So I was raised evangelical, but am curious about Catholic beliefs, and have thus been lurking on these forums to learn more on and off for several years now. I figured there was no point in making an account and posting questions when the same questions have been answered over and over. But now I think I’ve finally got a question that isn’t answered here already. So this is a great time as any to break the ice.
Lately, I’ve been studying the debate between Augustine and Pelagius. In some places in Pelagius’ writings (Commentary on Romans, Letter to Demetrius), I can see where he is much too glib about the human condition. However, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Old Testament believers were able to live righteously. Take, for example, the life of Job. I’m sure he suffered from original sin just like the rest of us. According to the Protestant tradition I’ve been raised in, New Testament believers have special help to obey God–the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and helps us overcome temptations. But in Old Testament times (according to Protestants and what I can read myself in the Bible), only specially annointed people had that privelege, and that often only intermitantly. For example, kings, judges, and prophets would have the Holy Spirit, Who could come and go at any time. The common Joe living in Israel wouldn’t have that extra grace at all.
So how did the average Joe Israelite, who wasn’t one of the “Chosen Ones”, manage to obey God?
The best explanation from Protestants is that they could be regenerated, and that the Holy Spirit acts from outside of them. It seems a bit weak to me, since I see no clear evidence in Scripture of the Holy Spirit acting from the outside like that. If the Holy Spirit does the same thing on the outside as on the inside, then what’s so special about Him being on the inside in the New Testament? Pelagius’ views that the conscience God gives every human is sufficient to help us obey God almost makes sense for Old Testament believers. Even more helpful, according to him, is the law of God itself in enlightening people regarding God’s commands. He also teaches that whatever God commands can be obeyed. At least it is a clear explanation. But obviously that view is not without its problems, as it also denies any need of the Holy Spirit’s help (though Pelagius does see it as extra and very welcome help).
So what does the Catholic Church teach, and what Scriptures and church writings are used in support?
Thank you for reading all this, and thank you for helping me struggle through these deep questions. I look forward to your replies!