Faith vs. Works

How do Catholics and Protestants reconcile their respective positions considering these takes in scripture? It is something I find quite murky.

James 2: 24

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.


Ephesians 2: 8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Simple. As a former Mormon,who believe in salvation by works. And since I reject Mormonism as false, I reject works based salvation. Also, it has been mention by several protestants that works are a result of faith, hence why James said to show your faith, by your works.(James 2:18) I personally dont do good works to be saved. I do them because I am, and as St. Paul wrote: " For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10 KJV)

Faith and works are inseparable. One can tell his wife that he loves her, but if he does nothing to demonstrate that love, does he really love her? Our works are the measure of our faith and our love of God.

These are easily reconcilable with the Catholic position: that both justify, and both are by God’s grace. The quote from James says it is not faith ONLY. The passage in Ephesians says that we are saved by faith, and not by works. Now, Paul’s terminology is different than that of James. When Paul says works, he means works of the Mosaic law, such as circumcision and animal sacrifice, which many men, like the Pharisees and scribes boasted of, and which were fulfilled in Christ. Whenever he speaks of charity, he uses the term good works to distinguish from the Mosaic works. Now, when Paul says we are justified by faith, he is not speaking of faith alone. For example, if I fell from a building, and Batman notified Superman, and Superman grabbed me before I hit the ground, would I be lying if I said, “Superman saved me”? No! It would only be untrue if I said that Superman ALONE saved me. With this in mind, we can see that James says that faith ALONE does not justify, and Paul says that faith justifies, and not Mosaic works, so these passages are totally reconcilable.

Perhaps the reason for confusion is that the question could be more accurately stated as “Faith AND Works vs. Faith WITHOUT Works”.

As a Catholic, I wonder… do Protestants teach that even though a person has NEVER read the Bible, NEVER prayed to God or Jesus Christ, NEVER considered there own sinfulness, NEVER gone to church, NEVER been baptized, AND NEVER even helped another person out of true charity (love for our Lord)… that person WILL go to Heaven?

I believe that even when a person has done all of those things… without Faith they won’t go to Heaven. One must have Faith to be saved and their will Faith be strengthened by works… without works one’s Faith is weak and can easily be lost… and when one loses their Faith they’ve lost their salvation.

In St. Paul I take “works” to mean works in themselves, or apart from grace; in S. James I understand “works” to mean works wrought in grace. That is only my opinion.

For the official Catholic teaching on justification, see Trent, Sess. VI and CCC 1987 ff.


Add verse 10 to Ephesians 2:8-9

Eph 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Not really. Protestants don’t advocate “Faith WITHOUT Works.” We believe in Faith DEMONSTRATED by Works. These are the real options: Faith AND Works vs. Faith DEMONSTRATED by Works.

No. We don’t believe that. Protestants believe in total depravity. Faith is a gift from God that one receives by the hearing of the Word and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is only by the power of the Gospel that human beings are given true free will: freedom to choose or reject God’s grace.

Arminian Protestants will say that regenerated humans cooperate with God in our sanctification. As we walk in the freedom that Christ gives, we willingly choose to do good works as the grace of God works through us.

Calvinist/Reformed Protestants will say that regenerated humans do not cooperate with God in our sanctification. They will say that God has already foreordained who will be saved and thus who will demonstrate that salvation by good works.

That is exactly the Catholic position

Galatians 5

Faith working through love.

False dichotomy. It’s not either/or, but both.

Faith and works.

How do Catholics and Protestants reconcile their respective positions considering these takes in scripture?

I think the key is by believing ALL the Scripture verses and not adding the word “alone” to any of the verses if it is not there.

Once you do this you must harmonize the verses concerning this topic.

And then we need to have an open an honest discussion.

Tempelritter The need for faith and works are not mutually exclusive.

Someone might say: “Can your works EARN you Heaven?”

In reply someone else might say: “Can your faith EARN you Heaven?”

The answer to both is “no”. We cannot “EARN” our way to life in Jesus Christ.

Yet both faith and works are necessary (and more), at least assuming we are mentally capable adults. These necessities would not apply to an infant for example or a profoundly mentally handicapped individual who cannot commit sins.

Some of the Catholic/Protestant confusion lies in the fact that many (not all) Protestants think of justifying grace as “God’s Divine favor”.

That’s true in what it asserts, but it doesn’t go far enough.

Remember the Old Covenant cannot save us, yet God’s chosen people had the favor of God.

There is something that SAVING grace gives us from Jesus’ work that builds upon this concept of Divine favor that surpasses the Old Covenant.

What is this aspect of the New Covenant that God gives us that goes beyond mere “favor”?

It is God’s own DIVINE life.

And this Divine life is not just upon us.

Protestants often insist upon this–that the blood of Jesus ONLY “covers” us. Protestants call this the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. It is a partial truth.

Catholics teach that God gives us His own DIVINE life in us and through us (this is called “infused grace”).

*]Justifying Grace = God’s Divine life within us
*]Justifying Grace = Not reducible merely to God’s favor

So YES we are covered with the righteousness of Christ but not MERELY covered but transformed and made children of God in a way we could never be apart from the work of Jesus.

Once a Protestant can see grace as more than mere favor and “covering” they begin to see how “works” figures into the equation of justification.

I think much of the Catholic/Protestant differences in how we view faith/works is because we have not sorted out these more foundational aspects (such as what justifying grace is in the first place) to this faith and works.

Dr. Scott Hahn brings up this point in an audio series he did with Tim Staples interviewing him called, “All Things Catholic” which can be found here (I couldn’t find the series anymore but the single talk is still there).

I thought about what Dr. Hahn said for days and the more I thought it over, the more I thought he was absolutely correct.

Something to think about on this thread.

Ephesians 2 sums it up- The works will be spiritually empty if not carried out with a humble heart. If the works are practiced for self promotion, attention, or social status etc, the works become about* yourself.* No matter how noble, the grace is lost and this is why faith and works cannot be separated…

Could you explain how they are contradictory?

The way I see it you need both. Faith and works because with good works can lead you to faith and faith leads you to good works. I see them as united not separate

I see Catholics quoting James as a refutation of the notion of sola fide, yet Protestants point to Paul’s words which seem to more clearly articulate that works are not a means to an end, but an end in themselves. Certainly Protestants perform good works, but as some of the Reformed participants in this thread have mentioned, they do so because their faith inspires, rather than compels them to do so. The only alternative argument, then, is that Catholics perform good works as a matter of pride, but since both they, the Church, and scripture argues against that notion, is the Catholic/Protestant split on this not rather trivial then? It seems to me a point of convergence fractured by semantics.

Something I find very interesting on this issue is that Protestants tend to focus on Ephesians 2:8-9 while ignoring verse 10 and explaining away James.

Yet, Catholics do not explain away Ephesians 2, they say look at all of scripture! Read the whole thing together. There is no need to explain away as reading all of scripture makes it relatively clear.

I will post a list if verses to support what I mean:

Matt 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Matt 7:24-27
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Matt 12:36-37
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matt 16:24-27
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Matt 24:10-13
“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Matt 25:31-46 The sheep and the Goats

Luke 8:21
He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Luke 10:25-28
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

John 5:28-29
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned."

1 Cor 13:1-3, 13
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Gal 5:6

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”

Galations 6:7-9
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

1 Cor 7:19
Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

I wrote commentary on these verses and others on my blog if you’d like to read more detail.

One must ultimately read for himself that Jesus talked about something far more radical than simply professing faith in him.

A holistic look at the New Testament will clearly show this and as Galatians 5 says, we must have faith working through love.

Faith and love(works) go hand in hand.

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