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How to Answer Protestants Forum: defense of faith + works

by Catherine Frakas 26 Aug 2002

defense of faith + works QUESTION from Andy August 24, 2001 I am presently in dialogue with my wife who has left the Catholic church to join a evangelical church established by former Catholics. She protests my contention that it is by faith and works that we will recieve our justification and our place in heaven. She states that Jesus's death and resurection is His free gift to those who believe and have faith in Him. She cites Ephesians 2:9, Romans 10:7 - 10, 13 as biblical evidence of faith alone will save you.
These sections seem to back up her statement, can you help clarify this?

ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on August 27, 2001 Dear Andy:
First, my prayers go out to you and especially to your wife and those other ex-Catholics who never bothered to learn the Church's true teachings before they rejected Her. [In their defense, most were never taught authentic Catholic faith properly, though that is never an excuse for remaining ignorant of the Truth.]
The passages your wife uses are indeed focused on denying that we can earn our way into Heaven. Without faith in the free gift of salvation, nothing we do has any merit in the Kingdom of God.
The problem is that most Protestants take St. Paul out of context here (and most everywhere else) and assume that since Paul says faith is required, faith alone is required. This is a big leap and it takes you right out of Scripture and into fiction! St. Paul is correcting the notion prevailent in the Ancient world (both Jewish and pagan) that one could attain Heaven (or Olympus) through strict adherence to principles. Paul shows us that we rely totally on God for the gift, and nothing we do can earn it.
That being said, our Protestant friends never seem to be able to adequately explain James 2 (read the whole book, it is only 5 chapters). St. James tells us VERY clearly that faith is just the starting point, and that:

You must perceive that a person is justified by his works and not by faith alone. Rahab the harlot will illustrate the point. Was she no justified by her works when she harbored the messengers and sent them out by a different route? Be assured, then, that faith without works is as dead as a body without breath. James 2:24-26
It was this passage, the only one in Scripture where faith and alone are used together, that caused Martin Luther to want to through Jimmy into the fire along with other books of the New Testament (Hebrews, Jude, & Revelation). He wanted to remove these from the Canon of Scripture like he removed the 7 books from the Old Testament. This was because these parts of Scripture were inconsistent with his ideas on salvation and the Church and he placed himself as the authority over Scripture rather than obey the Authority established by Christ.
Besides, ask anyone who claims that faith alone saves and nothing else is necessary to read and comment on Jesus' description of the Last Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46). What is assumed is that all those who stand before the Throne have called Him Lord, Lord, but only those who treat the poor and rejected as representations of Him will enter eternal life.
The reality is this: Paul is right -- salvation is a free gift that we cannot earn -- and James is also right -- if we are not fruitful from the grace we receive, then we have not been saved. This is the paradox that Luther (and his modern followers who have left their Mother, the Church) couldn't reconsile. Many honest evangelicals are coming to realize that Luther was just wrong, though most don't (yet)recognize that the Catholic Church has always been right.
Pax Christi, Troy Martz

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