Apologetics for the Masses #246 - Blue Collar Apologetics (cont'd)

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General Comments

Hey folks,

Well, still no word from Mr. John Smith, the Evangelical I featured in issue #244.  So, I'll drop that for now, but if he does eventually respond, I'll make sure to keep you guys informed.  So, I'm going to return to writing my book.

But, before I do that, it seems a question I asked Mr. Smith in #244, about God ordering "graven images" in the Temple that Solomon built, caused some consternation with some folks. Let me just say this and I hope this will clear up any of the questions (if not, just let me know): technically, a "graven image" is not, in and of itself, an evil thing.  Graven simply means engraved, carved, or sculpted.  So, a "graven image" is simply an image that someone has made in one of those ways.  Although, it's meaning has been broadened in popular usage to mean pretty much any image that a person has made, whether engraved, carved, sculpted, or molded, or made in some other way.  Which is why non-Catholic folks will say that pretty much any statue or other such image in any Catholic church or home is a "graven image," even though I think a lot of them these days are made from molds, and not technically "graven".  And, I recognize that the term "graven image" is indeed associated by many people with the term "idol."  But, the fact is, that not all graven images are indeed idols.  God ordered images to be put into the Temple, just as He ordered images to be put above the Ark of the Covenant.  And how were these images made?  They were engraved, carved, sculpted, or molded.  In other words, they were graven.  Were these images idols?  No, they were not.  The problem is not simply with an image that has been graven, the problem is with an image that has been graven and is being worshipped as a god - as in the golden calf incident.  Hope that helps...


Continuing with my book, Blue Collar Apologetics.  We're getting into Chapter 5 - Sola Fide (Salvation by Faith Alone?)

Blue Collar Apologetics, Chapter 5 - Sola Fide

Chapter 5 - Salvation - Sola Fide (Salvation by Faith...Alone?)

The Second Pillar of Protestantism
In the last chapter we talked about Sola Scriptura, which I believe to be the one Protestant doctrine accepted universally throughout Protestantism.  Which is why I call it the first pillar of Protestantism.  In this chapter, I want to talk to you about the doctrine of Sola Fide - or Faith Alone.  Sola Fide, the belief that we are justified, or saved, by faith, and by faith alone - is the second pillar of Protestantism.  Sola Fide, the belief that faith alone saves us - that works play no role whatsoever in our salvation - is a belief held by the vast majority of Protestants - whether they call themselves Baptists, Evangelicals, Methodists, Lutheran, non-Denominational, and so on.  This is not, however, a universal belief in Protestantism, as there are some folks - like the Church of Christ and at least some of the Pentecostals I’ve come across - who do not hold to this doctrine.  


Now, what exactly does Sola Fide mean?  I have often heard the doctrine of Sola Fide expressed in this way: We are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  It is God’s grace alone that saves us, but we have access to that grace only through faith alone...faith that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and that it is His actions, and His alone, that play any role in our salvation.  No works that we do can ever play a role - any role - in our salvation.  


A person is said to be saved by faith alone when they make a profession of faith in Christ, either through a “sinner’s prayer” or by accepting Jesus Christ into their heart as their “personal Lord and Savior.”  Once that is done, then that person is “saved,” they have been “born again.”   


Protestants, however, do not view works as completely non-essential.  They tell you that if you truly have faith, you will do works.  Or, as Martin Luther basically said, “We are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone.”  Sola Fide believers will often say that if a man does not have works to accompany his faith, then that shows he really doesn’t have faith.  Faith without works, they will claim, really isn’t faith.  Works are, in essence, a natural by-product of faith, but, the main point is, that for the believer in salvation by faith alone, works play no role whatsoever in a man’s justification, in his salvation, and one most definitely cannot merit an increase in justification through works, as Catholics believe, and which I’ll talk about later in this chapter.


So, I will examine this doctrine of Sola Fide in the same manner I examined the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, from three different perspectives – the perspective provided by logic, the perspective provided by history, and the perspective provided by scripture – and show that it fails the test in all three of these areas.  As I go through these different perspectives, I will be comparing and contrasting this Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide, with Catholic teaching on salvation.


Sola Fide: The Perspective Provided by Logic
Sola Fide believers say that there is nothing we can do to impact our salvation.  Jesus did all that needed to be done for us through His death on the cross.  I have heard over and over and over again that we can do nothing to “add” to Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  Folks will point to John 19:30, to make their case.  John 19:30 says, “When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”  Jesus’ last words...“It is finished.”  Sola Fide believers interpret those words to mean that Jesus was saying the work of salvation is finished.  “I have done all that can be done for your salvation,” Jesus is essentially saying, “Nothing else is needed.”  The work of salvation is done...it’s over... it’s completed...all that needs to be done, has been done...period.   


First, and I’ll cover this particular argument more in depth under the “Perspective Provided by Scripture,” to give those dying words of Jesus a “Sola Fide” interpretation, is just that...an interpretation.  A fallible, man-made interpretation.  And it’s a bad interpretation, as I will show in just a little bit.    


Second, I want to bring one of our Four Strategies into play here - the “How to Be Offensive (Aw-Fensive) Without Being Offensive (Uh-fensive)” strategy.  Again, that strategy is nothing more than learning how to ask questions - questions that make folks stop and think about what it is they believe and why they believe it.  


So, here is a question you can ask someone who believes in the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide:  If, on March 12th, 2015, I had never believed in Christ; I had never accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior; I had never been born again...would I be “saved?”  The Sola Fide believer will say, “No, you would not be saved.”  Okay, then, as a follow-up you can ask: Well, if one day later, March 13th, 2015, I answered an altar call; I said a sinner’s prayer; I accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior; I was born again...would I then be saved?  The Sola Fide believer will say, “Yes, you would be saved.”  


Well, now I’m a little confused.  I’m confused because I was unsaved on March 12th, 2015.  But I was “saved” on March 13th, 2015.  What was the difference between my being unsaved on March 12th and my being saved on March 13th?  Was it something I did on March 13, 2015 that saved me, or was it something that Jesus did on March 13, 2015, that saved me?  Did Jesus do something that day...that very day...that saved me, that He didn’t do for me the day before?  Was He crucified on the cross again for me?   


According to the doctrine of Sola Fide, Jesus’ work was finished two thousand years ago on the Cross.  “It is finished,” He said from the Cross.  So, it can’t be something Jesus did that caused me to be saved in 2015.  His work was done, complete, finito, over, accomplished - on the Cross - 2000 years ago.  Yet, also according to the doctrine of Sola Fide, there is nothing that I can do during my lifetime that counts towards my salvation.  So, it cannot be something that I did.  How then was I unsaved on March 12, 2015, and saved on March 13, 2015?  How?!  Was it something I did, or was it something Jesus did?


The correct answer, the Catholic answer, the scriptural answer, the logical answer, is both.  I was saved by both something Jesus did and by something that I did, but the logical dilemma for the folks who believe in Sola Fide, is that it can’t be both.  Sola Fide does not allow for anyone to do something, to do any work, that leads to one’s salvation.  


“Wait a minute,” the Sola Fide folks will say, “Yes, Jesus’ work of salvation was finished on the Cross 2000 years ago, but that doesn’t mean you can claim you did some work today that saved you.  It is not by your work that you were saved today, it is by your faith that you were saved today.  You were saved by having faith..by believing in Jesus’ finished work of salvation for you on the Cross 2000 years ago.  So, it’s not some work that saved you, because believing is not a work.”   


Here is where the logic of Sola Fide has a problem.  We have to “do” something - I have to “do” something - profess belief; make an act of faith - in order to be saved.  But, they cannot call this something that we have to “do”...for our salvation...a “work.”  After all, that would be against their religion.  So, they’ll say that believing isn’t a work, it’s merely an act of faith in someone else’s work - in Jesus’ work.


Believing isn’t a work?  Do I not have to “confess” Jesus?  Do I not have to make an “act” of faith?  Do I not have to “accept” Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior?  Aren’t all of these things actions that have to take place in order for me to be saved?  What is a “work”?  A work is simply an action...an action that we do.  Believing is an action. It is something we do. Saying a sinner’s prayer is an action. It is something we do.  Accepting Jesus into our heart is an action.  It is something we do.  Confessing Jesus with our lips is an action.  It is something we do. So, believing is indeed a work...an action...it is something that we need to do in order to be saved. Jesus doesn’t do it for us and He will not force us to do it.  We do it by the grace of God, but we do it.  It is a work we do. And, as I’ll show in a few minutes, the Bible backs me up on this.


Here’s another way to illustrate the logical dilemma of Sola Fide: I often draw a big circle for folks on a piece of paper.  Just imagine this big circle.  I tell them that the circle represents the set of all people who were redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross.  In other words, the circle represents all of humanity, because Jesus died for all men...that all men might be saved.  1 Timothy 4:10 says that Jesus is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe.  Which means not that all men are definitely saved, but that all men can be saved.  And they can be saved because Jesus paid the price for all men’s sins - He has redeemed all of mankind.  All of humanity is redeemed by Jesus’ death on the Cross.  But, not all of humanity is saved.   


So, I next draw a smaller circle within the first circle.  Big circle...smaller circle inside the big circle.  I tell them that this second circle represents the subset of those who have not only been redeemed, but who have also been saved.  Which means that those outside of that second circle represent the redeemed and unsaved.  I then ask, “What is the difference between the two circles - between the redeemed and unsaved and the redeemed and saved - is it something Jesus did, or is it something that the saved persons did?    


Whenever I ask that question, I can almost hear the first thought that goes through their heads, I know they’re thinking, “It’s something the saved did.”  Because that’s the logical response.  I know they’re thinking that because they generally give me this really strange look as they try to think of a “correct” response.  They know they can’t say it’s something Jesus did, because they have just finished telling me that Jesus’ work was finished on the cross some two thousand years ago.  Besides, Jesus did the same thing for all men - He died on the Cross for their sins.  So, the difference between the redeemed and saved and the redeemed and unsaved cannot be something Jesus did, because He did the same thing for all men.


They also realize, however, that they cannot answer the question by saying it’s something the saved did, because they also just finished telling me that we can do nothing to “add to” Jesus’ finished work of salvation on the Cross.  We can do no work that affects our salvation.  Jesus did all that needs to be done.  Hmm...we’ve got a problem.  The difference between the redeemed and saved and the redeemed and unsaved can’t be what Jesus did, but it can’t be something the saved did, either.  Then what is it?  
Again, for the Catholic, the answer to the dilemma is obvious.  Both groups are redeemed.  Jesus has already died for both groups of people - the saved and the unsaved.  So the only possible difference between the redeemed and saved and the redeemed and unsaved, is something the saved “do”.  Now, they do it by the grace of God - which we have access to because of Jesus’ death on the Cross - but the saved do it and the unsaved don’t do it.  They confess their sins.  They ask for forgiveness.  They make an act of faith.  They say a sinner’s prayer.  They accept Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior.  


All of these are things that each individual believer does.  They are verbs...action verbs.  They are “acts” of faith.  They are “acts” of believing.  They involve our body, our mind, and our will.  We “confess” with our lips that Jesus is Lord.  We “accept” Him into our hearts as our personal Lord and Savior.  It is an act of the mind to understand that Jesus is Lord and Savior.  It is an act of the will to accept that understanding and have it give our lives meaning.  We “make” a commitment to Christ.  Actions!  Works!


This is the true irony of the doctrine of Sola Fide, the very act of having faith, the act of believing, is itself a work.  It is something we do.  We do it by the grace of God, but we indeed do it.  It is not forced upon us, it is a decision we make.  It is not done on our behalf without our involvement, but rather it is done through our cooperation with God’s grace.  As one of the saints said, “God created us without our consent, but He will not save us without our consent.”  


So, the doctrine of Sola Fide is a logical contradiction.  You cannot be saved by faith alone, when the act of having faith is a work in and of itself.  It is something the believer does that sets him apart from the unbeliever, because Jesus has died for both.  


Sola Fide fails the test of logic.


To be cont'd...



I hope all of you have a great week, and I look forward to seeing some of you in Beaux Bridge, LA, next weekend!  And, since I will be traveling next week, I will not be getting a newsletter out - but definitely the following week.


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Apologetics for the Masses