Catholic apologist: “Do NOT believe in forensic justification.”

Catholic apologist, David Anders, featured in the photo above, repeatedly condemns forensic justification on his radio show. Forensic justification? What’s that? People are generally turned off by theological jargon like “forensic justification.” Hang in there. I’m going to break it all down for you.

These days, many church-going folks are eager to gloss over any and all doctrinal differences and embrace each other as fellow “Jesus lovers.” But many doctrinal differences are vitally important, like the answer to the question, “How does a person get to Heaven?”

The Roman Catholic church teaches that for a person to get to Heaven, they must participate in the church’s sacraments in order for graces to be “infused” into their soul, to be able to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules, in order to remain in a hypothetical mortal-sinless “state of grace,” so as to be able to merit heaven at the moment of their death. Phew! That was a long sentence! Another way of expressing it is, the RCC teaches a person must actually (subjectively, intrinsically) become holy enough to merit entry into Heaven.

In direct contrast, Bible Christianity teaches from Scripture that we are all sinners and no one can possibly merit Heaven. Even our so-called “good works” are sin-stained rags before a Holy God. But God loves us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross of Calvary. But Jesus defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent of sin and ask Him to save them. When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, His perfect righteousness is “imputed” (ascribed) to them. They are declared righteous before a Just and Holy God only because of the imputed, perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Evangelical theologians call this “forensic” (legal) justification. God the Father declares a sinner who has accepted Christ as righteous because of the perfect righteousness that was imputed to them by God the Son. Bible Christians believe those who have genuinely accepted Christ will follow Him in obedience, although imperfectly. But the desire to obey God and the resulting spiritual fruit are the evidence of salvation, not the cause of it.

The Catholic doctrine and the Bible Christian doctrine on salvation are incompatible and irreconcilable. One is right, one is wrong. They cannot both be right.

To be honest, I don’t cherish the work of Catholic apologists, but I do appreciate the way they strongly distinguish between the Catholic gospel of sacramental grace and merit and the Biblical Good News! Here’s an example from Anders’ show that I came across recently, although the Biblical doctrine of salvation is not clearly presented:

Called to Communion – EWTN Radio
Episode: 3/4/2109
Host: David Anders (photo above), Moderator: Thom Price
Beginning at 24:33 mark

Thom Price: Let’s go to Claire now in Baton Rouge, Louisiana listening on the great Catholic Community Radio. Hey, Claire. What’s on your mind today?

Claire: Hi. Thank you for taking my call. I have a question about, well, it’s a two-part question about forensic acquittal (theologians use the term “forensic justification” – Tom). We have a local pastor here in town who preaches forensic acquittal and I’m very confused by what he says. I encounter this in RCIA.* So my questions are these: My understanding of forensic acquittal is that when you are saved, God covers your sins, but you are still in your sins and you remain depraved. So then my question is, if that’s correct then doesn’t that belief, in terms of justification, kind of say that, well, Jesus’ saving work wasn’t quite good enough? And my second question, and this is really the question that I’m most concerned about, is if that is an accurate understanding of forensic acquittal, then what exactly does sanctification do? Does it have any effect on the soul or is it just proof of election?

David Anders: Thank you very much, Claire. I really appreciate the question. The doctrine that you have heard from your preacher acquaintance, that doctrine, the way you put it, is an accurate description of what Lutherans believe. It is an accurate description of what Calvinists believe, and of Protestants in general. It is not, however, what Scripture teaches and it is not what the Catholic church teaches. So the doctrine of forensic justification through the imputed righteousness of Jesus, what you articulated, is actually a doctrine that was condemned by the Catholic church at the Council of Trent and no Catholic should believe that doctrine.

For the next four minutes, Anders presents a summarized version of the Catholic doctrine of salvation, which I described above.

I regretfully applaud Anders for his candid honesty in distinguishing between his church’s gospel and the genuine Gospel. Ecumenical evangelical pastors and para-church leaders do a disservice to evangelicals and lost Catholics by embracing the Catholic church with its false gospel as a Christian entitiy.

*The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) – is the year-long course aspiring adults must attend before they can be baptized into the Catholic church.

For more information on the difference between the Catholic and Bible Christian views on justification, see the article below:

Justification: Infused or Imputed Righteousness?

12 thoughts on “Catholic apologist: “Do NOT believe in forensic justification.”

  1. Wow, this is a very serious topic, brother! I will be praying for Claire. I recalled that the other day you mentioned having a prayer list on your phone. It was like a palm to face moment for me, I’ve officially began a prayer list on my phone! I have such a horrible memory that I write out prayer lists then lose the notebook I wrote them in.

    This is such a fascinating pattern to note, as professing Christians try to absorb other religions to be counted as ’inclusive’. I’ve now heard Hindus say similar things, especially about Christians doing yoga. Wiccans and New Age followers who want to separate themselves from the modern inclusiveness of Christianity also cry foul. I agree with you, my friend, I’m thankful for the distinction! Thank you for listening to that radio program, although I know it’s grievous to your heart to do so. We all benefit from the knowledge you pass on!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sister, thanks for your prayers for Claire and for your kind encouragement! I believe there are many Catholics (I was once one) just like Claire who sense that the RCC’s gospel doesn’t “add up” and begin to question it. Yes, doctrinal distinctions are of eternal importance, especially on such matters as justification, although ecumenists of all religious stripes (including some “evangelicals”) are constantly pushing inclusivism and religious relativism. Thanks for the other examples. Evangelicals who tend towards ecumenism would be wise to pay attention to this Catholic apologist’s condemnation of justification via the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. He’s not just stating his opinion, but is repeating the official teaching of the RCC. Unfortunately, those evangelicals who tend towards ecumenism also purposely avoid reading information that contradicts their viewpoint. Oh, yes, listening to this Catholic apologist trample on the Gospel of grace is so grievous. But I’m hoping and praying that souls, both Catholics and believers, will be blessed by seeing how the RCC’s gospel of sacramental grace and merit, coming from the mouth of one of its own apologists, compares with the Gospel of grace.

      I’m glad you also benefited by putting your prayer list on your phone! I’m still getting familiar with all of the different app do-dads. I pressed on the “Notes” app and thought it would be the perfect place for my prayer list.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ecumenists on both sides gloss over their distinctives like William Lane Craig and Catholic Bishop Robert Baron did at their joint talk against atheism/secularism last year. I don’t agree with 95% of what comes out of Anders’ mouth but I give him credit for not pushing ecumenism.

        Liked by 1 person

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