Monday, August 25, 2008

Isaac to the Altar, Jimmy to the Stove

The second of the "Slogans of Protest" that Catholics re-ject is Sola Fide, the Protestant teaching that the believer is justified by faith alone apart from works. The way the Reformed tradition has expressed this doctrine con-fessionally is as follows:

Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone... by [God's] imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God (Westminster Confession of Faith XI.1).

To this the Catholic responds by pointing out that the only place in the Bible where the phrase "faith alone" is used is in James 2:24, which reads, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." He will further highlight the fact that the issue in James is not, as the Protestant claims, Abraham's justification before men, for the context makes it plain that the question is whether faith alone can "save" (v. 14).

Plus, Abraham's supposed "justification coram hominibus" must have fallen pretty flat since, besides God, there weren't any other people hanging around Mt. Moriah to "ooh" and "aah" at his "demonstration that he had been previously justified" (which, by the way, dikaioutai doesn't even mean).

Can Paul and James be reconciled, or must we "throw Jimmy into the stove"?