Where did Catholics get the hair-brained notion that we are saved by faith plus works? Have you ever wondered about that? Well, duuuhhh. Maybe they got it out of the Bible.
As Protestants we have blindly followed Luther in his emphasis on sola fida. Frequently, without serious contemplation. Now donâ€™t get me wrong. I like Luther myself. But folks, he ainâ€™t the Pope. So donâ€™t be afraid give him a hefty boot in the posterior when heâ€™s off the mark.
Where do Catholics get the idea of faith plus works? Yes, in the Bible. Particularly in the Gospels. Here there are repeated references to works, not the least of which is the so-called â€œGolden Ruleâ€:
Jesus saidâ€ In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.â€ Does this having anything to do with salvation? The very next verses comprise the â€œnarrow-is-the-gateâ€ warning (Mt. 7:12-14).
A few verses later Jesus says, â€œEvery tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fireâ€ (v. 19). In verse 24, one has to hear and act to be wise, and not let the house fall down in the rains.
Jesus goes on to urge his followers to give a cup of cold water. And the ones who serve the poor and hungry and prisoners are actually serving Jesus himself.
You know all the passages in the Gospels. No need to even make reference to James, that epistle of straw, as our dear Reformer referred to it.
I was raised in Fundamentalist Dispensationalism, where the gospels are often low on the totem poleâ€”as is James. Here is a system that at least accounts for the singular â€œfaith aloneâ€ doctrine of salvation that is universally held in evangelical Protestantism.
But what about the rest of you? Sure, you all have ways to re-interpret the Gospels. But Iâ€™m urging you to look at Luther in his context. He was fighting against the extreme in salvation-by-works practiceâ€”that of indulgences. Few people today would claim there is support for indulgences in the Gospels.
The faith-plus-works of todayâ€™s Catholic church is one that looks at the whole of Scripture. We should too. We often make the hard-to-reconcile biblical passages way too easy to reconcile, and in the process weâ€™re deluding ourselves.
Let the Bible be itselfâ€”in its hard-to-reconcile passages. And letâ€™s all of us be more nuanced in our biblical interpretation.