We are justified, saved, by faith, not by works. But is this faith our faith in Jesus or the faith of Jesus, the faith, trust, he had? If our faith saves us, we save ourselves; if the faith of Jesus saves us he is our savior; he accepted the will of the father and underwent his passion and death for our sanctification, he saves us.
Sorry for going on about this issue, but I am concerned I think the issue is important.
If it is based on Jesus’ faith, then all are saved. That is universalism, which is not a Church teaching. Rather, it is our own faith, which is also a grace received. Yet, it is also a work of sorts, as we must be open to it, prepare or make our hearts vulnerable to it, nurture and maintain it and even actively strengthen it.
However, faith is initial justification. We must possess a faith which works through love. Faith and works are inseparable, and faith without works is dead. It is unreasonable to expect the Beatific Vision with dead faith.
Many Catholics, including recent Popes, strongly emphasize God’s mercy. In fact Hans Urs von Balthasar goes as far as a Catholic can holding that it is not unreasonable to hope all will be saved by God ‘who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4 NAB).
You claim our own faith saves us, this seems to imply we make, using our free will, the decision to be saved, that is we save ourselves. However as Catholics we hold in prevenient grace, God makes the first move.
‘Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great’ (1 Tim. 3:16 NRS).*
Many thanks for your reply.
I always appreciate your replies, as you have a comprehensive grasp of Catholicism.
It is late now and I am tired, so I will need to reflect on your reply when I am more alert, as there is depth in your post.
Your title says it all - ‘Jesus saves’. A relationship with Jesus is what saves us. But what are we being saved from? From sin and all its effects. That is why salvation encompasses more than one thing. Scott Hahn compares it to a prisoner being set free from a prison. He says a Protestant understanding of salvation might be that a prisoner on death row is set free. However, the prisoner has an incurable disease and will die anyways. The Catholic understanding of salvation is more merciful because in that understanding not only is the prisoner pardoned of his debt but he is also given a treatment for his disease. So you can see how salvation is multifaceted. It is not just being forgiven of our sins, which is always a gift and not earned, but it is also being cured of this disease called sin and being transformed into the image of Christ. Both dimensions are by grace as we can neither merrit forgiveness, which is always a gift, and we can do nothing to transform ourselves apart from the grace of Christ. At the same time it also requires our cooperation with that grace. So it is a process.
Another analogy that Fr. Mitch Pacwa gives is the farmer’s dung hill. Martin Luther used to look at the fields in Germany and say salvation is like those dung hills. In the winter time they are covered in snow. He says that is like us. We are sinful like dung so Christ covers us in his righteousness so that when the Father sees us he only sees Christ. But underneath we are really just stinky dung. Pacwa says the Catholic understanding is even more merciful because he doesn’t just cover us but plants flower seeds in us so that we are transformed from a dung hill into a bed of roses.
“Happy are you who believe!” (cf 1 Peter 2:7). Let us turn to Jesus! He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world."
~ Pope Benedict XVI (Homily at Yankee Stadium)
“If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI (Spe Salvi)
“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI Deus Caritas Est
"In the first place, Paul helps us to understand the absolutely basic and irreplaceable value of faith. This is what he wrote in his Letter to the Romans: “We hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (3: 28).
This is what he also wrote in his Letter to the Galatians: “[M]an is not justified by works of the law but only through* faith in Jesus Christ*; even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified” (2: 16).
“Being justified” means being made righteous, that is, being accepted by God’s merciful justice to enter into communion with him and, consequently, to be able to establish a far more genuine relationship with all our brethren: and this takes place on the basis of the complete forgiveness of our sins."
~ Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday, 8 November 2006
“Following St Paul, we have seen that man is unable to “justify” himself with his own actions, but can only truly become “just” before God because God confers his “justice” upon him, uniting him to Christ his Son. And man obtains this union through faith. In this sense, St Paul tells us: not our deeds, but rather faith renders us “just”. This faith, however, is not a thought, an opinion, an idea. This faith is communion with Christ, which the Lord gives to us, and thus becomes life, becomes conformity with him.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday, 26 November 2008
“Faith opens us to knowing and welcoming the real identity of Jesus, his newness and oneness, his word, as a source of life, in order to live a personal relationship with him. …faith responds to a Person who wants to enter into a relationship of deep love with us and to involve our whole life.”
Everyone has offered excellent information, but I’d like to offer a simple analogy that my simple mind likes to use. Because it’s a simple illustration, it’s neither a perfect nor a complete analogy, but I hope it can help some.
Suppose you’re stuck in a deep pit. A man lowers a ladder for you, and you then climb that ladder. You had to choose to climb the ladder, but you’d never say that you saved yourself from the pit. You would happily call that man your savior and give him all the credit when the TV newscaster interviews you later. If you were to boast of how swiftly you climbed the ladder, and how well, then the TV audience would rightly roll their eyes.
In the same sense, it is our faith (trust) in Jesus that saves us, yet boasting about our faith would still be silly. And (as many have pointed out) in the case of salvation, “our” faith itself is a gift given by the grace of God.
Just to add to this, your analogy is consistent with Catholic teaching. But there are some theologies that insist that God actually makes you climb the ladder, that you cannot, of your own free will, refuse to climb it. Those theologies are in error IMO-and that of the CC.
I believe St Paul refers to works in his letters, but the works he refers to are those found in the OT. Like for instance works of purification, works one must do in the home, work allowed and not allowed, circumcision, and so on. It wasn’t a reference to works in the NT such as charity. He was saying that these works in the OT not longer save us but rather now it is faith in Jesus Christ.
So the work of circumcision is no longer necessary for being saved but now it is the gift of faith coming from God that saves us if we accept it.
Christ died for all men which we express by saying he redeemed all men. So he paid for the redemption of everyone, but it is up to every individual to accept God’s gift of redemption which is to say … being saved thru faith. And this acceptance is made thru baptism of water and the Spirit.
Also, in Paul’s teachings he was generally referring to “works pf the law”. And it’s well-understood and established in Catholic theology that mere external obedience of the law cannot save us, because it does not at all necessarily reflect true justice in us; it doesn’t ensure that reconciliation between ourselves and God has taken place, nor that we’ve *changed *in terms of possessing the grace and gifts of justice that God desires us to have, the chief of which is the virtue of love which fulfills the law by its nature.
Faith is a gift of God. Without God’s grace we simply don’t exist to begin with. And God keeps on giving even after we live a sinful existence.
Theological gifts like faith are unique. They differ from other gifts in that they are not quantities of stuff to be possesseed, but rather a quality of relationship. So it’s not enough to “grab” faith when God offers it and put in on your bookshelf.
When we believe in Christ, we respond to his gift. We have an ever deepening active relationship, not a unilateral contractual exchange.
"Faith is…God’s grace working in me to which I respond. "