ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION: The Catholic Church wrongly teaches that we can be saved by works and sacraments. Penance and rosaries are of no avail. We can gain no merits by crying to heaven, lengthy prayers, periods of fasting, required church attendance, pilgrimages, the monastic life, or the sacraments. Works are only the fruit of faith. The believer does not work for salvation; it is precisely because he is already saved that he does good works. If he remains in his sins, then there has been no change, and his faith is a pretense.
SCRIPTURE: Romans 3:28 - For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.
SCRIPTURE: Galatians 2:16 - . . . yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law shall no one be justified.
CATHOLIC TRUTH: Anti-Catholics often purposely quote verses while leaving out adjacent words which might nuance matters more in the favor of Catholicism. Take for example the citation from Romans, we read in Romans 3:31: "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law." It would seem that Hebrew customs and traditions (including the works of the law and the commandments) could very well be a element in their newfound faith in Jesus. The dichotomy is between those who place works over faith, as if the latter is inconsequential. Faith and works are as two sides of a single coin. However, it should be mentioned that the law mentioned here is particularly the Jewish Law; an exact parallel cannot be drawn by works as they emerge under the New Covenant of Christ. Catholics understand works as a participation in Christ's meritorious or saving activity. Christ lives in the believer through grace and anything the Lord does in us belongs essentially to him. All saving merit belongs to Christ, yes; but greater is he who lives in me than he who lives in the world. Our faith in Christ is necessarily realized and actualized, not only manifested, in the life of charity and obedience. It is not simply a stagnant profession of faith in response to the Word.
The core of his contention is that works possess no saving merit. The Catholic would agree, if such works were separated from our faith in Christ. The Scriptures render a view quite different from what the critic of Catholicism contends:
I just love to quote verses back to those who use Scripture proof texts in a fundamentalist manner. Here are two of my favorites: "All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified" (Romans 2:12-13). "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). This second citation so troubled Martin Luther that he extracted the entire book of James from his bible! Later Protestants restored it while ignoring its content.
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Revised on April 30, 1998.