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quod pro nobis traditum est

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another look at "faith alone"

"Faith alone" is a theological delineation in the debates over salvation. Usually, the argument goes, faith saves and nothing else, especially good works, so that no one can boast. It is not hard to see how this approach may lead to apathy toward and possible attacks on good works (anti-nomianism). Among some I even sense a fear that if they do good works they will LOSE their salvation. This is the sin more so that grace may abound approach.

Ironically, applying this "slogan", for lack of a better word, might put my confirmation verse in jeopardy. Galatians 2:20 not only says I, or the person in Christ, do good works but those works are Christ's works, Him living in the believer. Is it possible that an attack on good works might also be an attack on the believer and/or Christ or both? (an anti-Christ?). In defense of "faith alone" the emphasis is meant to be on Christ and His salvation as a gift which is received through faith. In other words, Christ saves and faith receives His salvation.

Still the "alone" part gives pause. The readings for Quinquagesima draw this to light. For example, the Apostle writes, "if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." In the Gospel the blind man cries out to Jesus, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." When Jesus heals him he says to him, ""Receive your sight; your faith has made you well."

On the one hand one may move mountains with faith and still turn out to be nothing. The blind man has faith and is healed. Yet this faith is not "alone". In the Epistle, love makes the one who can move mountains who is nothing into something or somebody. In the Gospel, Jesus gives sight to the blind man who has faith.

There is no dichotomy between Christ and His works or between faith and good works. They all may be summed up in that which is the greatest of the virtues. This is not a sentimental sort of thing. He is the one who makes something out of nothing, our life and salvation. With Him our faith is never alone and those who do good are not boasting in themselves.