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. With this next chapter, the Catholic apologist continues his six-part section on Salvation by countering Protestants’ arguments that believers are “justified by faith, not works.” As you’ll see, Broussard trods some of the same ground he already covered in his previous two chapters on Salvation.
Broussard opens by presenting Romans 3:28 as a verse that Protestants often use as a proof text for justification by faith alone. The apostle Paul wrote:
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
Broussard acknowledges that this verse, and others that similarly teach salvation through faith in Christ alone, present a problem for works-righteousness Catholicism. Broussard’s stakes his belief in works-justification on James 2:14-26, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (v. 24).
How can the two seemingly opposing views be reconciled? Broussard attempts to harmonize Paul and James by offering two options that are acceptable to Catholic theology:
1 – Paul was referring only to initial justification via baptism. A helpless infant obviously cannot merit the (alleged) salvific effects of baptism. However, once a person is baptized, they must then seek to remain justified by receiving the grace administered through the sacraments and by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules.
2 – In referring to the “works of the law,” Paul (allegedly) meant only the Levitical ceremonial rituals of the Mosaic Law. Christians are not required to adhere to Levitical ceremonial circumcision, dietary rules, festival participation, animal sacrifice, etc., but will be judged according to their obedience to the Ten Commandments and charity towards men.
Broussard is satisfied that Paul and James can be satisfactorily reconciled via these two Catholic explanations.
Gospel Christians defend the Biblical doctrine that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior alone, apart from any and all works. The Ten Commandments are as much a part of the Mosaic Law as the Levitical rituals. “Aha!,” Catholics exclaim as if they’ve caught the evangelical Protestant in a “Gotcha!” moment. What about James 2:24? Catholics are quite surprised when Protestants remain unfazed by James 2. We believe as the Bible states that fruit/good works, albeit imperfect, are the evidence of a genuine conversion in Christ. However, good works and charity validate our salvation in Jesus Christ, they are never the basis of our salvation.
Think of the many souls mentioned in Matthew 7:21-23 who will stand before Christ and vainly point to their works as the basis of their salvation. Think of the many who were invited to the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14 but who showed up in their own garments (self-righteousness) rather than exchanging their clothes for the wedding garment (Christ’s imputed righteousness) provided by the King.
What Catholicism proposes is the broad way (Matthew 7:13-14). The “faith” that it refers to is faith in its system of sacramental grace and merit. But it is not an exclusionary religion. It grants that works religionists of all stripes – Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists – and even atheists, may also merit Heaven if they are “good” and “follow the light they are given.” That is NOT Christianity.
Roman Catholics believe they must merit their salvation. But if that were possible, why did Jesus Christ have to die upon the cross at Calvary?
“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. – Galatians 2:21
The Law is NOT the way to salvation, rather the Law shows us that we are all sinners in desperate need of the Savior.
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20
Jesus Christ, God the Son, the ONLY Person who EVER obeyed the Law, died for us and paid the penalty for sin because we could not possibly merit our salvation. Each person must repent of sin and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. Only after trusting in Christ as Savior by faith alone can we follow Him in obedience, albeit only imperfectly.
101 Bible verses that teach salvation is NOT by works
Why is faith without works dead?
Next up: We Know That We Have Eternal Life