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One of the key points of the Reformation was the doctrine of Sola Fide, that salvation is by faith alone, apart from works. The reformers thought this was in contrast to the doctrines of the Catholic church.

What, then, is the biblical basis against the doctrine of Sola Fide?

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3 Answers 3

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The question could be worded better. Even the reformers would disagree with Sola Fide as you've described it (with the exception of Luther, perhaps).

A common passage against Sola Fide is found in James 2:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

The problem is that there is more than one aspect of salvation. There is justification, that which is Sola Fide, and there is sanctification, which is accomplished by the Holy Spirit and is manifest by good works. This is why 2nd Peter tells us

10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

So salvation is never Sola Fide. However, salvation is also never of works.

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As a Calvinist, I would like to present an explanation about something which seemingly many people misunderstand about sola fide. Calvinists usually stress sola fide much more than other major Protestant churches, so I understand that some find the viewpoint extreme that absolutely nothing leads to salvation but faith alone.

Salvation by faith alone does not undermine or underplay the importance of good deeds. It does not mean that you can achieve salvation, and you never did anything good in your life. It's just that it's not good works are causing faith, but faith is causing good works. The metaphor of "bearing good fruits" is important and often cited by Calvinists. In other words: faith leads to both salvation and good works, not vice versa.

Maybe this sounds strange now, and maybe it's not always that important to stress it that strongly in our times, but in the time of the Reformation it played a very important role. Reformers were seeing that the idea of salvation being achievable by work and merits alone lead more and more people to try to "buy themselves" into salvation. The idea that if you say a certain number of prayers or donate a certain amount of money will guarantee salvation can be very dangerous, it can lead people away from salvation and in the meantime keep up the false sense of security that they are on the right way to salvation. This is why it was one of the most important issues the reformers were fighting against.

I understand you asked for a basis against Sola Fide, I only tried to point out that biblical passages writing that good deeds are nice and important, are not necessarily contradictory with the theory of Sola Fide. (and in the comments there was not enough space to explain it.)

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There is no Biblical basis against it. And, since 1998, no mainstream theologian or denomination (that I know of) claims that such a passage exists.

In Nov., 1998, the Pope shocked the Catholic world by stating, "Luther's expression 'sola fide' is true, . . ." In 1999, in fact, the Catholic church officially accepted sola fide in a written document, when it issued the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification".

It is as wordy as most such documents, but perhaps the most succinct statement was in Article 16: "Through Christ alone are we justified, when we receive this salvation in faith."

The real problem is that many people do not understand the difference between sola fide and antinomianism. Antinomianism describes an early heresy where Christians decided, "Since I am saved through faith alone, I can do whatever I want to, because Christ's grace has forgiven my sins." This is not the meaning of sola fide.

Let me quote Luther himself: “Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation." Neither the Bible nor any mainstream Christian denomination denies, at this point, that Luther got it right. Salvation is effectuated or caused by faith, period.

You can turn the cause and effect around, if you like, and say that true faith always results in a change of heart that produces good works, that is, that good works are a necessary result of faith, and a person who does not change in heart and action shows a lack of faith.

In his Introduction to Romans, Luther stated that true faith, the faith that brings salvation, 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!"

James has already been cited extensively; his teaching is summed up in James 2:24,

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

The confusion lies in different uses of such terms as "justified" and "faith alone". We are not justified by "faith alone" in the sense that faith is the only component of salvation. Perhaps we might say that we find salvation only through faith, or that faith and only faith will lead us to salvation.

James does not disagree with Paul's voluminous writings concerning how we are saved by faith and not by works. His writing was primarily intended to refute the predominant notion of justification by the law. We have to always keep in mind the degree to which the idea of justification by the law of Moses was fixed in the minds of contemporary Jews, which is the reason Paul argues with such focus on faith.

I am sorry that I cannot answer the question directly, but one can hardly find a quote from the Bible showing that works are not necessary for salvation, when the quote does not exist.

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Hi, and welcome to the C.SE! We always welcome newcomers, but we strongly recommend everyone to obey the guidelines for posting questions and answers, which must follow an academic tone of voice. That is, you must establish the denomination that you represent. The question is looking for the Catholic basis of Sola Fide, assuming the Protestant basis of Sola Scriptura (yeah, I know it's weird). Therefore, you must answer the question, assuming a Catholic perspective, regardless of your own beliefs. :) –  Double U Mar 10 '14 at 14:15

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