[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Are We Saved by Faith Alone or by Faith that Is Not Alone?

by Antonio da Rosa

The Traditionalists use such statements as:

"A person is justified by faith alone BUT NOT by a faith that is alone"

(Which I stumbled across again recently in a Traditionalist's article at the blog named Expository Thoughts, which by the way, was linked to by a Free Grace brother on his website.)

By this sentence, they are, in fact, speaking nonsense. All this sentence is simply saying is that faith + works saves. The cleverness of the prose serves to conceal this fact. Proverbial sayings like this have been passed on in the theology textbooks for centuries. Yet for all intents and purposes, it is devoid of meaning, and furthermore, contradictory.

They say, "You aren't saved by faith alone, but you are saved by a faith that is not alone."

What is it not alone from?

Obvious answer: works.

Their pithy little statement says, in effect:

You are saved by faith that is accompanied by works (IOW, a faith that is not alone).

You cannot be saved by faith alone and at the same time be saved by faith that is not alone (apart from works).

How is this so difficult to understand?

The Traditionalists are so worried about Antinomianism that they fatally mar the gospel message by the introduction of a works contingency: Final salvation becomes conditioned on the supposed progressive sanctification and obedience til death that is supposedly necessitated by faith.

"You are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves you is never alone."

They say!


Let me complete it: "You are saved by faith alone (apart from works), but the faith that saves you is never alone (apart from works)." This is internally inconsistent, absurd, and heretical.

A person is saved by faith alone, and by faith that is alone. Faith plus anything = works salvation.



  • I agree with you on this, Antonio! And Calvinists of today throw around the label, "antinomianism", so carelessly it marginalizes what the historical antinomian movement was all about (i.e. discontinuity between law and gospel). I'm a follower of the historical understanding of antinomianism, so is the traditional Luther [an] understanding--which is as much apart of the "Reformation", more so in many respects, than is the "Calvinist" position on Law and Gospel. This is where I find commonality with you, Antonio!

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 5:26:00 PM  

  • Antonio,

    A couple of points:

    1. We are not saved by faith. We are saved by Jesus.

    2. Let's drop the talk about "salvation" and use the terms (1) justification, or (2) sanctification, or (3) glorification. Let's use Bible terms, with Bible definitions, when discussing biblical ideas.

    3. I think we should wear the label "antinomian" proudly. Paul did, and I've got a post on my free grace network blog to this effect.

    By Anonymous Bud Brown, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 6:21:00 PM  

  • Hey Bud,

    what happened to your proposal to me . . . remember I was going to post something?

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 6:50:00 PM  

  • Bobby, thanks for your encouragement!

    Bud, "soteria" and "sozo" are biblical words, that often do correspond to eternal salvation in the New Testament. I don't mind using "saved", "salvation", etc, and I will continue using them. The context of my post clearly points out the salvation that I have in mind is eternal salvation.

    As for my inarticulate use of "by" rather than "through", you must excuse me. I am well aware that salvation is not by the means of faith but through the instrumentality of faith. I personally don't think anyone was confused by what I communicated!

    Many, both Reformed and Free Grace, use the phrase that "we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone", Bob Wilkin and Zane Hodges notwithstanding. It has become a sort of colloquilistic expression.

    Too, the word "by" can mean "through the agency of" as in the case of "the man was killed by a bullet shot from another man's gun". And agency has a semantic range that includes "instrumentality"; faith being the instrument through which a man appropriates eternal life. So in a real way, the phrase "saved by faith" is appropriate, if by it, we mean saved through the instrumentality of faith. The word "by" can be used that way.

    Paul wasn't one either to always be articulate, for he says:

    1 Cor 9:19, 22
    I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more... I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some

    Unless Paul meant that he was physically rescuing people, or attributing eternal salvation to himself, we have to concede that he meant that in a sense he was saving people.

    Words take on meaning by usage. If by "antinomianism" we mean that we are under grace and not subject to the mosaic law, and that by the law no flesh shall be justified, I would wear that banner.

    But the common usage of today is quite pejorative having the connotation of license, and as a Free Gracer who believes in the awesome accountability of the Christian before God, I am not comfortable with that label.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 7:59:00 PM  

  • Bobby;

    I sent it a while back. You didn't get it?

    By Anonymous Bud Brown, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 8:05:00 PM  

  • Antonio,

    Agree with your remarks wholeheartedly, but the conversation has become so muddled that many people can no longer intuit which aspect of salvation is in view. So I'm going to start using J, S, and G rather than the generic "salvation." I notice that in many of his writings Earl Radmacher has begun doing the same.

    And I'm also going to quit using the "saved by faith" thing because everybody claims to believe that, even though they don't, and even though it's not biblical.

    By Anonymous Bud Brown, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 8:09:00 PM  

  • Yeah Bud, I never received it!

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 8:15:00 PM  

  • Bud, you say
    the conversation has become so muddled that many people can no longer intuit which aspect of salvation is in view
    This may be true in people's reading of the Bible, but I am sure that no one reading this post of mine would fail to recognize I am talking about the appropriation of eternal life.

    I have nothing against being more articulate. I just don't know if this was the right place to make your point here on my thread. It has taken us on a rabbit trail when I'd rather discuss the content of my post.

    Was the message of my post indiscernable to you? If not, why not comment on the message of my post rather than take us off topic. Possibly an article should be in the works on one of your blogs concerning the issues you bring up.

    Let this comment be the end of this line of discussion.

    By Blogger Antonio, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 8:48:00 PM  

  • The post's message is clear:

    The Traditionalist believes that faith alone is insufficient to appropriate eternal life. They believe that faith that is not alone apart from works is necessary for eternal salvation.

    This is the point of my post, and any comments as to its content would be appreciated.


    By Blogger Antonio, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 8:52:00 PM  

  • Absolutely right, Antonio.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Sunday, July 30, 2006 11:56:00 PM  

  • Antonio,
    I agree. I have heard that saying for many years and I always thought it sounded nonsensical.

    Here is a thought on "not alone":

    When we are born-again, we receive the Holy Spirit, and then we are not alone. The Lord will never leave us nor forsake us. We can either follow His leading or grieve Him.

    I am unashamed of grace!

    By Blogger Rose~, at Monday, July 31, 2006 5:30:00 AM  

  • I respectfully disagree with you guys, if your theology is summed up by Zane Hodges Absolutely Free. I invested the time to read some of your theologians like Hodges and Ryrie, so why don't you guys read Sproul's book Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification. It would help before you attempt to make a crude caricature of it.

    I have to confess I see a lot of straw man arguments coming from this circle of blogs by professed adherants of free grace theology, in which you erect a weak or distorted view of what adherants to Perserverance of the Saints or Lordship Salvation believe, and then you attack it. The two are different positions IMHO, but have some commonalities as well.

    The merits pro or con for your arguments don't vindicate your mispresentation of your opponents.

    BTW Mr. Brown, "salvation" is a Bible term just like justification, or sanctification, or glorification. I fail to see your point.

    Your point of emphasis to hold grace in high esteem however is appreciated. And I think it is a more grevious error for a person to muddle justification with sanctification, as the Council of Trent does.

    By Blogger Ryan S., at Monday, July 31, 2006 8:31:00 AM  

  • Ryan,

    We appreciate those of the Reformed tradition visiting our blogs and their comments.

    I see that you commented twice on my other blog and now once here.

    The opening post of this comment thread is quite clear. You have every opportunity to respond to its message.

    I am quite well-read in Calvinistic theologies. Whenever I attack the theology of the Calvinist, he responds that I just really do not understand it. I do understand it, but I disagree with it completely.

    In order to be an advocate of Calvinism, one must traffic in mental dissonance, paradox, theological-tension, and mystery. I am not content with this. The student of scripture must rise above any seeming "tension" and search for a synthesis that explains all. The Calvinist on the other hand must modify Scriptural data in order to accomodate it with an apparantly contradictory one. They do this by the continual addition of secondary assumptions that do not reside in the text.

    If you are so inclined to enter into discussion, we would be obliged.

    You say that we set up straw men. Please! present to us what they are and show how we have mischaracterized your positions!

    you write:
    And I think it is a more grevious error for a person to muddle justification with sanctification, as the Council of Trent does
    This is interesting as this is exactly what the Perseverance of the Saints does!


    By Blogger Antonio, at Monday, July 31, 2006 9:40:00 AM  

  • I think the point that (reasonable) people are trying to get across when they say,

    "A person is justified by faith alone BUT NOT by a faith that is alone."

    is that *true* faith, the kind through which salvation is obtained, is always accompanied by works. This is how we human beings recognize salvation in others: by seeing works, and recognizing them as those "which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

    While it is true that Abraham was justified by faith without any action ("it was reckoned to him as righteousness"), it is also true that the Holy Spirit does not indwell someone without some measure of practical sanctification. It's just not God's style to be ineffective.

    "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. " ~Is 55:10-11

    Abraham's faith, through which he obtained salvation, was the same faith that enabled him to be willing to offer up Isaac. You cannot separate the two. If Abraham had not had a faith that was capable of producing action, then God would never have credited it to him as righteousness, because it would not have been faith.

    From a human perspective, it's hard to tell, but then I suppose that's why judgemenet is reserved for the Lord. That's why the author of the book of Hebrews says, "But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak." He saw works which he hoped were the result of God working through those who professed Christ, but still warned them against the apostacy of rejecting Christ with complete understanding and returning to works as a means of justification through the Law, something which John says is evidence that they "were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us."

    By Blogger Tim, at Monday, July 31, 2006 12:23:00 PM  

  • Yes, yes, I know: Hebrews is talking about Judaizers and 1 John is talking about Gnostics, they both have this in common: Both at first appeared to be Christians; to have been justified through faith; but in both cases this was not true: and their actions eventually bore out the truth.

    There is no sense in scripture of a faith accepted by God which produces no action: in fact, that is the very thing the Gnostics thought they had: A secret knowledge ("falsely, so-called") which gave them liberty to commit whatever acts they pleased with their bodies, because they had transcended the physical realm.

    By Blogger Tim, at Monday, July 31, 2006 12:42:00 PM  

  • Tim,

    I agree with you, but of course the issue is "what" works a person should be manifesting, how often, where, etc. I mean I believe I have a job, and so I show up everyday to my place of employment--so there is a cause and effect relationship between our beliefs and exemplification of those beliefs in action--but that exemplification is always on a continuum, which is where judging a person's salvation comes in; but of course as you note that's not our job in the first place I Cor 4:1ff, etc.

    In Christ

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Monday, July 31, 2006 2:25:00 PM  

  • Bobby;

    I've sent several emails to you but I guess they're not getting through.

    Can you get your email to me somehow? I've got that article for you.

    By Anonymous Bud Brown, at Monday, July 31, 2006 2:41:00 PM  

  • Yeah Bud,

    My email is: icor22@hotmail.com

    sorry Antonio for using your thread this way!

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Tuesday, August 01, 2006 2:07:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home