Monday, August 13, 2007

On Sola Fide and Canon

Xavier, a Catholic participant at the Bereans Forums, commented and questioned some things I stated regarding Sola Fide. Considering his post also implicates canon issues, I thought I would post it here. If there is a question of context, I would ask that the reader review the original thread found here What Sola Fide Is/Isn't
Xavier's comments will be in blue font and blockquote. Mine's comments remain as is. Citations are in green font and Scripture verses in brown. He states:

It is essential to point out why this statement is misleading.

1.Martin Luther who first defined Sola Fide never thought that works was essential for justification. This is why he had reservation about the canonicity of James. He exerted considerable effort to have James bracketed with the deuterocanonicals all because James was very clear about the role of works in justification.

The doctrine is justification by Faith alone not by Faith and acts of Faith alone.
You are misrepresenting Luther. There were other factors by which Luther judged the epistle of James, the first being that it was questioned in the early centuries of the Church (along with 2 Peter, Jude, Revelation, etc.). This is why he held Paul’s view regarding justification over James, of whom Luther thought put a great emphasis on works. The only “misleading” being done here is in your attempt to draw a conclusion by associating his criticism of James TO his views on Sola Fide. Luther recognized clearly that a faith that is alone is no true faith at all. Why else would he state…

“Faith 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’s Works 69:46, 20).

“Accordingly, if good works do not follow, it is certain that this faith in Christ does not dwell in our heart, but dead faith…” (Luther’s Works 34:111)

Again, all the way up to the time of the Reformation, the Catholic Church had no fixed canon and various views abounded as to what comprised canon. Contemporaries of Luther, such as Erasmus, who published the first Greek New Testament in 1516, questioned the canonicity of books such as James, Hebrews, 2 and 3 John, Revelation, etc. and cites Jerome as an authority. Cardinal Cajetan, the same who opposed Luther, in his Commentary on All the Authentic Historical Books of the Old Testament commends Jerome for separating the canonical from the uncanonical. We all know that Jerome excluded books which Trent later deemed “canonical.” Cajetan goes even further and brings up Jerome’s skepticism of the book of Hebrews. As Lutheran theologian J.A.O Preus II rightly states in his expository The New Testament Canon in the Lutheran Dogmaticians…

Thus, when Luther in 1522 published his German New Testament with its much-quoted strictures on Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation, he was re-echoing some rather common, though new, thinking of the period. In other words, if Trent had not condemned Luther, his views perhaps would have gone largely unnoticed. Luther rejected these books partly on the basis of historical precedent and partly on the basis of his own rather subjective criterion of canonicity, namely, their seeming lack of witness to Christ.

And then there was Cardlnal Ximenes who, in his Complutensian Polyglot Bible, distinguishes between the apocryphal and the canonical books. My whole point in telling you all this is to show you how you tend to isolate Luther and paint him into someone who would stop at nothing to promote a Sola Fide devoid of works, even at the cost of endorsing the “Luther hated James” straw man once again.

2.Faith alone and Faith that is not alone mutually excludes each other. If Faith
is taken with Charity and Hope, then it is not alone. Faith + Charity +Hope does
not equal Faith Alone. Faith + good works does not equal Faith Alone.

Once again, this is but semantics on your part. The Protestant position is that salvation comes by “faith alone.” That’s it! There is nothing to add to salvation. However, the salvation which comes via “faith alone” does NOT present itself empty, devoid of works. This salvation presents its legitimacy by the works which comes as a result of that salvation. It is a byproduct of true salvation. It is not “faith + good works” but faith alone which results in good works through Christ.

3. St James made it very clear that good works was not a result of justification
but that justification resulted from good works.
Where does James say that justification “results” from good works? You are evidently reading something into James that he isn’t saying, but we’ll see this as we go on.

James 2:21-24
21Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

22So you can see that his faith was working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did.

23In this way the scripture was fulfilled: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was considered as making him upright; and he received the name 'friend of God'.

24You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that someone is justified.

25There is another example of the same kind: Rahab the prostitute, was she not justified by her deeds because she welcomed the messengers and showed them a different way to leave?

As shown by James, Faith and Works are distinct but inseparable when it comes to salvation. And this is also taught by Paul who taught that God will give to each person according to what he has done.
It must be remembered that James is addressing “Christians’ who, evidently (from the context of the verse), aren’t helping brethren in need, but WHERE is James equating works to salvation? Especially in light of what other Scriptures say about “salvation” apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:5; Titus 3:5). Usually, it has been my experience to see Catholics isolating these verses FROM what Scripture states elsewhere, but here you divorce these verses from vss. 17-18 where James state very clearly…

Even so, if it does not have works, faith is dead, being by itself. But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith from my works.

Furthermore, preceding these verses, James speaks of the hypocrisy of saying one has faith, but fails to help their brethren when they are in need…

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and if one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them those things which are needful to the body, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)

Who is it that James is speaking to here? It is the church, to those who claim to be Christians. Given this fact, no, James is NOT saying that works “save.” These folks believe to be saved already. Neither is he saying that the equation of faith and works brings salvation. He is rebuking those who allow needy brethren to walk away in their need under the false superficial religiosity that only serves to disprove their faith. James is telling them the truth—it is “dead faith” to think that salvation exists in a vacuum, void of good works. The type of faith that leads to justification is evidenced by the works which proves this faith. Again, one cannot take verses out of their context and out of what Scripture states as a whole to make a case for their own biases.


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