Some help please


#1

I’m debating sola fide with a protestant minister. in his e-mail he says "Our works are the result of our salvation, not the cause or the maintainer of our salvation"
Are not our works a result of faith not salvation? Could you’all help me answer this part better?


#2

What the Catholic Church calls “meritorious” works (i.e., works that have spiritual value in terms of bringing us closer to God) are indeed the result of initial salvation (the gift of grace we receive by faith in Christ). However, final salvation is the result of perseverance in grace, and our good works contribute to bringing us to that goal, although they are more truly God’s than ours (since He works them in us with our cooperation), and the gift of final perseverance is itself an unearned grace.

Catholics, correct me if I’m wrong: I’m trying to summarize the Council of Trent’s teachings on the subject!

Edwin


#3

Works are not a result of faith. That is the protestant interpretation of James. If works were a result of faith, then sola fide is correct, but it is not. Faith and good works are separate, but both are needed in order to prepare ourselves for salvation. Ask your protestant friend explain James 2:24, where good works saved the person, not faith alone. Ask him that if faith leads to good works, why did Paul contradict himself in that verse.


#4

Faith without works is dead as James said, but works are what we do because we are saved not to be saved. Works are not the saving mechanism, grace through faith in Jesus Christ is.


#5

I thought the protestant interpration was works were a result of salvation?


#6

The council of Trent taught, as other councils have, that faith and good works are separate. If good works were a result of faith, then James 2:24 would be false. That verse shows that good works are separate from faith, but both are combined to obtain grace.

Protestant: Faith-->good works-->salvation.

Catholic: Faith+Good works=Salvation.

#7

But St. Paul clearly says in James 2:24 that works are needed in order to be saved. If faith alone is correct, then this verse is not needed, since good works would flow from faith. But St. Paul taught that faith and good works are two separate things that are brought together by responding to God’s grace.


#8

Not half bad for an Episcopalian? :thumbsup:


#9

No, I don’t think this works. The faith James is talking about as “dead” is the same faith demons have. It is clear that this is not the same thing as the faith spoken of as salvific elsewhere in Scripture. The faith St. Paul speaks about is a gift of God. Demonic faith is not a gift of God. Therefore, St. James is using the word “faith” in an equivocal sense.

This is the only point where I really disagree with Catholicism on justification, although my premise (that demonic faith is not the same thing as the faith that is a gift of God) is shared by St. Thomas Aquinas (see ST II/II, question 5, art. 2, reply to obj. 2; this leads him to posit an “unformed” faith which is a gift of God but still needs to be formed by love in order to become living, and a demonic faith which is not really faith at all–this, in my opinion, takes the wind out of the sails of the common Catholic appeal to James to support the notion of unformed faith).

Edwin


#10

That is a good analysis. The question I would pose to you is what kind of faith was St. Paul talking about in James 2:24. If it is a dead faith, then the good works actually become the works of the law, would it not? It’s like saying, “I really don’t need a faith per se, but the good works will make up for it.”

If he is talking about a live faith, then why did he say that the man is saved by his works, and not by faith alone? It debunks sola fide and Martin Luther’s idea of faith leading to good works which leads to salvation. The Catholic teaching is that faith and good works come together in the hope of attaining salvation.


#11

I think you’ve been reading too much Luther;) This is one of his many false dichotomies. We can choose whether or not to act in the way that faith disposes us to act. If we choose not to do this, we will “kill” our faith (Luther actually more or less admitted this in the Galatians commentary!). Therefore, it is true to say that we are placed in a right relationship with God by faith alone, and that works are necessary for final salvation.

Perhaps you don’t actually disagree with this. My main problem with what you wrote is that I see faith and works as playing radically different roles, so that it is misleading to speak of them “coming together for salvation,” as if they were two ingredients that needed to be mixed. Works are necessary only in the sense that they will always proceed from genuine faith unless and until the believer chooses to stop acting according to faith. In other words, there are not two acts of will–to believe and to do good works. Rather, the act of faith includes good works, and conversely the choice to turn away from God (and hence to stop going good works) is fatal to that faith which is a gift of God.

Edwin


#12

I would say that the only faith that exists without works is a dead faith, therefore he is obviously talking about dead faith. And so far I think the Catholic Church would agree with me.

If it is a dead faith, then the good works actually become the works of the law, would it not? It’s like saying, “I really don’t need a faith per se, but the good works will make up for it.”

I don’t follow this at all. I read James 2:24 as saying that no one who has faith but not works will be saved. Clearly James is using “faith” in the sense of “belief that certain doctrines are true,” and as I said this isn’t even identical to the Catholic doctrine of unformed faith as a gift of God, since it includes demonic faith which is not a gift of God. (BTW, I misspoke when saying that Aquinas said demonic faith wasn’t really faith–I should have said that it wasn’t a gift of God and thus was very different from unformed faith in humans.)

IThe Catholic teaching is that faith and good works come together in the hope of attaining salvation.

f

Again, I think this is an infelicitous way of putting it. The only place where I’m aware of disagreeing with Catholic doctrine on this point is my belief that unformed faith is not a supernatural gift of God and is simply another human opinion like any other, so that any sin that results in the loss of charity also results in the loss of that faith which is a gift of God (this view is, as far as I can tell, anathematized by the Council of Trent, so I’d very much like either to be proved wrong or to find a loophole).

Edwin


closed #13

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