Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist continues his six-part section on Salvation by countering Protestants’ arguments that believers are saved “not because of works.”
In opening this chapter, Broussard acknowledges that Catholicism initially seems to have a dilemma. Chapter twenty-six of the “Decree on Justification” issued by the Council of Trent in 1547 states, “Hence, to those who work well unto the end and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.” There can be NO misunderstanding regarding the interpretation of this Tridentine decree. According to Roman Catholicism, and seconded by Broussard, “eternal life will be given at (the) judgement as a reward for…good works” (p.73).
Broussard then refers to Ephesians 2:8-9, which is often used by evangelical Protestants to refute Catholicism’s works-based soteriology:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Broussard admits that this and other Bible verses/passages that proclaim salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone seem to contradict the Catholic view declared at Trent. How to solve this dilemma? Broussard offers the Catholic argument that the grace by which Catholics are saved apart from works is the sacramental grace of initial conversion, i.e., baptism, but after baptism, works are meritorious.
“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion (baptism). Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” – CCC 2010
Broussard makes a ham-fisted distinction between the “works” cited in v.9 and the “good works” cited in Ephesians 2:10 below:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
He argues that the works mentioned in v.9 are the Levitical ceremonial rituals of the Mosaic Law (e.g., circumcision, dietary restrictions, etc.) while the “good works” cited in v.10 are meritorious acts of obedience and charity. Broussard would argue that the passages below that prohibit salvation by “works” are also referring to Levitical ceremonial rituals:
Romans 3:20 – “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
Galatians 2:16 – “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
Galatians 3:11 – “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
Qualifying these verses as referring only to the Levitical ceremonial rituals is sophistry of the deadliest order. Paul encompasses ALL aspects of the Mosaic Law, whether they be the ceremonial rituals or the moral teachings (e.g., the Decalogue) in the verse below:
“For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” – Galatians 3:21
Gospel Christians get it. There is no one who is righteous (Romans 3:10). Even our supposed “good works” are tainted by our sinfulness (Isaiah 64:6). We have no plea of our own that we can stand upon. A genuine believer’s only plea is their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and His perfect righteousness that was imputed to them.
Important: It’s ironic that Broussard and other conservative Catholic apologists continue to contend for Catholicism’s salvation system of baptism and the six other sacraments in conjunction with the rigors of Catholic legalism, when modern popes and prelates since the Second Vatican Council have declared that people of all religions, and even atheists, are also able to merit salvation if they “follow the light they have been given” and are “good.”
Next up: “Justified by Faith, Not Works”