Good works vs. faith alone. I ain't get it!


#1

What’s the REAL Catholic view of doing good works and faith alone? I know there were probably a billion threads on this forum with this question but I just have to ask again.

It’s my understanding that Protestants believe that Salvation is for grace and faith alone. To Catholic, Salvation is with grace, faith and works?

This is where it gets confusing because I heard some Catholics say it’s grace and works, then they say, grace, faith, works, etc. while Protestants say, it’s grace, then they say it’s grace, faith, etc. etc.

WHAT IS IT?:o


#2

We are saved through grace by the suffering and death of Christ Jesus.

We must accept the gift of salvation, through faith.

Good works are the natural result - the fruit of salvation.
A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit.
“By their fruits you shall know them.”

We can never earn our way to Heaven. Salavation is by grace, a gift from the Lord.
Yet “faith without works is dead”. --If we refuse to try to practice what Christ preached, how can we say we have faith in Him? A gift can be accepted, or rejected.

…Does this help at all, Paris?


#3

This can be found in the CCC paragraphs 1987-2029.


#4

[quote=Reepicheep]We are saved through grace by the suffering and death of Christ Jesus.

We must accept the gift of salvation, through faith.

Good works are the natural result - the fruit of salvation.
A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit.
“By their fruits you shall know them.”

We can never earn our way to Heaven. Salavation is by grace, a gift from the Lord.
Yet “faith without works is dead”. --If we refuse to try to practice what Christ preached, how can we say we have faith in Him? A gift can be accepted, or rejected.

…Does this help at all, Paris?
[/quote]

If I’m getting it, it’s through Grace, faith and works, right?


#5

Evangelists love to quote Ephesians 2:8-9. Catholics include verse 10. First read vs 8 & 9 by themselves and you’ll have what the evangelists preach. Then read all three together and you’ll get the Catholic teaching.

Ephesians 2:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
9 it is not from works, so no one may boast.
10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. See? Good works is a part of the whole recipe.

Subrosa


#6

[quote=Subrosa]Evangelists love to quote Ephesians 2:8-9. Catholics include verse 10. First read vs 8 & 9 by themselves and you’ll have what the evangelists preach. Then read all three together and you’ll get the Catholic teaching.

Ephesians 2:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
9 it is not from works, so no one may boast.
10 For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. See? Good works is a part of the whole recipe.

Subrosa
[/quote]

So it is all three: grace, faith and works??


#7

[quote=Paris Blues]So it is all three: grace, faith and works??
[/quote]

Yes. You can think of it this way, that grace is like a coin given to us by God and on one side is faith and the other is works. Both faith and works are the result of the action of grace in our lives as we cooperate with God’s will.


#8

I heard some years ago an apologist explain it with this senerio. I’m not sure who it was but here it goes: Some parents were going out for the evening to a movie. They have two teenage kids who were staying home that evening. While they were gone the one child decided to clean the house from top to bottom, spic and span. This child was going to do this out of pure love for the parents. The child wanted absolutely nothing in return for doing this. The child just felt it would be pleasing to his parents. (The difference in this senerio and God, is the only way the child could even do this act of love is because God gave the child the grace to do this work. We can do nothing good without God giving us the grace to do it in the first place. So this child is co-operating with the grace God gave). The child asked his sibling to help but didn’t want to because there was a show on. Now when the parents got home from the movies and found out what went on. They love both their children but one was certainly more justified in their eyes than the other. They both new who their parents were (god) and yet only one reponded to the grace that was given.


#9

This has been the way I was taught:

God gives us the Grace to Believe (Faith)
We choose to Believe
God then gives us the Grace to go Good Works
We then choose to do Good Works.

It’s a continuous cycle of this, we are always given the Grace and yet we must always choose to cooperate with it.

Hope this helps :thumbsup:


#10

Paris-

Everyone agrees that salvation is by Grace.
The real disagreement is what is meant by the term “faith” and more specifically what is meant by “faith alone”. If you ask a non-Catholic Christian what, exactly, they mean by faith alone you hardly ever get a straight answer stated in the affirmative. They are very happy to tell you what does not save you, but when asked to state what is the entity “faith alone” it becomes very fuzzy. The words get in the way.
One needs to reconcile all of Scripture as cohesive salvific Truth.
For example, Im comfortable saying Im saved by Grace through faith. But what is faith in Jesus Christ?
It is acknowledging who He is - God
[list]
*]1John5:13 “I write these things so that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.”
[/list]It is obedience to His commands
[list]
*]John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and observes them is the one who loves me.”
[/list]It is forgiving others their trespasses
[list]
*]Matt?(sorry - dont have my bible with me) "If you do not forgive others their trespasses neither will you father in Heaven forgive you yours
[/list]It is being Baptized in obedience
[list]
*]Acts 1 “Repent and be baptized” “Baptism…now saves you”
[/list]It is confessing your sins
[list]
*]1John1:9 “If we acknowledge our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.”
[/list]And, yes, it is eating his flesh and drinking his blood
[list]
*]John 6 “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have not life in you”
[/list]Faith must be alive and active in response to the Grace we have been given for the greater glory of God. I am no Saint, but I pray that I never lose the desire to increase my faith and that I have the courage to “pummel my body” and peacefully struggle my entire life trying to please Him. He deserves much more…
Phil


#11

Using Wikipedia, this clarifies the posirtion that Protestants sometimes take:

A more works-oriented perspective is presented by the Epistle of James 2:1-26 [3], concluding that faith without works is dead. By “works,” James here appears to include both acts of charity, and righteousness according to the code of laws; the preceding text mentions charity to the poor as well as sins against the law of Moses. An inward change, the forsaking of old sinful ways, and being reborn in a spirit of generosity is to James the true test of conversion. Without these things, claiming to have “faith” is a sham. Grace must be something that steels the Christian to avoid sin and practice charity. Without these signs, it seems likely that grace was never there.

The First Epistle of John maintains this tension throughout. On the one hand, it repeatedly claims that those who “walk in the light” do not sin and do enjoy fellowship with God, while those who “walk in darkness” have no fellowship with God. However, it also describes receiving forgiveness of sins through confession and God’s grace.

However, a true study of Biblical teaching will show that in reality, there was no tension. The contrast between “faith” and “works” is really a contrast between Grace and the Law for salvation.

Paul was dedicated to stamping out the efforts of the Judaizers, who taught that Gentile believers must follow the Law of Moses to achieve Salvation. It was in this context that Paul spread the truth about Salvation being achieved through grace, not works. However, Paul, as well as Peter, John and James, make it clear that believers are to continue doing good works, and following the laws of Christ, out of love and obedience to God, who has written the law on the hearts of believers. Whilst works and keeping the Law are no longer the basis for salvation, they are still essential for living a Christian life and obeying the commands of God. Thus, the teachings and writing of all the apostles are not in tension, but rather harmony, with each other.


#12

But I really like this description of how to resolve the Faith vs. Works issue, this really rang true to me! (and this Gospel was just said sometime in the last week or so at Church) –

One potential resolution revolves around Jesus’s parable of the talents in Matthew 25. In this parable, the Master decides to leave town on a journey. He left five coins with one servant, two coins with another servant, and one coin with a third servant. While the master was gone, the servants given five coins and two coins invested their coins, and doubled the money. The servant given one coin, however, buried it in the ground, and made no money. When the Master returned, the servants who had invested gave their master the money they had earned. The Master said: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ However, when he came to the last servant, who had hidden the money, the Master became angry, shouting:

'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." According to proponents of this idea, this parable illustrates how grace and works can coexist. All the servants owed their money to their master, because the master had given them the money. Therefore, they could not take any pride in their money, just as Paul argued that we are saved by grace and not works, so that no man should boast. However, all the servants were still responsible to use their gifts and grace to the glory of God. Failure to do so is sin, just as to James, “Faith without works is dead.”


#13

[quote=Paris Blues]So it is all three: grace, faith and works??
[/quote]

It is important to understand that no one earns his/her way into God’s grace. We cannot go around being really charitable, giving all sorts of time and energy away and still go to heaven. The good works are a result of God’s grace. When we receive His grace, we are compelled to do good works.

If you’re not doing the works, then very possibly, you may not be in His grace. Same thing with faith. Can’t just go around singing the praises of the Lord and just get into heaven. It’s got to be real.

Jesus says this in Matthew chapter 7. Notice the emphesis on bearing good fruit. This is another way of saying do good works. Notice, also what He says about people who just call out His Name without any real faith. They’re toast!

15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.

16 By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

17 Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 So by their fruits you will know them.

21 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’

23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

Subrosa


#14

Salvation is by grace, full stop. By grace, we have faith and works which–like the ‘love and marriage’ in the song, you can’t have one without the other.


#15

I guess i see this just slightly differently. The difference is subtle, but significant to me.

We cannot “earn” our way into heaven, period. Salvation is a gift of grace through faith. What does St James mean then when he says that faith without works is dead?

I look at it in simple terms. When I “fell in love” with the woman who was to ultimately become my wife, there was nothing within my power that I would not have done for her. That outflowing was the result of my love and could take no other form. For me to just sit there and say “I love you” without any expression of it would not have reflected a true and actual love.

Likewise, when our faith brings us to this “falling in love” with our God, there is no other response than to be needing to express that love and joy. It’s not a matter of “willingness” to do something in this case; our innermost being will scream to do anything to please the Bridegroom. These “works of our faith” are the “fruit,” not the labor, which is why faith without them can’t really be faith. If the faith is real, love is its only possible outcome; this love will lead to the works by necessity, not by will.

In the end it’s all about cooperation with the grace and love of God. When we allow ourselves to be open to that, we will not be able to help ourselves from loving Him back in the way he desires most–to find Him in His other children and all of creation.

Peace,


#16

[quote=Lady Cygnus]This has been the way I was taught:

God gives us the Grace to Believe (Faith)
We choose to Believe
God then gives us the Grace to go Good Works
We then choose to do Good Works.

It’s a continuous cycle of this, we are always given the Grace and yet we must always choose to cooperate with it.

Hope this helps :thumbsup:
[/quote]

Yep, you basically quoted John15 where Jesus says:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16** You did not choose me, but I chose you** and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 This I command you, to love one another.

Here is a good summary. As we see in v16 that He chose us, not we chose Him, that is grace at work. He chose to save us helplessly lost sheep. Apart from Him we are lost and cant attain Heaven (v5). We are called to be productive in the Lord’s work, this is summed up in the words “keep my commandments”. Christianity is about faith because we put our trust in Jesus believing that if we do as He says we will be with Him in Heaven. Through faith we choose to keep the commandments and abide in Him, if we dont keep His commandments we cant be saved.


#17

That outflowing was the result of my love and could take no other form. For me to just sit there and say “I love you” without any expression of it would not have reflected a true and actual love.

I have a difficult time understanding how we can separate the internal condition of “faith” or “love” from the outer works or expression of these feelings. To say “I love you” or “I have faith in God” and then do nothing is evidence there exist no internal condition of love or faith.

I know that “faith alone” folks want to separate the internal assent from the external expression but, what do they mean? I don’t think they know.

I like the explanation that we are saved by Grace - stop!


#18

[quote=Breton]I have a difficult time understanding how we can separate the internal condition of “faith” or “love” from the outer works or expression of these feelings. To say “I love you” or “I have faith in God” and then do nothing is evidence there exist no internal condition of love or faith.

I know that “faith alone” folks want to separate the internal assent from the external expression but, what do they mean? I don’t think they know.

I like the explanation that we are saved by Grace - stop!
[/quote]

I think we’re saying the same thing. We’re saved by grace, which is the expression of God’s love. Our “works” are the fruits and external evidence that the faith/love exist, but do not save us in and of themselves. They are nothing more than the manifestations of our love.

Peace,


#19

Paris Blues,

Catholics describe good works as necessary because God rewards acts of faithfulness (good works) of those already justified with sanctifying grace. Not because of deservedness, but due to God’s loving kindness. In Catholic soteriology, such gifts or blessings from God are not understood to have been given frivolously or needlessly by God, as all of his gifts are for the ultimate purpose of attaining eternal life. We believe that God rewards the faithful with necessary gifts to further enlighten the intellect and strengthen the will in such a way as they contribute to one’s perseverance in faith. If we do not remain stedfast in faith, we fall from grace and are no longer justified. Consequently, in this sense, works of the faithful are necessary for eternal life.

With Protestants, I try to change the polemical wording and explain Catholic soteriology in terms they won’t automatically rail against. For example, I think every Protestant would agree with the Catholic assertion that …

The condign merit of Christ ALONE is that which justifies a sinner and makes him righteous in God’s eyes.

Yet, Protestants (at least some) deny the very notion of congrous merit. Catholic soteriology does not. Congruous merit does not, and cannot make an unjust man, just. Instead, it is the gratuitous reward God gives to those already justified who act faithfully (natural and supernatural blessings for faithfulness, which is our willing cooperation with God’s grace working within us). Even when we cooperate with God’s grace, God is STILL not obliged to sanctify or reward us for that cooperation. It is still a gift, completely gratuitous. However, we believe God does indeed reward the faithful. In fact, God can and does reward some for the faithfulness of others (that’s why we pray for others). It is not owed (as was Christ’s condign merit). Instead, it is given gratuitously, not because of our deservedness, but due to the loving kindness of God. Catholic theology describes condign merit of Christ, as merit properly so-called. The congruous merit of the faithful, Catholic theology describes as pseudo-merit.

Condign merit is like a paycheck for work completed. It is obligatory. There would be a true violation of associative justice if the pay was withheld after the work was performed. This is the way Christ merited grace for mankind at Calvary.

Congrous merit is like a gratuity, or using a military example, a medal awarded for meritorious service. As a member of the USAF, the military owes me a paycheck for my efforts (condign merit), but they never owe me a medal (congruous merit). Yet, it is a matter of distributive justice to give medals to those who perform meritoriously. If they did not, they would not be very nice, but they are not strictly obliged to award medals.

The lack of congrous merit on the part of the just neither adds to nor subtracts from the merit of Christ (which is infinite), which ALONE makes a sinner just. Consequently, congruous merit neither adds to or subtracts from the state of justification for those made righteous by Christ. Christ’s work was infinite. His merit is infinite. Furthermore, the source of grace for congruous merit gifted to the faithful, is the condign merit of Christ alone.

So what good is congruous merit? It does not make us just. However, it is still a supernatural gift from God. It adds to our sanctification, not to our justification. Yet, our increased sanctification better equips the faithful against trials. It helps us to grow in our faith. That’s good. That’s necessary for salvation, especially in times of tribulation. Those of “little faith” are justified. Those of great faith are more likely to be stedfast in their faith. This contributes to the attainment of eternal life!! Yet, the lack of congrous merit is not the same as demerit.

A word about “demerit” … those given the obligation to do good works and do not do so, may be committing a grave sin of omission, which does cause us to lose our justification. In other words, failure to do that which is obligatory in the eyes of God can be a serious evil, and may cause us to fall from a state of grace (become unjustified). In this sense too, good works are necessary for salvation. One who is just, but fails to do an obligatory deed may be committing a damnable sin.


#20

It’s often helpful to start with something reassuring, such as, "supernatural merit is only an effect or fruit of the state of grace (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi)" (*The Catholic Encyclopedia (1909), “Merit”). *It is not the cause of justification, and so it is not that which makes a sinner justified. Also, the faithful acts of the just is rewarded with grace upon grace, and the source of that Grace is Christ. “It is a defined article of the Catholic Faith that man before, in, and after justification derives his whole capability of meriting and satisfying, as well as his actual merits and satisfactions, solely from the infinite treasure of merits which Christ gained for us on the Cross (cf. Council of Trent, Sess. VI, cap. xvi; Sess. XIV, cap. viii).” (ibid)

This normally disarms many false accusations against Catholic soteriology from the very start of the discussion.


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