The Confusion about “Faith Alone”
Devotional Thought for our day:
20 And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 21 It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. 2 Peter 2:20-21 (NLT)
2 For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. 3 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? Hebrews 2:2-3 (NLT)
325 Fight against the softness that makes you lazy and careless in your spiritual life. Remember that it might well be the beginning of tepidity … and, in the words of the Scripture, God will vomit out the lukewarm.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about the phrase “faith alone” (sola fide in Latin.) In those conversations, I have read what Reformed think I believe, that Romans Catholics think we mean by it, and even what Orthodox think we believe by the term.
Unfortunately, none of them told me what I actually believe, even though they said they were accurately representing what Lutheran and Calvin mean by the term. (there is the first clue when they claim Luther and Calvin mean the same thing when they use “faith alone”)
As I read St. Josemaria’s words this morning, it got me thinking about the difference between faith being passive (which it is) and faith being lazy or lukewarm.
Lukewarm or lazy faith is the result of cheap grace, (to use another theologian’s term) We have the right knowledge, we even pursue that knowledge, but it doesn’t make a difference in the way of life the person lives. It instead goes for either intellectual or emotional stimuli to determine what is good. It would rather see that than action, because we know that action doesn’t save, only faith does. (it, therefore, denies the role of the sacraments in regard to faith!) And because it lacks roots, it dries up and fades away. This is not “faith alone” because there is no God that is transcendent, that is here, that is involved.
Passive faith means that we depend on God, for our salvation, for our life, and our dependence is only on Him. He saves us, He brings us to life, He causes us to walk with Him, and the Holy Spirit’s presence transforms us, making us holy, taking on the image of Christ. It is passive in that only finds hope, it only finds an answer in our relationship with God, a relationship He determines, that He defines, that He constantly nourishes.
That is what those who confuse Calvin and Luther don’t quite understand, or those who were trying to represent what I believe (as a Lutheran pastor) over the last couple of weeks. They put forth that “faith alone” didn’t leave room for baptism, or the Lord’s Supper. Yet in Lutheran theology, these things are part of what is “faith alone”, because God ordained them because He promised to work through them, to pour His promises, including forgiveness through them. “Faith alone” doesn’t deny God’s means of grace, it actually requires us to depend on God working in the way He promised, through those things and times we call sacramental.
And it is because we walk with God that we find our lives being transformed, that we respond to His love almost instinctively, but yet visibly. It means we learn to love and love others, responding to their needs, to their search for life and for meaning. This is a life of faith, a life trusting in God, walking with Him whereever we go..
God is with us, and knowing that, we can depend on Him. That is what “Faith alone” really means, to those it originated with …
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 838-840). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.