Saturday, July 11, 2009


Salvation Through Faith or Works?

I was raised a Catholic, and now call myself a born-again Christian. The biggest doctrinal change is that as a Catholic, I thought that the way you "get into heaven" was by trying to live a good life, and then if God thought you made the final cut, you got onto His team. But you really couldn't know beforehand whether or not you made it, since after all only God would know such things.

Well Protestants don't believe that. (BTW I am by no means an expert on what various sects believe, so please correct me in the comments if I misspeak.) They think that the way you achieve eternal life is to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and savior. And if a Catholic says, "How do you know that?" they say, "Because I read the Bible and it's plain as day. You should try it sometime."

(BTW I am trying to be funny here. I am not ripping Catholics; in general they are much more scholarly I think than Protestants. However, it is undeniably true that in my experience--and I went to Catholic schools until college--I barely ever held a Bible in my hands. I was stunned when the [born-again] pastor who married us, showed me in the Bible that you could know what you needed to do to achieve salvation. No when had ever stressed those passages to me before, even though I had seen "John 3:16" at baseball games etc.)

Now what's interesting is that even though the Protestant can come up with numerous, apparently airtight declarations in the New Testament about believing in Jesus as the sole thing you need to do to get into heaven, nonetheless the Catholics (if they wanted) could come right back with plenty of other declarations stressing the importance of "works." Thus the Catholic could with good reason retort, "You guys are nuts! You're telling me if a serial killer says 'I accept Jesus' that's it? Even if he keeps killing people?"

For a while I have thought the resolution of this conundrum is the realization that belief in Jesus is an action, it is a "work." In other words, it's not "merely" a belief; it is a conscious choice that you make in leading your life, when you invite Jesus into your heart, accept Him as your savior, and all the other ways a Protestant describes it.

What I (re)discovered while reading the Gideon Bible in sin city during Freedom Fest is that Jesus Himself seems to agree with my take on this. Check out John 6:28-29:

Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"

Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

(Also, I've noted this before, but I always think it's neat to see what John 6:66 says.)

Catholics stress the importance, or at least relevance, of works, but they don't dismiss faith and sincere repentance.

Positing a Manichean type of division between works and faith is too simplistic a way of dividing the two sects.
Catholics stress the importance, or at least relevance, of works, but they don't dismiss faith and sincere repentance.

Positing a Manichean type of division between works and faith is too simplistic a way of dividing the two sects.
'I was raised a Catholic, and now call myself a born-again Christian. The biggest doctrinal change is that as a Catholic, I thought that the way you "get into heaven" was by trying to live a good life, and then if God thought you made the final cut, you got onto His team. But you really couldn't know beforehand whether or not you made it, since after all only God would know such things.'

That's actually not Catholic doctrine.
Matthew 27:44 "And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way."

Mark 15:32 "...Those who were crucified with him also reviled him."

Luke 23:39-43 "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!' But the other rebuked him, saying, 'Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.' And he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' And he said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'

I am always amazed when I consider the three verses together. The first two clearly relate that both thieves ridiculed the Son of God. The third shows that at the "last minute" one's heart was completely changed, and he was accepted.

No works, no opportunity for it. Yet complete forgiveness, by grace, through faith.
This is a retarded and embarassing misrepresentation of the Catholic faith. Way to make an ass of yourself. The Catholic Church in no way claims "works" -- whatever the hell you and 40,000 Protestant denominations mean by that -- "get you to heaven." In fact, the Catholic Church has explicitly and forcefully condemned such ideas.

Try reading the Catechism for thoughts on what the Catholic Church believes rather than relying on Chick tracts.

For anyone interested in doing grown up styled research, I'd suggest starting with the Council of Trent.

Honestly, Bob, what would you think of someone's intelligence if they suggested that the only reason you opposed fiat currency was b/c of a fetish for gold?
I agree with cogic and luke and Jay. And I'm a committed protestant. But while these guys are technically right, the reality is that for millions of Roman Catholics (RC), Bob's thumbnail sketch is the RC faith. Only a few theology nerds know that the RC church doesn't teach a salvation by works.

Incidentally, it's also true that millions of self-identified evangelical protestants have just such a performance works-based faith.

You need some new vocab to carefully and rightly understand what the Bible says about faith and works (like you need certain vocab to understand macroeconomics and libertarian politics). Words like "justification" and "merit" and "sanctification." Even the term "works" is loaded theological language, and it's used differently in Scripture based on author and context.

I think Bob's John 6 observation gets close to the heart of the matter, but it's only close, and sometimes close is worse than "way off." I don't think Jesus would want us to call trusting him a "work" in the same way that the confused disciples meant "work." They wanted to know what to do to merit God's favor. Jesus said, effectively, "You can't."

The historic protestant understanding of "faith and works" goes something like this:

1. It is Christ's work alone which actually saves men; his life of perfect obedience, his death in the place of sinners, and his resurrection in power.

2. Faith - that is, trusting in Christ and what he has done - alone is the means by which individuals are made right with God ("declared righteous" or "justified"). We cease trusting in our "dead works" and trust instead in the work of Christ on our behalf.

3. Faith is never "alone;" genuine faith is always accompanied by evidence that the heart has been born-anew. The evidence is a heart which desires to obey and honor God, which bears the "fruit of the Spirit," love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, et al.

How do you know you're "saved"? Bob's right that a major dividing line between the RCC and protestants is the matter of "assurance." Historically, protestants have rejected the RC teaching that we must perform some measure of our salvation, that we must meet God halfway (or quarter-way). There is definitely a subjective element to "assurance." Do you trust Christ alone to be your sufficient Savior? Then trust him to see you through to the end.

See also:

A fitting post, the day after John Calvin's 500th birthday.

Sola fide!
This comment has been removed by the author.

Good post, up to about here: "RC teaching that we must perform some measure of our salvation."

But based on your prior writing, I think you're getting closer to the truth.

What do you take to be "some measure"? Clearly, you've thought about this stuff with more depth than Bob (sorry, but let's be honest). But I'd like to probe you there.

Many Protestants regurgitate this fascinating all-encompasing bizarro world "works" term the same way the Left mysteriously calls the Right fascist.
"Only a few theology nerds know the RC church doesn't teach a salvation by works."

I'd add, after your gentlemanly pressing, Jay, that the reason for all the confusion is that while technically RC teaching is that salvation is by God's grace, it's only "technically" true, if you grant the RC assumptions about what grace is. So the mass of normal people are wrong in theory, right in practice.

This is the deep end of the pool, but the protestant and Roman disagreement is whether a man is justified by faith alone. The RCC denies this; the church's reformers insisted on it. RC's and prots. don't disagree that salvation is undeserved, that is, "gratuitous," but we do disagree that a man has any part in his being declared "Justified!" (hence my desire to address Bob's statement, "belief in Jesus is an action, it is a 'work.'").

So, by "some measure," I mean whatever amount of cooperation ("synergism") with God the RCC requires for salvation, that "infused righteousness" which Rome preaches, the "faith plus works" way of relating to God.

R.C. Sproul: "For Rome the declaration of justice follows the making inwardly just of the regenerate sinner. For the Reformation the declaration of justice follows the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the regenerated sinner." link here and sweet 1970's video link here.

You have excellent comments.

In terms of man's participation in his own salvation, I think, to put it in my own crude terms, that the Church really truly only teaches that man must say "Yes" to Christ in the way that Lucifer and Adam did not. That takes many forms. The Church even believes that Perfect Acts of Contrition may be made in the last moments of one's life. In other words, someone may sincerely repent and achieve salvation. (This is why Bob's comments drove me crazy.) In fact, Christ told Saint Faustina not 75 years ago that He reaches to every individual in the last moment before death.

This concept, from uninformed Protestants, that some existent or theoretical list of "works" is believed by Catholics to achieve salvation is incredibly intellectually weak.

I think most Catholics, myself included, really tire of the "faith and works" or any combination mantras of the two. As a student of economics I understand the desire to economize on words, but simplifying the Creator's relationship with the Created with just a few words doesn't cut it.
Good clarifications, Jay. It's clear that while you may not have a list of do's and don'ts as the basis of your right standing with God, you do consider your active obedience as in some way contributing to that thing we call "salvation." In this way, the caricature you find offensive holds true, if incomplete.

Here's another way of explaining the difference between the Roman and the Protestant Gospels:

"Both Catholicism and allegorical interpretation of Scripture involved the dehistoricizing of the Gospel. The Reformation rehistoricized both the Gospel and the Old Testament.

The prime focus recovered in the Reformation was the justification of the sinner on the basis of the objective, historic work of Christ for us.

Catholicism had reversed the vision so that the prime focus was on the work of Christ or his Spirit within us.

This meant the reversal of the relationship of sanctification to justification. Infused grace, beginning with baptismal regeneration, internalized the Gospel and made sanctification the basis of justification. This is an upside down Gospel."

- Graeme Goldsworthy

Jay, I don't know whether you understood this part of the post, but I went to Catholic school until I was 18. I was confirmed in the Catholic Church. My high school had classes taught by Basilian priests about Catholic doctrine. We would have classroom debates about whether the Catholic priest could call the cops if a serial killer told him during Confession who his next target would be, etc. I wrote a paper criticizing transubstantiation that the priest referred to years later because it was so noteworthy (even though it saddened him).

I'm not naming names, but I know serious, hardcore Catholics who think that Vatican II was the worst thing ever, and at least one of them literally expressed to me the views on salvation that I reported in my post. I know a family member--a lifelong Catholic Church goer who doesn't eat meat on Fridays etc.--who brought up a version of the serial killer argument to me when I told him my views on salvation.

Go back and look at my post. I didn't say, "This is what Thomas Aquinas believed." My post is totally accurate in what I said. If you want to say, "Well sure, there are a bunch of Catholics who don't know what they officially believe," OK fine. But I am not exactly a bad student, and it is significant that I went through that many years of Catholic upbringing (and went to mass every Sunday while living at home) and never even had the idea of salvation through faith discussed.

You made a good point about people converting on their death beds; that is something I had never considered from a Catholic point of view.

What of all the hierarchy of venial and mortal sins etc.? You're saying I'm off the wall (and all the other hardcore Catholics I described above) for thinking that Catholicism encourages the notion that you need to have your good works outweigh your sins during your life? And maybe if you're a good enough person you get over the bar?

Lotta comments to respond to.

First, I know that bad Catholic theological instruction exists. It's complicated, but I converted to the Church precisely because I heard and witnessed many years of it and then after investigation found out how half-assed and occasionally heretical to true doctrine it was.

I'm sorry, but your obsession with "works" -- again, whatever that is supposed to be -- demonstrates that you really do not know much about Catholic teaching. I have never heard in my life an orthodox priest preach on some real or imaginary list of "works" necessary for salvation.

I'm really not understanding your "serial killer" analogies. It's ideal for a "serial killer" or any other sinner to confess his sins to God through the ministry of His Church. (Start here, for instance.)

But, as I've stated with the witness of Christ to Saint Faustina, Christ's mercy extends outside the Sacramental life (which is how Protestants and even non-Christians may find salvation in the first place).

even had the idea of salvation through faith

This is an example of what I mean by the economization of words by Protestants. I've heard salvation and faith both preached upon thousands of times. Together. Seperate. Intermingled. It's not as crazy-formulaic as you might suppose. Yes, faith is required for salvation.

You're saying I'm off the wall [...] for thinking that Catholicism encourages the notion that you need to have your good works outweigh your sins during your life?

Absolutely. 100%. Bob, I beg you, buy a Catechism and read what the Church actually teaches, not some charicature of it. There is no "weighing" process. There is merely repentence and the gift of grace. Where are you finding this "good works outweigh" stuff?

You need to reach beyond the cliches and charicatures. If an ignorant statist claims to you that you oppose regulations b/c you want babies to suck on lethal baby milk or that you oppose teachers unions b/c you hate The Children, you know immediately their level of intellectual capability. For someone who knows so much about econ, surely you can reach beyond in other subjects.

Good comments again. I'm not familiar with the two authors you've quoted at length.

If anything, the "participation" you and I dance around is the Sacramental life. To the extent that man participates in his salvation, it is in accepting the gifts (the graces) of Christ.

Taken to an extreme, the "no participation," shall I call them, viewpoints, would suggest that there is literally nothing a man can do for or against his salvation, no? The problem I always have with this intellectually is that it seems indistinguishable from predestination. Some people are merely going to Heaven while others aren't and there simply isn't anything they can do to influence the outcome.

I realize that the practical ideas of Protestants is not this extreme (though intellectually it seems to lead in that direction). And so I assume most Protestants would say something like, "Well I have to have faith." But the act of accepting faith, or whatnot, is very much what the Catholic would say is the extent to which man can and must participate in the life and salvation given by Christ. In faith, it is the "Yes" of Mary, versus the "No" of Eve.

The entire problem seems to me to be one of understanding what goes on in the relationship between the Savior and the saved, even despite our ignorance of it.
Bob, I think your original post stands as an example of the understanding the general protestant faith has about Catholics. Many of the catholics I know have the same view you purport them to have, and I would agree that on the surface Catholics appear to have a "works righteousness" view. But the devout would say they do not; yet we must define terms. Infant mortality rates in different countries are defined by different points of death, so the "stats" come out differently. Same thing, here. Depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is, right? ;-)

Anyway, I met a devout Catholic who I would say truly understands the gospel, and he would defend the Catholic church's stance on faith, works, and their relationship.

Some works by Anglican Bishop of Durham N.T. Wright on justification and Christianity are good places to hear a third view. Dallas Willard also posits this idea in one chapter of The Divine Conspiracy.
If I could sum it up in a couplet:

Lutherans believe God choses you.
Many protestants believe you choose God.

(Think of the terrible struggle a non-Lutheran Christian must endure never knowing if his works are enough or if his "decision for Christ" is strong enough. )

We trust Scripture alone.
We know that only Faith is required for salvation.
We know that Grace that is given us is entirely unmerited.

1 My Lord, I did not choose you,
for that could never be;
my heart would still refuse you,
had you not chosen me.
You took the sin that stained me,
you cleansed me, made me new;
of old you have ordained me,
that I should live in you.

2 Unless your grace had called me
and taught my opening mind,
the world would have enthralled me,
tho heavenly glories blind.
My heart knows none above you;
for your rich grace I thirst.
I know that if I love you,
you must have loved me first.

Blessings on your study.


This is an example of what I mean by the economization of words by Protestants. I've heard salvation and faith both preached upon thousands of times. Together. Seperate. Intermingled. It's not as crazy-formulaic as you might suppose. Yes, faith is required for salvation.

OK well I'll play the simpleton Protestant card on you: As I read the Bible, in both Jesus' words and Paul's, it is as simple as that. You believe in Jesus, you are saved. If they didn't "really" mean that when they said so, then I don't know how we can trust anything else they said either.

And though you are rejecting the alternative criterion of "try to be a good enough person to make the cut," it seems you are at least agreeing that the issue of how to achieve salvation is complicated. And so it's not surprising that many Catholics wouldn't know if they are going to heaven or not. (And I'm not making stuff up, I can vividly remember at least one saying this to me matter-of-factly, that we can never know until we die and God judges our lives.)

Absolutely. 100%. Bob, I beg you, buy a Catechism and read what the Church actually teaches, not some charicature of it. There is no "weighing" process. There is merely repentence and the gift of grace. Where are you finding this "good works outweigh" stuff?

OK for example the idea of purgatory and venial vs. cardinal sins. And unbaptized babies go to limbo because they weren't bad enough to go to hell (only sinners go to hell) but they didn't receive Baptism so they can't get into heaven.

(Yes that shows there is more to it than simple good behavior; obviously the sacraments of the Church are involved.)

You need to reach beyond the cliches and charicatures. If an ignorant statist claims to you that you oppose regulations b/c you want babies to suck on lethal baby milk or that you oppose teachers unions b/c you hate The Children, you know immediately their level of intellectual capability.

Except it would be more like, if the son of a Mises Institute donor, who had been to Mises U for 5 years straight, then converted to statism and gave anecdotes of several self-professed Rothbardians who told him they hated children.
it is as simple as that

Bob, please read James 2: 14-26. Faith is essential! Maybe, to borrow from my mathematical economics classes, you could consider it a "necessary but insufficient" requirement!

And it's not that Protestants are "simpletons," but that as a matter of intellectual discourse 5 word cliches are simplistic!

Yeah, I am not surprised most Catholics don't understand their faith. As I mentioned, I've grown up around many bad ones.

Of course, I've just quoted a book of the Bible rejected by many Protestants. On that subject, have you ever considered where the Bible comes from? Who decides what is included in the Bible? How God interacts with man to decide what is or isn't appropriate for the Bible? How are people to discern which other people or groups are correct or incorrect about their assessments of the Bible? All these questions will lead you back to the Catholic faith.

the idea of purgatory

Bob, are you sure you know what the purgatory is? I've heard Protestants who have claimed that the Catholic Church believes that Purgatory is where you find out if you're going to Heaven or Hell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Purgatory has NOTHING to do with salvation. Purgatory is a part of Heaven: every single person in Purgatory is eventually going to Heaven. Purgatory is a period of cleansing prior to Heaven given that Christ said that no one who is not pure can enter Heaven -- purgatory is where the ill-feelings on our soul are purged out of us.

Yes that shows there is more to it than simple good behavior; obviously the sacraments of the Church are involved.

They are more than involved. They are key. The key. And Christ can reach beyond the ministry of his Church to perform them. Which is how Perfect Acts of Contrition can be performed by non-Catholics to achieve salvation. And why Baptism may be achieved through desire or even blood (martyrdom).

Please, Bob, get a Catechism! Read it! Worst case scenario: it's full of BS and you get a new resource to refute all the wrong-headed Catholic doctrine conveniently summarized in one book!
Just to clarify, this post was not supposed to be be a swipe at Catholics. (The one swipe was the line about Catholics not reading the Bible, and even that was supposed to be funny.)

I was trying to show that the familiar argument "salvation through faith or works?" was based on a false dichotomy.

And then, somehow, this degenerated into Jay Chambers calling me an ass because I simplistically believed in a simplistic formula of salvation through faith and not works. (And also because I and several others were raised in the Catholic Church and did not learn what official Church teaching on salvation was.)

Ok, I apologize for calling you an ass. But I don't appreciate hearing otherwise intelligent people ascribe beliefs to myself or other Catholics that is not only untrue, but absurd. Imagine the joy you feel when someone says you hate blacks simply b/c you didn't vote for Obama.

You should still take up my suggestion to blow ten bucks on a Catechism ...
"Quick" comment:

As is true of many faiths (or denominations, or etc.) there is the "Official Doctrine" - which the group officially holds to, and the "Pew Doctrine" - which most practitioners believe. These are often two very different things, and Catholicism is no exception. So, it may be true that, according to the Catechism, Catholics believe such-and-such. But, it is also true that someone can grow up Catholic and never be exposed to that teaching - as not every priest, CCD teacher, etc. teaches the entire Catechism. In fact, I'd guess that few do. I'm someone who only had serious encounters with Catholicism starting in college, and I had the benefit of having friends who were well informed. Result: I'm a Protestant with a pretty positive view of Catholicism. (The main reason I don't convert is because I can't buy transubstantiation as a dogma.) That said, I've actually read the Catechism... and I'm confident that my uncle (a life-long Catholic who attended Catholic school) has not. In fact, he's said that I probably know more about his faith than he does. Which seems odd, considering that Catholics do spend so much time and energy on catechesis. One would think that 50+ years in the Catholic church SHOULD result in knowing more about your faith than some 20 year old kid reading a book about it.

But, experience tells me that (we) Protestants aren't much better. For example, I grew up in an Evangelical Friends Church (the evangelical descendant of the Quakers - of which I'm still a member), and remember a conversation with someone who had been a member for a very long time... in which he declared that being good was what got you into heaven. Now, this is despite the fact that the pastor there DID preach - on a regular basis - about salvation by faith rather than by works. Apparently, years of preaching weren't enough for him to get the message. I'd also guess that if you did a survey of people who grew up Protestant, you'd find that the majority would say that "being good is what gets you into heaven" (the other position - which is nearly as bad - might be "believing in God" is what gets you into heaven). Part of this comes from bad teaching (there are, after all, Protestant pastors that preach salvation by works - and in some sects it is almost official doctrine). But, a significant part comes from the fact that good teaching just doesn't always "sink in" like it should.

Having said all of that...

Good post. And I agree that the "works/faith" dichotomy is a false one.
"Sola fide" was the battle cry of the Protestant Reformation. The doctrine of salvation through faith *alone* was the chief reason for the 16th century schism of Christendom.

Since the Council of Trent, Rome has held that justification occurs through a system of meritum adœquatum sive de condigno (condign merrit). In simplified terms, this means that justification and the infusion of sanctifying grace happens when a child is baptized. When the person later commits a mortal sin, they then must be re-infused with sanctifying grace through 1) the possession of genuine justifying faith (In Christ and the essential doctrines of the Church), plus 2) participation in the sacrament of penance (involving contrition and repentance), including confession, the performance of works of satisfaction (with the help of the divine grace of God), and the granting of absolution. Rome teaches that through the means of the sacraments, that the righteousness of Christ is infused into the believer, and the work of sin is destroyed. Roman Catholic soteriology of Trent and the later Vatican Councils differs importantly from the teachings of Luther and Calvin.
Luther indeed held that condign merit was a form of works, and believed that early 16th century soteriology hearkened back to the 5th century debate between Pelagius and Augustine. Calvin interestingly mentions the Scholastics often in the Institutes, and Luther and Calvin were both probably closer to Aquinas’s Pre-Trent soteriology than most realize.

Luther and his followers held strongly to "sola gratia" and "sola fide"; in other words that regeneration was by grace alone through the means of faith (alone) in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. In the view of the magisterial reformers, redeeming grace is a sovereign act of God which efficaciously awakens a person's soul to repentance and faith in Christ, and inevitably leads to their willing acquiescence and final glorification. Regeneration starts with *absolutely nothing* on the part of the sinner and depends completely upon God’s electing grace. This grace is God’s work, which once begun, brings about the certain salvation of a particular sinner.

The portion of the doctrine of salvation not understood by most Protestants however, is that reformed soteriology also holds that one’s justification is based partially on merit, only that the meritorious works were performed by Christ and not by the sinner. When one trusts in Christ for salvation, the perfect works and sinless life of Jesus are imputed via the vehicle of faith (which is also the work of God himself) to the account of the debtor, so that their old debts of sin are forgiven in the heavenly court. Additionally, Christ’s blameless sacrificial death likewise satisfies the just wrath of God (satisfaction theory of the atonement) that is otherwise poured out on the sinner.

Historical reformed soteriology always holds that salvation is a free gift, not earned by anything found within the sinner himself, but it is totally and completely due to the sovereign electing work of God. The work of God’s regenerating grace has been compared to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It involved absolutely no effort on Lazarus's part. When he was dead, Lazarus was powerless to do anything, until the call of Jesus to “come forth”.

Now suppose Jesus had called Lazarus and he did not come forth from the tomb. Lazarus would have been seen by all to have remained dead, and Jesus might have been understood to possess little or no power over death. Like the story of Lazarus, the reformers held that true justifying faith that is authored by God is always accompanied by good works and turning away from a life of sin, and sanctification is brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, a profession of faith which is not accompanied by a practice of righteous living and good works was viewed as a non-credible confession. Calvin taught that as one examines their own life, if it is found to continue in the habitual practice and enjoyment of sin, and brings forth no fruit in the form of doing the commandments of Jesus, that particular person should take no comfort that their profession of faith was genuine. Reformed theologians do indeed accept the teachings of James, and strongly adhere to the Apostle’s doctrine that faith without works is dead, just as Lazarus without a beating heart was dead.
"Of course, I've just quoted a book of the Bible [James] rejected by many Protestants"

That's totally ridiculous.

If you're not a confessional Reformation Christian, you clearly have read Luther and Calvin carefully and understood the reformation they brought to the church.

"the vehicle of faith" - very good. Faith is different from works. Which, again, is why I'm uneasy with the statement that faith is a work.

Without works faith is totally useless and cannot save. As others have succinctly said:

"Faith works."
Could it be possible that the bible says one thing in one place, and a different thing in another place? In other words, I think you're missing the possibility that it contradicts itself.

After all, wasn't the bible based on the testimony of a number of people who allegedly saw the same thing and then wrote down what they each saw, in some cases many years later? If you ask each of a group of people who saw a traffic accident what happened, you most likely would get a number of different stories. This would be because each person was paying attention to a different part of what happened, had different beliefs and attitudes which colored their perception, and since memory doesn't work the way a movie camera does, recording each frame as it happens, but is more a question of the association different things, like sensation and the perception of significance, for example.
If I may aim the question of Anonymous a bit more toward the problem at hand: Did James (the brother of Jesus) teach a gospel of faith plus works, and Paul contradict him by preaching a gospel of faith alone in Christ? That is a good question, but one that I believe must be answered in the negative. The answer to the question lies in a proper hermeneutical approach to the New Testament texts.

One may also speculate if, facing the same problems that James addressed in his epistle, would Paul have answered much differently. Read Paul in his own words, and notice in particular his warning in the text. It's the same warning that James gives to a different audience using a different type of teaching illustration!

from Paul’s writing to the Galatians:

"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. *I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.* But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Mr. Murphy

You brought up John 6:66
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Why did they leave him?

John 6:52
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

You quote John 6:29
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

And what is Jesus telling them in that same chapter they must believe?
John 6:53-58
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

Then they responded:
John 6:60-65
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."

Yes it is difficult to believe the miraculous, that God would deign to lower himself to become man. It would be impossible to believe He would be what appears to be bread and wine. As Jesus stated, you can only believe this if the Father has enabled you.

If Jesus is God then Jesus' word is. His word made the existence.

If Jesus can walk on water, still the storm with a word, raise the dead, feed the masses, take on human nature, how could this, taking on the accidents of bread and wine, be impossible for Him?
I'm Catholic.

I tell you Mr. Murphy the Church is the true church Christ established, but lets face things honestly. The Church in the US is sick.

If the vast majority of Catholics in the US can sit through 20 minute homilies one hour a week all growing up and not be able to intelligently discuss the trinity than we have failed.

If members feel so hungry for the bible alive they leave the only place to receive the word made flesh then we have failed.

God shears the tree. We have been grafted on. We have been adopted. If we do not bear fruit we know what shall happen to us.

What is now left of the great churches of the east? The churches of Alexandria, Constantinople?

John 15:1-12
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

"You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

"Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.

"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

"These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

"This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

The church needs you. It may not be your task to stand on the street corner with a sign. The people of God need fishermen and boatmakers alike. The people of God need students and teachers. You were created for a purpose. You were created to know the Lord in a way only you can know him. I don't know your task, but I know you're needed.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen pray for us.
"The church needs you."

If the Rome based fellowship could bring itself to be truly "universal," you would see that the church has him.
If the Rome based fellowship could bring itself to be truly "universal," you would see that the church has him. ~Pilgrim

Pilgrim, what do you mean by your quoted term universal?

It truly is universal, open to all, transnational, transracial. It is not limited to the sons of one man, except the sons of Adam. It is not confined within the walls of a single city, the borders of a single nation.

You seem to make a dig at "Rome." I tell you I am Catholic, have fellowship with Catholics here in Texas, and have never been to Rome. (We study the bible together, eat and drink together.) Even in Rome the church is universal, it is not limited to Italians. The bishop of Rome is German, Cardinals and various other bishops of the city are African, American, and Asian.

Is this not what the apostle to the gentiles, a son of Israel, meant?
Galatians 3:26-29
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
I mean that the Roman Catholic Church is not truly catholic, not universal. It is parochial.

Not digging, just denying the claim that the RCC is alone the church of Christ.
For precision's sake, I'll say, rather, that I challenge the assumption that Bob, or any other Christian who is outside of communion with the RCC, is not a part of the church universal, the bride of Christ, the Kingdom of God.

I think you and I are of the same mind but you have simply made up and ascribed a belief to me I don't hold.

The only place I think we disagree is I think that "universal church" you so describe IS the Catholic Church.

I don't think we disagree that somebody can be in part of the Church, the corpus Chirsti, the body of Christ, even if he himself is not aware of it.

Jesus Himself said that there are those not formally affiliated but are none the less for Him.
Mark 9:38-41
"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."

"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

Every one who is baptized is a member of the corpus Christi, the body of Christ. In fact since Mr. Murphy is baptized he is a member of the Church. I assume you are too. Even though you may not be fully in communion.

1 Cor 12:12-13
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

You have taken offense with a straw man. There, I have even saved you the effort and knocked it down for you.

Now that the confusion is cleared up I would love to dialogue about John 6, the chapter Mr. Muprhy brought up in the original post.

Fatih and Works, the title of the post, I hope has been cleared up to Mr. Murphy's satisfaction. The faith vs works issue is part poor catechisis on the parish level here in the US, and misunderstanding between Protestants and Catholics.

Faith and Works can not be divided and sliced like so many cubes of preprocessed cheese we Americans are so fond of. St. James wrote:
James 2:20
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
The semantic impass is our differing answers to, "what is the church?" This is why such conversations are so maddeningly annoying between Roman Catholics and protestants. It's not a straw man. It's about the definition of words.

For precision's sake, I'll say, rather, that I challenge the assumption that Bob, or any other Christian who is outside of communion with the RCC, is not a part of the church universal, the bride of Christ, the Kingdom of God. ~Pilgrim

That is clearly a straw man. I never claimed Mr. Murphy, who is not in formal communion with the Church is not still a member.

The question "what is the Church" I was not trying to address in that comment and we both know it.

But we can. Lets look at when Jesus used the word "Church."

Matthew 16:18
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Matthew 18:15-17
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

So by Jesus' own words it is i) based on Peter and ii) can excommunicate people.

Of course we could always talk about the four marks of the Church (according to the Apostles' Creed,) one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

I feel this comment box is probably not the best forum for this discussion. Perhaps we shall see what Mr. Murphy posts next Sunday.
"I feel this comment box is probably not the best forum for this discussion."

I agree.

"we both know it."

I don't agree.
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]