The story hit the news the other day that Mark Galli, who retired as editor of Christianity Today at the beginning of this year, has crossed the Tiber (i.e., converted from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism). This was not, of course, a split-second decision; one wonders if there is any connection with CT putting Pope Francis on the cover in 2014. It is, at least, suggestive that perhaps not everyone at CT understood why justification by faith is so very important.
That’s an awful thing to not understand. It’s sad to read stories like Galli’s, where, as far as the news report has it, his conversion seems motivated by outward structure and ritual and tradition–and for that, he will embrace a church that denies the truth of the gospel by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Those three ‘alone’s are some of the key elements of the Protestant Reformation. Ritual and liturgy, history and unity, are not nearly enough to outweigh those three ‘alone’s. Let us grant that many evangelical churches are shallow and over-politicized, that the Protestant world is absurdly fractured and painfully fractious; let us grant that we have much reformation to undertake. None of that is good reason to trade away justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
We cannot earn the gift of salvation. It is God’s gift, and we can only receive, if we believe. Christ alone can make us holy and whole.