“Your doctrine of justification by faith is dangerous, for by eliminating the law you also eliminate a man’s sense of moral responsibility. If a person can be accounted righteous simply by believing that Christ died for him, why then should he bother to keep the law or, for that matter, why should he bother to live by any standard of morality? There is no need to be good. The result of your doctrine is that men will believe in Christ but thereafter do as they desire.”
Do you side with this opinion?
Well, I’ve seen it. You know, creatures that probably don’t exist up where you are, but are all-too-readily found around here: cultural Baptists.
However, I would state things a bit differently. As Scripture states (Romans 7, for example) and as is easily verified from experience, the law, any law, cannot absolutely restrain bad behavior nor can it absolutely force good behavior. And, to the extent that it does, this does not solve the problem of a corrupted, a sick, human nature.
Something else is required. Sometimes, it is described in terms of “justification”, but for the purposes of this conversation, “regeneration” or “rebirth” are better terms. I must die with Christ, by faith and baptism, in order to be resurrected, reborn, with Him.
Now, let us be very clear. While “justification” or “regeneration” is the BEGINNING of salvation, it is not the end. “Those who endure to the end will be saved.” It is not that we EARN anything from God, but we must cooperate with God in order to attain salvation in the end. BTW, again, salvation is first and foremost about healing my corrupt nature and restoring my communion with God. This requires transformation.
The Apostle Paul has already answered this, in Romans 6. But a couple of verses, in particular, focus our attention: “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to hwom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you,” (Romans 6:15-17).
Yes, I agree it is dangerous. I have no reason to be good.
“Men will believe in Christ but thereafter do as they desire.”
I think John Piper and others who believe in justification by faith would agree with this statement.
Not all danger needs to be avoided.
The opinion seems to assume that God’s greatest desire is simply that we act “good.”
Is God’s desire human morality? Surely it’s more than that.
Dangerous, yes. Especially when we water down the Gospel and make it little more than fire insurance.
Does it do us any good to believe that Christ died for us? is that the end, or just the beginning? And if it is only the beginning then is more required for our salvation? Is Christ’s dead, or our belief not enough? If we believe will then the process of justification begin in our life? More than just believe in Christ’s dead, do we also have to allow him to be Lord of our life? If so what about the time when we chose to do things our way? will that negate our salvation? What does it mean to live by the Spirit, and what about the times when we feel to do just that?
Patricia, I think your questions are answered by three points: first, by faith, baptism, and chrismation/confirmation, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and become “members of Christ.”
Second, salvation is a process in which we are healed and thereby transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Yes, this requires our cooperation, not to earn brownie points, but in the same that if I break my leg, I must cooperate with the healing process via physical therapy in order to be made completely whole.
Finally, regarding sin, especially serious sin commited willfully: first, that’s why there is a Sacrament/Mystery called Reconciliation or Confession (See John 20:21-23). If you don’t have that available to you, I am truly sorry. It is one of the greatest of Christ’s gifts to His People.
However, at the same time, know that God desires that you be saved infinitely more than you or I can ourselves desire to be saved. God IS love, and God is infinite, and God’s love for each of us is infinite.
Pastor Dan, I think the apostle Paul answers the objection, too.
Pastor Dan and Todd, I think y’all are begging the question as to whether what you mean by “justification by faith (alone)” is what St. Paul means by “justification by faith”.
I might believe that Christ died for me. However, if I do not act on that belief, I am, as St. James notes, in the same category as the demons who indeed believe, but “tremble”. Christ did not die simply to take me to heaven, warts and all. Christ died to remove the warts, so that my death is the path to resurrection in, with, and through Christ. St. John Chrysostom can go so far as to write, “What need have I of heaven when I have heaven within me?”
If I do not wish that, or if I do not embrace the death and resurrection of Christ as MY death and resurrection through the means by which he has given me to do so, I can “believe” all I want. It will avail me nothing.