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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Two Observations on John, Chap. 6

Well, a while ago I started blogging on the gospel of Luke. It's not that I stopped reading it, but what happens is that I (try to) read a chapter each night before I go to sleep, and then the next day I don't blog about what I had read.

Anyway, now I am up to John chapter 6. I have two observations:

(1) There is a big divide between Catholics and Protestants over the route to salvation. Catholics think you have to do good works; good people go to heaven, bad people go to hell. Protestants (at least some subset of them, not sure if all) believe that man can't please God with his works; you have to accept Jesus and that's it. To the delight of atheists, there are strong New Testament passages for either interpretation. (I.e. the Bible seems to contradict itself on this issue.)

For a while I have thought that this was a false dichotomy. And then it seems Jesus confirms this in verses 28-29:

Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"

Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."



(2) I think I have blogged about this before, but so what? It's neat. The passage John 6:66 reads: "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." (There are no other 6:66, or 66:6 for that matter, in the gospels.)

7 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:08 PM

    Dear Bob,

    Interesting text.

    As a matter of clarification of Catholic doctrine (as I understand it, mind you):

    I think the point is, to be saved you have to die in a state of grace. No one "deserves" such grace (it being a free gift) and even after doing unimaginably wretched things, one may always obtain it again by repenting (ordinarily, through sacramental auricular confession). However, to preserve that state of grace one has not merited, it is incumbent upon one to do various things (I'm thinking here specifically of the corporal works of mercy set forth in Matthew 25) and refrain from doing other things (murdering, committing, adultery, and the like). Without doing (or refraining from doing) these things, one ceases to be a fitting habitation for the Lord of our the Holy Spirit, and thus, the light of grace goes out, and dying in that state would put one in peril of perdition. This view, has the advantage of being both theologically fairly satisfactory, and of bringing into accord various passages from the Bible that might otherwise seem to be outright contradictions.

    Cheers,
    Araglin

    ReplyDelete
  2. Araglin,

    Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I should've said that Thomas Aquinas probably had a more sophisticated view than what I put in the post. But just from talking to regular Catholics and regular Protestants, the former definitely seem to think that you need to be a good person to get to heaven, while the latter think that is an impossible requirement.

    Also, a difference I've noticed is that many practicing Catholics don't know if they are "saved" or not, whereas Protestants are sure they are.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous7:16 PM

    Good point, Bob.

    In terms of what the modal, poorly-catechized lay Catholic thinks is so (as opposed to what the magisterial teaching of the Church provides) I think you're probably right on.

    On the question of "knowing one is saved," I again think the problem is that many Protestants tend to think:

    (1) That one becomes justified or saved by "inviting Jesus into your heart as personal lord and savior," and (2) that "Once Saved Always Saved."

    As a consequence, for such a person, the mere memoray of having said such a prayer at an altar call once in 7th grade serves as the ground of an unshakable unconditional conviction that one will get into to Heaven.

    To Catholic lights, this sure-fire confidence (as opposed to a proper theological hope) that one will go to Heaven no matter what one does appears to be at the borderline of blaspheming the Holy Spirit (as presumption).

    That account leaves out the weird High (Dortian) Calvinists who think that, for the most part, one is only saved via God's entirely-arbitrary election to count some among the Elect from before the foundation of the world, and to count others as reprobates to suffer damnation for all eternity to (not sure how) "show forth the glory of God." On such a model, one's own status as among the Elect is not something one can know for sure (which is all well, since there's nothing one could do about changing the outcome anyhow).

    Regards,
    Araglin

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous1:19 AM

    Friends,

    Can Christ fail? Surely He cannot.

    "All whom the Father has given to me shall come to me, and I shall not lose a single one of them." See John 6:37-40, also John 10 (esp. v26).

    Salvation isn't ultimately about us but about Christ and his glory. It isn't about whether we can lose it, but whether he can lose us -- and He can't. He can't, because He won't: He is unstoppable and none can frustrate his designs. "For who has resisted His will?"

    To say that our own works, no matter "works of the gospel" or "works of the law", are necessary for final salvation is to impugn the finished work of Christ on the cross. He paid for us. My sentence was passed on Him, and justice was completely satisfied. My case is closed. He paid for us and we shall persevere because now--even now--He prays for us. And He will not fail to accomplish that for which His Father sent him -- he will bring us finally home.

    As he cried, "It is Finished!" Would anyone dare say it is not?

    Respectfully,
    AG

    ReplyDelete
  5. AG,

    Obviously you are right that we shouldn't be so self-centered and asking, "What do I do to become saved?" but surely you will acknowledge that Jesus says in several places that those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life. So that makes it sound as if the person is somehow involved. I suppose you could argue that God chooses beforehand who will believe and who won't.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous12:47 AM

    Bob,

    Yes, I suppose my response was a bit one-sided. Sorry about that. Faith is necessary for salvation. My point is that our faith is like Lazarus' coming out of the tomb - apart from God's grace we wouldn't ever 'wake up' and want to get out of the tomb. The larger point being, salvation is of God - it's for his glory, so he will see it through. Our perseverance in the faith, as with our initial faith, is all of grace. Yes, we must believe in order to be saved. But we also must thank God for our faith which saves...not ourselves.

    Have I only muddied the waters? Please forgive my ineloquence.

    AG

    ReplyDelete
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