Catholic apologist Scott Windsor popped into ProsApologian Chat last night. I actually recognized his nickname, “Big Scott” (I don’t think the others in the channel did). I came across this page from his website, and I asked him about it. Scott says,
One of the mainstays of Protestantism is the concept of “sola fide.” Two very straight-forward words which translated mean “faith alone.” The stand, foundationally started with Martin Luther, is in opposition to the Church's position that true “saving faith” is never alone. True “saving faith” is always accompanied by good works, the first and foremost of these works is believing. Believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is the foundational work of faith in our lives. That is the Catholic position. Now what Protestant really disagrees with this position? I am not aware of any, yet they have this “doctrine” of “sola fide!”
It should be noted that Luther believed “true ‘saving faith’ is never alone,” and “True ‘saving faith’ is always accompanied by good works.” “Faith,” wrote Luther, “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”[Roland Bainton, Here I Stand (New York: Mentor Books), 259.] Luther scholar Paul Althaus notes: “[Luther] also agrees with James that if no works follow it is certain that true faith in Christ does not live in the heart but a dead, imagined, and self-fabricated faith" [Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 246.] The book of James describes a real true faith in Christ: a real saving faith is a living faith. If no works are found in a person, that faith is a dead faith (c.f. James 2:17). James then describes a dead faith: the faith of a demon. A demon has faith that God exists, that Christ rose from the dead- I would dare say a demon knows theology better than you or I. But is the faith of this demon a saving faith? Absolutely not. Luther says, “Accordingly, if good works do not follow, it is certain that this faith in Christ does not dwell in our heart, but dead faith…”
Scott went on to revise his paper after I provided him with these quotes and a link to my paper, which goes into this in great detail. Of the first quote Scott says, “…this quote (which TQuid cited only a secondary source to a secondary source, not giving the primary source of the quote)…” . Yes, I cited a secondary source, Roland Bainton, who cited the primary source. Normally, I would not do this- however the evidence of Luther’s position on this is overwhelming, and I liked the way the quote was phrased. Had this been my only quote to prove Luther’s view, I would agree that such methodology is spurious. If you read this blog regularly, you know I have a field day with context-less quotes from secondary sources. Had Scott read section 6 of the link I gave him “Quotations from Luther on Faith and Works”, he would have read dozens of quotes from Luther substantiating the position I outlined.
Scott makes a big deal out of the “sola” in sola fide, because the classic Protestant position states justification is by faith alone, it is not by a faith that is alone. Scott says, “What I find even more ironic is that few, if any, Protestants see the double-speak of that statement! Is it “alone” or not? If it is by faith alone, then nothing – and we must insist that nothing – stands next to it for justification.” Theological terms can’t be handled the way Scott Windsor insists. Roman Catholics should especially know this. They have nuanced certain theological concepts to make them say, or not say, whatever will best suit Rome. For example, take the Roman Catholic phrase, "no salvation outside the church." Try dialoging with a Roman Catholic on this concept and watch how nuanced the explanation becomes. I find Scott's argument to be the typical double standard approach put forth by Roman Catholics.
Protestants arrive at what Windsor calls “double speak” because they seek to be faithful to the Biblical text. Our best efforts are tainted with sin. If God demands perfection in order for one to be justified before Him, no one would ever be justified. Justification is actually totally of works, but those works were perfect and performed by the perfect savior, Jesus Christ. These works are acquired by faith, imputed to the sinner. Grace, faith, and the work of Christ are essential ingredients that justify, and that justification is a gift as well as the very faith involved. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.”
If God judges a man by Christ’s perfect works, why should any Christian ever care about leading a righteous life? If grace, faith, and justification are God’s gifts, what is left for us to do? Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Paul answers in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.” Faith performs good works, not to keep one justified, but out of heartfelt gratitude to God graciousness. Salvation is unto good works. Note what this means: good works are not unto eventual salvation. We are saved in order to perform good works, not by performing them.
The catch phrase "justification is by faith alone, it is not by a faith that is alone" is just a way to describe a living faith. I'm not going to quibble with Scott over this. The phrase was coined to try to point out, as simply as possible, the relationship between justification and good works.