Grace and Works...Have I got this right?


#1

I was reading another thread on faith and works and it leads me to this question. Would this be an accurate way to explain our belief to a non-Catholic friend?

God initiates the relationship, we accept his grace similar to the way Mary accepted God’s will that she bear his son. Once we have accepted and been saved by grace the holy spirit will prompt us to do the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do.

If we accept God’s promptings and follow through with works of charity and service we will grow spiritualy and our relationship with God will be strengthened.

If we continually reject God’s promptings our faith, without works, will slowly weaken making us vulnerable to temptation and sin and putting us in danger of falling away.

In this way we are saved by faith and works.

All suggestions for improvement are eagerly accepted.

Thanks


#2

[quote=Sugar Ray]I was reading another thread on faith and works and it leads me to this question. Would this be an accurate way to explain our belief to a non-Catholic friend?

God initiates the relationship, we accept his grace similar to the way Mary accepted God’s will that she bear his son. Once we have accepted and been saved by grace the holy spirit will prompt us to do the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do.

If we accept God’s promptings and follow through with works of charity and service we will grow spiritualy and our relationship with God will be strengthened.

If we continually reject God’s promptings our faith, without works, will slowly weaken making us vulnerable to temptation and sin and putting us in danger of falling away.

In this way we are saved by faith and works.

All suggestions for improvement are eagerly accepted.

Thanks
[/quote]

That’s true in part. I think it slightly underemphasizes how important works are and possibly very slightly turns it into a faith alone relationship. In other words, it sortof says that the only thing works are for is to grow us in Grace so we don’t lose faith. The truth is you need both.

I look at it this way. If I wanted to go to a club, I would need to bring two things: cash to pay the cover charge, and an ID to prove I was old enough. The cash actually gets me into the club, just like faith actually gets us into God’s Grace and eventually Heaven. The ID, just like the works, doesn’t really do anything to get me into the club, but if I don’t have it, they won’t let me in. If I show up with just cash, I can’t get in. I’ll be have what it takes to get in, but they will bar me because I don’t have the ID so it’s not that I haven’t brought what I need to get in so much that I’m not allowed in. If I show up to God with just faith, He won’t let me in even though I’ve given the only thing that can actually actively get me in. If I show up with just the ID, they won’t let me into the club either. They’ll say, yes you are allowed in, but you don’t have what it takes to get in (the faith).

Now think about a person who has both faith and works. The works don’t do a single thing to get him in to Heaven. Compare this to if I show up to the club with both the cash and the ID, but I show the ID first. They’ll say that I am allowed in, but won’t say I have what I need to get in until I show them the cash. This is how it works with faith and works. The faith gets the person in, but if he can’t show the works he won’t be allowed in.

I also like to give this example to explain why salvation is still a gift. Imagine a father (God) and his constantly misbehaving son (us) are at the toy store. The boy says, “Daddy, if I clean the kitchen will you buy me this toy?” The father replies, “No, son, you cannot earn a toy simply by doing good and by doing what you ought to be doing anyways.” The son then says, “Ok Daddy, but will you give it to me as a gift for my birthday?” The father says to the son, “Yes, son, I will, but only if you keep your room clean and behave and do what I tell you.” The boy does so, and the father gives him the gift on his birthday. It’s still a gift, but if the boy had not done what he was supposed to, he would not have gotten it.


#3

I think it is a very good summary. You could go on to point out that the commision of a deliberate mortal sin with a persistant non-repentance will effectively cut one off from the life of grace and, if one dies in this state without confession and repentance, will cause one to lose their salvation.


#4

[quote=Sugar Ray]I was reading another thread on faith and works and it leads me to this question. Would this be an accurate way to explain our belief to a non-Catholic friend?

God initiates the relationship, we accept his grace similar to the way Mary accepted God’s will that she bear his son.
[/quote]

Hmm … I can see several problems with this. Mary was still a Jew when she conceived Jesus and she did not receive her baptism until thirty-three years later. It is true that Mary cooperated with grace, but so did Moses, Abraham, and the OT Prophets, and they were not directly saved by their cooperation with the grace God gave them. Mary, like every other person that is saved, is saved because Jesus saves them.

Once we have accepted and been saved by grace the holy spirit will prompt us to do the good works he has prepared in advance for us to do.

A Catholic that is baptized as an infant doesn’t “accept” sanctifying grace by a conscience decision of his will. If the baptized infant dies before the age of reason, he or she will still be saved. What good work did an infant ever do?

Protestants aren’t going to argue with you if you just say that you believe that men are saved by grace. The OSAS Protestants will argue with you, however, when you say that a Christian can be damned by committing acts of unrepentant evil. My advise, don’t get bogged down in the details of how grace and good works bring about our salvation - take charge of the discussion and show the OSAS Protestant that scriptures do indeed teach that unfaithful Christians can be damned by their evil works.

If you let the discussion devolve into a defense of how Catholics understand the relationship between grace and freedom, you will certainly get caught up in a discussion that is beyond your ability to answer. Catholic theologians have been arguing the details of the relationship between grace and freedom for centuries, and no one school of thought has ever been recognized as the official teaching of the church. Dr. Ludwig Ott has a brief summary of the different positions on this problem in his book Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. He lists the various schools of thought as: Thomistic Teaching, Augustinianism, Molinism, Congruism, and Syncretism.


#5

As far as my being too close to Faith Alone…since we initially receive grace through baptism where works are not possible (as is mentioned in one of the responses) does it not make sense that the gift of salvation is given first apart from works but then needs to be protected and nurtured through works as well as participating in the sacrements?

This is very different than the club analogy given. Works are not needed to enter heaven as the ID is needed to enter the bar only grace is needed. But without works grace is easily lost. Without cooperating with the promptings of the holy spirit so that we accomplish the good works prepared in advance for us to do we are in grave danger of falling away.

Thoughts?


#6

When a person repents, forgiveness is granted (Acts 2:37-39, 1 John 1:5-10), and this is an act of grace. Grace is divine assistance given for sanctification on no account of merit of the one being forgiven. It is when we approach the throne of grace with boldness (or confidence) that we find grace (for example, forgiveness) and mercy (for example, penance) to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Salvation is granted after death. This is not known to man on earth as he still sins (1 John 1:5-10), and when we are saved, we are saved from sin (Matthew 1:18-22). Salvation is the state and/or act of being saved. Salvation, in and of itself, is a grace because we do not enter Heaven by our own merit. It is by God’s grace and through the faith we have (which without works is dead, as described in James 2:14-26) that we enter Heaven (in other words, that we are saved)(Ephesians 2:1-10). (Read the CCC, paragraphs 1023-1029, for more information about the beliefs the Church holds about Heaven.)

It is after we have been granted mercy (through Purgatory) that we embrace the fullness of this salvation. Mercy is the compassion bestowed on someone whereby they are not entirely dismissed from their sin, crime, or mistake, but where they receive a lesser sentence because compassion was shown them.

Purgatory is the process by which the soul is made pure and perfect, for to our final breath we will sin, and not all restitution will have been made. Purgation is the refinement of our souls before we enter Heaven. (Read the CCC, paragraphs 1030-1032, for more information about the beliefs the Church holds about Purgatory. This section is followed by the beliefs the Church has about Hell, 1033-1037. Purgation is compared to fire, as referenced in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 1 Peter 1:3-9.

Purgatory is an act of mercy since without it, we would fall away from grace and salvation (thereby Heaven and the eternal presence of God) into an eternity that does not know God (that is, Hell). Note that this is not a casting of a soul (it’s not boot-to-buttocks) but rather the just act of allowing a soul to choose for their eternal destiny the absence of God.

Thus, salvation is not the result of works (Ephesians 2:1-10), but is granted by grace through faith, which is incomplete without works (James 2:14-26).


#7

[quote=Sugar Ray]As far as my being too close to Faith Alone…since we initially receive grace through baptism where works are not possible (as is mentioned in one of the responses) does it not make sense that the gift of salvation is given first apart from works but then needs to be protected and nurtured through works as well as participating in the sacrements?
Thoughts?
[/quote]

I like Fr. Larry Richards example -it has helped me a lot in trying to explain the Catholic position. I came across it on one his ‘salvation’ tapes. I won’t do him justice but it basically goes like this:

Think of yourself as being tied to the bottom of the ocean when you are born. You’re stuck, there is nothing you can do to free yourself, and you are going to die. Jesus, on his own, freely swims down to us with the ‘eternal life oxygen mask’ and offers it to us. It’s a free gift - we did nothing to deserve it and could do nothing to earn it obviously because we are tied up (analogously tied up in original sin). We can accept this gift (through baptism or, if we are older, through faith and baptism). We accept it, and Jesus gives it to us. This is where most Protestants will say the story ends - salvation offered - we accepted - done.
But for Catholics, the process of salvation has just begun. The reason is this - what happens if you just accept the oxygen mask and don’t use it? Just* holding *the oxgen mask will very shortly do you no good. When you accept the mask, you have to put it on, and breathe in, and breathe out. And we can only do this because of the gift God has given us (we couldn’t do this ‘work’ of breathing on our own - it’s only possible because of Jesus Christ giving us the gift). You must, in short, cooperate with the gift and put it to use. Now in terms of OSAS…we also have the capability to take that oxygen mask we accepted and rip it off our face (through mortal sin). If we do this, we will die. God doesn’t take the mask from us - he gave it to us and wants us to have it - but it wasn’t and isn’t forced on us. Through our free will we can reject it.

I’ve used this analogy a few times with my Protestant friends, and although they don’t agree with it and, like any analogy they can counter it by showing where they think it breaks down (for example, one said they would say that Jesus breathes for us when he gives us the mask), but it does help them understand in a simple way how we view salvation in terms of faith and works even if they don’t agree with it. It especially helps them understand, at least a little, that we do not believe we can merit salvation on our own. We can only ‘breathe’ (faith working in love) because of the gift Jesus gave us (the mask / His grace). I hope this helps.


#8

What I see you saying is that sloth can lead to eternal damnation. Yep, there is a reason that sloth is one of the seven deadly sins.


#9

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