Catholic Works And Faith - 12/08/2002
With regards to your protestant attack on the RC's on your website, I would like to add my pennies worth ( I am Church of England which sits in the middle). My study of scriptures show me there is far more scriptural support for "faith" plus "works" belief than "faith alone". My understanding of the Catholic position briefly is this:
Catholics believe salvation is completely the result of God's grace. The Bible doesn't separate the "works of faith" (Gal 5:6, 1 Thess 1:3, 2 Thess 1:11), preceded and caused by grace, from salvation. It only condemns self-righteous "works" done apart from grace and faith. The Bible teaches that "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" Jas 2:24; cf. 1:21-27, 2:14-26). St. Paul tells us to "work out your own salvation . . . for it is God which worketh in you . . ." (Phil 2:12-13; cf. 1 Cor 3:8-9, 15:10). We will be judged after death based on our merit and works, which will determine our reward (Mt 16:27, Rom 2:5-13). But all our works derive their merit from Jesus' work on our behalf. Martin Luther introduced "faith alone," which is foreign to St. Paul and the Bible St. Paul doesn't set up a false dichotomy between faith and works. This was created by Protestantism. Paul says that Christians are simultaneously "washed, sanctified, and justified" (1 Cor 6:11; cf. 1:30), and that the "doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom 2:13). The only assurance in Scripture is that of obedience (Mt 25:31-46, 7:16-27). There are many warnings against falling away from salvation (Gal 4:9, Col 1:23, 1 Tim 1:19, 4:1, Heb 3:12-14, 12:14-15, 2 Pet 2:20-21, Rev 2:4-5). For St. Paul, salvation is like a marathon (1 Cor 9:24-27). One must be disciplined and trained, lest he be disqualified and become a castaway on the Last Day. So salvation is a lifelong process, not just a matter of one-time repentance. St. Paul stresses this again and again.
CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:
Greetings XXXXXX, and thanks for contacting Contender Ministries. While I regret your characterization of our profile on Roman Catholicism as an attack, I very much appreciate your "two cents worth." Instead of simply stating that you don't like something on our site, you've taken the time to make a cogent argument in support of your beliefs. I respect that, and appreciate the opportunity to have a constructive dialogue on the points you raised.
I see no dichotomy between faith and works, at least not in a way that sets them at odds with one another. The doctrine of "sola fide" (faith alone) is truly the doctrine espoused by Paul and detailed specifically in the New Testament. It wasn't until approximately the fourth century that the Roman Catholic church began introducing multiple sacraments and connecting them to "justification". If you'll stick with me for a little bit and take a look at the following scriptures, I think you'll see my point.
First of all, I don't think there is any dispute between the Catholic and Protestant positions that man is inherently sinful by nature. We are imperfect, and have been since the fall. Some would deny that, but if they took an honest look at themselves they'll find we've all lied, cheated, stolen, or had lustful thoughts at some point in our lives. No matter how "good" we try to be, we will fail without God. Isaiah 64:6 says, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." In Romans 3:10, Paul said, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one."
Fortunately, we don't have to depend on ourselves. Paul said in Ephesians 2:8,9: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast." In Romans 3:23-28, Paul said, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." In Romans chapter 4, Paul goes on to describe how Abraham was justified by faith apart from the law. For the sake of space, I'll not quote the whole chapter here, but I encourage you to read it.
Where then, does this leave good works? After all, James did say that faith without works is dead. How can we reconcile that with the verses listed above? It's quite easy. We are saved by grace, and indeed justified by grace. But a recipient of such grace will be motivated to do good works in order to please the Savior. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul said, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." As Christians, we have been saved and justified by grace through our faith. This same faith leads us into the works for which we were created and redeemed. If I claimed to be saved and justified by grace through an act of my faith, but did not act like a Christian, one would have to doubt the legitimacy of my faith. Good works do not save nor justify me; they are a natural consequence of my faith in Jesus Christ. That is the assurance. That is our blessed hope! A good example of this is the story of the criminal on the cross, who beseeched Jesus to remember him when He entered into His kingdom. What did Jesus say? He said, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise," (Luke 23:43). Note that he said "Today." This is a man who basically exercised his faith in Christ on the cross, and immediately received His grace. He had no time to perform good works, or any of the Catholic sacraments. He wasn't even baptized! Yet Jesus promised him entrance into heaven that same day. Jesus didn't say, "Look, do some time in purgatory and we'll see what we can work out." This man gained immediate access into the Kingdom of God by his faith. No works, no sacraments, no purgatory. That is so clear and so exciting!
And so, this doctrine was established, long before the terms "Catholic" or "Protestant" existed. The doctrine changed somewhat after the advent of Catholicism in the third and fourth centuries. The Roman crowd was big on ritualism, and was reconciling this new religion with the paganism that was so prevelant there. Many of the pagan practices and doctrines were introduced, and many were deceived into believing that, while they were saved by grace, they could only be justified by strict adherence to rituals and sacraments. Protestants did not invent the doctrine of sola fide, nor did Martin Luther. Christ Himself established this doctrine. It is not my place to second guess Christ, and I don't attack Catholics. I know some wonderful Catholics, and some of them recognize the true doctrine that stands in opposition to what their church officially teaches.
I hope and pray that this cleared some things up Ms. XXXXXX. Once again, I respect that you chose to focus on issues that we could discuss, rather than debasing yourself into a level of personal attacks. If you still have any questions about our position, feel free to write back. Thanks again, and may God bless you.
Ben and Jennifer Rast