Confessions of a Converted Catholic: JustificationMarch 5, 2010
In this series, Confessions of a Converted Catholic, we are exploring some of the basic precepts of Christianity through the eyes of someone who, for the better part of my life, was raised Catholic. Our first exploration was on the topic of salvation, this time, I thought we would delve into the process of justification. Again, I would like to state this is not an attack against the Catholic church or meant to provoke hostility. My desire is for those who either grew up Catholic and are now lost or those who are still practicing Catholics with questions to have some honest conversations about the basic precepts of Christianity.
Trying to explain the doctrine of justification can be, in itself, a weighty subject and often confusing. If you are anything like me, I often do better with analogies or metaphors. With this in mind, let me use an analogy I think best describes the basic, rudimentary differences in the understanding of justification. To do this, I would like to define insurance and assurance. I believe examining the difference in these two terms will help in this discussion.
Insurance -promise of reimbursement in the case of loss; paid to people or companies so concerned about hazards that they have made prepayments.
Assurance – : the state of being assured: as a : security b : a being certain in the mind c : confidence of mind or manner : easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty.
In being in the insurance business, I often distinguish the two by thinking of insurance as something you pay into. It is protection against a what-if. Also, it is something that is owed to the insured, by the insurer. This is a key difference: it is owed to the insured because of payments they have made into the policy. For the purposes of financial provisions, a life insurance policy provides cover for a set period of time. If the worst were to happen during that time (and there are no complications), then the insurance company will be required to pay out the agreed sum to the beneficiary. The only time the policy has any real monetary value is if there is a claim made for payment as a result of an event triggering that claim, such as the death of the person covered. If the person outlives the term of the policy, then the insurance policy will cease and no payment will be made. In this case, there are a number of provisions or what-ifs involved in the payment of the insurance policy.
Life assurance is different from insurance, and will always result in a payment. This is achieved by combining an investment element along with and an insured sum. Very similar to the Biblical view of salvation, those who believe Christ to be Lord and Savior, have the security, peace of mind, guarantee, etc of salvation.
So, what is the Catholic view of justification? Well, Justification and Sanctification are seen as one. Justification is seen as being “infused” into us. Example: pumping gas. By the merits of Christ and grace obtained by obedience and adherence to the sacraments, by one’s own efforts, they can attain grace to “fill up their tank”. This is the idea that we have to do things to earn grace and then still be imperfect. True Catholics cannot believe or rest in the grace freely bought and given by Christ for those who believe. This is the most significant difference and in this case, it is very much like insurance. You have to pay into it in order to “hopefully” have enough paid in to avoid eternal disaster. In fact, this is one of the biggest aspects of Martin Luther’s challenging of the Catholic church. In reading Scripture, he, along with most, read faith alone, nothing more, nothing less. I too, struggled with the weight of this and wrote about it in my post on Salvation.
Justification is clearly defined as an instantaneous, legal act of God where he thinks our sins as forgiven, and Christ’s righteousness is bestowed on us and God counts us as righteous because of Christ. If you read this definition closely, you will see the benefactors’ actions have nothing to do with this transaction. It is clearly God’s grace and mercy at work. Other than believing in the saving power of Christ’ death and resurrection, there are no other “requirements” or “payments” we have to make to justify ourselves before God. For me, as a cradle Catholic, this was a complete and utterly transforming mind-bend.
If you have questions about this difference, I would challenge you to explore the following verses and pray for Christ to open your eyes to His definition. And you have not already, I would urge you to submit to Him and declare Him as Lord and Savior. Here are your verses:
- Luke 7:29
- Romans 4:5
- Romans 8: 33-34
- Proverbs 17:15
- Romans 8:1 No condemnation
- Romans 4:6-8 -Lawless deeds are forgiven and God doesn’t count the sin.
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About the Writer:
Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.
As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses. This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.