Ecclesiasticus 4:28

"Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will war on your side."

Ora pro nobis,

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Dominic. Amen.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Was (or is) the Reformation Necessary? An examination of Protestantism’s doctrinal Pillars: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide -- 7

Sola Fide--Part 1

In a rather indirect way, and, in my opinion, leaving the first part of this debate largely unresolved, we've managed to stumble into the discussion of the Second Pillar of the Reformation, Sola Fide, or, formally stated, Salvation is a result of our faith in God and not dependent upon our works. Now, admittedly, it is a tricky and nuanced question, and someone could criticise me for misdefining and misrepresenting the belief. To hopefully avoid that, I will define, for the record, the notion of Sola Fide using the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms compiled and edited by Protestant scholars Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling.

sola fide. Latin for "faith only," the Lutheran Reformation doctrine that the only way to be justified and receive God's grace is through faith, that is, by accepting Jesus' merits on one's own behalf.
So yeah, pretty much what I said. Formulated that way, it seems rather hard to argue with, and we would have to delve into what is meant by "Faith." However, that will probably surface later, so I won't waste too much time on it.

The argument in a practical sense has become focused on the term "only" since faith is something both Catholics and Protestants teach is necessary for salvation. So the question is, simply put, is faith all we need, in the sense that it doesn't matter what we do, or do we need to do works as well as have faith, in order to be saved? The Protestant view--especially Jacob's view, is that no, works are not necessary for salvation. The Catholic view is that you cannot even claim to have faith unless you are doing the works, and as such, works and faith go together and are both necessary. If one element is missing (either faith or works) then the other is dead and therefore also missing--or at least not in any way meritorious.

That preamble aside, let's move on to the discussion, titled at Jacob's blog, Why the Reformation Was and Still is Necessary: Part 6. As per usual, my current words are in the default white. Jacob's are in blue. The fellow Catholic in this debate, Jon's words will be brown. Since there are as of right now 29 comments in the comments section at Jacob's blog for this topic, I will probably add relevant ones here, and assign random colours of my liking.

As usual, my words are in blue, and Jon's are in green.

As usual, disregard Jacob's colour reference here, since it's not applicable. They're the colours which are quite suitable on his template.

Do feel free to read his comment I am replying to in it's entirety on the comment section of Part 3.

By all means. Jon has a wonderful mind for drawing conclusions to their logical extentions, and he reasons about Catholicism admirably well. I'm blessed to have such an ally in this debate!

"Works are an indicator that faith exists." (Quoting me.)

well, let's follow the philosophical train of thought stemming from sola fide: taken to its logical end, it should mean i do nothing and merely BELIEVE i am saved in order to be so.

You bet. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. It's all a credit to Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, who paid the penalty of sin for us. He fulfilled the Law of God that we break in our every day lives. He lived sinlessly, died on the cross as a propitiation for sin (that is he turned away the wrath of God for sin) and raised from the dead for our justification 3 days later. He did this so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. To God alone be the glory! (Romans 3:21-28)

Well, Jacob has clearly stated his position in this paragraph, and it echoes very emphatically my definition above--and agreed wholeheartedly with Jon's assessment. What Jacob wrote is true as far as it goes. There indeed is nothing we can do to save ourselves! But that does not mean that we then do nothing to apply or cooperate in Christ's gift of salvation.

because if i make an alter call, if i recite the sinner's prayer printed on the last page of every gideon's bible, am i not, in effect, DOING something that brings about my salvation? i mean, for it to be sola, *SOLA* fide, all i have to do is believe, as many do, that i shall go to heaven in order to get there.

The sinners prayer is a joke. I'm in complete opposition to telling someone to recite a prayer to be saved. Why? Because it's faith alone that saves. Alter [sic] calls and all that junk needs to die. People simply need to hear the gospel and respond in faith for salvation. Now there is nothing wrong with praying as an expression of trusting Jesus as Lord, but it's the trust/faith in Jesus alone that saves, not the prayer.

Here Jacob has made a startling statement about typical Protestant methods of evangelisation, calling them a "joke"! That's fine, but as I have said before, Jacob's issue about the faith stems deeper than merely being against Catholicism. In his rhetoric, he has branded the vast majority of Protestants as seriously in error, as well.

I am also curious what "responding in faith/trust" looks like? Isn't "responding" a work of some sort? How does one respond? And if Jacob wants to argue that a response is as simple as thinking in one's head that Jesus is God and all the rest of the Gospel is true, and trusting in that, then he is saved even if he never does a thing about it, then I would say that is a direct contradiction of James 2:14-26. Verse 17 calls that faith "dead", and verse 20 calls such faith "useless". Verse 24 explicitly says "You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that someone is justified." This verse alone shatters the position that Jacob puts forward that James is really saying that works are proof of faith, but aren't themselves necessary. James has just explicitly said that faith and works are necessary for justification! Verse 26 hammers it home by saying that faith without works is like a body without a spirit: It is dead and dead faith is not faith at all!

in scripture, on the other hand, salvation is always linked to belief AND works: "repent AND be baptized," etc.

That is a flat out lie. Repentance and faith are a mutual idea. One who truly comes to faith in Christ comes to repentance. After all the word "repent" carries the idea of a change of mind and/or direction.

Repentance is the works part of faith. Where this notion that "repentance" is simply a matter of intellect comes from, I have no idea at all. Yes, it is a turning around, 180 degrees, but that turning around happens more than just in the mind! After all, if I change my mind about something, my actions follow! So if I truly repent, then I will do the works befitting of repentance. In fact, the Bible talks very explicitly about that!
"Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:7-8).
See also,
"On the contrary I started preaching, first to the people of Damascus, then to those of Jerusalem and all Judaean territory, and also to the gentiles, urging them to repent and turn to God, proving their change of heart by their deeds" (Acts 26:20).
Thus we see that yes, repentance begins in the mind/heart, but must be demonstrated by works (note, contrary to Jacob's thought, the works don't prove faith, they prove repentance). More to the point, it was St. Paul (the vaunted alleged champion of "sola fide") who here is speaking about doing the works worthy of repentance!

In other words repentance is no longer trusting in what you can do but turning away from that mind set and trusting what Christ has already done.

According to the dictionary, Repentance is:
1. To feel remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do; be contrite.
2. To feel such regret for past conduct as to change one's mind regarding it: repented of intemperate behavior.
3. To make a change for the better as a result of remorse or contrition for one's sins.
So we see that actions are required.

A common analogy for salvation is that God gives us a gift. If someone gives us a gift, and we never open it, it does not benefit us. This opening is faith. However, if we open a gift (and admittedly, I have done this with a few things) and never use it but leave it hidden in a closet, it is still useless. Using the gift, is works. And from this analogy, we see that faith and works are both essential to the applying of Christ's sacrifice to ourselves.

The phrase "repent and be baptized" appears a marginal amount of times in the New Testament, where as almost every other time salvation is explained there is simply the message of faith.

Since "Repent and be baptised" was cited by Jon as one example of the faith-works formula described, its lack of repetition is rather immaterial. And besides, this does not negate the fact that the phrase is there! Repeated biblical mention of something does not make that something necessarily more important. It means, specifically, that it was a point that needed to be brought home to the community to whom the author was writing! In Galatians, for example, it makes sense that Paul is harping on faith, since they were being led astray by a group that denied that faith was the issue, but that gentile Christians needed to become Jews in order to be saved. On the other hand, James was writing to a community that was being lax in their works because they felt that faith was all they needed, so James emphasises the correction of that error. The message of the Bible is a cohesive one, and all elements must be combined and harmonised equally, not some left out or reinterpreted to square with "more important" doctrines. If the Bible mentions something explicitly and clearly, even once, we cannot dismiss it because "more verses say something else."

[By the way, all the bolding in the references that Jacob provides to make his case are his own, not mine nor the Bible's itself, in case there is any confusion.]

John 3:1-23;
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God."
Believe = not condemned, unbelief=condemned

I find it very humourous that this, of all passages, would be marshalled in your defence. I find it even more humourous that you cite up to verse 23, but only quote to verse 21. I find it exceedingly humourous that you can quote verse 21 with a straight face and tell me "faith alone" is true. And I find it most humourous of all that you can quote to me Jesus telling Nicodemus that one is born again in baptism and yet write another post saying baptism isn't necessary.

Let's dissect the humour:
First, this passage has Jesus teaching Nicodemus about salvation and His Own Identity. First thing Jesus gets across is that one must be born again. "How?" Nicky wants to know. "Through water and the Spirit," Jesus replies. I.e., through baptism, as the earliest Christians taught unanimously right up until the Reformation, when John Calvin wasn't too keen on that idea, and Ulrich Zwingly denied it altogether! But the notable thing is that we have testimony from disciples of John (like Irenaeus) who say that John was talking about baptism! Hmm, I wonder where the disciples of John got that crazy notion, eh?

Second, the connection to baptism is strengthened when we read verses 22 and 23 (which are in Jacob's reference preceeding the quotation, but not in the quotation itself. I wonder why?):
After this, Jesus went with His disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptised. John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptised.
(Emphasis mine)

Verse 23 has nothing really relevant to say, but I quoted it since Jacob had listed his citation to verse 23. After Jesus' long talk about being born again with Nicodemus, what's the first thing He does? Goes and baptises people! The Gospel of John is organised more like a deductive essay than a narrative, when you study it, and John tends to loop themes together like subtopics. It is no coincidence that he wrote about Jesus baptising after talking to Nicodemus, because it is the same subject: baptismal regeneration!

Third, let me requote verse 21--the conclusion of Jesus' discourse. Like a joke, this is the punchline: "but whoever does the truth comes out into the light, so that what he is doing may plainly appear as done in God." Emphasis mine. What's that? "Does the truth"? Wait, Jesus, don't you mean "believes the truth?" That's not what He said. So in this text, Jesus has taught that one must be baptised to be born again, must believe in Jesus to not be condemned and have eternal life, and must do the truth (other translations say "live the truth") in order to come into the light. And Jesus said them all in about the span of three breaths! Jesus is either very confused about Salvation, or Jacob is.

How about the thief on the cross? Luke 23:40-43;
But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
He certainly didn't have time to be baptized. But he believed that Jesus was God, and believed that only He could redeem him from his sin.

*sigh* Two things: Number 1--baptism is normatively necessary for salvation, not absolutely necessary. What that means is, when a person knows and is able to be baptised, he must be. When there are extenuating circumstances (and let me say, hanging on a cross and meeting Jesus for the first time definitely qualifies as an extenuating circumstance!) where baptism is impossible, the desire for baptism suffices. Also, there is the notion of the "baptism of blood" or the ultimate sacrifice of self for Jesus, that stands in for baptism in water. Number 2--Jesus said it. It was ipso facto reality. Jesus is not limited to the sacraments! However, that does not mean that the thief did not do any works, even hanging from that tree: He defended the name of Jesus to the other criminal, and offered his punishment up, when he acknowledged that he deserved it. These two penitent acts, plus his supplicating Jesus in humility, were works that cooperated with his new faith in the Messiah, and these things met the qualifications of true discipleship.

Romans 1:16;
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul understands though that one who believes will live that belief. It is assumed for him. He contrasts it with ungodliness and injustice (v. 18ff), showing therefore that faith is itself godliness and goes with godly and just behaviour. But nothing in a verse that talks about faith necessitates faith alone.

Doesn't he mean believes and is baptized? No. The emphasis is on faith.

Yes, the emphasis is on faith, but if you have to emphasise something, that means there are other things not being emphasised, because they are understood already. So for Paul to emphasise the role of faith, it shows that he is already assuming the role of works--which is indeed implicit in the contrast between one who has faith and the ungodly living of one who doesn't which takes up the rest of the chapter (indeed, the rest of the first three chapters!).

Romans 3:22;
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
If you work to receive a gift it's not a gift.

It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
It is exceedingly interesting to me that Paul calls faith itself a "law". Your verses seem to minimise the Law that Paul is referring to--the Mosaic Law, specifically, since he is in this context just come out of explaining why the Jews did not have any particular advantage due to the Law. So, Paul says, that is not the Law that counts, but the Law of Faith. In fact, the last verse of chapter three says that in this, we put the Law "on its true footing" or we "establish" it.

Romans 4:1-5;
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
It seems to me that James was specifically replying to misunderstandings of Paul's illustration in this passage in James 2:21-23:
Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? So you can see that his faith was working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did. In this way the scripture was fulfilled: 'Abraham put his faith in God, and it was considered as making him upright;' and he received the name 'friend of God'.
So we have Paul saying it was faith, and James saying it was works and faith. Neither are contradicting the other, but James is elaborating on Paul's writings (since James was writing later, this is the conclusion, rather than Paul elaborating on James). Moreover, James shows us by calling Abraham "justified" because of his offering Isaac that there is more than one stage to justification (David "Mark 1:17" tried to make a point that Abraham wasn't actually justified for offering Isaac, but earlier. Well, that doesn't fly, because the inspired text of James says that he was justified for offering Isaac). It is past (initial justification), ongoing, and ultimately future (as even Paul indicates in Romans 2:13 and 3:20, referring to final judgement). Fully exploring this would take us back into the Once Saved Always Saved discussion, so I'll bypass it for now. I bring it up to mention only that justification in Romans 4:1-5 is not a final thing. Our works cannot earn forgiveness. Only God's grace makes forgiveness possible--but our works are essential to living the Law of Faith and thus persevering in justification. It is on this point specifically that we need emphasis and clarification:

St. Paul is not denying that good works are essential to living a faith-filled life. He is saying that the Works of the Law (the OT Mosaic Law) are not essential. St. James is saying, on the other hand, that good works are necessary for saving faith to exist--but James is saying nothing regarding the Mosaic Law. Therefore, there is no contradiction between Paul and James. However, in this light, we see that Paul does not support Faith Alone, and James still contradicts it. Thus, marshalling the words of Paul denying the efficacy of the works of the Law is a waste of time, since he is specifically referring to a certain code of behaviour. However, what is necessary is obedience to the Law of Faith, or the Law of Liberty (as James terms it, in 1:25), which even Paul makes clear two chapters later, in Romans 6.

If you are working your way, you'll fail because if you try and live by the law, you'll be judged by the law. (Romans 2:12b)

Again, this is specifically the OT Law, and does not bear on the faith/works sola fide controversy. We are not demanding circumcision and abstinence from pork or anything else of the sort. We are not Judaisers!

The fact that we can't complete the law in a satisfactory manner is why Jesus had to come. It's by faith that we are counted righteous in Christ. All to His glory and not to us at all. I have nothing to boast about when it comes to my salvation.

Again, you are talking about something quite different than what Catholicism actually teaches. We have no room to boast because it is only by God's Grace that we are saved, and only by His Grace that we can cooperate with Him and thus be obedient to the Law of Faith that saves.

Ephesians 1:13-14;
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Again, this is not denying the importance of works. Here it has not mentioned works either way. In context, the first three chapters of Ephesians talk about God's Grace in electing them to salvation (with a reference to their responsibility to do "the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life" [2:10], and having a faith "planted in love and built on love" [3:17]). Then, right off the bat from Chapter 4 verse 1, Paul talks about our response to God's grace, and that is "to lead a life worthy of the vocation to which you were called." He then takes the rest of the book to teach us what that worthy life consists of, and the good works that are to make up our way of life.

But by all means, continue to pull phrases and verses out of context.

Ephesians 2:8-9;
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
You enjoy leaving verse 10 out of this! The very context sets it up that God's Grace that predestines us to Salvation also predestines us to Good Works, and those Good Works are how we respond to Grace by faith:
For we are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.
That word "for" tells us that this verse isn't just some nice platitude that happens to be called "verse 10", but rather, it is intrinsically connected to verses 1-9, and sums up what has been said. The performing of these good works is the reason why God has saved us, so that He will be glorified in His Workmanship. So we see that even in Ephesians 8-9, Protestantism's pet verses, the conclusive force is that works are necessary, because their glorification of God is the whole point! And God doesn't do pointless things.

To say that I must work to attain or maintain my salvation is nothing short of spitting in the face of Christ and all that He did for me.

Good thing no one is saying that, least of all St. Paul!
So work out your own salvation in fear and trembling. It is God who, for His own generous purpose, gives you the intention and the powers to act. (Philippians 2:12b-13)
Gee, that's just awful of Paul to spit in Jesus' face like that!

Wait, what's this?
"Think of where you were before you fell; repent, and behave as you did at first, or else, if you will not repent, I shall come to you and take your lamp-stand from its place" (Revelation 2:5, cf. the entire letter to Sardis, 3:1-6)
I wonder, is pondering whether it is possible for Jesus to spit in His own face similar to pondering whether He could microwave that burrito so hot even He couldn't eat it?

Poor little God couldn't quite save me completely, I have to help Him out because I'm only partially saved.

I'm honestly glad I'm not sitting next to you. I'd be worried about lightning! Honestly, this is such nonsense that it's almost not worth replying to! God Himself has called us to partner with Him in our salvation, as revealed in Philippians 2:12-13 above! It is not a matter of need on His part, but of choice--and more, a matter of need on our part so that we do not take His Grace for granted!

The Roman Catholic gospel robs glory from God by saying that we must or even can merit salvation for ourselves.

Yeah, you're right. Good thing we don't teach that at all!
The "Jacob Allee" gospel, on the other hand, promotes "Cheap Grace."

It's Christ in His might alone that has the power to forgive sins by His bloody atonement on the cross.

But the grace that He gives us energises our works (Phil 2:13) so that what we do is worth something to Him! The paradox is that our feeble efforts are only worth anything because He made it so by doing everything! He then allows us to participate, and even gives us credit for what He Himself enables us to do! It's a very little like a Father helping his infant child learn to walk, by holding him up by the arms while the child kicks his legs to get the feel for how the muscles operate. Then, when the child takes those one or two first steps, the Father is overjoyed with the progress of his son, even though at that point, the son can only really walk as the Father holds him up. But little by little we learn to walk farther and farther. As Christians, we will never be able to let go of the Father's hand and walk on our own until we are perfected in His glory--and then, we will not want to!

Or, as St. Augustine once said, "All our good merits are wrought through grace, so that God, in crowning our merits, is crowning nothing but His gifts."

So to make the statement "in scripture, on the other hand, salvation is always linked to belief AND works" (emphasis of the word always is [Jacob's]) is an absolute lie and it's a foolish statement.

Kept in context, all the verses that you put forward that seem to speak only of "faith" do in fact speak of the need for godly living! Moreover, since the antithesis of faith or belief in these passages is not simply "doubt" or "unbelief" but often "disobedience" or "ungodliness", it is evident that the faith of which we speak itself incorporates the idea of obedience to God, which is technically "works." It is you who is "lying" if you want to go to the extreme of uncharitability, or you are at least misguided! You speak of the need for "proper hermeneutics" yet seem incapable of practicing it!

It's only a very few times that scripture word it "repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins."

Again, I stress that A) that phrase was put forth by Jon as one example among many; B) the amount of times something is mentioned in Scripture bears little importance as to the truthfulness or necessity of believing it, since "All Scripture is God-breathed" and not just the parts that are repeated; and C) repentance itself is just as much about doing something as it is about believing something!

And even then when you look in the Greek you see that it's the repentance/faith that is the forgiving agent and not the baptism.

This coming from the guy who admits to not knowing much Greek (so little in fact that he hinged one whole argument in another post on a word that didn't exist in the Greek)? On what do you base that statement? And what do you do then with verses such as John 3:5, Romans 6:1-11, Titus 3:5, and 1 Peter 3:20-21, all of which clearly state that Baptism is regenerative (not to mention the prophecy in Ezekiel 36:25-27)? There is no Scripture anywhere in the Bible that teaches that Baptism is simply symbolic, and here are at least 4 or 5 of many that teach that it is efficaceous for the forgiveness of sins and regeneration of the soul. Finally, how can you so easily dismiss the unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers, who immediately taught (this wasn't something later on, "after Constatine", as if that somehow made any difference) baptismal regeneration?

Baptism is a commandment that all believers should submit to,

Oh ho ho! So it is a commandment that we should submit to! It's a good idea. You'd recommend it, for sure. Jacob, are you familiar with the definition of commandment? Jesus clearly tells us that if we don't do what He commands, we ain't His friends. I'm pretty sure He's not going to let His "business acquaintances" into Heaven, you know what I mean? A Commandment is something necessary!

but it does not regenerate. Faith does.

Again, show me one reference that says baptism doesn't regenerate. I've given you 5 that say it does. Just one. I've never seen any, so it would be new to me. Where is it?

There is much more scripture that could be given, but the point is, if baptism or any other work were truly necessary for salvation, it would be emphatically emphasized every single time the gospel is mentioned.

By what logic? I can point out times where salvation is mentioned without reference to faith at all. But if faith is necessary, shouldn't it be mentioned emphatically, every time? Or is the fact that it is not mentioned every time, proof that it is not necessary? Please, do try not to make such ridiculous claims! Often, things aren't mentioned explicitly because they are tacitly assumed as obvious, or because the author needs to emphasise a different element of the teaching!

However, clearly, it is not. But what is mentioned in every instance of the gospel being explained in scripture? FAITH!

Is it now?
Luke 1:67-79, the Benedictus, does not mention faith in connection with Salvation!
Luke 2:29-32, the Nunc Dimittis, does not mention faith.
Luke 3:1-18, the ministry of John the Baptist, does not mention faith.
Luke 19:1-10, the story of Zacchaeus' conversion, does not mention faith.
Acts 4:12 doesn't mention faith, but simply that the Name of Jesus is what saves.
Acts 13:16-41, Paul's sermon to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, doesn't mention faith.
Romans 10:10: If the sinner's prayer is a work, then this passage advocates works, because one must confess with the mouth, speaking aloud his faith, "unto salvation".
2 Corinthians 1:6 Paul says that the sufferings of others and of themselves contribute to their salvation, just as Jesus' sufferings overflow into their lives.
2 Corinthians 6:1-10 Paul makes it clear that a) he and his partners are God's fellow-workers thus co-operating with God again! There he goes, spitting in Jesus' face again! More, he again fails to mention "faith" but works are mentioned a lot!
2 Corinthians 7:8-13: Sorrow and repentance are mentioned as leading to salvation (notably, in those who are already Christians) and yet faith is again conspicuously absent.
Philippians 1:19, Paul says that his persecutions will contribute to his salvation!
Philippians 2:12, again, no mention of faith, just works!
2 Timothy 2:8-13, The Gospel is summed up. No mention of faith. Perseverance is mentioned, however. Moreover, similar to Phil 1:19, Paul says his sufferings contribute to salvation, but this time not his own, but for the elect!
Titus 2:11-14, again, the Gospel without faith, but a string of works are listed!
Hebrews 5:9, salvation comes to all who obey Jesus!

That's just a search of the times "Salvation" occurs, and references to it that don't mention faith. And they are all New Testament references! The following are references based on a search for save*.

Matthew 1:21, the angel didn't tell Joseph that Jesus would save the people who had faith from their sins.
Matthew 10:22, Jesus says that those who endure persecutions will be saved (but those who do not endure to the end, by inference, are not. Thus, perseverance is necessary for Salvation.
Matthew 18:1-11, innocence of a child is necessary for salvation. Conversion and removal of sin is necessary.
Matthew 19:16-30, willingness to forsake all for Christ brings salvation. Still faith is not mentioned.
Matthew 24:12-13, enduring in love is necessary for salvation.
Mark 10:17-31, same as Matthew 19:16-30
Mark 13:13, same as Matthew 10:22
Mark 16:16 includes baptism with faith in order to be saved.
Luke 13:23-24, "Strive to enter the the narrow gate"? Striving is working!
Luke 18:18ff, same as Matthew 19:16-30 again.
John 10:1-18, no mention of faith.
Acts 2:14-19, very first sermon, absolutely no mention of faith! Only repentance (v.38), baptism (v. 38), and calling on the name of Jesus (v.21)--all actions, all works. And yet, 3000 were saved (v. 41)! In fact, in verse 40, Peter tells the crowd to "save yourselves"!
Acts 4:12 again (repeat from the "Salvation" list, since it says both "salvation" and "saved").
Acts 15:1-21 (and following), never mentions faith, even when it rebukes the Judaisers for adding works into the mix! In fact, Grace alone is mentioned, and then, at the end, James still adds four works that should be followed!
Acts 21:25 confirming the decision of Acts 15.
Romans 8 doesn't talk about faith, but says we are saved who "walk after the Spirit", are "spiritually minded", we must "suffer with Christ", we are "saved by hope", by God's calling and predestination--but in all of that, Faith is never mentioned!
Romans 10:13, you must call (an action) on the Name of the Lord.
1 Timothy 4:16, being careful of how you live and of true doctrine will not only save you, but others!
2 Timothy 1:8-11 doesn't mention faith at all!
Titus 3:4-8 doesn't mention faith, but grace and baptism--and goes further, saying that baptism doesn't count as "works of righteousness which we have done"!
James 1:21-25, we must hear and do the Word.
1 Peter 3:20-21, Baptism saves us (no mention of faith!)
1 Peter 4:17-19, suffering and obedience save us (no mention of faith!)

The following are references based on a search for Gospel:

Romans 10:16, the Gospel is something that must be obeyed, not simply believed
Colossians 1:22-23, we must continue in the Gospel.

The following are references based on a search for eternal life:

Matthew 19:16ff, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18ff, are repeats.
Matthew 25:31-46 never once mentions faith, but works, as being what gains eternal life!
Luke 10:25-28, eternal life comes from obeying the Great Commandments, love God and love your neighbour. Faith is not mentioned.
John 6:26-58, the Eucharist, Jesus' flesh and blood, is necessary for eternal life.
John 17:3, knowing Jesus is eternal life!
Romans 2:7, "patient continuing in well doing" brings eternal life.
1 Timothy 6:12, contending for the faith brings eternal life.
1 Timothy 6:17-21, a list of good deeds that bring eternal life. Faith is not mentioned.
Titus 3:4-8 again.
1 John 1:1-7, fellowship with believers (which is fellowship with God) and honest, godly living, bring eternal life.
1 John 2:24-25, persevering in the truth of Jesus brings eternal life. Forsaking Him loses it.
Jude 21, keeping in the love of God leads to eternal life.

Now, does citing this multitude of texts that speak of salvation by works, or at least salvation without mentioning faith, mean that I don't believe that faith is necessary (since it isn't emphatically emphasised every time)? By Jacob's logic, yes! But his logic is no logic at all, any more than his prooftexts are proof at all! Obviously Scripture must be viewed in harmony and unity with the whole message. Ripping passages out of context as Jacob has done (and as I have parodied as a reductio ad absurdum) does not make a good case. To demonstrate that, I have shown that even in the immediate context (often one or two verses away, but if not, certainly within the same book!) works are being taught as necessary for salvation as well as faith! And again, I will show this is the case with nearly every reference Jacob leaves below.

(For the record, in case you weren't counting, that's 53 references to salvation that don't mention faith! So much for Jacob's claim!)

IN HIM -Jacob

Romans 10:9-13;
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Note in this passage, that Jacob didn't bother to bold anything in verse 10 (which I reference above, in my loooong list). Verse 10 adds "confession" and specifies that it must be a verbal confession, as necessary for salvation. Jacob has denied that the "Sinner's Prayer" is of any merit (calling it a "joke" that "should die") because it is "doing" something to receive Jesus. Thus, by his own logic, the verse he himself quotes shows that actions (confessing, which is the purpose of the sinner's prayer in Protestant circles, as well as what Jacob thinks baptism is for) are necessary. (Therefore, even if his purely symbolic view of baptism is to be taken seriously, it is still necessary for salvation since it is a public confession of faith!)

Other scripture that refers to salvation by faith and not by works,

As soon as I read this list, even before I'd read any of the passages, I said, just as Jon said above, that faith and works always go together in Scripture, so anything Jacob throws at me in the Bible will be easy enough to refute, based on context! And it was!

Acts 15:6-11
That's almost too funny, because not only are the works that are condemned specifically the Old Testament works of the Law (which no Christian believes is necessary for salvation!) but faith is never once mentioned in chapter 15! In fact, as I pointed out above, in verse 20 a list of necessary works is given!

Acts 26:18
This is perhaps the closest that Jacob could come of this list of not having works mentioned in the immediate context. Does this then make Jacob's case? Hardly, since it is a brief description of the Gospel given to his captors at his trial. He is not trying to convert them, but only to explain what's got everyone so riled up. Further, in other places in Acts and other of Paul's writings, works are indeed mentioned as necessary. This is why "prooftexts" don't work out so well.

Acts 16:29-32
In this story, we see that the Philippian jailer's faith saves his whole household and that as a result, they were baptised immediately. So somewhere Paul made it clear to them that it was an issue.

Romans 5:1-2
The context (reading forward to chapter 6) shows that if one continues to sin they will not continue in salvation, but be slaves again to sin (and therefore not saved). Thus, works are important.

Galatians 2:16, we are saved in Jesus Christ, not by the works of the OT LAW which is different than saying "not by good works". Further, verse 17 says that if we are saved in Jesus, but continue to sin, we make Jesus in the service of sin! In other words, we must do good!

Galatians 3:8-9
Galatians 3:23-26

I'll take these together, since the immediate context is the same. We find first, that Jacob left off verse 27, which says that we are Christ's through faith, "since every one of you that has been baptised has been clothed in Christ. So we see that baptism is necessary for this whole argument to stand up. Further, in the rest of the book (especially chapter 5, verses 21-23) we see that we who are baptised and walk in the Spirit, must continue to do so since Paul warns that those who fall again into sins such as he listed will not inherit the Kingdom. Rather, we must be producing the Fruit of the Spirit!

Ephesians 3:17
This faith must be planted and grounded in love which is a work! Further, a whole 5 verses later Paul again demands works, urging us to "lead a life worthy of the vocation to which you were called" (4:1)! Chapter 4 to the end of the book are all about how we must live!

Philippians 3:9
Don't forget verse 10! It says that it's not just faith, but knowing Christ, being upright in God, and "participating in Christ's sufferings"!

2 Timothy 3:15
Hey! Check out verse 14! We must remain faithful to our faith! That takes work!

You know what else takes work? Replying to something like this without losing your mind! Jacob has consistently misrepresented our faith, and then defended his with prooftexts with no regard to contexts, in order to "prove" that "Faith Alone" is true! Well, having thoroughly dismantled each text that he has provided, demonstrating that Grace given through Christ Jesus alone is what saves, and our necessary response of faith and works is how we respond to His grace and appropriate it to our lives in order that we may be saved. This is the biblical view, taken together whole and entire, and it is the Catholic view.

I may add some of the 29 comments on Jacob's original post to the discussion here. But not now. This has been exhausting!

I'm eager to know how Jacob will respond...
God bless


jon said...
"You bet. The sinners prayer is a joke. Alter calls and all that junk needs to die. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves."

excellent! [but my, how FAR prots have come--that would've been enough to have you tossed out of nearly every prot church in america fifty years ago! we can only hope that when your heads stop spinning, you'll be facing forward again!] than broad indeed is the way, for many, many believe that they too will be saved and do absolutely nothing. how many times have you heard, "sure, we all go to heaven!" in fact, it seems *better* not to do anything at all lest we confuse attempting to *work* for our salvation and salvation itself! you've given hope to millions today...

Matthew Karabela said...
Well, i definitely don't beleive that you have to only have faith to be saved. To me it sounds completely backwards. Now I dont have any fancy bible quotes to back me up on this, except that one passage in James, i beleive it states that faith without deeds is dead. hmmm. Can It get more obvious that this?. I don't think so. I don't understand how this can be contradicted. Many people have faith in God; faith that they'll be saved; faith that God is there, faith that God will save you. This is all nice, but if you have faith that God will save you, but you don't give him any incentive to save you, why should he? You can beleive god is there, so in a sense having faith in him, but you can still lead a sinful life. Why would God accept into his kingdom someone who did not try to get there. Generally, I'm pretty sure you're going to heaven jacob. You seem to have actions (this blog) to go with youre faith.
Thanks for allowing me to view my point.

Jacob said...
Hey Matt,

Thanks for your comment, I appreciate your thoughts. As far as the passage in James chapter 2 goes, I understand how it sounds. And it is certainly a fine line, but a definite one.

In a since, the fromula goes like this.

We are justified by faith, and our faith is justified by works.

Now you can just call this samantics if you want, but I think there is a very important thing to understand here.

I really do think I would call this "semantics". If our faith is justified by our works then works are necessary and "faith alone" is defeated. Unjustified or unjustifiable faith does not justify anyone! That's what James is saying!

Faith comes first, and works follow. The Old Testament passages quoted in James are from two parts of Genesis. The part where Abraham was going to offer his son Isaac as a sacrafice to the Lord was in Genesis 22. The part that says "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness" was in Genesis 15. So you see that God counted Abraham as righteous because of his faith before Abraham even did anything but believe. And then later on when he is faithul to follow a command from the Lord, his work justified his faith. But Abraham was alread counted righteous because of his faith.

I dealt with this above. I'll just add the comment that "Faith first" is a different thing than "Faith alone." In the end, "Faith + Works" and "Faith before Works" come out to pretty much the exact same thing, because either way, Works are Necessary.

So, Jacob, if you want to hold to "Faith First", then stop trying to defend "Faith Alone." I can accept faith first as a Catholic. If that's the truth of the matter, then that is what Catholicism teaches. But you say we teach "works first" as if works precede grace, even. This is absolutely not true. We don't even teach that works precede faith. Either they happen together so there is no meaningful distinction, or faith precedes and produces works. But either way, our faith and our works are gifts of God's Grace, and are necessary responses to it.

So unless you want to retract your "faith first" position, then you need to retract your "Catholics teach a false gospel and are therefore not Christian" position.

Now if God had waited to count Abraham as righteous until after the "work" that he did, this would be another story. But when we study scripture we have to take it in its entirety.

Sounds funny coming from you. Genesis, James, and Hebrews all say that Abraham was justified at a different point in time. Since you are bound to believing that Justification is a one-time event, this makes no sense to you and so you do violence to God's inspired Word in Hebrews and James. Catholics, on the other hand, realise that Justification is an ongoing thing, only fully completed at the Second Coming or our own death, and is synonymous with Sanctification. As such, we take Genesis, Hebrews, and James all at their words, and find no problem or contradiction in doing so.

Just because one or two scripture appear to say one thing, what about when you have many, many scripture that disagree with the conclusion you've drawn from one or two? That's why we have to be very careful in our methods of interpretation.

Hopefully that makes some sense.

Yes, but Biblical hermeneutics is not a democracy. The majority of verses do not "win", but rather, we must harmonise one or two verses with the greater number so that both verses are allowed to mean what they say without contradiction. Your method of interpretation does not do this.

As far as giving incentive to God for Him to save us. God loves us very much and desires for all of us to be saved. (John 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 2:4) God paid the price of sin that was ours in order to make the way for us to be saved. We must recognize that our debt is too high for anyone of us to be able to pay, and that's why God in His love and mercy paid it for us. And it's simply by trusting in Jesus Christ and Him alone that we are saved. Our sin is put upon the cross of Christ and Christ righteousness is put upon us.

Yeah, Matt, I have to say you might have worded that a bit poorly. However, Jacob, I think Matt's thought stands. Jesus paid the debt, but that doesn't let us off the hook with no responsibility. Otherwise the Bible would say nothing at all about good works (necessary or otherwise).

From that point on God uses the Holy Spirit and the word of God to sanctify us in His truth. So we become less like sin and more like Christ until we die. And then when we are ressurected on the day of the Lord, we will be glorified. Our sinful flesh will be done away with and we will be made perfect, able to enjoy Christ for eternity.

Yeah, incidentally, Jacob, we believe the last paragraph, too. In fact, the last sentence is what we call "Purgatory."

God bless you!

tank said...
This is for Matt - The problem that comes from putting faith on the same level as works is that we as fallen humans can begin to put our faith in our works...meaning, we begin to believe that the works are saving us. Basically, you can have works without faith, but you can't have faith without works. REAL faith produces the works.But no matter what, salvation isn't by faith or works. Salvation comes by grace. We wouldn't even have our faith if not for God's grace. We can't take credit for a single good thing within ourselves. God deserves every bit of the glory. He produces the faith and the good works.Sometimes we...I know I sometimes do...forget that good works in God's eyes and the human version of "good" are not always the same. In His kingdom, the weak are actually the strong. So when we start to think to ourselves, "Man, I sure am 'strong' in my good works this month," God is saying, "Oh, but I see how weak you really are."

To this I replied:
Tank, I agree with everything you said in your above comment (and Matt probably would, too).

When I teach that faith and works are on the same level (and even that faith itself is a work of sorts--even Jesus calls it such in John 6:29) is simply in order to emphasise that it is only by Grace Alone that we are saved. Our Faith and our Works are the result only of Christ's Grace.

Is it possible to work without faith? Yes, but what are you working toward? If you have no faith, then your works are nothing, since they are not done for the right motives. Works done without faith are not done to glorify God, and are not done as a result of God's Grace. Therefore, they are, as Paul quotes Isaiah in Romans, "filthy rags".

However, if our works are energised by God's Grace, then they cannot be done without faith, since faith is a gift of God's Grace. God will not grace us with faith but not the ability to work, and God will not grace us with the ability to do works pleasing to Him without granting us the grace of faith! The two are inseparable. Often Catholics emphasise the works aspect to the exclusion of faith, but that is not because we believe in works to the exclusion of faith, but because usually when we do this, it is talking to protestants who emphasise faith to the exclusion of works.

Works and Faith are not exclusive of each other. They are, in fact, two equal sides of the same coin.

As for saying "I am doing well in my good works", you are absolutely right that we are then at our weakest! We have allowed the deadly sin of pride to creep in (and the worst kind of pride--spiritual pride!) and that pride will kill any and all value our works to that point have accomplished in God's eyes, as you said.

But then, that is why the Virtues that we work towards are so key. Humility is needed always. But humility does not come by the theology of faith alone, but by the understanding that all that we do is by Grace alone. Keeping that doctrine clearly in sight at all times is crucial to humility, and humility is crucial to effective faith and works. After all, "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble."

God bless

That's all the relevant comments, adding some extra material to the debate.
God bless!

(Category: The Church: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--The Church and other Christian denominations
Soteriology: Justification)

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