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Is faith alone the sole requirement of salvation?
November 25, 2010
Vic Biorseth, Thursday, November 25, 2010
With Faith Alone, Martin Luther showed himself to be an illogical man, a poor theologian and a quite belligerent character. The uniquely Protestant dogmas of Sola Scriptura (defining the sole authority of Scripture,) and Sola Fide (defining justification by faith alone,) were invented out of thin air by Martin Luther in his break with the Church. (We discussed Sola Scriptura in the Sole Authority? page.) Luther’s heretical dogma of Sola Fide puts all of Protestantism at odds with Catholicism, and with Greek and Eastern Orthodoxy. It represented a radical rupture in the traditional catechesis of justification.
So what did he base Faith Alone on?
Well, primarily, from Romans and from Ephesians; specifically:
 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.Luther took a literal interpretation of these verses, to the exclusion of all the rest of what Scripture had to say about justification and salvation, which is considerable. To this narrow and limiting interpretation he added the false charge that the Church taught that man could “work his way into Heaven” through good deeds, apart from the grace of God. Of course, the Church never taught any such thing.
What the Church teaches is that man is justified not by faith alone, and not by works alone, but by grace. By the grace of God. This grace is merited by the blood of Christ, Who offered Himself on the cross as a living, holy and pleasing sacrifice to God, offered in atonement for the sins of all men. He had “emptied Himself of Godliness” to live as a mere man and show us the Way, and to accomplish one final bloody sacrifice for the justification of all men.
The grace by which we are justified is unmerited, not deserved, not owed, and there is not a thing in the world anyone can do to earn it, deserve it or otherwise obtain it. It is given out of charity, which is to say, perfect love, which is a definition of the love of God. It is just given, freely, to us all.
The grace God gives us must be accepted; it can be rejected. It is given to all, but not accepted by all. The grace one is given must be cooperated with to remain grace. It is possible, indeed, it is easy, to fall from grace.
But Luther insisted that man is saved by faith alone, and he strongly emphasized the word alone. This was clearly a new teaching, at odds with all that had gone before. In fact, Scripture clearly refutes it. Martin Luther even went so far as to try to modify Scripture to back up his new dogma. In the Catholic Prayer page we talked about how Luther plagiarized the pre-existing German language Bible known as the Codex Teplensis to create his “new” Bible, which he pretended to be the first vernacular Bible. In Luther’s Bible, he added the word “alone” into Romans 3:28, so that he could claim Scriptural authority for his new Faith Alone dogma, crediting his inserted word to St. Paul.
But he didn’t get away with it; at least not with Catholics. When challenged, he planted his feet and became even more belligerent. Here is what he wrote to Wenceslaus Link in a tract titled Sendbrieff Dolmetzschen concerning St. Paul’s words as recorded in the Latin and Greek texts:
“You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word ‘alone’ is not in the text of Paul. If your Papist makes such an unnecessary row about the word ‘alone,’ say right out to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,’ and say: ‘Papists and asses are one and the same thing.’ I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word ‘alone’ is not in the Latin or the Greek text, and it was not necessary for the Papists to teach me that. It is true those letters are not in it, which letters the jack-asses look at, as a cow stares at a new gate … It shall remain in my New Testament, and if all the Popish donkeys were to get mad and beside themselves, they will not get it out.”So that’s where it all began.
Taken in full context, what St. Paul was talking about in Rom. 3:28 in “works of the law” was how salvation was available to Jews and Gentiles alike, despite not all being circumcised, and not all following dietary and other restrictive laws from the Torah. Thus, “faith apart from works of the law” was still salvific. Martin Luther wasn’t smart enough to recognize that. That he would even go so far as to modify a Scripture verse to create false evidence for his argument shows that he didn’t even believe in his own Scripture Alone dogma, which holds that Scripture is the sole authority for proper teaching of Christianity. Rather than Scripture Alone or Faith Alone, what we are looking at here is Luther Alone.
In the New Testament original texts, the only place that the word “alone” appears in connection with the word “faith” is in James 2:24: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Which puts the lie to Luther’s Faith Alone dogma, because it expressly says that a man is not justified by faith alone. Of course, it doesn’t say that a man is justified by works alone either. This verse troubled Luther greatly; in fact, he moved James from his (Luther’s) cannon of approved New Testament books, along with some others, and placed it at the end of his New Testament in a separate inferior section after “the true and certain capital books of the New Testament.” James, Jude, Hebrews and The Apocalypse he precluded from his New Testament canon. Embarrassed Lutherans would later quietly put these Epistles and Apocalypse back into the New Testament. –The Facts About Luther, Msgr. Patrick O’Hare, LL.D., TAN; Pages 202-203.
Because of his cavalier treatment of both Old and New Testament books, I submit the argument that Martin Luther could not possibly have believed that any Scripture he was reading or holding in his own hands was in any way inspired by God. We saw in the Catholic Prayer page how he had already dropped multiple books from the Old Testament canon. That little exercise worked, at least for Protestantism, as you can see in the current canon of any Protestant Bible, all of which are seven books light.
Luther also preached, loudly and falsely, that the Church taught that sinners could buy their way into Heaven, and that they could buy the release of souls from Purgatory, with Indulgences. It was in his own fiery rhetoric that lines such as:
”As soon as the coin clinks into the box, another soul flies to Heaven!”… were his own words – words which Luther put in the mouths of preachers raising money for the rebuilding of the Cathedral of St. Peter. While it was true that there were excesses in the effort and some who were assigned the task of going Church to Church to raise funds crossed the line between legitimate application of the doctrine of Indulgences and the sin of Simony, again, the Church never taught any such thing.
Indulgences, or indulgence doctrine, merely provided a tool of convenience, a straw villain, of use to Luther in promoting his new Faith Alone doctrine. What he wanted was for people to listen to him rather than to the Pope; of course, many did just that. God had granted the Church the power to bind and to loose, saying whatever they bound on earth would be bound in Heaven, and whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in Heaven. Luther knew that full well. This is the power to make ecclesial law and doctrine, and it is authority granted exclusively to the sole Church our Lord established. Just as the Church has authority to absolve sin, it has authority to reduce final punishment due for sin through indulgences granted for good reason, usually acts of piety, penance, charity and special or extra devotions; always something above and beyond what justification demands.
“Faith Alone” is a bogus doctrine. Faith is required, for sure. But go and read what James said about faith without works. You cannot get to Heave on works alone, but neither can you get there on faith alone. For a more substantial treatment on the subject, see the Are You Saved? argument.
In America, this happens to be Thanksgiving Day, a special national holiday set aside to give thanks to God for our many, many blessings. It is a day for counting blessings, recognizing them, and giving thanks for them. As you sit at table today, do not forget the most important blessing of all, which is,
the grace by which you are justified.It is exactly that – a blessing from God. None of us deserve it; there is nothing we can do to earn it or become worthy of it; yet we all have it. It is by far the greatest blessing you will ever have.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is great; His mercy is never ending.
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