This is my response to a whole string of anti-Catholic arguments on http://bfhu.wordpress.com/2007/04/24/how-does-a-catholic-get-to-heaven/. I put these comments on that site, but I'm getting tired of waiting for my (long) string of reasoning to be "moderated," so here you go.

Angela, I am sorry to continue the "argument." But I do not feel that all of it is being done uncharitably. For us to achieve true unity in the Body of Christ, it is necessary for us to engage one another, "give the reason for our hope," and defend the faith. If we want real peace with one another, the kind of peace that brings us to bless one another and work together for the furtherance of God's Kingdom, we are going to have to be open with each other, speak our mind, and allow others to speak theirs. I am continuing this dialogue because there are real misconceptions about what Catholics believe, and a good deal of establishing peace between Catholics and Protestants just comes down to getting rid of these misconceptions. (As a convert to the Catholic Church, I know what I am talking about). So, Angela, I appreciate your ecumenical spirit, and bless you in the name of Our Lord, but cordially disagree with you about the best way to achieve the ends you seek.
God bless you Justin, and grant you success in your finals. As a fellow academic, I empathize with your stress and distraction over the last few weeks. I am certain that Our Lord is crafting you into a worthy handler of His Word, as your willingness to continue this dialogue evinces.
I realize that you have said that you are done with this blog, and thus will not respond to these comments, but I feel compelled to continue the conversation from my end nonetheless. If you want to jump back in, I will be very happy to hear from you again. Otherwise, you (and everyone else) can just listen silently as I continue my theological monologue, the ravings of a Kansas-farm boy stranded in the Negev.
First things first. I believe that it is important to acknowledge the fact that your comments here are motivated by your love for each and everyone of us who have wandered here. You love us with the love of the Father, who does not desire that any should be lost, but share eternity in bliss with Him. You have a genuine desire to rescue us from opinions that you hold to be damnable. (So it seems to me). I applaud your efforts. God is crafting you into a soul-winner.
Now, if I may, I want to correct a few of your statements, emphatically state our position in regards to others, and, in the process, attempt to convince you that we are on the same team you are, and that we could be working together to bring in lost sheep who truly are lost. I don't actually believe that I am going to change your mind about anything, nor do I really want to convert you to Catholicism. All the same, ignorance is not bliss, and if I can help you hone your arguments better, all for the good. (And if all this should provoke you to take a second look at Catholicism, all the better!).
Hold up on the ridicule about purgatory. Let's step back and use a different word for it, with different imagery. Let's leave Dante on the shelf. I fully realize that Evangelicals do not use the word purgatory to describe any of their beliefs about the afterlife. Very well. My point was, Evangelicals, nonetheless, believe in the concept. They have to.
Let me explain. Justin, do you believe that when you get to heaven you will be a) made perfect and holy, without spot or stain or b) retain your sinful and rebellious nature? I hope you chose a). And if you did, guess what. You believe in purgatory.
Let's put it another way. Do you accept the following text of Scripture as God-breathed and infallible? Ephesians 5:5: "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God" (NKJV). If Evangelicals really do not believe in purgatory (i.e., the purification of unclean souls), then they must believe that heaven is going to be empty, for the Bible clearly says that no unclean person has an inheritance there, and every one of us is unclean. Just ask Luther and Calvin. Of course, that's just silly, so I have to conclude that even though my Evangelical brothers and sisters refuse to use the same word for it as I do, even so, they really, truly believe in purgatory.
To help you out a bit, when I say purgatory, I do not necessarily have in mind Dante's vivid depiction of gruesome tortures endured for hundreds of solar years for the crimes of unrepentant Christians. That mythic picture provides us with food for thought, but in the end, it's just a myth, and is not an exact reflection of Catholic doctrine on the subject. Purgatory, although certainly an important part of Catholic theology, in large part remains a mystery, just as the true natures of heaven and hell do to a great extent. We are forced to use worldly metaphors to describe unworldly processes and experiences. This means that it is not entirely accurate to speak of purgatory as a place. I prefer to think of it as a process. It's whatever happens to prepare us for the beatific vision, the experience of entering into the presence of our holy Creator. That process, as I stated in an earlier response, begins now. It involves pain and suffering, because it involves weaning us from self-love and self-worship, so that we can truly give ourselves in love to the Father. Moreover, "beyond the veil" of death, all of our shortcomings and mistakes and failures, as well as every one of our missed opportunities, will appear before us in crystal clarity. That regret must be excruciating to a soul preparing to gaze upon the Father. Finally, at that moment the soul is finally fully prepared to run into the Father's embrace, and yet, the remaining uncleanness that is impeding that moment must be a great aggravation. Even if all of this takes place in the blink of an eye, in eternity, (you see how difficult it is to actually use human language to describe all of this), the suffering of the soul, we believe, is quite real, and this is why we pray for the souls of the dead.
I do not expect you to sign on to all of that. But I hope that you can at least appreciate my efforts to bring us to some common ground on the subject. Obviously, our contrary theologies are going to take us down some very different paths on this subject, but I still maintain that our starting point is the same: We both believe that no unclean thing will enter heaven. That means you believe in purgatory, brother. (Don't worry. I'm not telling your professors).
You maintain that purgatory "is no where in the Bible." You should not be surprised to learn that Catholics would disagree with you. Here is an entire web-page full of scriptural proofs for the doctrine: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/purgatory.html. I am certain that you will interpret these passages differently than we do, but you should at least give it a look before declaring out of hand that "purgatory is not in the Bible." Let's look at just a few of these scriptural proofs.
2 Corinthians 5:10 says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (NIV). Saint Paul is describing a situation where even the righteous headed for heaven experience judgment for their sins, and "receive what is due" them. Hmm. Sounds like purgatory to me. You say "sinner." I say "peccato." You say "judgment seat of Christ." I say "purgatorio."
1 Corinthians 3:13-15 is another text that Catholics smell some purgation going on in. "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (KJV). Here we are told that our works shall be tried when our life is over. Some works shall abide. Others will be shown for the transitory things that they are. In other words, we will see all of those moments wasted on pleasure and self-promotion go up in smoke, and become painfully aware of missed opportunities to have laid up more treasures in heaven. Even though we will ultimately be saved, if much of our life's works are burned up, it will be like someone plucked from the flames of a burning house. The picture is one of pain and regret experienced before proceeding on to glory. Charles Stanley includes a whole chapter in his book on eternal security in which he exegetes this text in much the same manner as any Catholic would, except he is careful not to use the p-word. That's okay. We know what he's talking about anyway.
Praying for the dead suffering purification from their sins is not just a Catholic belief. We inherited it from the Jews. There are veiled references to it in the same canonical Scriptures that you would recognize with us. For instance, Gen. 50:10 describes the mourning of Joseph and his brothers for their father Jacob: "And they came to the threshingfloor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days" (KJV). Why not just a simple funeral with periodic mourning following, whenever they especially missed him? This kind of ritualistic period of mourning is observed by the Jews to this day. They drop everything they are doing and sit in their house for seven days, mourning, but especially praying for the souls of their loved ones.
There are explicit references to prayers for the dead in the Deuterocanon (what you would call Apocrypha). 2 Maccabees 12:39-46 describes how Judas Maccabeus offered up prayers for the souls of his fellow soldiers who had fallen in battle:
On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to light the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin (NAB).
I realize that you would not consider this text to be inspired Scripture in the same way we do, but it at least provides proof that praying for the dead is an ancient Jewish practice. The Catholic Church didn't cook it up in the Middle Ages as I was taught they had done in Sunday School. Notice that the author includes a polemical jab at the nascent Saduceeanism of his day by appealing to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead as the basis of this practice. Jesus would make a similar argument against the Saducees when He appealed to God's designation as the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" to explain that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. The same holds true here. Judas and his companions recognized that though the bodies of their brothers in arms were slain, their souls were yet very much alive and standing before the judgment of God, and would some day be reunited with their resurrected bodies. Notice too the reference to sacrifice in atonement for their sins. Although they were sons of the covenant, they had died having made a compromise with the sin of idolatry. The text implies that this brought about their physical death. However, Judas remained hopeful that they had not sinned to such an extent as to have brought damnation upon their souls, i.e., he hoped that they had not committed what Catholics call a mortal sin. He took recourse to offering sacrifices on their behalf "that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out." These sacrifices looked forward towards Jesus' atoning sacrifice on the cross, just as the sacrifice of the Mass looks back to it, and, indeed, is identical to that same sacrifice in substance. This is why we offer up masses for the dead. We are pleading Christ's mercies, poured out in His blood, upon the souls of our loved ones who are aching to behold the Father and being purified in preparation for that moment. It is Jesus' sacrifice that obtains that grace, of course. We merely participate in it. (Really, that's what all prayer is, isn't it? Participating in God's bestowal of grace. He doesn't need our prayers to get His work done, but invites us to make our requests and petitions because it strengthens our relationship both with Him and the rest of the body).
Enough of purgatory. On to the Council of Trent.
Justin, I am so happy that you actually bothered to look this text up. So many of your co-religionists go straight for the parts that are disagreeable to them and create the impression that the Council of Trent says that we are saved by works apart from faith. Now you know that that is not true, and I hope that you will help other non-Catholics better articulate their arguments against Catholic soteriology.
That said, I am a bit surprised that you are still trying to do mouth to mouth resuscitation on this dead horse, and hoping to keep riding it in your polemic against Catholicism. It seems to me that after acknowledging that what I said was true, you cut off the rest of the canons from the first and attempt to read them as independent and contradictory statements. You also seem a bit shocked that (horror!) the Council of Trent doesn't agree with Calvinistic Protestantism in a great many things. That was not what I was trying to say by quoting the Council's first canon on Justification at all. Of course we disagree on a handful of core issues. I just wanted to point out that it is not fair to say that Catholics believe in salvation by works (which you still seem to want to argue). We believe in salvation by grace. We do not believe in salvation by faith alone, either. We believe in salvation by grace. Our response to grace involves both faith and works, and that is precisely where many Protestants grow uncomfortable, but please try to be charitable and attempt to comprehend that we believe that we are saved by grace just as much as you do.
You ask us to "keep in mind that the Bible does clearly teach salvation is through faith alone" and support that with Ephesians 2:8-9, which, I grant you, would be a pretty convincing proof-text if those two verses made up the whole of our New Testament. However, I disagree that the whole Bible clearly does teach a sola fide soteriology. I understand that you are trying to argue that works just kind of naturally flow out of a life of faith. That's the same thing I used to believe and teach. The problem is, you don't ever find that kind of statement anywhere in the Bible. Instead, you have lots of places in the New Testament where there is a clear connection between salvation and works, texts like Matthew 7:24-27, where the wise man whose house is built upon the rock is the picture of "everyone who hears these words and does them" and the foolish man doomed to destruction is the picture of "everyone who hears these words and does not do them." What do you do with James 2:24 that says that we are "justified by works and not by faith alone" (RSV)? That verse says the exact opposite of what you are arguing the Bible teaches so clearly. When you take the whole counsel of Scripture together, I think you are hard pressed to argue that sola fide soteriology is so clearly taught in the Bible. Paul's words need to be taken in the greater context of Scripture, and then it begins to become apparent that he was primarily addressing the problem of what to do with Jewish ritual. Paul is saying that since we are saved by grace through faith, the external practices of the Jewish Law are no longer necessary to enter into and remain in God's covenant, and if someone attempts to say otherwise, they are getting the cart in front of the horse by making works more significant than the grace that God is bestowing so freely on mankind through Jesus. He is not saying that works are absolutely unnecessary. He can't be. After all, he is the same person who wrote, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12, NKJV). The next verse puts this work in its proper context. It is God who works in us. We are saved by grace, even in our works. But some responsibility for accomplishing the work is still incumbent upon us, nonetheless, or we wouldn't have the command to begin with.
 If works just kind of naturally flowed out of our faith, I don't think there would be so much emphasis on performing works. Why did the authors of Scripture encourage righteous living so often? It seems obvious to me that they were concerned that we just might not be as righteous as we ought; as though they did not believe that our righteous behavior would just sort of naturally flow out of a life of faith without a bit of encouragement.
Of course it would be ridiculous for a Catholic (or anybody else) to think they could get saved by being good enough to get into heaven. That's why the Council of Trent declared anyone teaching such an idea to be anathema. Of course it would be ridiculous to  respond to God's grace with works without faith. It's not just ridiculous. It's inconceivable. Just a bit more inconceivable than responding to God's grace with faith without works.
Here is my question for my Protestant brothers and sisters: If all we have to do is believe to be saved, then why are you all so uptight about us Catholics who do believe but are convinced that our works are important too? It's not like any of us don't have any faith at all, but are running around working our tails off to get into a godless heaven. Do you understand my point? What makes my faith in Jesus and His salvific work invalid and yours valid? Why should my faith send me to hell and yours to heaven? Think about it and chill.
Justin, you say that if the Council of Trent had stopped with the first canon on justification, you would agree with me. I am not sure what you mean by that. You would agree that Catholics believe we are saved by grace? You would agree with Catholicism?
I am curious which translation of the Council documents you are using. I have been using Waterworth's venerable translation, available here: http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/ct06.html. Some of the translation that you are using seems to have been worded for the purpose of Protestant polemics.
You rightly comment that canons four through eight of the sixth session of Trent deal with controversies with certain reformers over predestination. You might be surprised to know that the Thomistic school of Catholicism essentially agrees with Calvinism on this subject, and has never been condemned by the Catholic Church. This was because they allowed room for man's free-will as well, as do most Calvinists. These canons were not intended to cast a blanket condemnation on the doctrine of predestination, but only to check certain excesses that had crept in among more radical reformers. The Molinists oppose the Thomists, and are roughly analogous to Protestant Arminians. The Catholic Church has chosen to allow both schools of thought to continue, declining to make a final ruling on the matter due to insufficient revelation. You can read a rather technical article on the matter here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14698b.htm. Perhaps it will interest you to know that before I was Catholic, I was a thorough-going Arminianist, and that today I consider myself a Thomist, and thus a close cousin to Calvinists.
Justin, you misunderstand the particular meaning of anathema in the sense used by the Council fathers. Anathema can indeed mean "to curse" and "to damn," but that is not the meaning here. Going back to the meaning of the Greek words will help us to understand what the fathers mean when they say "anathema sit." Ana means "up." Thema comes from the verb tithemi, meaning "to place." Thus, together, the words mean "something placed up, i.e., apart." The ancient Greeks used the word to describe all kinds of set apart things, including something that was holy, such as a sacrificial victim. Thus, we see that anathema has a broader meaning than "cursed, damned." Anathema sit is technical language used in relation to the specific action of ecclesiastical excommunication. You can check this out in Wikipedia's article on "anathema." Notice that all of the canons you have listed here say, "If any one saith ...." The situation described is that of Catholic clergy who are sympathetic to Reformation theology. The point is, if you are a Catholic priest or bishop, if you preach any of these things, you are out of the boundaries of the Catholic Church and no longer have communion with her. The canons are not directed at you, Justin. They do not condemn you for holding beliefs contrary to Catholic teaching. Neither do they curse you. I surmise that you grew up in a faith tradition at odds with Catholicism. Very well. We bless you in the name of the Lord. If someone was a practicing Catholic and left the Catholic Church to embrace a belief system that held to the opinions condemned by the Council, even they would not be condemned to hell and cursed by the canons. The canons are aimed with pinpoint accuracy towards priests who were preaching Protestant theology but refusing to leave the Catholic Church. This was the method with which the Church resorted to sweeping them out. I don't think that it is fair to say that the canons even curse them. In this context, anathema sit should be translated, "Let him be excommunicated."
The Catholic Church would never say that anyone is damned simply for holding Protestant beliefs. We are strictly forbidden by the Church to cast judgment on anybody in such a manner.
For the next item, Justin, I think I will need to quote you:
CANON XV.-If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema.
Comments: So this states if we believe someone is born again. Which Jesus states as a qualification for entrance into heaven and if we believe in predestination, also in the bible, we are damned. So this is damning clear teachings of God’s Word. John 3:3 states, “3In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Romans 8:29 states, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
This clearly shows an anti biblical stance.
You have simply misunderstood the words of this canon. I will paraphrase it, in hopes that the intent will be more clear. "If any one says that a born again and justified individual is bound of faith to believe in his eternal security; let him be excommunicated." The Council fathers by no means condemn John 3:3. This is clear from a reading of the entire document. In fact, I will quote the whole of chapter XIII from the sixth session:

CHAPTER XIII.
On the gift of Perseverance.
So also as regards the gift of perseverance, of which it is written, He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved:-which gift cannot be derived from any other but Him, who is able to establish him who standeth that he stand perseveringly, and to restore him who falleth:-let no one herein promise himself any thing as certain with an absolute certainty; though all ought to place and repose a most firm hope in God's help. For God, unless men be themselves wanting to His grace, as he has begun the good work, so will he perfect it, working (in them) to will and to accomplish. Nevertheless, let those who think themselves to stand, take heed lest they fall, and, with fear and trembling work out their salvation, in labours, in watchings, in almsdeeds, in prayers and oblations, in fastings and chastity: for, knowing that they are born again unto a hope of glory, but not as yet unto glory, they ought to fear for the combat which yet remains with the flesh, with the world, with the devil, wherein they cannot be victorious, unless they be with God's grace, obedient to the Apostle, who says; We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you shall die; but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.

Please notice how much Scripture permeates that paragraph that I have just cited. What of that "anti biblical stance" that you spoke of?
Neither do the Council fathers intend to condemn belief in predestination, which, I agree, is a Scriptural doctrine. What canon XV is targeting is the belief in the eternal security of the believer. Chapter XII of the sixth session of the council addresses this issue, and if you should read it you will see that the Council fathers affirm God's election, yet maintain that "except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God hath chosen unto Himself."
Granted, you very likely cannot stomach the Catholic stance on perseverance and election, nor do you, I suppose, accept with us the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. All the same, I hope you can understand that the Catholic Church does not simply sweep verses that do not suit her under the rug. We revere Scripture. The first half of every Sunday Mass is occupied with a liturgical reading from the prophets, then a psalm, then from an epistle, and finally from the Gospels. Daily Mass has less Scripture. One of the readings is left out. We are doing our best to live according to the teachings of the Bible, as interpreted by the Catholic Church. Please don't accuse us of being "anti biblical" simply because you cannot accept our interpretations.
We do not reject outright the doctrine of the perseverance of God's elect, as should be evident from the paragraph quoted above. Basically, we agree with your interpretation of John 10, that God holds us securely in His grace. However, as you know, we reject the doctrine of eternal security. Though we have the reassuring words of Jesus that no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand, yet we also have texts like this one: "The love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:10, RSV). Verses like this cause us to believe that although our Father will never let us go and that no external force can rip us from His grip, yet, we by our own will can make a conscious decision to wander away from the faith.
We can go back and forth accusing the other of holding unbiblical views and not get anywhere. Why can't we just drop the whole "unbiblical" 2X4 we have been whacking each other with and concede that we just interpret the Bible differently and trust God to overlook whatever flaws in our theology there are, (because there must be a whole bunch of them!)?
Let me quote you again, Justin:
CANON XVIII.-If any one saith, that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to keep; let him be anathema.
Comment: This is saying that if we say we cant keep the commands of God and if we say that it is impossible to basically be perfect after we have received grace than we are damned.
Here, yet again you have misunderstood the intent of the Council fathers. You have taken a little, specific statement and inflated it to say much more. The fathers are combatting yet another excess that had grown out of the Reformation, anti-nomianism. Certain people were preaching that since it is impossible to be perfect, why should we even try? No one, not even a justified believer, can keep the commandments of God. The Council fathers are addressing this teaching. Believe me, no Catholic is deluded enough to believe that he or she is without sin, or that he or she is going to be able to live a perfect life for the remainder of their time on earth. As Saint John said in his first epistle, if any one should say that he has no sin, then he is a liar. Yet, we also believe that having been born again and infused with God's grace has given us a share in Christ's nature, and whereas before we were so spiritually impoverished by our sin nature that we were not able to attain a righteous life, now that we are "justified and constituted in grace" we can actually perform the commandments of God in a way that was impossible before. We realize that we are still growing in grace and the virtues of the Holy Spirit, so we will yet fall far short of our purpose, and so we have the Sacrament of Confession to restore us. But it would not give the Holy Spirit credit for the major work that He is doing if we were to say that we cannot, with His help, even attempt to live out the commandments that He has given.
You cite Romans 3:23-28 to support your argument. I think you misuse it. When Paul says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," he is speaking about those who have not yet been justified by God's grace. I agree that even after we are justified we continue all too often to sin and fall short of God's glory, but that is not the heart of Paul's message in Romans. He is trying to show how necessary God's grace poured out through Christ's sacrifices is for salvation. Without it, we cannot possibly hope to live the kind of life God desires. Not even the Jewish Law could enable someone to really be righteous apart from the infusion of God's grace in their life. Faith is the hitch-pin that connects us to God's grace and brings justification, or, (the Greek word is used with both meanings), "righteousness." Whereas before we were not righteous, now that we have received God's grace through faith, we have been given Christ's righteous nature as our own. That means we can actually live according to His commandments now. That's good news, Justin!
When Paul uses the word law, he almost certainly means Torah. This is the conclusion of James Dunn, an Evangelical who is one of the foremost authorities in Pauline studies today. See The New Perspective on Paul, revised edition (Eerdmans, 2007) for his material. If this is so, when Paul says that "if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law" in Galatians 5:18, he means to say that for a Spirit-filled Christian to put himself under the yoke of the Jewish Law is an absurdity. This is the whole purpose of Galatians, to combat the Judaizers who were compelling Gentile believers to receive circumcision. However, it is hard to imagine that Paul has in mind commandments such as "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Surely the Spirit enables us to really love in ways that we were incapable of before He had made His dwelling in us.
You say that "the Council of Trent clearly states that salvation for the Catholic Church is Faith and Works." That's not precise. Salvation is a free gift of grace. The Council clearly teaches, in the very canons that you have quoted, that we are saved by grace. No one can earn their salvation by works. No one can believe their way into heaven. God has to give the grace both to believe and to perform His will. Most of our participation in the work of salvation is just a matter of receiving more and more of His grace.
Justin, you say that "to imply works would have anything to do with salvation is to take away what Jesus did on the cross for us." I disagree. If we said that we could earn our salvation with our own works apart from God's grace, what you say would be true. It would indeed do dishonor to Jesus' amazing victory. But a transformed life that evinces the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of Jesus' transfused life into the believer would bring glory to Jesus, would it not? Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men in Matthew 5:16. How would a life without good works lived by a spiritual slouch "trusting" in God to save him bring glory to Jesus?
You do something that strikes me as odd. You go to James 2 for proof that "works is the end result of faith." According to you, James is saying that works merely show "the person has been saved by faith alone." You cite verse 26 to substantiate this, where it says that "faith without works is dead." But the rest of the chapter ought to present some problems for you. For instance, verse 14 says, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" (NKJV). Verse 21 says that "Abraham was justified by works"! To cap it all off, James says that "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (verse 24, NKJV). This is the only verse in the Bible in which the Greek text uses the phrase "faith alone." I have no further comment. This chapter is indeed one text where the Protestants' pet doctrine of perspicuity of Scripture seems to hold true!
But, Justin, all in all, I don't entirely disagree with your understanding of how works are produced by faith. I find this paragraph of yours to be quite insightful:

How does faith produce works? When we are saved and we have experienced God’s amazing forgiveness through His grace, we have the Holy Spirit that indwells us and we are becoming more like Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”The more we become like Christ the more we care about the things He cares about. 2 Peter 3:18 states, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” As we grow in Christ we will live for His glory alone and good deeds will flow, because it truly is the Lord Jesus Christ working through us.
To that I say, "Amen." They are not our works, but the Lord's. We merely submit to His will and enjoy the ride. I can't agree with you that these Spirit-operated works have nothing to do with salvation, but at least we can agree that on our own, working in the flesh, we can accomplish nothing. We can agree that we are saved by grace alone through faith, but I can't agree that we are saved by faith alone.
 


Comments

03/12/2010 19:12

Your comment was finally posted, and commented on.

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Christopher
07/14/2010 18:26

Being a non-Catholic myself, I have to say that much of the current anti-Catholic positions, in fact all that I have ever encountered, are simply uninformed about the real teachings of the Roman Catholic church. I'm not alone in thinking that if the reformers (especially Lutheran and Calvin, perhaps not Zwingli or various anabaptists) were alive today, they just would not be protesting about anything. This is because the Roman Catholic church has reformed. All this talk about unbiblical doctrines is pure nonsense. Let the ecumenical discussions commence, I say.

Matt, you have so much patience, it just blows me away.

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