Apologize and Don't Be Sorry!

A site dedicated to thinking through the common objections to the Catholic Faith as well as questions of a general religious nature.

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Location: Prague, Oklahoma, United States

Just your basic 21st century priest trying to bring the Gospel to everyone who will give it a fair hearing.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Salvation by Faith Alone

Anyone who has lived in Oklahoma or the Southern United States for any appreciable period of time has run afoul a most basic difference between Catholics and Protestants: how is one saved?  Protestant theology enshrines the notion that salvation is by faith alone.  Martin Luther and the other reformers made this, along with Scripture alone and Grace alone, the banner under which the call to reform was made.  As this issue, salvation by faith alone, forms one of the three pillars of the Protestant Reformation, it is important for Catholics to know how to speak to this matter.
The origin for this doctrine comes from Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.”  First, we should note that the context of this verse is conversion from Judaism to the Christian Faith.  Hence, the works in question are the observances tied to the Mosaic Law, i.e. circumscion.  With the coming of Christ, that law lost its power to save; the Law of Grace in Christ has supplanted it.  Second, notice that the verse says nothing about Faith alone or that there are no works which are connected to Faith.  All St. Paul is claiming is faith is necessary for salvation.  I think we would all agree to that.  Could anyone reasonably think that they could “buy off” God with a myriad of good works?  But, what if Faith has a series of consequent actions which demonstrate the presence and authenticity of said Faith?  It is this second sense that the Bible and the Church who wrote it endorses.
In many places in the Sacred Scriptures, the various writers pair faith with loving action.  In John 14:21, our Lord directs us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  Matthew parallels this in his account of the rich, young man who comes seeking salvation and is told to “keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17).  This is significant as St. Paul brings out how salvation comes by “faith working though love” (Galatians 5:6, cf. I Corinthians 13:2).  St. Paul confirms this line of reasoning in his letter to the Ephesians when he writes: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10; emphasis added).  Even though Faith is a gift and cannot be earned, you will notice that Faith does have obligations, namely to perform good works because these evince the presence of the Christian Faith.
Elsewhere in the Sacred Scriptures, along with Faith, we also see other requirements for salvation.  Matthew’s Gospel records the Last Judgment in the form of a parable of Jesus (Matthew 25:41-46).  What does Jesus use as the standard for salvation and damnation?  Jesus uses a series of good works like feeding the hungry.  There is no explicit mention of Faith, but there is an understanding that Faith places demands upon Christians which must be realized if one would be saved.  This is the same reasoning present in the Book of Revelation when Christ addresses the various churches to whom this revelation is addressed warning them against works which will lead them away from Him (Revelation 2:5, 3:2-5).  When it comes to a life of Faith, St. Paul lists the various actions and behaviors which show that the Faith of the person is inauthentic (cf.  Galatians 5:1-5, 19-21, I Corinthians 6:9-10).  St. Paul sees clearly that the one who has given himself to Christ, then sin cannot remain (Romans 6:1-3).  Well, what else is the avoidance of sin but a work which one performs; the Christian seeks the good action in opposition to the sinful former way of life.  In Romans 8:24, St. Paul records that hope is needed for salvation, hope in the Resurrection.
If the following hasn’t been convincing, here’s the coffin nail on the theory that one is saved by faith alone.  The only place in the whole Bible where the phrase “faith alone” appears, it appears in the negative.  St. James tells us this: “Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?....You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone…. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:20,24,26).  Scholars speculate that St. James is acting as a corrective to a potential misunderstanding of St. Paul’s comments from the Letter to the Romans.  Taken together as a whole, you see the real interesting nature of Faith – Faith brings us to serve God, not because we have a specific legal code, but because we are grateful to God for saving us.  Hence, if I am going to claim that I have the Faith, I have to put my money where mouth is, so to speak.  Faith and works go hand in hand to make a true life of Faith.
Faith is bigger than we suspect.  Perhaps that is the origin of the disagreement in modern times about this issue.  Faith is bigger than simply saying “I believe in Jesus;” it requires dedication and a public witness to that Faith.  In the end, we have to ask not do I have the Faith, but rather how big is my Faith and how does this Faith change the way of living my life.

7 Comments:

Blogger mschoir said...

I hate to sound like a sycophant, but I think this is brilliant. It's the best analysis that this above-average-run-of-the-mill-regular-church-lady has ever read concerning the (for lack of a better term) deficits of Protestantism. It makes it so clear. I stop by regularly and I always get these pearls. Thank you, Father! Oh, I'm one of your biggest fans, by the way...

5:10 PM  
Blogger Kold_Kadavr_flatliner said...

I was out cycling on July 4th, 2006, in Topeka, KS, trying to find-out why they didn’t have a ‘Go Fourth’ at WU, and found a dead, baby doll with one arm on Mayberry Street, the other one was broken-off. I guess you could make TEN-thousand-one statements of what that symbolizes. I hung it up on a hook, which is how I wanna be martyred (hung, shot, guillotined, or pulled-apart by four-horses when a shotgun is fired. Guess you‘d call that ‘Quarter-Horsing-Around’). Nevertheless, my interpretation is this: America, in it’s infancy, has no bloody idea of how much we owe the King of Kings, God Almighty, for our well-being in this Land-of-the-Free; That also makes me realize, by her lying broken in the street, how blatantly callous we are toward the unborn, as girls in short-shorts practically wanna. Who the Hell is Jesus? There were monks, too, in the Middle Ages, even now, who had literal skulls on their desk to remind them they were passing-away. Don’t know? Don’t care? “SoBeIt,” saith the Trinity. “Let the Angel of Death descend.” --- I'm very angry due to our happy, intoxicated society which replaces God with MSNBC.

My URL instructs us about our Eternity (sign the guestbook): How inevitably both are determined and molded by the choices we make in our voyage home to the Father; This URL is both a stairway AND a roadmap TO that Utopian Domicile. Step out in faith: Experience the Awesome Reality of God.

You're the spark. You're a warrior. You're His treasure. He deemed it so. Your service is good. Your love towards God is better. How He yearns to welcome us into His everlasting home beyond death's horizon: With such a price-tag on our souls, human beings are clearly precious beyond diamonds. You must abandon all fear of Him and know that He is all love.

Say this: 'Father, I love you and I give myself to you.' And He wills that you inherit His Kingdom... PEACE. You ARE loved by the Trinity. See beyond the illusion: Read Daniel 12:3 LONG LIVE CHRIST the KING.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Ebb said...

"NOT BY WORKS of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." --Titus 3:5 (KJV)

"Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." --Acts 16:30-31 (KJV)

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that BELIEVETH..." --Romans 1:16 (KJV)

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.... He that BELIEVETH on him is not condemned." --John 3:16,18 (KJV)

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them." --Ephesians 2:8-10 (KJV)

The point St Paul makes here is that we are saved through faith, not works. Verse 10 refers to Paul's belief that works count for little in the eyes of God because the works we perform are pre-ordained anyway.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Poops said...

Ebb has "ears but does not hear".

Faith without works is a dead faith.

Works without faith are works of merit and not pleasing to God.

Only by uniting faith AND works can we achieve salvation. You cannot have one without the other, because works flow FROM faith if the faith is a living faith. "What you do for the least of these, you do for me." Matthew 25 God will separate the sheep from the goats.

Thank you Father, for this well-written and clear explanation.

5:49 AM  
Blogger lin said...

Ebb has clearly shown multiple Scriptures that back the point that salvation is through faith alone. Yes, good works will flow out of one's faith when he has truly believed, but they certainly WILL NOT save the individual.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Ted Timmis said...

The doctrine of sola fide, or salvation by faith alone, was invented by Martin Luther in the 1500s as a means of rejecting God's church. It was then widely accepted by political leaders in Europe as a matter of political expediency (remember King Henry VIII?). In short, this doctrine is just plain wrong. So what does Jesus say about works and salvation?

In John 6:52, Jesus instructs us to receive his flesh and blood through the Holy Eucharist (celebrating the Lord's Supper).

In Matthew 5:19-20, Jesus states, "whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Again, in John 3:21 (right after John 3:15), Jesus states: "whoever lives the truth comes to the light so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God." Back to Matthew, Jesus states: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven." Again, in Matthew, Jesus states: "For who ever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister, and mother." Sounds like salvation requires one to do the will of the father.

OK, but does the will of God mean doing good deeds for salvation? As Jesus states in John 5:28: "the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life..."

In addition to our faith, Jesus asks us to do many things for our salvation:

Love God, Luke 10:27

Deny self interest before Jesus, Mark 8:34, Luke 14:25

Acknowledge Jesus before men, Matt.10:32

Be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Matt. 28:29

Confess and repent of sinfulness, Mark 1:15

Love your neighbor, Luke 10:27

Love your enemies, Luke 5:43

"Turn the other cheek" Matt. 5:38

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" Luke 7:32

Be forgiving of others, Matt. 7:12

Endure sacrifice, Luke 9:23;

Be charitable, Matt. 5:42, 10:21;

Be trustworthy, Luke 16:10;

Be courageous, Luke 12:2-8

Be productive, Luke 19:12;

Don't love money, Matt. 16:13;

Don't store up earthly riches, Luke 18:25

Don't be be greedy, unchaste, arrogant, envious or malicious and don't steal, or murder, or commit adultery, Mark 7:32

Don't re-marry after divorce, Luke 16:18

Don't commit abortion (As Jesus states: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me" Matt. 25:40; See also, Mark 9:37; Mark 10:14; Luke 10:48, Psalm 1:39; Jer. 1:5; Psalm 139 (You knit me together in my mother's womb. . . Your eyes saw my unformed body).

This is what it means to be a Christian. Against this, Protestants will cite St. Paul when he says that one is saved by faith apart from the law. Romans 3:21-25 This is true! St. Paul was saying that dietary proscriptions, circumcision and other aspects of the law do not bring salvation; he did not say that salvation comes from faith apart from good works, righteousness, sacraments and obedience to God.

The real rub is that Protestants reject the Church founded by Jesus Christ. Why do they reject his Church? In a word, Autonomy. They don't want a Church which imposes its teachings, its rules and its leadership. And because they reject His church, they have to reject "works" as a requirement of salvation. Why? Because it is only through the Church that one can validly receive the sacraments (eg. Holy Eucharist Mt 26:26, Absolution of Sins, etc.)

The fact is, to be fully Christian, one must be a part of the body of Christ, which is the Church. 1 Col. 1:24, Romans 12:24, Eph. 4:25 As St. Paul states, "the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth." Titus 3:13 When Protestants read this scripture, they gnash their teeth or simply ignore it. Thus, they must claim that salvation comes apart from the church and bridle at the idea of submitting to authority even if it means ignoring scripture.

In fairness, most Protestants do love Christ, have good hearts and do good deeds. Nevertheless, they are still wrong about salvation and the Church. As Jesus himself said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my deciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32. My brothers and sisters, know the truth and be free. Remember we are all sinners and nobody is perfect. Come home to the Church. We want you back! Alison and Jerry, I'm praying for you.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Theodore A. Jones said...

"It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13
Both RCs and Protestants are missing the fact that a law has been added to the law after Jesus' crucifixion. This law is not the Law of Grace as the catholic has been taught, but it is the Law of the Spirit which neither the Protestant nor the Catholic has been taught the Way it must be obeyed.

2:05 PM  

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