I am trying to clarify the difference in my own mind between a traditional Catholic and traditional Protestant view of grace, specifically in terms of the 'works of unbelievers'. It seems hard to accurately do because many similar terms overlap, making the difference difficult to put into words. (See reverse question here Catholic view).
For example, without providing any biblical basis I can show protestants that reject 'all good' from those without grace. Jonathan Edwards, a renowned Christian thinker and past president of Princeton University said:
So long as men are in their natural state, they not only have no good thing, but it is impossible they should have, or do any good thing. (Jonathan Edwards , Original Sin ( Vol. 3) , Ed. Clyde A. Holbrook, P280)
It may seem that saying 'a man can't do good' means it could be neutral, but further reading of Edwards makes it clear he does not think so. By 'no good' he actually implies sin, or actions springing from a sinful nature.
I have encountered many other protestant sources that equate 'not good' to 'sin and evil' with no real middle ground causing criticism from Catholic traditions. For example, Luther say's even works from grace (let alone apart from grace) has not just 'human weakness' and 'defect' in them but 'sin in them'. Therefore, according to Luther even all the saints works are sins in the sense that there is some evil deserving of eternal wrath in them. (Apparently, he received much criticism from the papacy over his view on this.) [Brackets mine.]
Now, if there is such a thing as a good work without sin... God forbid! ... Why then do they [papists] condemn my article...But if they [papists] say here, as they always do, “Yes, but this impurity is not sin but rather an imperfection, or weakness, or defect,” my reply is that it is indeed a defect and a weakness, but if that is not sin I am prepared to say that murder and adultery are not sins either but only defects and weaknesses. (Works of Martin Luther, Vol 32.83)
Note: I realize this view might not be unanimous for all Protestants. I am only asking for a Biblical basis from those Protestants that do make the aforementioned conclusion.
As opposed to a Catholic view of grace, 'What is the Protestant biblical basis for those concluding that 'all works' without grace have no real good in them'? In other words, all works by unbelievers are more or less sinful, under the view of many in the protestant reformation.
I found another statement which is from the 'Thirty Nine Articles of Religion' by the Church of England which actually more explicitly indicates what my question actually is. This article is rejected by the Roman Catholic church as heresy. More simply put I am looking for the biblical justification of this article:
XIII. Of Works before Justification. WORKS done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.