Monday, April 28, 2008

Action Versus Words: Part 2 of a Series

The main point of contention between the Catholic faith and mainline Protestant churches is the doctrine of justification through continual good works. Protestants believe that faith alone in Jesus Christ as our savior is the only path to salvation. Some Protestants do not believe that the Catholics are even Christian - much in the way they regard Mormonism.

This is the ultimate expression of actions over words. It always puzzled me that simply declaring belief in the Lord Jesus Christ was enough to be saved from the here to the hereafter. What does this actually mean? Can one lead any kind of uncaring, cruel or criminal life one pleases up until death is imminent and then declare ones alliegence to Christ? Doesn't one have to make an account for his life at some point?

Catholics emphasize that the righteous are bound to observe God’s commandments. According to the Gospel of John Jesus said those who follow his commandments (works) will know Him, and He will be in them as He is in the Father. John's Gospel (John 6:40) also said "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life…" So which is it?

When Catholics affirm the meritorious character of good works, their intention is to emphasize the responsibility of persons for their actions, not to contest the character of those works as gifts, or to deny that justification always remains the unmerited gift of grace. Works are not a substitute for faith but rather a result of our faith. In this sense faith is not the result of works; works are the result of faith. Truly, it would be an insult to suggest that our pitiful expressions of charity in any way measures comparison to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

Jesus told us that He did not come to abolish the law, but that if we are true diciples of Him, we will obey His commandments (works). We all know that our works will not save us, and we don't "earn points" along the way... Faith saves us, and if we truly have faith, our works in this life will be a result of this faith. Can we truly have faith without works? Our actions in this life will be evidence of our faith.

Biblical literalists are rooted in a fundamentalist view that the Bible is clear and unambiguous. Far from it, Jesus Himself sought to convey His message in parables and metaphorical comparisons. Recognizing that human to human and human to God interaction is complicated, so complicated in fact that only the simple act of faith that He did not die in vain on the cross will save us. Scripture declares that Jesus gave His life because there is no other way for our sins to be forgiven. He paid the price for our sins in advance. In this I can see why my Protestant friends find the Catholic predilection for doing "works" an abomination. What can we mere sinners do that can compare to the burden that Jesus already bore?

We can only follow his commandments!

Jesus said "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." Jesus also clearly commanded us to celebrate mass (supper) by breaking bread and drinking wine in his memory.

There are, of course, numerous other proclamations in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles that contradict any notion that good works have any part in your salvation. In light of this can anyone truly say the Bible is clear?

I do not pretend to be a biblical scholar. Frankly much of the Holy Bible confuses me. I can only take it in small parts because taken as a whole it is overwhelming. This is from my understanding the way it is supposed to be handled. In the early Greek tradition the biblus (little books) were taken down as individual scrolls not to be used as one large tome of unerring fact. The Bible is not and end to end blueprint for life.

Actions, it is said, speak louder than words. When it comes to faith no one truly knows what is in your heart except the Lord. If good works (actions) make faith in the Lord Jesus Christ stronger... What's the problem again?