By faith alone, a catholic misunderstanding

I am a baptist and believe in the baptist/protestant salvation message and gospel as the only true gospel, I believe Catholics muddy the water on this issue.

Catholics often misunderstand by faith alone

I have heard many catholic lay people,authors,debtors and apologist misrepresent what by faith alone means. Now I admit fully this is caused in part by protestants who say “by faith alone” taken literally could lead a catholic to a misunderstanding with no further explanation. It does not help with many books etc that do the same that catholic’s may read.

By faith alone should be rejected
So to clarify “by faith alone” Catholics are 100% right to reject by faith alone just as the book of James does and Augustine. A simple mental faith or belief in Jesus as messiah and god does nothing of itself, as James says so even the demons believe.

what is meant by faith alone?

Maybe a catholic would better understand by Jesus alone. Protestant believe that our salvation comes from Jesus death on the cross for all our sins when we put our faith in him. It is not a mental faith or belief, but a trust in him as savior to pay the price of sin we could not, so when god looks at us on judgment day he can look on Jesus as perfect sacrifice for sins. However this also includes repentance from sin, asking forgiveness for those sins to god, being born again or a change of heart and asking Jesus into your heart as lord and savior.** It is not to say again**, a simple mental faith/belief in god/bible/Jesus as James rightly rejects.

:slight_smile: Thank you jjsmity, I think I read from St Pope John Paul II somewhere that he said something along the lines of, the Catholic says we are saved by faith and works while the protestant says faith alone, but then notes from St James that faith without works is dead, so essentially we are saying the same thing just in a different language.

God Bless

Thank you for reading

Hello JJSmity.

You’ve opened the can-o-worms!

When the term faith alone is used it usually means no works required and more specifically Catholic type works like Sacraments, etc. So on the surface one can speak of having faith in Jesus Christ but with further dialog, it very quickly becomes apparent there is much more to the two word parameters than simply believing that Jesus is the Messiah.

If you specifically can state your particular definition of this, what you truly believe about it, then common ground will be firmly under this thread’s feet. It isn’t enough to simply post words regarding the idea from someplace else. We need to know what you believe in your own words so we can discuss how you apply this to your personal faith journey. For instance, do you believe the “Sinners Prayer” is all that is needed to be “saved?” Does that make sense? I hope so.


Greetings jjsmity and may God bless you abundantly today,

I can certainly agree with this at least on the surface, so why do we need 2 different theologies? What is wrong with the theology of salvation by faith that is/was taught by the Catholic Church for thousands of years? Where is the difference in the two theologies? My personal misunderstanding is the more we try to justify our positions the more we see we believe in the same thing and therefore ask what is the original position.

I applaud your effort to show our similarities, but if you want to explore misunderstands then we might need to show the differences first.


kind of, I have heard from a catholic they say saved by grace alone, were protestant by faith alone.

We see it as you get saved, and true salvation will auto result in good works, but the works dont save you they are a result of the works. Were as catholics see it more as faith is fulfilled or completed in good works.

thanks for post

I was looking more to simply clarify protestant beliefs and what is meant by faith alone as I have seen it misunderstood by some catholics no fault of their own. My view would be under the what is meant by faith alone? in my op to clarify my position.

I would say yes the sinners prayer, that person walks away justified. Like agustine said

“If God did not listen to sinners, it would have been all in vain for the publican to cast down his eyes to the ground and strike his breast saying: “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And that confession merited justification, just as the blind man merited enlightenment”
(Homilies on the Gospel of John*44:13 [A.D. 416]).Augustine

thanks for post

this thread was more for correcting misunderstandings. I would say were we differ is in works and how they are related. Catholics say salvation is completed in works, protestants say works are result of true saving faith but are disconnected from salvation.

Yes big can of worms opened! But what Glenda says is exactly the right point.

I don’t think that is that mist Catholics particularly apologist “misunderstand”. What you have posted is very clear to us already. What we mean that faith alone doesn’t save is regarding the sacraments. I don’t think is correct to say catholics believe that salvation is completed by work. No that is not right. Salvation comes oy through Jesus. Only through Jesus we attain salvation. However we have a sinful nature that puts a wall between us and Jesus. Jesus has given us some tools to overcome that wall and be able to get to him. So while yes just believing in Jesus brings salvation overcoming our sinful nature is very very difficult and doing it without the help of the tools he gave us is even more difficult.
For cathokics we also need to do some catholic work on our part to be able to overcome our sinful nature. More specifically just saying the sinners prayers by the person, for catholics does not walk away justified. That is due to our sinful nature. The person needs more works besides just the prayers and the works is the sacraments. That is where the difference lies not to understanding what faith alone is.

I never meant to say all catholics, but some catholics yes do have the misunderstanding.

Sorry I had to edit my post as some got deleted and was not clear. And I also thought you meant apologist and theologist though that OK more clear now. Thanjs

Still not quite correct. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. However, James ch.2, vs. 14-17 says “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled.’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (ESV-a good Protestant translation). Furthermore, in vs 24 he says “You see that a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone.”

Clearly, James is saying that faith and works together are necessary for salvation, which comes to us by Grace. Faith alone cannot save one. Works alone cannot save one. The two are inexorably linked, not disconnected at all. It is an improper reading of scripture to separate the two, as James clearly does not. James’ words are not obscure at all. They are very forthright. Unless you do the works (which God has provided for you to do) you cannot be saved. Faith alone does not save. They all work together.

Thanks for the thread! You seem to be including all protestants in your original post. Be careful as there is a lot of variation within the many denominations on the role of works in faith. I have a copy of a protestant book titled, “Faith Plus Nothing Equals Salvation” or something to that effect that tries to teach that having faith in Jesus but not living the life of a Christian will still guarantee your salvation. A terrible distortion of the scriptural teaching that we are saved by works and NOT by faith alone.
As with most disagreements between Catholics and Protestants, we agree on a specific point of any given issue, and then the Catholic position also supports further/expanded belief in addition to our common one. We believe we are saved by faith in Christ, period!
And then to truly have such faith in Christ we must choose to do good works, if were able, to realized that grace. Glad to count you as a fellow brother in Christ!

grace alone i was quoting from a catholic here

“catholic on protostant vs catholic uderstanding of salvation
Since Sanctification is separated from Justification Protestants correctly say, using their terminology,that Justification is by faith alone – works they do in Sanctification do not belong to (their) Justification. Catholics who consider Sanctification as integral part of Justification believe works are part of Justification.* However instead of saying we are justified by faith plus works,** the correct expression is we are justified by grace** – it is God’s Grace that first moves us to believe in Christ and to obey God’s commandments in our Sanctification.* Without God’s Grace we cannot do both, not even have the initiative,*but we, in using our freedom,have to cooperate with it. …Catholics and Protestants believe that our righteousness comes from God – they disagree on how it is applied to us Catholics do believe in Justification by faith but not in Justification by faith alone, because Catholics understand Justification to be a process, not one-time event. [Works of god in us with our coroperation as well]”

This thread is not a debate on whos right, but on correcting false assumptions on the side of some Catholics. Please read my op i references james refutation of faith alone as it should be,if you wish to debate on this issue I suggest you learn the opposing sides views counters explanations as you seem unaware as if this would be novel to protestants. I would give you what james means in whole and the bible, but not for this thread, that time may very well come, not like it hasent been done before with scholars or i am sure on this thread many times.

You can not claim to have received salvation through Jesus if you then ignore the needs of your neighbor. Jesus clearly tells us this in Mark 12:28-31

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

to me you sound like a undercover catholic lol.

“tries to teach that having faith in Jesus but not living the life of a Christian will still guarantee your salvation”

that is true in a way. we are saved by his work on the cross [in protestant views] not by any work we do after, in fact catholics would agree.

“CCC 1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.”

it is that if we are truly saved, than we will automatically do good works to come. or as catholic say

2005Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved.56 However, according to the Lord’s words "Thus you will know them by their fruits"57 - reflection onGod’s blessingsin our life and in the lives of the saints offers us **aguarantee that grace is at work in us***and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

" A terrible distortion of the scriptural teaching that we are saved by works and NOT by faith alone."

sounds like you should be catholic. Could you show me this protestant denomination that says saved by works?.

amen to that. I think that was a terrible passage to prove a biblical point, john 15.2 would be much better

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
john 15.2

what else does bible say, many will say lord lord and jesus says I never knew you. Anyone who claims to believe yet has no works, is not saved. anyone who is saved will have works.

While I understand your concern here, I really do not think it is so much a matter of Catholics muddying the water as it is protestants not having things universally defined.
Talk with different protestants and one will get different definitions and explanations.

If a Protestant wishes to know what the Catholic Church teaches on a given subject, there are detailed official documents that can be referenced. There is nothing comparable in the “protestant” world. Certain protestant denominations will have documents - but nothing that is universally accepted across all of Protestantism.

So - the bottom line is that protestants are essentially the ones who have muddied the waters by having differing takes on what “faith alone” means.

I do not make the above statements as an attack on you, ad I appreciate your desire to set the record straight…yet what you have shared is, in the end, just the view of you and your denomination. Others may have a different view.

Finally - just let me say that as regards the relationship between faith and works, generally once one gets passed the verbiage and rhetoric, more often than not the Catholic and the protestant is saying the same thing.

At least that has been my experience.


Do you believe that God makes us robots that are incapable of choosing to do good works?

If no, then doing works is a choice we must make, and are NOT an automatic thing that all saved people will do.

I believe you misunderstood what I meant when saying muddy the waters me Protestant did it again lol] I meant catholics muddy the gospel message of jesus by adding works etc. I also think some catholics misunderstand what protestants mean by faith alone, as you said in part because of protestants.

could you please provide the view that differs among protestants?

thanks for post.

not sure if this is topic but…yes works are a choice, something a changed born again heart will gravitate to, just as catholics say the holy spirit works in you to good works. Something all who are born again will do.

I don’t think is our misunderstanding. When saved alone faiths say, no matter what you will do, by faith alone you are being saved. You can be an adulterous but you are still being saved, that does not seem to be sending the right signal. It is true we need faith, but we also need works, love, as well.

I am not arguing who is correct here, I also agree we are told many times to show we are saved and changed heart to show good works as any born again would do.

Well the reason I said that was bc I remember seeing your post at first and you mentioned that Catholics, apologetics, had it wrong. That’s why I stated my comment, there is a huge difference, faith alone without any works and love is dead faith, see James.

Now if you have faith and it transforms your life, then more power to you. I think I see your point and I believe the RCC has embraced that, but I think as a whole, the Once Saved Always Saved Program has not taught it well. I think they make it sound incredible, but they forget to tell the people the fine print. That fine print is, love, works, faith and fear of God.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit