Question: If we must “cooperate” with God’s grace, how is that not salvation by works?
I subscribe to a podcast of a radio program called Catholic Answers Live where frequently the host takes questions about the Catholic faith from listeners. As a former Catholic who now believes the Roman Catholic Church gravely errs in her teachings, I have plenty of questions I would like to ask Catholics….not about what the Church teaches but about how they reconcile it with God’s Word and/or how they would defend it.
I suspect that many Catholics never really think about the rationale or validity of much of what they have been taught but just accept it without question because they choose to submit to the most fundamental of Church doctrines…her authority. But I would think that before entrusting your eternal destiny to another human being you would want pretty definitive evidence that he, or she, genuinely has that authority. So if the Catholic Church claims to speak for God so that one’s eternal destination depends on obeying her, one would be wise to be well-persuaded of the truth of that claim. And for consequences as monumental as the difference between Heaven and Hell, the evidence should be persuasive enough to lead most followers of Christ to that conclusion. And that’s simply not what we have, a point that I have argued here, here, here, and here.
If a Catholic is willing to honestly examine what he professes to ascribe to, he may find that his trust in the Church’s authority is not as well-placed as he was led to believe. Perhaps her interpretation of the evidence leading to her claims of superiority is true, but if it can be shown that much of what proceeds from those claims is false, nonsensical, or at least questionable in its veracity, shouldn’t her asserted authority be questionable as well?
So I am beginning a new series of posts I’m titling, Catholic Questions, and inviting all Catholics to answer the questions I have, prompted by listening to professional Catholic apologists defend their faith. And the first is the one I began this post with.
I will respectfully engage any commenter who has an answer for me, with a view to greater mutual understanding, not to prove myself right. I know that debates about truth in Christianity can get heated but that seldom accomplishes anything positive for either side. So I intend to facilitate an honest, open, and cordial dialogue and pray that it bears some healthy fruit.
That said now, this first question proceeds from Catholic teaching on salvation which says that though good works are required to merit Heaven, it’s not salvation by faith plus works because it is God who gives us the grace to do the good works. We just need to “cooperate” with his grace. But if the decision is ours to cooperate or not cooperate, how is that different from choosing to do good or not apart from his grace? How is that not salvation by works?