Merit


#1

I have a friend who is on a faith journey that has led him from a Charismatic Church, to a Baptist Church, to an Evangelical Free Church, and now to the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod).

He seems to be headed home (:slight_smile: ), but like many Protestants, there are always those one or two issues that prove to be a stumbling block. For him, it is the idea of merit that eludes him.

Now, we don’t merit our own salvation, but our good works are meritorious. Could you provide Biblical references either to support the Catholic understanding of merit or refute the Protestant resistance to it?

Also, what did the early Church fathers have to say about the issue if anything?

I think if he can resolve this issue, he would come into the Catholic Church eventually.


#2

there are WAAAAYYYYY too many to post. here’s what you do…

go to bible.com its a protestant Bible site online that you can search through. simply enter the word “works” into the new testament search and it will return a list of verses. then just look through and find the ones you’re looking for. The reason i recommend using a protestant online bible is so that even your friend can’t argue against the verses by claiming they come from the catholic bible.


#3

I hesitate to post this; I didn’t want y’all to think I was being fasicious… Check out the lyrics to Screen Door by Rich Mullins.

Excerpt:

It’s about as useless as
A screen door on a submarine
Faith without works baby
It just ain’t happenin’
One is your left hand
One is your right
It’ll take two strong arms
To hold on tight

Faith comes from God
And every word that He breathes
He lets you take it to your heart
So you can give it hands and feet
It’s gotta be active if it’s gonna be alive
You gotta put it into practice
Otherwise…

The above Screen Door Link references Matthew 7:15-20, Hebrews 6:9-10, James 2:14-26


#4

I recommend starting with the “Modern Catholic Dictionary” to get a consistent set of terms. Otherwise, the discussion may be frustrating. I have found the Modern Catholic Dictionary to be an outstanding source for reliable, consistent, complete and authentic definitions.

Here is a very complete definition of merit. This definition is taken from the “Modern Catholic Dictionary” by Father John Hardon S.J.

Merit. Divine reward for the practice of virtue. It is Catholic doctrine that by his good works a person in the state of grace really aquires a claim to supernatural reward from God. “The reward given for good works is not won by reason of actions which precede grace, but grace, which is unmerited, precedes actions in order that they may be performed meritoriously” (II Council of Orange, Denziger 388).

Certain conditions must be present to make supernatural merit possible. The meritorious work must be morally good, that is, in accordance with the moral law in its object, intent, and circumstances. It must be done freely, without any external coercion or internal necessity. It must be supernatural, that is, aroused and accompanied by actual grace, and proceeding from a supernatural motive. The person must be a wayfarer, here on earth, since no one can merit after death.

Strictly speaking only a person in the state of grace can merit, as defined by the Church (Denzinger 1576, 1582).

Merit depends on the free ordinance of God to reward with everlasting happiness the good works performed by his grace. On account of the infinite distance between Creator and creature, a human being alone cannot make God his or her debtor, if God does not do so by his own free ordinance. That God has made such ordinance is clear from his frequent promises, e. g. the Beatitudes and prediction of the Last Judgement.

The object of supernatural merit is an increase of sanctifying grace, eternal life (if the person dies in divine friendship), and an increase in heavenly glory. (Etym. Latin merces, hire, pay, reward.)


#5

Luke 10: 17-35

This is the parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asks Jesus what he needs to do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him to love God with all his heart and to love his neighbor. The lawyer asks, “who is my neighbor” to which Jesus gives him the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The priests who pass by do the right thing according to the Law; they have the correct “faith.” The priests would be made “unclean” by helping this man. They fail to be a neighbor, by doing the “work” of helping the beaten man.

I think this is a great description from the Gospels, from Jesus Christ Himself, that defends the idea of “faith and works.” I would say Protestants who believe in sola fide are like the priests who pass by. They have the faith, but they do not have the works.
Be a neighbor, “Do this and you shall live.” “Do this,” is an action, a work.


#6

Thanks for the reference from the council of Orange. That’ll be proof enough at least that the idea of merit is not an invention of the middle ages. :slight_smile:

He doesn’t object with the concept of faith and works. He seems to be in line with the thinking that “faith produces good works” instead of the “infusion” concept of Catholicism:

1999 The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification: [Cf. *Jn 4:14; 7:38-39]

Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself. [2 Cor 5:17-18]


#7

I would certainly discuss with your friend, “If we could ask Jesus directly, ‘What must I do to be saved?’” we know from Scripture what his direct answer would be, don’t we? Why does He answer that question in Matthew 19 this way: ‘Keep the commandments’? Why doesn’t He say, ‘You don’t have to DO anything!’?"

Why does He, in Luke 10, respond to that question with the story of the good Samaritan? Why does he add, “Do this and you will be saved”? Why doesn’t He say, “You don’t have to Do anything!”?

Why doesn’t He tell the woman at the well, “Go and sin boldly,” but rather “Go and sin no more”?
And why does He tell the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 that they are saved (or condemned), “For I was hungry and you gave Me food…”(or “For I was hungry and you gave me no food…”)?

Peace.
John


#8

You make some very convincing arguments. Thank you. :slight_smile:

The good samaritan example is a very good one in particular. The ones’ who supposedly had faith didn’t respond to the call to help the man in need whereas the “heretic” (Samaritan) responded to the call to help by his good works.

My friend would not buy the argument that we don’t need to do anything…he sees it as us needing to have faith in order to do the good works. In other words, if one has faith, then good works will follow.


#9

[quote=Stylteralmaldo]You make some very convincing arguments. Thank you. :slight_smile:

The good samaritan example is a very good one in particular. The ones’ who supposedly had faith didn’t respond to the call to help the man in need whereas the “heretic” (Samaritan) responded to the call to help by his good works.

My friend would not buy the argument that we don’t need to do anything…he sees it as us needing to have faith in order to do the good works. In other words, if one has faith, then good works will follow.
[/quote]

If I’m not mistaken, your friend would say that the works are in NO way a cause of our salvation. As you say, Protestants believe the works are a result of faith. The faith alone saves; the works do not.
To put this bluntly, they believe that our behavior has no effect on our salvation.
But read those passages again, and you see that Christ is answering directly the question of how we are saved. Reading without a pretext, one has to conclude that our behavior affects our salvation.

Peace.
John


#10

Merit and works are related subjects but not identical. We do not personally merit salvation. Everything is grace. Look up condign merit (Christ’s), and congruent merit (ours). Today’s meditation from Magnificat addresses this point beautifully:

Fruitful Cooperation

The Church believes that without grace man’s will is incapable of performing good deeds; but like the light of the sun, grace is available to all. Evil men neglect it when it is offered to them, while good men embrace it. And both do what they do by their own free will. Thus a man who is saved is saved by grace, and yet his free will is not without its role.

I do not see anything except by the light; yet I help the light to some extent when I open my eyes and focus them. If a man lowers a rope into a well and pulls someone out who could not escape by himself, wouldn’t it be true that the man in the well did not climb out by his own power? And yet he still contributed something of his own to the process by hanging on to the rope and not letting it get away. The freedom of the will is like that: It can do nothing without grace. But when the divine goodness grants grace generously, the free will of a good man holds fast to it and cooperates with it properly. But the free will of an evil man does not accept grace; it wears itself out in malice . . .

A man who admits that he cannot perform good works without
grace does not struggle aginst grace by trying to do good works. Rather, he does not, like the Pharisee, rely on works, for he knows they are worthless without faith and can merit no reward except through God’s generosity alone. Those who are clearly opposed to grace and utterly deny Christ are actually the ones who exalt grace and trust in the faith of Christ so that they can make men lukewarm in doing good. They utterly deny that good works have any goodness or merit in them at all, while we condemn only the sinful reliance on works. When men are slow to do good, they fast lose both faith and grace. For we find far more men who would rather believe well than do well.

St. Thomas More


#11

Thank you for the St. Thomas More reference. :slight_smile:

Also, I do personally take issue with the whole concept of “faith alone”. It just doesn’t add up when it comes down to it.


#12

[quote=Stylteralmaldo]I have a friend who is on a faith journey that has led him from a Charismatic Church, to a Baptist Church, to an Evangelical Free Church, and now to the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod).

He seems to be headed home (:slight_smile: ), but like many Protestants, there are always those one or two issues that prove to be a stumbling block. For him, it is the idea of merit that eludes him.

Now, we don’t merit our own salvation, but our good works are meritorious. Could you provide Biblical references either to support the Catholic understanding of merit or refute the Protestant resistance to it?

Also, what did the early Church fathers have to say about the issue if anything?

I think if he can resolve this issue, he would come into the Catholic Church eventually.
[/quote]

No merit


#13

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