Sunday, August 12, 2012

The “Spigot Paradigm” vs the “Ephesians Paradigm”

Lately it has become fashionable not to actually argue for a position. As Bryan Cross said, in order to avoid “question-begging arguments” as we “approach the task of Catholic-Protestant reconciliation, we have to step back, in a way, from in-house arguments, and attempt to understand the disagreement as paradigmatic in nature. This requires that we attempt, insofar as possible, to compare the paradigms themselves, and seek to avoid trading arguments that presuppose one paradigm or the other”.

With that said, I have a helpful paradigm for Zrim, as he seeks to have a discussion with Andrew Presslar on the topic of “why be Roman Catholic, when I can be saved as a Protestant.

Andrew Preslar said to Zrim:

If there were a greater means of participation in that life (greater than you currently make use of), and if it were ordinarily necessary for all Christians to make use of these means, and if you found that to be not enough incentive…, then you have chosen some created thing over God, and cannot be saved, so long as you persist in that choice. Additionally, for that and any other mortal sin committed after Baptism, you do not have recourse to the sacramental means appointed for forgiveness and reconciliation, which places you and all Protestants in a very dangerous situation, re eternal salvation.

From a Protestant point of view, it may be helpful to consider two different paradigms here regarding what it means to receive grace from God. Call one the spigot paradigm, and call the other the Ephesians paradigm.

Under the spigot paradigm, the Roman Catholic Church has authority over the Sacraments, which means you can only get God’s grace when an authorized official of the Roman Catholic Church opens the spigot and lets dribs and drabs of grace out. This is evidenced in the source and summit of God’s Grace in the Holy Eucharist, (to which Andrew helpfully has pointed us). However, as James White has noted, “the effect of the Mass is limited, and … a person can draw near to the Mass over and over again” and still die in mortal sin. And yet, this ineffective “re-presentation” of supposedly the “source and summit” of Christ’s grace is enough for the less-than-totally-committed Roman Catholic to have to constantly be worrying for his or her salvation.

Under the Ephesians paradigm, God, is far more generous with his grace. “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us….

So, from Zrim’s point of view, if his goal is to receive God’s grace, he’s definitely in a better position adhering to the Ephesians paradigm than the Spigot paradigm.

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