Conclusion


As there is little more that could be added to this indictment of the unbiblical notions of sola fide, merely imputed righteousness, and eternal security, it seems appropriate to conclude this essay with a few more points and some additional material for reflection.

There is evidence that two of the "pillars" of the Church, Sts. Peter and James (Gal. 2:9) were seeking to properly interpret Paulís epistles. Peter noted that he was writing of the "same things" that Paul did (2 Pet. 3:14) while emphasizing the importance of supplementing oneís faith with many virtues and also the necessity of active charity to complete oneís faith. James on the other hand never mentions Paul at all by name but there is evidence that he sought to provide a proper interpretation of Romans 2-4 in his epistle. This position is supported by two factors. The first is that James (like Peter) wrote his epistle AFTER Paul wrote his epistles. Second, the themes addressed in James and Romans respectively are so similar. Note the following parallels between the two epistles.
 

There are obvious parallels between the arguments by St James (Chapter 2) and those by St Paul (Romans 3&4). Christians must be doers of the law not just hearers (James 1:22; Romans 2:13). The relationship between justification, faith, and works is discussed (James 2; Romans 3). Abraham is called upon as an example (James 2:21; Romans 4). Both texts quote Genesis 15:6 (James 2:23; Romans 4:3). It is also generally acknowledged that Romans was written before James.

The obvious conclusion is that James was written in part to respond to erroneous interpretations of Romans that were circulating at that time. These erroneous interpretations were probably much like those of Luther. We know that there were some problematic interpreters of St Paul during the NT era (2Pet 3:15-16; Acts 21:20). Consequently, James was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to GUIDE the Church's understanding of St Paul's Epistle to the Romans. St James was therefore intending to use the same meaning for justification as St Paul was though his definition of works was different. St Paul was speaking about "works of the law." St James was speaking about works of mercy. [1]


It could also be pointed out that James 2:1 and 2:9 speak of how we should not show partiality towards persons because God does not do this (see Rom. 3:22ff). The parallels between the epistle of James and the epistle to the Romans in chapters two through four are quite obvious actually but it involves reading passages in proper context to understand this. Unfortunately, Protestants who espouse sola fide theology never do this; thus they misunderstand completely how important works are in an active capacity in completing our justification. Thus the warning of St. Peter about how misinterpreting the writings of St. Paul (and the other Scriptures) leading to the destruction of the "ignorant and unstable" who err in this manner should be a sobering meditation for those who claim that they are "guaranteed salvation", "saved by faith alone", or that they are merely "imputed the righteousness of Christ".

And it is also worth noting that this is hardly an observation that is lost on reputable Protestant scholars:

The essential feature of the Reformation doctrines of justification is that a deliberate and systematic distinction is made between justification and regeneration. Although it must be emphasised that this distinction is purely notional, in that it is impossible to separate the two within the context of the ordo salutis, the essential point is that a notional distinction is made where none had been acknowledged before in the history of Christian doctrine. A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into western theological tradition where none had ever existed, or ever been contemplated, before. The Reformation understanding of the nature of justificationóas opposed to its modeómust therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum. [2]


The dichotomous mentality that was present in Protestant doctrines on justification permeate their entire worldview. Space does not allow for this premise to be demonstrated in other venues but with justification it has been more then amply substantiated. Indeed, this essay in analyzing most of the sections of Scripture pertinent to the justification controversy demonstrates --and using the words of Scripture in context to do it -- that (i) sola fide is unbiblical (ii) "eternal security" is unbiblical and (iii) we are not merely imputed righteousness of Christ. Instead, we are (i) justified by faith that worketh by charity (ii) we are not "guaranteed salvation" in the sense that it is impossible for someone regenerated in Christ to be lost and (iii) we are made righteous through the merits of Our Lord. Either these are true or else the Apostle Paul and the other teachers in the Scriptures wrote a bunch of meaningless drivel in saying that we could fall away. Finally, our works do play an active role in our justification when the individual is a part of the covenant of grace and in what Catholics call "a state of grace" (or right relationship to God). This is a state that can be forfeited through serious sin. Fortunately, because we are justified by grace alone, we can repent and be restored as an adopted son of the Father and not treated as the criminals that we would be liable to be treated as under the law or any form of judgment that makes God a debtor to us.

A lot of Scripture has been used in this essay. (Indeed about 70% of this essay is Scriptural passages alone.) The primary intention was to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. When this is done there is absolutely no way that the doctrine of sola fide invented by century Church dissidents can be said to have any foundation in Scripture at all. Nor does the concept of a merely imputed righteousness have any viability since it is Hellenistic in origen and is an alien concept to the Hebrew mindset. This folly was demonstrated when showing the parallels to the wisdom literature in the OT as well as other OT passages that show the Hebrew view of thoughts and actions being one and the same. As this is a concept that is central to the entire justification dispute, let us end this essay with a reflection on that oft-overlooked theme from the Scriptures.

To the ancient Hebrews, if you were considered righteous then there was no equivocation involved: you were viewed as righteous. If you were considered evil, again this judgment was a concrete one: you were a reprobate. There was none of this fancy lying where we say someone is something, which they are not. Words mean things. To the Hebrews, a soul was not something you possessed but instead was something that you were. Your thoughts and actions were one as your body and soul were: these were all knit together. With the exception of Luke's Gospel and Acts, the entire Bible was written by Jews. (And Luke though a Gentile was heavily influenced by the Apostle Paul.) Further still, Our Lord and the Apostles were all devout Jews. Therefore, why would they talk about such alien concepts of separating body and spirit, thoughts and actions, and declaring people righteous who were not truly righteous??? The Gnostic split dividing matter from spirit, body from soul, thoughts from actions is unbiblical and completely alien to the view of the Hebrews. Remember the wisdom literature from earlier:

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies; for he is like one who is inwardly reckoning. "Eat and drink!" he says to you; but his heart is not with you. 

He who says to the wicked, "You are innocent," will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations.
The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a manís mind. [3]
Our Lord would not contradict His very essence and claim that we were righteous if we really were not especially since Scripture itself condemns this very notion. Our Lord and the biblical authors would never claim that faith was not a part of one's justification and an active part since to the Jew there was no separation between thoughts and actions. It was left to the Gnostic/Nominalist influenced Protestant so-called "reformers" to import alien concepts into the Bible where they do not exist to justify their disobedience to the Church of the Living God and thus to God Himself (Numbers 16; Jude 1:8-19; Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16; John 13:20). For as this essay has demonstrated, Our Lord did not contradict Himself and the Apostles (including Paul) wrote nothing about sola fide,  a merely imputed righteousness, or "eternal security." Nor did they write about the Calvinist doctrine of "total depravity." These were instead invented by the Protestant so-called "reformers" and buttressed by Scripture "prooftexts" torn from proper context to twist them to say what the so-called "reformers" wanted them to. Yes as bad as this is going to sound, it can hardly be sugared up to not sound offensive but it must be said and said bluntly.

The so-called "reformers" were not reformers at all but deformers. They were false prophets and lying teachers who brought in sects of perdition (2 Pet. 2:1). This writer implores the readers who adhere to these manmade cults to abandon the unbiblical man-made doctrines of sola fide, eternal security, and a mere imputed righteousness. Obey instead the Scriptures and what they clearly say. The Scriptures are clear that we are not justified by "faith alone" (James 2:24-26). Instead a faith which works through charity. (Matt. 7:21; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:43-49; John 3:21; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; James 2:21ff; 1 John 3:7; 4:12,16; Jude 1:20-21; 1 Cor. 3:13-15; Phil. 2:13; Gal. 5:6; Heb. 4:11-14.) In other words we are justified by faith working in love or by God performing meritorious acts of charity using us as His instruments. (Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 4:24; Luke 6:46-49; John 3:21; 1 Pet 1:22-23; James 2:21-23; 1 John 4:15-17; Eph. 2:10; Phil. 2:13; Gal. 2:20.)

Thus like Our Lord who was fully man and fully God, the works of charity are meritorious because they are God's works. However, at the same time they are ours as they are done in God. And as charity "is patient, is kind...envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own" (1 Cor 13:4-5), these are works which by their very nature exclude any boasting of any kind. For if that happens, they cease to be works of charity and become solely our own. And if that happens, they are not works which justify but instead become works which condemn.

All of this is very clear in the Scriptures if they are read without "reformation coloured glasses" on. And Scripture is God breathed so since God said it, believe it. If you refuse to then, then you have no business even calling yourself a Christian as you would be erecting idols of your own and thus making void the Word of God for the sake of your unbiblical manmade traditions (Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:6-9; Mark 7:6-7).
 

Bibliography:

[1] Dr. Art Sippo: From his writing "Justified By Works and Not By Faith Alone" (c. 2000)

[2] Alister McGrath: "Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, the Beginnings to the Reformation" (quote courtesy of David Armstrong)

[3] Proverbs 17:15 (RSV), Proverbs 23:6-7 (RSV), Proverbs 24:24 (RSV) Sirach 27:6 (RSV)

Other Notes:

The citation from Dr. Art Sippo was taken from "Justified By Works and Not Faith Alone" and located at the following link: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/3517/sippo/works.htm

The Scripture citations unless otherwise noted were taken from an online Douay-Rheims Bible that is similar in many ways to the online Douay-Rheims Bible located at the following link: http://www.scriptours.com/bible/

The citation from Alister McGrath was taken from his work "Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, the Beginnings to the Reformation" Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 186-187.

The Scripture citations from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible were obtained at the following link:
http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/rsv.browse.html

For these subjects as handled in a debate format, there is an excellent audio debate on the topic at the following link: http://www.straitgate.com/jwas.ram

©2003, 2000, "Justification by Faith Working in Love", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.
 
 

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