Grace in Christianity

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In Western Christian theology, grace is "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not necessarily because of anything we have done to earn it". It is not a created substance of any kind. [1] "Grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." [2] It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to people "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" [3] – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God. [4]

Christian theology is the theology of Christian belief and practice. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as on Christian tradition. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument. Theologians may undertake the study of Christian theology for a variety of reasons, such as in order to:

Mercy broad term that refers to benevolence, forgiveness, and kindness

Mercy is benevolence, forgiveness, and kindness in a variety of ethical, religious, social, and legal contexts.

God in Christianity is the eternal being who created and preserves all things. Christians believe God to be both transcendent and immanent. Christian teachings of the immanence and involvement of God and his love for humanity exclude the belief that God is of the same substance as the created universe but accept that God's divine nature was hypostatically united to human nature in the person of Jesus Christ, in an event known as the Incarnation.

Contents

It is an attribute of God that is most manifest in the salvation of sinners. Christian orthodoxy holds that the initiative in the relationship of grace between God and an individual is always on the side of God.

Attributes of God in Christianity

The attributes of God are specific characteristics of God discussed in Christian theology, which are viewed differently by different Christian traditions.

Salvation is being saved or protected from harm or being saved or delivered from a dire situation. In religion, salvation is the saving of the soul from sin and its consequences.

In a religious context, sin is an act of transgression against divine law. In Islamic ethics, Muslims see sin as anything that goes against the commands of Allah (God). Judaism regards the violation of any of the 613 commandments as a sin. In Jainism, sin refers to anything that harms the possibility of the jiva (being) to attain moksha.

The question of the means of grace has been called "the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, modern [theological] liberalism from [theological] conservatism." [5] The Catholic Church holds that it is because of the action of Christ and the Holy Spirit in transforming into the divine life what is subjected to God's power that "the sacraments confer the grace they signify": "the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through [each sacrament], independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them." [6] [7] the Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) are seen as a means of partaking of divine grace because God works through his Church. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants agree that faith is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8; "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Protestants almost universally believe that grace is given by God based on the faith of the believer. Lutherans hold that the means of grace are "the gospel in Word and sacraments.” [8] [9] That the sacraments are means of grace is also the teaching of John Wesley, [10] who described the Eucharist as "the grand channel whereby the grace of his Spirit was conveyed to the souls of all the children of God". [11] Calvinists emphasize "the utter helplessness of people apart from grace." But God reaches out with "first grace" or "prevenient grace". The Calvinist doctrine known as irresistible grace states that, since all persons are by nature spiritually dead, no one desires to accept this grace until God spiritually enlivens them by means of regeneration. God regenerates only individuals whom he has predestined to salvation. Arminians understand the grace of God as cooperating with one's free will in order to bring an individual to salvation. According to Evangelical theologian Charles C. Ryrie, modern liberal theology "gives an exaggerated place to the abilities of people to decide their own fate and to effect their own salvation entirely apart from God's grace." He writes that theological conservatives maintain God's grace is necessary for salvation. [5]

Protestantism Division within Christianity, originating with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church

Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than also by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

Calvinism Protestant branch of Christianity

Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians.

Arminianism Based on theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius and his historic supporters

Arminianism is a branch of Protestantism based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants. His teachings held to the five solae of the Reformation, but they were distinct from particular teachings of Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and other Protestant Reformers. Jacobus Arminius was a student of Theodore Beza at the Theological University of Geneva. Arminianism is known to some as a soteriological diversification of Calvinism; to others, Arminianism is a reclamation of early Church theological consensus.

Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible

"Grace" is the English translation of the Greek χάρις (charis) meaning "that which brings delight, joy, happiness, or good fortune." [12]

Old Testament

The Septuagint translates as χάρις the Hebrew word חֵ֖ן (ẖen) as found in Genesis 6:8 to describe why God saved Noah from the flood. [12] The Old Testament use of the word includes the concept that those showing favor do gracious deeds, or acts of grace, such as being kind to the poor and showing generosity. [12] Descriptions of God's graciousness abound in the Torah/Pentateuch, for example in Deuteronomy 7:8, Numbers 6:24–27. In the Psalms examples of God's grace include teaching the Law (Psalm 119:29) and answering prayers (Psalm 27:7). [12] Another example of God's grace appears in Psalm 85 , a prayer for restoration, forgiveness, and the grace and mercy of God to bring about new life following the Exile.

Septuagint Greek translation of Hebrew scriptures

The Septuagint is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. It is estimated that the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE and the remaining texts were translated in the 2nd century BCE. The Septuagint was the Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament and was in wide use by the time of Jesus and Paul of Tarsus because most Jews could no longer read Hebrew. For this reason it is quoted more often than the Hebrew Old Testament in the New Testament, particularly in the Pauline epistles, by the Apostolic Fathers, and later by the Greek Church Fathers.

Biblical Hebrew stage of the Hebrew language written and spoken during the composition of the Bible

Biblical Hebrew, also called classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of Hebrew, a Canaanite Semitic language spoken by the Israelites in the area known as Israel, roughly west of the Jordan River and east of the Mediterranean Sea. The term "Hebrew" was not used for the language in the Bible, which was referred to as שפת כנען or יהודית, but the name was used in Greek and Mishnaic Hebrew texts.

Torah First five books of the Hebrew Bible

Torah has a range of meanings. It can most specifically mean the first five books (Pentateuch) of the 24 books of the Tanakh, and it is usually printed with the rabbinic commentaries. It can mean the continued narrative from the Book of Genesis to the end of the Tanakh (Chronicles), and it can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching, culture and practice, whether derived from biblical texts or later rabbinic writings. Common to all these meanings, Torah consists of the origin of Jewish peoplehood: their call into being by God, their trials and tribulations, and their covenant with their God, which involves following a way of life embodied in a set of moral and religious obligations and civil laws.

Roman Catholicism

In the definition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life". [13] Grace is a participation in the life of God, which is poured unearned into human beings, whom it heals of sin and sanctifies. [14] The means by which God grants his grace are many. [15] They include the entirety of revealed truth, the sacraments and the hierarchical ministry. [15] [16] Among the principal means of grace are the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), prayers and good works. [17] [18] The sacramentals also are means of grace. [19] The sacraments themselves, not the persons who administer or those who receive them, are "the means of grace", [20] although lack of the required dispositions on the part of the recipient will block the effectiveness of the sacrament. [21]

<i>Catechism of the Catholic Church</i> book by Congregatie voor de Geloofsleer

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a catechism promulgated for the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in 1992. It sums up, in book form, the beliefs of the Catholic faithful.

Sacrament sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance

A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. The Church of England prayer book describes a sacrament as 'an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace'. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a means by which God enacts his grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.

The means of grace in Christian theology are those things through which God gives grace. Just what this grace entails is interpreted in various ways: generally speaking, some see it as God blessing humankind so as to sustain and empower the Christian life; others see it as forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The Catholic Church holds that "by grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works." [22] [23] Both the Council of Orange (529) and the Council of Trent affirmed that we are "justified gratuitously, because none of the things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification". [24]

The Council of Trent declared that the free will of man, moved and excited by God, can by its consent co-operate with God, Who excites and invites its action; and that it can thereby dispose and prepare itself to obtain the grace of justification. The will can resist grace if it chooses. It is not like a lifeless thing, which remains purely passive. Weakened and diminished by Adam's fall, free will is yet not destroyed in the race (Sess. VI, cap. i and v). [25]

The joint declaration between Catholics and Lutherans on the doctrine of justification affirms:

We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation. Justification takes place solely by God's grace. When Catholics say that persons "cooperate" in preparing for and accepting justification by consenting to God's justifying action, they see such personal consent as itself an effect of grace, not as an action arising from innate human abilities. [26]

Sanctifying and actual grace

According to a commonly accepted categorization, made by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae , grace can be given either to make the person receiving it pleasing to God (gratia gratum faciens)—so that the person is sanctified and justified—or else to help the receiver lead someone else to God (gratia gratis data). [27] [28] The former type of grace, gratia gratum faciens, in turn, can be described as sanctifying (or habitual) grace—when it refers to the divine life which, according to the Church, infuses a person's soul once he is justified; or else as actual grace—when it refers to those punctual (not habitual) helps that are directed to the production of sanctifying grace where it does not already exist, or its maintenance and increase it where it is already present. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification. [29]

The infusion of sanctifying grace, says the Church, transforms a sinner into a holy child of God, and in this way a person participates in the Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ and receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. [30] Sanctifying grace remains permanently in the soul as long as one does not reject one's adopted sonship by committing a mortal sin, which severs one's friendship with God. Less serious sins, venial sin, although they "allow charity to subsist", they offend and wound it." [31] However, God is infinitely merciful, and sanctifying grace can always be restored to the penitent heart, normatively in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Sacrament of Penance). [32]

Theological debate concerning the nature and exact role of actual grace has opposed Catholicism to Calvinism and occurred within Catholicism itself. Augustinism and Thomism asserted that efficacious grace (actual grace that produces its intended effect without fail) does not contradict human free will. They claimed that, although man always retains the willpower to resist divine grace, efficacious grace has the effect that he does not want to resist it. The question of "irresistible grace" led to important debates, first in the 5th century, opposing Pelagianism to Augustinism (see following section), and then again in the 16th and 17th centuries, leading to the creation of the Congregatio de Auxiliis: Jesuits denied the existence of intrinsically efficacious grace, while Thomists of the Dominican Order and Augustinians asserted its existence. This debate took place in the context of the Counter-Reformation, and was revived during the formulary controversy between Jansenists and Jesuits.

Augustine versus Pelagius

In the fifth century, a debate that affected the understanding of grace in Western Christianity, and that was to have long reaching effects on subsequent developments in the doctrine, took place between Pelagius and St Augustine of Hippo.

Pelagius, an ascetic who is said to have come from Britain, was concerned about the retention of man's moral accountability in the face of God's omnipotence. He strongly affirmed that men had free will and were able to choose good as well as evil. Pelagius denied that original sin had extinguished God's grace in Adam's heirs, and that consequently mankind had the power to do good, to convert themselves from sin by their own power, and the ability to work out their own salvation. Religion's purpose is to teach us virtue, from which we can expect reward from God. By great efforts, it is possible for those in the flesh to achieve moral perfection.

Pelagius's seemingly optimistic creed in fact burdens weak mortals with a burden too great to bear; or at least this was part of the response of St Augustine. More importantly, it does not clearly explain why Jesus Christ had to die for anyone's sins; if men can redeem themselves by their own efforts, atonement by Jesus on the Cross was at best a vague sort of moral example. The taint of original sin did extinguish God's grace in men's souls; no matter how righteously they conducted themselves, their virtues could never make them worthy of the infinite holiness of God. Men are massa peccati, a mass of sin; they can no more endow themselves with grace than an empty glass can fill itself. While we may have "free will" (liberum arbitrium) in the sense that we can choose our course of conduct, we nevertheless lack true freedom (libertas) to avoid sin, for sin is inherent in each choice we make. It is only by God's sovereign choice to extend his grace to us that salvation is possible.

Pelagianism was repudiated by the Council of Carthage (418), largely at Augustine's insistence. The Eastern Orthodox Church, as expressed in the teachings of John Cassian, holds that though grace is required for men to save themselves at the beginning; there is no such thing as total depravity, but there remains a moral or noetic ability within men that is unaffected by original sin, and that men must work together (synergism) with divine grace to be saved. This position is called Semi-Pelagianism by many Reformed Protestants. A similar teaching is Arminianism, but Arminians believe in total depravity.

Catholic versus Protestant

In 1547, the Council of Trent, which sought to address and condemn Protestant objections, aimed to purge the Roman Catholic Church of controversial movements and establish an orthodox Roman Catholic teaching on grace and justification, as distinguished from the Protestant teachings on those concepts. It taught that justification and sanctification are elements of the same process. [33] The grace of justification is bestowed through the merit of Christ's passion, [34] without any merits on the part of the person justified, who is enabled to cooperate only through the grace of God [35] The grace of justification may be lost through mortal sin, but can also be restored by the sacrament of Penance. [36] The sacraments are, together with revealed truth, the principal means of the grace, a treasury of grace, that Christ has merited by his life and death and has given to the Church. [16] This does not mean that other groups of Christians have no treasury of grace at their disposal, [37] for, as the Second Vatican Council declared, "many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of (the Catholic Church's) visible structure". [38]

Jansenists versus Jesuits

At about the same time that Calvinists and Arminians were debating the meaning of grace in Protestantism, in Catholicism a similar debate was taking place between the Jansenists and the Jesuits. Cornelius Jansen's 1640 work Augustinus sought to refocus Catholic theology on the themes of original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination, as he found them in the works of St Augustine. The Jansenists, like the Puritans, believed themselves to be members of a gathered church called out of worldly society, and banded together in institutions like the Port-Royal convents seeking to lead lives of greater spiritual intensity. Blaise Pascal attacked what he called moral laxity in the casuistry of the Jesuits. Jansenist theology remained a minority party within Catholicism, and during the second half of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was condemned as a heresy for its similarities to Calvinism, though its style remained influential in ascetic circles.

Grace and merit

The Council of Trent declared that "none of those things which precede justification — whether faith or works — merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle (Paul) says, grace is no more grace." [39]

It also declared: "Life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits. For this is that crown of justice which the Apostle declared was, after his fight and course, laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming. For, whereas Jesus Christ himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified, — as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches, — and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God, — we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace." [40]

Citing the Council of Trent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator. The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit. ... The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. the saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace." [41]

Eastern Christianity

In the Orthodox Church, grace is identified with the uncreated Energies of God. Among Eastern Christians generally, grace is considered to be the partaking of the Divine Nature described in 2 Peter 1:4, [42] however many Eastern Catholic, Assyrian and Oriental Orthodox Christians do not explicitly define grace as the uncreated Energies of God in the same manner as Byzantine Christians. The Holy Mysteries (Latin, "sacraments") are seen as a means of partaking of divine grace because God works through his Church, not just because specific legalistic rules are followed; and grace is the working of God himself, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity. [43] [44] There is no distinction made between mortal and venial sins, no doctrine of Purgatory (although there is a strong tradition that upholds "purification after death" and prayers offered for the dead), and no Treasury of Merit whereby merit may be transferred from one person to another. Instead, the Eastern Church has emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's life and has maintained ascetic disciplines such as fasting and prayer (the minimum fast obligatory on Orthodox faithful is two days weekly and before receiving Communion), [45] not as a way to make satisfaction for past sins or to build up merit, but as a means of spiritual discipline to help reduce one's susceptibility to temptation in the future to exercise self-control, and to avoid being enslaved to one's passions and desires.

Orthodox theologians reject Augustine's formulation of original sin and actively oppose the content and implications of John Calvin's conceptions of total depravity and irresistible grace, characteristic of Reformed Protestantism, as well as the Thomistic and scholastic theology which would become official Roman Catholic pedagogy. Eastern Christians typically view scholasticism and similarly discursive, systematic theologies as rationalistic corruptions of the theology of the Cappadocian and early Desert Fathers that led the Western Church astray into heresy. [45] Orthodoxy teaches that it is possible and necessary for the human will to cooperate with divine grace for the individual to be saved, or healed from the disease of sin. This cooperation is called synergism (see also Semipelagianism and monergism), so that humans may become deified in conformity to the divine likeness—a process called theosis—by merging with the uncreated Energies of God (revealed to the senses as the Tabor Light of transfiguration), notably through a method of prayer called hesychasm. [43] [46]

Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation reacted against the concepts of grace and merit as they were understood in late medieval Catholic theology.

Luther and Lutheran theology

Martin Luther's posting of his ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenberg in 1517 was a direct consequence of the perfunctory sacramentalism and treasury doctrines of the medieval church. The act was precipitated by the arrival of Johann Tetzel, authorized by the Vatican to sell indulgences.

The effectiveness of these indulgences was predicated on the doctrine of the treasury of grace proclaimed by Pope Clement VI. The theory was that merit earned by acts of piety could augment the believer's store of sanctifying grace. Gifts to the Church were acts of piety. The Church, moreover, had a treasury full of grace above and beyond what was needed to get its faithful into heaven. The Church was willing to part with some of its surplus in exchange for earthly gold. Martin Luther's anger against this practice, which seemed to him to involve the purchase of salvation, began a swing of the pendulum back towards the Pauline vision of grace, as opposed to James's.

Luther taught that men were helpless and without a plea before God's justice, and their acts of piety were utterly inadequate before his infinite holiness. Were God only just, and not merciful, everyone would go to hell, because everyone, even the best of us, deserves to go to hell. Our inability to achieve salvation by our own effort suggests that even our best intention is somehow tainted by our sinful nature. This doctrine is sometimes called total depravity, a term derived from Calvinism and its relatives.

It is by faith alone ( sola fide ) and by grace alone ( sola gratia ) that men are saved. Good works are something the believers should undertake out of gratitude towards their Savior; but they are not necessary for salvation and cannot earn anyone salvation; there is no room for the notion of "merit" in Luther's doctrine of redemption. (There may, however, be degrees of reward for the redeemed in heaven.) Only the unearned, unmerited grace of God can save anyone. No one can have a claim of entitlement to God's grace, and it is only by his generosity that salvation is even possible.

As opposed to the treasury of grace from which believers can make withdrawals, in Lutheranism salvation becomes a declaration of spiritual bankruptcy, in which penitents acknowledge the inadequacy of their own resources and trust only in God to save them. Accepting Augustine's concern for legal justification as the base metaphor for salvation, the believers are not so much made righteous in Lutheranism as they are considered covered by Christ's righteousness. Acknowledging that they have no power to make themselves righteous, the penalty for their sins is discharged because Jesus has already paid for it with his blood. His righteousness is credited to those who believe in and thus belong to him.

Calvin and Reformed theology

Calvin and Luther believed free will does not co-operate with God's grace which, according to them, cannot be rejected (see monergism). The Lutheran Augsburg Confession says of baptism, "Lutherans teach that it is necessary to salvation and that by baptism the grace of God is offered and that children are to be baptized, who by baptism, being offered to God, are received into God's favor." [47] The French reformer John Calvin expanded and further developed these Augustinian themes in his systematic Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536.

The logical structure of Calvinism is often expressed as an acronym. These five categories do not comprise Calvinism in its entirety. They simply encapsulate its central, definitive doctrines. [48]

The notion that God has foreordained who will be saved is generally called predestination. The concept of predestination peculiar to Calvinism, "double-predestination", (in conjunction with limited atonement) is the most controversial expression of the doctrine. According to Reformed theology, the "good news" of the gospel of Christ is that God has freely granted the gift of salvation to those the Holy Spirit causes to believe; what he freely grants to some (the "elect" individuals), he withholds from others (the "reprobate" individuals).

Calvin sought to provide assurance to the faithful that God would actually save them. His teaching implied what came to be known as the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, the notion that God would actually save those who were his Elect. The actual status and ultimate state of any man's soul were unknown except to God. When assurance of election was rigorously pressed as an experience to be sought, especially by the Puritans, this led to a legalism as rigid as the one Protestantism sought to reject, as men were eager to demonstrate that they were among the chosen by the conspicuous works-righteousness of their lives.

The relatively radical positions of Reformed theology provoked a strong reaction from both Roman Catholics and Lutherans.

In 1618 James Arminius departed from Calvin's theology and put forth a contrary position that sought to reaffirm man's free will and responsibility in salvation, as opposed to the immutable, hidden, eternal decrees of Calvinism. Arminius taught that God's grace was preveniently offered to all, and that all people have the real option to resist the call of the gospel. It is possible for a believer to backslide and abandon the faith, losing the salvation that believer truly once possessed. These positions came to be known as Arminianism. With respect to the Calvinist Reformed churches, they were firmly rejected by the Synod of Dort (1618–1619), and Arminian pastors were expelled from the Netherlands.

Wesley and Arminian theology

Later, John Wesley also rejected the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. His most comprehensive pronouncement on the subject was his sermon "Free Grace", preached at Bristol in 1740. In Wesley's position, the believer who repents and accepts Christ is not "making himself righteous" by an act of his own will, such as would alter his dependency on the grace of God for his salvation. Faith and repentance, rather, are the believer's trust in God that he will make them righteous. Wesley appealed to prevenient grace as a solution to the problem, stating that God makes the initial move in salvation, but human beings are free to respond or reject God's graceful initiative.

John Wesley believed that God provides three kinds of divine grace:

  1. Prevenient grace is innate from birth. "Prevenient" means "comes before." Wesley did not believe that humanity was totally "depraved." He believed everyone is born with a modicum of divine grace—just enough to enable the individual to recognize and accept God's justifying grace.
  2. Justifying grace today is what is referred to as "conversion" or being "born again." God's justifying grace brings "new life in Christ." Wesley believed that people have freedom of choice—to accept or to reject God's justifying grace. Wesley defined his term Justifying grace as "The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL."
  3. Sustaining grace. Wesley believed that, after accepting God's grace, a person is to move on in God's sustaining grace toward perfection. Wesley did not believe in the "eternal security of the believer." He believed people can make wrong (sinful) choices that will cause them to "fall from grace" or "backslide." He said it is insufficient to claim God's salvation and then stagnate, return to sinning deliberately, or not produce any evidence (fruit) of following Christ. Wesley taught that Christian believers are to participate in what Wesley called "the means of grace" and to continue to grow in the Christian life, assisted by God's sustaining grace. [49]

Wesley's opposition to Calvinism [50] was more successful than Arminius', especially in the United States where Arminianism would become the dominant school of soteriology of Evangelical Protestantism, largely because it was spread through popular preaching in a series of Great Awakenings. The churches of New England, with roots in Puritan Calvinism, tended to begin to reject their Calvinist roots, accepting Wesley's expression of Arminianism, or overthrowing their historical doctrine entirely to depart into Socinianism or liberal theology. John Wesley was never a student of the influential Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609). The latter's work was not a direct influence on Wesley. Yet, he chose the term "Arminianism" to distinguish the kind of Evangelicalism his followers were to espouse from that of their Calvinist theological opponents. Many have considered the most accurate term for Wesleyan theology to be "Evangelical Arminianism." It remains the standard teaching of Methodist churches, and the doctrine of prevenient grace remains one of Methodism's most important doctrines. [50] :p.100

The Protestant Reformation and ecclesiology

Protestantism in all three major schools of theology—Lutheran, Calvinist, and Arminian—emphasize God's initiative in the work of salvation, which is achieved by grace alone through faith alone, in either stream of thinking — although these terms are understood differently, according to the differences in systems. The Protestant teachings on grace suggest a question, however: what is the role of the Church in the work of grace? Such Reformation churches taught that salvation is not ordinarily found outside of the visible Church; but with the increasing emphasis on an experience of conversion as being necessary to salvation, Sola fide began to be taken as implying that the individual's relationship with Jesus is intensely individual; we stand alone before God. Since Protestants accept that men are saved only and decisively by their belief in Christ's atonement, they often rank preaching that message more than sacraments which apply the promises of the gospel to them as members of the Church. The sermon replaces the Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship. The church's authority comes from the message it preaches, practically to the exclusion of the sacraments. This is often reflected in the arrangement of the pulpit and altar at the front the church; as preaching becomes more important, the pulpit moves from the side to the center, while the altar for the Eucharist shrinks to the size of a small coffee table or is eliminated entirely.

Classical Calvinism teaches that the sacraments are "signs and seals of the covenant of grace" and "effectual means of salvation", and Lutheranism teaches that new life, faith, and union with Christ are granted by the Holy Spirit working through the sacraments. However, for a large portion of the Protestant world, the sacraments largely lost the importance that Luther (and to a slightly lesser degree, Calvin) attributed to them. This happened under the influence of ideas of the Anabaptists which were ideas also seen in the Donatists in North Africa in 311 A.D. (Jack Hoad, The Baptist, London, Grace Publications, 1986, page 32) and these ideas then spread to Calvinists through the Congregationalist and Baptist movements, and to Lutherans through Pietism (although much of Lutheranism recoiled against the Pietist movement after the mid-19th century).

Where the sacraments are de-emphasized, they become "ordinances", acts of worship which are required by Scripture, but whose effect is limited to the voluntary effect they have on the worshipper's soul. This belief finds expression in the Baptist and Anabaptist practice of believer's baptism, given not to infants as a mark of membership in a Christian community, but to adult believers after they have achieved the age of reason and have professed their faith. These ordinances are never considered works-righteousness. The ritual as interpreted in light of such ideas does not at all bring about salvation, nor does its performance bring about the forgiveness of sins; the forgiveness which the believer has received by faith is merely pictured, not effectively applied, by baptism; salvation and participation in Christ is memorialized ('this do in remembrance of me' in the Lord's Supper and baptism picturing a Christian's rebirth as death to sin and alive in Christ), not imparted, by the Eucharist. The Church to the Baptists becomes an assembly of true believers in Christ Jesus who gather together for worship and fellowship and remembering what Christ did for them.

Churches of Christ

The Church of Christ believes that the grace of God that saves is the plan of salvation, rather than salvation itself. This plan includes two parts, 1) the perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, 2) the gospel/New Testament/the faith.

Concerning Ephesians 2:8 which states: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God", it is noted that the word "it" is a pronoun and refers back to a noun. As the word "saved" is a verb, "it" does not refer to "saved" but to grace, giving the definition of grace as "the gift of God". Furthermore, as the book of James distinguishes between a dead faith (a faith without works) and a living faith (a faith accompanied by works of obedience), it is believed that by God's gift operates through an individuals living faith resulting in that individual being saved.

  1. Grace is contrasted with the Law of Moses (Romans 6:14; Hebrews 10:4; John 1:17) and the church of Christ believes that Paul's contrast between work and faith is as described under the Efforts to resolve the tension section, a contrast between works of the Old Covenant and obedient faith under the New Covenant.
  2. Grace saves (Eph. 2:5); justifies (Rom. 3:24; Titus 3:7).
  3. Grace can not be added to (Gal. 5:4).
  4. Grace teaches (Titus 2:11); can be preached (Eph. 3:8).
  5. Grace calls us (2 Tim. 1:9; Gal. 1:15).
  6. Grace is brought by revelation (1 Pet. 1:13).
  7. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (St. John 1:17)
  8. Grace is sufficient for us (2Cor. 12:9)

The Galatians were removed from the calling of the gospel (Gal. 1:6,7; 2 Thess. 2:14) unto another gospel (another message) which verse 7 says is not a gospel at all but a perversion.

The church of Christ believes that grace provides the following plan, which, if followed, results in salvation:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Grace is the help or strength given through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the grace of God, everyone who has lived will be resurrected—our spirits will be reunited with our bodies, never again to be separated. Through His grace, the Lord also enables those who live His gospel to repent and be forgiven.

Grace is a gift from Heavenly Father given through His Son, Jesus Christ. The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to enabling power and spiritual healing offered through the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. Everyone on earth experiences physical death. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, all will be resurrected and will live forever (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-22; 2 Nephi 9:6-13). Because of personal choices, everyone also experiences the effects of sin (see 1 John 1:8-10; Mosiah 16:4). These effects are called spiritual death. No one can return to the presence of God without divine grace. Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives (see Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:17-22; 2 Nephi 25:23; 31:20). The grace of God helps us every day. It strengthens us to do good works we could not do on our own. The Lord promised that if we humble ourselves before Him and have faith in Him, His grace will help us overcome all our personal weaknesses (see Ether 12:27). [51]

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Sola fide</i> Christian theological doctrine

Sola fide, also known as justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine commonly held to distinguish many Protestant churches from the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Total depravity Calvinist doctrine that the fall of man enslaves all to sin; needing Justification

Total depravity is a Christian theological doctrine derived from the concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin as a result of their fallen nature and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.

The five solae of the Protestant Reformation are a foundational set of principles held by theologians and clergy to be central to the doctrine of salvation as taught by the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestantism. Each sola represents a key belief in the Lutheran and Reformed traditions in contradistinction to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. These Reformers claimed that the Catholic Church, especially its head, the Pope, had usurped divine attributes or qualities for the Church and its hierarchy.

Salvation in Christianity Saving of the soul from sin and its consequences in the Christian faith

Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance, redemption is the "saving [of] human beings from death and separation from God" by Christ's death and resurrection, and the justification following this salvation. Christians partake in this redemption by baptism, repentance, and participating in Jesus' death and resurrection.

Justification (theology) Gods act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin

In Christian theology, justification is God's act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice.

In Christian theology, synergism is the position of those who hold that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human freedom. It stands opposed to monergism, a doctrine most commonly associated with the Lutheran, as well as Reformed Protestant traditions, whose soteriologies have been strongly influenced by the North African bishop and Latin Church Father Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Lutheranism, however, confesses a monergist salvation and synergist damnation. Synergism is upheld by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, and by the Methodist Churches. It is an integral part of Arminian theology.

Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.

Semipelagianism is a Christian theological and soteriological school of thought on salvation; that is, the means by which humanity and God are restored to a right relationship. Semipelagian thought stands in contrast to the earlier Pelagian teaching about salvation, which had been dismissed as heresy. Semipelagianism in its original form was developed as a compromise between Pelagianism and the teaching of Church Fathers such as Saint Augustine, who taught that people cannot come to God without the grace of God. In semipelagian thought, therefore, a distinction is made between the beginning of faith and the increase of faith. Semipelagian thought teaches that the latter half – growing in faith – is the work of God, while the beginning of faith is an act of free will, with grace supervening only later. It too was labeled heresy by the Western Church at the Second Council of Orange in 529.

Prevenient grace is a Christian theological concept rooted in Arminian theology, though it appeared earlier in Catholic theology. It is divine grace that precedes human decision. In other words, God will start showing love to that individual at a certain point in his lifetime.

Assurance is a Protestant Christian doctrine that states that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit allows the justified disciple to know that he or she is saved. Based on the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, assurance was historically a very important doctrine in Lutheranism and Calvinism, and remains a distinguishing doctrine of Methodism.

Imputed righteousness

Imputed righteousness is a concept in Christian theology proposing that the "righteousness of Christ ... is imputed to [believers] — that is, treated as if it were theirs through faith." It is on the basis of this "alien" righteousness that God accepts humans. This acceptance is also referred to as justification. Thus, this doctrine is practically synonymous with justification by faith.

History of the Calvinist–Arminian debate

The history of the Calvinist–Arminian debate begins in early 17th century in the Netherlands with a Christian theological dispute between the followers of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius, and continues today among some Protestants, particularly evangelicals. The debate centers around soteriology, or the study of salvation, and includes disputes about total depravity, predestination, and atonement. While the debate was given its Calvinist–Arminian form in the 17th century, issues central to the debate have been discussed in Christianity in some form since Augustine of Hippo's disputes with the Pelagians in the 5th century.

Theology of Martin Luther

The theology of Martin Luther was instrumental in influencing the Protestant Reformation, specifically topics dealing with Justification by Faith, the relationship between the Law and the Gospel, and various other theological ideas. Although Luther never wrote a "systematic theology" or a "summa" in the style of St. Thomas Aquinas, many of his ideas were systematized in the Lutheran Confessions.

In Christian theology, good works, or simply works, are a person's (exterior) actions or deeds, in contrast to inner qualities such as grace or faith. In Judaism, a good work is also known in Hebrew as a mitzvah, and refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty. As such, the term mitzvah has also come to express an individual act of human kindness in keeping with the law. The expression includes a sense of heartfelt sentiment beyond mere legal duty, as "you shall love your neighbor as yourself". Islam holds that salvation is a combination of the grace of Allah and the works performed by the individual. On the Day of Judgment, if an individual's bad deeds are outweighed by their good works, he or she will be forgiven of all sin and then enter into Jannah (Paradise).

Wesleyan theology Protestant Christian denomination

Wesleyan theology, otherwise known as Wesleyan–Arminian theology, or Methodist theology, is a theological tradition in Protestant Christianity that emphasizes the "methods" of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformers John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley. More broadly, it refers to the theological system inferred from the various sermons, theological treatises, letters, journals, diaries, hymns, and other spiritual writings of the Wesleys and their contemporary coadjutors such as John William Fletcher.

Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin.

Sola gratia is one of the Five solae propounded to summarise the Lutheran and Reformed leaders' basic beliefs during the Protestant Reformation. These Lutheran and Reformed leaders believed that this emphasis was in contradistinction to the teaching of the Catholic Church, though it had explicitly affirmed the doctrine of sola gratia in the year 529 at the Council of Orange, which condemned the Pelagian heresy. As a response to this misunderstanding, Catholic doctrine was further clarified in the Council of Trent. This Council explained that salvation is made possible only by grace, and that the faith and works of men are secondary means that have their origins in and are sustained by grace.

Criticism of Protestantism covers critiques and questions raised about Protestantism, the Christian tradition which arose out of the Reformation. While critics praise Protestantism's Christ-centered and Bible-centered faith, Protestantism is faced with criticism mainly from the Catholic Church and some Orthodox Churches, although Protestant denominations have also engaged in self-critique and criticized one another.

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Further reading

Orthodox

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Protestant