Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Did Jesus Teach Sola Fide (Faith Alone?)

Note: Since the majority of my readers are Protestant and do not accept any higher authority than the Bible, I will confine documentation to that source. Thence,  I will discuss the problems of Sola Fide with Sola Scriptura....(smile.)

Read the differing views on justification by faith alone has swept me up in countless hours of researching these positions. Everything turns to white noise, though, when scholars debate over nuances in ancient Biblical grammar--like verbal binyanim non-infinite, reflexivity conjugations and tenses and the modal, jussive form.  (whew...)
Some claim that justification happens only once simultaneous to sanctification, others claim it happens immediately before sanctification and others claim it is a process. And all assert that their understanding is vital to salvation, indeed, the true gospel rests upon Sola Fide and a proper understanding of when and how it happens.
Is this the simple gospel of the Fundamentalists? If their claim is correct that the Bible is straightforward, what do we do with the exegetical map which looks like the jumbled wires of a 1970 computer board that these theological trailblazers of the Sola Fide doctrine have created?
This layperson must admit she is in way over her head. 
When analyzing these debates I compare it to people deciding whether it is moral to abort an unborn based upon when a fertilized egg becomes a  blastocyst. It is an unnecessary technical point when we see the results of a child being born. 
In the end, what is important? The moment when we are justified or when we stand before our maker in judgement--that moment you are born into an eternal kingdom of seeing God face to face? You aren’t going to be arguing with the Almighty over exegesis. 

So, as fascinating as it is to discuss the segregating theological positions on Justification, why not unify in what is going to happen at the end of our earthy lives? 
What did Jesus teach about judgement? Did Christ teach that when we stand at the throne of His Father that faith alone will be the criteria for our eternal salvation? 
To make the question as clear as possible: if Jesus said there was anything necessary at our judgement other than faith, then we must admit Sola Fide isn’t a good theological working model. Because if faith isn’t the only thing God is expecting from His children, then we aren’t giving the full gospel. 
Diving into the gospels, we find that in His first recorded sermon Jesus gives a litany of those who will inherit eternal life--the poor in spirit, the meek, pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted because of righteousness. Nothing about those who have faith in Him. This list is about our characters or our deeds.
Later Jesus commanded His followers to love God, our neighbors and even our enemies! (Matt. 5: 44, 46; 19: 19, 22, 29; 22: 37, John 8: 42)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13: 35
Love is a commandment, not a suggestion.  And before Jesus breathes a word about faith He calls us to perfection. 
Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt. 5: 48
Jesus tells us to seek righteousness first and that, rather than being judged by faith we will be judged by how we judge others! 
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matt. 6:33... 
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again . Matt. 7: 2
Read one of Jesus’ first parables: 
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Matt. 7: 24.
Where is this idea that our deeds will  not be judged?  And our actions do receive a reward:
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. Matt. 10:41 
Sts Matthew and John record the words of Jesus which show that our righteous actions, our deeds are a very important part of being God’s children and will be weighed in deciding our eternal destination
The Gospel of St. Matthew

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 16: 27
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 19:21
When the Son of man shall come in his glory... before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungred , and ye gave me meat : I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in : Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick , and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. ...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.  Matt. 25: 31-37, 46 [Note: they were separated by their DEEDS!]
The Gospel of St. John

This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 3:19-21

And when he is come , he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 16: 8, 10.

All mainstream Christians agree on the point that we are Justified by faith and that it is through the merits of Christ’s death that we are saved.  Having said that, we have quite a few biblical texts that talk about the importance of Christian behavior, deeds, actions or righteousness. I didn’t begin to list the scores of texts written by the Apostles and St. Paul.
Rather than separate upon the technicality of merits or non-merits, (imputed or imparted, sanctified or justified) of Christian works   ... Should we not, for unity sake, admit that the obedience of faith, which brings fruits of righteousness ARE important to the Christian? Should we not admit that Jesus warned us that when we stand before the Father in heaven, that our deed will be reviewed and judged.

If nothing else, the words of Christ should cause us to wonder about the use of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone. While these arguments are fine for the erudite, what are we teaching the Christian about God’s earthly and heavenly expectations and his final judgement?


Merhaba1995 said...

Faith and works.

Discussing all the 'nit-noy' (?) aspects of Christianity and the Bible is truly daunting to many 'experienced' (mature) Christians...even moreso to 'neophyte' believers.

Maybe we should discuss biblical topics with each other like parents and grandparents talk with young language at first, and then slowly introducing more complicated subjects and language as they increase in maturity.

Anonymous said...

I think a good question to ask would be. How much good deeds are enough to be safe on the day of judgement?t

Teresa Beem said...


Paul did say as Christians matured, they would go from milk to meat! (Theologically)

Teresa Beem said...


Well, we are to be perfect--EVEN as God in heaven is perfect. So I don't think the quantity is what is important but the quality.

Anonymous said...

Did I hear you say Teresa in response to my question that we are to be perfect before we can be safe in the judgement? or have i picked you up wrong :-)

Teresa Beem said...

Remember Ricky, that as a Catholic you join the family of God when you are baptized. Just exactly like the Jewish boys joined the family covenant at circumcision. This is PERMANENT. Ever afterwards you are a child of God and you can never un-circumcize or un-baptize yourself. You are eternally family!

You are joint -heirs with Christ with a immeasurable inheritance upon your Father returning. With the Grace of the church flowing upon you and the Holy Spirit given to you at baptism, you grow in grace. You are taken from glory to glory and your faith in your Heavenly Father brings forth the fruits of good works and a more perfect love.

If you die without reaching perfection, God does not abandon you and refuse you your inheritance, He has a level of heaven you go to to become purified of the sins you clung to on earth. So when you see God face to face, his Perfection doesn't consume you!

In Catholic theology it is all about family! They do not accept the purely legal terms--even though they may use them occasionally to describe the covenant. It is more a FAMILY COVENANT--than a legal agreement.

When you become Catholic, you are entering a family in which Christ is your brother. You are expected to become a Prince of the universe and be able to stand pure and undefiled before your King. There are expectations about you BEFORE you inherit your kingdom.

If you are not perfectly able to inherit the kingdom upon death because you didn''t understand the depths of your sin, your inheritance is not taken from you, you just have to put it off until you ARE perfect and pure and holy.

It is really an amazingly loving and merciful system. If we must become PERFECT as Christ said, how on earth can we do it? And if we fail? Well, for a Catholic you have the net of Purgatory. It is a very merciful system.

Also keep in mind that BECAUSE we are His children, God works within us, bringing us into perfection with HIS grace and power. We just need to cooperate with His love and not reject it and we WILL through obedience become perfect. It is a GUARANTEE for those who are His children who truly want to inherit the kingdom..

Teresa Beem said...

Jesus said we are to be perfect.

If we see the world through purely sinful human eyes, we grumble... "I have to be perfect? Come on!! Give me a break."

But Ricky, if we see this command through the eyes of grace we shout with joy! God ISN'T going to abandon us to sin. He is commanding us to get out of the boat and walk on water. He wouldn't do that unless we COULD in faith! He is promising a miracle in each of our lives.

That is the most wonderful news of all! We can rejoice for through our obedience to faith, we WILL become perfect. We are not called to mediocrity, we are called to PERFECTION.

What if your father had said to you when you did something wrong, "It figure." How awful would that be! No our Father says to us, "RISE and have courage! Go and sin no more." And He is there for us to lift us up and give us hope.

The Father sees us through eyes of love! He knows us, His children--RIGHT NOW as we will be when we are perfect and it is possible or He wouldn't have commanded it.