Friday, May 18, 2007

"If Protestants are so off-base, why do we see so much fruit within Protestantism?"

The title of this blog is based on a question Randy Carson asked in response to my blog entry:

This is a great question and one that apologists for both Catholicism and Protestantism have to face about each other.

First of all, it is our belief as Catholics that God wills the salvation of every human being. He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1Timothy 2:4). God "is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2Peter 3:9). "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11).

In one of the most neglected portions of Romans, St. Paul sums it up for us:

Rom 2:6 For he will render to every man according to his works:
Rom 2:7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
Rom 2:8 but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.
Rom 2:9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
Rom 2:10 but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
Rom 2:11 For God shows no partiality.
Rom 2:12 All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
Rom 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
Rom 2:14 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
Rom 2:15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them
Rom 2:16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

It was never God's intention to close salvation against anyone. That is what makes the Calvinoid heresy of "unconditional election" so heinous and unbiblical.

The reason that our Separated Brethren bear so much good fruit is because so many of them are seeking Jesus Christ with a sincere heart. God the Father draws them to His Son and Jesus will not turn away those who seek Him. Furthermore they study God's Word diligently and as God promised:

Isa 55:11 ...[My] word that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Jesus himself dealt with this question in another often ignored passage:

Mar 9:38 John said to [JESUS], "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not of our company."
Mar 9:39 But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.
Mar 9:40 For he that is not against us is for us.
Mar 9:41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are Christ's, will by no means lose his reward.
Mar 9:42 But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea."

This passage is near to my heart. Because of it, when my patients ask for a drink of water in the ER, I make every effort to fetch it for them myself.

The grace of God has been poured out on all men in the name of Jesus Christ. For this reason we cannot treat anyone with contempt or look down upon their honest efforts to be good disciples of their Savior and Lord. In many cases they pursue wrong-minded goals but with a sincere desire to do good and it is on that basis that God will judge them.

This is why, despite our disagreements, we should try to find the image of Christ in our fellow men, especially among those who confess Jesus with their lips. Even when we feel that we must take a strong principled stand, it must be with a sincere desire do good to others and see good in them. The truth sometimes hurts, but so does lancing a boil. The pain is necessary to bring about a greater good.

Meanwhile we can do no better than to remember the words of Pope St. Peter:

Act 10:34 And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality,
Act 10:35 but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.



rr1213 said...

Nicely put. You might also add that "love covers a multitude of sins".

Art Sippo said...

Amen, Brother. ;-)