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Over at FB, Cel and I were discussing a question on a quiz scoring how well you knew about religion. The quiz claimed that Catholics believed we were saved by both faith and works. I thought it was wrong; Cel maintained it was correct, at least historical. (While not religious, Cel is a first-class historian.)

I have two objections here. First, like Protestants, Catholics don't believe we're saved BY any human effort. Without the passion, no combination of good works and good faith will get you into heaven. More to the point, and this is where I'm more fuzzy, I'm not sure the RCC differentiates. In parochial school I was taught that works were part of faith. CAtholics believe that faith motivated good works (albeit imperfectly). You know, faith without works being dead and all that.

I'm curious. Any Catholics reading this, do you think the RCC teaches both faith and works are necessary for salvation, or what exactly? And if you're not a Catholic, what did you assume the RCC's position was here?



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
Marta, a link to a fairly recent article by a monk (who has studied philosophy and theology) here: http://catholicism.org/faith-and-good-works.html

Interestingly he suggests that most Protestants actually believe that good works without faith can get a person into heaven, whereas the traditional and official view of mainstream Protestants (e.g. Lutherans, Presbyterians) has been that "faith alone saves".

Clearly a more complicated question than the quiz allows for!
Apr. 12th, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)

Interestingly he suggests that most Protestants actually believe that good works without faith can get a person into heaven,

It's called "pop theology" and those who subscribe to such a belief are usually not those who could be considered "devout"-- i.e. they may go to church, but they do not consider deeply the tenets and teachings of their faith.

It goes along with the idea that people are assigned to heaven or hell by how "good" or "bad" they are, the idea that a good person turns into an angel when he or she dies, the idea that catastrophe is God's punishment, that "the devil made me do it" and other such notions commonly held. These ideas are not Christian orthodoxy, Protestant OR Catholic.

If you ever want a crash course in the very odd and unorthodox things that some people believe about Christianity-- but that are very wrong-- the show "Supernatural" certainly is filled with them! I'd never seen the show until recently, and I am amused at how many incorrect notions they've managed to work into the show.
Apr. 12th, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)

I really don't have an opinion about what is "correct" belief, even within a given sect; I've read some about the early history of Christianity, and the only conclusion I can reach is that there was never all that much agreement on any aspect of the faith whatsoever. What became orthodoxy in any group or region seems to have been the result of who had the loudest voices (and, not infrequently, the sharpest swords or the most political allies).
Apr. 12th, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
I can recall being taught that "faith alone saves" is the cornerstone of all Christian orthodoxy, including Catholicism, but that overlying traditions through history have obscured that fact to most practicing Catholics. Of course, Protestants also have their share of traditions that contradict the official beliefs of their various denominations.

At any rate, the idea that faith and works go together is also orthodox Christianity. A claim of faith without demonstrating any of the behaviors associated with true belief does not lend any credence to the claim in the first place.

Apr. 13th, 2012 03:14 am (UTC)
I'd always understood it as follows: faith is necessary for salvation, but faith necessarily entails works, so that there is no possibility that works are non-necessary or that a simple statement or repeated statement of faith, or even of loyal attendance in a Church were sufficient workings out of a real faith. This was not something I got from CCD, it was mostly what I absorbed from parental perspectives.

However, I think there is a point - at least one point - at which a Catholic (okay, any Christian, in fact) could say that perhaps there is room for works without *Christian* faith. That whole, "When did we feed you, Lord? Or visit you in jail? Or comfort you when you were sick?" thing? That suggests to me that those whom Christ approved - the righteous - as belonging to the Kingdom of God did not necessarily have faith in the God of Jesus, but did the works of his faith - and were recognized as children of that same God, worthy of the kingdom of heaven for their service to human beings - without knowing that that was what they were doing.

The alternative might be to say that they had already professed faith, but were simply surprised because they'd thought those good works were not serving Christ directly, but someone other than Christ. But then again, it seems significant to me that it's not "the faithful of all the nations" who are gathered, but the "righteous/upright of all the nations." Unless "righteous" or "upright" translates some particular word that means "had faith specifically in God the father and Christ," but there's precedent for saying that a person outside of Biblical faiths can be upright (Job, for example). Given that, this suggests there's no reason to think automatically that the righteous/upright have to have made a specific faith commitment to the God of Jesus. They simply have to have served the poor and vulnerable, whom that God loves, sincerely and conscientiously.
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