Sunday, September 27, 2009
Quick thought on "sola fide" and "Bible only" Christians...
I was just reading the "mission statement" of a Pentecostal/Evangelical-type church here in the area, and this particular church teaches and believes in salvation by faith alone ("sola fide"). It's not uncommon for Protestants to believe this, but quite often these same Protestants tote the "sola scriptura" argument as well and that got me thinking to James' discourse on faith and works (N.B.: "faith and works", not "faith or works") in chapter two of his book, namely:
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (v14-26, NIV)
If these "Bible only" Christians truly believe that the Bible is the absolute sufficient and infallible (exempt from liability to error) authority in teaching them their faith and of their salvation, then how can they subscribe to "sola fide" when the Bible also clearly states that faith alone will not save you? Are they really then "Bible only" Christians if they favour one teaching over the other when there is a clear contradiction? By what measure do they then claim, that between the two teachings, which one is right and which one is wrong?
If "sola fide" is correct, then that means that James' discourse on faith and works is incorrect, and thus the Bible is not absolutely sufficient and not an infallible authority.
What does the "sola fide" Christian have to lose by subscribing themself to faith and works?
Food for thought.