Grace: Protestant vs Catholic understanding


#1

In my opinion one of the most critical distinctions to make between Protestantism and Catholicism is what is meant by “grace”, especially in regards to Justification. Once this is understood issues like “Justification by Faith Alone” will make sense.

Here is an rough example describing how Justification takes place with Protestants and Catholics:
Lets pretend God is an accountant and He is Managing a bank. Man is a member of that bank, but due to some poor decisions on their ancestors’ part, each man inherits a personal account that is in astronomical debt. In order to be an good citizen you must somehow settle this debt with the Manager. Then one day a Billionaire named Jesus comes to town and out of the kindness of His heart is willing to settle any debts, as long as the person asks politely.

Now, here is how a Protestant would describe getting out of debt (Justification) according to the above example. The Billionaire would have the Manager consider the Billionaire’s account instead of the debtor’s account (Imputed Grace), and on that basis consider the debtor “debt free” (though his own account is still in debt).
A Catholic would reject that notion on the simple fact that the debtor is STILL in debt and thus cannot rightly be considered “debt free”. Rather, with the Catholic understanding the Billionaire’s funds would be applied directly to the debtor’s account (Infused Grace), making the debtor truly debt free, at which point the Manager recognizes the now debt-free customer for what he is, debt-free.

Just in case Protestants think I am misrepresenting them, here are two important quotes from Reformed and Lutheran creeds:
I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
-Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch 11 (Reformed)

12] Therefore we reject and condemn all the following errors:


15] 3. That in the sayings of the prophets and apostles where the righteousness of faith is spoken of the words justify and to be justified are not to signify declaring or being declared free from sins, and obtaining the forgiveness of sins, but actually being made righteous before God, because of love infused by the Holy Ghost, virtues, and the works following them.
-Epitome of Concord, Ch 3 (Lutheran)
The above two quotes should be pretty clear regarding the Protestant understanding of Justification, the debtor’s own account is simply not considered and instead the Manager considers the Billionaire’s account.

Catholics see the Protestant understanding of Justification to be an abomination because God is considering something other than what it TRULY is. It is like slapping a name tag on someone that says “righteous” knowing all along the person is actually not righteous.

Any questions or comments?


#2

I find that to be a great analogy. Martin Luther stated that we are “cow dung covered with snow”. Well all I can say is that I am not cow dung and I can be sanctified through infused grace. It will be quite a surprise when those, who adhere to the imputation of grace, go to the judgement seat of God only to find themselves naked on the outside and their souls “cow dung” on the inside. I face the reality that we must cooperate with the salvific act of Christ and fill our souls with love. In this manner, and only in this manner, will I be able to stand at the judgement seat of God and have Him see a reflection of Himself in me. And how did I get to stand in front of the Father?? Only through the suffering, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. I could have NEVER merited salvation on my own. It cannot be earned. It is a free gift. A gift that we open and use. Not a gift that we pull off the wrapping and cover ourselves…God Bless…teachccd:)


#3

My goal on this thread is to see just how many protestants ACTUALLY believe this (and those who do to try and defend it).

In my experience I am finding many protestants who DONT REALIZE this is what “Faith Alone” is saying, and when I talk to them they unknowingly believe in an infused grace concept.

This is why I believe this is one of the most important issues Catholics need to bring up, it is so important that Catholics and Protestants wont understand eachother until they realize how each side understands grace…interestingly I dont recall this issue being mentioned around here that often. Catholics need to start pointing this distinction out.

When I first learned there was a distinction between the two camps on this issue my eyes were opened. The imputed grace understading (eg the “snow covered dung”) is simply unacceptable.


#4

I’ll be on the side after this post but I do believe that for as many Catholics who have no concept of justification there are as many Protestants who don’t. There are many tenets of the Protestant faith that are unacceptable. (ie. Holy Communion is symbolic, there is no visible Church, Praying to the saints is idolatry to mention just a few) But I will definitely find interesting any Protestant comments on the topic at hand. Grace: Are we merely dung covered with Christ?? Hmmmm… Good luck Catholic Dude and God Bless…teachccd:)


#5

I think that imputed grace is shown in the following parable.

"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ "But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. "Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35)

Here the king is said to have forgiven the servant his debt. But was the nature of that forgiveness? It was not an actual forgiveness as the debt did not go away. When the servent did not forgive the debt owed to him, the king treated him as if the debt had forgiven.

It should be noted that the sum of 10000 talents was the equivalent of 150,000 years of wages so that it could never have been repaid.

It is also evident from the following passages that the sins are not actually taken away. They are covered and not remembered.

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.” (Romans 4:5-8)


#6

[quote=Catholic Dude]Now, here is how a Protestant would describe getting out of debt (Justification) according to the above example. The Billionaire would have the Manager consider the Billionaire’s account instead of the debtor’s account (Imputed Grace), and on that basis consider the debtor “debt free” (though his own account is still in debt).

A Catholic would reject that notion on the simple fact that the debtor is STILL in debt and thus cannot rightly be considered “debt free”. Rather, with the Catholic understanding the Billionaire’s funds would be applied directly to the debtor’s account (Infused Grace), making the debtor truly debt free, at which point the Manager recognizes the now debt-free customer for what he is, debt-free.

Just in case Protestants think I am misrepresenting them, here are two important quotes from Reformed and Lutheran creeds:

I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
[/quote]

The Red highlights above are misrepresentations.

Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 11, of Justification, para III:Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.You must either offer some proof that the debtor is, as you say, "STILL in debt and thus cannot rightly be considered “debt free”.

Or, you have to modify your illustration to include the fact that the debtor is "NOT STILL in debt, and is thus truly “debt free”.


#7

There is also another distinction between the Catholic and Protestant views on justification.

Catholics view justification as the same thing as salvation.
To Protestants justification is part of the process of salvation. It has 4 parts, which are not necessarily all separate in time.
There is regeneration by which a new Spirit is given to the man allowing him to resist sin, seek God and delight in Him. Justification is the forsenic judgement of not guilty, Christ’s perfect obediance being imputed to us because He bore the punishment for sin for us. Sanctification is the process whereby we work out our salvation. It is the process whereby we strive be be holy. We are able to do this due to the Spirit given by regeneration. It is never complete in this lifetime because the old spirit of the flesh still remains. Sanctification is complete after death with the fourth element, glorification, where we truly become holy.


#8

Interesting


#9

I guess John made an oopsie…

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said” Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29

If I get to heaven, I’ll be sure and let him know…:wink: teachccd :slight_smile:


#10

So where does Matthew 25:31-46 fit in this four part view of salvation??:confused: teachccd


#11

To say the least! :smiley:


#12

That would be at the final judgement where the verdict of not guilty becomes permanent. The sheep are those who have shown their regeneration through the process of sanctification while the goats did not pursue sanctification and to whom Christ’s righteousness is no longer imputed. The sanctification process is the evidence whereby God’s imputation of Christ’s obediance is shown to be just. God will not only be just in His judgement but will be seen to be just. An anology would be to a trial where the verdict is correct, because the judge knows it is while the evidence allows the spectators to see the correctness of the verdict.

Remember, not all Protestants accept once save always saved.


#13

However, the criterion for this verdict was not a one time assent of the will. So if in your definition of sanctification one must “work out” his salvation then isn’t the love that Christ defines in that passage infused grace? Is it not a lifelong process that is judged at death? It surely cannot be judged if someone accepts Christ at twelve years old. That judgement cannot be a judgement if at thirty he rejects Christ and falls into condemnation. We would have to be judged second by second. This is not what this passage says.

If you do not adhere to Once Saved, Always Saved then there can only be one judgement and that has to be at death. This is where the soul is judged by it’s deeds in cooperation with Grace and the merits of Christ which cannot be earned. Like you said, we will be seen to be just. That is not a covering but an interior conversion…God Bless…teachccd:)


#14

There is only the one final judgement and that is the one that is dealt with in Matthew 24. However before that we are viewed as just so that our works can be pleasing to God. If we lose faith we will be uncovered and guilty as the unforgiving servant was. We are given a new Spirit in regeneration which is where any infusion takes place but we are not made righteous since we still have the old spirit as well which is why we continue to sin, even if we try not to. Justification is separated from the process by which we actually become holier. Because it is forensic the one who has faith is saved even if he dies immediately, without the opportunity to do any works. Sanctification is us becoming holier but does not merit anything because we already owe God everything we can possibly do. As Jesus says:

"He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”
(Luke 17:9-10)

We do not merit anything by our works.

Justification is the declaring someone righteous, not the making someone righteous. In Scripture God is said to be justified. We know that He is not made righteous. What is meant is that He is declared righteous.

And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. (Luke 7:29)

The people did not make God righteous, they declared Him righteous.

Similarly:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

Again God was not made righteuous He was declared or shown to be righteous. So when it is said we are justified, it means we are declared righteous. We do not actually become righteous in this life.


#15

I should add that I really don’t think God is going to condemn anyone if they don’t get the mechanics of how salvation actually works as long as they believe in Jesus, love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

We are not expected to be able to fully understand because we cannot fully understand God.

For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:19-21)

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.”
(1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

I think that we are deceiving ourselves if we think we can fully understand things.

I think that we try to understand too much and explain everything. Because of our pride we want to understand everything and we feel we should be able to. When we cannot, we speculate and that causes the divisions in Christianity.


#16

WHAT do you think you are doing quoting one of my favorite anti-Eternal Security parables?

Anyway, that passage in no way teaches imputation, it is infused grace all the way. The debt was TRULY forgiven such that the debtor became debt-free in the eyes of the king. Through SIN the debt became RE-instated. If it was imputation, there would be no such thing as the king EVER coming back and holding that man guilty of ANYTHING. The individuals OWN account is considered from START to FINISH. Protestants believe that once the Manager’s eyes are off of your own account the Manager never looks to your account again.

It is also evident from the following passages that the sins are not actually taken away. They are covered and not remembered.

No, that is a poetic way of saying forgiven. David wrote other Psalms of forgiveness like the famous Psalm 51 which has explicit references to being washed clean.


#17

You dont understand the distinction between infused and imputed grace, the first chapter:
not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them
It is right there in black and green. NOT by INFUSING righteousness into them, if that were my example that would mean NOT by funds being placed into your own account making you debt free. By IMPUTING the obedience of Christ unto them, that means God considers Christ’s account instead of your own account. Now the next relevant chapter:
III. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them;%between% and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace; that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
Reading carefully you will see that passage is NOT teaching infused, but imputed, “IN THEIR STEAD” means Christ’s account is considered instead of their own individual account. The part of “fully discharge” is in regards to not holding them guilty, YET that doesnt mean they are out of debt.


#18

The Protestant understanding of “regeneration” is kind of amusing because it IS infused grace…yet for some reason their own account is not considered when it comes to justification.

Remember, not all Protestants accept once save always saved.

I agree, and that is what makes the story so much more interesting…check out this thread regarding what Lutherans believe about imputation and OSAS and you will see they have no answer:
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=151887

There is only the one final judgement and that is the one that is dealt with in Matthew 24. However before that we are viewed as just so that our works can be pleasing to God. If we lose faith we will be uncovered and guilty as the unforgiving servant was.

The part in red is not in line with Protestant theology and totally undermines the concept of impuatation. Protestants see Justification as a ONE TIME legal decree in which God NO LONGER considers your own account. To have Him suddenly considering your own account again is dobule jeopardy. To further complicate things, think about how you would “lose faith” in the FIRST PLACE. Certainly it would be linked to a sinful action (eg rape or murder) and rather not waking up one day and decide not to believe anymore.

We are given a new Spirit in regeneration which is where any infusion takes place but we are not made righteous since we still have the old spirit as well which is why we continue to sin, even if we try not to.

You are NEVER forced to sin, we suffer from the effects of the fall of Adam in which we are subject to pain, suffering, death, and the urge to sin (though not sin itself), but never are we forced to sin.

Justification is separated from the process by which we actually become holier. Because it is forensic the one who has faith is saved even if he dies immediately, without the opportunity to do any works. Sanctification is us becoming holier but does not merit anything because we already owe God everything we can possibly do. As Jesus says:

Think about what you just said, sanctification is where you BECOME holy, yet if you die BEFORE having the chance to become holy…then what? How can you be in heaven if you are unholy? THAT is precisely why Catholics believe being holy and justification are inseparable and that your soul must be made holy for justification in the FIRST place, thus if someone was justified and died suddenly they would go straight to Heaven because they are already holy. Also this is where purgatory comes in as well where even if you are not entirely holy upon death you can be sanctified fully before entering Heaven. Your position leaves no room to be sanctified if someone is justified and dies suddenly.

Justification is the declaring someone righteous, not the making someone righteous. In Scripture God is said to be justified. We know that He is not made righteous. What is meant is that He is declared righteous.

But your definition of Justification means that the person is NOT ACTUALLY righteous, RATHER they are declared righteous…Thus under your definition in a passage that says “God is justified” that must mean He is not actually righteous, only declared to be! :eek:

I should add that I really don’t think God is going to condemn anyone if they don’t get the mechanics of how salvation actually works as long as they believe in Jesus, love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

You are correct to a certain extent, yet the problem is having the wrong understanding of how things work leads to teaching things that are inherently un-Christian. For example OSAS is a result of misunderstanding the mechanics.


#19

Oh I’m going to kick my self for posting this.

If some one has recommended this book already, please forgive me.

Last year I read a very interesting book called “What’s So Amazing about Grace” I don’t remember the author. I think it’s a good read and even if you don’t agree with it, it is very thought provoking. It’s a Protestant book but well written and remarkably enjoyable for a religious book.

The reason I’m going to kick my self is because I just finished spouting off about Protestants in another thread.


#20

Philip Yancey wrote What’s So Amazing About Grace?.

Along with C.S. Lewis, Dr. James Dobson, and Charles Colson, this is one non-Catholic (AKA Protestant) author that Catholics should get to know if they have time.

He’s been around for several decades, so he’s not some wunderkind in the evangelical world. He used to write for Campus Life magazine (teen/collegiate). I liked him back then, too. He could always be counted on to dig deep.

He wrote a wonderful book called Soul Survivor–How My Faith Survived the Church. This book summarizes the lives of about two dozen people who have influenced his faith positively, and several of the people are Catholic (e.g., Chesterton). I HIGHLY recommend this book–it was one of the books that helped me make the decision to become Catholic.

This man is very “Catholic-respectful.” Great “bridge” author (especially the book I mentioned) to give to a non-Catholic (AKA Protestant) friend who is questioning/criticizing your Catholicism.


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