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According to the Wikipedia article on Sola Fide:

"Faith alone" is foundational to Protestantism, and distinguishes it from other Christian denominations. According to Martin Luther, justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls.

However, are there any major Protestant denominations that have explicitly rejected justification, or salvation, by faith alone?

If so, what do they substitute for Sola fide?

Please provide quotes from, or at least references to, the documents in which any such Protestant denominations reject justification by faith alone and explain their alternate position on justification and salvation.

(Related but not identical question: Protestant denominations that reject solas?)

  • Protestant according to whom? Denominations that call themselves Protestant? Or that conform to some standard definition of Protestantism? – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 11 '15 at 17:41
  • @Nathaniel I'm interested in "major Protestant denominations," meaning large denominations that are widely recognized as Protestant. I'm intentionally not defining that too specifically so as not to unnecessarily restrict answers. – Lee Woofenden Aug 11 '15 at 18:38
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    It looks like a pretty straight-forward question, but it's probably a lot more nuanced than it appears at first glance. For example, the Word of Faith movement might, according to many, fall into the category of protestants which reject salvation by faith alone, due to the fact that they have a very specific definition of "faith", which looks a lot like works to many other protestants. They're also not a denomination, in any official sense. – Flimzy Aug 11 '15 at 21:59
  • You might be able to find some universalists who do. Or some which have abandoned the concept of sin. – curiousdannii Aug 11 '15 at 22:23
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I intend to respond considering primarily the 'mainstream' Protestant denominations, with minimal (if any) reference to the more obscure sects. This is because I think the term 'Protestant' belongs to those who accept a handful of certain beliefs (trinity, faith-centered outlook, etc) that are often not present in the more rare denominations.

Referring to the same Wikipedia page on Sola Fide, it is stated that Methodism, unlike other Protestant denominations, stresses the value of good works in the attainment of salvation. Granted, this emphasis is hardly comparable to that of the Catholic/Orthodox Christian view on good works. For Methodism, good works is secondary to faith both in order and in value (I would say only the former is true for the Catholic/Orthodox view).

'Sola Methodism': Alone Among The Many

Methodism, like other Protestant denominations, firstly stresses faith. For Methodists, faith can be neglected and lost (unlike Southern Baptists who claim the doctrine of 'once saved, always saved'). Where Lutherans, Anglicans, and other denominations that are more similar to the Roman Catholic sentimentality also place importance on sanctification, Methodists, to my knowledge, are the only mainstream Protestant group that believes sanctifying grace (meaning essentially good works) actually holds a real place of value in salvation. Most other major Protestant denominations only hold that justifying grace (meaning essentially faith in Christ) has salvation-value. According to Methodist thought, "Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God's gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be." This nearly liquid-like take on salvation as a process, or as something that is not necessarily fully achieved is contrary to most Protestant viewpoints on the matter, who place stress on the absolutism of faith and assurance of salvation. I think all other mainstream Protestant denominations hold that salvation is achieved on earth itself in such a way that good works follow 'naturally' or in a 'desire' that follows the action of being saved. For Luther, salvation was fully attainable through faith alone while on this earth: "A transfusion of righteousness therefore becomes vitally necessary. This transfusion of righteousness we obtain from Christ because we believe in Him." We see that Luther held that all things of Christian sentiment, including sanctification, not only came down to belief in Christ, but came from belief in Christ, both in order and in value. In other words, the Catholic/Orthodox sentiment of an enduring struggle of the will, and the reoccuring trials that test both the mental faith and the spiritual will (in a way that involves actual value at the moment, independent in value from preceeding faith) becomes obscured. While Methodists might hold to a certain degree within themselves notions such as these (in the sense that good works is secondary to faith in order and value) their official doctrine, as referred to above in a link, rather bluntly asserts a look on salvation as achieved through a 'process' rather than through one event of expressed or felt faith (in other words, though secondary to faith, good works are still somewhat independently meaningful in salvation value). This could be due to Wesley's natural affinity to tradition (unlike most other Reformers, Wesley did not hate with all of his gumption the traditions of the Church). Wesley's favor for tradition, though in less potency than his favor for faith, can be seen in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

The Exceptions

The most central limit of this question is that it excludes (by no fault of its own) the many varying opinions within the said denominations. While Methodism is the only 'official' major Protestant denomination that seems to distance itself from Sola Fide, there are several individuals in certain Protestant denominations that hold opinions somewhat independent from their denomination's 'official' doctrine. A shining example of such a person is N.T Wright, who has caused a whirlwind of controversy in his work on Paul. Wright is an Anglican minister who has written several works addressing the topic of justification, and contrary to most Protestant opinions, Wright holds that Paul is not supporting Sola Fide, at least in the conventional sense. Wright supports the idea that good works are actually necessary in one's salvation, to 'prove' as a 'covenant sign' what Wright calls 'final justification'. This theology, whether Wright realizes it or not, is similar in essence to Catholic/Orthodox views of justification. This is only one example of a very popular individual within a denomination that 'officially' accepts Sola Fide, but who in any case does not act nor write as though Sola Fide were true. I think this is the case for many in the said Protestant denominations, but here begins the speculation and here ends the facts about the matter. That being said, there could be more to add to this answer, but I think any more added would detract rather than expand what is true.

  • Thanks for your detailed answer. It does appear that Methodists do not accept salvation by faith alone. Are you aware of any official or quasi-official Methodist statements that explicitly reject salvation by faith alone? Also, could you provide a source for the quote from Martin Luther in the middle of the second paragraph? – Lee Woofenden Aug 13 '15 at 16:41
  • @LeeWoofenden There are a couple of 'foundational' documents that Methodism is based on. These documents can be see here. It's difficult finding a place where Methodism straightly 'denies' sola fide; there are rather places where Methodism asserts the value of sanctifying grace in salvation. There are several places where it appears as though it accepts sola fide (such as its assertion of justification through faith alone). But these contradictions are clarified through analysis of other statements and the Methodist culture at large. – Jecko Aug 13 '15 at 17:52
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    While this answer is good as far as it goes, it doesn't recognize that there are a whole slew of denominations that are historically descended from Methodism and have adopted a similar soteriology. In a similar way, most will not explicitly deny Sola Fide, but their practical emphasis on other doctrines may seem (particularly to someone like Lee) to be a practical denial of it. Such denominations would include those in the Holiness movements and virtually all Pentecostals. – bruised reed Aug 14 '15 at 2:04
  • I add that I think the 'rejection of Sola Fide' amounts to the acceptance that sanctifying grace has a place in salvation not only in order (that it follows as a requisite to faith) but also in value (that it has real importance separate from the faith it proceeds from). So when looking for what denomination accepts/rejects Sola Fide, I think we need to ask 'What denomination holds that sanctifying grace has real value in salvation' (which requires salvation to be a 'process'). It comes down to whether a denomination believes the effect of 'salvation' to be a process or an event. – Jecko Aug 15 '15 at 0:17
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Seventh Day Adventists is also a mainstream protestant denomination (with trinity, faith-centered outlook, etc) that stresses faith but places importance on the fruits of faith for salvation. As many founders were methodists who embraced the Millerite movement, methodists and Seventh Day Adventists share some commonality in their understanding of salvation.

Seventh Day Adventists hold salvation by grace through faith alone, however the definition of faith is specific, it is faith that brings forth the fruit of obedience. Ellen White in her commentary writes:

Faith claims God's promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. [In contrast] presumption also claims the promises, but uses them to excuse transgression. (Desire of Ages, by Ellen White, pg 126)

Along this line, salvation is:

The work of gaining salvation is one of copatnership, a joint operation. There is to be co-operation between God and the repentant sinner. This is necessary for the formation of character. Man is to make earnest efforts to overcome... But he is wholly dependent on God for success. Human effort of itself is not sufficient. Without the aid of divine power, it avails nothing. God works and man works. Resistance of temptation must come from man, who must draw his power from God. (Acts of Apostles, by Ellen White, pg 482)

The scripture basis quoted is:

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you to will and do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Further clarity on the type of faith that brings forth salvation is summarized here:

A nominal faith in Christ, which accepts Him merely as the Saviour of the world, can never bring healing to the soul. The faith that is unto salvation is not a mere intellectual assent of the truth... the only faith that will benefit us is that which embraces Him as a personal Saviour; which appropriates His merits to ourselves. Many hold faith as an opinion. Saving faith is a transaction by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God. Genuine faith is life. A living faith means an increase of vigor, a confiding trust, by which the soul become a conquering power. (Desire of Ages, 347)

Under this belief, all known sins that God reveals to us must be overcome with the grace of God by exercising faith. Trials are given to us to reveal our sins and point to our dependence on God, but in order there to be saving faith there must be cooperation from the repentant sinner.

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