Works salvation - the real question?


#1

I’m starting a new thread on this just because the current thread is so long I’m lost.

Anyway, it seems to me that there is one fundamental question at the bottom of all this “works salvation” talk. That question involves the matter of who takes part in our salvation. It seems that there are three answers to that question:

  1. It is all us. That would be works salvation.

  2. It is all God. That would be Calvinism, I think.

  3. It is a partnership, a joint effort of God and us. Note that I don’t say an equal partnership, just a partnership. This would be what the Church teaches, and probably what the vast majority of Protestants believe as well. The proof of this is that externally, the lives of a devout Catholic and a devout Protestant will take on a rather similar character.

So all this talk of works salvation is really only quibbling over the exact mechanics and timing of the partnership. It hardly seems worth all the energy spent talking about it.


#2

In following the original “Works Salvation” thread, I too got the distinct feeling that the primary argument was over semantics. Let’s refer to both Paul and James. I think Paul and James had the same understanding, but used different language to describe their views.

Romans
Chapter 4

1 What then can we say that Abraham found, our ancestor according to the flesh?
2 Indeed, if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works, he has reason to boast; but this was not so in the sight of God.
3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

James
Chapter 2

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.
23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called "the friend of God."
24 See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

So, unless we are prepared to say that Paul and James contradict each other, we must say that they are using different language to describe the same thing. I think that the “Works Salvation” arguments between Protestants and Catholics boil down to the fact that we are doing what Paul and James did. We are using different words to describe the same thing.

What do you think, Link?


#3

I think the problem that protestants have with “Works” is the word “works” itsself. Because there is a connotation to the word that makes one think of doing something for the express purpose of receiving something in return. Everyday we “work” to earn a paycheck or to receive benefits. It seems to me that when a Catholic speaks of “good works” a protestant immediately conjures up an image of people going out and looking for things we can do so that we will “earn” our salvation like a paycheck from an employer.

Catholics, of course, do not think of it this way. This is why I think it might be a good idea, at least when in informal conversation with a non-Catholic, to use the word “actions” instead of “works”. “Actions” does not have the same connotation of doing something to get something in return. An “action” is simply something you do. Catholics do not perform good actions to earn anything (well, unless they aren’t well educated Catholics). They do it because it is commanded of us by God. They do it to please God.


#4

I actually wrote an entire article (a rather long one) to point out that “works” was never really a question in Catholic dogma until it gradually became standard terminology after years of arguing with Protestants and citing James. I’ve posted it a few times, but here it is again anyways.


#5

Lazerlike42, you wrote a great article. Very helpful, and the concept is beautiful.


#6

I disagree.

It can be partly us and still be works salvation.

If works are a litmus and determining factor in one’s salvation, then it is works salvation.

  1. It is all God. That would be Calvinism, I think.

I agree. Something along those lines.

  1. It is a partnership, a joint effort of God and us. Note that I don’t say an equal partnership, just a partnership.

I have to disagree again.

Joint effort?

No.

God did all the effort. We merely ride His glorious coat-tails.

There is no effort we can supply that is salvific.

Maybe you did not intent on using that particular word, but you did, so I had to respond to that.

This would be what the Church teaches, and probably what the vast majority of Protestants believe as well.

But the difference lies in what part of the covenant responsibilites we all have to be saved.

The Scriptures teach that true faith and repentance is our part. All the saving is His part. That is why He, and He alone, is the Savior.

He is not part Savior or part Redeemer.

The proof of this is that externally, the lives of a devout Catholic and a devout Protestant will take on a rather similar character.

I tend to agree here.

Know what this means?

Catholicism is moot.

By their fruits.

If a devout non-Catholic produces the same fruit a devout Catholic does, then the Vine is working just as effectively through both of them.

That is without Catechisms, rituals, Sacraments, RC Eucharist, and the Mass. You have claimed a mouthful, but I am not sure you even know it.

So all this talk of works salvation is really only quibbling over the exact mechanics and timing of the partnership. It hardly seems worth all the energy spent talking about it.

The mechanics of the partnership is exactly where the divide resides and it surely is worth the energy spent talking about it. I wish it was as rosy as you believe, but it is not.

[LIST]
*]Telling people they must do some unknown number or quality of works to be saved is one thing.
*]To tell people that they must repent and believe to be saved is another.
[/LIST]

This cannot not be talked about.


#7

As usual…the n-C position here seems to ignore the plain statements of the Word of God in favor of a few passages that they have misinterpreted to suit their pet new wind of doctrine of Sola Fide.

John 3:5
5 Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Acts 2:37-38
[37] Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

[38] And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 22:16
[16] And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Matthew 25:31-46
31 And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. 32 And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. 34 Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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:

36 Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the just answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? 39 Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee? 40 And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.

41 Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. 44 Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? 45 Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.

46 And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.

John 14:15
[15] "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.


#8

Your article is great Lazerlike42 and contains the key for the whole misunderstanding about works.

I think both Protestants and Catholics believe that we are saved by “grace alone”. I think the underlying cause of our disagreement over how we are saved arises because of different meanings given to grace. As you note, Catholics believe the grace of justification (sanctifying grace) is something infused into our souls. It is the life of God that Jesus came to give us abundantly; a participation in the Divine nature as Peter and John note. It is His life in us, united to us, strengthening us that enables us to turn from sin and imitate Him, so that we can say with Paul:
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The “works” we do are God’s revealed will for us, and we are able to carry them out properly ONLY because of His grace, only because of the strength of His life present and united with ours. Hence it is only through the power of God alone that works can be accomplished in a meritorious manner, a manner pleasing to Him.

But we do cooperate; the works **are **done by us - whether a charitable action or a profession of faith. In other words, it is our body that does the actions; our intellect that takes in Scripture; our will that chooses to believe; our will that says “Yes, I will do what you ask”. It is not so totally God that everything we are say and do is some sort of illusion; ***it really is us. *** And Scripture is quite clear that both belief and acceptance of Jesus and obedience to Him are required for our salvation.

Now to a Protestant who understands justifying grace only as a decision on God’s part not to hold us guilty for our sins, there is no involvement of God in what we do, our works are done by us alone (especially any external acts). Thus if we say works are needed for salvation it implies that we are the ones who accomplish it.

Nita


#9

I agree that scripture shows that salvation is through faith and action, both of which are through God’ grace alone and that there is no salvation apart from Christ. I also find this teaching very beautiful–that God continues a good work in me, continuing to draw me to him by inward sanctification, if I respond to him, if I use my will to choose him. (Reminds me of the passage to the effect of “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”) It is a very active God who is preparing me for heaven and to meet him face to face. He wants me there and he will never abandon me. That brings me more joy than I can express.

The non-Catholic concern with this, as I understand it from talking to others, is that if faith/action (even through Christ) saves, then how can a person who simply accepts Christ as his personal savior but never engages in any “works” (or action), go to heaven? And further, how many"works" or how much action is necessary to get into heaven? So if a person dies immediately after accepting Christ, how is that person saved? Can anyone address that issue?


#10

I don’t even know what it means to talk about a “determining factor”.

I have to disagree again.

Joint effort?

No.

God did all the effort. We merely ride His glorious coat-tails.

There is no effort we can supply that is salvific.

Maybe you did not intent on using that particular word, but you did, so I had to respond to that.

Then you are denying that anything we do has any bearing on our salvation. That would including having faith in Christ. So you are denying that having faith in Christ has any bearing on our salvation. And I know you don’t actually believe that, so why would you deny that we play any part in our own salvation?

But the difference lies in what part of the covenant responsibilites we all have to be saved.

The Scriptures teach that true faith and repentance is our part. All the saving is His part. That is why He, and He alone, is the Savior.

He is not part Savior or part Redeemer.

There can be no salvation without that faith and repentance, so why claim that it is not part of the act of saving? Now I don’t deny, have never denied, that we can only come to that faith and repentance through grace, but nonetheless we can choose to act on that grace or to deny that grace. We can choose to do that which is required to be saved, or to not do it. Again, I can’t see what your objection could be.

I tend to agree here.

Know what this means?

Catholicism is moot.

By their fruits.

If a devout non-Catholic produces the same fruit a devout Catholic does, then the Vine is working just as effectively through both of them.

That is without Catechisms, rituals, Sacraments, RC Eucharist, and the Mass. You have claimed a mouthful, but I am not sure you even know it.

Nah, this is an old Protestant argument. In essence it asks why seek more knowledge and communion with God than the very minimum? Why bother seeking out God to any greater degree than that which will get one into heaven? The answer should be obvious to all.

Note that I never claimed that Protestants and Catholics have an equally hard (or easy) time of being saved, as your reply would imply. In fact, Catholic teaching makes it clear that the fullness of God’s grace is found within the Catholic Church. But I chose to make my point in a way that would be understandable to a Protestant and their concept of how they will be saved. I could have prefaced each of my remarks with “according to Proetstant understanding” but I chose not to clutter up my points with those qualifiers.

The mechanics of the partnership is exactly where the divide resides and it surely is worth the energy spent talking about it. I wish it was as rosy as you believe, but it is not.

[LIST]
*]Telling people they must do some unknown number or quality of works to be saved is one thing.
*]To tell people that they must repent and believe to be saved is another.
[/LIST]

What a hoary old chestnut. I can just as easily rephrase your second item as “To tell people that they must have some unknown degree of repentance and some unknown degree of faith to be saved.” And you know that is true, because you know that a good many Protestants worry whether they are “really saved” and choose to “get saved” over and over again as a result of that worry.


#11

Doing works is merely living the way God has instructed us to live - in other words, being obedient to His teaching. We receive grace feely - the only “works” required are baptism, and if one is of the age of reason, also belief in Jesus. It is the presence of this life of sanctifying grace in our souls that is the source of our salvation, of being able to get into heaven.

So, we receive the grace of salvation freely - BUT (and big but) we can lose that grace by willingly disobeying God in a serious matter and choosing not to repent. It is a rejection of God’s grace (His life) working in us to call us to obedience and repentance. We, in effect say, “No thanks!” And God respects our choice and withdraws His grace. .

So if a person dies immediately after accepting Christ, how is that person saved?

The person would go to heaven because they had not disobeyed and lost the sanctifying grace received at their baptism.
If they had not yet actually received water baptism but believed in Jesus and intended to do all He asks but died before they could be baptized, Catholicism teaches they would receive what is termed “baptism of desire”, which would result in the life of grace being infused into their souls.

Nita


#12

In regards to who merited the grace of salvation for mankind, Catholics definitely believe that this was accomplished only by Jesus. We did nothing to merit the restoration of the life of grace to fallen mankind - we do not even have the capability of such a thing.

This grace is also infused into our souls without any works (unless you call being baptized a work, and, if older, professing belief in Jesus as our Savior a work.) Works come into play only in regard to retaining and increasing this life of grace within our souls. (By works I mean any of our thoughts, words or actions - good or sinful.)

Nita


#13

Let me first start by saying that I am a Catholic. What I am about to say may “rub” some here the wrong way and accuse me of being a “cafeteria Catholic”. I have been looking at this issue from both the Catholic and Evangelical Protestant sides. I have also been reading St. Paul’s Epistles trying to understand this issue of Faith and/or “Works”. Here is what I have concluded and what I believe at this time.

  1. We are Justified and saved ONLY by the Grace of God, nothing we do can earn us salvation.
  2. The Instrument by which we appropriate this saving Grace is by Faith and ONLY Faith and this Faith is a gift of God’s Grace which enables us and moves us to have this saving faith.
  3. The Faith that Justifies is not only intellectual assent. It is this bare “intellectual assent” type of Faith that St. James tells us will not save us.
  4. The Faith that does “Justify” is Intellectual Assent, Trust and love for Christ who took my sins away and leaning on Him and Him alone to save me.
  5. “Justification” is the Imputation of Christ’s righteousness to me by Faith and only Faith as the instrument of appropriating His righteousness. And because of this God “Justifies”, declares me righteous.
  6. Works do not “save’” us whether done before or after Justification. The position that says “works” done by Grace moving us to do them have no “merit” in that they “earn” salvation. Our good works done by Grace moving us do gain us merit in that they are rewarded by God but salvation itself is not “merited”. To say that we “merit” our Justification is no better than what the Judaisers in St. Paul’s time said and what the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians taught later. If we have to “merit” for ourselves our Justification done by “Grace” then Christ’s death has no meaning or significance or necessity. Where’s the “good news” that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners if

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.” CCC 2010

Where is the “Good News” in that? Here’s the Biblical “Good News”

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring, 
simply to the cross I cling; 
naked, come to thee for dress; 
helpless, look to thee for grace; 
foul, I to the fountain fly; 
wash me, Savior, or I die. 

Having said all this I do not deny “Good Works”, they are necessary and God, AFTER we are Justified through the Holy Spirit working his Grace in us begins to Sanctify us and actually make us Holy and Righteous in His sight. But this process is never complete in this life. We, by Grace working in us must daily put to death the “old man” of sin still in us, we, by Grace must avoid sin and “do righteosness” and do good to one another, Justification IS by Faith Alone, BUT the Faith that Justifies is NEVER Alone.

If by saying all this puts me at odds with what the Church teaches then so be it, convince me that the Catholic position is right and not Semi-Pelagianism where with a “boost from Grace” we Merit or earn our salvation


#14

Faith is completed by “God Willed works”.

“God Willed Works” are not “Works of the Law” or “Man initiated Works” which do not save.

"God Willed Works’ do not always necessarily follow justification because at any point God allows us to exercise our freedom of will and Not do a “God willed Work”.

When we do that we Mortaly sin.

If we die in that state we go to Hell!

Why is it so hard for people to understand the concept of “God willed works” or the concept of faith being a Continuous thing that is completed by flowing through a “God Willed Work”

The answer is simple: protestanrtism is founded on the principle of faith being an Instantaneous-only-one-time-event because if that is true then living the christian life is easier.

Who pushes the easy way?

Satan!


#15

You ask Where is the “Good News” in that? Perhaps part of our problem as humans is not realizing how bad off we were after Adam’s sin; or, if having the words, not really “digesting” their meaning. We were condemned and incapabale of rectifying the situation.

God revealed His laws in the OT. The understanding was that one was acceptable to God IF (on his own) he kept them perfectly. If one could have done this, then they might be justified in saying they had saved themself ---- only oneself tho, no restoration of life to the human race in general. No one however, not a single one, was or is capable of doing so (as the CCC above states. Please note, Mary did not remain free from sin on her own. She had the saving life of grace present in her soul and it was only that grace which enabled her to remain sinless.) Left on our own, unable to live without ever breaking the law, we were doomed to eternal condemnation. Through the law came knowledge of God’s will, but also the discovery of our total incapability to doing it without ever failing. It gave us knowledge of God’s will but not the power/spiritual strength (grace) to keep it.
Now that is a dilemma for man - with horrible eternal consequences!!!

Scripture and the Church teach that Jesus came and did fulfil the Law perfectly - on behalf of all mankind, that is, meriting the restoration of the availability of the life of grace for us all. Now, I think that is Good News. I said “availability”, because this life of grace is not infused into the souls of every newborn automatically. There is cooperation required on the part of man.

And I won’t go into all that again. Except to say that Scripture does require Baptism as well as faith.
“Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit…” (John 3:5)
"… and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children… (Acts 2:37-39).

Nita


#16

No Evangelical Protestant I know or have known says that living the Christian life is easy and hold the idea of “cheap grace” or “easy believism”. Many of them are scandalised by only too many Catholics who go-to-church-on-Sunday and don’t “walk the walk”. At my Parish there are many who do live as Christ asks us to and there are probably some who don’t.

As long as we live in this world we will never be perfect. That is why Justification by Faith is so important, even our works done by Grace fall far short of God’s absolute standards of perfect holiness.
Not only that because of Christ we are under a “new law”, the law of the heart, it is not only good actions that God requires but a good and holy “heart attitude”. For example: Under the “old law” the act of Adultery was a serious sin, a “Mortal Sin” (as it still is) but Jesus takes it to the next level He said that even to LOOK at a woman with lustful thoughts is a serious IE “Mortal Sin”. Not only is the act still a sin but even the thought is. Can YOU live up to this absolute demand of Holiness the Lord requires? I know I can’t even with God’s Grace because as St. Paul so succinctly puts it we have a war within between the “new man” of Grace and the “old man” of the flesh and sin within us.“wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this body of death?” Praise be to God who in Christ Jesus reconciled the world to Himself by nailing the demands of the law to the cross. Christ Jesus lived the life I should have in perfect Holiness of body and mind and not only that He took upon Himself the punishment for sin I deserve. Now enabled by Grace I reach out in faith and trust in Christ alone to save me and in return God accepts me and now through the Holy Spirit enables me to live for Him in a life of continuing Sanctification in a day to day struggle against sin.

Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

We can fall. If our faith is genuine we,by Grace, will repent and return. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” It’s not about “me”, if I had to depend on I then I would be lost, I depend and trust God to bring me home by His Grace.


#17
  1. We are Justified and saved ONLY by the Grace of God, nothing we do can earn us salvation.
  2. The Instrument by which we appropriate this saving Grace is by Faith and ONLY Faith and this Faith is a gift of God’s Grace which enables us and moves us to have this saving faith.
  3. The Faith that Justifies is not only intellectual assent. It is this bare “intellectual assent” type of Faith that St. James tells us will not save us.
  4. The Faith that does “Justify” is Intellectual Assent, Trust and love for Christ who took my sins away and leaning on Him and Him alone to save me.

Sounds catholic to me.

  1. “Justification” is the Imputation of Christ’s righteousness to me by Faith and only Faith as the instrument of appropriating His righteousness. And because of this God “Justifies”, declares me righteous.

Whoa! Holy Scripture doesn’t ever say imputation. It does say this:

Jusitification is represented by the presence of a divine seed in man (1 Jn 3:9)
as **the anointing, seal, and pledge of the Holy Ghost **(1 Cor 1:21)
as **a participation in the divine nature **(2 Peter 1:4)
as **eternal life **(1 Jn 3:15)
as **rebirth **(John 3:5; Tit 3:5)
as **a new creation **(2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15)
as **inner renewal **(Eph 4:23)

  1. Works do not “save’” us whether done before or after Justification. The position that says “works” done by Grace moving us to do them have no “merit” in that they “earn” salvation. Our good works done by Grace moving us do gain us merit in that they are rewarded by God but salvation itself is not “merited”.

Our initial salvation is not merited. Salvation is NOT just a one-time, past event (if it were then the protestant doctrine of saved by faith alone would be true, I believe).

Our salvation is also a future event which is what Catholics mean when we say we are saved by works.

Our participation with God’s will (our works) “obligate” God to reward us (with a heavenly reward) **because He promised **a reward, not because our works obligate Him to pay us back what’s due.


#18

BTW, I reject the term “works salvation” and insist on the term “obedience salvation” instead. :thumbsup:

Catholics, use the term “obedience salvation” every time a Protestant talks about “works salvation” and watch how the discussion changes. :slight_smile:


#19

To paraphrase the Bard, ***”works salvation by any other name still smells like works salvation.”***.

But, thanks for the admission of your true position.:thumbsup:

[quote=VociMike]Catholics, use the term “obedience salvation” every time a Protestant talks about “works salvation” and watch how the discussion changes. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

And now, the discussion will change, as you go into the denial of what your cleverness has admitted—yours is a works/righteousness soteriology. :smiley:


#20

And thank you for acknowledging that the true position of the Catholic Church can more accurately be describe as obedience salvation (through grace of course, but both sides accept that so both sides can leave that out without misunderstanding). :thumbsup:

And now, the discussion will change, as you go into the denial of what your cleverness has admitted—yours is a works/righteousness soteriology. :smiley:

Those are meaningless terms, invented by Protestants simply to differentiate their beliefs from Catholic (and Orthodox) beliefs. They have no actual meaning beyond what a particular Protestant claims they mean. So let’s talk instead about whether you believe or disbelieve in obedience salvation.


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