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.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

On Faith, Works, and Weather Reports.

In the seemingly interminable debate between Catholicism and Protestantism, the issue of the Protestant Pillar known as Sola Fide is often the most sharply contested. One the one side, Catholics teach the necessity of both Faith and Works, cooperating with the grace of God, in order to be saved. On the Protestant side, the teaching is somewhat varied and a little difficult to pin down, but usually runs thus: that we are saved by responding to God's grace by our Faith Alone (hence, "sola fide"), and that Good Works flow from that faith, or demonstrate that faith, but do not themselves contribute directly to our salvation. In other words, Protestants view Faith and Works as two very distinct things, one being necessary, and the other being rather more superfluous, though not completely excluded from the equation. Catholics, such as myself, on the other hand, regard faith and works as on the same level, and often as basically the same thing.

What prompts this particular essay on the subject was a reflection on the concept of faith that extends beyond simply the bounds of religious belief, and into the realm of so-called "everyday life." Last week here in Southern Ontario was particularly warm, and I, working for now in a mass-production style bakery, near the oven, was feeling the heat and the humidity with much discomfort (offering up that discomfort for the entire shifts, of course). On a particular day last week (Thursday, I think), the paper predicted more heat, but a thunderstorm which would cool things down. I, hoping for cooler weather, thought that I was looking forward to this thunderstorm, and was talking about the weather with my co-workers while the day was still sunny and oh-so-hot. All of a sudden, I realised that I had left all four of my windows, as well as my sun-roof, open when I parked upon arriving to work. I remarked on this to one coworker, quipping that I apparently didn't have much faith in the weatherman's forecast. It was this offhand comment that caused me to ponder the analogy while I was working at my not-otherwise-intellectually-stimulating job.

If I truly believed the weatherman when he said it was going to rain, I would take certain precautions, not the least of which would be rolling up the windows and closing the sunroof so that nothing within my car was ruined. Rolling up the windows does not merely demonstrate my faith--it is my faith. Failing to roll up my windows similarly demonstrates that I have no faith in the weatherman at all. It is rather imbecilic to claim that I believed the weatherman that it was going to rain, and was even looking forward to that happy moment, when my car was left vulnerable to the water. I could not protest in the midst of the storm, "I believed you were coming, great thunderstorm! Why did my faith not save me from a soaked car seat and a rather miserable drive home?" The storm, demonstrating its rage at my insolence with peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, would pelt me with its drops of truth, that I did not, in fact, believe in it, or I would certainly have been prepared for the awful judgement of water damage!

Of course, analogies can only go so far. If I had completely disregarded the weather report, but sealed up all my windows solely out of habit, or out of fear of burglary, and thus come through the terrible storm (which, incidentally, on that day, never came to my place of work, but by some horrid design stopped 10 or so blocks away) with no water damage, it would be no credit to my faith. In the Christian life, we are called to believe in the truths of the Gospel, in faith. But faith in those Gospel truths means that we must put those truths into practice. We must live the Gospel, and not simply believe it. But the converse is also true. If we, due to a natural disposition or proper upbringing, live a good and moral life out of duty or habit (if that were possible), but with no faith in or regard for the God who calls us to do so, our works of themselves will not save us. We cannot simply, by some coincidence, live the Gospel, but must also believe it.

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