Roman Catholics and Evangelicals


Last updated Thu Jan 19 18:48:19 EST 2012

This brief outline cross references TULIP with the Four Spiritual Laws.

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

In what way is God good? Why should we expect His plan to be wonderful?

Calvin: Whatever God does is "good" by definition. Who are we to question the Almighty? Will the thing formed say to Him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" [Rom 9:20]
Others: God is objectively good. However, God is sovereign, and is Himself the author of the standard of goodness.

We must all affirm both the Sovereignty of God and the Goodness of God. "God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man." [James 1:13]

Does God have a wonderful plan for everyone?

Calvin: Only for the elect. This is called Unconditional Election.
Others: Yes. God elects those he fore-knows: Conditional Election.

We must all affirm the doctrine of Election. [Rom 9:11-14]

Our Desperate Situation: Sin Separates us from God.

Without Christ, we are dead in trespasses and sins, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. Without Christ, we conduct ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and are by nature children of wrath, just as the others. [Eph 2:1-3] We are without hope and without God in the world, and our destiny is eternal separation from God.

Total Depravity vs. Original Sin

Reformers: Original sin has so completely destroyed our likeness to God and our moral faculties in the natural order, that our will has lost its freedom regarding works morally good or bad, and we are consequently condemned to commit sin in every action. "The plowing of the wicked is sin." [Prov 21:4] Even what we consider good works are nothing but sin. This is called Total Depravity.

The Reformers are defining sin as "falling short of the glory of God".

Trent: Original Sin has weakened and deflected, but not entirely destroyed or extinguished the freedom of the human will.

Here sin is thought of as deliberate rebellion against God. We must all affirm both the Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man.

Update: Total Depravity was originally coined in response to the idea of Thomas Acquinas that almost all of human nature was touched by Original Sin, excepting Reason. Calvin said that no, the totallity of our nature, including Reason, was corrupted. He did not mean that every part of our nature was totally corrupted (which is how people understand the term today).

Christ Died for our Sins.

How does this help?

The Church in earliest times taught that the Atonement ransomed us from the devil, as Aslan ransoms Edmund from the White Witch. Anselm and later the Reformers taught that the Atonement satisfies the justice of God in our place - the Penal Substitution theory. Modern theories include the Moral Example theory - Jesus showed us how to live, the Moral Government theory - God had to demonstrate His justice, and the Reconciliation theory - God had to show us that He still really loved us after our Sin.

Who did Christ die for?

Calvin: Only the Elect. This is called Limited Atonement.
Others: All men, Universal Atonement.

How do I get in on God's Salvation?

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Eph 2:4,5

All agree that God takes the initiative. Calvin and Luther say our will is in bondage before we are made alive. Rome agrees, but says that there is a mystical union between God's initiative and the cooperation of our will - Grace can be resisted and ultimately rejected.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, Eph 2:8

We are all still in agreement here.

not of works, lest anyone should boast. Eph 2:9

Here there is a disagreement over what is meant by works. Rome says this is talking about works of true merit, of which we have none. The Reformers say this is talking about any kind of works at all.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

All in agreement again. Essentially, the Reformers say we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ, for works in Christ. Rome says we are saved by grace, through faith in Christ and works in Christ.

The Council of Trent clearly states that we merit eternal life through our good works. Protestants, on the other hand, insist that our good works merit eternal reward, but that our eternal life is merited solely by the atonement of Christ on the cross. In both cases, our works have only secondary, not intrinsic merit. Only works prompted by Grace are pleasing to God, and only the work of Christ has intrinsic or true merit.

But what do I need to do?

Reformers: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. [Acts 16:31]
Rome: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. (But he that believeth not shall be damned.) [Mark 16:16]
Compare: If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. [Rom 10:9]

Note that for all parties, "belief" includes repentance - which implies an intention to obey God from now on.

I've been born again (or regenerated). Why do I still sin?

Reformed: You are a new sanctified creature, "yet imperfect in this life: there abideth still some remnats of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.
"Through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome: and so the saints grow in grace, prefecting holiness.
"After death, the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, ... and await the full redemption of their bodies." - Westminster Confession
Luther: You are simultaneously legally righteous, but practically still a sinner. You must daily bring the flesh under subjection to reduce actual sin and increase holiness. After death, any remaining actual sin is purged.
Rome: You are a new sinless creature with a problem. The problem is concupiscence - temptation to do evil. You must daily bring the flesh under subjection to rid it of this problem - finishing up in Purgatory if needed - before you can enter heaven.

Can I lose my salvation (or justification)?

Rome: Mortal sin destroys your new spiritual life, and you must be re-justified to gain new life again through Penance.
Some Reformers: No.
Other Reformers: Yes, by grave deliberate and persistent rebellion against God. However, there is no recovery from this state of Reprobation. Creative Commons License
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