Dr. White acts as though he has hit a home run when presenting this argument to Roman Catholics. The bold words below are direct quotes from Dr. White, as well as paraphrased words, from a Dividing Line Call 3 weeks ago and your Purgatory debate in 2010.
He will say, Who is the blessed man of Romans 4:8? You see, the problem is that you have no blessed man in your theology. If you commit a mortal or venial sin tonight, will it be imputed to you? According to your theology, the Lord will take those sins of yours into account. However, according to the text, the Lord does not take into account the sins of the blessed man. The scripture here is clear. Your theological distinctions, definitions, and ways of getting around the text are nothing more than a defense rooted in sola ecclesia.
I know you have extensive discussions in your books and articles on the fact that David is the blessed man of Romans 4:8. While that is a good fact to bring up regarding justification not being a one time event, I am not sure it is a sufficient response to the charge described above. Any help would be greatly appreciated in responding to Dr. White's argumentation. He is quite the intimidating apologist.
Poor Dr. White. For all his study of the Bible you would think he would know some basic rules of interpretation. The first rule of interpretation is context, as opposed to Dr. White’s attempt to isolate Romans 4:8. The context, which includes Psalm 32 and 51 from which Paul is forming this pericope, shows that David became “blessed” AFTER he repented of his sins of murder and adultery. In other words, the Lord is not taking into account David’s sins of murder and adultery because David repented of those sins and the Lord forgave him. Moreover, David did no work for the forgiveness. God forgave him because God is beneficent, not because God owed David anything, and thus Paul’s dictum “but to the one who does not work but believes him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” In other words, when he committed murder and adultery David became an “ungodly” man, but his faith in God’s forgiveness moved him to admit and repent of his sin, and God cleansed David and made him righteous. This is why David is a perfect example of Catholic theology.
But along these lines, Dr. White has an insurmountable problem. Notice that Paul, in line with Psalm 32 and 51, speaks of David becoming justified AFTER David repented of his sins of murder and adultery. Since that is the case, the question immediately arises as to whether David was a justified man before he committed murder and adultery. Dr. White will have great difficulty with this because he believes a person is only justified once in his life. If Dr. White says that David was a justified man before the sins of Psalm 32/Romans 4:8, then why is Paul saying David was justified after he repented of those sins? If Dr. White says that David was not a justified man before the sins of Psalm 32/Romans 4:8, then he is making David a pagan who did not know God for much of his adult life, which would be impossible to reconcile with how Scripture describes David as a man of God BEFORE he committed murder and adultery. Either way Dr. White goes on this he traps himself.
But Catholic theology has no problem with this passage, since it teaches that at each instance someone commits a serious sin (such as murder or adultery) he loses his justification; and at each point that he repents of those serious sins, he has justification restored to himself. Hence, we have no problem with David being a justified man BEFORE he committed murder and adultery; and we have no problem in seeing Paul say that David was justified AFTER he committed murder and adultery, simply because justification is not a one-time forensic event. Dr. White will need to do some serious reevaluation of his Calvinistic theology because of this. It is HIS David that doesn’t fit into Romans 4:8, not the David of Roman Catholicism. It’s not an issue of either Sola Scriptura or Sola Ecclesia. It’s an issue of Dr. White not seeing the illogic of his interpretation.
April 29, 2012