R. Sungenis: About once a week a Protestant will send CAI challenges to our email address. Usually I give them a few quick answers and never here from them again. Sometimes they are persistent. This time it was "Darrel." He didn't refer to me as "Robert," even after about 4 exchanges, although I always called him Darrel. Darrel was particularly interesting. I've never seen such a myopic view of Scripture in such a long time, let alone the fact that nothing I said got a real reaction. He would just come back with the same words the next time he contacted me. It was like talking to a robot. During this exchange, Darrel had a bad habit of using the words "only" or "alone" whenever he described Scripture or Faith. I kept asking him, "Darrel, what version of the Bible are you using, because mine doesn't have those adjectives before Scripture or Faith?" At one point I think he had eight "alone-type" qualifiers in his paragraph. Darrel, of course, would never answer the question, so I told him that the conversation was over. You'll enjoy this.
Darrel: Dear Sir,
In Romans it says, "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight . . . " (Rom. 3:20), and "for we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law," (Rom. 3:28), and "For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'" (Rom. 4:3), and "Therefore, having been justified by faith . . . " (Rom. 5:1), and "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).
In James it says, "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone," (James 2:24) and " . . . so also faith without works is dead," (James 2:26).
Which is it? Are we justified by faith or by works?
Does the Bible Contradict Itself?
It is a fundamental Christian belief that we are justified by faith. Justification means that God declares a sinner to be righteous. He does this by crediting, by reckoning the righteousness of Jesus to the sinner. This is done by faith. That is, when the sinner puts his faith in the sacrifice of Jesus and trusts in Him and not himself for righteousness, then God justifies him. "And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," (Rom. 4:3). But, if the Bible teaches that we are justified by faith, does it also teach we are justified by works as James seems to say? Do we have a contradiction? The answer is no.
Context is Everything
It is erroneous to take a verse, read it without its context, and then attempt to develop a doctrine from that verse alone. Therefore, let's take a look at the context of James 2:24 which says that a man is justified by works. James chapter 2 has 26 verses: Verses 1-7 instruct us to not show favoritism. Verses 8- 13 are comments on the Law. Verses 14-26 are about the relationship between faith and works.
For simplicity, I've summarized each verse and arranged the section in an outline style.
14 - What use is it if someone says he has faith but no works?
15 - If you see someone in need
16 - and you don't give him what he needs, but say, ‘Go in peace, be warmed.' What use is that?
17 - therefore faith with no works is dead
18 - therefore, someone says "I will show you my faith by my works."
19 - you believe in God? Good. The demons do too.
20 - faith without works is useless.
21 - Abraham was justified by works when he offered Isaac
22 - faith was working with his works.
23 - Scripture says, "And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"
24 - you see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.
25 - Rahab, was justified by works
26 - faith without works is dead
Notice that James begins this section by using the example of someone who says he has faith, verses 14. He then immediately gives an example of what true and false faiths are. He begins with the negative and demonstrates what an empty faith is (verses 15-17). Then he shows that that type of faith isn't much different from the faith of demons (verse 19). Finally, he gives examples of living faith by showing Abraham and Rahab as examples of people who demonstrated their faith by their deeds.
James is examining two kinds of faith: one that leads to godly works and one that does not. One is true, and the other is false. One is dead, the other alive; hence, "Faith without works is dead," (James 2:20).
This is why in the middle of his section on faith and works, he says in verse 19, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." James says this because the demons believe in God, that is, they have faith, but the faith they have is useless. It does not result in appropriate works. Their faith is only a mental acknowledgment of God's existence.
Ascentia and Fiducia
Two words are worth introducing here: ascentia and fiducia. Ascentia is the mental ascent, the mental acknowledgment of something's existence. The demons acknowledge and believe that God exists. Fiducia is more than mental acknowledgment. It involves a trust in something, a giving over to it, a complete believing and acceptance of something. This is the kind of faith that a Christian has in Christ. A Christian, therefore, has fiducia; that is, he has real faith and trust in Christ, not simply an acknowledgment that He lived on earth at one time. Another way to put this is that there are many people in the world who believed that Jesus lived: ascentia. But they do not believe that He is their savior, the one to be looked to and trusted for the forgiveness of their sins.
Ascentia does not lead to works. Fiducia does. Ascentia is not of the heart. Fiducia is.
What is James Saying?
James is simply saying that if you ‘say' you are a Christian, then there had better be some appropriate works manifested or your faith is false. This sentiment is echoed in 1 John 2:4 which says, "If you say you have come to know Him, yet you do not keep His commandments, then the truth is not in you and you are a liar."
Apparently, there were people who were saying they were Christians, but were not manifesting any of the fruit of Christianity. Can this faith justify? Can the dead ‘faith' that someone has which produces no change in a person and no good works before men and God be a faith that justifies? Absolutely not. It is not merely enough to say you believe in Jesus. You must actually believe and trust in Him. If you actually do, then you will demonstrate that faith by a changed and godly life. If not, then your profession is of no more value than the same profession of demons: "We believe Jesus lived."
Notice that James actually quotes the same verse that Paul uses to support the teaching of justification by faith in Rom. 4:3. James 2:23 says, "and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.'" If James was trying to teach a contradictory doctrine of faith and works than the other New Testament writers, then he would not have used Abraham as an example.
Therefore, we are justified by faith. That is, we are made righteous in the eyes of God by faith as is amply demonstrated by Romans. However, that faith, if it is true, will result in deeds appropriate to salvation. After all, didn't God say in Eph. 2:8-10, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
R. Sungenis : Darrel, I suggest you pick up a copy of my book, Not By Faith Alone, for it answers all the questions you raise above, and much more. You can purchase it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble on the web. God be with you.
Darrel: Dear Sir,
How can it by faith + something else when the Bible says that we are saved by faith Acts 16:31.
R. Sungenis : Because Acts 16:31 is not the only verse in the Bible, nor the only verse that speaks to the requirements of salvation. Moreover, if you look closer at Acts 16:31-34 you will see that Baptism was required for the jailer's salvation, thus you have faith + Baptism, which is precisely what the Catholic Church has taught for 2000 years, since that is precisely what Scripture teaches (cf., Acts 3:28-29; Rom 6:1-4; 1Pet 3:21).
Darrel: Dear Sir,
This passage in Acts 16:31 does not say that the jailer was required to be baptized in order to be saved. It does say though that if he would believe he would be saved. Then after he was saved he was baptized but it does not say that, after he had faith and was baptized, he was saved. It says that if he "believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ", that he then would be saved. Saved first, then baptized, this is the order in the NT.
No one has ever or ever will be saved through their water baptism. The only thing that saves us is faith John 3:16-19,36; 6:47; Eph 2:8-9.
R. Sungenis : Darrel, you are sincerely mistaken, and that is because you read the Bible by selecting only the verses that speak of one aspect of what is needed for salvation. Unfortunately for you, you won't find the words "faith alone" in the Bible. The only time the phrase appears is when the Bible negates the idea that one can be saved by faith alone (James 2:24). The above verses (John 3:16-19,36; 6:47; Eph 2:8-9) certainly require faith, but none of them say faith alone. But as Catholics, we already know that faith is required. Unlike you, however, we read the rest of the Bible and find that other things, such as good works, love and Baptism are also required. When you read the Bible I suggest you read all of it.
As for the jailer, Acts 2:38 already told us that Baptism is required for salvation ("And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit"), and thus in Acts 16:31-34, Peter is merely following his own words by baptizing the jailer.
If you don't want to believe it, that's your choice.
Darrel: Dear Sir,
We do not find the words trinity in the Bible but the concept is clearly taught. That is why I say faith alone for nothing else is needed for salvation but faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
R. Sungenis : Still trying to use the tired old "Trinity" argument? It's not going to work here, since the Bible let's you know that the word "alone" is used as a qualifier of whether faith is alone or not alone. James 2:24 shows you that the word "alone" is necessary and relevant when needed. So unless you want to jetison the book of James, you're stuck with how the Bible defines its own terms. In addition, Paul knew what the word "alone" meant. He used it seven times in the very passages under discussion (Romans 3:29; 4:12, 16, 23; Gal 2:10; 3:2; 4:18), yet he never thought to add it to the word "faith." There must be a reason for that, since James doesn't hesitate to add it to "faith" in James 2:24. The reason Paul doesn't say "faith alone" in Romans 3:28 is that the only thing he is eliminating from faith for justification is "works of the law," not works that are not under the law.
Darrel: Dear Sir,
The reason we use the term Trinity because it is the best word to use to describe what the Bible teaches. Jesus is as much God as God the Father is God. The Jew are fiercely monotheistic and when Jesus said that He and the Father are "one" In John 10:30 they knew what He meant. Jesus was saying that He was one in purpose with God and was God. John 1:1 ,14 tells us hat Jesus is God for He is the Word made flesh.
R. Sungenis: Yes, I know all that, Darrel. What I was trying to tell you, however, was that you can't use "The word Trinity is not in the Bible" argument when it comes to whether faith is alone or not alone for justification. The reason is that the Bible DOES use the word "alone" when it speaks about justification and how to understand it. James 2:24 says "man is justified by works and not by faith alone."
Now that we know that the Bible considers the word "alone" crucial in this discussion, this means that if we don't see it used when Paul says "by faith a man is justified" then we cannot conclude that Paul means "faith alone."
Darrel: Dear Sir,
The Bible says in Acts 16:31 that when a person believes on name of the Lord Jesus Christ he is saved. John 3:16, 36; John 6:47 also says that same thing. There is nothing else needed for salvation but faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
R. Sungenis : Darrel, we agree the Bible requires faith for salvation. What we don't agree on is your insistence that these are the only verses in Scripture that give us the prescription on how to be saved. The glory of the Catholic Church is that she looks at ALL of what the Bible says. Until if and when you see that, we will never agree.
Darrel: Now for an answer to the James passage. Please remember that James does not tell us all that is involved in faith.
Lets us look at both Romans and James. In Romans justification before God is taught, which is by faith only: Rom 4:5-6
5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
James does not say that our works justify us before God; such are not needed before an omniscient God, for He sees the faith of the heart, which man does not see.
R. Sungenis : No, Darrel, James does, indeed, say that works justify us. This is what he says in James 2:24: "You see a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." What part of that do you find difficult to understand? You claim that Paul is so clear as you quote his verses, but when it comes to James you suddenly get a case of "it doesn't say what it appears to say." Not very convincing, Darrel.
Darrel: It is in exercise with regard to Him, by trust in His Word, in Himself, by receiving His testimony in spite of everything within and without - this is true faith God sees and knows. But when our fellow-men ask, show me, then that faith shows itself by works. It is our justification before man.
R. Sungenis : No, it's not justification before man, because God was the only one witnessing Abraham's attempted sacrifice of Isaac. It was for God alone to see. In fact, Abraham told the two men who were with him to wait at the bottom of the mountain while he went to sacrifice Isaac. Moreover, it was the angel, speaking for God, which said to Abraham: "Now I know that you fear me." Looks like God wanted to see Abraham's fear, and that fear is what justified him.
Darrel: To the point, please remember James is not telling us how to be saved in his Epistle. Rather he is addressing people who are already saved as the word "Brethren" in 1:2 would reference too.
R. Sungenis : Agreed, but you're forgetting one thing. James would then be telling them how to KEEP their salvation, warning them that if they don't do the works they will lose their salvation. That is why he says in verse 14: "Can the faith save him?" If the Christian passes up the man on the street who needs food and clothing, then he sins and could lose his salvation because of that sin, since he refuses to add works to his faith
Darrel: There is no mention of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the need to place our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The gospel is just not found in this letter.
R. Sungenis : The Gospel is not found in this letter?? Perhaps you want to take that up with Jesus who talked more about doing good works for our salvation than James did (Matthew 5:1-48; 16:27; 12:36-37; 25:14-46; John 5:28-29, and many, many more).
Darrel: What James is talking about, and this is very important to remember, is those who say that they are saved should manifest their faith to others with good works. It does no good to say that you are saved and then don't show it. Man needs to see what God already knows is true. If there is no evidence of salvation, our good works, man then will doubt if that person is really saved and rightly so. But this does not mean that if there are no good works that that professing Christian is not saved. We are not saved by our good works. Eph 2:8-9.
R. Sungenis : Sorry, Darrel, your position doesn't make sense. You say that works are needed to show someone is saved, but then you turn around and say: "But this does not mean that if there are no good works that that professing Christian is not saved." You can't have it both ways. Incidentally, Eph 2:8-9 does not say "good works," but "works." As I told you yesterday, the "works" that don't save are those which are done under the system of law ("works of law" -- Romans 3:28), but good works done from grace do, indeed, save, and that is why Paul goes on to say: " For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
Darrel: We cannot see their heart only God can. We have every right though to question that person about his faith and if he believes we leave his eternal destiny in God's hands. But is good works or fruit follows fantastic. That is what should take place.
R. Sungenis : Yes, God sees their heart. But he also saw Abraham's heart, but still wanted him to sacrifice Isaac. So it doesn't really matter what God "sees in the heart." It only matters, according to God Himself, whether the faith and works are both present in the individual. If one is absent, there is no salvation.
Darrel: Dear Sir,
If I must I will try it a different way. All that God asks us to do in order to be saved is believe. Acts 16:31; John 3:16; 36; John 6:47 are just a few verses to support this idea.
R. Sungenis : No, Darrel, that is not "ALL" God asks us to do. Merely asserting something is not going to prove it. The word "ALL" is not used in those verses. If you have a version of the Bible that says "ALL that God wants us to do is believe," I can assure you it is specious and spurious.
Darrel: Please remember that salvation is a work of God for man, rather than a work of man for God. No aspect of salvation is made to depend on human merit or works no matter how slight they may be.
R. Sungenis : I never said we "merit" anything with God. Read my posts. I said we work under God's grace. You don't get paid anything when you work under grace. You only get what the benefactor freely gives you from his kindness.
Darrel: The word “gospel,” both noun and verb occurs 132 times in the New Testament. The word “repent,” with its noun and verb occurs only 58 times. But the word “faith,” both noun and verb forms occurs 492 times.
Faith assumes knowledge or recognition of some information. Before we can believe or have faith in anything we must know about it. Romans 10:14 says, “”How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” Again, in Acts 18:8; Eph. 1:13; the Bible put hearing before believing. So faith presupposes knowledge.
If faith then presupposes knowledge, what must a person need to know? If one were to look up all the times “believe” and “faith” are used in the New Testament to see what a person must know about Christ, you will find four things:
1. Jesus Christ is God, John 20:31.
2. He is a real man, 1John 4:2.
3. He died for mans sins, Rom. 3:25.
4. He rose from the dead, Rom. 10:9.
The New Testament declares the last two facts as the gospel and the one believing it will be saved. This one word “believe” represents all that a sinner must have to be saved.
R. Sungenis : What Bible verse says, "believe represents all that a sinner must have to be saved"? You keep injecting words like "alone" and "all" and "only" in verses that speak of "believing," but the Bible I have doesn't contain those adjectives or adverbs. What version are you using?
Darrel: It is believing the record that God has given to us about His Son. God could have chosen any word in any language he wished to express what a person must do to be saved. He chose the Greek word pisteuo, “believe,” and pistis, “faith,” and he used them emphatically. The Gospel of John, the one New Testament book written to get people saved, pisteuo occures ninety-nine times while the word metauoeo, repent does not occur at all.
R. Sungenis : Darrel, if this is the best at biblical exegesis you can produce, no wonder you can't discover the truth. It doesn't matter whether John uses the word "repent" in his Gospel. Not only does John use similar terms and concepts, the New Testament mentions repentance as a requirement for salvation over 60 times, including the verse I gave you yesterday about Baptism, Acts 2:38: "And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Come to think of it, Darrel, you don't see the word "faith" in that verse do you? So are you going to conclude that "faith" is not required for salvation?
Darrel: Also, in Romans, Paul’s most extensive work on salvation, he used only one word faith. The 4th chapter of Romans is given to the subject. There are other words used for what a sinner must do to be saved. “Look,” “come,” “call,” and others are employed, but these are used as synonyms for faith.
R. Sungenis : Try Romans 2:6-8: "For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury."
Darrel: If a person does not understand what it is to believe then they are not ready to be saved. In Matt. 13:13-16 Jesus taught that if people did not understand they could not be saved.
R. Sungenis : That's right, Darrel. And by the looks of it, you don't understand what it means "to believe," since you keep insisting that all the Bible requires is faith when it never says that. You are not believing the Bible; you are believing what either you or someone told you erroneously concluded from your own mind.
Darrel: Many presentations of the gospel are thus misstated in various in subtle ways. Here is a list of just a few:
1. It is a most serious error to add any kind of human works as a requirement to be saved (Eph. 2:8-10).
R. Sungenis : Where does Eph 2:8-9 say "any kind" of works, Darrel?? You have a nasty habit of adding words to the Bible to prove your theology. Unfortunately for you, the Bible doesn't use any of those adjectives to describe works.
Darrel: 2. It is also wrong to give the unsaved the impression that there is any saving virtue in promising to “lead the Christian life.”
R. Sungenis : Then perhaps you can explain Jesus' statement to the Pharisees: "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Or his statement in Matthew 16:27: "For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done."
Darrel: 3. A person is not saved because he prays. Many people pray who are not saved. In no scripture is salvation conditioned on asking or praying. Faith in the Savior and His finished work on the cross is all that is required.
R. Sungenis : Unfortunately, Darrel, you are using those uninvited qualifiers again. Where does the Bible use the clause "ALL that is required" when it is speaking of the Savior and the salvation he offers? Your version of the Bible seems to be adding a lot of words that my version doesn't have.
Darrel: 4. No person is saved by seeking the Lord. In Isaiah 55:6 it is said to Israel “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found,” but in the New Testament we are told to believe only for salvation. It is the Son who came to “seek and save that which is lost”.
R. Sungenis : Where is the word "only" found in the New Testament when it speaks of the requirements of salvation? The only place (pardon the pun) that Scripture uses the word "only" in reference to salvation is in James 2:24 where it says "man is justified by works and not by faith alone." Read the Bible, Darrel. It is the basis for the Christian faith.
Darrel: 5. It is wrong to require repentance for sin as a preliminary act preceding or separate from personal faith in Christ. Repentance is included in believing and can not be separate from it. Repentance and faith are married like husband and wife or Siamese twins. When repentance occurs alone it includes faith. When faith occurs alone it implies repentance. They cannot be separate.
R. Sungenis : What verse in the Bible teaches this novel theology?
Darrel: 6. No scripture requires confession of sin as a condition of salvation. 1 John 1:8-9 is given to the believer only and is the condition for the restoration of the fellowship that has been lost with God because of sin.
R. Sungenis : There you go again, Darrel, using that word "only"! That's eight times that your version of the Bible uses the word "only" that mine does not use it.
Darrel: 7. No passage states or even implies that a sinner is saved by asking Jesus to come into his heart or life. Frequently Revelation 3:20 is used to support this ides of asking. But the context of the verse show otherwise. The passage is from the letter written to the church of Laodicea. Verses 15-17 the Lord talks about their condition. Verses 18-20 He offers His counsel. Their condition is that they are lukewarm verse 17. To be lukewarm is to be half-hearted Christians. Note very carefully that the subject is not their salvation but works or service. Also, note carefully that the letter is written to believers.
R. Sungenis : Yes, and believers who can lose their salvation if they don't maintain their faith and obedience in the Christian faith. For example, the Church of Sardis is told:
"Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels."
And you should probably read Hebrews 6:1-6 and 10:26-31 for good measure.
Darrel: To be saved all that is need it for the lost sinner to place his faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and nothing else, for his salvation. Nothing is to be added to faith in order to be saved. Not baptism, nor repentance as a separate act from faith, nor any form of good works, nor confession of Christ publically nor any other thing added to faith will saved us. That is why we are saved by faith alone.
R. Sungenis : Darrel, let me count up the qualifying adjectives and adverbs you add to Scripture in your short little paragraph: "all" one time; "nothing" two times; "not" one time; "nor" four times; and "alone" one time. That's nine words in your Bible that are not in mine. Would you mind telling us what Scripture verse uses any of these qualifies when it is telling us what is required for salvation? I can save you the time, Darrel, there aren't any.
Darrel, I suggest you go back and read the Bible and cease giving us your robotic and coached answers. You don't know the Bible, and that is because you have separated yourself from the Church that produced it. It is repentance that you need to bring into your life, because without it you will be teaching the same heresy the rest of your life.
Thank you for the dialogue. It has been productive for our Catholic patrons, as they usually are.
God be with you.