Thursday, October 18, 2007

NOT BY FAITH ALONE (This Rock: October 1997)

A good article by Jim Akin at NOT BY FAITH ALONE (This Rock: October 1997)

Some excerpts:

Protestants are known their slogan that we are justified by "faith alone," but the expression "faith alone" only appears once in the Bible—in James 2:24—where it is rejected. This is a burr under the saddle for Protestants, for, if they wanted to use terms the way the Bible does, they would have to give up their chief slogan.

When Catholics point this out, many Protestants attempt damage control by attacking the faith being discussed in James 2, saying it is an inferior or bad faith. Some do this by pejoratively labeling it "dead faith." They treat "faith without works is dead" (vv. 17, 26) as if it were a definition and say, "If faith does not produce works then it is dead faith. It is this dead faith that James says won’t save us."

But reading the context shows that James is not using the phrase as a definition. He is not defining the term "dead faith." That term does not appear in the text. He is stating a fact, not offering a definition.

The interpretation flies apart at the seams when we test it by substituting "dead faith" wherever the text mentions faith.

1 comment:

sara said...

I am trying so hard to understand this. When I ask questions, I'm told here that Catholics believe that they are saved by faith and not works - that faith is manifest in works. Which sounds an awful lot like what I believe.

(Well, to be fair, Erika said that she thought works are necessary for salvation, but then qualified her meaning. I don't mean that disrespectfully - I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this.)

I even read a post here that seems to have the Pope saying something similar.

Which began to lead me to believe that we might have more in common than I thought. Yet, there seem to be an awful lot of posts trying to refute "faith alone."

I feel like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. In order to have any discussion at all here we should understand each other. Other bloggers have been (rightly) accused of spreading misinformation about what the Catholic church teaches. So if I say that Catholicism believes in salvation by faith alone, that is clearly wrong as demonstrated by all these arguments against it. If I say that Catholicism teaches salvation by works, I am corrected. So what do I say? Catholicism teaches salvation by faith AND works? Is that accurate?

So, please tell me: What do Catholics believe about faith and works? Please use small words. Maybe pretend you're explaining it to a five-year-old because clearly my brain is having a hard time with all of this.

Thanks in advance!