Friday, September 17, 2010

Misunderstood - Series Part I

Click here to read the intro to this Series.

Misunderstanding Assumption I
'The Catholic Church's teachings are unbiblical on Salvation and Justification. It teaches that one has to earn/merit and work their own way to Heaven.'



photo from http://www.romeofthewest.com/
  Never has the Church taught that one can merit or earn their own way to Heaven. To say so would be a misrepresentation of the Church's teachings. Perhaps the reason people believe this assumption is because when many Catholics are asked how they are saved, many will give an explanation saying that as long as they have faith in Christ and do good they hope to have everlasting life in Heaven. Obviously this is not a clear explanation/representation of how the Church teaches one is justified and saved - but for many Catholics it's probably the easiest way to explain their belief. Let me try and clarify further. Every time a Catholic goes to Mass, we are reminded when we see that Crucifix front and center whose work redeemed us (and certainly no one will find a representation of themselves up on that crucifix!). We as Catholics looking at the Crucifix remember how incapable we are, and how infinitely fortunate we are to know Christ's love for us.
 
I believe the problem lies with when a Catholic says they are saved by faith and good works - the Church's interpretation of "faith" differs from a non-Catholics interpretation. The term "faith and good works" is used to explain a "formed faith", the faith St. Paul talks about = faith, hope, and charity. I feel that the Joint Declaration of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the Doctrine of Justification explains pretty clearly how the Church teaches we are justified and saved.
 
"We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation . . . for as sinners they stand under God's judgment and are incapable of turning by themselves to God to seek deliverance, of meriting their justification before God, or of attaining salvation by their own abilities. Justification takes place solely by God's grace. . . . When Catholics say that persons 'cooperate' in preparing for and accepting justification . . . they see such personal consent as itself an effect of grace, not as an action arising from innate human abilities" (JD 19-20).
 
I purposely bold ed the last few statements. Many non-Catholics who believe this "Assumption I" back it up by saying the Church teaches that if you do not take "action" (merit/earn) and participate in the Holy Sacraments then you cannot be saved. They're implying that we Catholics believe it's our own action in addition to our faith that saves. But as you read in the JD above, the Church does not see this participation as "action of ourselves" but an effect of God's grace.
 
Not only does the Church's interpretation of the Scriptures on "faith" differ with non-Catholics but also it's interpretation of "grace" and how we receive His grace. The Church interprets that by the grace of Christ, we achieve the salvation God desires for us through perseverance in both faith and works - Matt. 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13. Obviously then it is of great importance to know how Jesus taught we receive His grace and how we must cooperate with His grace. The Church interprets the Scriptures to teach about Sanctifying Grace (grace that makes the soul holy and places you in perfect and absolute union with God) and Actual Grace (divine pushes, encouragement) as an answer to how we receive grace, again non-Catholics may differ in how they interpret the Scriptures to teach about grace.
 
So in conclusion I hope I've pointed out why this assumption is false and why it's wrong to misrepresent the Church's teachings with this misconception. I also made a point several times to recognize that non-Catholics may interpret the Scriptures differently, therefore our doctrines on these subjects will differ and disagree. But I'm not doing this Series of posts to debate over the interpretation - I'm doing them to hopefully clarify the Church's teachings and squash misconceptions and wrong assumptions of the Church. So to correct this "Misunderstanding Assumption I" I would say it's fair to say "the Catholic Church's teachings on Salvation and Justification is that a a person is justified by faith and works acting together (James 2:24) “faith working through love”, which comes solely from God’s divine grace."

12 comments:

Tiffany said...

That is a really great tool to help us learn how to better clarify our beliefs to non-believers. I would also like to remind you of two verses that I use to explain my faith. I am Catholic not beacuase it is a perfect religon or even the only religon but it is the closest to what God asked of us. Matt. 16:18 You are Peter, and I can guarantee that on this rock I will build my church. And the gates of hell will not overpower it. I also tell people that the church and the bible teach us that it is one thing to say you are a christian but Christian means Christ Like and in order to be a Christian we must back up that statement through our actions. Christ is the truth and he says to us 1 John 3:18 (New International Version)

18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth

Laura Spence said...

I think it's awesome how you stand up for what you believe. I know you're passionate about what you believe "truth"is. I admire you for that.

The Bible clearly teaches:If a person has turned from their sin, and placed their faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross they will receive forgiveness as a gift. That is the Saving grace the Bible speaks of(Grace=God giving you what you don't deserve). Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that Saved, (not to continually save), a wretch like me. When this legal transaction is made(the blood of Christ is applied to the sinner in exchange for man to now be able to be accepted before a Holy God) Your past, present, future sins, have been forever dealt with on the cross or atoned for. Paid in Full. God now declares the ungodly, Justified! And can legally dismiss your case, so that you don't have to pay for your sins because the wages of sin is death! God declares you His child and positionally Righteous,(not that we don't still sin) but solely accepted because of Saving Faith in the Blood of Christ for Salvation. God promise to fill the believer with The Holy Spirit and the Bible speaks this is what it means to be born again or born with the Spirit of God. You were dead and now are alive. Ephesians chptr 2. It's not you are becoming alive, aliver, and are now aliviest as your faith along with works are acting together. Genuine faith will prove a person has been regenerated by the Spirit of God and it will be naturally displayed in their works (life). This is the reason James chapter two was written. Read from the beginning of James 2. People were showing partiality and not loving others. James intent was to show that one's faith will be proven to man by works because works are a sign that an internal change has taken place. verse 18 "and I will show you my Faith by my works" Not the faith and works to work towards being justified that you speak of. Faith without works is "dead faith".True faith will produce the fruit of God's nature because His Holy Spirit abides in you..see this link I posted below,it speaks further on where you take James 2:24 out of context. http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aiia/james2-24.html

Laura Spence said...

Part 1- So you believe that God gives you grace to do works in which you then inherit Salvation?
I think it's awesome how you stand up for what you believe. I know you're passionate about what you believe "truth"is. I admire you for that.

The Bible clearly teaches:If a person has turned from their sin, and placed their faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross they will receive forgiveness as a gift. That is the Saving grace the Bible speaks of(Grace=God giving you what you don't deserve). Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that Saved, (not to continually save), a wretch like me. When this legal transaction is made(the blood of Christ is applied to the sinner in exchange for man to now be able to be accepted before a Holy God) Your past, present, future sins, have been forever dealt with on the cross or atoned for. Paid in Full. God now declares the ungodly, Justified! And can legally dismiss your case, so that you don't have to pay for your sins because the wages of sin is death! God declares you His child and positionally Righteous,(not that we don't still sin) but solely accepted because of Saving Faith in the Blood of Christ for Salvation

Laura Spence said...

Part 2

. God promise to fill the believer with The Holy Spirit and the Bible speaks this is what it means to be born again or born with the Spirit of God. You were dead and now are alive. Ephesians chptr 2. It's not you are becoming alive, aliver, and are now aliviest as your faith along with works are acting together. Genuine faith will prove a person has been regenerated by the Spirit of God and it will be naturally displayed in their works (life). This is the reason James chapter two was written. Read from the beginning of James 2. People were showing partiality and not loving others. James intent was to show that one's faith will be proven to man by works because works are a sign that an internal change has taken place. verse 18 "and I will show you my Faith by my works" Not the faith and works to work towards being justified that you speak of. Faith without works is "dead faith".True faith will produce the fruit of God's nature because His Holy Spirit abides in you..see this link I posted below,it speaks further on where James 2:24 is taken out of context.
http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aiia/james2-24.html

Spence Ohana said...

Hi Laura,
Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post - I think it's the first time you've ever commented on my blog. :)

I appreciate you sharing your personal interpretations of the Scriptures. As I said in this post:
"I'm not doing this Series of posts to debate over the interpretation - I'm doing them to hopefully clarify the Church's teachings and squash misconceptions and wrong assumptions of the Church."

So to answer your question,
"So you believe that God gives you grace to do works in which you then inherit Salvation?"
Unlike you where you believe being "saved" is a one time event, Catholicism teaches that justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man" (CCC 2019). Protestants deny that the last two of these are part of justification. According to the Catholic Church's interpretation of the Scriptures, we believe Salvation is a process - not a one time event. Feel free to disagree according to your own personal interpretation...but again these series of posts are purposely to clarify the Church's teachings, not to debate whom has the correct interpretation.

Peace be with you!

Laura Spence said...

I will respect your wishes and let this be my last post. Have a great weekend.BTW I never posted on your blog b4 b/c I didn't know how.Hee Hee

You absolutely understand the difference in our beliefs. Scripture supports that sanctification and renewal is a work that God does in the believer who has already been granted Salvation. Salvation is a one time event and a gift of God, there’s no work (love, charity) we can do to add to the atoning work of Christ on the cross. For the true believer, Christ’s death paid for all past, present, and future sins. Sanctification on the other hand is a life long process, a work that God does in the life of the believer until the day they die. Once one is born again, God renews the believer daily until they are with Him in glory. It is His will for us to be conformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Sanctification is the process by which man is being set apart and good works will proceed out of the new nature God has given. The believer will manifest these good works (love), because the person has already been saved. (1 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away’ behold, all things have become new. I can testify of this truth of being made new.

Spence Ohana said...

Thanks Laura for acknowledging my purpose for these series of posts - although I think you continue to miss my point since you slipped in again your differing interpretation as to debate the Church's interpretation I was trying to explain. (BTW I hope and pray you at least grasped the correct explanation of the Church's teachings out of this post)

The reason why I specifically stated these posts were not for the purpose of debating whose interpretation of Scripture is correct, is because when you use phrases such as "Scripture supports..." or "The Bible clearly teaches..." you seem to imply that your understanding of what "Scripture supports" or your understanding of what "the Bible clearly teaches" is the infallible, incapable of error, one. I on the other hand feel you are capable of error, we all are. We'd be going around in circles, which I'm sure you can agree.

I hope you stay tuned into my future posts of this series, and learn what are the true teachings of the Church - even if you disagree with them. You know how much I love getting to know all of our extended family, which for me includes knowing and learning about their beliefs too...because afterall our beliefs are an integral part of who we are and what forms our character. We can understand eachother better then.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Esther G. said...

Melissa, in the Gospel today Jesus said "Those who have ears, ought to hear"...or in this case...read. Luke 8:4-15.

I look forward to your next post.

Spence Ohana said...

Thanks Esther, I love the ending in the last verse of the Gospel reading for today you posted...
"and bear fruit with perseverance". Just the perseverence in faith working in love I spoke about in this post.

Michael Gormley said...

Abide in Me, and I in You...

Jesus said:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you."
(John 15:1-7)

Wow! In those seven verses, the word ABIDE is mentioned seven times. The context of those verses provides us with a lot of light as to what is required of us by GOD for our eternal salvation.

Jesus said:
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)

So we must not only ABIDE in Him but we must also strive to enter by the narrow gate. If we do not ABIDE in Him, then it is obvious that we are not on the path to the narrow gate of salvation, but on the path to the wide gate and to eternal destruction.

So Jesus said that if we do not ABIDE in Him (the Vine) then we will be taken away from the Vine by the Father, and will be cast off only to wither, to be gathered, and then to be thrown into the fire and burned.

Now that I have your attention, shouldn't we now find the meaning of the word ABIDE?

The theological meaning of ABIDE is to dwell within. Jesus would come and dwell in us and we likewise in Him. So as long as we do what Jesus requests of us then we are on the path to the narrow gate to salvation.

So to assure that we are on right path, Jesus has commanded that we must ABIDE in Him.

What is required in order to have Jesus ABIDE in us and we in Him?

Can we do it:

1. By accepting Him as our our own personal Lord and Savior ?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

2. By the grace of GOD only? Sola Gracias?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

3. By faith in GOD alone? Sola Fides?
No. Where does the Bible say that?

It is simple common sense that since He commanded that we must do something, then doesn't it stand to reason that He would also tell us how to do it?

Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

Jesus left this command for us in John 6:53-57:

53 "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

56 HE WHO EATS MY FLESH AND DRINKS MY BLOOD ABIDES IN ME, AND I IN HIM.

57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."

Spence Ohana said...

Michael, wow thanks for the awesome follow up and insight to the topic of my post. You gave great examples from Scripture on why the Church teaches what she does on Salvation and Justification. I will check out your links and your blog Living Water. Thanks for stopping by!

May the peace of our Lord be with you always.

Michael Gormley said...

Thanks, Spence!

God bless you
Michael Gormley