Friday, November 13, 2009

Trent on Justification - Canon Eight

In canon eight on justification, the Council of Trent condemns the false idea that repentance that begins in fear of punishment is sinful:

If any one saith, that the fear of hell,-whereby, by grieving for our sins, we flee unto the mercy of God, or refrain from sinning,-is a sin, or makes sinners worse; let him be anathema.

I'm not familiar with what historical error necessitated this canon, but for our purposes here it ought to be said that there is nothing contrary to justification by grace in this canon, nor is there any sense in which such a fear could be said to constitute some sort of justification by works. God threatens punishments to his people not because he hopes to make them sin by making them fear (far from it!) but in order to deter them from evil and motivate them to do good.

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