Works as the result of faith


#1

I’m probably going to mangle this idea, but I may have had an insight into why the Protestant idea of faith and works doesn’t, ahem, “work.” It’s a little foggy, but maybe someone can help me out.

Okay, the Catholic position is straighforward, (at least to me, a lifelong Catholic.) “Faith without works is dead.” You can’t say you have faith if you don’t do good works. You can’t EARN salvation by works, but they are necessary nonetheless.

Protestants say that works are a sign that you have faith. They believe works are totally unnecessary, but that if there aren’t any good works, there’s probably no faith, and they aren’t “saved.”

Now, my thought on this–let’s say you’re a new Protestant convert. You go to a revival, “get saved,” and are eager to live the rest of your life in Jesus. I imagine a choice presents itself for the new Protestant–either he doesn’t change his life much, (though he probably rejects sin), and he’s comfortable in the knowledge that he’s saved, he has faith, and that’s that. Well, now he has a choice. He can choose to act and do good works, or he can’t.

I think this is the crux of my “argument,” (which I’m still trying to hash out). They believe faith forces the truly converted to act, as if their will is completely overcome, as though they become a vehicle of action for Christ. In other words, they give up their free will. It would seem to be the logical conclusion, because after all, once they “get saved,” most of them believe they can’t sin anymore–at least not so egregiously they lose their salvation.

Catholics, on the other hand, realize that a true conversion doesn’t force them to do anything. We believe that yes, you can come to Christ, but that doesn’t compel us to do anything. We can still be spiritual couch potatos.

I think the whole debate is almost splitting hairs, but, since the Prots make a big deal out of it, we have to engage. If anyone would like to help me with this, if there’s anything there, please do so.

Peace,
MM


#2

Yes, the polemics do get to be frustrating at times.

Jimmy Akin’s approach in “Righteousness and Merit” is very refreshing:
"You don’t have to do a diddly-do-da thing after being justified by God in baptism in order to go to heaven. There is no magic level of works one needs to achieve in order to go to heaven. One is saved the moment one is initially justified. The only things one then does is good works because one loves God (the only kind which receive rewards) and not choose to cast out God’s grace by mortal sin. And even if one does cast it out by mortal sin, the only thing needed to get it back was the same thing needed to get it in the first place – repentance, faith, and sacrament, except the sacrament in this case is confession rather than baptism.

“People try to make the Catholic message sound complex, but it’s really simple: ‘Repent, believe and be baptized; then if you commit mortal sin, repent, believe, and confess. Period.’ – even a five year old child can understand that. All the exegesis and infrastructure of catholic soteriology I am giving in this work is strictly not necessary, any more than the exegesis and infrastructure found in Protestant soteriology books is either. From a Catholic perspective, repentance, faith, and baptism are just as easy to get across in an evangelistic appeal as they are for Protestants; in fact, they are easier since one doesn’t have to explain, ‘Okay, repentance and faith are necessary, but baptism isn’t, but it’s still really important, and so you need to do it, okay?’ On the Catholic view, the message of the elements we have to preach is much simpler: Repent, believe, and in the saving waters, receive the righteousness of God.”


#3

Here’s a simple response:

You can go to Heaven because of what you believe, but you can go to Hell for what you do or fail to do.

Peace and God bless!

Eric


#4

I have stated a similiar point in many of my posts. Only I called it a chicken or egg debate. (I like your analogy better; splitting hairs).

The issue seems to be that dependinig on philisophical view point some feel this hair splitting is more like atom splitting in that it is very important and we are worlds apart.

I simply don’t see it that way. It seems to me that we could argue we are both saying the same thing, just saying it differently.

I doubt there is a person on earth who truly came to have faith in, and love Jesus, whose behavior wasn’t affected. And isn’t that the issue? We don’t talk of (boast) of degrees of behavioral change. Not just Saints go to Heaven, sinner do also (hopefully). Don’t we both agree on this?


#5

I finally realized the same thing. I put it this way though.

Protestants feel that good works will come naturally once saved.

Catholics believe it is a choice to follow Christ with each and every good work.
God Bless,
Maria


#6

As always, the folks here on this forum have a gift for rendering what I think of as lofty and convulted into something simple and accessible. Any tips on how to do that? :wink:

Best,
MM


#7

[quote=montanaman]Protestants say that works are a sign that you have faith. They believe works are totally unnecessary, but that if there aren’t any good works, there’s probably no faith, and they aren’t “saved.”
/QUOTE]

Hi MM:

I’m in just EXACTLY such a debate with a totally Fundamentalist relative right this very moment. He keeps saying a Christian because they’re saved will just NATURALLY do good works. I say not so, at all.

This is a total cop-out on their part I feel. They justify this as an explanation of anything they do, no matter what their life has shown;;well "they “asked Jesus into their heart” and “we’re saved”. No matter. Period. End of subject. When they get to heaven, no matter what deeds they do or not do in their life, they can always recall the day, time and year “they were saved”. After growing up with this my entire life, I now see it is a total crock. Ever notice why “Fundy’s” can proclaim this “saved” stuff and then all they do is sin, sin, sin? Look at their lives? They’re not getting the real Jesus inside them. The body and blood of Jesus. The POWER. They’re missing so much. They can explain anything away, and when they’re in heaven some day and Jesus looks at their life, what will they say? Well Jesus, I was "saved on 9.21.04. Will Jesus care? No. He’ll look for the fruits of their life. He’ll look at how they walked—not how many Bible Studies they attended, or how involved they were in their Church. I believe he’ll look at how humble they were and how much they declared themself a sinner, etc. how much they thought they were inadequate, not how much they thought they knew. Remember the verse saying “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom”…

As a Catholic MM, you have MUCH to share with these folks in your life. Yes, indeed. You have the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ you receive in the Eucharist, they don’t. WOW–how could they think they know it all?

I think you must share what all Catholics have, that they don’t. You and WE have The True Church, THE Church Christ started, we have the Nicene Creed which holds us all together-- Does their Church proclaim this? No. They’re totally missing out on ALOT. They might think they have all that matters --but they really don’t. Being just “saved” doesn;t mean a hoot really when you look at itlook at what they do–look at the fruitsthis is what counts. We, Christians are not saved by faith alone–not even. Take a look.

Share with them, MM what you’ve learned. Do you watch “The Journey Home” on EWTN? Tell your Prot. friends about this show. It’s awesome. Mondays at 5:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., Tuesdays 7:00 a.m.

God Blessand “spread the faith brother”
[/quote]


#8

Preach it, sister Sparkle!


#9

Sparlkle

Ask your fundy friend if baptism is necessary for the remission of sins? Ask your fundy friend if once a person believes on Jesus if repenting of one’s FUTURE sins is necessary for forgiveness of sins? You see, there is the rub. Fundies say all one must do is believe in Jesus once in their life and they are saved forever.

If that is so, then what need is there for baptism at all or telling God your sorry for future sins? Or even attending church or praying afterwards for that matter? One would not have to do any of these things if what your fundy friend tells you is true. Now would they?

But you see the the apostles, nor the church fathers that followed the apostles taught such heresy. They taught that AFTER one believes, one MUST repent and be baptized FOR the remission of sins. Those believers, seeking to be Christians in the apostolic age didn’t repent and get baptized because they ALREADY were saved , but rather repented and were baptized TO BE SAVED and receive the remission of sins. Quite a difference eh? You bet.

Ron from Ohio


#10

Sounds like six of one or half dozen of the other. The Protestant view takes hours and hours to explain though.


#11

The catholci view on faith and works is symbiotic.

Through grace and faith you have the necessary talent to do good works we beleive it is your choice once you have been baptized and have faith.
We both agree we can do nothing to earn our initial grace of slavation by faith. This is often overlloked by both sides during polemics.
The big crux is this free will. The calvinist beleives your salvation is predtermined by God even the damned where determined to to be so by God. Now most protestants you bump into these days are typically evangelical they have moved one step closer to the catholic postion thus they are not as extreme ast their reformation forefathers on this issue.
THey believe you have choice in being saved initially but after that its pretty much auto pilot and automatically good works will flow out of your faith. WE certaily would agree that a natural resuilt of your faith grace would abound to give you the opportunity and ability to do good works but we beleive it still would be your choice. Somehow they think you will once being born again would automatically be aligned with God’s will for you to do good works.
But just looking at the actions of the average Christian and its plain to see we are all still big time sinners who choose our own path and not the works of God. This is a very important distinction. And the debate should go on for its relevant to ones salvation.


#12

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.