Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Faith Alone is Dead!

Does salvation come by way of faith alone and not by any works associated with faith? This was the fundamental question raised by the magisterial reformers, who tried to separate themselves from a meritorious kind of salvation propagated by the medieval Roman Church. The reformers answered- Yes, salvation is by “faith alone” and not by works.  The reason they answered this way was partially because they understood that human merit held no weight before God. Once we have done all that is right, all we could say is “I am an unprofitable servant.” Nevertheless, to reduce the cause of salvation down to faith alone, actually misrepresents the faith once and for all given to the saints. Why? Because, faith is given by God and exists for no other reason than for the accomplishment divine works which save (heal us). In fact, the scriptures only use the phrase faith alone once, and it does so in a very negative way.
“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (Ja 2: 24)

What is this faith? The simplest definition comes to us from the scripture. In the book of Hebrews, where  we read:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11: 1)

In short, it is a hope and conviction in the heart about the goodness and loving-kindness of God. The rest of the chapter goes on to describe what this faith (assurance and conviction) produces. It tells us that by this assurance and conviction those of old understood the words of God, made offerings to God, worked to build the Ark, left everything behind to sojourn in land of promise, etc… In short, faith is that work of God in the heart that convinces the mind to do all that is needed to please God.  

By definition, faith cannot be alone. It is the fuel for the human accomplishment of divine works that heal the human malady, and which therefore please God.  This does not mean that the divine works that faith produces are in any way meritorious or legally satisfactory. Not at all - that is a medieval invention of the scholastics.  In fact, these works fueled by  faith are therapeutic, transformative, and restorative; they humble our will and make us into the image of God (deify). Salvation surely requires faith, without it shall no one be saved (Heb 11: 6). However, this is so because faith is the one thing that enables the divine works that God the Spirit does through us to change us into his image.

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I comprehend that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”  Acts 10:34-35

The sooner that “faith alone” is stricken from Western Christian’s vocabulary, the better. The sooner it is made clear that faith is the very means to the saving (healing) works of God in us, the better.

* Please note, the works born of faith are not one and the same ‘the works of the law’. Whenever the bible speaks of dead works, works of the law, or non-saving (healing) works, it is referring to works of the Torah done out of ethnic duty and not out of faith for the sake of transformation. 

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