I’ve been mulling over the idea of sola fide for the last 36 hours or so and have been having a difficult time finding an authentic Catholic response, though I know there is one. Having previously been a firm sola-fide-ist, and now being a firm anti-sola-fide-ist, I knew there had to have been a logical and concrete answer to have swayed my opinion so sharply. I just forgot what it was. I’ve been pouring over St. Paul and St. James, trying to come to a clear and concise Scriptural defense against faith alone. All I had was James 2, and I knew I would need more than that.
Then it dawned on me: why not go to Jesus? What does Jesus have to say about justification, about eternal life? So I looked to the rich young man and I asked the same question:
“Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”
Clearly Martin Luther missed this passage because Jesus doesn’t say, “nothing, just have faith.” Jesus says:
“If you would enter life, keep the commandments…you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
-Matthew 19: 17, 18-19
Wait, so, what? I don’t have to just believe in my heart that Jesus is Lord and confess on my lips that Jesus is the Christ? I actually have to obey the commands? Yes. That is what Christ says. He elaborated this before during the Sermon on the Mount:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
I do not claim to know what all Jesus wants to accomplish, but I do know that heaven and earth have not passed away yet, so the law has not either. This law is still in effect. The commands are still commands not suggestions. If we truly are saved by faith, like the Protestant says, what is the point of the Bible anyways? Why give a rip about what Jesus has to say, what he teaches? Aren’t they more like suggestions anyways? And Paul? Don’t give a hoot when he talks about marriage, living righteously, having a unified faith, its all just a nice thought, but not necessary.
Many would like to say that the Catholic Church makes salvation too hard. That we take away from the merits of Christ by teaching salvation by grace by faith through works. But I hate to break it to you, salvation is not supposed to be easy, Jesus says so himself:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
The way to salvation is hard. It requires endurance, purity, faithfulness, obedience. It requires us to love and serve God, not ourselves. We fool ourselves if we think that simply having faith will do us any good, for even the devil and the demons have faith in God, for that is why they carry out their ministry of temptation, they know what God can do for us. Their faith cannot save them for it does not manifest itself in works of charity.
Our faith is in vain if we do not perform works of love. We will suffer the consequences for disobedience. And if our works of love are not done out of faith in Christ, they are nothing more than nice deeds. We will burn for our rejection of Christ, our lack of faith, despite our good works. I won’t quote St. James here, but we all know what he says. We cannot choose faith or works, while rejecting the other. Both are made possible only through the graces provided by Jesus Christ crucified. We must choose both together if we want to spend our eternity with Jesus Christ.