Thursday, June 05, 2008

I think I might have finally figured it out

photo © Chris Koutros for CC:Attribution-ShareAlike

The discussion over at True Womanhood has finally worn down on the subject of Catholic vs. Christian, so I'll put this here instead.

The question was something about "Do Catholics believe in justification through works or justification by grace?". As I understand it, it depends on how you define "works". If you mean:

  • Having to ask God to save you, forgive your sins, for grace
  • Having to make an honest effort to live a good life using Christ as an example, including healing the sick, feeding the poor, and so on
  • Understanding that when you screw up (we always do, we're human and imperfect/sinners) you must ask for forgiveness and attempt to fix your mistakes.
  • Take part in the Church if at all possible, including sacraments.
  • Share the word of God whenever possible.
and so on, then yes, those are works and you're expected to at least try to do them. Yes, I would say in that case it is a two-way street, God is loving and generous and will save and give grace to all who come to him BUT you must come to him and then attempt to live a good life following the example set by his son.

14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James 2:14-26 KJV

I guess that's why it frosts my cookies when I hear certain Christians saying things like"I'm a sinner, nothing but a snow covered dung-heap" and then "I was born-again, I don't need to do WORKS", and then they go out and treat their fellow man horribly. It's almost as if they believe that if you perform one good Christian act you're trying to save yourself, but it's perfectly acceptable and even preferable to go out and commit sin after sin after sin to prove how horrible and undeserving you are. Thereby making God feel all the better about Himself because He saved someone as horrible as you.

(You know, if God really is like that, I don't think I could follow that God either. A God who can only feel, well, Godly in comparison to others, by tearing them down, by making them that low? I'd rather a God who encouraged you to grow as a person over your life, to better yourself and the world around you, to make the most of your time here.

Back to the post)


Main Entry:
jus·ti·fi·ca·tion Listen to the pronunciation of justification
14th century
1: the act, process, or state of being justified by God
2 a
: the act or an instance of justifying : vindication b: something that justifies
: the process or result of justifying lines of text


Main Entry:
jus·ti·fy Listen to the pronunciation of justify
Inflected Form(s):
jus·ti·fied; jus·ti·fy·ing
Middle English justifien, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French justifier, from Late Latin justificare, from Latin justus
14th century
transitive verb

1 a: to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable b (1): to show to have had a sufficient legal reason (2): to qualify (oneself) as a surety by taking oath to the ownership of sufficient property

2 aarchaic : to administer justice to barchaic : absolve

c: to judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation

Now I believe the Lord will regard and treat as righteous of salvation all those who come to Him, but He will also judge. I believe He expects us to at least attempt to follow the example set by His Son while He was here on earth. I do not believe he meant "Christians" to use His grace to prove or show not even attempting to try is just, right or reasonable. Or to give Him a chance to feel better about Himself by lowering yourself. That falls under a different heading:

Main Entry:
self–jus·ti·fi·ca·tion Listen to the pronunciation of self–justification
circa 1775
: the act or an instance of making excuses for oneself

Which would be more like saving yourself, wouldn't it?

Anyway, that's why I'm a Roman Catholic if I'm anything. I hope that helps.


Kelly over at Visits to Candyland put up a link to a page full of articles on the subject. I freely admit I haven't read a one. But you can find it here.

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