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Common Ground: CCC 1996-2011

by PastorMinton on January 1st, 2018





“What is grace?” is a key question that separates Lutherans and Roman Catholics. Both groups teach that we are saved by grace, but our definitions of grace are different. We come from two different points of view for grace’s place in man’s salvation.

The Catechism says, “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and eternal life” (paragraph 1996). In this definition they reference several Bible passages (quotations from the New American Bible):

  • John 1:12-18 – But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.
    • There is plenty of mention of “grace” in this passage, but what does it say about grace? Grace is a gift from God only through Jesus. It is only given to those who accept Him and become children of God through Baptism.
  • John 17:3 – Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
    • Eternal life consists of knowing the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 8:14-17 – For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
    • As children of God, we look forward to an inheritance. This inheritance begins with the gift of the “spirit of adoption” that allows us to call upon God in prayer as “Our Father.” Through this adoption, we are given the promise of being glorified in Christ (see next passage).
  • 2 Peter 1:3-4 – His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.
    • We may “share in the divine nature” of Christ because we have become part of His body through Baptism. This divine nature gives us everything we need for this life and the next. Faith and strength to persevere in this life. “Precious and very great promises” for the world to come.

Even though we have this promise, this does not give us the license to believe in deification or theosis, the process of becoming like God. But that’s exactly where the Catechism takes us. “The grace of Christ is … infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. … Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itslef to enable it to live with God, to act by his love.” (paragraphs 1999-2000).

This infusion of gracious favor prepares man to be ready to work and live with God. “To arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity” (paragraph 2001). The use of the word “collaboration” strikes at the heart of the Pelagian heresy. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that man collaborates with God in order to be justified by his faith. This very teaching was condemned by the same Church in the fifth century. It’s a head scratcher. We must have God’s help to help Him save us? “Help me help you help me,” to quote Curtis from The Santa Clause 3 or Jerry Macguire.

If we are justified through faith, as the Catechism states, it cannot be a collaboration between us and God. However, the Catechism also defines “faith” as something we generate in ourselves, with the help of God’s infused grace. It runs around in a circle until your head spins. The Scholastic theologians made great strides in philosophizing the Church’s theology in the century leading up to the Protestant Reformation. Unfortunately, the philosophy and the theology don’t always work hand in hand. The resulting view of grace is just one of the symptoms that led to the need for reform in the Church.

Justification is by faith alone through grace alone. Both of these are gifts from God. Any other way to look at it causes us to have something to do with our salvation. And that’s been condemned by the Church catholic for centuries.

From → Common Ground

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