Monday, June 30, 2008

Grace vs. Works

The other day, a little girl from the Mendon Mennonite Church gave me a pamphlet in Harvard Square. She was very polite, so I took it, even though I generally ignore people in Harvard Square.

I was surprised to find that the pamphlet advocated a doctrine lifted right out of the seventeenth century.
Any pre-1660 Massachusetts minister could have said Amen to this:
Grace is that characteristic of God that reaches out to undeserving man and provides what is needed to save him. It is God's enablement. Without grace, we are hopeless. Grace must be offered before faith can be effective . . .  Grace is amazing; however, God's Word also warns us that it can be frustrated and abused. On one hand, some people frustrate God's grace by reverting to works as a basis for salvation. On the other hand, others presume on God's grace as a license to live sinfully. Note in the following Scriptures that God's grace was never intended to make excuse for sinful living in Christians, but rather to enable them to live righteously to God's glory.
Two things jumped out at me: the rejection of justification by works and the calling out of Antinomianism. I'm not really up on my modern Protestant theology so I'll throw this one open to any commenters who might want to help me out: Are American Protestants still fighting these seventeenth century battles? Or are Mennonites engaged in an outdated discussion?

1 comment:

Lori Stokes said...

Oh, the battle goes on! I was visiting my parents this weekend and their pastor gave a sermon right out of John Cotton's playbook. It emphasized the need to give God total control over one's life, to let God guide one's every decision, and to follow God's will even if it is in conflict with your own. The pastor even said that you can only get to know God's will through prayer, scripture, and community with other believers. This was the 16th- and 17th-century textbook Puritan method of opening up oneself to Grace.

To top it off, this pastor stressed something I heard all my life growing up Protestant, that your good deeds are as garbage in the eyes of God and will not stand you for anything on judgment day. But you do still have to do them!