Confusion between faith and works is perennial because the two can’t be separated. Humans are irrational. We tend to do what we believe and believe in whatever we happen to do. The simplest way to make sense of it is this: God owes you nothing, ever. You can live an amazing life and accomplish great things for God but it’s never anything God couldn’t have done for Himself with nil effort. You can never go to Christ and say, “You owe me.”
Look at how the religious non-Christians live. They make sacrifices to nature gods in return for their assistance with growing crops. Muslims murder Allah’s designated enemies in return for Allah giving them a harem in paradise. You want to sack Troy, the price is your daughter Iphigenia. Everything the believers do with their deities is a transaction. It’s all economics. Timmy wants Vishnu to do him a favor and Vishnu wants a goat. Let’s deal.
That’s where my criticism of Pascal’s wager on Boxer’s blog came from. “I don’t believe God is real but on the off chance He is, I’ll put enough coins in His parking meter that my soul doesn’t get towed.” That’s economics, an exchange of goods & services. This doesn’t work with Christ because Christ is post-scarcity and doesn’t value any resource or service we have to offer. He still appreciates us doing what He likes but now we’re talking relationships instead of economics. Salvation must be given to us as a gift because we have nothing to purchase it with.
Protestants call this “Sola Fide”, the belief that salvation comes through faith alone. Let’s back up a step: what did you want to be saved from in the first place? Hell? Why would God send you to Hell? Because you are a rebel against God, realize the imminent punishment for rebellion and want to stop being a rebel. Zap, Christ takes your punishment and you now have peace with God.
Why should the Protestant bother to do good if he’s already saved? My answer is, BECAUSE he is saved. Salvation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens in a context of “Disobeying God has brought me nothing but ruin. I regret the evil I’ve done and want to stop doing it.” Why would that attitude change to “Sin is great!” at the moment of amnesty?
If God saves us from the consequences of our disobedience but we want to continue that disobedience, well, that’s disgusting and hypocritical. That’s a murderer laughing at the governor for being a soft-hearted chump and returning to his wicked deeds. There will obviously be no second pardon for him. If we truly want the disobedience to end, which is why we wanted salvation in the first place, then we’ll try to obey even after we’re safe.
God wants that attitude more than anything we might do for him. Actions are a mere indicator of what we believe and a poor one at that because it must be a “before & after” comparison. A total freak who reduces his immoralities to only free porn may well be a more accomplished, harder-working Christian than Mother Theresa.
But I must give the Catholic some credit, the Protestant church in the West today is a stinking cesspit of pointless forgiveness. This is because our leaders have given up on public morality in compliance with their 501c3 status. The public school next door could Sodomize the kids and they wouldn’t even notice. (In fact, it did and they didn’t.) They teach that everybody has this magical “forgiven” status in Christ without giving more than lip service to the idea that anybody, especially those in power, have done anything that might be deserving of Hell in the first place. We’re all just sad people who want to be happy… *puke*
It is good the Churchians’ attendance has been falling because without a Hell to be saved from, there’s no need for salvation, no need for Christ Jesus and no need for them. The doctrine of Sola Healthy? Only healthy people need a doctor, to ensure they don’t end up sick?
Salvation is like a life preserver thrown to a drowning man. It’s all he needs to survive until rescue and nobody is there to take it away from him, but if he ever pushes the life preserver away then he’s still going to drown. Whoever willingly persists in doing evil after being saved never wanted to be saved in the first place.