I have no idea what J. Gresham Machen may have meant concerning Catholicism when he said . . .
‘Making Christ Master’ in their life, putting into practice ‘the principles of Christ’ by one’s own efforts - these are merely new ways of earning salvation by one’s obedience to God’s commands."
Maybe he did not even intend this to be against the Catholic faith.
But often from our Protestant friends and family members we as Catholics are accused of this “earning salvation” “by one’s own efforts” paradigm so he MAY have intended this to be an implicit criticism of Catholicism too.
I just don’t know.
But we as Catholics do NOT ASSERT we “earn” our salvation “by one’s own efforts”.
If J. Gresham Machen is condemning Pelagianism we as Catholics would stand shoulder to shoulder with him.
Salvation “by one’s own efforts” is antithetical to the Catholic faith.
That being said, we “obey” by the grace of God. And this DOES matter.
Jesus’ grace is the author and finisher of our good works. At least our “good works” sewn in the Spirit.
Now many of our Protestant friends would object and say: “Well I assert faith ALONE” saves me.
Yet Hebrews 12:2 explicitly says Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith too.
So should we accuse Protestants of “turning to the village of” faith, and “to the house of Mr. Faith Legality” because they have faith?
Yet we as Catholics are often proverbially accused of “turning to the village of Morality” and clinging to “the house of Mr. Legality” in terms of self-salvation.
This is non-sense.
When Protestants write about salvation, I usually don’t see much insight in their writings unless these guys clarify the difference between works done of our own accord, vrs. Christ working IN and THROUGH us.
Many Protestants today are getting it. They are seeing such a difference in “works” (see note on the “new Perspective on Paul” here from Dr. Pitre’s notes).
Protestants often do not see differing types of works, because they define “grace” merely as God’s favor. Whereas we as Catholics see grace as God’s favor too (CCC 1996), but we ALSO see grace as God at WORK IN US and THROUGH US or a “participation in the life of God” (CCC 1997).
Notice St. Paul teaches differing kinds of “works”. Notice St. Paul teaches you can sew in the flesh OR sew in the spirit! (But only one type of “sewing” yields to “eternal life”).
GALATIANS 6:7-8 7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Hope this helps.