Daniel asked:

[Editor's note: Daniel never did present a clear question so I summarized it to this: Can you tell me about the Church's teachings on sola fide?]

Jimmy Akin replied:

"Sola fide is a latin phrase that's used to express an idea that was popularized in the Protestant Reformation that we're saved by faith alone ...

[Ephesians 2:8] says we're justified by faith, that definition alone is not there. In fact there is only one place in the bible where the phrase faith alone is used and that's in James 2 where the concept is rejected ...

There's also a question in Epheisans 2 ... what type of works are we talking about. There's a very good case that in this passage ... Paul is talking about works of the law. That is works done in obedience to the law of Moses. Indeed those don't save you. But that's why he goes on in this passage about ... the difference between Jew and gentile and how it had been reconciled and saved in Christ. That's an indicator that the law he's talking about is the Jewish law.

We see the same thing in Romans and Galatians where he's even more explicit talking about how is God not the God of the gentiles also? Talking about the fact that circumcision is not needed for salvation and circumcision is obviuosly commanded by the law of Moses, not commanded by natural law or moral law...

Now in terms of the question of the relationship between charitable works ... that phrase can be a little misleading ... today when we use the word charity we often mean acts of benevolence like donating to the poor. In a theological sense what the phrase is referring to is actions that're motivated by the virtue of charity which is supernatural love of God and of neighbor ... it's true that those are a natural consequence of having the state of justification when you come to God and you're justified by faith. God pours the virtue of charity, he pours his love into our hearts and that enables us to start doing works of charity ... So they're a natural consequence of being jsutified but that doesn't mean that they have to be there in the sense that you got to do them or you're not saved. If you came to God and were justified and were imemdiately hit by a bus then you'd still go to heaven even though you didn't have an opportunity to do any works of charity. So that's I guess, part of the relevant framework here.

...The faith that we're saved by is not simply intellectual faith. The Church doesn't use the formula sola fide because it's confusing, and even when our protestant brothers use it they've instantly got to start explaining what it does and doesn't mean. It's a confusing phrase, it's not part of Catholic tradition ... according to Pope Benedict it can be given an acceptable sense if you're talking about a faith that's formed by charity so that all three of the theological virtues are present: faith, hope and charity. If the type of faith you're talking about is accompanied by charity, then you have the virtues you need to be in union with God and you can be saved."


Catholic Answers, "Open Forum for Non-Catholics" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

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Show air date: October 30, 2013

Name of show: Open Forum for Non-Catholics

Guest comments by: Jimmy Akin

Question appeared in show: 23:03

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