Grace and Protestantism. These are two concepts that we think we have a firm understanding of—even converts and those of us with advanced theological educations—but we really have a hard time putting our finder on foundations of the concepts. That makes it even harder to understand the deeper issues, too.
Two resources I’ve come across recently greatly aided my appreciation for these topics.
In Grace, produced by St. Anthony Communications and Ignatius Press, I learned a new and helpful means of understanding grace. Here’s a preview:
There are so many different forms of grace, that it’s easy to get lost in the definitions and specifics. Something I heard that stuck out to me is that “grace means participating in the life of God,” which is course difficult to understand. How can we hope to participate in the “life” of God? The thought seems overwhelming!
“We are partakers in the divine nature.” – 2 Peter 1:4. Does this mean that man becomes a god? Not exactly, but that not completely far from the reality in which God wants us to be united to him.
From Adam and Eve losing Divine Grace in the beginning to Genesis, to spots in the Old Testament where God interacts with man through Grace (Abraham, Daniel, the prophets, etc.), to the coming of Jesus Christ and the forming of his Church, we see a more clear picture of the involvement of grace as a love story.
God became man, so that we might become like God. In order to do this, we need a bridge, and grace is that bridge. How do we obtain this grace—this bridge—then?
We can obtain graces through the sacraments. Beginning with baptism, and later with confirmation, reconciliation, the Eucharist, and also the vocational graces of Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and finally, the Anointing of the Sick, we are able to then participate in the life of Christ. This greatly aids us in understanding how our first pope says we are “partakers in the divine nature.”
In baptism, we are are brought into new life with Christ as grace removes our original sin. In reconciliation, we are able to receive forgiveness for our sins, once again requiring our involvement in a grace. Through the grace of the Eucharist, we partake in the paschal sacrifice. The rest are the same: Holy Matrimony provides a special grace to couples, the bearers of life participating in creation with God, and that of Holy Orders which provides a special grace to those ordained in order to more fully participate in the priesthood of Christ.
TheGrace DVD was extremely enjoyable and I’m going to take this to my pastor immediately to see about doing a short study on the subject. The more we understand grace, though it might seem like a lofty or unimportant topic, the more we can understand the relationship that God is asking us to be part of.
Next, I read a re-printed classic, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer. Though this fantastic book was originally written in the 1950s, it is still highly enjoyable and majorly informative. The one thing that wasn’t included with the original version is the impeccable foreword by Mark Brumley. The book aims to give Catholics a broader look at the history and effects of Protestantism, and Mark gives us what amounted to a synopsis of the contents of the book, unhinging some of the tougher realities of the Reformation.
In the book, which is over 300 pages, Bouyer demonstrates how the Reformation was rooted in useful goals and positive principles, and ends in explaining the negative effects of these ideas, and their eventual collapse and decay. Truly a work of scholarly thought, I appreciate this volume for it’s sincere approach to our separated brothers and sisters and the honest sense of ecumenism on every page. The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism by Louis Bouyer is a book for those studying Protestantism as a history, a theology, and too, for those who study as evangelists.