Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is True Faith Really Alone?

Sola Fide?
Faith Alone – Is It Really “Alone?”
An Article By:
Scott Windsor

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!”

A reader (who goes by the nickname of "TQuid" on IRC) of this article asked me to change the statement about Luther above. He said:
a correction- “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(.")
This quote from Luther only serves to prove my point though. It cannot be denied that Luther espoused and headed up the "fight" for sola fide, yet this quote (which TQuid cited only a secondary source to a secondary source, not giving the primary source of the quote) contradicts the "sola" of "sola fide." In fact, this statement would be acceptable to the Catholic. We agree that works do not save, especially not works alone; likewise, faith, if it be alone, does not save. Faith accompanied by works is a "saving faith." As I stated above, I am not aware of any Protestant who, deep down, disagrees with the Catholic position on this, yet we still see "sola fide" as a "battle cry" of apologetics for Protestants. The problem is, it just doesn't add up.

So as to not misrepresent the Protestant position, let's present some Protestant definitions of “sola fide:”
James White:
Sola Fide – faith alone, that is, saving faith, resting solely in the perfection of the work of Jesus Christ in my stead. That is my hope. That is the Good News. Not justification by baptism, then rejustification after committing a mortal sin by sacramental forgiveness, penances, and satisfactions. No merit from good works done in a state of grace so as to receive eternal life.
No, justification is by faith alone, so that it can be by grace alone. That is the Gospel. (White, 151, The Roman Catholic Controversy).
R.C. Sproul:
justification is by faith alone, it is not by a faith that is alone.” (Sproul, 26, Faith Alone).
J.I. Packer:
It was this conflict with the medieval message that occasioned the fivefold "only" in the slogans quoted above. Salvation, said the Reformers, is by faith (man's total trust) only, without our being obliged to work for it; it is by grace (God's free favor) only, without our having to earn or deserve it first; it is by Christ the God-man only, without there being need or room for any other mediatoral agent, whether priest, saint, or virgin; it is by Scripture only, without regard to such unbiblical and unfounded extras as the doctrines of purgatory and of pilgrimages, the relic-cult and papal indulgences as devices for shortening one's stay there; and praise for salvation is due to God only, without any credit for his acceptance of us being taken to ourselves. (http://www.the-highway.com/Justification_Packer.html)
And we cannot forget Martin Luther on the subject of justification by faith:
articulus stands aut cadentis ecclesiae” – the point on whether the Church stands or falls. (qtd on: http://www.the-highway.com/Justification_Packer.html)
So there we have it in a nutshell, this is the doctrine which makes or breaks the Church, in the eyes of Protestants. One thing that I find a bit interesting with virtually every argument I've seen on the subject of “sola fide” is that it is NEVER alone! We even find apologists arguing for FIVE SOLAS! The term “sola” flies in the face of those boast to have FIVE of them! If it's truly “sola,” then why do they have five?! Sproul sums up most, if not all, Protestant arguments quite succinctly in stating that though “justification is by faith alone, it is not by a faith that is alone.” 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. But what does Sproul say? “It is not by a faith that is alone.” All in one breath Sproul both affirms and denies “sola” in “sola fide.” More importantly that what Sproul says, what does Scripture say? James 2:24 “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James goes on to say “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26).
Now many Protestant apologists with whom I've debated in the past will try to explain that justification truly is by faith alone, and then join Sproul's double-speak stating it is not a faith that is alone. One recent challenger, known only as “Chris,” tried to explain it by analogy stating:
I was walking along the bridge with my wife when suddenly I saw a man lose his footing. I grabbed his arm and stopped him sliding off. Later he circulated the story "I was saved by Chris alone, however he was not a man who was alone, his wife was there too."
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/catholicdebateforum/message/8276)

The obvious flaw to Chris' analogy is that even though his wife is there with him, she does nothing to save the falling man. Now THAT is Chris' point, right? Yet, where the point fails is when we compare that to faith, or more specifically a “saving faith” we see that “works” are what are “next to” the “saving faith.” Chris has equated his wife to “works” in his analogy, yet in “saving faith” the works are what make “saving faith” a “living faith,” for “faith without works is dead!” To make Chris' analogy complete, if his wife is not there with him, then Chris would be DEAD! If Chris were “dead” then he would not have the capacity to “grab” the falling man's arm and “save” him. Chris' analogy is “fatally flawed.”
From the same forum (the Catholic Debate Forum on Yahoogroups) where Chris makes his argument, I also received this challenge from one, for the sake of this article, I will refer to as “Dr. Jim.” The challenge from Dr. Jim is this:
Tell you what -- find one verse from Paul that says we are
justified by faith AND works and we'll have something.
That's your challenge.
Ready? GO
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/catholicdebateforum/message/8258)
(1Ti 4:16) Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Hmmm, the word “justification” is not there, but St. Paul is telling Timothy if he “persevere(s) in these things” that he “will ensure salvation...” Clearly we see that St. Paul is telling Timothy that he must DO something or “work” to ensure his salvation.
To the Thessalonians St. Paul said:
2Th 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
2Th 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
St. Paul here (and several other places, see below) includes the act or work of “perseverance” with faith and encouragement to “endure.”


Back to the subject of analogies, Jesus Himself uses a parable of the sower, with the seeds being the Word of God, and the ultimate teaching is that those who honestly, with a good heart, do the “work” of holding it, the Word of God, and bearing fruit with it in perseverance. What is the subject of this parable? The subject is the “kingdom of heaven!” (see Luke 8:1, 11-15).
But “Dr. Jim's” challenge was that I show St. Paul using “justified” in combination with “works,” so let's look at Romans 2:
Rom 2:13 “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.”
So, you must be a “doer” or one who “works” to be justified!
The case against “sola fide” is so strong, it seems silly that Protestants still attempt to defend the doctrine. Clearly Luther overstated his case in making sola fide the point on which the (Protestant) Church stands or falls, for certainly one who reads the Scriptures objectively can see that saving faith is NEVER alone (James 2) and that throughout the New Testament we're taught perseverance, endurance, and constantly reminded about what we must “do” for our salvation (justification is the process of making one “just” or “right” in the sight of God, which is necessary and a process in which the “end” is either salvation or condemnation).
A point which I have not yet mentioned in this article, but no article in opposition to “sola fide” is complete without is the fact that the ONLY place in ALL of Scripture where “faith” and “alone” are used together is in James 2:24, and that is in NEGATION of the concept of “sola fide.” I will close this article quoting that verse, then follow with many others which mention things we must “DO” in the process of salvation.
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.


Scriptural references showing that we are expected to DO something:


Verses which mention we must “persevere” or “perseverance:”
Luk 8:15 "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.


Rom 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;


Rom 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
Rom 5:4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Rom 5:5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.


Rom 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.


Rom 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Rom 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,
Rom 15:6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.


2Co 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.


Eph 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
Eph 6:19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
Eph 6:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.


2Th 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;
2Th 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.


1Ti 6:11 But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.


(2Ti 3:10) Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance,
(2Ti 3:11) persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me!


(1Ti 4:16) Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.


(Tit 2:2) Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.


(2Pe 1:5) Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
(2Pe 1:6) and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
(2Pe 1:7) and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.


(Rev 1:9) I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.


(Rev 2:2) 'I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false;
(Rev 2:3) and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.


(Rev 2:19) 'I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.


(Rev 3:10) 'Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.


(Rev 13:10) If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.


(Rev 14:12) Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.


What must we DO to be saved?
Act 16:29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,
Act 16:30 and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
Act 16:31 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved


Joh 3:16 "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.


Luk 8:11 "Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
Luk 8:12 "Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
Luk 8:13 "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
Luk 8:14 "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
Luk 8:15 "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Friendly Letter On Eucharist

A Friendly Letter on the Eucharist

By Scott Windsor

Why am I doing this? Well, one of my sons asked about how to respond when non-Catholics refer to the Eucharist as a “cracker.” He did not want to offend or fight with the non-Catholic, but wanted to know how to answer this person. Being born and raised in a Protestant home as I was, I told my son that we need to be understanding of the Protestant mindset. Protestants are taught that the Eucharist is bread and wine, and that’s it. The ceremony surrounding “Holy Communion” for Protestants is the memorial which Jesus commanded we participate in, and since it is purely a memorial, no priests are involved and, in fact, Protestants encourage one another to celebrate Holy Communion in their own homes or in groups of family and/or friends. I recall one day preparing to have Holy Communion with Paul and Jan Crouch of TBN, I had it all laid out on my living room coffee table and went through “the narrative” with Paul Crouch (who was “leading” it for all those following along on television). I also remember the “Confirmation Camp” I attended shortly after being confirmed in the Lutheran faith, where our “leaders” passed out bread and wine and we, the youth, repeated “the narrative” ceremony then amongst ourselves we distributed the “Holy Communion.” Both of these events were emotionally stirring and motivational to me, as a Christian. It seems a lot of Protestantism is based in feelings and emotional responses - but this is something I did not see as a Protestant - and can now see, looking back objectively.


Before we get much into who “celebrates” Holy Communion – we need to discuss what exactly the Eucharist is. What are the foundational scriptural teachings for the Eucharist? Let us start with John 6.

John 6

John 6 opens with a very grand and literal miracle – the feeding of the five thousand from five barley loaves and two fishes. The next part takes us to a discussion of the real and literal feeding of the people of Israel in the desert with miraculous water and manna. Then Jesus emphatically and repeatedly states that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood or we have no life in us! The preface of this command to eat His flesh and drink His blood are two very real and physical miracles. So, where many of our detractors insist the command to eat His flesh and drink His blood are figurative, the command is prefaced in the same chapter by two very real and literal miracles.

The next consideration is the fact that many of Jesus' disciples who heard Him teach this could not abide by it and rather than accept Him at His word, they "turned and walked with Him no more." They took Him literally and could not handle the teaching, so they walked away. Would Jesus let them walk away with an erroneous understanding? Or, did Jesus know they took Him literally and He let them walk away precisely because they took Him literally and they were walking away because they would not accept Him at His word? I submit, Jesus did not mislead them nor allow them to walk away with the wrong impression - they "got it" - they just were unwilling to accept it. I repeat, they walked away with the proper understanding, just not the faith necessary to accept and believe that Jesus would provide them with the means of fulfilling this command. Jesus commanded, and repeated this command several times in John 6, that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood or we have "no life" in us. Ask yourself, do you believe what Jesus said? Do you accept what Jesus said? Or, do you understand the words here - but refuse to accept them as they are written and as He spoke them? Do you add to what is written and say this is figurative? If you walk with Him - then accept what He said.

The Synoptic Accounts of the First Eucharist

And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread and blessed and broke and gave to his disciples and said: Take ye and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.

(Mat 26:26-28 DRB)

And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke and gave to them and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many.

(Mar 14:22-24 DRB)

And taking bread, he gave thanks and brake and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. In like manner, the chalice also, after he had supped, saying: This is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you.

(Luk 22:19-20 DRB)
The point we need to look at here is that Jesus again is not using figurative language. He does not say the bread represents His body or that it is like His body - but that it IS His body. Likewise with the wine, it IS His blood not a figure of it. Our detractors will still insist He is using figurative language and go to other contexts where He clearly is using figurative speech, for example Jesus says, "I am the vine..." (John 15:1) or "I am the door..." (John 10:7), but in these contexts He is clearly using figurative speech. When He says, "I am the vine..." He goes on to make comparisons to us as being the branches and those who do not bare fruit He will cut off; this is figurative speech. When He says "I am the door..." He goes on to speak of us being the sheep and and robbers come to steal the sheep - but the sheep do not hear their voice, for He is the door and all who enter by Him will be saved. In this same context Jesus goes on to speak of being the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. Again, the figurative nature of this narrative is quite clear. When we compare that to the consecration of the bread and wine, there is no other speech around these statements to indicate a figurative nature. He simply declares the bread to BE His body and the wine to BE His blood - and it IS. For those who have true faith in what Jesus says, no further explanation is necessary; likewise, for those without the true faith - no explanation will suffice. Those who do not have the necessary faith here will continue to insist - even without contextual support - that Jesus is speaking figuratively here. But let's move on to what St. Paul had to say about the Eucharist.

St. Paul's Accounting of the Eucharist

First, let us look at St. Paul's words:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, And giving thanks, broke and said: Take ye and eat: This is my body, which shall be delivered for you. This do for the commemoration of me. In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood. This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come. Therefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.

(1Co 11:23-29 DRB)

In St. Paul's Letter to the Corinthians we see that the partaking of the Eucharist in an unworthy manner is a sin against the body and blood of the Lord - it is not a sin against bread or wine, for how can one offend bread or wine? What he is asking us to do is examine ourselves prior to approaching the Eucharist. This is why the Sacrament of Confession (aka: Penance or Reconciliation) is necessary prior to receiving the Eucharist if one has the stain of mortal sin on their soul. Our objectors here will state that the context does not mention mortal or venial sins - and we must agree, it does not; however, the context does speak of being "unworthy" to receive the Eucharist. The only thing which would make us unworthy to receive the body and blood of our Lord is mortal sin. So let me discuss that briefly next.

Mortal v. Venial Sin

We discuss this in the middle of a discussion on the Eucharist because of the fact that St. Paul warns us not to approach the Eucharist unworthily. So we must ask ourselves, what would make us unworthy? If one is in venial sin, that is offensive to God still - but does not separate one from the state of grace - or a state of salvation (those who die in the state of grace will be saved). However, mortal sin (a "sin which is unto death") does separate us from the state of grace. To approach the Sacrament of the Eucharist while not in the state of grace would be to do so unworthily. The first objection our detractors will have is that God does not distinguish sin, and that is simply not true.

He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask: and life shall be given to him who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death. For that I say not that any man ask. All iniquity is sin. And there is a sin unto death.
(1 John 5:16-17 DRB)

As you can see, St. John the Apostle clearly makes the case for a "sin unto death" in comparison to a "sin which is not to death." That is precisely the distinction Catholics speak of in mortal v. venial sins.

This takes us back to the point St. Paul was making about approaching the Eucharist and especially receiving it unworthily, and one who does so eats and drinks judgment unto their self for not discerning the body of the Lord. We must emphasize the point, the sin is in not realizing the body of the Lord. Consider that carefully. It is not a sin to eat bread and/or wine unworthily - but to partake in Eucharist unworthily brings upon one's self the judgment of the Lord - and why? For not recognizing the Eucharist IS His body and blood. For one to knowingly in a state of mortal sin and approach and receive the Eucharist it would be a denial of the body and blood of Christ - for what true Christian would dare bring the body and blood of the Lord into such an unworthy vessel?

In Conclusion

So as to not get too long and "preachy" in this letter, I will close now with a summary of the points.

Catholics do not view the Eucharist as a "cracker" - and hopefully those reading this will respect our faith and our own feelings to not make reference to something we hold so reverently as a simple "cracker." Catholics have faith in the words of our Lord that what He said was absolutely true, the bread IS His body and the wine IS His blood which was shed for us. Partaking in the Eucharist fulfills the command He repeated many times in John 6 demanding we eat His flesh and drink His blood or we have no life in us. Realizing that the Eucharist IS the body and blood of our Lord, we do not approach the Sacrament unworthily - but examine ourselves first and if necessary seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance/Confession) prior to receiving the Eucharist so that we do not incur the judgment for not discerning the body and blood of our Lord.