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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Theology Tuesday

I've decided to do a regular bit of Theological philosiphizin' on Tuesdays. It may not generate a lot of discussion, as I plan on staying out of the political arena (since Christ did the same). Here is the first one:

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
-St. James, Chapter 1, Verse 27

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
-The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 25, Verses 31-30

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
-The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 7, Verses 21-23

Allegedly, the rift between the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church is largely because of the perceived requirement for action for salvation from our sins. Luther declared that faith alone was sufficient for salvation, but the Pope proclaimed in the Counter Reformation that faith AND works were necessary. Protestants claim that St. Paul has said that works do not save, and Catholics claim that St. James said that there is no faith without works. Even aside past papal infallibility, apostolic succession, transubstantiation and Mariology, no argument is considered to split the two more.

But it need not be so.

St. Paul does say that works do not save...and he is right.

St. James does say that faith without works is dead...and he is right.

Moreover, Christ proclaims that the righteous will be identified by their works, and those who merely proclaim, "Lord, Lord" will be cast into the outer darkness.

The key is found in the above verse from St. James: pure religion. Religion is the practice of faith, its very expression. Luther wished to let us all know that Christ alone, and faith in Him, saves us. The Church seeks to keep us from the complacency that plagues the Protestant churches of praying a prayer, claiming to be a Christian, then never acting. The love of Christ, upon which our faith rests, constrains us to love in action.

The good news of Christ is that He came to save sinners, of whom I am chief. This knowledge, in my mind, heart, soul and strength, drives me ever to His service by serving others. If you are not so constrained, examine yourself closely, and see if you have the faith of eternal life, or only a dead faith that leads to the same.


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