The Insufficient Christ of Roman Catholicism

The Insufficient Christ of Roman CatholicismHow can a sinful man be reconciled to a Holy God?

The answer to this question was the hinge on which the Reformation turned. Martin Luther and the later reformers answered that question differently than did the Roman Catholic Church of their day and churches in the Protestant tradition continue to answer it differently than the Roman Catholic Church does in our day.

The Protestant answer is by faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus). In other words, Christ is sufficient. In His active and passive obedience, Christ did all the work necessary for the justification of His people. As Jonathan Edwards said “You bring nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”

There is ample scriptural evidence for this position but none more clear than Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The Roman Catholic answer, however, is that Christ is necessary and very, very helpful to be sure, but He’s not sufficient. His work must be supplemented by men for them to be reconciled to God.  In fact, the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century declared that salvation by grace through faith alone was an “anathema,” meaning those who believe that are cursed. The pronouncements of Trent remain Roman Catholic doctrine today.

This idea that Christ’s work must be supplemented was brought home to me when I read the eulogy for Justice Antonin Scalia delivered by his son, a Roman Catholic priest, who said in part:

We are here, then, as he would want, to pray for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner; to this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers. We continue to show affection for him and do good for him by praying for him: that all stain of sin be washed away, that all wounds be healed, that he be purified of all that is not Christ. That he rest in peace.

Heartfelt words but troubling words as well. Notice we are to “continue to do good” for Scalia by praying for him, praying specifically that “all stain of sin be washed away.” Friends if “all stain of sin” is not “washed away” at the moment I pass from this life into the next I have no hope. No amount of prayers can help me at that point. The writer of Hebrews tells us “…man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). There is no opportunity to get right with God after the door of death closes behind us.

Thankfully, because of the finished work of Christ, we don’t have to face the moment of death unsure if our sins have been washed away, unsure if we’ve done enough. If we’ve trusted in Christ alone they have been washed away because He’s done enough. In John 19:30, Jesus said “it is finished.” He didn’t say “My part’s done, now get to work,” He said “It is finished” – full stop.

Are you trusting in Christ alone for salvation? If not, I urge you to do so and to rest in His finished work. As Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism says that is our only comfort in life and in death.


Photo credit: jayneandd via Visual hunt / CC BY



Economics is About Managing Scarcity

Economics is About Managing ScarcityI recently read the tragic story of Laura Hiller. Laura died from Leukemia even though she had bone marrow transplant donors ready and willing to go. The reason? There were not enough hospital beds for transplant patients in Ontario where she lived. This is apparently an on-going problem in Canada.

One of the mantras of those seeking to establish a Canadian-like nationalized healthcare system in the United States is that no one should be denied a life-saving medical procedure because they are unable to pay for it. Setting aside how often that actually happens, is that worse than being denied such a procedure because you’re in the wrong place on a waiting list?

Those who think government can just supply things “free” to everyone who wants them don’t understand the concept of scarcity in economics. Scarcity says there are always more people who want a good or service than can be provided with it. Always. That remains true no matter what economic system is in play – whether capitalism or socialism. The only difference is the mechanism used to allocate resources.

In a capitalist system, the mechanism is the free market. Prices determine who gets what, when. Of course that means some people will not get some things, even important things, because they don’t have enough money to buy them. The fallacy is that when government makes things free, that problem goes away.

In a socialist system, the mechanism for allocating resources, while purported to be the government, is in reality things like time and proximity. It’s not those who have the most money who can obtain things but those who have the most time to wait in line or who live closest to the store so they can be at the front of the line when the doors open.

Think of it this way, if next week Apple raised the price of a MacBook Pro to $25,000, they would be out of reach of many people. But, here’s the rub – the same would be true if next week Apple lowered the price of a MacBook Pro to $25. Assuming their inventory is not unlimited, they would run out of computers in a matter of minutes. Again, the only difference is the people who get one in the second case are those at the front of the line rather than those who have $25,000 to spend.

Here’s the question: Is one of those situations more moral than the other? Is it better for people to be denied a good or service because they don’t have enough money or because they don’t have enough time or proximity? Either way, some people don’t get what they want.

So back to healthcare. Is it better for someone to die because they cannot afford to pay for a procedure or because they cannot get access to the procedure? Is one less dead than the other?

A better question is which of the two allocation methods allows for the most people to have access to the things they want or need and history has shown us over and over that it is capitalism and the free market that does that.


Photo credit: LendingMemo via / CC BY