Faith only?


My husband was playing golf with his two buddies yesterday. The discussion turned to religion and faith only theology.

One of his friends said something along the lines of:

When Jesus was on the cross, he had the two criminals on either side of him. To the one who believed, Jesus promised eternal life.

They used this to say that faith alone is all that is needed for salvation. I thought my hubby did a good job by saying that it wasn’t him just believing but him also speaking up which is an action. Also he brought up the verse that states that faith without works is dead.

What else can he have said to the above statement. I think that his friends are non-denominational Christians. The talk, from what I understand, was pleasant and an exchange of ideas rather than a bitter, screaming match.


Salvation by faith alone is orthodox Catholic theology. Those who would deny this were anathematized at the council of Orange.



As for the good thief this is what Cyril of Jerusalem had to say.

  1. For the name of Faith is in the form of speech one, but has two distinct senses. For there is one kind of faith, the dogmatic, involving an assent of the soul on some particular point: and it is profitable to the soul, as the Lord says: He that hears My words, and believes Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and comes not into judgment John 5:24 : and again, He that believes in the Son is not judged, but has passed from death unto life. Oh the great loving-kindness of God! For the righteous were many years in pleasing Him: but what they succeeded in gaining by many years of well-pleasing, this Jesus now bestows on you in a single hour. For if you shall believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, and shall be transported into Paradise by Him who brought in thither the robber. And doubt not whether it is possible; for He who on this sacred Golgotha saved the robber after one single hour of belief, the same shall save you also on your believing -Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture 5, Paragraph 10)


Well, would it not be profitable to define what is meant by “faith alone” …

Scripture only combines the two words *‘faith’*and ‘alone’ in saying that we are not saved by faith alone because faith without works is a dead faith …

Luther had to impose the word* ‘alone’* into the Letter to the Romans to force a certain meaning upon the scriptures by inserting the word into the text …

If you mean we are saved [once and for all time from sins -past, present and future] by faith alone … then this would not be good catholic thinking …

Scripture says to 'repent and be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit … Jesus says I [Jesus] am the Way, the Truth and the Life … that we must come to the Father through Hiim … Jesus said thet we must confess our belief in Him before man before He will acknowledge us to the Father [Which the Good Thief did from the cross] …

While I agree that faith in Jesus is the key … how ‘alone’ is construed is what is at issue …


Thank you for your response. I believe this is how they understand it.


Well, St. Paul had faith but he said that he was “working out my [Paul’s] salvation with fear and trembling”

St. Paul stated that he was ‘adding to the sacrifice of the cross’ and yet Jesus’ sacrifice was 100% sufficient … that means we have a part to play in salvation [even if we are only adding to something 100% plus complete for saving mankind and in need of no additions - mystery here - but who am I to argue with St. Paul :wink: ]

It cannot just be a moment in time and a free pass thereafter … though I think God could have set it up that way … He did not … we cooperate with Him in the plan of salvation [and at that - most imperfectly :o ]


Well you could have gone into Baptism of Desire but that could have become complicated. The fact that the thief died after professing Christ without the possibility of receiving Baptism.


Even most Protestants who do believe in “Once saved, always saved” recognize that saving faith must lead to works as part of the process of sanctification. The standard reply I guess is “faith alone but not faith that is alone”. The main point is recognizing that when we do good works they do not merit anything even if they are necessary. It is a mystery that I don’t think we can really understand.


When one uses the example of the thief on the cross as a guide for all Christians, then I ask why not use the example of an aborted baby as a guide for all Christians. For a great many Christians will believe that these babies are saved even without faith. So by this method of example, can we not claim that nothing is required for salvation? That even “faith alone” is too strict a standard?

But in fact we are not thieves on crosses, or aborted babies. We are people who have not only accepted Christ, but are now living out the Christian life. We are not helpless like thieves on crosses and aborted babies. And thus we are held to a different standard than these helpless people.


??? Was unable to find anything in the Council of Orange Canons (or in the letter from Boniface II confirming the Council of Orange canons) that said Church teaching is faith alone. My source is Denzinger which gives 25 Canons, plus a paragraph on predestination. Perhaps there is more. If so, could you please quote the canon and if possible provide a link to the document.

There is much about the role of grace in the document - even the necessity of grace to bring one to believe. Everything I read seemed to uphold the Church teaching that we are saved by grace. Eph 2:8 was cited twice "By grace you are made safe through faith, and this not of yourselves; for it is the gift of God.



Luthers invention of the slogan Faith Alone is quite evil in its implication, because what it does is first directly contradict the Bible.
Now if it is used and understood as Faith Alone then that would mean we can get to heaven without loving God. Since love is mentioned as greater than faith.
Now there is the position that says that it is living faith that includes love and obedience. But then that wouldn’t be faith alone. It would be faith working through love, just like Catholics believe, but most non-catholics who advocate that view have to misrepresent Catholicism as they cannot admit that they believe what the Bible and Catholicism teaches.
Faith working through love.

No Catholic believes that they can earn their way into heaven that was rejected way before Luther at the Council of Orange, but non-catholics have to continue to promote this lie, as the only way to reject Catholicism is to lie about it and deny truth.
No one can honestly reject Catholicism as you have to misrepresent it to reject it.

Recognizing Christ as Lord is an action, so how can you have a faith without any work? That is a contradiction and impossible to have faith without recognizing that Jesus is Lord.

Now saying it out loud like the thief. defending Christ, witnessing Him to another, is much more than the one action of recognizing Christ.

In Christ


The RCC has never taught that, at least in terms of how Luther defines “faith alone”. Grace is an essential part. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying?

Can you provide a reference to the specific part of the Canons of the Council of Orange you’re referring to?


As a former protestant, and currently an amateur Catholic apologist (which, I found myself becoming even as a protestant) it has come to my attention that there are 2 main issues that apologists from both sides seem to recognize as probably the most dividing: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide (this thread).

I have always thought that there is no question Sola Scriptura is a valid dividing issue. However, I am unconvinced that Sola Fide is really even an issue. It seems to be more a matter of semantics.

In all my years as a protestant I had never, even to this day, run across any protestant who would deny that grace is just as necessary for salvation as faith. Nor would they deny that ‘faith without works is dead’. In fact, even protestants who come from groups who, on the surface, don’t seem to recognize salvation as a process (i.e. Baptists; most other groups do recognize salvation as a process), would probably not have a problem with it if one were to point to the Scriptural model.

So where is the issue? Isn’t it just a moot point?


I’m with you on this. “Faith Alone” seems to be a club that some Protestants beat Catholicism with, but if you dig deeper, at death the life of a (presumably saved) Catholic and the life of a (presumably saved) Protestant will both have the unmistakable marks of a Christian life, and this includes both faith and obedient love lived out in works.

One of the most telling threads I have started here asked the simple question, can you, a Christian (not the thief on the cross, but you) be saved without any obedience, without any works of love? Oh, the squirming and evading that went on! So many people bring up the example of the thief on the cross, but no Christian who is a Christian for more than a day should use the thief as a guide to their own Christian life.


The real issue is about how Catholics and Protestants interpret issues like faith, grace, justification, etc. The differences are very significant. See my signature for more info.


My tongue-in-cheek reply is “Well if you happen to die on a cross next to God and He says you’re going to heaven, then that’s enough for me.”

Most of us won’t die that way.


With respect to the thief… We must remember that God created the means of salvation for us… but he is not BOND to them…

In other words… He is God… he can do what he want… If he said the thief may come home, then dog gone it, the thief is coming home…

However, there is a very clear thing we must keep in mind… No sin can enter heaven… If scripture says we sin by NOT doing what is right (James 4 I believe)… then how can we be allowed into heaven without works…

works is just another name for ‘doing what is right’

So… if you think you can be saved, and that your obedience has no weight… then how will you get into heaven if NOT doing what is right results in sin…

In Christ


This is an old thread, but I’m surprised that no one brought up the appropriate argument.

You can’t say the good thief on the cross had faith alone. The good thief proselytized to the bad thief (a work).

Besides, the whole justification by faith alone is not really faith alone; Protestants will always admit when pressed that they do not consider “faith” as “belief alone”. They must have living faith, which is faith plus works, although they will claim not. What they don’t understand is that Catholics don’t believe they can obtain salvation by their works. Salvation is by grace alone, period. God offers his grace such that we can have faith, and also by his grace can we have works. There is no profession of faith that can make God our debtor (meaning that he must let us into heaven by proclaiming our faith) nor any work that can make God our debtor. Is is only by his grace that we are justified, and nothing else.


You’re so right. Too often we overlook that. He made as public a witness of his faith as anybody in history.


Actually your husband missed an excellent opportunity to use the game of golf to drive home a point or two about the probability of landing a tiny golf ball on the paradisaical green on faith alone without losing it somewhere out in the weeds or in water hazards along the course of play. :wink: :smiley:

In golf there is even the notion of penalty strokes (consequences of sin), rub of the green (divine intervention/chastisement), traps (wiles of the devil), poor score for subpar performance (purgatory), and handicaps and tee positions to make up for lack of talent or hold one to higher levels of expectations. Not to mention the different sacramental tools (clubs) and the will and perseverance to see it all the way through to the very end. Nor to mention the likelihood of getting bad advise along the way (incompetent caddy) and/or competitive harassment and mind games from companions. :thumbsup:

We even have rules of play (dogma) to keep it all on the same fairway and within the bounds of play.

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