Martin Luther once said that justification by Faith Alone (Sola Fide) is the article on which the Church stands or falls. The word justification simply means to become in a right relationship with God that leads to eternal salvation. Along side Sola Fide, the notion of Bible Alone (Sola Scriptura) served as the fuel and spark of the Protestant Revolt that tried to tear apart the Church 500 years ago.
Recently I have been having an interesting discussion with some Protestant friends regarding, in particular, Luther’s proposition of salvation by Sola Fide. With this as the backdrop, yesterday’s daily Mass readings really caught my attention. To me these reading just screamed as compelling biblical proof against both the notion of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.
Lets start with the first reading from Monday, Oct 3 2016, the 27th week of Ordinary Time. [My underlined emphasis added.]
Reading 1 GAL 1:6-12
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
10 Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
This reading from Galatians addresses directly the Protestant idea of Sola Scriptura. In his letter, Paul clearly indicates that the Galatians know the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the preaching and teaching of Paul. Paul came to know this true Gospel not from reading a Bible but from a direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
Keep in mind that the Bible did not even exist at this point in time. Paul is also warning those that preach anything that contradicts the Gospel message that he (Paul) has preached to the Galatians. So emphatic is Paul, that he says that even if an angel came and preached a message different from that which Paul has been delivering, then they are “accursed.”
Sola Scriptura was simply a new theory invented out of necessity by Luther. He required this new idea as he attempted to reject the validity of the Traditional oral teaching of the Church (Apostles) that was protected from error by Jesus Himself.
Now to the Gospel reading:
Gospel LK 10:25-37
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Regarding the role of good works, my Protestant friends claim that after you are saved by “faith alone”, then goods works naturally flow from that faith. In other words, they believe in a pattern of salvation that can be summarize as: Faith >> Blessing >> Obedience. In this summary the blessing is that of salvation.
I pointed out to my friend that the Bible is filled exclusively with examples of God promising blessings after both faith and obedience. In other words, the Biblical and Catholic position of salvation is summarize more like this: Faith>>Obedience>>Blessings. I mentioned the many examples in scripture of the Faith>>Obedience>>Blessings pattern such as Abraham, Noah, Moses and the blind man cured by Jesus that had to bath in the pool of Siloam in order to be healed.
Anyway, this Gospel reading is yet another example of the pattern of salvation Faith >> Obedience >> Blessing. Notice that in v28 Jesus clearly is saying the loving God and neighbor is a condition of man’s behavior (in addition to faith) that leads to eternal life. “…do this, and you will live….” says our Lord. Jesus says that you must love your neighbor and then you will live. I don’t know how much more clear this can be. Faith acting thru love is the only faith that saves (Ga 5:6). An obedient response to God (enable by faith) is required for the eternal blessing.
Lets be clear: this Faith>>Obedience>>Blessings pattern of salvation is not earning your way to salvation that Catholics are so often accused of believing in. This is not “works righteous” but rather is the required loving response to God’s free gift using our free will. The response of course is enabled by the grace of God but is not man’s own doing.
Next time someone uses the Bible to ‘prove’ Sola Scriptura or Sola Fide, simply ask them to explain Ga 1:6-12 and Lk 10:25-37.