SolaFide - The doctrine of justification by faith alone.

A Case in Defense of:

(Thread begun by RandyP )

Sola Fide (by faith alone) is one of the five pillars of the reformed faith, Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone), Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).

As such the understanding of sola fide requires the full and equal cooperation of the other four members, thus it is not merely any faith or belief, it is the faith outlined in scripture/scriptural grace/scriptural Christ/scriptural God glorification etc... It has equal influence in the definition of faith in scripture/faith in Christ/faith in grace/faith in God's glory.

It is on this platform of constant interplay built by the foundational pillars that all remaining articles of scriptural understanding and doctrine rest and come to greater light.

Sola Fide was considered by the reformers as the "Material principle/Formal principle" - articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae ("article of the standing and falling of the church"). While typically purported to originate with 16th century reformers such as Luther and Calvin, those reformers themselves believed it could be observed as being held as doctrine by several early 1st-4th century church fathers.


The Charge Against

Council of Trent 1545-1563 Canon XIV:

"If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema (excommunicated)."

Defense - Introduction

    Primary Evidences:

  1. kjv@Romans:3:21-4:5
  2. (3:21-26) But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

    (3:27-31) Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

    (4:1-5) "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness".

  3. kjv@Galatians:3:1-7 (see also: nkjv@Genesis:15:6)
  4. (3:1-7) "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham."


Opening statement: What of Justification? Is it of good works? Religious works? Works of the Church? Sacraments? Works of the Law? Personal merit? Blood line? Universal or comparative righteousness? Faith in the complete work of Jesus Christ alone? Is there contradiction between these inspired writers?

There are closely related doctrines central to our spirituality that could thus be effected:
Justification Salvation Righteousness Atonement Sanctification Redemption Grace

What are you convinced of beyond a reasonable doubt?

Quote - Luther (Smalcald Articles):

"The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (nkjv@Romans:3:24-25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (nkjv@John:1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (nkjv@Isaiah:53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (nkjv@Romans:3:23-25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us ... Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (nkjv@Mark:13:31)."

I ask you to consider for a moment: Faith as seen as an instrument that receives the gift of salvation, not something that causes/keeps one's salvation.


Prosecution Rebuttal?

    Primary contraindications
  1. nkjv@James:2:14-26

  2. Other testimony (see also: SolaFideVerses - Con)

In the defense against these rebuttals?


  1. The charge against: Council of Trent Canon XIV:
  2. "If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema (excommunicated)."

  3. If by works and faith, what would these works be?

  4. What do the other solas bring into the discussion:

  5. What does the best evidence say?



nkjv@Romans:3-4 and nkjv@James:2 both being inspired scripture have to be brought together into one concise understanding for any doctrine to stand firm on it's feet. That is not necessarily to mean both faith and works have to be equally true/present from the start, one can logically be a result of the other. It can also be logically determined if the result does not become evident thereafter that the presence of the initial causative form must be questioned.

Question: So then how can we best think of these two separate passages melded together to describe one complementary idea?

(OPEN DISCUSSION)


Concluding Commentary

Personal Comment: The insistence upon the Sacraments for justification by Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics shoulders the bulk work of justification upon the Church itself particularly the mystical abilities of the priest/bishopric/papacy. While grace in theory is kept part of the equation, it manifests a grace placed into the Church's hand as it sees fit for distribution to the believer given that the believer conform to it's doctrine of church related works and mandated Sacraments. This makes justification as a whole very similar (or prone) to the justification operated in by the Pharisee's of the Jewish faith whom Jesus warned that our righteousness would have to exceed if to join Him in heaven.

Personal Comment: This concept of Grace And Works justification is opposed to the reformed doctrines placing the entire work upon God's grace even to the gifting of one's initial faith in the receiving the imputation of justification, that being fully initiated leading to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit towards works and declarations (including participation in similar sacraments with clarified understanding). The five solas systematically work together as one coherent voice each influencing the next.

In his Introduction to Romans, Luther stated that saving faith is:

"a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!"

John Calvin

"every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own."

Contemporary evangelical theologian R. C. Sproul writes,

"The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated...if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone."

What verdict reacheth you the jury?


In Closing

    Illustrating how Sola Fide is intended to operate:
  1. My actions here in this defense are in no way intended to score any personal salvation or reward/bonus points. My work is to be considered "pro bono", the justification of which has been based strictly on the merits of this case. Might we always look on our endeavors as such!
  2. Martin Luther posting the 95 Thesis: seeking a intelligent discourse/debate (a small unassuming personal work) became the simple act of faith that God used to do God's own mighty work; the type of work that truly only a gracious God through the small yet measured/obtained faith of His faithful servants can achieve. If in Luther... then be it also in like measure be performed by God through us today! These are the good works of faith.


Comment Board:SolaFide
Related:

Associated historical doctrines on justification:
monergism - justification effected by divine action alone
synergism - justification by divine and human action together
? - justification by human action
Other questions on justification:
Is justification permanent or can it be lost? (see LosingOnesSalvation)
What is the relationship of justification to sanctification?
What is the role of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, the process whereby sinners now become righteous are enabled to live lives set apart pleasing to God?

Further Resources:
index:WEBCHURCHHISTORY COUNCILS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_fide
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/smalcald.html
http://www.gotquestions.org/Council-of-Trent.html
http://www.thecounciloftrent.com/

Child Threads:
SolaFideVerses
SolaScriptura
SolusChristus
SolaGratia
SoliDeoGloria


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