English, Theologie

By grace alone

I ran across an article by Gary where he addresses the question of whether you are saved through works or through faith.

He points out correctly that it is faith alone, which isn’t very surprising as he is lutheran, or should I say, protestant?

Because basically, I only knew about catholics being accused of teaching that you’d have to earn entrance to heaven through good works, and that without them you could have faith as much as you wanted, but wouldn’t be let in.

I doubt the catholics really teach that, I think it’s a bit more complicated,  I think there as something with synergism or so, but really that isn’t what I’m up to dealing with now.

There are other things to the article that made me wonder. One is the „born-again experience“ of Martin Luther and whether it was one or not. Let’s recall: Luther speaks of himself reading Romans and finding out about salvation by faith alone, through grace alone. Whether it is historic, what he later said or not, there must have been this one point when he understood something he didn’t before. We have something similar in Acts (9:18), when Paul started to believe:

And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales

I am not too sure what is meant with a born again experience, because here in Germany, there are not too many evangelicals, mainline protestantism is still strong. But I think that there was indeed a change in what Luther thought and understood. Now he didn’t get baptised as Paul, because actually, he had already been baptised as a child and you don’t double-baptise anybody.

And Luther was still a man of faith somehow. He cared very much for what God wanted, Luther wanted to please God perfectly, to be one of the „good guys“, as far as we know today not out of pride, but maybe rather fear of the scornful God. This experience in the tower set him free from that fear and gave him confidence. So I am not sure if you could not call this a born again experience. A new life without fear, which starts as ever life starts with a birth. But there seems to be more to the term „born-again experience“, at least for Gary.

I’ve read some of Garys articles recently, and he seems to be writing against some kind of doctrine he came from but has now left for lutheranism. He describes the opponent side as baptist, evangelical, reformed or calvinist on several occasions.

Now I have a rather reformed (calvinist) background (I am not Calvinist, but it’s within the tradition I come from, read here if you wanna know or just ask) and find Calvinists sometimes misrepresented, but I guess that’s becaue in the USA, calvinism is something different than in Europe. Here it’s one of the protestant confessions, the second next to lutheranism. In the USA it seems that „calvinist“ can also refer to Baptist churches, which sounds kinda weird to people like me, because the reformed (calvinist) christians here persecuted the (ana)baptist like the lutherans did (or the catholics). So I guess for European ears (at least mine) it sounds strange because here the two groups were opponents.

Anyhow I realise that baptists (and evangelicals generally, as far as I can see here in Germany) tend to have doctrines closer to the reformed church than to the lutheran church. I think their understanding of the eucharist is closer together than with lutherans, who are themselves closer to roman catholicism. Their difference lies in infant baptism I think, though this can differ for the USA…

Anyhow I see people who propagate these evangelical doctrines here in Germany (some comment on my blog) including a very stong idea about works.

As far as I understand, their idea is that you are saved by grace alone (they know about Luther having said that and they respect Luther to a certain degree) but then, this isn’t all. Because, I think, they are till in this fear-state I wrote about:

They claim to be saved by grace, but they also stress the good deeds very much, caring about the dos and don’ts quite a bit, sometimes it even looks like they are trying to keep up a facade just to appear being a true believer. Believing becomes a competition, with God you should not have any problems, be it personally, socially, according to health or finances. When things go wrong it is as well because of God testing you as it is because of the lack of faith, so people with severe problems are at times just being left alone by their congregation (who should be supportive as „true christians“) either becaue it’s God’s will that they suffer, or because their suffering is because of their lack of faith and „true christians“ should not have anything to o with unbelievers or both.

It is certainly not always so bad, because after all, poeple are human beings, able to love. But I’ve heard about such cases nonetheless.

It is because they don’t ambrace the saved by grace part of doctrine too much. Where being saved by grace was once the point of no more fear, so that Luther and Calvin could write about predestination that cannot be undone by human means, for those evangelical christians, it seems to have become a mere entrance ticket.

Where christians back then were tought to do good works to go to heaven (including giving money to the church) this wouldn’t suffice for evangelicals nowadays:

You have to first accept Christ as your personal saviour. This alone appears to be a work for me, because if you decide yourself, it’s not by grace, but by own will, and it’s not faith, but it’s thought. So once you are „in“ by your own thoughts though your own will, you can be accepted by God once you become really holy, at least holier than thou art now… 😉

If you do good works without accepting Christ as your saviour, you’re lost, even if you do better than any Christian ever did.

If you truely believe in God and Christ and all, but you don’t get holy enough, at least in the eyes of your congregation, they’ll still say you’re out. Because they think they know exactly what God wants you to do. Here, biblicism comes into the game, bt that’s another issue.

So to be saved in their eyes, you have to do both: Proclaim you accepted Christ as you saviour AND behave the way they think God wants you to behave, and make no mistakes, because the fires of hell are hot and painful for the sinner…

Much of what I’ve wrote might come across as a caricature, and yes, I might have exaggerated a bit, when it comes to the majority of evangelicals. But I am sure such congregations do exist, and I am sure that every congregation has one or more details of what I described. This doesn’t mean mainline protestantism has no wrongs, it has its own share. But in the central part, which effects salvation, both lutherans and (non-evangelical) Calvinists agree that it’s God who gives you faith and safes you by grace, through faith, which itself makes you do good works, but they won’t safe you. They are a consequence of faith, not the requirement. Or even shorter said:

Fear not, God loves you.

4 thoughts on “By grace alone

  1. Pingback: By grace alone |
  2. YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE THAT

    Do believers who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the only Son of God believe because they heard the gospel preached and believed of their own free-will or because God forced them to believe it?

    The proponents of the five points of Calvinism make the point that a believer in Jesus only believes because of „Irresistible grace.“ In other words „You didn’t believe that,“ God believed it for you.

    „Irresistible grace:“ This doctrine, also called „efficacious grace“, asserts that that saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and in God’s timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, „graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ.“ (Ref:Calvinism-Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    First, if the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, then it is not free-will. God believed for you. „YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE THAT.“

    John 3:16 „For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

    The Calvinistic interpretation of John 3:16 „For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, to save a few preselected men and to let the remainder burn in hell for all eternity.“

    The „grace alone“ advocates proclaim that God forced you to believe. Their unspoken motto, „YOU DIDN’T BELIEVE THAT.“

    John 3:18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    Why would God judge men who do not believe if the only avenue to belief is through the „irresistible grace“ of the Holy Spirit. The non-believers motto would be „I DIDN’T NOT BELIEVE THAT.“ Their plea would be, „The Holy Spirit did not force me to believe.“

    John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.“

    If „irresistible grace“ were factually correct, it would be impossible to disobey God and not believe.

    2 Corinthians 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

    The unbelieving have been blinded by the god of this world. God want all men to be saved. If there is „irresistible grace“ then Satan could not blind anyone from seeing the light of the gospel. Men choose not to believe, they have free-will.

    Hebrews 2:9 But we see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of GodHe might taste death for everyone.

    Jesus died for everyone, not a select few who are saved by so-called „irresistible grace.“

    Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who week Him.

    God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
    God does not select a certain few who He saves by „irresistible grace.“

    GRACE ALONE ADVOCATES ARE IN ERROR WHEN THE IMPLY THAT CHRISTIANS „DIDN’T BELIEVE THAT.“

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

  3. Hi Steve,

    I am a bit curious. Why do you double post this text as article on your blog and as a comment here? You could have sent me a pingback or trackback and I’d have been able to see what you wrote and answer in a new blogpost myself.

    But instead you post the whole text here anew, including a link to your blog, without a link to my blog which you are answering to (are you?) with your blogpost on your blog.

    This looks a lot like you want to get attention from my readers while not giving me the chance to be read by readers of yours. I’m not sure if this is what you intened, if so, that’s pretty rude, isn’t it?

    One sentence of your comment I want to comment myself:

    If “irresistible grace” were factually correct, it would be impossible to disobey God and not believe.

    What’s the problem with that? And actually, you don’t go to heaven for believing, you can’t choose to believe. You cannot get up tomorrow and decide: Oh, well, today I shall believe in Thor. You won’t believe yourself! It’s out of your control. You can decide to worship Thor, or whomever, by practising rituals on the outside, but this wouldn’t mean you actually believe in what you are doing. It’s only outward apprearance. Your belief in Christ is nothing you did, it’s all what God did. Through His grace. And because of that, you’ll be going to heaven, unless you don’t believe. Then you can only hope that God gracefully makes you the present of faith, or you can „curse God and die“…

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