Simple Question on Sola Fide

How do Protestant churches based on sola fide incorporate the Book of James and its emphasis on the necessity of good works into their theology?

I can’t give you an authoritative answer but only my impression from debating this point with Calvinists on another website.

I think the answer comes into two parts. First, they don’t deny that “faith without works is dead” but say that the works are no more than the consequence of the faith, and that what ensures our salvation is our faith, not our works.

Secondly, there is a historical argument that goes something like this. The epistle of James was accepted into the canon at a very late date. This can only mean that there were serious doubts about its authorship, since if it had been known for certain that the author was such an important figure in the early Church, his book would have been accepted without any hesitation.

One argument I have attempted to use, but without any success so far, is this. James uses the word “synergy”. In Greek it’s a verb, *synergeo, *which in James 2.22 is used in reference to Abraham to convey the idea that his faith and his works (his willingness to sacrifice Isaac) produced their effect jointly, not separately. Now Paul also uses the same term, in the form of the plural noun *synergoi, *co-workers, referring to the cooperation between God and man. I don’t remember the chapter and verse offhand, but I think it’s in 2 Corinthians.

Grace through faith in Jesus Christ is what saves you.

When one has faith, things are expected of the believer to do once they are a disciple of our Lord.

James stating that faith without works is dead is referring to just that.

Protestants who are grounded in sound theology will basically say the same thing as the Catholic Church on the question of Faith, albeit using differing terminology perhaps. The difference lies in Faith which is informed by Hope and Charity and Faith that is formless, meaning that it lacks Charity and therefore it lacks Hope. Faith without works is a dead faith, it is a lifeless, unformed faith precisely because it lacks Charity. If one’s Faith is grounded in Charity (The all-surpassing love of God and the love of neighbor) then works are an intrinsic component of that Faith (see Matt. 25 for instance). Faith that is unformed, not invigorated by the Holy Spirit and therefore lacking in Hope and Charity amounts to nothing more than mere belief and that kind of formless belief tends toward Epicureanism or Stoicism in the end–even if that belief system names as its God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob–when it takes hold in a Christian-influenced culture. When unformed faith or decrees of belief form in a culture where Christianity is alien or in the periphery it tends toward a theology or belief system that engenders submission to God without familial communion or it descends into the vacuous abyss of pantheism.
In the end we are justified by Faith but we are judged by Faith and works. “Not everyone who says to me: ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

Catholics take note…above is presented a very well reasoned Protestant take on the question and the Book of James.

Just as Fulton Sheen once said only a few people “hate” Catholicism, many just don’t understand it.

We, as Catholics, could apply that same wisdom to our relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are of different Christian faith traditions.

Peace and all good!

Originally Posted by aidanbradypop

Grace through faith in Jesus Christ is what saves you.

When one has faith, things are expected of the believer to do once they are a disciple of our Lord.

James stating that faith without works is dead is referring to just that.

Yes that is one type of Protestant there are many others who believe one is saved by faith alone plus nothing.

You are saved by your faith in Jesus Christ by the Grace of God. It is only by that faith do you have any hope at all.

There is no + something that can save you. With that said, we are all called to disciples of Jesus Christ and once we do so then there are things we do.

Even a OSAS Christian still does acts of)love and charity if they are living out their faith.

What, then, do you understand by the verb synergeo in James? (My comment #2 on this thread)

Thanks
Bart

I guess a great way to look it is like this:

Ephesians 2
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Some just stop with verse 9 to prove faith alone. Sadly they miss 10 because 10 speak of we are created to do the work of God here on earth.

James 2 is a wonderful example of that. If one claims faith in Jesus Christ, yet does not live as a Christian then did the person ever have real faith at all?

I will say it like this. My faith in Jesus by way of God’s Grace is what saved me. My acts of love and obedience is the outward evidence of the inward change. Make sense?

At least for me, Luther’s description in his commentary on Galatians 5:6 is quite succinct.

Gal. 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.

Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith. Thus the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ on all sides. He declares on the one hand, “In Christ Jesus circumcision availeth nothing,” i.e., works avail nothing, but faith alone, and that without any merit whatever, avails before God. On the other hand, the Apostle declares that without fruits faith serves no purpose. To think, “If faith justifies without works, let us work nothing,” is to despise the grace of God. Idle faith is not justifying faith. In this terse manner Paul presents the whole life of a Christian. Inwardly it consists in faith towards God, outwardly in love towards our fellow-men.

This is most certainly true.

Jon

I’ve not ever heard of the term ‘synergeo,’ before, but in looking at your post #2, the use of the term in scripture does seem to say that God and Man work together. If you have more to say on the subject, I’d be interested in seeing it. :slight_smile:

Aidanbradypop

What you say makes sense, I’m not disputing that. But if you look again at what you’ve written (#9 on this thread), you’ll see that you haven’t actually answered my question. You haven’t mentioned James 2.22 at all.

Here is the full passage, four verses long, Jas. 2. 21-24. It’s a difficult passage, no doubt about that, which is why I’m giving it to you twice over, in two present-day translations. Neither of them is perfect. If you prefer to use some other translation, feel free. I won’t object.

*How was our ancestor Abraham put right with God? It was through his actions, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. Can’t you see? His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions. And the scripture came true that said, “Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous.” And so Abraham was called God’s friend. You see, then, that it is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone. [TEV]

Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. [NIV]*

So, Aidan, the question is this: In your view, what does James mean when he says, “His faith and his actions worked together. …. It is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone"?

Note: I am asking you the question, *What does James mean?, *not what does Paul mean in Ephesians, or what does anybody else mean, OK?

Regards
Bart

Denise, thank you for your kind words, but the ball’s in Aidan’s court now!

Regards
Bart

Sure, but the true authorship of many of Paul’s epistles is also questionable. The way I see it, if it’s in the canon, it’s in the canon, the inspired word of God. We can’t then say that Paul’s epistles are superior or “truer” than James. They must work together.

I interpret Paul’s de-emphasis on works as a more specific response to the Judaizers that were trying to make the Gentiles follow Mosaic Law and get circumcised etc. etc. “Works” as in doing things to comply with the old Jewish Law.

So, Aidan, the question is this: In your view, what does James mean when he says, “His faith and his actions worked together. …. It is by our actions that we are put right with God, and not by our faith alone"?

First, what does James mean in 2:22 when he says that Abraham’s “faith was completed by his works”? In the Roman Catholic interpretation(correct me if needed), this is taken to mean that there is a deficiency in faith as a means of justification that must be compensated for by works.

The words that is a problem would be “complete.” It means “to bring something to its conclusion” or “to bring it to fruition.” James is not saying that faith is deficient as the means of justification, but that it comes to its intended goal when we produce good works. This is exactly the thought that follows when James explains the completion of faith in verse 23.

Secondly, is there anything you can do personally that saves you? If you answer no then it is by your faith in Jesus Christ by way of the Grace of God that saves you. The good work you do once you have that faith is a product of such faith.

How was that?

Bart you can call Dustin. Aidan and Brady are my sons.

I guess I don’t understand the point of saying someone is justified by faith alone when good works are a necessary by-product of faith. It seems to me like faith spurs one to do good works and good works strengthen faith. I think of the parable of the wedding feast. Those that are invited but don’t come are those who don’t answer the call to the faith. They are thrown into the fires. Those that come but don’t have their wedding gown on are those that respond to the call of faith but don’t have anything to show for it. They are thrown into the fires. Those that respond to the call and have their wedding gown on are the blessed ones that get to enjoy the feast. It seems to me that Jesus is speaking of two components here (faith and works) as being necessary for salvation. Though I wonder what your interpretation is.

What saves you? Is it faith, works or faith and works?

Dustin

First off, I apologize for getting your name wrong. It won’t happen again!

You are using the expression “deficiency in faith” in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen before. When used of an individual, it means, as I understand it, that faith is something he doesn’t have enough of, and he needs more of it. But that’s not what James is saying about Abraham, is it?

“James is not saying that faith is deficient as the means of justification,” you say here. Are you sure? “Deficient” is not the word I would use myself in this context, as I mentioned earlier, but if you were to say “insufficient” instead of “deficient,” then I would be inclined to disagree. I would say, in fact, that by using the verb *synergeo *to express what is going on with faith and works, James is making an observation that you could paraphrase like this:

Faith alone is insufficient as the means of justification.
Works alone are insufficient as the means of justification.
Both are needed.

I don’t need to think very hard about what I’m going to say in reply to that, because I’ve got the answer right here. I just have to open a drawer and pull it out. It’s a statement that I’m sure you’re already familiar with:

If anyone shall say that the wicked man is justified by faith alone, meaning that no other thing is required to cooperate for obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not necessary for him to be prepared and disposed by the movement of his will, let him be anathema.
[RIGHT]―Council of Trent, Session VI, Canon 9, De justificatione[/RIGHT]

This brings us to the old question of how to reconcile the apparent contradiction between James and Paul ― the subject that Calvinists, I believe, refer to as “solving the tension”:

*Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Rom 3.28)

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (Jas 2.24)*

“Deeds” in Romans and “works” in James are alternative translations of a single Greek word, erga.

The starting point, I think, is to look at it as a question of language. James and Paul may be using the same words to mean different things: either the word “faith”, or the word “works”, or the word “justified”, or any two of those terms, or all three.

In the case of “works” and also, to some extent, in the case of “faith”, it’s easy to see that different meanings could arise from the contrasting local environments in which Paul and James are preaching the Gospel. Paul’s main concern is his Gentile converts, for whom Christianity is in many ways too Jewish, with burdensome requirements such as circumcision, the dietary laws, Sabbath observance, and the 248 commandments *(mitzvot). *James has the opposite problem. His Jerusalemites are worried that the new faith isn’t Jewish enough. James isn’t going to suddenly turn around and tell them to forget everything they’ve ever been taught about the importance of mitzvot, in the loose sense of good deeds or acts of kindness.

Do we also have to consider the possibility that James and Paul are attaching different meanings to the word “justified”? That’s a tough nut to crack. Some other time, maybe.

Regards
Bart

Abraham, like us all, has an imperfect faith. Now of course he was faithful as we see many times, yet we also see moments when it was flawed. We have have the benefit of Jesus Christ. Abraham did not. God saw that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son unto God. That speaks volumes to his faith although it was still imperfect.

I would say, in fact, that by using the verb *synergeo *to express what is going on with faith and works, James is making an observation that you could paraphrase like this:

Faith alone is insufficient as the means of justification.
Works alone are insufficient as the means of justification.
Both are needed.

I have to disagree with the wording. James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).

Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life.

We are justified or made righteous by our faith and what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Now OSAS would stop there. Bad idea. We also must maintain such a faith as well as grow that faith. We do so by works and love.

I don’t need to think very hard about what I’m going to say in reply to that, because I’ve got the answer right here. I just have to open a drawer and pull it out. It’s a statement that I’m sure you’re already familiar with:

If anyone shall say that the wicked man is justified by faith alone, meaning that no other thing is required to cooperate for obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not necessary for him to be prepared and disposed by the movement of his will, let him be anathema.
[RIGHT]―Council of Trent, Session VI, Canon 9, De justificatione[/RIGHT]

This brings us to the old question of how to reconcile the apparent contradiction between James and Paul ― the subject that Calvinists, I believe, refer to as “solving the tension”:

*Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (Rom 3.28)

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (Jas 2.24)*

“Deeds” in Romans and “works” in James are alternative translations of a single Greek word, erga.

The starting point, I think, is to look at it as a question of language. James and Paul may be using the same words to mean different things: either the word “faith”, or the word “works”, or the word “justified”, or any two of those terms, or all three.

In the case of “works” and also, to some extent, in the case of “faith”, it’s easy to see that different meanings could arise from the contrasting local environments in which Paul and James are preaching the Gospel. Paul’s main concern is his Gentile converts, for whom Christianity is in many ways too Jewish, with burdensome requirements such as circumcision, the dietary laws, Sabbath observance, and the 248 commandments *(mitzvot). *James has the opposite problem. His Jerusalemites are worried that the new faith isn’t Jewish enough. James isn’t going to suddenly turn around and tell them to forget everything they’ve ever been taught about the importance of mitzvot, in the loose sense of good deeds or acts of kindness.

Do we also have to consider the possibility that James and Paul are attaching different meanings to the word “justified”? That’s a tough nut to crack. Some other time, maybe.

Regards
Bart

Yes another day

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