…his journey from growing up Methodist to pastoring in the SBC to settling in an Anglican Mission in America congregation, but stopping short of joining the Roman Catholic Church.
Two issues posed an impassable barrier for joining the Roman Church. [… First, Matthews’ comments on papal authority …] A second issue was the doctrine of justification. I believe the reformers got this right. We are justified by faith alone through grace alone and the righteousness given in justification is the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to us. Rome believes we are justified by grace. However, Rome defines justification as infused righteousness. I think this conflates justification and sanctification and can lead to dire pastoral consequences — e.g., moralism and works righteousness. However, like the great Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, I do not believe one has to believe in justification by faith to be justified by faith. I am confident there are many Roman Christians who have a living faith in Christ and thus are justified. [italics added by RPD]
For most of my mature faith life, I’ve had this hunch that not all Roman Catholics are universally missing the point. I’ve never known how to articulate it very well, though. My wife is an example of such a Catholic. She grew up steeped in Rome’s traditions and whatnot, but when the topic of assurance of salvation comes up, her sole answer is faith in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. So, yeah, that’s great, but I still thought that there was something more subtle at work than a Catholic making a not-so-Catholic confession. Richard Hooker’s theory nails it. A Roman Catholic might not know it, or at least might not know to confess it, but he or she might indeed be living their life guided by a vibrant faith in Christ, and thus it matters not how well they’re observing their sacraments.