The Justification of Trent

For my church history class, we have to read the canons on justification according to the Council of Trent. The language was muddy, and I wanted to understand what Trent actually affirmed. So I went through after reading the canonized “anathemas” and paraphrased them as Trent’s affirmations on justification. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Justification requires God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

2. Justification is by grace, which aids one’s free will.

3. Justification is enabled by the prevenient grace of the Holy Spirit.

4. Free will cooperates with God’s grace in an active (and not passive) way.

5. Free will exists.

6. God only does good. Man does evil.

7. One’s works before justification/striving toward obedience merit grace.

8. It is not a sin to fear hell.

9. The will must cooperate with grace. Justification is not by faith alone.

10. There is no justification without the justification of Christ.

11. The Holy Spirit pours grace/charity into men, making it inherent in them. Grace is not solely the favor of God.

12. Justifying faith is more than confidence in divine mercy alone.

13. Faith/belief can be wavering.

14. Absolution/justification are not by faith alone.

15. No one can be assured of having been numbered among the predestined.

16. No one can be assured of perseverance.

17. The grace of justification is attained by all.

18. The commandments/Law(s) of God are possible to keep.

19. The Gospel requires more than faith alone.

20. The Gospel is conditioned upon obedience.

21. Christ is also a legislator, who must be obeyed.

22. The special help of God enables obedience.

23. Those who have been truly justified can fall away.

24. Good works are not the fruit of justification. They preserve/increase justification.

25. Not all sins are worthy of eternal damnation.

26. Good works merit eternal recompense.

27. There are many mortal sins which cause one to lose grace.

28. Grace can be lost while faith still remains. Faith can exist without charity.

29. It is possible to receive justification again after falling away, and penance is required.

30. It is necessary to pay for one’s ‘debt of temporal punishment’ (in Purgatory) before one can enter heaven.

31. Good works can be done with a recompense in view.

32. Good works are a merit, and not just simply a gift of God. Good works merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and attainment of that eternal life.

33. It is necessary to believe the Church’s doctrine for salvation.

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About Danny Slavich

I am a Christian husband, father, pastor, and poet. I lead Pembroke Road Baptist Church a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in urban South Florida.
This entry was posted in Justification, Roman Catholic, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Justification of Trent

  1. vivator says:

    Nice summary, Danny but you missed some important points. First Trent defines Justification as translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. In contrast the Reformers view Justification as legal act – God’s declaration that we are declared as just by the virtue of imputation of Christ righteousness. To express it in simple words, according to the Catholic Church through Justification we are made just/righteous but according to Reformers we are declared just/righteous. This is the reason why Protestants use courtroom analogy to model Justification (forensic Justification) while the best analogy for Catholic Justification is Family analogy (this is turn will explain why Catholics have purgatory and indulgences). If you read Canon1 and 2 of the decrees on Justification, Trent denies the belief that we can reach salvation only by our own works, i.e. without God’s Grace and God’s Grace is not facilitator but a necessity for our salvation. Canon 3 reaffirmes the Church’s position against Semi-pelagianism. For your number 15, if you read Canon 16, it explains that without God’s revelation we cannot know who the Elect are. Catholics believe in predestination of the Elect – the salvation of the Elect is assured but only God knows who they are. Canons 25 and 31 reject Luther’s teaching that we sin when we do good works. Canon 17 rejects the belief that God gives His Grace only to the Elect – God, through His Grace intends to save all mankind through Christ (cf. Titus 2:11, 1 Corinthians 15:22). There are more to discuss if the space and time permit – I do recommend you to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    God bless

  2. dslavich says:

    Thanks for your comments here. I appreciate your thoughtful engagement.

    I think the point is that Trent defines justification synergistically, that is, both God and man are at work in the justification of a man.

    The Protestant point is that salvation is monergistic — all of God.

    I hope to comment further, but I have only a few minutes this morning.

    God Bless,
    Danny

  3. vivator says:

    I agree that is the main difference – it originates from how to interpret the (Greek) verb “to justify”. To Protestants it means to declare righteous while to Catholics it means to make righteous. If we contemplate on Philippians 2:12-13 and 1 Corinthians 15:10 does Scripture endorse synergism? Scripture also says he who does right is righteous (1 John 3:8) and through Christ we are made righteous (Romans 5:19). Note that Catholics believe no one can do righteous act unless he is first moved by God’ grace but he has freedom to decide whether to cooperate with that Grace or not. Thus in Catholicism human fredom comes after God’s Grace, not the other way around (which is known as Semi pelagianism). I need to emphasize this as some Protestants (for example R.C. Sproul) confuse Catholicism with Semi-pelagianism

  4. Pingback: Justification: Trent versus the Reformation « Almanac of Captivity

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