Infused righteousness versus imputed righteousness – which one entitles us to enter heaven?
There is still on-going discussion on infused righteousness (Catholic position) and imputed righteousness (Protestant/Reformer position). Rev. Chase Sears of Reformed Baptist Church wrote a number of posts on this issue in his blog (http://chasesears.info/) – he already closed his blog. It is quite natural (and he is entitled to do so) that he tried his best to defend Protestant’s position and tuned down that of Catholic.
Imputed righteousness means we use Christ’ righteousness accepted by faith alone to cover our unrighteousness – in other words we do not contribute anything and we are declared righteous. It is like Christ covers our dirty robe (the dirt represents our sins) with his spotless robe and He needs to do it only once. Infused righteousness, on the other hand, means God through Christ helps us to become righteous. Note that the source of righteousness is God, not us, yet the outcome of justification is we become righteous. Using similar analogy of dirty robe representing our sin, in infused righteousness God through Christ helps us to clean our dirty robe. This needs our cooperation and it is an on-going process. Our dirty robe is first washed clean through (Sacrament of) Baptism. Whenever we make it dirty again through sinning, God through Christ helps us to clean it through (Sacrament of) Reconciliation. When we die with our robe still stained with venial sin then purgatory will cleanse it. Imputed righteousness concept cannot go inline with purgatory – purgatory makes what Christ did (covering our dirty robe) insufficient.
Which righteousness entitles us to enter heaven? In Matthew 25:31-46 the sheep are welcomed into heaven while the goats are sent to hell Verse 46 boldly says that the righteous will go to eternal life. Are they declared righteous or made righteous (hence are righteous)? Verses 35 and 36 tell us that they did righteous acts, i.e. they did not use Christ’ righteousness to cover their unrighteousness or to make their unrighteous things appear righteous (before God). 1 John 3:8 defines righteousness as “He who does right is righteous, as he [Christ] is righteous”. Certainly to believe in Christ is one act that leads to righteousness – but it is not the only one. The phrase “He who does right” implies our cooperation. The goats are condemned to hell because they did not do righteous acts or they are not unrighteous (1 Corinthians 6:9). They are not declared unrighteous but they are indeed unrighteous.
The reason why Protestants are against infused righteousness is they view it as work-based justification, in contradiction to their concept of faith alone justification. Catholics do not believe in working on or earning our justification either. God’s Grace always first moves us to do righteous acts, be they believe in Christ, love one another, repenting etc. This means without His Grace we can neither do them nor even have the initiative to do them. Protestants, while insist on justification by faith alone, at the end of the day have to admit that faith that justifies is not alone as what Rev. Sears, quoting from Calvin, wrote below (emphasis added):
Calvin said, “When we say a man is justified by faith alone, we do not fancy a faith devoid of charity, but we mean that faith alone is the cause of justification.” Again Calvin makes this remarkable statement “I wish the reader to understand that as often as we mention Faith alone in this question, we are not thinking of a dead faith, which worketh not by love, but holding faith to be the only cause of justification. It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.”
For more information about Justification from both Catholic and Protestant position, read my page: https://vivacatholic.wordpress.com/223/