Francis Beckwith granted an interview with Christianity Today earlier this week in which he recounts his return to the Roman Catholic Church. Beckwith notes:
“The issue of justification was key for me. The Catholic Church frames the Christian life as one in which you must exercise virtue—not because virtue saves you, but because that’s the way God’s grace gets manifested. As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn’t have a good enough incentive to do so. Now there’s a kind of theological framework, and it doesn’t say my salvation depends on me, but it says my virtue counts for something. It’s important to allow the grace of God to be exercised through your actions. The evangelical emphasis on the moral life forms my Catholic practice with an added incentive. That was liberating to me.”
It is sad to see the classical Protestant understanding of sanctification so egregiously misrepresented. Justification is a once-for-all declarative, forensic act whereby God counts us righteous in Christ because of the work of Christ received by the instrumentality of faith. He then proceeds to restore the image of God in us (i.e., sanctification, cf. Col. 3:10). Sanctification is the inevitable result of justification. When Paul faced the question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1) his response was not “No, that would be unwise”, but rather “You can’t!” His retort, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” implies the impossibility that those who are justified could continue living in sin (cf. I John 3:6).
The entire interview is a worthwhile read.
(HT: Justin Taylor)