Why can't we be saved by "works" - is it because our works are "tainted by sin"?

As Catholics we are often told by Protestants that the reason we cannot be saved by works is because our works are ‘sinful’ or ‘tainted by sin’ or something along those lines. These Protestants speak with such confidence that you’d think Paul actually taught such a thing. But it turns out that Paul doesn’t ever talk like this. It is true that Paul talks about our sinfulness and that Paul talks about faith justifying us “apart from works,” the fact is Paul never says the works don’t save because they are somehow stained.

Here is a blog post where a few of the key Protestant texts (including Ephesians 2:8) is briefly examined.

Any thoughts are welcome.

When I was a Protestant I never heard that; admittedly, I left when I was still in my teens. But my understanding was that works were never sufficient, not that they were tainted.

Wow! That blog article is about as far away from what a Protestant believes that I have ever seen! Protestants don’t believe that you are saved by works. Not sure where the writer came up with that stuff.:shrug:

I think all that we do is tainted to different degrees in one way or another. In that sense we need grace even in our works. That doesn’t mean that works play no part in salvation however. It just means that we don’t do them with the purest of hearts.

There are people who help homeless people out of a sense of guilt rather than out of pure love. Love is still a motivational part which is good but the sense of guilt is an impure aspect stirred into the mix.

Have you ever had a Protestant point to Isaiah 64:6 which says “all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags”? They point to this because they believe that God requires a perfect life of good works from us, but since we are sinful we cannot present that to God, and instead Jesus has to live a life of good works an “impute” that to us. Hence the Protestant teaching on “Imputation” is how we can said to have a lifetime of good works to present to God so that God can look at us and count us as if we had lived a lifetime of doing good works, and thus Justify us.

Here is a famous Protestant apologetics site “GotQuestions” that says this on Imputation:
We don’t love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We don’t love our neighbors as ourselves. We have a problem, and it’s called sin. Sin affects what we do, say, and think. In other words, it taints everything about us. Therefore, no matter how good we try to be, we will never meet God’s standard of perfection. The Bible says that all of our righteous deeds are like a “polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Our own righteousness is simply not good enough and never will be, no matter how hard we try.

That’s why Jesus lived a perfect life in full obedience to the law of God in thought, word, and deed. Jesus’ mission wasn’t simply to die on the cross for our sins but also to live a life of perfect righteousness. Theologians refer to this as the “active and passive obedience of Christ.” Active obedience refers to Christ’s life of sinless perfection. Everything He did was perfect. Passive obedience refers to Christ’s submission to the crucifixion. He went willingly to the cross and allowed Himself to be crucified without resisting (Isaiah 53:7). His passive obedience pays our sin debt before God, but it is the active obedience that gives us the perfection God requires.

To impute something is to ascribe or attribute something to someone. When we place our faith in Christ, God ascribes the perfect righteousness of Christ to our account so that we become perfect in His sight.

By having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, we can be seen as sinless, as Jesus is sinless. It is not, therefore, our perfection, but His. When God looks at the Christian, He sees the holiness, perfection, and righteousness of Christ. Therefore, we can say with confidence, “I am sinless, as Jesus is sinless.”
This is simply a covert way that Protestants teach man is saved by works alone, the only ‘catch’ is that Jesus did the works for man. But it is still works and only works that God looks at.

Jesus opening Heaven to mankind was a free gift, but the level you go to in Heaven is determined by your Good works in this life.

So I am not following your question, do you want someone to give you the protestant apologetics of justification and salvation from their point of view?

The problem with the protestant position stems from their poor understanding of the justification. In fact many believe that we are imputed righteousness on account of Jesus sacrifice and we are covered with it.
Therefore nothing we can do merits anything. In fact many believe that anything we do in this life does not matter much.
Once you accepted Jesus, as your Lord and Saviour, you can go on your merry sinful ways, you have arrived, you are there! An assured entry in Heaven.

The problem with this position is that it is wholly unbiblical. No where in the Bible is this doctrine found, Jesus was very explicit on who would be saved.
We are justified in our Baptism. At this event we are joined to the Church, founded by Christ, yes! Even a protestant is joined to her, albeit imperfectly.

After our initial justification we need to “work” our way to Heaven. How? you may ask. With the works of mercy as Jesus told us:

Matthew Chapter 25
25:34 Then the King shall say to those who will be on his right: ‘Come, you blessed of my Father. Possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world
25:35 For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in;
25:36 naked, and you covered me; sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.’
25:37 Then the just will answer him, saying: ‘Lord, when have we see you hungry, and fed you; thirsty, and given you drink?
25:38 And when have we seen you a stranger, and taken you in? Or naked, and covered you?
25:39 Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit to you?’
25:40 And in response, the King shall say to them, ‘Amen I say to you, whenever you did this for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did it for me.’
25:41 Then he shall also say, to those who will be on his left: ‘Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
25:42 For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and you did not give me to drink;
25:43 I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked, and you did not cover me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.’
25:44 Then they will also answer him, saying: ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?’
25:45 Then he shall respond to them by saying: ‘Amen I say to you, whenever you did not do it to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.’
25:46 And these shall go into eternal punishment, but the just shall go into eternal life.”

Nowhere did HE say come you who believed in me! In other words to declare Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour requires a little bit more that mere “Faith”

James Chapter 2

2:17 Thus even faith, if it does not have works, is dead, in and of itself.
2:18 Now someone may say: “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works! But I will show you my faith by means of works.
2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. But the demons also believe, and they tremble greatly.
2:20 So then, are you willing to understand, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Hope this helps

What precisely do you mean by “level”, here? :slight_smile:

Faith with works is so intuitive that it’s one of the things that draws me to Catholicism. :slight_smile:

The Church teaches that even on his own, man is capable of works that are inherently good. But she just as vehemently teaches that works alone do not save. In fact, we are saved by grace alone.

Unless we are in a state of grace, our good works gain no salutary merit, i.e. they do not “earn” salvation. Further, if we fall into mortal sin, any previous merit we gained from our good works performed in the state of grace is lost (they also revive upon reconciliation).

This is because our sin is against an infinitely great and good God, which means our sins have infinite guilt. There is absolutely no way we can atone for that kind of guilt. There is only one Man and one Act that can atone for man’s sin, and that Man is Christ, and that Act is Calvary. Only when we are cleansed by the Blood are we saved. It’s not because are works are not good; they are indeed good. The problem is, because he is Infinite, and we are finite, our good works are simply not good enough. That is why only grace saves.

Our works can be good, grace filled, God given deeds.

The reason our works cannot save us is because we are not capable of bridging the chasm between God and man that began in the Garden.

Mankind was banished from the garden by God and we need God to return to right communion with him. Only he can bring us back.

This is not Catholic teaching at all.

Jesus opened heaven to all and invites us in. Without him, heaven is closed. By our faith working through love (faith and works together aka true conversion) we respond to Christ’s invitation and grab hold of him to join in heaven.

It is not because it is tainted by sin, it is because we can not earn our way to heaven in a system of grace.

We’re saved by grace, meaning we’re saved by God, our responses to His calling, whether they be faith or works or anything else, being secondary causes of our salvation. But respond we must, even as we’re to oppose and reject His will. But as we do respond to and cooperate with grace, we work out our salvation together with He who works in us. He asks us to have faith in Him, to have trust and hope in Him, to love Him as well as our neighbor, to obey His commands, to do the good works He’s prepared for us in Christ Jesus. These are all part of God’s calling, of the “walk”. It’s a journey, not some one-time event or singular kind of response even if our first response is to be faith, the response that * initiates and establishes * our relationship with God.

Sounds like the heavenly version of the 7 circles of hell. But we don’t get our doctrine from poets. I’ve never heard of levels in heaven. However, I have heard (tho I don’t think it’s doctrine) that our experience in heaven depends on our ability to receive it. The more saintly we are, the more happiness we get.

I had to re-do my post #14, having left out a relevant word, bolded below:

We’re saved by grace, meaning we’re saved by God; our responses to His calling, whether they be faith or works or anything else, being secondary causes of our salvation. But respond we must, even as we’re able to oppose and reject His will instead. But as we* do* respond to and cooperate with grace, we work out our salvation together with He who works in us. He asks us to have faith in Him, also to have trust and hope in Him, also to love Him as well as our neighbor, to obey His commands, to do the good works He’s prepared for us in Christ Jesus. These are all part of God’s calling, of the “walk”. It’s a journey, not some one-time event or singular kind of response even if our first response is faith, the response that initiates and establishes our relationship with God.

That is where purgatory comes in. In heaven you are purely sanctified and perfectly able to be with God. We will all be perfectly able to behold him.

In purgatory we start out at different points needing sanctification prior to being able to fully receive God and be one with the communion of saints.

That is exactly what I thought. It’s why I asked what Techno2000 meant by “levels”. :shrug:

That is true, but Purgatory is not a “level” of heaven – it is a purifying stage that comes before heaven and the Beatific Vision.

It simply means you get what you deserve in Heaven… Levels of Glory: example a Martyr would get more glory in Heaven than say a bad sinner who repented on his Deathbed.

I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I don’t know, or whether out of the body, I don’t know; God knows), such a one caught up into the third heaven.

2 Corinthians 12:2

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