As a convert from Protestantism, one of the challenges was the concept of grace. It was taught, and still is, that justification and sanctification were an instantaneous barrage of grace and is a one and done proposition.
Granted, this is more of a Baptist, view and can change (rarely) based on denomination. This differs widely from the Catholic view that grace more of a renovation for the soul.
Grace As A Declaration
Protestant theology looks at grace as a forensic, or declarative, justification. The reformers saw the concept of concupiscence and took it a step further and said that man is totally depraved. This total depravity prevents man from doing anything good, and all good things done are done by God.
Therefore, man is unable to do good even with the help of sanctifying grace. The work of Christ on the cross is therefore imputed to the sinners account when a faith in Christ is declared.
Fr. John Hardon writes that in the Protestant view a sinner is “righteous by reason of the imputed merits of Christ and a sinner because his inherited guilt remains” (Hardon Ch.4). Justification is now a matter of declaration whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the sinner making the Father see the sinner as righteous.
Sanctifying Grace Transforms
The is in stark contrast to the Catholic view that sees sanctifying grace as a transformative force that changes the sinner into a saint. The journey takes a lifetime and is filled with highs and lows.
Through the sacrament of baptism all sin is washed away, and we have a clean slate. Through the voluntary acceptance of grace on a daily basis and holiness is ours. Regarding this John Hardon states, “what we obtain is truly ours and no mere judicial attribution” (Hardon Ch.4). It is given to us to transform us, not merely to make a once time declaration and not change our nature. In the Protestant system we are not changed, and in the Catholic system Christ transforms us.
Interview On Hands On Apologetics
On January 6th I had the honor and privilege of being a guest on Hands On Apologetics. The show is hosted by Gary Michuta and airs daily at 1:00pm eastern standard time on Virgin Most Powerful Radio. Gary and I discuss the variations listed above and how the Protestant understanding of grace is intertwined with total depravity and even predestination. We also discuss how Martin Luther and John Calvin differed in there understanding of the subject.
It is always fun to be on the show with Gary.
Saint Quotes On Grace
Grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.-St. Augustine
Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.-St. Ignatius of Loyola
What was the first rule of our dear Savior’s life? You know if was to do his Father’s will. Well, then, the first purpose of our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will. We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty. -St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Hardon, John. History and Theology of Grace. Ann Arbor, MI: Sapientia Press, 2005.