Credo in Unum Deum

I Believe in One God

Faith Alone – feeling alone

Of course, no where does St. Paul state that we are justified by faith alone. Now, some might say that it can be inferred from many passages, just like we infer from many passages and the covenantal and cultural context that we ought to baptize our babies because they born into a believing, covenant family. The problem with that argument is that when we argue for paedo-baptism, we argue from the fact that children of covenant households were always considered as belonging to God. We argue from the fact that at the time the Bible was written, that was still the understanding. When households were baptized, it is inconceivable that the babies (if there were any there) were also baptized.
But the problem with sola fide pushers is this: they contend that Paul was castigating folks because they thought that works was needed without faith, or maybe with faith, and he was setting them straight and saying that faith alone justifies. The disconnect is in the fact that in the baptism argument, we appeal to the fact that the text doesn’t need to be clear about infants, because it would be assumed, being a part of the covenant consciousness of the people. Apparently, works righteousness was the main category in the consciousness of the people, according to the Lutheran/Reformed folks. This would call for an explicit rebuttal of works righteousness and an even clearer proclamation of sola fide. This also renders James statement, “not by faith alone”(delivered to a Jewish audience I believe) utterly ridiculous. Since the Jews had a problem with works righteousness, why is he telling them you are justified not by faith alone, but by works?

Maybe the Jews weren’t works righteousness freaks after all? Maybe they knew they were part of the covenant and were Gods people. Maybe the fact that they weren’t being faithful is what Paul was attacking… which makes sense of his Hab. 3 quote that “the just man shall live by his faithfulness…” — activity I think… Maybe the Jews were so utterly proud of their covenant identity in the fleshly marks (circumcision- another point of attack for Paul) that they had begun to trust in these works of the Law (circumcision being commanded by the Law) that they had ceased to be faithful to the covenant (work in faith, not works alone, not faith alone).

Thoughts?

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February 15, 2008 - Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion

10 Comments »

  1. I don’t believe James was talking about justification in the sense of being delivered from the OT Law.

    He says in James 2:12, “they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” It’s commonly assumed this passage is talking about judgment for sin. However, it appears to be talking about the judgment of believers at the “judgment seat of Christ”.

    Therefore, there is no conflict between James and Paul (or Jesus for that matter). For it is Jesus who said in John 6:47, “…He that believes on me (faith) has everlasting life.”

    Comment by Shawn | February 15, 2008

  2. “I don’t believe James was talking about justification in the sense of being delivered from the OT Law.”
    I don’t think I said that or implied it… just reread what I wrote… still don’t see it. Could you provide me with a quote from my post so I can clear up any messiness there might be- and there probably is.
    Thanks!

    Comment by Credo | February 15, 2008

  3. Here’s the quote that caught my eye…

    “This also renders James statement, “not by faith alone”(delivered to a Jewish audience I believe) utterly ridiculous. Since the Jews had a problem with works righteousness, why is he telling them you are justified not by faith alone, but by works?”

    Many people think that James is in conflict with Paul on the issue of faith alone. My contention is that James is not talking about the justification of a sinner. But instead the justification of a believer under the “law of Grace” at the Judgment seat of Christ. The context of James 2 would seem to lean in this direction. If that is so, then James’ comment that a person is “justified by faith plus works” is not a problem since he’s speaking of a different judgement than Paul.

    Most theologians also agree that James is talking to converted Jews…not Jews still practicing the Law.

    Comment by shawnbarr | February 16, 2008

  4. Thanks for the carification. I see what you mean, but disagree with yor interpretation of my statement. I understand that the Jewish audience was converted. My point is this- that maybe the Jews weren’t trying to work their way to Heaven in the modern sense thatwe understand it. In Romans, the Jews Paul addresses are also converts to Christ. Were they trying to impose a Jewish way of being Christian that included the works of the Law? Yes. But Paul was not condemning works of faith, but works without faith, thus the Hab. quote.

    You wrote:
    My contention is that James is not talking about the justification of a sinner. But instead the justification of a believer under the “law of Grace” at the Judgment seat of Christ.
    So you are positing two justifications? One at the beginning of salvation andone at the Judgment?
    Thanks.

    Comment by Credo | February 16, 2008

  5. You wrote:
    “So you are positing two justifications? One at the beginning of salvation andone at the Judgment?”

    That’s getting close. I actually see two judgments. One judgment is for the “law of sin and death”. This will involve unbelievers before Christ at the Great White Throne Judgement. They will be cast into the lake of fire for not accepting by faith God’s provision for their sin through Christ.

    The other judgment is the one for believers. This will not entail “punishment”, but will be an evaluation of their works for Christ during their Christian life. Some works will be burned away and some will remain as “gold, silver, and precious stones.” It is a judgment for rewards not punishment for sin.

    Because there are two judgement there is a “law” for each one. The first (white throne) will be the Law of Sin and Death (as Paul writes about). The second law is the “law of Grace” which believers are under.

    The second judgement and the law of grace are what I believe James is addressing in James 2.

    I agree that Paul does not condemn works. He encourages believers to perform good works in Ephesians 2:10. And Jesus said our works will be “light” before men (Mt 5). I believe Paul was condemning adding the works of the law to faith. Thus creating an equation of faith + works = justification.

    Comment by shawnbarr | February 16, 2008

  6. I am now confused about what you mean by justification. IS there an initial justification, at conversion, and then a final justification, at the Judgment, that confirms the initial justification? What does justification accomplish? You seem to be at odds with the Reformers’ views on justification.

    On another level, and probably this is for another post but… you said that believers will not be punished for their works that weren’t gold, silver, etc. I Cor 3 is what you were quoting. But, check it again. When he says that those folks whose works are burned up will suffer loss, the Greek for “suffer loss” is actually literally “punish”. So to read it properly, those whose works are burned up will be punished, yet shall they be saved in the same way through the fire. Now we Catholics have a word for this, Purgatory. This must play into justification somewhere as you work out your soteriology.
    Thanks

    Comment by Credo | February 16, 2008

  7. I’ll address your questions in two separate answers.

    #1 – Justification….

    There will be a judgement to see who’s names are written in the “lambs book of life”. This is what determines who is “justified”. Those whose names are found are justified because of what Christ did for them. They enter heaven not because of their own merit but because of Christ’s. Those whose names are not found are cast into the lake of fire. So Justification in this sense is being forgiven of your sins because of Christ and avoiding eternal punishment for them.

    The second judgement is not for sin, but for rewards. All beleivers will stand before Christ and be judged for what they did during their Christian life. Did they live for him or did they not live for him. For most people it will be a combination of both. They will receive rewards for the “good works” done for Him. Their other works will be burned away (1 Cor 3:15). Some will reign with Christ differently in heaven because of this judgement.

    #2 – Definition of “suffer loss” in 1 Cor 3:15

    Punishment could be one definition of this word. However, in the other verses it is used as the idea of forfeiting or losing something.

    For example in Phil 3:8 Paul says, “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Here he is using the word “suffer loss” not as being punished but that he has “lost” worldly posessions during his ministry of the Gospel.

    In Matthew the word is also used in chapter 16 verse 26 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Here the idea is also “losing” something. In this case you lose it and the result is punishment. However, this is a penalty for the unbeliever because of not being justified through Christ.

    The word is also translated “forfeit” in English translations several times.

    In classical Greek works the word is used in a variety of ways. Including: inflicting a financial penalty, losing something, forfeiting an award, to generally punish, to cause loss. Thucydides uses it in a way as to “lose” something of value. (Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott).

    I believe within the context of this passage the idea is that the believer will “lose” or “forfeit” some rewards at their evaluation in front of Christ at the Judgement Seat of Christ. However, I don’t see the text supporting the idea that losing these rewards leads to an ongoing punishment for sin. Some will in fact lose all of their rewards, but be still be saved “as by fire”. Their rewards are all burned up, but they are still justified because of Christ.

    Sorry for the long post!

    Comment by shawnbarr | February 17, 2008

  8. Laudetur Jesus Christus

    Comment by william | February 17, 2008

  9. Alright, Shawn. Thanks for the post. I think we may have drifted off a little by going into judgment and purgatory, and I am afraid that I am to dull to understand the point about two judgments and two justifications… It still seems that what you might be saying is that the first justification and the second justification are really just one justification. The first is the declaration, the second is the confirmation. Right?

    Concerning the I Cor. 3 passage. The imagery of fire is usually in the Bible used for punishment and/or refinement which is painful to those whom LORD God purifies. If we go through the fire, then it should be painful. But as I said, this is for another debate, and I should have refrained from bringing it up.

    William, thanks… I think.

    Comment by Credo | February 18, 2008

  10. Hi Credo…I’ve enjoyed the exchange. Maybe we can explore it some more at another time.

    William…”In aeternum! Amen.”

    Shawn

    Comment by shawnbarr | February 19, 2008


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