Monday, September 22, 2008

Responding to James Swan on Sola Fide

I found a blog which "challenges" a statement from my website. That blog can be found here: - by James Swan. James responded to my article over a year ago (March 1, 2007) but I did not see it until recently. I meant to respond when I saw it, but lost track of it. I found it again tonight so will respond now. Let's look at what he said, and I will add my responses here now.

> Scott says,
> “One of the mainstays of Protestantism is the
> concept of “sola fide.” Two very straight-forward
> words which translated mean “faith alone.” The stand,
> foundationally started with Martin Luther, is in
> opposition to the Church's position that true
> “saving faith” is never alone. True “saving faith”
> is always accompanied by good works, the first and
> foremost of these works is believing. Believing in
> Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is the foundational
> work of faith in our lives. That is the Catholic
> position. Now what Protestant really disagrees with
> this position? I am not aware of any, yet they have
> this “doctrine” of “sola fide!”
> James replies:
> It should be noted that Luther believed “true
> ‘saving faith’ is never alone,” and “True
> ‘saving faith’ is always accompanied by good works.”
> “Faith,” wrote Luther, “is a living, restless thing.
> It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works;
> but if there be no works, there must be something
> amiss with faith.” Luther scholar Paul Althaus notes:
> “[Luther] also agrees with James that if no works
> follow it is certain that true faith in Christ does
> not live in the heart but a dead, imagined, and
> self-fabricated faith. The book of James describes
> a real true faith in Christ: a real saving faith is
> a living faith. If no works are found in a person,
> that faith is a dead faith (c.f. James 2:17). James
> then describes a dead faith: the faith of a demon.
> A demon has faith that God exists, that Christ rose
> from the dead- I would dare say a demon knows
> theology better than you or I. But is the faith of
> this demon a saving faith? Absolutely not. Luther
> says, “Accordingly, if good works do not follow, it
> is certain that this faith in Christ does not dwell
> in our heart, but dead faith…”

To which I reply:
Thank you James! You have confirmed what I said in that article, which you have linked to my "featured" article - one which changes periodically. The permanent link to that article on sola fide can be found by clicking here. It was and is my contention that "saving faith" is never alone - which is what Luther clarifies as well. The confusing factor is that this invented doctrine of "sola fide" gets attributed to Luther, when in actuality - he didn't believe in it either! When Luther clarifies, his position really IS the Catholic position. Let's continue with what James (Swan) wrote:

> James continues:
> Scott went on to revise his paper after I provided
> him with these quotes and a link to my paper, which
> goes into this in great detail. Of the first quote Scott
> says, “…this quote (which TQuid cited only a secondary
> source to a secondary source, not giving the primary
> source of the quote)…” . Yes, I cited a secondary source,
> Roland Bainton, who cited the primary source. Normally,
> I would not do this- however the evidence of Luther’s
> position on this is overwhelming, and I liked the way
> the quote was phrased.

I reply:
Thank you again James for admitting to the use of a non-
primary source. Regardless of the rationalization for
doing so, and that you "liked the way the quote was
phrased" - it's still a "secondary source to a secondary
source." I do appreciate you clarifying this fact.

> Had this been my only quote to prove Luther’s view,
> I would agree that such methodology is spurious.

Quoting a secondary source to a secondary source is
always spurious methodology when such is not pointed
out up-front.

> If you read this blog regularly, you know I have a
> field day with context-less quotes from secondary
> sources.

I do not read your blog regularly, I stumbled upon it and now am responding to it. Again, regardless of what you do regularly, to cite a secondary source to a secondary source and not let the reader know up-front is spurious.

> Had Scott read section 6 of the link I gave him
> “Quotations from Luther on Faith and Works”, he
> would have read dozens of quotes from Luther
> substantiating the position I outlined.

Again, I do not deny that Luther upheld the Catholic position on a true "saving faith."

> James continues:
> Scott makes a big deal out of the “sola” in sola fide,
> because the classic Protestant position states
> justification is by faith alone, it is not by a faith
> that is alone. Scott says, “What I find even more
> ironic is that few, if any, Protestants see the
> double-speak of that statement! Is it “alone” or not?
> If it is by faith alone, then nothing – and we must
> insist that nothing – stands next to it for
> justification.” Theological terms can’t be handled
> the way Scott Windsor insists.

James is backpedaling now, as just about every Protestant apologist does when confronted on this subject. Why CAN'T theological terms be handled this way? After all, WORDS MEAN THINGS! If it is "sola" then it should truly be "alone," and not, as Luther said, "always accompanied by good works," and whom also states "it is never alone." Hence my question remains! "Is it alone or not?!"

And now the diversion tactic:
> James continues:
> Roman Catholics should especially know this. They
> have nuanced certain theological concepts to make
> them say, or not say, whatever will best suit Rome.
> For example, take the Roman Catholic phrase, "no
> salvation outside the church." Try dialoging with a
> Roman Catholic on this concept and watch how nuanced
> the explanation becomes.

James, the subject here is sola fide, not extra ecclesiam nulla salus! I am more than willing to discuss and debate THAT subject with you, but I will not be distracted/diverted into that subject here and now.

Then comes what I found to be quite typical when I was on the NTRMin webboard regularly:

> I find Scott's argument to be the typical double
> standard approach put forth by Roman Catholics.

What "double standard" is James talking about? The terminology "sola fide" is not a "nuanced" phrase! Translated to "Faith Alone" - it is a simple phrase, but when we ask about it we find Protestant apologists who hold to it start saying, "it's alone, but it's not alone." Yes, that would be a classic example of double speak. They will give us all sorts of rationalizations, but it boils down to double speak. James claims that if you ask Catholics about EENS you will find us using all sorts of nuances. Well, I disagree. Again, I will not venture into a debate on EENS here and now, as that is purely a distraction from the FACT that to say "we are justified by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone."

> James continues:
> Protestants arrive at what Windsor calls “double speak”
> because they seek to be faithful to the Biblical text.
> Our best efforts are tainted with sin. If God demands
> perfection in order for one to be justified before Him,
> no one would ever be justified. Justification is actually
> totally of works, but those works were perfect and
> performed by the perfect savior, Jesus Christ. These
> works are acquired by faith, imputed to the sinner.
> Grace, faith, and the work of Christ are essential
> ingredients that justify, and that justification is a
> gift as well as the very faith involved. As Paul says in
> Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace have ye been saved through
> faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
> not of works, that no man should glory.”

And above we see that James (Swan) has added even MORE to the "sola" making it even LESS ALONE! James doesn't even mention "good works" in the above explanation, but "grace, faith and the work of Christ are essential ingredients that justify, and that justification is a gift as well as the very faith involved." So on top of what Luther said, that "good works" always accompany "saving faith," James is adding grace and the work of Christ. We're finding this "sola fide" is less and less "sola" all the time!

It should also be noted that Ephesians 2, as with nearly all times which St. Paul is speaking out against works, is speaking about works of the law, of the Old Covenant. The context of Ephesians 2 deals with the work of circumcision, and confirms that whether circumcised or uncircumcised - that work doesn't justify. Otherwise, the "work" of circumcision would be one men could boast of.

> James continues:
> If God judges a man by Christ’s perfect works, why
> should any Christian ever care about leading a
> righteous life? If grace, faith, and justification are
> God’s gifts, what is left for us to do? Eat, drink,
> and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

Perhaps James can explain what drawing Ecclesiastes 8:15 into this context has to do with the subject? The FACT is that each of us WILL be judged according to our works - and that judgment will be by fire! If any works are burned up, we shall suffer loss - but for those works which remain, we shall receive reward (1 Cor. 3:14-15). Again, I do not see the connection James is trying to make here, perhaps he will see this and qualify what he's trying to say. It seems to me to be yet another distraction from the fact that "saving faith is never alone."

> James continues:
> Paul answers in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His
> workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
> which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.”
> Faith performs good works, not to keep one justified,
> but out of heartfelt gratitude to God graciousness.
> Salvation is unto good works. Note what this means:
> good works are not unto eventual salvation. We are
> saved in order to perform good works, not by
> performing them.

It seems Mr. Swan is just adding "fluff" now (another distraction tactic). Nothing said in the above statement confirms or contradicts sola fide. It seems rather a straw man he's building up here so that he can easily knock it down. Catholics do not deny that justification through faith and good works go hand in hand - in fact, THAT IS THE POINT! The point is - saving faith is not alone, period. Again, James fundamentally agrees with me on this point! MY point is that the terminology of "sola fide" gets lost in double speak when they go to explaining themselves.

> James concludes:
> The catch phrase "justification is by faith alone, it
> is not by a faith that is alone" is just a way to
> describe a living faith. I'm not going to quibble with
> Scott over this. The phrase was coined to try to point
> out, as simply as possible, the relationship between
> justification and good works.

It is good that James is not going to quibble with me over this - for it is a lost cause for him to do so! He's already, with Luther, conceded the Catholic truth here the only question is why hold on to the terminology of "sola fide" - when a "true saving faith is never alone?!"

The REAL clincher though remains - and no Protestant apologist can get around this one. The ONLY PLACE the words "faith" and "alone" are used together in Scripture is found in James 2:24 - and it is in flat out DENIAL of sola fide!

James 2:24:
"You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone." (NASB - emphasis added).


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