Friday, June 27, 2008

Saved by Grace? Augustinian Problems

Systems are amazing. Systems make everyone organized and make sense of complex things. There is a system that is very prevalent and historic within Christianity it is called Augustinianism, and while I think it is possibly the best system for Christianity I believe that in my short life I have seen no proof of it outside the first few principles.

St. Augustine the doctor of Grace is one of my favourite authors - he may one day be my patron - who knows? He's the man who brought you the following ideas without you probably knowing it: Original Sin, Irresistible Grace, Eternality of Hell, Damnation of Unbaptized babies, Augustinian view of good works vs. Pelagian view, and sat on the Council of Carthage which helped decide the canon of scripture (which included the Apocrypha).

He's the man who said "Grace alone conquers sin" (and the lesser known 'I would not believe Scripture unless the church told me to').

His system is as such in my limited understanding - forgive my simplicity.
1. Man is Bad and unable to do good works
2. God enables man with Grace to cooperate with him
3. Man cooperates with God and is Sanctified/Justified/Regenerated

The end.

I've come to agree with St. Augustine on #1, but here's my problem, in Calivinsm, Augustinianism, and many other isms, the same pattern is shown, where ultimately long story short, bad person becomes good person by the grace of God.

Now of course in Lutheranism the bad person can stay bad and be saved, whereas for the Catholic, change must occur. But here's the problem. No one changes. I started out as a bad person, became a Christian, did some good stuff, did lots of bad stuff, and now live a fairly self-centred life. I'm 'trying' to do better, but the whole system says that I am unable to do better, only God can give me the grace to get better, well I've been waiting to cooperate, but I don't feel this lightning bolt of grace.

Irresistible grace is an even more confusing thing. In Calvinism I would just be zapped with Irresistible Grace and then I would be like a Jesus Robot until the energy of the Grace Lightning wore off. Or if I was one of the Reprobate it would just be lightning I guess, and I would burn, thus somehow making God feel better about himself? I'm still working that one out.

In daily life I find though, just alot of bad people. I mean I love people but everyone constantly sins. Even people I respect are probably just as bad as I am if I went into their daily lives. So where are the saints? where are the people who actually changed, who actually made it through the process of baptism, justification, regeneration, sanctification etc.... I don't know any of them. I just know people are bad, and sometimes God helps them to be better, but in the end they still aren't amazing, and usually not that much better than non-believers.

So once again the system sounds great, but I don't see it working.

This is why Lutheranism appeals to me, because with Extrinsic Justification (salvation outside ourselves) Christ won the victory. His merits are applied to us, and though we are bad, God sees us as good. As Old Marty said "At the same time I am both a great sinner and a great saint". No real change occurs - which is what I see in life.

Aside from scriptural problems and historical theology problems (aka. Luther being the first one to think it up), it sounds amazing. Tolkien called Catholicism 'the tale all men wish to be true' but I call Lutheranism/The alien righteousness of Christ 'the tale all men wish to be true'. I read Calvin's stuff on being Clothed in Righteousness and it's beautiful. As I said, I can't find it in church history, or in the Church Fathers and Creeds etc, and even have difficulty explaining all those other passages like Matthew 25 and James 2, but still, it's a great story. If it is true, praise Jesus, and if it isn't then it is still the most beautiful image I could think of.

Bono once said in an interview with Bill Hybels 'I believe in Grace, because I'm counting on it (to get to Heaven)', and I must say I echo his concern. It's 2 different views of grace, but all I know is I'm a bad person and I always will be, and I hope I have Christ's grace. But if it's this substance that Calvin describes, I'm screwed because I don't get zapped and suddenly feel overwhelmed to help my fellow man. Likewise if Catholicism is right and it's distributed via the sacraments, then none of the Catholics I know have been getting the right bread/Jesus because they live worse than I do. So where is the grace? where is the life change? I don't see it anywhere. So the only thing that seems logical is to believe it is outside ourselves - as Luther posited.

1 comment:

  1. We have to talk. I am insanely busy right now, but I really need to talk to you about this stuff. You have EXTREMELY legitimate concerns and the questions you raise strike to the very heart of the gospel.

    Peace to you, brother.