I am new to this site, so I just want to quickly introduce myself. I was raised Catholic, became a protestant evangelical as an adult, was trained in theology from the camps of the modern reformed baptists such as D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, R.C. Sproul, John Macarthur, etc,etc.
I am very eager now, having learned much about history, to join the Catholic Church. However, there are many road blocks. I’ve read many books by Catholic apoologists and have found many arguments unconvincing. Obviously the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is true. There is no contest to that.
Good for you! It is good that you have not checked your brain at the door of Protestant heresy and are considering the teachings of the Catholic Church. I hope I can be of service in providing answers to your questions.
However, with respect to the doctrine of justification, I am afraid that your friend there had it right.
No, he is wrong. We are not justified by faith alone.
1. Faith alone DIRECTLY contradicts Scripture:
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
2. Scripture EXPLICITLY teaches that we are justified by faith and works:
King James Version (KJV)
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
In that verse, faith is assumed, since the fruit of faith is works.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
3. Protestants misunderstand the Sacramental teachings of St. Paul and attribute to them the idea of faith “alone”. But St. Paul is simply stating the Catholic Truth that no one is justified by works. For a more complete unpacking of these explanations, please see these articles.
Manner of Speaking
However, I think he is wrong to downplay the necessity of works in the Christian life. Every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
That being said, if you read through St. John Chrysostom on Romans, you will no doubt see that he believed in justification by faith alone because of God’s mercy and righteousness which comes to the sinner because of the death and resurrection of jesus Christ. Consider the following quote on Romans 4:1-2
Nope. Justification by faith “alone” means one thing to Protestants and another to ancient Christians.
Protestants deny the validity of the Ten Commandments. Whereas the ancient Christians all understood that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Christian faith.
A man who does not keep the Ten Commandments can not be justified. Only those who keep the Ten Commandments are justified without works, in the Sacraments of Jesus Christ.
A man who does not keep the Ten Commandments can not be saved. Only those who keep the Ten Commandments are saved by God on the day of Judgement.
What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory; but not before God.
Here he quotes Scripture. This is a Sacramental teaching of St. Paul. We don’t save ourselves by our works. It certainly doesn’t mean that Abraham didn’t work. St. James proves that and Scripture doesn’t contradict itself.
He had said (5 manuscripts ?????), that the world had become guilty before God, and that all had sinned, and that boasting was excluded and that it was impossible to be saved otherwise than by faith.
Because to an ancient Christian, meaning to say, to an ancient Catholic, because we believe the same thing today that they did back then, faith implies works. Scripture is clear:
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
He is now intent upon showing that this salvation, so far from being matter of shame, was even the cause of a bright glory, and a greater than that through works. For since the being saved, yet with shame, had somewhat of dejection in it, he next takes away this suspicion too. And indeed he has hinted at the same already, by calling it not barely salvation, but righteousness. Therein (he says) is the righteousness of God revealed. Romans 1:17 For he that is saved as a righteous man has a confidence accompanying his salvation.
That right there is the key to understanding this teaching. How is righteousness achieved? Is it achieved by “claiming to be faithful”? Or by keeping the Commandments?
Now, you’re going to say, “there were no commandments when Abraham lived.” But Scripture would prove you wrong:
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
And he calls it not righteousness only, but also the setting forth of the righteousness of God. But God is set forth in things which are glorious and shining, and great. However, he nevertheless draws support for this from what he is at present upon, and carries his discourse forward by the method of question. And this he is always in the habit of doing both for clearness sake, and for the sake of confidence in what is said. Above, for instance, he did it, where he says, What advantage then has the Jew? Romans 3:1 and, What then have we more than they? Romans 3:9 and again, where then is boasting? It is excluded Romans 3:27: and here, what then shall we say that Abraham our father? etc. Now since the Jews kept turning over and over the fact, that the Patriarch, and friend of God, was the first to receive circumcision, he wishes to show, that it was by faith that he too was justified. And this was quite a vantage ground to insist upon (????????? ????? ??????).
In other words, the Jews thought that Abraham was justified by circumcision. But St. Paul proves that Abraham is justified by his faith. St. John knows, as does the Church and all Catholics, that this faith was proven in works. Read Heb 11 and read Gen 12-22. They show that Abraham obeyed God’s voice over and over again. Abraham proved his faith and in Gen 22, God fulfilled the promise spoken in Gen 15:6:
Confused? Please read this:
King James Version (KJV)
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
For for a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely.
There are so many negatives here that the sense is confusing. I think he is saying that it is not possible that a man without any works will be justified by faith.
But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light.
But here, he is expressing the Catholic teaching and wondering about it. The man who keeps the Commandments is not justified thereby. He is justified by the faith he has exercised in so doing. It is because of his faith that he keeps the Commandments:
King James Version (KJV)
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
Not being weak in faith, he joined to his wife and produced his son. Even though his body was almost dead and Sarah had never conceived in almost 100 years.
And this is why he passes by all the others, and leads his discourse back to this man. And he calls him father, as pertaining to the flesh, to throw them out of the genuine relationship (?????????? ???????) to him, and to pave the Gentiles’ way to kinsmanship with him.
As I understand it, Abraham is the father of the Jews according to the flesh because the Jews are derived from him in descendance.
But all who come to Christ are descended of Abraham according to faith and are therefore Spiritual children of Abraham.
And then he says, For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory: but not before God. After saying that God justified the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith, and making the same sufficiently sure in what he said before, he now proves it by Abraham more clearly than he promised, and pitches the battle for faith against works, and makes this ……”
Notice how St. John recognizes that Abraham was adorned with many good works at the time of his justification,
Correct. Ask yourself, would God have considered Abraham a just man if Abraham had said in Gen 12, “Oh, God, I believe you, but I’d rather stay in Ur with my Dad.” What do you think would have happened in that event? Faith is proven by works. Faith is proven by obedience. That is why Abraham was justified in Gen 22 not in Gen 15:6. Here is what St. Paul also says:
Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Abraham was tried and proven just in Gen 18. Gen 15:6 is only a narrative comment anticipating the justification which would Moses, the author, full well knew was coming in the future.
and yet St. John recognizes that they had no justifying power, but only faith.
Actually, faith doesn’t either. The faithful, who have proven their faith in works of love, are JUSTIFIED BY GOD. God justifies. We don’t justify ourselves by either our faith or our works. God justifies the faithful man who keeps His Commandments.
This right here is very early testimony and source of communion of the protestant doctrine of justification.
1. You’ve only picked one Ancient Catholic father.
2. You’ve misunderstood his message.
3. If you read the other Catholic fathers on the same subject, you’ll see where you are making your error.
This is one that Catholics just have not gotten right.
The Catholic Church has it perfectly correct. It is Protestants who continue to misunderstand because they impose upon the word of God their traditions of men.