I’m probably going to mangle this idea, but I may have had an insight into why the Protestant idea of faith and works doesn’t, ahem, “work.” It’s a little foggy, but maybe someone can help me out.
Okay, the Catholic position is straighforward, (at least to me, a lifelong Catholic.) “Faith without works is dead.” You can’t say you have faith if you don’t do good works. You can’t EARN salvation by works, but they are necessary nonetheless.
Protestants say that works are a sign that you have faith. They believe works are totally unnecessary, but that if there aren’t any good works, there’s probably no faith, and they aren’t “saved.”
Now, my thought on this–let’s say you’re a new Protestant convert. You go to a revival, “get saved,” and are eager to live the rest of your life in Jesus. I imagine a choice presents itself for the new Protestant–either he doesn’t change his life much, (though he probably rejects sin), and he’s comfortable in the knowledge that he’s saved, he has faith, and that’s that. Well, now he has a choice. He can choose to act and do good works, or he can’t.
I think this is the crux of my “argument,” (which I’m still trying to hash out). They believe faith forces the truly converted to act, as if their will is completely overcome, as though they become a vehicle of action for Christ. In other words, they give up their free will. It would seem to be the logical conclusion, because after all, once they “get saved,” most of them believe they can’t sin anymore–at least not so egregiously they lose their salvation.
Catholics, on the other hand, realize that a true conversion doesn’t force them to do anything. We believe that yes, you can come to Christ, but that doesn’t compel us to do anything. We can still be spiritual couch potatos.
I think the whole debate is almost splitting hairs, but, since the Prots make a big deal out of it, we have to engage. If anyone would like to help me with this, if there’s anything there, please do so.