The above question was brought up in Epistles class today, and I’ve been thinking about it since. We were talking about Paul’s seeming rejection of ‘Jewish merit-based soteriology’ in favor of the more traditionally-interpreted Christian view of sola gratia, grace-based soteriology.
It seems, and has always seemed to me, to be a false dichotomy. First of all, the Bible, Jesus, etc., seem very concerned with how we behave. When Jesus sums up the law, he basically says love god and love your neighbor. The focus he comes back to again and again is that faith bears fruit or it is not faith.
In our post-Reformation context, faith has come to mean cognitivie assent, which is not only unfortunate but is very un-scriptural – odd for a movement that claimed sola scriptura as fundamental to its work. It has also, of course, functioned in the long history of Christian anti-Semitism, enabling one to characterize Judaism as a works-based religion and Christianity as a grace-based religion when both religions seem very clearly to involve both works and grace.
Now, one response might be that it is God in us that enables us to respond to God’s grace by doing good works. Sice we lack God-meters, this response comes down to semantics for me really. If you are desperate to make sure that human beings have no agency in your theology, you can certainly make this claim, but there is no reason one must accept this, either from Scripture or from experience. I mean, many the Pslams for example are all about seeking God, and its hard to picture a Biblical story of someone saying “God, thank you for seeking yourself through me.” The story of Israel and the early Church seems to be one of human beings seeking God and God seeking human beings, not only one or the other. Does God reach farther than human beings can? That’s a lot easier to say than saying that human beings cannot reach at all.
So, I don’t know if this will start some discussion, but I was curious. What do you see as wrong about merit-based soteriology, especially when it is complimentary to a grace-based soteriology?