Do you believe in total predestination? You never did tackle the question about Mary freely saying yes to the angel Gabriel. Are you saying that if everybody decides to not follow the 10 commandments the world will be in the same shape than if everyone decided to follow the 10 commandments? How do you interpret the parable of the talents (Mt 25:14-30)?
I do think we have a lot in common about this issue. In order to illustrate this can I quote from a document called ‘Justification by Faith’ written in 1983 by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue Group in the United States:
“Our entire hope of justification and salvation rests on Christ Jesus and on the gospel whereby the Good News of God’s merciful action in Christ is made known; we do not place our ultimate trust in anything other than God’s promise and saving work in Christ.”
Also in this document the following is said:
“Catholics can speak of justification by faith or even of justification by faith alone insofar as they teach, as do Lutherans, that nothing prior to the free gift of faith merits justification and that all of God’s saving gifts come through Christ alone. Catholics stress, however, that the indwelling Holy Spirit brings about in believers not only assent and trust, but also a loving commitment that issues in good works.”
Indeed, the Bible does make mention of the need for ‘good works’:
Matthew 25:31-46 as already mentioned.
In the Letter of James we also see the following:
‘... faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead.’ (James 2:17)
‘... I by my works will show you my faith.’ (James 2:18)
Which only makes sense, since if we do live a spiritual and faithful life, we WILL go out of our way to help those in need. Hence, the two really do go hand in hand, and as Catholics, one is not placed above the other because they work in unison.
I’d like to think that we do not differ as much as it may seem.
As a matter of fact, on October 31st in Augsburg Germany, the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church drew up a document called ‘The Joint Declaration’ , of which the ‘first basic truth’ is the following:
First, justification is a free gift bestowed by the Trinitarian God and centers on the person of Christ, who became incarnate, died and rose. In being related to the person of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, we enter into a condition of righetousness. This is not something we merit, but is freely bestowed. And so ‘together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work, and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.’
Lutherans and Catholics have been able to come to an agreement on one of the most hotly debated topics that exist between the two, and because of this Declaration, I’d like to think we are closer to religious unity (or at least acceptance) than we all might think.
And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God."
I see Gabriel telling Mary what will happen, not predicated on her acceptance of the offer. (All emphasis added).
For me the difference is like this: "morning" is defined as when the sun comes up. Now, whenever the sun comes up it gets light. It gets light as a natural, inevitable result of the sun coming up. "Morning" doesn't happen because it gets light -- morning happens because the sun comes up. Our salvation doesn't happen because of our good works, instead, our works happen as a natural, inevitable result of God's grace -- we obey Him out of love and gratitude, not as a requirement for salvation.
We really don't. It's a discussion between family members, not a fight between enemies.