Pauline Theology: NPP and the Council of Trent

Now I'd like to connect my Pauline Theology seminar to another seminar that I took. Honestly, the class I'm about to bring up was my hardest and worst class (on my behalf); History and Theology of the Major Reformers. 

BUT how do these two seminars connect? If you read anything concerning modern Pauline studies, you'll immediately be sucked into the world of New Perspectives on Paul ( Click here for my initial summary of NPP). 

As you read many protestant bloggers, you'll find that many accuse NPP adherents of being in line with the Council of Trent and not in line with Martin Luther. 

Taylor Marshall -  "It’s almost as if Wright dug deeply into Paul’s writings until finally, he came to a door. When he opened the door, to everyone’s surprise, he found that he was on the other side of Wittenburg’s door."

Ligon Duncan - " In the same way as much of Judaism, Roman Catholicism was and is a religion emphasizing salvation by grace through faith. But closer examination shows that human merit is not excluded. Traditions God never gave us to keep, and practices inconsistent with a gracious salvation, are required and regarded as instrumental causes of salvation along with faith in Christ. That’s even written into the theory since the Council of Trent (1545-63), and it is certainly intertwined in popular grass-roots Catholicism, even today."

SO - what does the Council of Trent actually believe concerning works and faith? 

The official documents of Trent have been publicized in numerous forms and languages throughout the years. Within the Trent documents, there are Decrees (Chapters) and Canons. Decrees related to doctrine, and Canons related to discipline. Canons follow the methodology of concluding with a condemnation of dissenters, “anathema sit.”1 Sadly, the documents of Trent do not cite scripture, thus to survey Hab. 2:4b in Trent one must look to the topic of justification by faith. It should also be noted that the interpretation utilized at Trent tied Scripture and apostolic traditions and designated them under the encompassing term “the gospel.”
Not only does the Council of Trent affirm that interpretation should be tradition and Scripture, but also denied the Protestant’s right to interpret Scripture, the decree De reformation, April 8, 1546. “No one, relying on his own prudence, [may] twist Holy Scripture in matters of faith and morals that pertain to the edifice of Christian doctrine, … and no one [may] dare to interpret the Scripture in a way contrary to the unanimous consensus of the fathers.” With this statement settled the Council of Trent will judge the reformers.

Chapter VIII How the Gratuitous Justification of the sinner by faith is to be understood, “But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely, these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and the root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. for if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise as the apostles says, grace is no more grace.

In essence, Trent was stating that faith is subjugated to being the beginning element of salvation. Though faith is listed as the beginning element of salvation, Trent later clarifies that faith alone cannot save, for it requires the promises of God’s mercy, which is continually received via the sacraments. Throughout the Trent documents one gains the sense that the word of contention is not faith, but rather alone. Chapter IX gives a response very similar to the Protestant viewpoint previously mentioned. A closer look will notice that not only is faith not sufficient, for it requires the work of Christ, but also the sacraments. There is a sense of both the works of Christ and observation of sacraments (humanly work) as the means of justification.

Chapter XI The observance of the commandments and the necessity and possibility thereof, but no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one should use that rash statement, once forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes thee to do what thou canst and to pray for what thou canst not, and aids thee that thou mayest be able. His commandments are not heavy, and his yoke is sweet and burden light. For they who are the sons of God love Christ, but they who live him, keep his commandments, as He Himself testifies.

These three noted Decrees (chapters) show a Catholic belief which is not a steadfast works based salvation, in fact some canons show more agreeable doctrine than the last noted chapter.
CANON I.-If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ: let him be anathema.1
CANON II.-If any one saith, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free-will without grace, he were able to do both, though hardly indeed and with difficulty: let him be anathema.
CANON III.-If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him: let him be anathema.

These listed Canons are built upon Origen’s interpretation of Romans 3:25-26, where he clearly states the necessity of Christ’s work as the foundation for human salvation since man cannot earn salvation by works.
Possibly Trent was comfortable quoting Origen because he says that faith is the beginning and foundation of justification. Though these Canons seem encouraging, many subsequent Canons reestablish the ambiguity of belief surrounding the topic of justification by faith.
CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified, in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will: let him be anathema.
 CANON X.-If any one saith, that men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby he merited for us to be justified; or that it is by that justice itself that they are formally just: let him be anathema.
 CANON XII.-If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified: let him be anathema.
 CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected: let him be anathema.
 CANON XVIII.-If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep: let him be anathema.
 CANON XIX.-If any one saith, that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor prohibited, but free; or, that the ten commandments nowise appertain to Christians: let him be anathema.
 CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof: let him be anathema.
 CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory: let him be anathema.
 CANON XXXIII.-If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod set forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered [more] illustrious: let him be anathema.

 The summary of answers from the Council of Trent seems to be rather Protestant, and also Catholic Works based in the same document.

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