Catholic vs Protestant View of Works-Doing vs Manifesting
I recently was discussing the role of works in our salvation in a combox on Devin Rose's blog.
"The Protestant strawman is that “Catholics work their way to heaven” No, only Jesus can open the gates of heaven for us by his redeeming death on the cross. But He allows us to cooperate (reformed folks hate that word) with him in our salvation. It’s like this: “DO the Works I command, and ye shall live. Act like a schmuck , thinking you are saved and you better get used to hanging with the goats."
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
These are all good works, that were done (by the grace and power of God we as Catholic believe, not on our own) that determined whether these folks would be apportioned to the sheep or to the goats. It was all about what we did or didn't do. I know that only by God’s grace can I do the works he asks of me, but if I choose to ignore the poor, the needy, and live selfishly ignoring Christ’s commands, then I have essentially rejected his salvation and will end up in Hell."
Bob (the Protestant):
We don’t earn salvation by works. Matthew 25 is not about our works helping us to gain heaven but are the manifestations of salvation. Works are the fruit of genuine salvation. One thing to look at in this passage is how does one become a sheep? A sheep is referred to in Scripture as a believer. A sheep is one who believes in Christ for salvation.
thanks for your response. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I don’t think you are getting what I am saying. I wrote that it is a Protestant straw-man argument to say that “Catholics work their way to heaven” but you then responded by saying as if we believe this. “We don’t earn salvation by works.” That is not a Catholic belief. Please go back and re-read my post. We don’t believe we can earn salvation alone without Christ. That is truly a terrible thought! God forbid.
You say: “Matthew 25 is not about our works helping us to gain heaven but are the manifestations of salvation.” No offense Bob, but isn't that a bit of eisegesis?(reading into). I don’t want to be uncharitable, but couldn't you possibly be influenced by your pre-existing belief that good works have no place in our salvation? Let’s consider the good scriptural study practice of looking at the context of the passage we are discussing. As they say; “Context is everything.” Start in Matt 24 – Jesus is talking about the eschaton, the final days, the stuff that happens right before the end before eternity. So in that context, we then go to Matt 25, where he talks about heaven and who will get there and who won’t. Using parables, Jesus talks about the ten virgins, and makes it crystal clear that those 5 who wisely and diligently prepare beforehand are the ones who get invited in. Those foolish virgins who DON’T DO the things necessary to prepare (gathering oil for their lamps = doing stuff) miss their opportunity. “The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. ” I imagine you would say this readiness just means they were simply manifesting the salvation they already had, though I don’t see how the context would support that view. Jesus then immediately follows this parable with the parable of the servants and the talents. Those who did “stuff ” (works) with the gifts the Master gave them, got in, those who DID nothing, were left out in the gnashing and weeping place. So again, the emphasis is on DOING stuff, which we as Catholics call good works, which are actually good! Finally Jesus discusses the sheep and the goats and what they DID and DIDN'T DO which determined their “sheepishness” (going to heaven) or their “goatliness” (going to hell). I don’t see any reference to “manifestation of their salvation” here.
It was all about what they DID or DID NOT DO. So from the context of Matt 24 followed by Matt 25 and all those parables about DOING “stuff” and that corresponding with entrance to heaven, why did Jesus make so much effort to reinforce DOING, if he really intended to teach his disciples that these virgins were just manifesting the fact that they were going to go to heaven, the wise servant was just manifesting that he was going to be included in the feast, the folks who obeyed Christ by serving the least of these were just manifesting their pre-existing state of salvation? If you ask me, that is a confusing and rather not straight forward way to interpret the actions of all these folks. Why did our Lord waste all that time and just say, “listen folks, sheep and wise virgins and wise servants are all going to heaven regardless of their behavior, those other foolish virgins, lazy servants ,etc are just manifesting the reality that they are not going to see the kingdom of God? (again realizing the context of the end of time , Matt 24)
My plain reading of these scriptures is that Jesus is talking about doing stuff, (which equals works) and immediate follows how it leads to gaining access to heaven. I can’t see the context supports the concept that Jesus is just talking about the attributes/manifestations of those who gain access to heaven.
If anything is gained at all from this exercise at the very least, I hope I have illustrated that “Scripture alone” cannot help us to prove that “faith alone” is a true doctrine. If Scripture was perspicuous, you and I would have only one interpretation of Matt 25 regarding the role of works in our salvation.
The Catholic view is that Matt 25 is about the importance our Lord placed on works as part of attaining heaven.
The Protestant view is that Matt 25 is about how you manifest your salvation already attained.