I am responding to a polite gentleman named David who posted a comment on my blog. He was responding as a kind Protestant who was reacting to my article “Response to a Southern Baptist.” He is kind and well-spoken and I wish we could sit and have a cup of coffee together to discuss this more personally. I have responded only briefly and with a few random thoughts while on the run. I would suggest he and others read a new book by Steve Wood entitled, Grace & Justification: An Evangelical’s Guide to Catholic Beliefs.
David’s words are italicized and in blue; my words are in regular text and in black:
Steve’s opening thoughts in preparation to respond:
I would like to make two opening comments which are touched on only briefly below. First, the argument about “faith vs. works” has been twisted by Luther and subsequent Protestants into a Protestant vs. Catholic debate. However, Paul never intended that in his letters. There was no Protestant vs. Catholic debate — it was rather a Jew vs. Gentile. Works of the law were not required of Gentiles to become followers of the Jewish Messiah. Only faith like that of Abraham was required.
Second, Catholics are often accused of believing works is what saves us. This is not the case. It is the grace of God through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus that saves us, though we believe we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit to bring that justification-sanctification to its heavenly fulfillment. Jesus does not say those with faith alone will be resurrected and saved, rather he says, John 5:28–29 “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” I am always amazed how the words of Jesus are set aside in preference to a poor interpretation of the words of St Paul.
I believe that Evangelicals rightly emphasize that we are saved by grace through faith alone. We are saved by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross and not by earning our salvation by doing a list of required good works. This is taught throughout the New Testament and is especially clear in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” This clearly says that we are saved by faith in God’s grace, not by our works. We don’t earn our salvation. Grace is a free gift; but we must receive it by faith. Faith is a combination of believing and trusting in what Jesus did.