Today is Reformation Sunday, but my church did not mention it. To be honest, I don’t care. I think that the debate between Protestants and Catholics over justification is primarily about semantics. There are Protestants who like to run their mouths about how their view gives people more peace, since the Catholic conception of justification puts good works into the picture and thus makes people wonder if they are truly saved. But, quite frankly, I think that the Protestant gospels put good works into the equation, too, except for those that are completely antinomian. When Protestants say that we know that we’re saved by looking at our spiritual fruit, or that truly saved people perform good works, or that we’re not saved by good works, but we’re also not saved without them, then they are creating an atmosphere of insecurity. The effect that these messages had on me was that I wondered if my good works were enough for me to be in the “saved” category. I started to experience more happiness when I stopped worrying about the whole issue.
I do admire Martin Luther, though. I can identify with his hatred of God when he was relying on his works for salvation, and also the peace that he found when he began focusing on God’s grace. His sermons and other works have comforted me over the years. And, in a sense, I can also understand his propensity to prioritize some Scriptures over others, as when he called the Epistle of James an “epistle of straw.” At least he did not try to force James into a Pauline/Lutheran sort of paradigm, as many evangelicals do with James and other Scriptures. Rather, Luther was honest about what he thought the text was saying, and he went with the more gracious passages of the Bible. I can identify some with that, even though I also understand the perspective of friends (Christian and non-Christian) who view that approach as rather arbitrary.