Faith versus Works?

Let’s imagine there are two fellows.

Person 1 has strong faith, firmly believes that salvation is purely through the grace of God, and the death of Jesus has saved him from eternal damnation. Yet, he suffers from a certain weakness of disposition/flesh, and so never really goes to Mass, can’t stop his life of sin (let’s say, fornication), and doesn’t have the strength of character to be a ‘good Christian’ in practice (but he’d like to be). Perhaps, he thinks after all, it is not his merits, but Christ’s, which win him Heaven.

Person 2, for various reasons (unanswered prayers, bad experiences with the Church), has concluded (with maybe 75% assurance) in his heart that we live in a universe governed by chance, and after death we are reduced to dust. Nevertheless, he is an exemplary ‘good Catholic’ (perhaps a married man, or even a priest), and continues to live as a ‘good Catholic’, practising religion and charity and observing moral rules without fail. His motivation might be a kind of stoicism, or concern for his family and others, or the view that, even if nothing matters, a life lived as a good Catholic is better than any other (and there’s a remote possibility that there is actually Heaven and Hell). So he is faithful, charitable, moral, etc., until the very end. He encourages others in their faith, not because he believes it’s really true, but because it seems like an influence for living as a decent, and relatively happy, person…

Who has the best chance for salvation of these two chaps?

Hi,

Which one in your examples did the will of Christ Father?

(Mat 7:19 DRB) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire.

(Mat 7:20 DRB) Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.

(Mat 7:21 DRB) Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

(Mat 7:22 DRB) Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name?

(Mat 7:23 DRB) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

Trying to discern the outcome of someone’s life and salvation is not something we have the power to determine. All we can do in scenarios like this is provide poorly educated guesses as we can never have enough information or insight to make an educated guess.

I will however put forth some more thoughts from scripture for all to consider while pondering the two fellows in the OP, as well as (and arguably more importantly) their own situation in regards to their faith, their works and deeds, their spiritual richness or dryness, the internal character of their hearts, and their thoughts.

Even though we can’t really know the chances of salvation for either of these fellows, pondering and reflecting on their situations along with our own can help us to see faults in our own lives and help us to resolve to improve them with the help of God’s grace.

Matthew 21:28-31

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went.
30 And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.
31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

James 2:14-26

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?*
15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder.
20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,
23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, " Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God.
24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
25 And in the same way was not also Ra’hab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

Pope Benedict XVI on the subjects of Faith and Works in 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 (scroll down)

Plus earlier one:

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20061108_en.html

We also don’t know how God would be interacting with both these hypothetical people - maybe he is testing the faith of the 2nd man to see if he will continue to live a righteous life. Maybe he is testing the first man to see if he acts on his faith.

Jer. I the Lord alone probe the mind and test the heart- today’s first reading

I think both of these examples are excellent proof that it’s not our call. God didn’t gives us the authority to judge the salvation of others or ourselves. We don’t see the whole picture like God does. That’s why salvation by faith alone, and there is nothing I can do to gain or lose that salvation, makes absolutely no sense to me.

Let’s break down the examples. (disclaimer this is an opinion in the end it’s all up to God not me).

Person 1 has strong faith, firmly believes that salvation is purely through the grace of God, and the death of Jesus has saved him from eternal damnation.

On the surface sure he looks like he is saved. :thumbsup:

Yet, he suffers from a certain weakness of disposition/flesh, and so never really goes to Mass, can’t stop his life of sin (let’s say, fornication), and doesn’t have the strength of character to be a ‘good Christian’ in practice (but he’d like to be). Perhaps, he thinks after all, it is not his merits, but Christ’s, which win him Heaven.

Whoa that doesn’t sound good. Maybe he’s not saved?

But we don’t know the whole story maybe he is unable to attend mass. Ok maybe he’s saved?

But fornication is pretty serious. Ok, not saved?

But he has a weak character, not his fault. Ok saved then?

It’s easy to see where this goes.

Person 2, for various reasons (unanswered prayers, bad experiences with the Church), has concluded (with maybe 75% assurance) in his heart that we live in a universe governed by chance, and after death we are reduced to dust.

That doesn’t sound like faith to me. He can’t be saved?

Nevertheless, he is an exemplary ‘good Catholic’ (perhaps a married man, or even a priest), and continues to live as a ‘good Catholic’, practising religion and charity and observing moral rules without fail. His motivation might be a kind of stoicism, or concern for his family and others, or the view that, even if nothing matters, a life lived as a good Catholic is better than any other (and there’s a remote possibility that there is actually Heaven and Hell). So he is faithful, charitable, moral, etc., until the very end. He encourages others in their faith, not because he believes it’s really true, but because it seems like an influence for living as a decent, and relatively happy, person…

Well all that sounds real good, maybe he is saved.

Who has the best chance for salvation of these two chaps?

I don’t have a clue in the world. :shrug:

I’ll add that to my list of questions for Jesus, when and if I persevere to the end.

I refer to St John of the Cross, quoted in our catechism, “At the evening of life we shall be judged on our love.” Who fulfilled the law to love, the Greatest Commandments, the best? God, alone, who judges by the heart according to Scripture, knows the answer to that question with certainty. But our fruits, our works which were prepared by God for us to do as per Eph 2:10, or lack of them, surely bear witness, which is the meaning of Matt 25:31- 46 BTW, as well as the parable of the Good Samaritan. And, as Augustine put it, “Without love faith can indeed exist, but avails nothing.”

No way of ever knowing the mind of God and what his decision will be. We could never condemn either to hell. Maybe neither, maybe both who knows?

Faith versus works is a false dichotomy. This false concept arose during the “transformation” as a result of the unfortunate psychological state of the primary transformer. The transformation made polemics necessary and thus sides - teams - were chosen. If we need an either-or situation to be illustrative, the transformation made “faith” the sole determinant of salvation, which is neither taught by the Church nor the scriptures. -]/-]

As with all such spurious transformation arguments, it is not an either-or situation, as James makes abundantly clear. Rather, it is the classic “both this as well as that” scenario. Just as faith without works is dead, lacking the body, so also works without faith are dead, lacking the spirit.

The proper response to “Faith or works” is an unequivocal “Yes!”

Be sure to read all of them…

Personally, I think they both have a good chance of going to Heaven. If they try.

For Person 1, if he at least tries to overcome his sins and confesses them when he fails then God will forgive him. Fornication is a sin, but God forgives the sins of those who repent. Abraham cheated on his wife and abandoned the resulting child in the desert, but because he kept trying to be a good person God called him righteous. Even after Abraham kept failing, God kept giving him chances and as such it was all the more joyous when Abraham actually trusted God for once.

For Person 2, if he really tried to believe in God but everything he observed suggested that his prayers went unanswered then that isn’t his fault. Being lied to isn’t a sin, and neither is being mistaken. Thomas the Apostle did not believe in Jesus’s resurrection when first told of it, and only became convinced after seeing Jesus in person and feeling his wounds. Had Jesus not appeared to him then Thomas might have, through no fault of his own, gone the rest of his life believing that Jesus was too good to be true.

I agree** everyone** has a chance of getting to heaven, as long as they are still alive
.After death their fate is sealed.

How could either of these people be saved?

Person 1 seems to be intellectually aware of the concept of salvation, however being intellectually aware of God is not enough. (James 2:19) Faith moves beyond the brain and means trusting your entire life to God’s will. One who is truly faithful will be indwelled by the Holy Spirit and this will not leave them unchanged. The entire book of 1 John is relevant to this topic. A few excerpts: Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God[a] is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:4-6); No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6); *No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:9-10); If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. ** (1 John 1:6-7)

This doesn’t mean that Christians will not occasionally stumble on small sins. He goes on in Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 1:8-2:2) No matter how “good” Person 2 may be, he is a sinner. (Romans 3:23) Even a very small amount of sin makes us impure and separated from God. No amount of good behavior has ever or could ever remove sin and justify us before God. The only way to be justified before God is with an atoning sacrifice. We first see bloodshed for sin in the time of Adam and Eve when God killed an animal to “cover” their shame at their nakedness (Genesis 3:21). Throughout the Old Testament covenants, the only way to atone for sin was in shedding the blood of an animal sacrifice. Jesus came and was the final sacrifice for sin. Without a sacrifice there can be no forgiveness and no salvation. If a person does not accept Jesus’ sacrifice to cover his sins, he could not be saved. There may be fleeting moments of doubt in a Christian’s faith, but his life should be marked by confidence of his faith in Jesus and the atonement He completed on his behalf.

If we think we can earn our own salvation by doing enough “good deeds” to outweigh our sins, then we are basically stating that Jesus’ death on the cross was all for nothing. By accepting Jesus’ sacrifice to atone us from all sin we have repented of, then we can truly begin living a spirit-filled Christian life to honor and serve God and our faith will be apparent in the pure life we lead devoted to serving God’s will. This type of life changing faith is the only one that leads to salvation.

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