The Heresy of “my Faith Alone Saves”

devotional/discussion thought of the day:

22  You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23  And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24  So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.
James 2:22-24 (NLT)

7  This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how extraordinarily rich he is in grace. 8  Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; 9  not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. 10  We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life. Ephesians 2:7-10 (NJB)

It was one of the cries of the men who tried to reform, to re-focus the Catholic Church.  Faith Alone, Sola Fide in Latin. It is still the point of contention between the Roman Catholic Church and a few of the protestant denominations. Even as I pray that the Church would be visibly one, hole, catholic, and apostolic; I struggle to see that this issue would be ever resolved.

There is a twist to this issue now, one that might be distinctly American, or perhaps it simply originated here. It cuts across all of the church, and it may be more destructive than anything the Great Schism or Reformation/Counter Reformation has spawned.

It is the addition of the little pronoun “my” to either “saved by faith”, or “saved by faith alone”.  To add that skirts the border of heresy, and it bows to the idol of narcissus.  It puts the glory and the credit for salvation, not in the God in whom we trust, but in the “me”.  As if in some way, faith originated in me, by my own reason, by my own intellectual/spiritual/holy prowess.

Perhaps this is why we take every attack on Christianity so personally, as if ISIS, or the atheists, or whomever, is attacking us directly.  Perhaps it is why we avoid martyrdom and suffering, instead finding our shields up, our notions of self defense well exercised.  It is why we can justify missing church, despite what scripture says, because after all, this religion, this belief, this faith is mine.   Such a personal faith focuses on our knowledge, or our work, on what we have gained or achieved.  It can then grow into Gnosticism, or Agnosticism, for as long as faith is “my faith”, as long as it focuses one me, it will lead to emptiness, and more searching out for that arcane bit of knowledge that will justify me. At least it will justify me in my own sight.

Which is what really matters today, at least in the our own view.

Self-righteousness, self-justification, as if in “my faith” it is also “my judgement” that needs to be appeased.

I mentioned that this idea borders on heresy, but I didn’t say which side of the border.  It is across the border, I believe, from both historic Catholic and Protestant perspectives. Because it ignites that faith is more than a doctrinal statement, more than a set of core beliefs.  It is more than knowledge.

For you can’t have faith without having faith “in” someone/something.  It is a verb, not a noun, and it requires an object.  Going back to the Latin, we see the root of the word “confidence” (that is with faith)  My confidence doesn’t save me, it is that we have confidence in the love and mercy of Christ which saves us. Not the confidence, but the love and mercy is what saves us.   We see this in the Creeds, the “I believe IN”, I have faith IN”.  Faith is simply the reception, the trust, the dependence upon the God who is revealed to us, revealed to be working in/on/upon and through us. That faith, trust, dependence radically changes us, not just how we think bu how we live.  For that transformation is the promise.

That is why faith can never be “my” faith, it must focus on the object, the Lord whom we trust in to do what He promised, to do what He has done.  To have faith in God means we abide in Him, we find refuge in Him, we recognize His work in making us His children, His people.

He has had mercy, He loves.  Trust Him, have faith in Him, and know He saves you!

AMEN!

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God’s saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on February 5, 2016, in Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, Theology in Practice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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