Faith and works debate

it’s been awhile since i’ve seen a faith and works debate critiqued from the catholic view. here is my understanding of faith and works, with an interjection of catholic principles. thoughts?

the main difference between catholics and protestants in faith and works, should be (there are many varieties of protestants, so i can’t speak for all, just what i see as best formulated): catholics teach faith plus works equals justification… and protestants teach faith equals justification plus works.

this is supported i believe it was, by the council of trent, that says that justification increases via works.

protestants see justification as a fixed idea, with sanctification increasing in one’s life. catholics view sancitifcation and justifiation as directly proportional.

of couse, both sides say it’s ‘grace alone’… but in regards to how that grace is achieved, the above points better hash that out.

the differences in the above theories are more a matter of academic points only, cause we see for practical purposes it’s clear a christian should have faith, and works. “must have” faith and works, even. neither theory necessarily describes an overall calculous of good works that must be involved, or even a calculus of faith. to be sure, most on both sides say one should be generally increasting towards God, with maybe some stumbles and ruts here and there… but most don’t define too much in this regard.

i sometimes say the catholic view is that “Jesus picks up the slack” in that what you don’t acheive in justification, Jesus does, or it is finished in purgatory. (which cleanses both temporal punishment, and some venial sins)

i like the protestant version, because it follows the one bible verse “though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow”… but on the other hand, it is still dung covered by snow. the catholic version calls it what it is, if you are just, you are called just. that’s not to say there’s something to be said about the ‘covering’ and legal aspects in protestantism.

i relate side most teachings of st paul to the protestant view, and Jesus to the catholic view. obviously it’s how you reconcile those teachings, cause they aren’t contradictory. It was galatians or ephesians that said “by faith are ye saved, not of works, lest any man should boast”. and it is Jesus who always says things regarding good works for salvation. i’m also reminded of how Abraham was justified in different stories… in Romans, Paul says he was justified by faith… in James, James says Abraham was justified by works, and “not by faith alone”. again, it’s all a matter of how you hash out and reconcile all these different teachings.

so do you think i’m hitting all the high notes here, and doing catholic teaching justice?

Why debate this? If you do works and have faith, great. If you have faith but no works (St. James will frown at you), do some, unless you’re just looking for an excuse to be lazy, taking salvation at your peril.

No, that is absolutely not true.

trent, that says that justification increases via works.

Trent said nothing of the kind.

of couse, both sides say it’s ‘grace alone’.

And, here, both sides are correct. This is what the Church teaches. The Church says we are saved by Grace. We are not saved by faith OR works (much less by both).

but in regards to how that grace is achieved, the above points better hash that out.

How that Grace is achieved, according to the Catholic Church, is Christian Baptism:

1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”

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.

There are no “works” involved (some people object that receiving Baptism is a “work,” but, when used in the Bible, a “work” means a charitable act).

Once you are saved, works cannot save you “more.” You are either in a State of Grace, or you are not. Baptism places us in a State of Grace, and if you die while still in a State of Grace you will go to heaven (with perhaps a layover in Purgatory).

If you forfeit your Grace through mortal sin, works won’t help you get it back. That’s what Sacramental Confession is for:

1446 Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.

That is the sum total of the Catholic economy of Salvation. It’s really very, very simple.

Well, but there’s Actual Grace and Sanctifying Grace. Actual Grace is present for everyone, baptized or not.

I believe it was Luther who first regarded the sacraments as “works”.

There is a foundational difference between how works are judged in Protestant and Catholic thought. The standard Protestant model is that when God judges a Christian, God judges Christ’s works (which are perfect) instead of the Christian’s and pretends that they are the Christian’s works. This is called the “imputation of the perfect active obedience of Christ.” In Catholic thought, on the other hand, God judges every man according to his works, but the Christian’s sins are forgiven through the grace of God and will not be imputed to him in the judgement. There’s much more to the issue of justification than that, but this is the root of the issue you are asking about. Another way to put this is that Protestants and Catholics would both agree that works matter with respect to salvation, but they believe this in different ways. For Protestants, one’s works are a symptom of election (or reprobation), but they are not actually judged, at least with respect to one’s ultimate salvation. For Catholics, the Christian’s works are actually judged in the judgment, so it is important that one’s works be blameless. Maybe I have not put it well, but what I’m saying is more or less an accurate depiction of differences in views of the final judgment at the end of the world (also called the general judgment).

Out of context of the rest of Catholic belief, what I described as the Catholic view probably sounds like “works righteousness,” but it’s really not and I think Scripture will make a lot more sense to you if you take what I say seriously. There is no opposition between Jesus and Paul because their message is both the same, that it is what is inside a man that matters before God. Compare the following two passages.

And behold one came and said to him: Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to him: Which? And Jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matthew 19:16-19)

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law. For Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet: and if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The love of our neighbour worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

You see that Paul cribbed all his teaching from Jesus! Paul learned directly from the Savior himself: For I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For neither did I receive it of man, nor did I learn it; but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Luther did not regard the sacraments as works. Lutheran theology places heavy emphasis on sacramental grace and how the ministers of the sacraments act in persona Christi. There might be places where Luther says that when Catholics administer the sacraments, they (unlike Lutherans) are attempting to merit justification, but that’s because Luther, like the other Reformers, was a polemicist and did not put much effort to portray Catholic beliefs and practices either accurately or charitably For example, when Luther is criticizing “the abomination of the mass,” he does not intend to reject the Eucharist. He is only criticizing what he says Catholics believe and do.

The Augsburg Confessions says the following about baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Article IX: Of Baptism.

1] Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary 2] to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace. 3] They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.

Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper.

1] Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed 2] to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

The Lutheran view of the sacrament of penance is a little more of a departure, the fruit of which can be seen in that virtually no Lutherans practice it today, but the Book of Concord still says private confession is to be retained in the Lutheran churches.

At any rate, you can see that Lutherans go so far as to say that baptism is necessary for salvation and that infants cannot be saved without it. A far cry from believing that sacraments are “works” that have nothing to do with salvation.

It is important to remember that Trent is responding to Marin Luther “saved by faith alone…” so you can expect that they are going to emphasize works. and, they go pretty far in doing so.

Here are highlights from Trent, note 24 and 32:
Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the favour of God, let him be anathema. (see note 1)

Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice (righteousness) received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.

Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (of whom one is a living member), the justified does not truly merit an increase of grace, and eternal life, provided that one dies in the state of grace, the attainment of this eternal life, as well as an increase in glory, let him be anathema.

Rome teaches that God helps man to do good works and hence to be more justfied… Trent elaborates this idea in chapter 16:

"For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified, - as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches, - and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God, - we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace..."

More Trent:
“the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just”

is saying we are justified by a renewal, ie by works. “makes us just”. not that we are just because of Jesus.

“This disposition, or preparation, is followed by Justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just, and of an enemy a friend, that so he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting. (Council of Trent, 6th Session, ch. Vii)”

this basically says … “justification is renewal of inward man through cooperation with grace”. although, the actual statement is vague enough to allow one to think it could be applied to a protestant idea “justification causes an inward renewal…by accepting grace”.

the key points are “is renewal” v “causes renewal”, and “cooperate with grace” v “accept grace”

Trent
“through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified”


Isn’t justification considered a process within the catholic church? (i know salvation is usually considered a process… but these are distinct ideas, so i am clarifying)

here is the catholic encyclopedia.

“We now come to the different states in the process of justification.”

newadvent.org/cathen/08573a.htm

i recognize that the encyclopedia is only paraphrasing Trent here at least on the ‘process’ of justification, and it is important to realize that Dogma is different than an encyclopedia. but still, this should be at least standard teaching, even if one can split hairs about what is actually to the level of “dogma”

but trent did say “makes us just” and has similar verbiage.

i’ve heard some catholic say “we are justified, and we also increase in justification” which seemed to be somewhat of a cop out. and it deosn’t seem to be per se based on catholic dogmatic teachings.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares: “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.”

Anathemas are matters of Canon Law, NOT doctrine.

ALL Canon Law promulgated by EVERY ECUMENICAL COUNCIL has been abrogated (abolished) by our current Code of Canon Law (in its Second Edition, which abrogated the entire First Edition in Canon 5)

It is important to remember that Trent is responding to more than “saved by faith alone”… :wink:

so you can expect that they are going to emphasize works. and, they go pretty far in doing so.

Well… let’s see if your quotes support your assertion, then…

Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the favour of God, let him be anathema.

Hmm… no works here.

Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Hmm… no works here, either.

Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice (righteousness) received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.

Works – but, what’s being said here? Not salvation through works, but rather, whether works are merely the result of justice or whether works interact with justice.

Canon 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

Hmm… no works here, either.

Canon 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ (of whom one is a living member), the justified does not truly merit an increase of grace, and eternal life, provided that one dies in the state of grace, the attainment of this eternal life, as well as an increase in glory, let him be anathema.

Ahh… works! Again, though, what’s being said? First, whether good works are completely divorced from him who produces them; are you really saying that human good works have no relation to the believer who produces them? Second, that there is no increase in grace to those who produce good works? So… if you have two Christians (let’s say twins, to make the example more useful) who are baptized on the same day, and one is replete with good works and the other is completely devoid of them – would you say that there is no difference in them, in terms of the operation of grace in them?

We can take a look at the rest of your post… but really, I don’t think that the claims you’ve made are supported by the quotes from Trent you’ve provided as ‘justification’. What do you think?

Your problem right now is that you don’t have a understanding of the Catholic and Protestant theological categories at play here. One thing you have to understand, mentioned by David Filmer, is the Catholic concept of sanctifying grace, which is a “participation in the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). Grace is not just God’s attitude toward us, but also what he does in us. St. Paul is constantly preaching about this interior aspect of grace.

And hope confoundeth not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:4)

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:29)

But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18)

If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians (4:23-24)

This “new creation” is not merely subsequent and accidental to justification rather than a part of it. Remember what St. Paul teaches in Romans: “But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). One is only in the spirit (rather than the flesh) if the Spirit of God dwells in him. If one does not have this interior renewal, he is “none of his,” and you would not say that one can be justified but not be God’s. “They who are in the flesh,” i.e. who lack the spirit of grace, “cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). Inward renewal cannot be separated from justification if that inward renewal is necessary to be imputed righteous by God.

First, you have to understand what a “formal cause” is. It is not just a snobby cause in a tuxedo. It is a particular kind of “cause,” which we might define here as why something is what it is. Aristotle uses a bronze statue for example. On one hand, the sculptor is a cause of the statue since he forms the bronze into a statue, which is the primary sense in which we would use the word cause in English. This is called “efficient cause” (efficient in Latin means something that brings something about). The “formal cause” is simply what it is to be a statue. A statue is a statue because it has the form of a statue. These two terms used by Trent are lumped together as part of the “four causes.” The other two are material causes and final causes. In our example, the bronze itself is called a “material cause” because the bronze is the matter of the statue. A “final cause” is what something’s end is, what it’s directed toward or its purpose.

With this in mind you can better understand what the Council of Trent was teaching here. The final cause of justification is the glory of God because this is the end of man’s justification. The efficient cause is God, since he is the author and effector of justification. The “meritorious cause” is Christ’s Passion, since by it he merited justification for all. The instrumental cause is baptism because we are justified through reception of the sacrament.

Finally, the formal cause says what our justice consists of. The common teaching among Protestants is that when God judges us just, this is because he judges Christ instead of us. For example, a boy decides to not do his homework and dies in a terrible bus accident on the way to school. If the boy is not a Christian, God will judge him guilty of the sin of not doing his homework and cast him into hell. If the boy is a Christian, God will not consider the boy’s own record, but will look at Christ and say, “Christ always did his homework, and he never sinned at all,” and on this basis he will declare the boy righteous. He will also not punish the boy for his sin because Christ paid the penalty for the boy not doing his homework on the cross. This is called “double imputation” and often put as “Christ takes our sin and we get his righteousness.” While agreeing with the broad outlines (Christ paid the penalty for all our sins and merited all justification for us), Trent clarified this, saying that the formal cause is not “that [justice] whereby [God] Himself is just,” meaning that when God judges us as righteous, he does not simply say, “Christ is righteous, therefore, you are too.” He actually brings about a change in us to make us righteous in his sight (viz., sanctifying grace). This is also said in Canon 11, which you quote. Like I said earlier, Trent’s teaching is that grace is not merely God’s attitude toward us, but also what he does for us (and in us).

When it is said that justification is a process, this is because the word justification does not always signify the same thing. Justification can denote taking a hell-bound sinner and restoring him to a right relationship with God, which is how the word is most often used by Protestants. Then there are also works that are done in grace, which God imputes as righteous works. This also extends to the judgment where every man will be judged according to his works. Consider that even in heaven not all will receive the same glory and not everyone in hell will receive equal punishment. So our initial justification which brings peace with God is an instantaneous thing, but we can still “grow in grace” (2 Pt. 3:18) afterwards.

I’m sure that my explanation of the common Protestant model of justification was unclear so watch this short clip by R.C. Sproul.

youtube.com/watch?v=IapqqQ45Q4w

(N.B. I am not supporting what is said in the video. I am only trying to show what Protestants teach).

The canons are not law as if they prescribed any particular canonical penalty, but the doctrinal rulings in the canons are still valid today and forever. A minor point, but something that could be easily misunderstood from your post.

I could not get that video to play but there are some other clips on imputed righteousness that sum it up the same. It is important to remember that not all Protestants have this view. It is peculiar to Calvanism, and those ecclesial communities that have been influenced by Calvanism. Even John Wesley said “It is nowhere stated in Scripture that Christ’s personal righteousness is imputed to us. Not a text can be found which contains any enunciation of the doctrine.” It is not espoused by Methodists, Lutherans or Anglicans.

a lot of times the faith v works debate comes down to analogies.

an interesting approach catholics could use, is to say that ‘justification’ is like a seed growing into a plant. instead of say reaching ‘level ten’ on a video game. in that, you are forgiven and are perfect, to a catholic we’ll say after confession… you are ‘justified’. but you grow as a plant, with works, adding more justification to the organism. with this anaology, there’s no recouping what you lack per se or cleaning what is unclean. with the ‘level ten’ analogy, you are only at level seven, so you lack full attainment, justification.

but that analogy can only go so far in reconciling prot and catholic teaching. it is still true, with catholic teaching, a sin causes one to lack full justification, whereas with prots, that usually isn’t true.

it seems, having now quoted Trent, that my initial argument is still true.

catholic: justification = faith plus works
prot: faith = justification plus works

but as i noted in the last point above, one sinning also causes a lack of justification. so if you add that to the mix.

catholic: justification = faith plus works plus lack of sin
prot: faith = justification plus works plus lack of sin

but then again, if you approach it with the analogy of the plant as I did, you might be able to rearrainge it more.

catholic: justification plus works = faith plus lack of sin (or more precisely, you probably can’t say it in an equation, cause lack of sin doesn’t cause works, per se)
prot: faith = justification plus works plus lack of faith

the idea again, is that justification could be said to be complete, but as a plant grows, it adds justfication to hte completed justified organism.

so as i was getting at, and contrary to what i initially said, it ould be argued from catholics “we are justified, and we increase in justification”

the only real difference then would be what sin does to the jsutification.

DeMaria once posted a well stated summary of how the ‘two’ sides of Protestant and Catholic are closer to in-line with each other than most people think. I have had discussions about this topic many, many times, and quite often it boils down to differences in usage of language than it does to actual belief. And St. Paul warned us quite sternly to NOT bicker over such things and not have them divide us. A Catholic can be quite comfortable with the concept of ‘faith alone’ in that we approach the Sacraments just as if we were Abraham. It is faith alone that leads us to believe that the waters of Baptism can actually wash away our sins. It is faith alone that holds fast our belief in The Eucharist as the Body, Blood, Soul and a Divinity of Jesus. It is faith alone that compels us to confess to a priest and know we have been forgiven. It is faith alone that leads us to the Holy Spirit descending upon us at Confirmation, etc. Faith ‘alone’ produces our belief that these ‘works’ actually produce change. And it is faith alone that tells us that we MUST do these (and other) things…still not to ‘save ourselves’, but to cooperate with God.

And the Catholic Church teaches nothing different. The Catechism, St. Augustine, the Apostles…none of them taught nor teach any different. The Grace of God alone, offered as a free gift has the power to save us to eternal life. Our faith in that Grace is our ‘work’ in the equation, and our ‘works’ are done because we have faith in what God promises! It may get worded by some that “baptism saves”…and this is a Truth. So long as everyone understands that it is only Truth because God made it so, and we have faith in what God says. Clear as mud?

In short, I would agree with others: there really isn’t that much to argue about on this topic once you actually know what the Catholic Church teaches. (Some branches of Calvinism not withstanding)

Peace in Christ

Wait – many here have demonstrated that your understanding of Trent’s arguments is a bit superficial, and that your quotes about ‘works’ largely aren’t addressing works at all – and your response is simply ‘my initial argument is still true’??? Are you entering into discussion with us, or simply preaching to us…? :wink:

Pope Benedict XVI on Faith and Works in Paul:

(Two audiences from the Year of St. Paul)

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081119_en.html

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081126_en.html (begins a bit down)

The video is playing fine on my laptop and my phone so maybe it is an issue on your browser’s part or a temporary issue on YouTube’s part that has been fixed now.

The doctrine that Sproul talks about is not exactly peculiar to Calvinism. For example, you said that this theory of “forensic justification” is not espoused by Lutherans. In fact, it was Luther’s view, and it is the view given in the Formula of Concord.

Accordingly, we believe, teach, and confess that our righteousness before God is (this very thing], that God forgives us our sins out of pure grace, without any work, merit, or worthiness of ours preceding, present, or following, that He presents and imputes to us the righteousness of Christ’s obedience, on account of which righteousness we are received into grace by God, and regarded as righteous.
III.4)Epitome of the Formula of Concord

Nearly all Baptists I know, if they have an opinion on this question, hold to the view of forensic justification even though they are not Calvinists in general.

As GKC would say, Anglicans are motley. I’m sure that there are plenty of Anglicans that believe in forensic justification and plenty who don’t.

Methodists, I don’t know much about. They do not generally attack Catholicism so I am content to leave them alone.

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