My understanding of the Catholic view on the relationship between faith and works is that faith and works are inseparable. Which is to say that true faith will always find expression in works, and that every good work is automatically an expression of faith. (And as such every good work leads to an increase in justification, because it demonstrates an increase in faith)
I'd like to hone in on the second part of that equation in this question: "Every good work is automatically an expression of faith." Does this hold true for people who are completely ignorant of Christ? For example if a Muslim in Saudi Arabia who has no knowledge of Christianity performs a truly good work, does that work demonstrate implicit faith in Christ?
Just to clarify the example:
- The Muslim may have a totally warped view of Christianity and actually believe that accepting Christ is a heretical action/mortal sin according to Islam. So they would be explicitly denying Christ with their beliefs while implicitly demonstrating an acceptance of Christ with their actions.
- By "truly good work" I'm talking about a work which truly demonstrates Christian charity. Not a work which merely appears to be good or is actually self-righteous. I'm talking about a genuinely good work which is pleasing to God. One which totally fulfils the great commandment to "Love your neighbour as yourself"
- If it's the case that the Muslim demonstrates implicit faith in Christ by their good work despite explicitly rejecting Christ in their beliefs, this would lead to an increase in Justification, just as it would for a Christian.
Consequences if it is true that good works always demonstrate saving faith: It is possible to demonstrate saving faith in Christ in your actions whilst explicitly rejecting him in your mind.
To restate the question: Does the phrase Every good work is automatically an expression of faith mean that non-Christians can demonstrate saving faith through their loving works without even realising it?