Salvation by Grace – 1

Believe it or not, I do not often listen to the Catholic radio station in Chicago.  My dial is more often tuned to Moody Bible Radio than Relevant Radio, though it is most often tuned to “OFF”.

Light treason notwithstanding, Moody offers a steady diet of reasons why Catholicism is wrong, served both hot and cold, sparingly or in spades, depending on the speaker.  I suppose this might annoy other Catholics, but I cannot get enough.  The reason is that it engages my mind all over again, setting it to work in the background, coming up with arguments and responses.

Or sometimes, I just enjoy a good laugh, as when one host confessed that he did not believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, while acknowledging that all of the early Church Fathers did so believe.  His solution?  They were all wrong!

One of the recurring issues is the matter of Justification.  For those unfamiliar, Justification is simply “that which saves us from our sins and brings us to life everlasting.”  (I didn’t leave out a citation – I’m quoting myself, circa 10 seconds ago).

Those familiar will understand the understatement:  This is kind of a big deal.  In fact, an atheist friend of mine asked a very interesting question about “non-denominational Christians,” and I treated him to a 15 minute lecture on Justification.  I apologized for my verbosity, though he pardoned and encouraged me.

The issue is usually shaken down to this:  Protestants believe in Justification by grace alone, through faith alone.  Catholics – if we are to believe Moody Bible Radio – believe in Justification by grace, by faith, but also works.

You remember I said this was a big deal?  I have shrunk a principal force of the Reformation down to one short paragraph.  At the cracking open of a Bible, one could find dozens of passages which seem to support either view, and we would be on our way to several centuries’ worth of debates.

I am not about to, nor do I even imagine that I am about to, settle that debate.  Recent efforts have been made toward consensus, and they are more sophisticated by an order of magnitude.  For me, only a humble illustration.

The principal problem facing our Moody Bible Radio speakers, as I see it, is that there is no urgent and incumbent responsibility on the believer to become a better person.  Now before any monks come nailing theses to my door, let me make the distinction clearer.

Plenty of Protestants are mature, fruitful believers.  I am not saying they can’t be.

Protestants will often point to the doctrine of Sanctification, or “the on-going process of becoming mature Christians, by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”  (Same source as before).  I’m not saying they don’t know how to be.

What I am saying is that, strictly, according to the distilled version of the argument, it is not necessary that a believer become a better person in order to be saved (justified).  Belief alone is sufficient, because it opens the door to grace alone, and that’s the ticket to Heaven.

This, I think, is simply an error.  I would say it is a scriptural error, but I do not intend to make that argument here; I would also say it is an error against our intuition, against the way life works, and that is the argument I wish to make.

But we’ll have to get a little verbose first.  Grab a beverage, and join me for Part 2.

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