Jimmy Akin says Catholics and Protestants are both saved by faith alone

I came across this post online: ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/SOLAFIDE.htm . It makes some very good points but was lacking something at the end which i was hoping people on here might be able to suggest solutions to. Its a long text so i’ll place what i think are the key points here:

The following section is basically saying that Catholics would be correct in saying that they are “saved by faith alone”:

Many Protestants today realize that Catholics adhere to two of the important “solas” related to salvation sola gratia (by grace alone) and solo Christo (by Christ alone) but fewer are aware that Catholics can also accept the formula of justification sola fide (by faith alone), provided this phrase is properly understood.

The following section is basically saying that good works can’t save you. Good works are simply an indicator that your faith is real faith. Good works don’t play a direct role in the justification process:

*According to [Lutheran] Protestant interpretation, the faith that clings unconditionally to God’s promise in Word and Sacrament is sufficient for righteousness before God, so that the renewal of the human being, without which there can be no faith, does not in itself make any contribution to justification. Catholic doctrine knows itself to be at one with the Protestant concern in emphasizing that the renewal of the human being does not contribute to justification, and is certainly not a contribution to which he could make any appeal before God. *

The following section clarifies that both Catholics and Protestants essentially believe the same thing when they use the phrase being saved by “faith alone”:

What both communities need to do today, now that a different usage has been established in them, is learn to translate between each others languages. Protestants need to be taught that the Catholic formula salvation by faith, hope, and charity is equivalent to what they mean by faith alone. And Catholics need to be taught that (at least for the non-antinomians) the Protestant formula faith alone is equivalent to what they mean by faith, hope, and charity.

The following section further clarifies the last point:

The fact faith is normally used by Catholics to refer to intellectual assent (as in Romans 14:22-23, 1 Corinthians 13:13, and James 2:14-26) is one reason Catholics do not commonly use the faith alone formula even though they agree with what (good) Protestants mean by it.

Jimmy Akin then makes a suggestion:

It would be nice if the two groups could reconverge on a single formula

Alot of Protestants mistakenly think Catholics believe that they can be saved by their good works. Catholics don’t actually believe this (my understanding is that a genuine desire to do good works and repent is basically your assurance that the Holy Spirit is in you. Good works in themselves don’t actually save you). This mistake only serves to drive an unnecessary wedge between the two branches of Christianity. Both sides theology is the same, the problem is the language being used.

What do you think would be a good single formula for both sides to reconverge on? Would something like:

[LIST]
*]“justification by real faith alone”
*]“justification by genuine faith alone”
*]or “justification by formed faith alone”
[/LIST]

…work?

Regarding Faith and Works in St. Paul

From Pope Benedict XVI

(Two audiences from the Year of 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 (begins a bit down)

There’s a tendency today to equivocate on terminology in order to make statements that everyone “agrees” upon. In reality, what the two parties agree on is the words only, to which they attach contrary meanings.

Note that in the first audience cited above, Pope Benedict said, “Luther’s phrase: ‘faith alone’ is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity…” In other words, charity–which is expressed in good works–is a necessary part of our justification.

But if charity is included in the definition of faith, then why is the qualifier “alone” needed? What Christian believes in something other than faith, hope, and charity/good works, as necessary for our salvation? Clearly, Luther did not understand faith to include good works, but used the word “alone” to exclude them.

The Council of Trent, Sess. VI, teaches that:
[LIST]
*]More than faith is required to justify us (Can. 9)
*]Justification is more than imputing Christ’s justice to us (Can. 11)
*]Faith is more than trusting in Christ’s atonement (Can. 12, 14)
*]Justification requires keeping the Commandments (Can. 20)
*]By good works we preserve and increase our justification before God (Can. 24)
*]If we persevere in good works, we may expect an eternal reward (Can. 26, 31)
[/LIST]
The same Council also states:

Can. 32. If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.

In the final analysis it is grace that saves us, but not grace alone: we must cooperate. Faith, but not faith alone: we must do good works.

One has to understand what the Catholic meaning of sola fide is. It doesn’t mean we can act as we choose as long as we have faith:

ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/SOLAFIDE.htm

I might say “practiced faith,” but I don’t think it’s necessary to equate terminology. Something may become lost.

I agree with you and definitely believe something will be lost.

If Luther had his way, the Book of James would have been torn from the Biblical Canon. I agree with Ad Orientem about contrary meanings in terminology. Its pretty clear to me that faith without works and vice versa negates true faith.

James ch 2:14-26

Faith without Works Is Dead
"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 ill-clad 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 Rahab 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."

The odd thing about faith alone, that is the insistence on this phrase, is that even Protestants then have to add some modifier to the word faith. Most Protestants recognize you can’t be saved just by believing in God and yet living like the devil. There is a lot of work done to get this phrase to fit with the Gospel. Many Protestants will talk about saving faith or true faith. Personally I’m not interested in saving ‘faith alone’ because it is a meritless attempt to hang the Faith on a word.

The Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church came to an agreement on this in 1999 (I think) but don’t seem any closer to reunification.

Well, that’s closer than any other time in the past half-millennium.

Our time is not God’s time. It will happen.

:gopray2:

I think the OSAS ones do.

vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html

I don’t like the solas. Scripture is clear that faith is never alone. In fact, the only place where the words “faith alone” appear is where James says that we are NOT saved by faith alone.

So I prefer to talk about the quality or character of the faith by which we are saved. Saving faith is a faith that works.

Let the Church teach us:

**1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39

1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the "inner man,"44 justification entails the sanctification of his whole being:

Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.45**

:thumbsup:

Hmm. I agree that “faith alone” is not a Biblical phrase (except in the negative) and not part of truly ancient Christian tradition (though it’s got nearly 500 years on it now). Still, it’s something we need to address if Catholics and Protestants are ever to overcome their differences (whether that means actual reunification or just greater appreciation of each other as fellow Christians).

Surely, Catholics can accept the following, which seem to be key things that Protestanfs seek to safeguard with the concept of sola fide:

  1. If the rottenest person imaginable were to experience a miraculous deathbed conversion and then die without doing a single good work, that person would be saved (though we would presume considerable purgatory to follow).

  2. No one will be able to stand before God, metaphorically hold up his or her good works, and demand entrance into Heaven as a matter of strict justice rather than mercy.

  3. Sacraments, sacramentals, indulgenced acts, and devotional practces aren’t just rote mechanical actions or magic spells; they require a proper disposition in order to impart grace. (Sacraments are distinct in that they operate by the power of God regardless of the recipient’s attitude, but even then an improperly disposed person will not receive the full effect and may indeed be adversely affected by receiving sacrilegiously.)

I think all Catholics believe these things, and the Church teaches them, but some Protestsnts don’t realize we agree on these points. And some of us are so eager to argue against “faith alone” that we push a “faith and works” formula that may seem to deny points 1 and 2 above.

I would say that our points of real disagreement with various Protestant groups on the topic of salvation are these:

  1. The Protestsnt tendency to draw a very sharp line between the initial moment of justiification (sometimes pictured as God legally Imputing to us Christ’s righteousness while we remain the same in all practical terms) and the process by which God’s grace actually makes us better people. We tend to view the whole thing from baptism on as an actual infusion of the life of God into our souls, even if it takes a lifetime or longer to overcome our attachment to sin – more of a medical metaphor than a legal one, maybe.

  2. The common (but by no means universal) Protestant tendency to take point 3 above to the extreme of denying any real effect of the sacraments. (Baptists are the oddest, in that they even take their name from their very strict adherence to a particular mode of observing an “ordinance” that they don’t believe actually does anything). We, of course, believe that baptism is actually a means of imparting God’s grace, as are the other sacraments in different ways.

  3. The idea among the Calvinist/Reformed subset of Protestants that there is no “cooperating” with God’s grace; that God’s choice is absolute and overwhelming, which carries the corollary that there are people God does not choose to save (since otherwise everyone would be saved). We would prefer to allot humans the power to refuse God and resist His grace (even if that slightly injures the notion of His sovereignty) rather than assert that there are people God doesn’t even try to save.

Hmm. I agree that “faith alone” is not a Biblical phrase (except in the negative) and not part of truly ancient Christian tradition (though it’s got nearly 500 years on it now). Still, it’s something we need to address if Catholics and Protestants are ever to overcome their differences (whether that means actual reunification or just greater appreciation of each other as fellow Christians).

Surely, Catholics can accept the following, which seem to be key things that Protestanfs seek to safeguard with the concept of sola fide:

  1. If the rottenest person imaginable were to experience a miraculous deathbed conversion and then die without doing a single good work, that person would be saved (though we would presume considerable purgatory to follow).

  2. No one will be able to stand before God, metaphorically hold up his or her good works, and demand entrance into Heaven as a matter of strict justice rather than mercy.

  3. Sacraments, sacramentals, indulgenced acts, and devotional practces aren’t just rote mechanical actions or magic spells; they require a proper disposition in order to impart grace. (Sacraments are distinct in that they operate by the power of God regardless of the recipient’s attitude, but even then an improperly disposed person will not receive the full effect and may indeed be adversely affected by receiving sacrilegiously.)

I think all Catholics believe these things, and the Church teaches them, but some Protestsnts don’t realize we agree on these points. And some of us are so eager to argue against “faith alone” that we push a “faith and works” formula that may seem to deny points 1 and 2 above.

I would say that our points of real disagreement with various Protestant groups on the topic of salvation are these:

  1. The Protestsnt tendency to draw a very sharp line between the initial moment of justiification (sometimes pictured as God legally Imputing to us Christ’s righteousness while we remain the same in all practical terms) and the process by which God’s grace actually makes us better people. We tend to view the whole thing from baptism on as an actual infusion of the life of God into our souls, even if it takes a lifetime or longer to overcome our attachment to sin – more of a medical metaphor than a legal one, maybe.

  2. The common (but by no means universal) Protestant tendency to take point 3 above to the extreme of denying any real effect of the sacraments. (Baptists are the oddest, in that they even take their name from their very strict adherence to a particular mode of observing an “ordinance” that they don’t believe actually does anything). We, of course, believe that baptism is actually a means of imparting God’s grace, as are the other sacraments in different ways.

  3. The idea among the Calvinist/Reformed subset of Protestants that there is no “cooperating” with God’s grace; that God’s choice is absolute and overwhelming, which carries the corollary that there are people God does not choose to save (since otherwise everyone would be saved). We would prefer to allot humans the power to refuse God and resist His grace (even if that slightly injures the notion of His sovereignty) rather than assert that there are people God doesn’t even try to save.

For me this always comes back to a proper definition of the word “faith”. As a Protestant I always struggled with the tortured reasoning of the doctrine I was taught; the light finally clicked on when I read the part of the Catholic Catechism that defines it as “an act of the will in which one turns toward God and away from sin; in which we decide that we will cooperate, with our intellect and will, with the divine grace that God gives us to enable us to comply with the moral law; it is a free response of the human person to the initiative of God; it is a personal adherence of the whole man to the God who reveals himself.”

Here’s the article on Jimmy’s own blog.
Justification by Faith Alone - Jimmy Akin

:thumbsup: I shall bookmark this for when I come across a Christian who still believes Catholics think we are saved by Works-based salvation.

On another note, I think more Protestants would actually agree with 1) if you asked them directly, though they may have a tendency to not act like they do. 3) has more to do with the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism justification theories, and there are good arguments that can be made for both sides (and Protestants are mostly split on this issue). (I’m studying that issue currently, actually, to try to help me decide whether I agree. Preliminary readings tell me their reason for taking that position is more complicated than the one you’ve listed here, but whatever, you had to be quick. :shrug:)

Some good points. One comment: I tend to think that our free will actually consists in God sovereignly determining to allow our wills to have their own way-even unto resisting or opposing His. His sovereignty remains intact.

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