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.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Dialogue on Salvation and Justification, Part 1

Recently, a friend of mine (who comments here as Hidden One) started a discussion on a forum (linked to in the title) on Salvation and Justification. My friend is a former Presbyterian who is ardently researching Catholicism, and, unless he is somehow convinced of the veracity of the Protestant system, will likely convert to Catholicism sooner than later. As a result, he has tried to start and participate in dialogues between Catholics and Protestants, in order to see who makes the more biblical and reasonable case for their beliefs.

I chose to participate in this particular discussion, and since I put rather a lot of work into defending my beliefs, and because the discussion has, so far, been very amiable, I wanted to reproduce it here. As the discussion is still ongoing, I may post further parts at a later date.

At this time, there have been five participants besides myself, listed in order of appearance, and in the colours in which their words will be reproduced here: Hidden One (who posts there under the moniker "A Faithful Servant"), "Christian Horses", "The Obnoxious Mormon", "Ryesin", and "Peter".

In part one, by way of introduction, I will post here the beginning of the discussion, ending before my own replies. The subsequent parts will be my responses, first to Peter, then Ryesin, and finally The Obnoxious Mormon. If the discussion progresses beyond what it was at the posting of these articles, I will add it to these at that time.

Before I begin, I'd like to mention that I thought it would be good to reproduce the dialogue here, since with a Catholic, two Calvinists, a Mormon, one of unknown Protestant affiliation, and one uncertain, it provides a fairly good cross-section of Christian (and pseudo-Christian) thought on the subject of Salvation; particularly the belief in Justification by Faith. As such, I am able to present the Catholic faith from a variety of perspectives. So, without further adieu:

AFS: Anyway... what are your beliefs on Salvation and Justification?

CH: We are not justified by our works, only by our faith in Jesus Christ. Besides accepting Jesus there is nothing we can say or do to gain salvation.

A brief note. I never bothered dealing with CH's statement, in part because A Faithful Servant did a pretty thorough job of it already, and partly because it was a statement of her opinion, with no argument given to support it, and finally, because she never returned to the discussion.

AFS: I disagree with the idea that we are saved by Faith Alone (Sola Fide), because faith alone does not justify. (James 2:24)

I do not believe that works alone save me; though Works do justify me. (James 2:24)

Faith alone does not save me because Faith, without Works, is dead. (James 2:17)

Therefore, a simple logical conclusion is that Faith, with Works, is not dead. And this Faith, a living Faith, saves me. For Faith saves. (Romans 10:9)

I am saved by the grace of Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one gets to the father but through Him. (Acts 15:11, John 14:6)

I believe that I must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead and be baptized for Salvation. (Romans 10:9, Mark 16:16)

I believe that anyone who is not Saved will go to Hell. Regardless. (John 14:6, Mark 16:16)

As to whether I am Saved (already)...

As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13).

TOM: We have an interesting definition of justification. We say that justification is bringing our lives in harmony with God's and setting it on the right path. Once we are on this path, having been justified by the Holy Ghost, we can then allow Christ's grace to take us the rest of the way.

I believe that by repenting and living a good life and keeping the commandments, I am on the path to Heaven and allow Christ to wipe myself clean from sin.

As no unclean thing can enter the Kingdom of God, I try to stay on the strait and narrow as much as I can.

I might be repetitious, but this is a summary: through good works and repentance I am justified (that is brought into harmony with God), which enables Christ to make up for all my faults and weaknesses.

Ryesin: Personally I believe that as Christian Horses said we can only be saved through God's grace. Personally, I don't believe we can do anything to be saved. I believe that man is so decadent by nature, that we can'tdo anything good. This comes from the passage below. What I believe is our actions do that we have faith. We are a slave to sin. Man can not stop sinning on his own. However, once we accept Christ through God's grace we then become "slaves" to righteousness. We are able to genuinely do good works. We are not saved by good works, for it is only at the point of salvation that we can then do good works.

10As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."[c]
Romans 3:10-12 (Based From Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Eccles. 7:20)

"28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Romans 3:28

"16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?" Romans 6:16

"Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do."
James 2:18
Peter: I couldn't help but join in. Seemed to be about the only thing round here I hadn't joined in on. I'm still waiting for someone to answer my q's if possible on the other thread but no worries for the moment.
"For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Romans 3:28
So if this is true, how can this be true?
"Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?"
Well quite clearly since they are in the Bible both have to be true. It clearly states that a man is justified by faith and not by serving the law (first verse). Note that it does not say that man is justified by faith and works. It even goes as far to say "apart from observing the law" so that no-one can argue differently. It is a fact. Can it be taken to be any other meaning? I think not, but feel free to suggest differently.

However the second verse stated that appears to contradict the first verse as it clearly states that faith without works is useless. But my question would be whether it is contradictory at all? In believing that a combination of works and faith/grace get us to Heaven one is going against the first verse. However if one applies this to mean that works is a sign of the faith we have established on God's grace, it makes sense!

Is it saying works is necessary for justification? No, it saying a faith without works is dead/useless. Maybe this is a little ambiguous but I'll use an example. The dying thief on the cross beside Jesus was told when he repented that "today you will be with me in paradise". I would be intrigued to find out how if works are needed that thief could get to Heaven that day? He couldn't do a single thing! All he could do was depend on the grace that was lavished unto him from Jesus!

Another example is spread throughout the Bible when people are being told how to be saved.
"What must I do to be saved?"
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved-you and your household" (Acts 16:31)
"Repent and Believe" was Jesus' message in Mark 1

and when the Jews were saying circumcision was needed Paul said in Acts 15
"No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
None of these examples say you must believe and do good works or that we must repent believe and do good works.

Yes I fully believe that faith without works is dead. But how can one become a Christian straight away like many characters in the Bible if one has to have works? Paul did not do good works so he could become a Christian and be justified. And if one is justified over a time period, then how can the dying thief be assured of Heaven?

Hope I didn't go at things too bluntly!
Sorry if I did.

It was at this point that I entered the discussion, replying to each of the three major participants (TOM, Ryesin, and Peter) in the reverse order of their initial posting. Thus, my next post here will be my reply to Peter, specifically dealing with the discussion of Romans 3 and James 2. The following post will continue my reply to Peter, and will deal with his other objections to the necessity of works in salvation. From there, I will turn to replying to Ryesin, and finally to The Obnoxious Mormon, including a follow-up reply from him and response from me. As the debate continues to progress, I will update it here.

God bless

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

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