Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The True Gospel

I'm reading a book a family member passed along to me. According to him & many others, its the cat's pajamas. Out of respect for the author, I'll refrain from sharing further details at this time except to say the book is distinctly Protestant...

The author says we who are Christians have been perfected once for all & are being perfected daily. She believes we are, as near as I can tell, unconditionally saved, no questions asked. This sounds like the tired, old "once saved, always saved" argument to me. No matter what you do or don't do, your efforts can't save you or condemn you because Jesus is the only one Who has the power to save or condemn. Therefore, if one has faith in Him, that person is saved by faith... by grace, and not by works of  "the law". That last line, I agree with. But somehow, the author believes that making an effort to refrain from sin translates to self-righteousness. And of course, we know self-righteousness is bad.

Righteousness can't be earned & we know we aren't righteous because of anything we do or don't do. We are righteous simply because of what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Its a gift. Fair enough. The author also goes on to say that righteousness can't be measured by obedience, because that would be us doing works. And of course, we know works are bad too. So how can we know we are righteous if obedience does nothing for us? The author implies that we know because the New Covenant God instituted through Christ freed us from "the law". Under law, we worked to be righteous. Under grace, we are righteous just because. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the old law by becoming the ultimate, final sacrifice required for the forgiveness of sins. So now, there's no need for the law, no need for sacrifice & no need for works. In Jesus, we are righteous & saved as long as we simply have faith in Him.This is supposed to be the Gospel... the "good news". And yeah, it would be good, if it were true. I'm not convinced. I've never been.

Should we conclude there's no need for baptism, confession, daily devotions or works of mercy? Look at the "good" thief who hung next to Jesus- He didn't do anything but ask to be remembered in the kingdom of God. And what did Jesus do? He told Him he would take him to Paradise that very day. Should we naturally assume the same as it pertains to our own lives? The author seems to support the idea that Christians shouldn't even call themselves sinners anymore because we ARE the righteousness of God! Heaven forbid we should identify as lowly sinners. To do so demeans & mocks the free gift of God. We're already righteous. We're already saved. Just because...

I can't help but wonder, what happens to Purgatory, Reconciliation and sin (mortal & venial) if the Gospel really is grace, grace, grace & nothing more? Does grace nullify the Catholic understanding of the Christian life? Does grace say there is no longer a need to repent or confess sins? I don't think the author of this book is going so far as to say that. The author does imply that the expectation of having to do anything in order to maintain righteousness involves both works & fear of suffering. And if one fears losing anything God has already given them, especially their salvation,  they're not living in faith, or under grace, or in love. Perfect love casts out all fear. If one fears, they are still under law. Purgatory then, is rendered void if we are truly & instantaneously righteous, holy & saved to the end. There's no need for cleansing if we're already clean, right? The author also says we shouldn't expect God to expose our sins on judgement day because Love covers over a multitude of sins...Yet doesn't it say elsewhere in the Bible that we will be called to account for every word? Do all those horrible, awkward moments in life suddenly disappear from the record simply because we are forgiven? Is this the true Gospel? Or is this the same old Protestant argument repackaged for a new generation?

In short order, we get to Romans 8 that proclaims there is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". Are we to believe we will never be condemned for any sin we commit as Christians? The author uses 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 as an example & says Paul never intended to imply that the immorality of the Corinthian church would separate them from Christ. He simply wanted to remind them that what they were doing, they did so as if they were in the throne room of God. But God would never actually punish them for such a thing because He doesn't even keep track of sins anymore once a person is saved. This seems downright preposterous to me. Ever hear of Ananias & Sapphira?!