Thursday, November 5, 2009
I have been blogging a little over 2 years now. One of the reoccurring themes I have discerned in the ongoing dialogue between Catholics and Evangelicals is the concept of “faith alone”. I am convinced that many on both sides of the ‘Tiber’ misunderstand and/or misrepresent each other’s position on this issue. In this post, I am going to present a Catholic affirmation/understanding of “faith alone”.
From the Vatican approved document, ANNEX TO THE OFFICIAL COMMON STATEMENT, we read:
C) Justification takes place “by grace alone” (JD 15 and 16), by faith alone, the person is justified “apart from works” (Rom 3:28, cf. JD 25). "Grace creates faith not only when faith begins in a person but as long as faith lasts“ (Thomas Aquinas, S. Th.II/II 4, 4 ad 3).The working of God’s grace does not exclude human action: God effects everything, the willing and the achievement, therefore, we are called to strive (cf. Phil 2:12 ff). “As soon as the Holy Spirit has initiated his work of regeneration and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that we can and must cooperate by the power of the Holy Spirit...” (The Formula of Concord, FC SD II,64f; BSLK 897,37ff). [Document accessed online, 11-05-09 – bold emphasis mine.]
From Joseph Fitzmyer’s commentary on Romans 3:28:
At 3:28 Luther introduced the adv. “only” into his translation of Romans (1522), “alleyn durch den Glauben” (WAusg 7.38); cf. Aus der Bibel 1546, “alleine durch den Glauben” (WAusg, DB 7.39); also 7.3-27 (Pref. to the Epistle). See further his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen, of 8 Sept. 1530 (WAusg 30.2 , 627-49; “On Translating: An Open Letter” [LuthW 35.175-202]). Although “alleyn/alleine” finds no corresponding adverb in the Greek text, two of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him.
Robert Bellarmine listed eight earlier authors who used sola (Disputatio de controversiis: De justificatione 1.25 [Naples: G. Giuliano, 1856], 4.501-3):
Origen, Commentarius in Ep. ad Romanos, cap. 3 (PG 14.952).
Hilary, Commentarius in Matthaeum 8:6 (PL 9.961).
Basil, Hom. de humilitate 20.3 (PG 31.529C).
Ambrosiaster, In Ep. ad Romanos 3.24 (CSEL 81.1.119): “sola fide justificati sunt dono Dei,” through faith alone they have been justified by a gift of God; 4.5 (CSEL 81.1.130).
John Chrysostom, Hom. in Ep. ad Titum 3.3 (PG 62.679 [not in Greek text]).
Cyril of Alexandria, In Joannis Evangelium 10.15.7 (PG 74.368 [but alludes to Jas 2:19]).
Bernard, In Canticum serm. 22.8 (PL 183.881): “solam justificatur per fidem,” is justified by faith alone.
Theophylact, Expositio in ep. ad Galatas 3.12-13 (PG 124.988).
To these eight Lyonnet added two others (Quaestiones, 114-18):
Theodoret, Affectionum curatio 7 (PG 93.100; ed. J. Raeder [Teubner], 189.20-24).
Thomas Aquinas, Expositio in Ep. I ad Timotheum cap. 1, lect. 3 (Parma ed., 13.588): “Non est ergo in eis [moralibus et caeremonialibus legis] spes iustificationis, sed in sola fide, Rom. 3:28: Arbitramur justificari hominem per fidem, sine operibus legis” (Therefore the hope of justification is not found in them [the moral and ceremonial requirements of the law], but in faith alone, Rom 3:28: We consider a human being to be justified by faith, without the works of the law). Cf. In ep. ad Romanos 4.1 (Parma ed., 13.42a): “reputabitur fides eius, scilicet sola sine operibus exterioribus, ad iustitiam”; In ep. ad Galatas 2.4 (Parma ed., 13.397b): “solum ex fide Christi” [Opera 20.437, b41]).
Theodore of Mopsuestia, In ep. ad Galatas (ed. H. B. Swete), 1.31.15.
Marius Victorinus, In ep. Pauli ad Galatas (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15-16: “Ipsa enim fides sola iustificationem dat-et sanctificationem” (For faith itself alone gives justification and sanctification); In ep. Pauli Ephesios (ed. A. Locher), ad 2.15: “Sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est” (But only faith in Christ is salvation for us).
Augustine, De fide et operibus, 22.40 (CSEL 41.84-85): “licet recte dici possit ad solam fidem pertinere dei mandata, si non mortua, sed viva illa intellegatur fides, quae per dilectionem operatur” (Although it can be said that God’s commandments pertain to faith alone, if it is not dead [faith], but rather understood as that live faith, which works through love”).
The phrase also occurs in the writings of Pelagius, Expositio in ep. Romanos 3:28 (ed. A. Souter, 34 [PL 30.663B-C, 692D; PLSup 1.1129]), who argues against sola fides. But his argument shows that the phrase was already current. [Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans - A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary, (New York: Doubleday, 1993) pp. 360-361.]
So, as the above evidence demonstrates, there is a Catholic sense to the phrase “faith alone” (even though the exact phrase itself is not in the Bible); but, on the other hand, there is also a sense to the phrase “not by faith alone” (which IS in the Bible): “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Along with Sacred Scripture, the Catholic Church affirms and embraces both concepts.
Grace and peace,