The Rub with Protestant Theology: Why I teach what I teach

El Greco, Christ (1585)

El Greco, Christ (1585)

I’ve been mulling for the past hour or two, thinking of my new Christian friend and how she might take that last post, and I feel I should make a quick follow-up.

Why do I gripe so much about Protestant theology? Is it because I think it’s all wrong and that believing it means one is automatically damned? Not at all. Is it because I have some innate drive to prove myself “right” and prove everyone else “wrong”? I do fear there’s sometimes a trace of that, and it’s pride: Lord, have mercy. But no, there are two main reasons.

First, I see these doctrines — especially sola fide (justification by faith alone) and sola scriptura (by Scripture alone) — as the main obstacles standing between the reunion of all Christians; the main matters dividing us. I guess there’s not really any hope of my making an irrefutable case that will convince everybody and singlehandedly bring about reconciliation, but I hope that maybe I can convince one or two, who might go and spread the message.

Saints Peter and Paul, by El Greco

Saints Peter and Paul (between 1605 and 1608), by El Greco.

Second, and even more important: Though I don’t believe that all Protestant theology is irredeemably wrong — I affirm, with the Catholic Church, that many Protestant communities retain elements of Christ’s truth and sanctification — I do believe that some Protestant doctrines are very wrong, and even dangerous.

If you believe in Jesus Christ and all that Christians have traditionally believed, and strive to live your life for Him, then I don’t think there’s any major problem. I think, through the grace of God, He works salvation in the lives of Protestants, as long as they do the things Christians are supposed to do, as the Bible teaches: repent of their sins and turn to God, confess Christ is Lord, and live their lives according to the Gospel.


But there are some teachings that have the potential to lead people into serious error. What is meant to convey love and hope can be turned to weapons of the enemy. They can give false assurance that one is “saved” and has eternal security of that salvation, no matter how they live their lives or what sins they commit — when the Bible teaches repeatedly that those who continue in sinful lifestyles are not children of God (1 John 3:6, Galatians 5:21, Romans 2:8, etc.). God is just and faithful to always forgive our sins if we repent of them and ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9) — but if we keep on living that way, we are throwing away the grace that God has freely given (1 John 3:8–9).

Likewise, the teaching that man is “totally depraved” and “hopelessly sinful” — the false idea that no one can pursue righteousness — can easily lead to apathy and complacency in sin, or despair that one can’t ever be better. “God knows I’m a sinner, and he forgives me; there’s no way I can be righteous, so I guess this is okay” — that’s the trap I fell into for so long. We are called to pursue lives of holiness (1 Peter 1:14–16, Hebrews 12:14, Ephesians 4:17-24).

And that’s why I teach what I teach: to guide others to the truth, and to spare them from the many mistakes I’ve made, and that I see so many others making, that have the potential to lead them to destruction. And I want to always teach in love. I know I’m not always good at getting that across.

6 thoughts on “The Rub with Protestant Theology: Why I teach what I teach

  1. Pingback: Luther’s Innovations « The Lonely Pilgrim

  2. I kept all the posts tagged with “sola fide” up so I could look at them later when I was more alert and compare them to all my notes from my new member class at church. I think it is also very interesting that there are so many Catholic teachers and students at the Lutheran school that I work at. I need to talk to you about that later, if I haven’t already.

    • It’s not as big a deal for Lutherans as it is for Calvinists (Presbyterians and some Baptists), since it’s Calvinists who take it to an extreme. I am not really sure how Lutherans today see it. I think Luther at the time of the Reformation may have had a point, since there were many people in the Catholic Church then stressing legalistic observances. It is faith that saves us; everybody agrees on that. The difference between sola fide and the Catholic view is not as big as some people (especially Calvinists) want to make it. It basically means that once we have faith in Christ, we are on the right track, but our work isn’t done. We have to keep following Him and do the things we’re supposed to do (things we should be doing anyway, like repenting, seeking forgiveness, being baptized, loving our neighbor). Since most Christians do those things whether they believe in sola fide or not, it doesn’t become a major problem. It’s for the people like I said below, who think because they believed in Jesus and prayed a prayer one time that they are “saved” and nothing can undo that, so they go and live however they want to, that it becomes a problem.

  3. Wow! Funny how I’ve just had this exact same conversation with a close friend.I love going through your blog. God has been so good to me. Showed me what I needed to know when I needed it. 🙂
    Thank you.

  4. I began my Christian life in a reformed Church of Christ, and later moved to a more Calvinist Evangelical belief.

    I’m now in my 60s, and find myself participating in RCIA. To say I’m terrified wouldn’t be much of an overstatement. God has chosen, in His own perfect way, to bring me to the Catholic Church at this late time in my life.

    The terror comes from the realization that my saying the sinner’s prayer wasn’t a guarantee of salvation, that I am responsible for participating in His grace.

    Yet, there is also a beautiful, amazing world I’m just beginning to see. I know I’m at last on the right path. Your blog has been so helpful for me. Thank you for answering God’s call and putting in the work required.

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