Sola Fide and splitting hairs


#1

Whenever there is an argument between Catholics and Protestants regarding Sola Fide it seems like both sides try to cement their position as far from the other as possible. (I firmly accept the Catholic explanation, btw).

Both sides actually believe we must have faith and works but disagree on when or how the “works” comes in. Catholics say we must “do” something to cooperate with God’s grace. But protestants (I’ve spoken with) seem to suggest that “works” will follow if we only (or because) we have faith.

It seems to be a chicken and and egg argument that gets us nowhere. I just wonder if the argument persists because of pride on the part of Protestants who can’t bring themselves back to the Catholic Church and on the part of Catholics who are unable to give an inch due to the fact that we do have the fullness of truth.

Denise


#2

I would tend to agree with you. There are real differences in the respective views of salvation (security, baptism), but there are so many other aspects that are so similar. I have tried to explain it to my Protestant friends, but no matter what I say about how Catholics understand the Church’s teaching, they continue to believe that we believe in works salvation (and continue to hop up and down about Trent on justification’s canon 9). There comes a point at which one has to shake the dust of his sandals, I suppose. And there comes a point where the “works salvation” charge starts to look like bearing false witness.

Part of me thinks it is related to the fact that Catholics HAVE to be teaching works salvation for them to justify not being in the Church. If the Church teaches (initial) salvation by grace through faith in baptism, then that steals some of the thunder of their position.


#3

Yes it does seem to be an unending argument. On the one hand, even Protestants believe that at least one “work” is necessary–we must accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour. This acceptance, while prompted by unmerited divine grace, is a human act, and necessary for salvation.

Catholics believe that we are saved by unmerited Grace. Nobody had to work for this initial grace. But we also believe that what we do in this life is not meaningless. (And Jesus agrees: see the last judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-45). Neither our good works or our sins are without eternal consequence. But our works do not cause our salvation.

Like physicists arguing about whether matter is composed of particles or waves, the argument over faith vs works can go on forever. Both are necessary.

It’s also somewhat off-topic, since most generally the “works” that Paul speaks about in the scriptures are the “works of the Law.” He is trying to make the point that it is no longer necessary to follow prescriptions of the Jewish Law in great detail.

One problem that Catholics have is that since Baptism (and initial salfivic Grace) is a one-time event, we spend much more time worrying about our subsequent actions. This makes it appear that we are obsessed with “working” our way to heaven. But those things are only ways to sanctification.

JimG


#4

Yes, I would generally agree with you and the other posters here. It is so super-specific of an argument that I’ve often had trouble focusing much on it myself. I mean really, whether justification extends over the course of a lifetime or in a moment. That’s about it because, as you note, the overwhelming majority of all Protestants will affirm the following propositions (with the possible exception of Zane Hodges et al.): “works obtain in the life of every believer.” I always thought that if we all assent to that then what’s the big fuss. I mean, of course it’s important to get it right as a Catholic, but I fail to see the big hoorah that this issue carries for Protestants. Even when I was one I thought this. That’s why it always came back to the issue of authority for me. That is, if a Catholic can go to Romans chap. 2 and find apparently great support for his position on this issue and a Protestant can go to chap. 4 of the same book for ostensibly good support for his position, what’s a guy to do? To me, this seems like any other great controversy of faith in the church (e.g., Arianism)–there just has to be a final say in these important matters of faith, as St. Thomas so well articulated. So, this sola fide debate and any other always comes back to the issue of authority. That is, if two people can reasonably argue their own particular Christian belief from the Scriptures and they are at odds with each other, what settles the matter outside of an authority endowed by God to do that very thing?


#5

I placed a forum up on this yesterday on the “Doctrine of Justification”

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=4774

Lutheran’s do not believe that “works” come through “faith” so much as “faith and works” comes to us through Grace. So that being said, Lutherans do not believe that they have the “works” of accepting God. The acceptance of God comes through his Grace and is not due to any merit of our own.

Now Lutherans do believe that we can reject God, but that does not mean that God rejects us.

[quote=A Lutheran Friend’s Quote]From our conception, we are in enmity with God. Salvation is freely offered to all from the minute we come into being. God has chosen the normal means of grace for that. It is baptism. I think the first time we can say one is typically “saved” (yes, there are exceptions) is as soon as they have been made a disciple and have been joined to the body of Christ in baptism. In Lutheran theology, baptism is not an “acceptance” of a gift, because God does all of the work in baptism. That work is spiritual, but nonetheless real and not symbolic. So, semantically speaking, I think even God does the unwrapping. The clergy, Christian community, and sponsors are merely vehicles of God’s deed. Lutherans do put a heavy emphasis on baptism; and place it within the normal “equation” for salvation. So, the gift metaphor would work more like this, I think: Before we are even concieved, there is a gift with our name on it. It was carefully wrapped for us 2,000 years ago. God unwraps that present for us (as one would a gift for an infant- despite our age) in the waters of baptism. Even when we reject the gift, God never discards it; but continually holds it before us.
The problem with the metaphor is this: do we ever grab the gift back? No, we never do any meritous work towards our salvation. I think of it more like eternal sunshine: God continually showers us with the gift of salvation. We are able to erect a parasol and “hide” from that grace (reject it); but we are never in charge of the on/off switch of the sun’s light and we are not given the credit for our rosy cheeks by our not using a parasol: because God’s is the sunshine that caused them.
[/quote]


#6

I’ve discovered this lately in my study of Catholicism. I am a Calvinist and believe strongly that works are necessary for one to prove that they have been regenerated. Indeed we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” as the apostle teaches, and in doing so we prove to the world and to ourselves that we belong to Christ.

Baptism also is necessary in that anyone who is truly in Christ (who has not already been baptized) will want to follow the Lord’s commands, and anyone who claims to have Christ yet will not obey Him or is not growing in their sanctification is not truly in the Lord. It seems to me a lot of the differences on this issue is semantics. There is no disagreement between St. James and St. Paul, folks.

Now I know there are those who teach “easy believism”, but they oppose not only the Catholic view but the classical Calvinist and Wesleyan/Arminian views as well on the necessity of good deeds and baptism and the sacraments. “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom…”


#7

Now, as a Catholic, I can’t disagree with this statement too much. However, I believe it’s the prime example of splitting hairs. The acceptance of God is through his grace but we are required to cooperate (a work) with that grace.

So I guess I’m wondering why the slight difference is such a matter of division? Is this the reason Lutheran’s won’t return fully into the Catholic Church?

God Bless,
Denise


#8

[quote=DenRat]Now, as a Catholic, I can’t disagree with this statement too much. However, I believe it’s the prime example of splitting hairs. The acceptance of God is through his grace but we are required to cooperate (a work) with that grace.

So I guess I’m wondering why the slight difference is such a matter of division? Is this the reason Lutheran’s won’t return fully into the Catholic Church?

God Bless,
Denise
[/quote]

It is interesting to see both sides because, ultimately, we are both saying the same things. If you look at the Joint Declaration between the Lutherans and Catholics, you can see that. We know that grace is a free gift. We ask in faith and are then moved to works.

The only concern I have is this idea of “assurance of salvation.” While we are assured of God’s grace whenever we ask, as well as his mercy and forgiveness. We are not assured of our possibly rejecting it. God is always there, but we still have free will.

Much like marriage, even though I said “I do,” I am not assured of a “death do us part” marriage," and it could be my fault. If I fail to “work” at it then I could easily fall into self-centeredness, bitterness, and all the things that will eventually tear it apart. If these problems are not reconciled, I will eventually come to the absolute conclusion that we should be divorced. After all, we can justify anything. We do it everyday.

This false sense of security is a very dangerous and even deadly teaching. By it, we are denying the power of our own sinfulness.


#9

Once again we agree, if a Lutheran rejects God’s Grace then they are damned. There of course are different ways in wich one can reject God.

If you’re saved, all glory to God. If you’re damned, it’s your own damn fault.


#10

[quote=Shibboleth]Once again we agree, if a Lutheran rejects God’s Grace then they are damned. There of course are different ways in wich one can reject God.

If you’re saved, all glory to God. If you’re damned, it’s your own damn fault.
[/quote]

Yeah! :thumbsup:


#11

As a Lutheran Christian, I would love to echo the findings in the Joint Declaration of Justification and of my own personal faith. If you ask any intelligent Lutheran if they will go to heaven, they will tell you that by believing in him, and having Christ in their hearts, they are sanctified. If you also ask them if Catholic believers will be in heaven, you will get the same answer. If you have faith and Christ in your heart, you will do good works to show others your love for Christ. Good works are to glorify God, not to save our own souls. We cannot enter the gates of heaven without being covered in the blood of our Savior.

I think where the issue rests is on those Catholics that believe that the Bible is written for Catholics (if you look on the “Real Luther” thread). Salvation is only for those that follow the practices of the Catholic Church. If some Catholics believe that they are the only “real” Christians and the only one’s who will have Eternal Life, then I don’t think they have Christ in their hearts. I have given my soul and heart to Christ through Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage (with my Catholic wife in her Church) and through my life. If any Catholic believes that I am a “lost soul” and cannot join them in heaven, than I will pray for them, and hope God judges them more fairly than they judge me.


#12

[quote=Eric Goodrich]I think where the issue rests is on those Catholics that believe that the Bible is written for Catholics (if you look on the “Real Luther” thread). Salvation is only for those that follow the practices of the Catholic Church. If some Catholics believe that they are the only “real” Christians and the only one’s who will have Eternal Life, then I don’t think they have Christ in their hearts. I have given my soul and heart to Christ through Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage (with my Catholic wife in her Church) and through my life. If any Catholic believes that I am a “lost soul” and cannot join them in heaven, than I will pray for them, and hope God judges them more fairly than they judge me.
[/quote]

Unfortunately, there are catholics who think this way. However, it is not from the church that these opinions are formed. The fact is, we are not the only ones up there!!!:dancing:

God Bless


#13

[quote=DenRat] Both sides actually believe we must have faith and works but disagree on when or how the “works” comes in. Catholics say we must “do” something to cooperate with God’s grace. But protestants (I’ve spoken with) seem to suggest that “works” will follow if we only (or because) we have faith. Denise
[/quote]

First, when they say works they mean something quite different from what Paul meant. To Paul “works” is the “works of the law” which includes dietary and circumcism laws. To do them is a denial of Jesus salvation work on the cross because a person does the “works of the law” in hopes to be saved by such works.

James on the other hand when he said “works” he meant the things that we do that reinforce our faith. So James said that faith without works is dead.

They both use the same word, but their meanings are entirely different.

Second, for many Protestants they want to be on control of their salvation. By having a personal relationship and believing in Romans 8:1, they can be assured that they will be saved no matter how many sins they commit or even if they ignor their faith. This is very sad because the Bible is totally against such teachings. When they stand before God, we all will answer to all the things we have done no matter if we deny it or not.

Yours in Jesus,

Buzz


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