Visiting Catholic Apologetics International... or Maybe Not
I visit CAI's website (Robert Sungenis) occasionally. The website reminds me of the sci-fi movie Dark City in which all the buildings of a city would move around. It might just be false memories, but it seems to me that every time I visit, the site has a new layout. In fact, it doesn't even appear to be called "CAI" (Catholic Apologetics International) anymore. A few years ago I would visit just to read the "Q and A" section, and then it disappeared (this has happened before). Well, it's returned. But the other day when visiting CAI, I ended up on this Q and A blog site, but now I can't seem to find the link from CAI to get to it. I'm thinking at some point I'll visit CAI and I see a billboard for "Shell Beach" (If you don't know the reference, see the movie, Dark City).
Robert Sungenis on Luther and Saving Faith
Anyway: I came across this Q and A entry: How do we understand James 2:18 "I will show my faith by my works"? The entry isn't dated, but the hyperlink has August 2010 in it's address. Robert Sungenis says:
If faith were really “alone,” no works would be required at any level. We must insist of the Protestant that, if he is going to claim that faith is “alone” in justification, then no works can enter into the discussion, not even to qualify the faith. The minute he insists that works can be used qualify the faith, then faith is not alone, and thus he should cease using the “faith alone” phraseology. He cannot speak out of both sides of his mouth. Either faith is alone or it isn’t.
Luther believed in the pure “faith alone” doctrine, that is, a faith that was not dependent on works in any way, shape or form. The reason he wanted to eliminate works is that if one tries to qualify his faith by the kind of works he does, then he will always wonder whether his works were good enough to qualify his faith, and thus he is back to the very problem Luther was trying to escape, that is, having to judge his works as good enough to meet God’s standards of righteousness. This is precisely why Luther, before he had is “faith alone” revelation, used to whip himself with chains – so that his works would be good enough (so he thought).
Luther certainly would have rejected the idea that works should be used to qualify faith as “saving faith,” for he knew that such a position would be more Catholic than Lutheran. This is precisely why he wanted to jettison the book of James. He didn’t want to have James insisting that faith and works worked together in any way.
It was only the later Lutherans, under Philip Melanchthon, who rejected Luther’s pure “faith alone” doctrine and began to integrate James back into the picture. They thought they did so by claiming that James was merely speaking about qualifying faith by works, but once they did so they came right back to the Catholic position, yet they camouflaged it by using different phraseology than what was used in Catholic doctrine. But they were really only fooling themselves. As a Protestant, one cannot use works to qualify faith, since one can never know whether his works were sufficient to do the job of qualifying.
In effect, pure Lutheranism only survived in Luther’s generation. No Protestant since Luther has ever really believed in the original “faith alone” doctrine, but they keep using the phrase to make it appear as if they are distant from Catholic doctrine, and few have caught on to it.
I don't think Luther said exactly what this picture up top claims, "We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone." Luther though did believe it. On the other hand, Robert Sungenis states, "Luther certainly would have rejected the idea that works should be used to qualify faith as 'saving faith,' for he knew that such a position would be more Catholic than Lutheran." Did Luther believe in saving faith? That is, did he believe that what one did outwardly demonstrated true faith?
Roland Bainton, Luther, and Saving Faith
Luther clearly taught the concept of living vs. dead faith throughout his writings. My paper here goes into this in great depth. In that paper, I cited Roland Bainton quoting Luther: "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]. Bainton's quote sums up Luther's view nicely. Besides my use of this quote, it has been used a lot in cyberspace. As I recall, only one defender of Rome ever challenged me for not quoting Luther directly (kudos to him for catching this).
Bainton cited WA 8:361. The comment from Luther is found translated into English in a 1521 sermon on Luke 17:11-19. In that context, Luther states the following:
See, this is what James means when he says, 2, 26: "Faith apart from works is dead." For as the body without the soul is dead, so is faith without works. Not that faith is in man and does not work, which is impossible. For faith is a living, active thing. But in order that men may not deceive themselves and think they have faith when they have not, they are to examine their works, whether they also love their neighbors and do good to them. If they do this, it is a sign that they have the true faith. If they do not do this, they only have the sound of faith, and it is with them as the one who sees himself in the glass and when he leaves it and sees himself no more, but sees other things, forgets the face in the glass, as James says in his first chapter, verses 23-24.
[This passage in James deceivers and blind masters have spun out so far, that they have demolished faith and established only works, as though righteousness and salvation did not rest on faith, but on our works. To this great darkness they afterwards added still more, and taught only good works which are no benefit to your neighbor, as fasting, repeating many prayers, observing festival days; not to eat meat, butter, eggs and milk; to build churches, cloisters, chapels, altars; to institute masses, vigils, hours; to wear gray, white and black clothes; to be spiritual; and innumerable things of the same kind, from which no man has any benefit or enjoyment; all which God condemns, and that justly. But St. James means that a Christian life is nothing but faith and love. Love is only being kind and useful to all men, to friends and enemies. And where faith is right, it also certainly loves, and does to another in love as Christ did to him in faith. Thus everyone should beware lest he has in his heart a dream and fancy instead of faith, and thus deceives himself. This he will not learn anywhere as well as in doing the works of love. As Christ also gives the same sign and says: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13, 35. Therefore St. James means to say: Beware, if your life is not in the service of others, and you live for yourself, and care nothing for your neighbor, then your faith is certainly nothing; for it does not do what Christ has done for him. Yea, he does not believe that Christ has done good to him, or he would not omit to do good to his neighbor. [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 3:1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 71-72].Elsewhere in The Sermons of Martin Luther, Luther states:
This is what St. James means when his says in his Epistle, 2:26: ‘"Faith without works is dead." That is, as the works do not follow, it is a sure sign that there is no faith there; but only an empty thought and dream, which they falsely call faith. Now we understand the word of Christ: "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness." That is, prove your faith publically by your outward gifts, by which you win friends, that the poor may be witnesses of your public work, that your faith is genuine. For mere external giving in itself can never make friends, unless it proceed from faith, as Christ rejects the alms of the Pharisees in Mat. 6:2, that they thereby make no friends because their heart is false. Thus no heart can ever be right without faith, so that even nature forces the confession that no work makes one good, but that the heart must first be good and upright. [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 2:2 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), p. 308].
In my old paper, I provided a number of quotes demonstrating Luther's understanding of faith. When Dr. Sungenis states, "Luther certainly would have rejected the idea that works should be used to qualify faith as 'saving faith,' for he knew that such a position would be more Catholic than Lutheran," he appears to not really have any understanding of a basic part of Luther's theology: the relationship of faith and works.
Luther understood good works to be those that flow out of faith, out of gratitude for the righteousness of Christ, and the forgiveness of Christ. Works aren’t done because we want salvation and fear damnation, rather, they are the result of a living faith. Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us. Luther says,
We receive Christ not only as a gift by faith, but also as an example of love toward our neighbor, whom we are to serve as Christ serves us. Faith brings and gives Christ to you with all his possessions. Love gives you to your neighbor with all your possessions. These two things constitute a true and complete Christian life; then follow suffering and persecution for such faith and love, and out of these grows hope and patience.” [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 1:1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), p. 34].