Saturday, January 02, 2010

Faith and Works

Someone on one of my lists asked me this:

>I realize that many protestant Churches purport that it is only through Jesus Christ that we are saved and that >his saving grace is given to us freely. That we do not need to do anything to be received in heaven but to >express our believe that Jesus Christ is our savior. I gather from your writing that the EO church is more like the >RCC in its view of salvation. Is that correct?

I am not exactly sure what you are asking me. What the RCC has always taught about salvation is that it is only through the RCC that a person can ever really know God and be saved.

What you describe as Protestant sounds more like Evangelical to me. There are various forms of Protestantism and they would not all express their views of salvation in the same way.

>If you believe as the RCC and from what you have said the EO church that we are to perform works for Christ >then we are saved. The end result for both of these is "good works." Is it really important the reason that the >person performs good works? Just curious what your thoughts are on this issue.

First of all let me be very clear: I do not know what *you* mean by the RCC view of salvation. I don't think you defined it. Secondly my understanding of the RCC view of salvation, which I was taught as a child and still hold in RCC today is that it only through the RCC mediation of the Gospel that anyone will be saved and I utterly reject that.

I am a sacramentalist. I believe very strongly in sacraments and their efficacy. One way a person can embrace salvation is through baptism. By baptism I mean not only the bits with water and oil but also all the questions, statements and prayers that form the entire rite. We move from rejecting Satan and all his works to the water and oil and then straight to promises of good works.

Why are good works important? Is this your question? Please correct me if I am misunderstanding you, please.

If that is your question, then I would say that I believe good works are important because they are a gift of love we give to God. Faith and good works are flip sides of the same coin. Here is what I deeply believe: when we truly open ourselves to God's love, we are so filled with it that it just plain overflows the limits of our flesh and spills out in ways that benefit others.

In every relationship of love, those who love have 2 choices. They can choose that which limits the love that keep it from growing OR they can choose that which increases and nurtures the love. Good works are what increases and nurtures the love and they are also the result of love. They are the impetus of love.

"Faith without works is dead" because faith without works is not faith. When we say the Nicene Creed we start off by saying "I believe" which is a very weak translation of the Latin credo which is more properly translated as "I give my heart to." When we give our hearts to someone, we find the ways to show the beloved they have our hearts. Good works is how we show God we love Him.

One of the implications of the Cross is that it is both vertical and horizontal. The hugest good work of all is Jesus dying on the cross. One of the Niebuhrs said "It is only on the cross that a man dies with his arms outstretched." The Romans, the cross was a merely a brutal way to kill someone. Jesus transformed that brutality into love. He dies with his arms arms outstretched to embrace us, to hug us, to draw us nearer to Him. When we accept God's love, we become Jesus' outstretched arms.