Thursday, January 05, 2006

The "Fitzmyer Gambit"

This was kinda fun, so I though I'd share it here...

This was a reply on Catholic Answers theology forum discussion on justification, in response to a Calvinist apologist going by Sandusky...

Originally Posted by sandusky

… You know, Dave, there is dissension within your ranks as well. Brendan Byrne, a Jesuit and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Joseph Fitzmyer, professor emeritus of biblical studies at the Catholic University of America, and Raymond E. Brown, late professor emeritus of biblical studies at Union Theological Seminary, New York, all concede that the Pauline dikaioo has primarily and fundamentally a forensic meaning (to declare righteous), as I have stated, and shown on this thread. (The info concerning those gentlemen is current as of 2001, I don't know what they are up to today.)Also, the Second Vatican Council document, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964), that asserts on the one hand Trent’s medieval doctrine of justification also makes the entire doctrine of justification irrelevant on the other hand by teaching that all sincere people are saved, whatever their faith or lack of it (see para. 16).

We interrupt your broadcast for a very important chessmatch ...

“Check!” said the risk-taker Sandusky. And the audience is astonished that Sandusky would attempt such a bold move as to pilfer the claim from Robert Reymond's book The Reformation's Conflict with Rome: Why it must continue without citing him as the source, or verifying Reymond’s sloppy scholarship regarding Fr. Fitzmyer, et. al., heretofore known as the “Fitzmyer Gambit.”

This was a big risk on Sandusky’s part, and rather astonishing to use against an experience argumentarian such as Itsjustdave1988. Surely he must know that, although Dave prefers the writings of Rev. Spurgeon to the writings of Fr. Fitzmyer, unlike most of Sandusky’s opponents, Dave has actually READ what Fr. Fitzmyer et. al., asserted, whereas it appears Sandusky has not, but simply lifted the words from his Calvinist apologist playbook, without verifying it’s veracity, just as the Calvinist seminarian tried against Dave back in March of 2005.

The crowd is wondering how Dave will respond? ...So that you can see what Robert Reymond’s claim says, from the above text, pg 139-140:

“… Brenden Byrne, a Jesuit and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Joseph Fitzmyer, professor emeritus of biblical studies at the Catholic University of America, and Raymond E. Brown, late professor emeritus of biblical studies at Union Theological Seminary, New York) concede that the Pauline "diakiow" has primarily a forensic meaning (to declare righteous); and second, that the very same document of the Second Vatical Council, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964), that asserts on the one hand Trent's medieval doctrine of justification, as Nick Needham has noted and has described as the "ultimate paradox," also makes the entire doctrine irrelevant on the other by teaching that all sincere people are saved, whatever their faith or lack of it (see paragraph 16)”

The crowd is anxious … wait for it…wait for it… ah yes, the well-known defense of posting what Fr. Fitzmyer asserts using the actual words from Fr. Fitzmyer…

The following quotation is taken from the Jerome Biblical Commentary by Fr. Raymond Brown, Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, & Fr. Roland Murphy, ed. (1996, c1968. Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, N.J.)

97 This justification as a divine act implies a declaration that sinful man is upright before God. Does this mean that he is merely declared to be so—when he is really a sinner—by some legal fiction? We might expect that dikaioô, like other Gk verbs ending in -oô, would have a causative, factitive meaning: “to make someone dikaios” (cf. douloô, “enslave”; nekroô, “mortify”; anakainoô,“renew”; etc.). But in the LXX, dikaioôseems normally to have a declarative, forensic meaning. At times this seems to be the only sense intended in Paul’s letters (cf. Rom 8:33); but many instances are ambiguous. One can certainly not appeal to this forensic sense to exclude a more radical transformation of man through the Christ-event, making it the essence of the Christian experience, as it were. For justification is really the placing of man in a status of uprightness in the sight of God through the association of him with the salvific activity of Christ Jesus—through the incorporation of him in Christ and his Church through faith and baptism. The result of this justification is that the Christian becomes dikaios(upright); he is not just declared to be so but is actually constituted such (katastathçsontai, Rom 5:19). Paul recognizes that as a Christian he no longer has an uprightness of his own, based on the Law, but one acquired through faith in Christ, an “uprightness from God” (Phil 3:8-9). And the Christian in union with Christ is even said to become “the uprightness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

And regarding Abraham’s justification, the same Brown-Fitzmyer-Murphy source states:

It would be false to Paul’s whole theology to understand his use of Gn 15:6 to mean a mere legal fiction, that uprightness was imputed to Abraham, although he was not really upright. Theoretically, the words could mean no more than this. But there is not the slightest hint either in the Gn story or in Paul’s treatment that Abraham was not previously upright. Again, Paul’s ideas about faith and uprightness otherwise indicate that in the sight of God, who sees things as they are, Abraham’s faith counted as uprightness; it was formally recognized to be just what it was. The manifestation of his faith was de se justifying.

… Itsjustdave says, “Check!”…and the crowd goes wild!!!!

As to the absurdity of the second claim, it wasn’t Vatican II that made such a claim, it was Baptist minister Rev. Nick Needam’, absurd as it is. Rev. Needham claims erroneously:

An official footnote [to paragraph 16] elaborates: "The Council is careful to add that men unacquainted with the biblical revelation, and even those who have not arrived at explicit faith in God, may by the grace of Christ attain salvation if they sincerely follow the lights God gives them."

Yet, Lumen Gentium par. 16 makes no such claim!!! Nor does it claim what Sandusky asserted!! Furthermore, as we search and search for the “official footnote” to par. 16 which Needham is referencing…we also find no such thing, but in fact discover the exact opposite!!!!

You can look for yourself… the only two footnotes to par 16 of Lumen Gentium are these:

(18) Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 8, a. 3, ad 1.

(19) Cfr. Epist. S.S.C.S. Officii ad Archiep. Boston.: Denz. 3869-72.

Nowhere does it say that that one can be saved who does not have faith in God. In fact, in footnote 18 from St. Thomas Aquinas states:

“Those who are unbaptized, though not actually in the Church, are in the Church potentially. And this potentiality is rooted in two things--first and principally, in the power of Christ, which is sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race; secondly, in free-will.” (Summa Theologica, III, 8, 3)

Nothing backing Rev. Needham’s (or Sandusky’s) claim there. ;)

Let's look at Footnote 19. It is the Letter of the Holy See to Archbishop of Boston refuting Feeneyism, the letter was approved and promulgated by Pope Pius XII. It stated explicitly:

God accepts also an implicit desire [of entering the Church], so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God….But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): "Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger, n. 801).

Hmmm… when one actually reads Fr. Fitzmyer, et. al., and Lumen Gentium and the “official footnotes” to determine the connotation of the texts, one discovers that Robert Reymond's polemics and that of Sandusky is simply sloppy scholarship. You find instead that Vatican II agrees with Trent that “without [faith] it is impossible to please God and attain to fellowship of His children”

Dave says, “Checkmate” and the crowd is on their feet!!!!!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program...


God bless,


"Lord, in my zeal for the love of truth, let me not forget the truth about love"
-- St. Thomas Aquinas