Works, or Faith Alone? A Catholic Response


To clarify the subject, Catholics do not believe in either faith alone, nor works alone. We are saved by sanctifying Grace, through works. Now you might ask, where is faith is all of that, because you do need faith in order to be saved, right? That is because faith falls under works. Works are divided in three parts, notably faith, hope, and Charity. A Catholic believes he is saved by sanctifying Grace, through the threefold of work, which is faith, hope, and Charity. Now that I have given the Catholic answer, I will simply dig a bit deeper and quote Saint James and Saint Paul to explain why it is never faith alone.

Saint Paul in Ephesians 2:8 says that you are saved by grace through faith (not alone) and not by works, in order that you may not boast. To place everything in context, Saint Paul was responding a question coming from gentile believers about the law of Moses and how it applied to their lives. Yes, it is true that you are not saved by works of the mosaic law (like circumcision, avoiding bacon, etc.), and it is also true that supernatural faith is the first element to brings us into the family of believers. Without faith, no one would even get baptized! Saint James on the other hand says in James 2:24 that faith without works is dead! “Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith alone?” Yet he is by no mean contradicting Saint Paul, because he talks about the corporal works of mercy, the works that God Himself requires of us after we become mature Christians. How do you prove that you believe in Jesus? You show it through your life, by doing your best to live out the Gospel (and it’s hard work).

James 2:21-22 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou, that faith did co-operate with his works; and by works faith was made perfect?

Can you get to heaven by faith alone? Protestants will claim that yes, you can get to heaven by simply believing Jesus died for our sins. That is not so. The devil actually believes in God, and the damned do as well. Philippians 2:10-11 states “That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.” It takes a kind of faith to say that Jesus Christ is God. However, the works of the devil are evil! He possess absolutely no charity, he does not have any hope of salvation, his faith is not supernatural, and he only believes and bows down to God because he is forced too. Faith out of love is something the devil cannot possess!

Hope is not like society puts it, a wishful feeling. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that hope is faith personified, meaning that faith is made real and alive for us through hope! There are fourteen articles of the Apostle’s Creed that Saint Thomas summarizes. We profess those truths, but the devil also has to profess those truths. The big difference is through hope, those truths are made alive and concrete to us!

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

Saint Paul tells us that the greatest of the threefold is Charity. Yet, charity is the hardest virtue to attain. I can believe in God, I can believe that I have a reasonable hope to be saved, but if I am not charitable, I’m not going to make it to heaven! Like Saint Paul said, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have no charity, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, but have no charity, I gain nothing” 1 Corinthians 13:2-3. Charity is a virtue that goes beyond neighbourly love, it is a supernatural gift from God. We might be fine with helping a neighbour or a family member in need, but we might not feel like giving our life for a man we do not know (think of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Martyr of Charity). Going beyond our human capabilities can only be achieved through the help of God.

The answer of Saint Thomas Aquinas to the question “Whether the perfection of the Christian life consists chiefly in charity” is : A thing is said to be perfect in so far as it attains its proper end, which is the ultimate perfection thereof. Now it is charity that unites us to God, ultimate end of the human soul. Indeed, “he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Therefore the perfection of the Christian life consists notably in charity.

I’ll conclude with a quote from The Baltimore Catechism (Download Free HERE) :

9. Q. What must we do to save our souls?
A. To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity; that is, we must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.

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