Archive | Faith & Works RSS for this section

Why I Hate “Faith Alone”

(I originally posted this on IgnitumToday.com.)

 

Expounding on the importance of our actions for salvation is, I suppose, my primary “thing.” I have been in so many informal debates over the issue that I have started to lose count of them. I have written about the topic many times. And often, I become angry (like God in 1 Kings 11:9-10) at the mere thought of sola fide (“faith alone”), because I know that it is completely contrary to “what the Lord [has] commanded.” But why?

“Faith alone” was, without a doubt, the primary reason that I left Protestantism. Even though I was ill-educated in theology at the time, I knew that it was illogical.

I like to think of sola fide in terms of criminal law. Imagine that someone went before a judge and was proven guilty of heinous crimes, but then pleaded to the judge that he believed in the judge’s authority to convict him and so the judge should not do so – and had that as his only defense. Should the judge convict him – to any degree – or should the judge completely let him off, and then give him a reward?

Do you find the “faith alone” argument compelling in such an instance? I do not. Of course, a “faith alone”-r would say that there is some sort of significant difference between such a scenario in terms of temporal law and such a scenario in terms of eternal law, but there really is not. Protestant arguments for the belief simply do not stand in the face of such scenarios or substantial scrutiny.

I strongly believe that sola fide is at the heart of many Western problems. Self-professed Christians have used it as an excuse to not care for the disadvantaged, to engage in profane sexual activity, etc. – the list goes on and on.

Martin Luther told his followers to “sin and sin boldly” (among other things, as I have documented) because he taught that we are saved solely by our faith in the power of Jesus Christ, apart from our actions. This method of thinking has been adopted by millions of Protestants since his time. But is it supported by the Bible? No. See Hebrews 10:26-27:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

“Faith alone” has had a terrible impact on society. People often now shy away from discussing religion or morality with others, fearing conflict. Take, for example, something that transpired between a Lutheran family member and me. After I privately and politely informed her that she had committed a grievous sin (like we are called to do – see Matthew 18:15-17, Galatians 6:1, and Ephesians 4:15), she immediately jumped to the “Who are you to judge?” defense and paired it with the “Jesus paid the price” line. I am sure that, for many Catholics, such occurrences are unfortunately familiar.

God has written in our hearts (Romans 2:15) that we should serve Him and others, not our selfish desires — and we will be punished if we defy Him. The necessity of both good works and abstinence from grave sin gives our lives concrete meaning. If someone takes away the eternal significance of our actions, they rob us of any real purpose: we all just become random, faceless, unimportant beings.

Sola fide does not work either logically or practically; it fails on all counts. Now, you know why I hate it.

james_2-26-300x113

Are we still under a Law?

“For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.” – St. Theophilus of Antioch, to Autolycus (Book 2, Chapter 27) [link]

Are we still under a Law? Yes. However, we are not under the Mosaic one.

The Mosaic Law worked for a while, but ceased to be the best option after the “time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10). At this time, Christ came to redeem humanity (Hebrews 9:15) and to universalize the Law and open it up to the Gentiles (Acts 28:28, Romans 11:11), which He could have done within Judaism if the Jewish leaders had not rejected Him (He is “the stone which the builders rejected” – Mark 12:10). Due to His work, we are now under “a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6).

None of this means that we are now apart from a Law.

Christ commanded us to “treat people the same way [we] want them to treat [us], for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). He said to do something, and then gave as His reason that it is the intent of the Law. He also positively referenced the Law in Luke 10:25-28. A lawyer asked what is required to “inherit eternal life,” and Christ asked the man to look to the Law. The lawyer said that the Law commands us to “love [Him] with all [our] heart, and with all [our] soul, and with all [our] strength, and with all [our] mind; and [our] neighbor as [ourself].” Christ replied, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

In Mark 10, a wealthy man asks Christ what is required to reach Heaven, and Christ cites the Ten Commandments (v. 17-19). The man says that he already observes them, but Christ corrects him and cleverly makes the point that the man must practice charity, which the man, unfortunately, refuses (v. 20-22). Christ was not adding anything new to the Law, but was getting at the intent of it — charity was already commanded in the Old Testament (Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 21:13, Sirach 29:8-13)!

Paul realized that, because a man “hung on a tree” (here, “tree” would equal a wooden cross) is cursed according to the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) and Christ most certainly did not deserve to be cursed, at least some parts of it are no longer binding. Christ both took upon Himself the penalties for sins committed under the Mosaic Law  and opened “the blessing of Abraham” and “the promise of the Spirit” up to the Gentiles (Galatians 3:13-14).

Paul did not, however, reject the necessity of good works. When Paul denounces “works of the Law,” he is referring to things such as ritual circumcision. Passages like Romans 3:27-30 and Galatians 3:27-29, which are surrounded by statements that seem to advocate “faith alone,” are key to understanding Paul’s thoughts. Paul placed emphasis on the facts that Jews and Gentiles 1) serve the same God, 2) share a common heritage, and 3) are judged by the same general standards — we are all “one in Christ Jesus”. That is partially why he so strongly insisted on the universality of Christ, the importance of faith, and the worthlessness of divisive cultural practices (e.g. circumcision).

Does the existence of a Law always “nullify the grace of God” or mean that “Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21)? Absolutely not. First, it makes His grace remarkably plain. If He did not provide us with a path to redemption and salvation, then His justice would demand our damnation. To provide us with a Law is merciful of Him. Second, it is still only through Christ that anyone can attain salvation. “[N]o one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (John 14:6).

Truly, “what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19) and “unless [our] righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, [we] will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

This all undermines the idea that we are not bound by a Law. The Law will not fail (Matthew 5:18, Luke 16:17). We are still under a Law, minus Mosaic cultural practices. “[H]e who does the will of [God]” will reach Heaven (Matthew 7:21), and God will say, “Depart from me,” to those who “practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

“Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” – Romans 3:31

(All verses are from the NASB translation, except for the passage from Sirach, which is from the RSV translation.)

Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt (1659).

Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt (1659).

Answers to 5 Lutheran Statements

Martin Luther said and wrote many heretical things, but here are a mere five quotes, along with Biblical passages that disprove them.

1. “For reason is directly opposed to faith. This is why you must let reason go. It must be killed and buried in believers.” [1]

(Answer: Proverbs 14:15, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 4:5-6, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22)

2. “..[A Christian] could not lose his salvation, however much he sinned, unless he refused to believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone.” [2]

(Answer: Hebrews 10:26-27)

3. “Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. …No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.” [3]

(Answer: Psalm 4:4, Matthew 5:48, Hebrews 10:26-27)

4. “It is good that we have such a man [Jesus Christ], because God in himself is cruel and bad.” [4]

(Answer: Psalm 51:1, Jeremiah 9:24, Jeremiah 31:3)

5. “I miss more than one thing in this book [Revelation, aka Apocalypse], and this makes me hold it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic…and [I] can nohow detect that the Holy Spirit produced it. …My spirit cannot fit itself into this book.” [5]

(Answer: Revelation 22:19)

———-

References:

1. Luther’s Sermon on Matthew 19:13-15. “What Luther Says,” 1:485-486 (entry 1440). [link]

2. [link 1, link 2]

3. Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon. Translated by Erika Bullmann Flores. [link]

4. [link 1, link 2]

5. M. Reu, Luther’s German Bible: An Historical Presentation Together with a collection of Sources (Ohio: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1934) 174-175 [link]

VIDEO: 2 Peter

A Catholic summary of 2 Peter.

(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Let’s take a look at 2 Peter.

Verses 1-4 start off chapter 1 with a nice salutation, in which the grace of God is emphasized.

Verses 5-11 inform us about the necessity of works, and they warn us against being “unfruitful,” in reference to John 15:5-8, and other verses. The passage also reminds us that we were “purified” from our “former sins,” most probably in reference to the regenerative effect of baptism.

Verses 12-15 point out that the purpose of this Book is mostly just to remind us of important things — we “already know them” — not really to add anything new.

Verses 16-19 remind us of the fact that Peter witnessed all of this first-hand, and he is not just retelling old mythical tales, so he knows what he’s talking about.

The final verses (verses 20-21) read:
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

This passage does two things. First, it reminds us that the Bible does not contradict itself on and is infallible on matters of faith and morals, because its writers, “moved by the Holy Spirit”, “spoke from God.” Second, the passage undermines individual interpretation, the cornerstone of the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, implicitly reminding us of the necessity of being united under one set of doctrines.

Chapter 2 heavily warns against sin.

Verses 1-3, especially, remind me of the times we currently live in. Particularly, “[m]any will follow their sensuality” reminds me of society and debates around same-sex “marriage.”

There is a lot of valuable material in this chapter. It informs us that we will be punished for sin that we do not repent of. Verse 13 tells us that we will “[suffer] wrong as the wages of doing wrong.”

This is all completely contrary to the “Jesus died for all of our sins, so we’re good!” view that many Protestants hold. Yes, it is through Christ that we can be cleansed from sin, but the cleansing is not automatic — we must seek it.

Another interesting thing in the chapter is verse 20, which reads:
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”

This verse obliterates the Protestant idea — held only by a minority, fortunately — of “once saved, always saved.” The people being referenced already had “knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” and “escaped the defilements of the world”, so they were supposedly “saved” at one point (at least, according to common Protestant doctrine), but then they lost their salvation after getting “entangled” in these “defilements of the world.”

And the next verse — verse 21 — reads:
“For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.”

This verse and the previous verse tie in with the Catholic idea of salvation through “invincible ignorance.” Basically, anyone genuinely ignorant of Christian teaching can reach salvation. Like this verse says, for some people, “it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness.”

The chapter closes with a proverb.

Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3 again remind us of the fact that this Book is in continuity with the rest of the Bible, simply a reminder of important details.

Verses 3-9 touch on people doubting the eventual return of Christ. The passage tells us that the reason that it seems to be taking so long to occur is that Christ is trying to lead as many souls to salvation as possible before then.

And verses 10-18, the final verses, urge us to always “be in holy conduct and godliness” and “be diligent to be found by Him [God] in peace, spotless and blameless.” The passage tells us that “the patience of our Lord” allows more people to attain salvation. It also tells us that there are “some things hard to understand” in Paul’s writings (like supposed “faith alone” verses, perhaps?), “which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Feel free to check out my other videos and other past work. Like 2 Peter 3:18 tells us, we must “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” May God bless you.

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

VIDEO: Titus

A Catholic summary of the Book of Titus.

(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Several theological issues are addressed in the canonical Epistle of Paul to Titus. Since the Book is relatively short, let’s review the whole thing — chapter by chapter.

In the first 4 verses of chapter 1, Paul gives a simple salutation. And in verses 5-9, he begins to describe desirable traits in Christian leaders.

He says in Titus 1:10-14:
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.”

Here, Paul is denouncing Christians that fell into the trap of following the rituals of the Mosaic, “old” Law, rather than following Christ and His “new,” universal Law. These people were confusing Christians, and Paul, as a very devout former Jew, strongly condemned their heretical beliefs.

He goes on to say in Titus 1:15-16:
“To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”

Now, some (not all, but some) Protestants try to wiggle out of this section by saying that, for Christians (“the pure”), “all things are pure,” and so they are incapable of doing any bad deed in the eyes of God because of Christ’s sacrifice. This position is, of course, highly ambiguous and against the spirit of the passage. As we know, in verse 16, Paul makes it clear that good deeds are important, because those that do bad deeds deny Christ by their actions.

In verses 1-10 of chapter 2, Paul continues to describe ideal Christian traits for people in all sorts of situations.

Verses 11-14 read:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”

This is very important. This passage starts with the fact that it is only by the grace of God that we can ever reach Heaven and be with Him, and that through Christ, He made salvation possible for everyone. It goes on to tell us how we should act in order to attain salvation. The passage ends with a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and that we must, with Christ’s help, “purify” ourselves and be “zealous for good deeds” for Him.

And verse 15 ends the chapter with a note that implies its importance.

Chapter 3 starts off by reminding us to “be obedient” and to “be ready for every good deed,” as well as other things.

But then it gets to verses 4-7, which might be a little confusing at first glance. The verses read:
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Some Protestants jump at that passage (almost as if to say “Aha!”) in discussions about the necessity of works. But it doesn’t defend the “faith alone” position. Yes, everything is done “according to His mercy” — Protestants should know that, like they do, Catholics believe in “grace alone.” We can only attain salvation through God’s grace. The phrase “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” refers to baptism and the regenerative effect that it has on our souls. Baptism cleanses us from all past sin, and it is also through baptism that we properly join the Church.

Good works are obviously necessary. In fact, the very next verse (verse 8) exhorts us to “be careful to engage in good deeds,” which are “good and profitable for men.”

In verses 9-11, Paul again warns against “factious” men that divide by the Mosaic Law.

Verses 12-15 end the chapter with a set of individual requests and a simple conclusion.

I hope that this helps you. If you have any questions, or if you would like to request a video about a certain topic, please feel free to contact me through any of the social networks listed. May God bless you!

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

VIDEO: John 3:14-18

John 3:14-18 doesn’t support the “faith alone” position.

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

For Protestants, John 3:14-18 might seem like the ultimate “Gotcha!” passage to use against Catholics. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll recognize that the passage does not defend the “faith alone” position and is totally in line with Catholic teaching.

The passage reads as, “‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.'”

That might seem a little damning to the Catholic position that good works are necessary, right? Well, in truth, it’s not.

With God, to believe means to obey. God does not desire a lukewarm, vague belief in Him, but a devoted life in His service. This is evidenced later in the chapter. John 3:36 reads as, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

And if one looks at verses 19-21 of the chapter, they will see that Christ said that those who “love darkness” and do “evil deeds” will not reach “the Light” (Heaven).

Sin — which, at its heart, is anything offensive to God — is a heinous, damaging thing that we must cleanse ourselves of. This cleansing is done through Christ, of course, but meriting it requires a little more than a belief in Him. It requires a repentant heart (see Luke 13:3) and, in the case of mortal sin, sacramental confession (see my video about Confession).

On top of all of this, Christ told us in John 13:15 to follow the example that He set and He also told us — in John 15:10 — that we must keep His commandments to “abide in [His] love”.

We can’t just sit back and relax non-stop, counting on our vague “faith” to save us — we have to do things! Like St. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24, we must help the Church in “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

So, when reading the Bible, remember that true belief requires obedience and good works.

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

VIDEO: Galatians 2:16 and 2:21

Do Galatians 2:16 and 2:21 support the “faith alone” position? NO.

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

I was reading a Protestant apologetics site and I found two verses in Galatians 2 that they used to defend their “faith alone” position. The verses are verse 16 and verse 21. Let’s look at those.

Galatians 2:16 reads as “nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

Galatians 2:21 reads as “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

These verses are clearly referring to works under the “old” Law, not under Christ’s “new” Law. This is even obvious by verse 16 alone, but for further proof, look at the verse before it. Verse 15 reads as “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles”.

Paul is saying that, though Christianity came out of Judaism, its Law is no longer binding on Christians. He didn’t want Christians to get swept up into the proud, Pharasaical mentality of “Oh, I’m so good for doing all of these great things all by myself.” Under that mentality, Christ’s importance seems lessened, so Paul was warning against that.

Paul is emphasizing, like he, especially, is known to emphasize: that everything must be done through Christ. In verse 20, he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

He is pointing out that it is by our faith in Christ that our lives have meaning. Without faith, our works mean nothing.

If we can be saved by doing works under the Jewish Law, apart from faith in Christ, then yes, like Paul writes in verse 21, “Christ died needlessly.”

Basically, Paul is telling us to keep our minds on Christ, never doing anything apart from him. He is NOT, however, telling us that good works done through Christ mean nothing.

VIDEO: Philippians 3:9

A video that demonstrates that Philippians 3:9 does not defend the “faith alone” position. In fact, that verse and the rest of the chapter refute it.

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

Protestants sometimes point to Philippians 3:9 as a proof-text for their assertions about “faith alone.” But that verse does not support their position.

Context is key. Earlier in the chapter, Paul professes that he used to follow the old Law better than pretty much everyone, but then writes that he has counted it “as loss for the sake of Christ.”

He’s saying that, instead of getting caught up in rituals of the old Law, we should focus on Christ and His new Law.

So, in verse 9, when he says that righteousness “comes from God on the basis of faith,” he’s absolutely correct. I mean, it’s pretty difficult to do good works in honor of God when you don’t even believe in Him.

Nothing in the whole chapter discredits the Catholic Church’s stance on the importance of faith AND works.

In fact, in verse 12, Paul writes, “Not that I have already obtained it [“it” being the promise of eternal salvation and eternal life with God] or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”

See? He already has faith, but talks about “pressing on” in a way that clearly shows that he feels he is incomplete. He knows that there is still work to be done.

I hope that this information has helped you. May God bless you in your faithful journey!

VIDEO: Reaching Perfection

A study of James 3:2 (in context), Matthew 5:48, Hebrews 7, and Revelation 21:27. The video explains what these verses, examined together, mean for your salvation.

TRANSCRIPT ———————-

I was talking with one of my closest friends – she’s really more of a mentor to me, actually. After watching my video about asking the saints to pray for us, she made the assertion that, “The saints haven’t reached perfection; they are, however, in the presence of perfection!” I make this video with all respect due to her.

Some Protestants seem to try to make it sound as if any kind of perfection is totally unattainable. They point to verses like James 3:2, which includes the statement “For we all stumble in many ways”. But in discussing this issue, that verse frequently gets taken out of context.
That part of James 3 is basically saying that Christians need to be careful about selecting their leaders, because bad leaders lead to bad, heretical teachings. It is not saying that it’s impossible to reach perfection.

Christ tells us in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. So, according to some Protestants, either Christ is wrong, or He is just messing with our heads. Neither one of those options sound correct.

Also, it is pointed out in Hebrews 7:11 that perfection was not found through the Levitical priesthood. The chapter goes on to say that perfection can be found through Christ, who brings in “a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”

And, like I mentioned in the saints video, Revelation 21:27 teaches us that nothing imperfect will enter Heaven.

Clearly, there’s a possibility of reaching perfection.

But what do I mean by “reaching perfection”?

I think Protestants tend to think that we are saying that it’s possible to totally abstain from sin.
But perfection, in the end, is not only about sinlessness. After all, everyone has sinned.

Putting aside the doctrine of Purgatory (which I plan to address in a future post or video), people, essentially, reach perfection by taking advantage of the graces that God has given us so that we might be closer to Him. And yes, this includes going to Confession and doing penance for our sins.

We must always remember, though, that this is not done completely by us, but with the help of Christ.

Anyone that has reached Heaven, and thus pleased God, has reached perfection. Let’s all try to be a little more perfect, then.

VIDEO: Was Abraham saved by “faith alone”?

A video that examines Genesis 15:6, Romans 4, and James 2 in context to conclude that Abraham was NOT saved by “faith alone,” and neither are we.

I asked famous apologist Dave Armstrong for his opinion on this video, and he said that it “looks great (and orthodox)”.

In the video, I point out…

1. the importance of having an active faith (Abraham had to have sex with Sarah to have Isaac, which was key to God’s covenant with humanity; Abraham also had to be willing to sacrifice Issac)

2. that Abraham seemed to already have some sort of faith in Genesis 12, and what changed between Genesis 12 and Genesis 15:6 was that Abraham had done good works (he had built three altars in honor of God and had done what God told him to do)

3. that people still had to do works at the beginning of God’s covenant (e.g. circumcision), or risk being cut off from Him, and that baptism is, basically, the new circumcision

4. and what Paul meant when he denounced “works.”