Inviting the Act of Faith

This post is intended to be the first in a series of posts on faith.  Two things have led me to embark on this project.  The first has to do with the problem that Sherry Weddell highlighted in her book Forming Intentional Disciples, namely that your average Catholic is unaware of the importance and necessity of making an explicit act of faith in Jesus Christ.  There is, therefore, a great pastoral need in the Catholic Church: to invite such an act of faith.

The second inspiration behind this series comes from my love of listening to certain Evangelical sermon podcasts and considering their approach to inviting this act of faith.  On the one hand, there are important theological differences that influence the way this invitation is made.  But at the same time, these Evangelical preachers have a more clearly articulated presentation of the fundamental Gospel that is often more accurate than the semi-pelagianism that infects much of Catholic preaching.  (For the curious, the main three evangelical podcasts that I listen to are from Fresh Life Church, Elevation Church, and Timothy Keller.)

THE EXPLICIT ACT OF FAITH

Some working definition of what I mean by "an explicit act of faith" is warranted at the start of this project, though this should receive greater clarification as this project continues.

To make an explicit act of faith, then, is to consciously embrace Jesus Christ and his passion, death, and resurrection as the sole grounding of one's right standing before God and the singular means of ultimate salvation.

This working definition invites the clarification of two more terms that I will be using throughout this series: justification and salvation. For my purposes, justification will refer exclusively to coming into right standing before God - to be justified means to be made just in the sight of God.  Salvation then will refer exclusively to actual entry into heaven after death.

It is important to make this distinction particularly in light of the Evangelical/Protestant use of the term "to be saved" which normally bridges both justification and salvation as defined above.

A QUESTION OF PASTORAL PRACTICE

I would like to state up front my great esteem for our Evangelical brothers and sisters.  In fact, nowhere in this series is it my intention to criticize them.  My singular focus is re-envisioning Catholic pastoral practice by entering into a sort of theological dialogue with these evangelical preachers.

To be honest, I'm a little jealous of them.  I'm jealous of the freedom they have to invite that act of faith in a crowd of thousands without qualifiers or fine print.  I'm jealous that "becoming a Christian" is so simple while "becoming Catholic" is usually presented as a complicated process.

I think it can be more simple.  I think it can be more focused and intentional.  I think we have much we can learn by engaging in a serious dialogue with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • To my Catholic readers: How has your pastoral practice been inspired, shaped, or challenged by positive Protestant/Evangelical influences? How are you inviting Catholics to make an explicit act of faith?
  • To other fellow Christians: I would love for this to become a true dialogue! Let me know your thoughts along the way - I hope to see you in the combox!

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This post is the first in a series on "Inviting the Act of Faith."  The full series can be accessed below:

  1. Part One: Inviting the Act of Faith: Introduction
  2. Part Two: Faith, the Pledge of Salvation
  3. Part Three: Once Saved, Always Saved?
  4. Part Four: Faith and Encounter
  5. Part Five: Going “All In” with God
  6. Part Six: What Does Rescue Look Like?
  7. Part Seven: A Major Lacuna in Catholic Ministry
  8. Part Eight: Practical Ways to Invite Faith