.

De Maria–

You wrote:

“Did they have to show up for the games? Did they have to run and play and master their positions? Yeah. There’s merit involved.”

Someone held a gun to their heads and forced them to show up. They learned their positions by osmosis. There was absolutely no merit involved.

ERIC May 18, 2015 at 3:51 pm
De Maria–
You wrote:
“Did they have to show up for the games? Did they have to run and play and master their positions? Yeah. There’s merit involved.”
Someone held a gun to their heads and forced them to show up. They learned their positions by osmosis. There was absolutely no merit involved.

Lol! You absolutely don’t get it. Even if they were forced to show up. Even if they learned their positions by osmosis. They still had to perform.

Your example absolutely demolishes monergism and faith alone.

De Maria,

So, if someone holds a gun to your head and you rake my yard as a result, I will owe you all sorts of kudos for the good turn you did me. Is that what you”re telling me?

I”ll call the police to get that miserable gunman arrested, but you’ll be waiting a long time to receive thanks for all your hard work.

De Maria,

I”ve heard it said (in some location, at some point in time, by somebody or other) that the human psyche cannot hold to a contradiction without surrendering its rationality.

If a gift is of grace, merit is ruled out.
If a reward is merited, grace is ruled out.

One cannot earn that which is freely given.
One cannot receive free of charge that which one has earned.

ERIC May 18, 2015 at 8:10 pm
De Maria,
So, if someone holds a gun to your head and you rake my yard as a result, I will owe you all sorts of kudos for the good turn you did me. Is that what you”re telling me?

Eric, is God holding a gun to your head in order for you to do good? Because that is the comparison you’re making.

You’re saying that God is holding a gun to your head in order for you to do good and therefore, you don’t deserve any merit for any good which you do.

Whereas, we believe that we do good because we love God and God sees the good which we do and credits it to us as righteousness and rewards us with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

I”ll call the police to get that miserable gunman arrested, but you’ll be waiting a long time to receive thanks for all your hard work.

Well, its your metaphor, I guess you can do whatever you want. But your metaphor is nowhere near the truth of Scripture. It is totally against the Teaching of the Word of God.

ERIC May 18, 2015 at 8:28 pm
De Maria,
I”ve heard it said (in some location, at some point in time, by somebody or other) that the human psyche cannot hold to a contradiction without surrendering its rationality.

We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith which is alone.

If a gift is of grace, merit is ruled out.

Hebrews 5:9
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

If a reward is merited, grace is ruled out.

Romans 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

One cannot earn that which is freely given.

Revelation 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

One cannot receive free of charge that which one has earned.

There’s a difference between earning and meriting. Those who merit something in the eyes of God, are deemed “worthy” of receiving His Gift.

Luke 20:34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:

Matthew 10:37
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 22:8
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

Ephesians 4:1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Those who earn it, merely work to repay a debt.

Romans 11:6
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Fred is avoiding the question and so are the rest of the Protestants.

What does it mean where Scripture says we need to be “worthy of” Him?

Matthew 10:37
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

If we don’t merit salvation, why does Scripture say we must be worthy?

If it isn’t merit, why does Jesus say we must be “worthy” of Him?

FRED May 17, 2015 at 7:28 am


DeMaria said ” Then what does it mean ” worthy of Him” it strongly suggests merit.”

FRED: No, it doesn’t. Christians are justified by faith alone. …. 

Don’t change the subject, Fred. If it isn’t merit to say, “worthy of Him”, then what is it?

mer·it
?mer?t/
noun
1.
the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.
“composers of outstanding merit”
synonyms: excellence, quality, caliber, worth, worthiness, credit, value, distinction, eminence
“composers of outstanding merit”
antonyms: inferiority
a feature or fact that deserves praise or reward.
plural noun: merits
“the relative merits of both approaches have to be considered”
synonyms: good point, strong point, advantage, benefit, value, asset, plus
“the merits of the scheme”
BRITISH
a pass grade in an examination denoting above-average performance.
“if you expect to pass, why not go for a merit or a distinction?”
LAW
the intrinsic rights and wrongs of a case, outside of any other considerations.
plural noun: merits
“a plaintiff who has a good arguable case on the merits”
THEOLOGY
good deeds regarded as entitling someone to a future reward from God.
plural noun: merits
verb
verb: merit; 3rd person present: merits; past tense: merited; past participle: merited; gerund or present participle: meriting
1.
deserve or be worthy of (something, especially reward, punishment, or attention).
“the results have been encouraging enough to merit further investigation”
synonyms: deserve, earn, be deserving of, warrant, rate, justify, be worthy of, be worth, be entitled to, have a right to, have a claim to/on
“the accusation did not merit a response”

Focus, Fred. Focus. What does it mean to “be worthy of Him”?

FRED May 18, 2015 at 5:11 am
DeMaria, You need to focus. 

No, Fred, you do. You’re changing the subject again. Here’s my response again. Simply answer the question.

DE MARIA May 17, 2015 at 7:20 pm
FRED May 17, 2015 at 7:28 am
DeMaria said ” Then what does it mean ” worthy of Him” it strongly suggests merit.” No, it doesn’t. Christians are justified by faith alone. ….

Don’t change the subject, Fred. If it isn’t merit to say, “worthy of Him”, then what is it?
mer·it
?mer?t/
noun
1.
the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.
“composers of outstanding merit”
synonyms: excellence, quality, caliber, worth, worthiness, credit, value, distinction, eminence
“composers of outstanding merit”
antonyms: inferiority
a feature or fact that deserves praise or reward.
plural noun: merits
“the relative merits of both approaches have to be considered”
synonyms: good point, strong point, advantage, benefit, value, asset, plus
“the merits of the scheme”
BRITISH
a pass grade in an examination denoting above-average performance.
“if you expect to pass, why not go for a merit or a distinction?”
LAW
the intrinsic rights and wrongs of a case, outside of any other considerations.
plural noun: merits
“a plaintiff who has a good arguable case on the merits”
THEOLOGY
good deeds regarded as entitling someone to a future reward from God.
plural noun: merits
verb
verb: merit; 3rd person present: merits; past tense: merited; past participle: merited; gerund or present participle: meriting
1.
deserve or be worthy of (something, especially reward, punishment, or attention).
“the results have been encouraging enough to merit further investigation”
synonyms: deserve, earn, be deserving of, warrant, rate, justify, be worthy of, be worth, be entitled to, have a right to, have a claim to/on
“the accusation did not merit a response”

Focus, Fred. Focus. What does it mean to “be worthy of Him”?

We are talking about justification.

Yeah and you brought up taking up our cross. And you claimed it was descriptive and not prescriptive. But it sounds prescriptive.

No one denies that someone who isn’t willing to follow Christ isn’t worthy of Him.

What does that mean, Fred?

But we aren’t freed from the penalty of our sin by our worthiness, only his. 

Then what does it mean to be worthy of Him? Why is that unimportant? That sentence says that the only way to be worthy in God’s eyes is to take up our cross and follow Him. It sounds very much like the only way to merit salvation is to take up our cross and follow Him.

Hence, this scripture is about sanctification, which comes after justification in Christianity. ALL of our sins are already stoned for, unlike for you where you are making satisfaction for temporal punishment on the instalment plan. K

You are still avoiding the question, K. What does it mean to be “worthy of Him”? If it doesn’t have anything to do with merit, why is the word “worth” used there?

You’re a secret “works salvation” believer, aren’t you?

ERIC May 16, 2015 at 8:43 pm
Mateo–
I said that you wouldn’t understand, and you didn’t. I don’t get the impression that you even tried.

Eric, you said you wouldn’t want to be caught without the ability to sin in case you need it. Here are your words:

ERIC May 16, 2015 at 3:52 pm
Lane–
You’re missing the point of the ability to “sin bravely.” It’s like an insurance policy. It’s always there even though we never expect to use it. We hope it’ll never be needed, but we wouldn’t want to be caught without it either…..

What are you doing? Storing up wrath for the day of judgment? It makes no sense to cherish the ability to sin.

Romans 6:2
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Regenerate Christians spend their energy avoiding sins, not reveling in the notion they can commit as many as they want.

Nor cherishing the ability to sin for the day they need it. Why in the world does one need to commit sin? In order to go to perdition?

In 1992, the U.S. put together the “Dream Team” in basketball for the summer Olympics. It included such luminaries as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. They won by an average of 44 points.
No matter how badly any of them would have played, no one would have dropped them from the team. Bird averaged only 8 points per game. Jordan went 4 for 19 from three-point range. No one came close to suggesting they should be sent packing. But there was no “Antinomianism” going on.

Did any of them intend to miss those points?

Do you think they were storing up bad games for the time they needed them?

There is no comparison between those players and the person who stores up sins for the time they need them. A better comparison would be a boxer who takes a fall for money or a basketball player who misses shots in order to win money on his own games.

No was trying to miss free throws or commit turnovers or foul out. They COULD do so without fearing dismissal. But that’s simply not what the game’s about!

Well, we who believe that the elect can be assured of their salvation would say pretty much the exact same thing: “Sinning that grace may abound” is not what our life in Christ is all about!

Lol! My, my, my. You’re a secret “works salvation” believer, aren’t you? What you have just described is “merit”. What you are saying is that those folks have so much merit stored up in their basketball treasury, that they would not be condemned by the basketball divines for any games wherein they played poorly.

And, you are insinuating that Calvinists have so much merit stored up in the heavenly treasury that God will look the other way when they commit sins that they feel they need to commit.

Either that, or you’re simply saying that it doesn’t matter what the Elect do, God will save them. But that contradicts the example you gave of Bird and Michael and Magic. Because they earned their Elite positions.

Sincerely,

De Maria

Merit before Baptism?

Merit before Baptism is not the same thing as merit before justification.

I’ve been having an interesting conversation in Greenbaggins blog, where the folks I’m talking to equate justification and Baptism. They keep saying to me, interchangeably:

Vincent said, #1245 November 9, 2014 at 9:12 am

Faith is a free gift in Catholicism not a meritorous work. The grace of baptism is not merited. That is official catholic teaching.

And

Eric W said, #1261 November 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm

De Maria (re: 1255),

RC theology teaches…:

2. Grace of justification (grace of baptism)….

Although it is true, that it is Catholic Teaching that we are perfectly justified in Baptism. What these folks seem to have forgotten, is that the Catholic Church teaches that justification is a PROCESS that begins well before Baptism and does not end until we die. Well, at that point its put on hold until the final judgement where we will stand before the King of Kings for our final justification.

So, when the Church says that the grace of justification is not merited, She means that grace which we receive to begin the process of justification at the beginning of conversion is not merited.  Lets go over some of the Catechism regarding this subject:

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace.

That’s the unmerited grace of the Call to Conversion.

The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

After that Call, if we turn to God in faith and seek His Face, we begin to merit. This is before Baptism.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification,

at the beginning of conversion (see 2008).

Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity,

we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.

Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

So, I think that is what is missing. The understanding that justification begins before Baptism and doesn’t ever end.