Sunday, May 15, 2011

Salvation by Faith Alone

Someone asked a good question regarding Catholics and whether it is true that they suggest more for salvation than a simple profession of faith.  It is true that the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox reject the notion that someone may be saved by a simple profession of faith.  Martin Luther developed the 5 "solas" as an innovation in the 16th century. .... so we may feel certain that such notions did not exist before Martin Luther. One of those "solas" is "salvation by faith alone." If one looks at the Epistle of St. James it is very obvious from the verse "show my your faith without works and I will show you my faith THROUGH my works" and "faith without works is dead" that James did not share such a notion.  Luther did not care for the Epistle of James and wanted to toss it out of the Bible.  We need only look at the writings of Maximus the Confessor in the 6th century who said:

"Do not say that 'mere faith in our Lord Jesus Christ can save me.' For this is impossible unless you acquire love for him through works. For in what concerns mere believing, 'even the devils believe and tremble.'  "  

It is obvious from looking at 6th century theologians like Maximus and the entire Philokalia which spans 70 authors from the 4rd century to the 11th century that there is no hint of Protestant notions of piety.  If all that was necessary was a profession of faith then why would the desert father have left the cities to live in the deserts in celibacy and fasting. They could have stayed in the city had a wife, sipped there beer and chatted about their faith in Jesus.   



Newt Gingrich was on an interview on television this weekend as a possible presidential candidate. The journalist pointed out that Newt is on his third marriage and was caught in an adulterous affair just as Clinton was going through the Lewinsky scandal.  Gingrich said "Yes, this is true, but I have ASKED GOD FOR FORGIVENESS."    Well, that is typical Protestant rhetoric.  You live exactly as you please and then when it is convenient you sob and say your sorry and ask God for forgiveness and that makes everything all better.  Yes, people can make mistakes, but they must CHANGE THEIR WAYS and reform and not return like a dog to their own vomit.  There are actually Protestant denominations who believe that baptism by water is unnecessary since faith is all that is necessary. We see in the Book of Acts that the eunuch in the chariot asked for baptism by the waters edge. The first 1000 years of Christianity were all about baptism by water. The Protestant Reformant  gradually resulted in many changes in the most basic things.  

No one FORCED Martin Luther to take life vows of poverty and chastity as an Augustinian monk.  Luther voluntarily made the vows and then did not have the courage or discipline to keep them so he rewrote religion to suit his own weaknesses.  Perhaps some of the "works" that Catholics and Orthodox require may seem extraneous or superstitious, but to me it is obvious that mere lip service to some faith or belief or whining and sobbing for forgiveness and saying you are a "changed person" are worse than useless for they are dangerous as they lull us into a complacency rather than motivate us to take action and do something about our problems. If you are an alcoholic, then stop drinking. If you are overweight then stop eating. If you are a fornicator/adulterer then stop with those activities. SHOW that you are truly sorry by the WORK and ACTION necessary to change. But don't just say you are saved by faith alone because Christ did it all for you an paid your substitutionary atonement on the Cross, because that doesn't work. Salvation by faith alone is a diseased notion which does more harm that good. If someone has seen fit to life a contemptible life worthy of damnation then they should just accept the damnation that they have earned and not try to talk their way out of it.

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