1. THE QUESTION WAS: How many times does the phrase “faith alone” (or “faith only”) appear in the New Testament?


A. 50         B. 30       C. 10        D. 1



THE ANSWER IS….. D…. only once. Note that the phrase “not by” comes before it (James 2:24: “Justification is by works and NOT by faith alone” ).



Guys, the truth is… we Catholics don’t have a problem with the Protestant slogan “salvation is by faith alone” as long as “faith alone” is defined as “faith working in love” (Gal 5:6) or faith whose fruits are hope and charity, or “living faith.”


Even evangelicals will say the “faith” they refer to is intellectual assent PLUS trust. If you would just include charity in that, we could agree completely. For Catholics, acts of love or charity make the faith perfect….they go hand and hand and cannot be separated.


Catholics feel that evangelicals separate things that cannot be separated: the Bible and the Church, faith and works, the Eucharist being both the true sacrifice of Christ AND a memorial sacrifice, a legal and an infused justification, etc. etc.


But back to salvation. I have seen it described this way: Evangelicals believe there is one thing you have to do for salvation: to believe (which is a gift from God), while Catholics believe there are two things you have to do:  to believe and do works, (both being gifts from God and not of ourselves lest any man boast.) Again…We believe neither our faith nor works is attributable to man….it’s all God.


Catholics believe that any goods works we do are actually God’s works as His grace flows through us after we receive initial justification, a free gift from God.


On the other hand, any bad works (or failure to do good works) are not from God, but are from humans and their sin.


Once we receive justification, we do not believe the Bible gives us a guarantee that no matter what we do in the future we’ll have justifying grace until the day we die (although certainly many Christians do continue in this grace until death)


Because God wishes all men to be saved (I Tim 2:4), God offers grace to all. It’s up to us to accept or reject. When we reject it, we sin. God allows us to sin thanks to his gift of free will to reject or to not reject his gifts. When we accept God’s grace, we aren’t actually doing anything from ourselves.


Some Protestants argue that accepting grace involves something originating from our meager old selves, but it’s not.


Picture it this way:  Pretend there is a funnel over your head and it’s filled with vanilla pudding, which is really God’s grace being poured out. If you stick your finger up to the mouth of the funnel and block it, then you did something….you sinned….you blocked or rejected the grace.


But if you do NOTHING, God continues pouring grace onto you and living through you. The grace acts on you, and now you can act on yourself thanks to the power of the grace. The grace acts on us like the spinach acts on Popeye. We, like Popeye, are able to act now (thanks to the foreign substance that has been infused in us.)



That’s the Catholic stance. On the other hand, many Protestants say we have no free will to reject or accept grace. We reject this notion.  A loving Father wouldn’t want his children to love him just because he made them into robots with no choice to reject.


Rev. William G. Most does a good job of explaining grace in his book Catholic Apologetics Today: Answer to Modern Critics.


As convert-to-Catholicism Jimmy Akin puts it, the evangelical slogan declaring that salvation is by “faith alone” is “intrinsically misleading and contrary to the language of Scripture.”


One more note: No time to treat the whole issue of Protestant justification (a one-time event) versus Catholic justification (a lifelong process with a beginning, middle and end……which is also the view of the Early Church and which Akin systematically shows is also the Biblical teaching). But I do want to emphasize (again) that the Catholic Church teaches that no work of man could possibly bring us to initial justification. In other words, one minute you’re going to hell, and the next minute, God justifies you with his grace and you’re going to heaven. No work precedes the start of justification…..the grace is a free gift.


This gift of salvation is an inheritance from our heavenly Father. Inheritances cannot be earned. But you can lose this free gift. One well-known Catholic apologist (need to check which one) explained it this way: When parents die, their children may receive an inheritance. Nobody would ever claim this was earned by the children….it was a free gift. But could one of the children behave so wickedly and rebelliously that he gets cut out of the inheritance? Yup.



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