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Catholicism And Evangelicism


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I've recently been reading posts at beliefnet that have made me aware of differing points of view between (generally) Catholics and Protestants (although I know it's not the view of ALL Protestants) regarding faith and works.


I'm hoping that James, Curly, Darby, DCJ and anyone else who is interested ... can explain to me what might be meant by this statement:


"If you read the joint declaration between Catholics and evangelicals, Catholics and evangelicals use the word “faith” in a different sense. ...


From there, though, we would need to talk about the nature of grace, how we are sanctified and justified, and how those sanctifying graces are imparted to us. There is a vast difference between how grace is imparted to us between Catholics and evangelicals."


How do Catholics and Protestants differ on how they use the word "faith"? How do Catholics and Protestants differ on what they mean by "grace"? What do "justification" and "sanctification" mean? I keep coming across those words and have tried to understand, but am still a bit lost.


Coming from a JW background, I perhaps share more in common with Catholics than evangelicals in my understanding of faith and works because JW's emphasize both pretty equally. So the "faith and only faith" and the "once saved always saved" ideas are pretty new to me.


I understand that the "complaint" against a works based theology is that we cannot "gain brownie points" with God and I agree. However, I don't really get the impression that that is what groups who practice "works" are doing. I'm getting the impression that this definition of "works" is a "strawman" that certain Protestant denominations have set up against Catholics (and JW's and Mormons) in order to "tear down".


I don't intend this to be a bash against evangelicals because the groups I've been reading that have been discussing faith and works have actually been Lutherans and Catholics. However, the quote I posted above was a conversation between a Catholic and a fundementalist.



Edited by AletheiaRivers
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I scribbled down some thoughts on this a number of years back, when the Catholic parish I was attending was having an evening discussion on this very issue. Here they are:


If a person must "make a decision for Christ," in Evangelical lingo, isn't this "making" a work? Mustn't a Fundamentalist also "do" something to appropriate salvation, even if it is just saying the sinner's prayer in her heart?


Catholics emphasize works because they "exercise" the spirit and "till the ground," allowing faith to grow. A helpful analogy might be this: When a farmer works the soil, surely he doesn't believe that he is making the seeds grow by his effort. He merely tends the soil, to make it receptive to the seeds. "Good works," then are not merely an outpouring of gratitude (though they are at least that), but a tilling of our "spiritual soil," so that grace and faith can take better root in us.


In the same vein, Catholics lay more emphasis on the cooperation between humanity and God, in contrast to the Protestant emphasis on the complete and utter sovereignty of God. In the language of the council of Trent, we "cooperate" with the Spirit in our salvation. This is much different than "earning" our salvation with good works; it is that the grace that has been provided on the cross of Christ must find a willing and open heart to take root. Once again, we must prepare our hearts with good works to receive the seed which comes from God alone.


My last and final thought is this: Isn't it all grace anyway? Isn't the open willingness of our own spirit just the awakening of God's Spirit in us? Isn't the fact that we're here at all just the outpouring of grace? Without the cosmos' inherent drive to be one with its Source and Destiny -- the drive of God's creative grace -- the Logos who was with God in the beginning, and IS, in fact, the very presence of God -- there wouldn't even be earth, or life, as we know it, to ask these questions, to begin with. The question whether there could be salvation without grace, rests upon the false assumption that it is conceivable for ANYTHING to exist without grace. We are born out of grace, and die into grace. So it is with our spiritual birth.

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I won't speak for the Catholic view, but for the evangelical, in my terms....


A foundational verse is Eph 2:8-9--For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.


Works don't save....works are evidence of salvation. Put another way, we don't do works to get saved, we do works because we're saved.


Put a third way, I don't do works to earn favor, I do them out of joy because I have favor.


You get the point.


I do firmly believe their is a DOING aspect of Christianity...taking up our cross daily, etc. As Paul said, grace is not a license to sin.

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