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Rome is Rome is Rome…on Merit, Grace and Salvation

April 20th, 2007
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I just popped over to the Vatican’s web site and noticed that nearly two years ago the Roman Church issues a "compendium" to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The compendium is a condensed version of the much, much larger Catechism proper. I never noticed it before. I went to see how they summarize Justification and was particularly struck by how Rome has not changed a bit, when it comes down to it, that man does, and must, merit for himself grace in order to be saved. Oh, sure, it is couched in gentler terminology, etc. but Rome is Rome is Rome is Rome. I’m no sure how best to put this, but…anyone who actually believes that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was any sort of compromise or change on Rome’s part is simply out of touch with reality. All the same Roman definitions and understandings are fully intact! Where is the "great breakthrough"?

426. What is merit?




In general merit refers to the right to recompense for a good deed. With regard
to God, we of ourselves are not able to merit anything, having received
everything freely from him. However, God gives us the possibility of acquiring
merit through union with the love of Christ, who is the source of our merits
before God. The merits for good works, therefore must be attributed in the first
place to the grace of God and then to the free will of man.


427. What are the goods that we can merit?




Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others the graces
needed for our sanctification and for the attainment of eternal life
. Even
temporal goods, suitable for us, can be merited in accordance with the plan of
God. No one, however, can merit the initial grace which is at the origin
of conversion and justification.

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Categories: Roman Catholicism
  1. Chi Chi
    April 20th, 2007 at 13:45 | #1

    Same old, salvation by grace through faith and works, which is still not the same as, salvation by grace through faith that works, the latter of which is, of course, biblical.

  2. jmelms
    April 21st, 2007 at 16:37 | #2

    The latest release form the Vatican was on the retraction of Limbo — but the theology of that is also warped. They again try to say for God what God has not said in His Word.
    See: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/news/content/shared-gen/ap/Europe/Vatican_Limbo.html

  3. Bryce Wandrey
    April 23rd, 2007 at 09:48 | #3

    It may simply be helpful, and fair, to be sure to couch the Roman Catholic treatment of merit in what they say about Justification and Grace (especially, since these teachings on Merit are consequent to what they teach on Justification and Grace).
    [McCain: Pastor Wandrey, as I'm sure you would agree, Rome's statements on justification assert some true things. But what Rome gives with the one hand, it takes away with the other when it comes to explaining merit and precisely how we receive justifying grace and what that grace is. Then, like I said, it is clear that it is simply the "same old, same old" and we are right back to the debates of the 16th century. What is often not understood is that the chief argument we have with Rome is not about a definition of "grace" or even necessarily the specific definition of "justification" but in how and by what means these are given to man, and what man's role is in receiving them from God. The argument has never been over "grace" or "faith" or but on the "alone" that Lutheranism, on the basis of the Bible, insists must come with those words. Hence, it is justification by grace ALONE, through faith ALONE, on account of Christ ALONE, apart from any merit or worthiness, of ANY KIND, in human beings.]

  4. Mark in Spokane
    April 23rd, 2007 at 14:44 | #4

    As a Catholic who is very sympathetic to confessional Lutheran theology, I would note in defense of the Compendium’s formulation of the question of merit that this strain in Christian teaching isn’t simply some kind of Tridentine invention, but stretches well back to the patristic era (St. Augustine’s Treatise on Faith & Works comes to mind).

  5. Christine
    April 24th, 2007 at 09:52 | #5

    The Joint Declaration on Justification can never attain harmony with orthodox Lutheran theology. My ten year stint in the Catholic Church was a real eye opener in that regard.
    As long as the Mass is viewed as a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary for the sins of the living and the dead the solas of Lutheran soteriology will never make sense to Rome.
    The completed work of Calvary, the fruits of which are received in Holy Communion for the Lutheran, leaves no room for meritorious works.
    Indulgences remain, as does the concept of purgatory and “making satisfaction for one’s sins” by penance (one of Jerome’s greatest blunders in mistranslating “repentance.”)
    Very few lay Catholics are capable of internalizing the complex teachings of Rome concerning the necessity of good works “in union with Christ.” At the popular level it too often translates to “the most important thing is to be a good person.”

  6. April 27th, 2007 at 13:25 | #6

    Mark in Spokane, I would like to remind you of a famous saying by St Cyprian: “Tradition without truth is merely ancient error.”

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