Restless Heart: 13 – “By Faith alone?”



Since it is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Nessa and I are devoting the next to episodes to the two key doctrines of the Reformation: “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone) and “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone). Today we’ll begin by looking at the first of these doctrines, Sola Fide.

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Episode 13: By faith alone? (Download)


— Show Notes —

• The venue Nessa visited in San Diego with dueling pianos was Shout House.

• The book our C.S. Lewis reading group has started discussing is The Four Loves.

• The novels by Taylor Marshall which are set in the Early Church are entitled The Sword and the Serpent.

• Over the next two weeks we’re going to look at “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone) and “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone)

• Luther thought that Sola Fide was the central element of Christianity:

“If the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost”
– Luther, Lectures On Galatians

• I quoted from the Protestant apologetics site “Got Questions”:

“Sola fide or faith alone is a key point of difference between not only Protestants and Catholics but between biblical Christianity and almost all other religions and teachings. The teaching that we are declared righteous by God (justified) on the basis of our faith alone and not by works is a key doctrine of the Bible and a line that divides most cults from biblical Christianity…

If we abandon the doctrine of justification by faith, we abandon the only way of salvation…

The Bible teaches that those that trust Jesus Christ for justification by faith alone are imputed with His righteousness, while those who try to establish their own righteousness or mix faith with works will receive the punishment due to all who fall short of God’s perfect standard”
– (Emphasis added)

• A key text for Luther in relation to his doctrine of Sola Fide was:

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”
– Romans 3:28

However, when he translated it, he added an additional word:

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith ALONE apart from the works of the law”
– Romans 3:28

To justify this change, Luther responded thus:

“If your papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word sola [alone], say this to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he says that a papist and a donkey are the same thing.'”
– An Open Letter on Translating by Martin Luther

(The term “papist” here refers to Catholics)

• Luther was a master at insults. So much so, that today you can generate an insult from the Luther Insult Generator.

• Other important texts which were used to justify “Faith Alone” were Galatians 2:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9.

• When Paul talks about “works”, he is talking about the works of the Mosaic Law. In fact, he spends a lot of time in his letters comparing the Old Covenant with Moses to the New Covenant with Jesus.

• There only verse of the Bible which speaks of “faith alone” is the following passage from the Epistle of James:

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone”
– James 2:24

Luther referred to this epistle as an “epistle of straw” and he moved it to the appendix of his translation of the Bible:

“We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school, for it doesn’t amount to much. It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ, except at the beginning. I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any.”
–  Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk

• Nessa asked about what a Catholic should do if he “has a beef” with the Catholic Church. I suggested that it would probably depend upon the kind of issue at hand:

1. Doctrinal Issue
If you disagree with Catholic doctrine, first of all make sure that what you’re rejecting actually is the Catholic teaching on the matter and not some distortion of it. Once you have done this, find yourself a knowledgable Catholic to explain the basis of the doctrine.

2. Issues of Scandal
Reform yourself first! Be an example for others to imitate, imitating St. Francis and St. Dominic.

• I discussed my approach when discussing the Epistle of James. I ask a series of questions:

1. Can a dead faith save you? No? So you’re saying that you need a faith that’s alive?
2. Can a barren faith save you? No? So you’re saying that you need a fruitful faith?
3. Can an incomplete faith save you? No? So you’re saying that you need a complete faith?

• This then leads to another round of questions:

1. How is faith given life?
2. How is a barren faith made fruitful?
3. What is the difference between a complete faith and an incomplete faith?

The answer, according to the Epistle of James, is “Works”. In his letter, James teaches that faith must be living, fruitful and complete:

1. Living Faith
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead
– James 2:17

2. Fruitful Faith
“Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren?”
– James 2:20

3. Complete Faith
“[Abraham’s] faith was made complete by what he did
– James 2:22

• On the subject of faith and works, I quote CS Lewis who said:

“Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ…it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary”
– Mere Christianity 

You should listen to my C.S. Lewis podcast, The Eagle and Child.

• The Catholic Church does not teach a works-based righteousness. She condemned this heresy (“Pelagianism”) in the Fifth Century! 

• I quote Lewis a second time when he’s explaining how the divine life should be nurtured and protected:

“Your natural life is derived from your parents; that does not mean it will stay there if you do nothing about it. You can lose it by neglect, or you can drive it away by committing suicide. You have to feed it and look after it: but always remember you are not making it, you are only keeping up a life you got from someone else. In the same way a Christian can lose the Christ-life which has been put into him, and he has to make efforts to keep it. But even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam – he is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts”
– Mere Christianity

• The pithiest summary of salvation really comes from St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians:

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”
– Galatians 5:6

• Pope Emeritus Benedict articulated this in one of

Being “just” simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther’s phrase: “faith alone” is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity, in love. Faith is looking at Christ, entrusting oneself to Christ, being united to Christ, conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence to believe is to conform to Christ and to enter into his love. So it is that in the Letter to the Galatians in which he primarily developed his teaching on justification St Paul speaks of faith that works through love
– Pope Benedict XVI, Wednesday Audience, 19th November 2008

The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (Part 3: “Patriotism”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes for The Four Loves, this is the second of two posts which continue my summary of Chapter 2 (“Likings and Loves for the subhuman”) of The Four Loves. In this post we will be looking at the final section of the chapter which Lewis devotes to the love of country, patriotism.

1. Everyone knows that patriotism can turn turn bad

…we all know now that this love [of country] becomes a demon when it becomes a god. Some begin to suspect that it is never anything but a demon.

2. But if we say it is always bad, we have to reject much

But then they have to reject half the high poetry and half the heroic action our race has achieved. We cannot keep even Christ’s lament over Jerusalem. He too exhibits love for His country.

3. In this chapter we will attempt to distinguish authentic patriotism from its demonic form

Let us limit our field…. We are only considering the sentiment itself in the shape of being able to distinguish its innocent from its demoniac condition.

4. We will be focussing on patriotism in subjects rather than rulers

Neither…[innocent nor demonic patriotism] is the efficient cause* of national behaviour. For strictly speaking it is rulers, not nations, who behave internationally. Demoniac patriotism in their subjects…will make it easier for them to act wickedly; healthy patriotism may make it harder: when they are wicked they may by propaganda encourage a demoniac condition of our sentiments in order to secure our acquiescence in their wickedness. If they are good, they could do the opposite. That is one reason why we private persons should keep a wary eye on the health or disease of our own love for our country.

* Jack is referring to one of the four causes described by Aristotle.

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The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (Part 2: “Love of nature”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes on The Four Loves, this is the first of two posts which continue my summary of Chapter 2 (“Likings and Loves for the subhuman”). In this post we will be looking at the section which Lewis devotes to the love of nature.

1. Some people have a special love of nature

For some people, perhaps especially for Englishmen and Russians, what we call “the love of nature” is a permanent and serious sentiment. I mean here that love of nature which cannot be adequately classified simply as an instance of our love for beauty.

(a) This is more than simply an appreciation of beauty

Of course many natural objects – trees, flowers and animals – are beautiful.

(i) Either of individual objects…

But the nature-lovers whom I have in mind are not very much concerned with individual beautiful objects of that sort. The man who is distracts them. An enthusiastic botanist is for them a dreadful companion on a ramble. He is always stopping to draw their attention to particulars. N

(ii) …or of vistas

or are they looking for “views” or landscapes. Wordsworth, their spokesman, strongly deprecates this. It leads to “a comparison of scene with scene”, makes you “pamper” yourself with “meagre novelties of colour and proportion”.

(b) For these lovers of nature, it is about the “Spirit” of the place

While you are busying yourself with this critical and discriminating activity you lose what really matters – the “moods of time and season”, the “spirit” of the place. And of course Wordsworth is right. That is why, if you love nature in his fashion, a landscape painter is (out of doors) an even worse companion than a botanist. It is the “moods” or the “spirit” that matter.

(c) Which is why beauty itself per se is the focus

Nature-lovers want to receive as fully as possible whatever nature, at each particular time and place, is, so to speak, saying. The obvious richness, grace and harmony of some scenes are no more precious to them than the grimness, bleakness, terror, monotony, or “visionary dreariness” of others. The featureless itself gets from them a willing response. It is one more word uttered by nature. They lay themselves bare to the sheer quality of every countryside every hour of the day. They want to absorb it into themselves, to be coloured through and through by it.

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Reading “The Four Loves” at The Eagle And Child

The Four Loves

You may have noticed the posts on C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, appearing on this blog. Our San Diego C.S. Lewis book club has now finished Mere Christianity and we have now started on this other book from Lewis…just in time for Valentine’s Day:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The likes and loves of the sub-human (1 | 2 | 3)
Chapter 3: Affection
Chapter 4: Friendship
Chapter 5: Eros
Chapter 6: Agape



The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (“Likings And Loves For The Sub-Human”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes on The Four Loves, in this chapter Jack examines the likings/loves we have for things things which are not human (which he calls “subhuman”). In particular, he focuses in on love of nature and love of country. We will not deal with these in this post. Due to the length of the chapter, these will be dealt with in subsequent posts.

Notes and Quotes

1. Before we get to loves, we need to look at likes, which means we need to look at pleasures

…there is a continuity between our elementary likings for things and our loves for people. Since “the highest does not stand without the lowest”* we had better begin at the bottom, with mere likings; and, since to “like” anything means to take some sort of pleasure in it, we must begin with pleasure.

* This is a quotation from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis

2. We may divide pleasures into two kinds

Now it is a very old discovery that pleasures can be divided into two classes…

(a) Need Pleasures

…those [pleasures] which would not be pleasures at all unless they were preceded by desire… An example… would be a drink of water. This is a pleasure if you are thirsty and a great one if you are very thirsty. But probably no one in the world… ever poured himself out a glass of water and drank it just for the fun of the thing.

(b) Appreciative Pleasures

…[the other kind are] those which are pleasures in their own right and need no such preparation [of desire]. An example… would be the unsought and unexpected pleasures of smell – the breath from a bean-field or a row of sweet-peas meeting you on your morning walk. You were in want of nothing, completely contented, before it; the pleasure, which may be very great, is an unsolicited, super-added gift.

3. There can be complications with dividing up pleasures in this way

(a) You can have both pleasures at the same time

If you are given a coffee or beer where you expect (and would have been satisfied with) water, then of course you get a pleasure of the first kind (allaying of thirst) and one of the second (a nice taste) at the same time.

(b) Addiction can turn pleasure from appreciative-pleasure to need-pleasure

For the temperate man an occasional glass of wine is a treat like the smell of the bean-field. But to the alcoholic…no liquor gives any pleasure except that of relief from an unbearable craving. 

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The Four Loves – Chapter 1 (“Introduction”)

Four Loves 1

Four Loves 1

Our San Diego C.S. Lewis Reading Group will starting a new book this week, The Four Loves.

Once again I will be providing an outline of the arguments presented in each chapter, together with quotations and explanatory notes. The chapters in this book are generally a good bit longer than our previous book (Mere Christianity), so I may well experiment with the format of these posts as I work through each chapter.

Notes and Quotes

1. Lewis thought that St. John’s statement that “God is love” would provide a clear plan for this book

“‘God is love,’ says St. John. When I first tried to write this book I thought
that his maxim would provide me with a very plain highroad through the
whole subject. I thought I should be able to say that human loves deserved
to be called loves at all just in so far as they resembled that Love which is

2. He therefore divided love into two types:

(a) Gift-love

“The typical example of Gift-love would be that love which moves a man to work and plan and save for the future well-being of his family which he will die without sharing or seeing”

(b) Need-love

“…that which sends a lonely or frightened child to its mother’s arms”

3. These types of love reflect both divinity and humanity

(a) Divine Love

“Divine Love is Gift-love. The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too”

(b) Relation to God

“…what…can be less like anything we believe of God’s life than Need-love? He lacks nothing… We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves”

3. Lewis thought he could just praise Gift-love and disparage Need-love

“I was looking forward to writing some fairly easy panegyrics on the first
sort of love and disparagements of the second… But I would not now deny the name love to Need-love… The reality is more complicated than I supposed”

In this section, Jack uses the term “panegyrics” which refers to a speech in which something is praised. He also refers to his “master, MacDonald” was an author and minister he greatly admired, George MacDonald.

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The Eagle and Child: S1E7 – “We Have Cause to Be Uneasy”

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

We finally come to the last chapter of Book I of “Mere Christianity”! The chapter bears the ominous title “We have cause to be uneasy”. Thus far, C.S. Lewis has demonstrated that there is a Moral Law which we did not create and that we violate this Law continually. Now Jack explains why this should give us cause for concern…

If you enjoy this episode, you can subscribe manually, or through a service like iTunesGoogle Play or Podbean. As always, if you have any objections, comments or questions, please send us an email through my website or tweet us @pintswithjack.

Episode 7: “We have cause to be uneasy” (Download)


— Show Notes —

• My outline for the Chapter 5 is available here. There is also a C.S. Lewis Doodle for this chapter.

• The line “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia” comes from C.S. Lewis’ fictional work, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”

• As my mother pointed out, people should be calling me “Sir David”, not “Sir Bates”. You have been told…

• The beers for this episode were Blue Moon and Heineken.

• Jack reviews what has been established thus far:

  1. There is a Moral Law
  2. In this Moral Law something or someone beyond the material universe is “getting at us”

• The phrase “religious jaw” used by Lewis means “religious chatter”.

• When speaking about the desire of some people to only pay attention to new ideas, I mentioned Acts 17:21, the incident where St. Paul visits the Areopagus:

Then they took [Paul] and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

• In response to someone who rejects what Lewis says because “you cannot put the clock back”, he makes three points:

1. Moving forward sometimes requires you to go backwards (like a cha-cha!)
Progress means getting closer to your destination, not simply being “new”.

• We gave a number of examples demonstrating this. Firstly, I mentioned how I missed a sign while walking the Camino De Santiago and ended up heading in the wrong direction. I had to backtrack in order to ultimately arrive at my destination. Matt gave the example of making a mistake early in a mathematical calculation. He also explained how a small mistake early in a flight, a few degrees of difference, can result in a very different destination (San Diego vs Seattle).

• We discussed whether or not it’s really controversial to say that modern humanity is making a lot of mistakes. I mentioned same of the disturbing comments from Princeton Philosopher Peter Singer about killing young children. Matt told a story by Fr. Mike Schmitz about a member of his congregation who survived vicious persecution in China for his Christianity, only to then succumb to a slow fade in his faith after escaping to America. I also brought up the example of the sexual revolution and the damage which it has done to marriage, family and therefore society as a whole.

2. We haven’t yet reached “religion”
We’ve just established the existence of the Moral Law and a “something” behind it. We can’t just dismiss Lewis’ arguments because we can see the direction in which they point. Each argument should, instead be judged on its individual merits. We haven’t got as far as a person. Perhaps a mind?

Lewis then asks two questions. What can we know about this “something”…

(a) …based upon the universe?
Lewis says we can know that this “something” is an artist, but also very dangerous.

(b) …based upon the Moral Law?
Jack says this thing cares a lot about Right and Wrong. He even goes so far as to say that we can’t even yet call this thing “forgiving”. I quote the often-repeated phrase in the Chronicles of Narnia referring to Aslan: “He’s not a tame lion”.

3. Christianity only makes sense once you understand the questions it answers.
Christianity promises people forgiveness…and therefore has nothing to say to those who do not feel they need forgiveness!

• Christianity is a thing of great comfort, but it does not begin that way. In Book IV, Lewis devotes an entire chapter to answering the question: “Is Christianity hard or easy?”

• We both spoke about how Christianity makes sense of the reality which we experience, quoting Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but by it I see everything else”. I then also paraphrased G.K. Chesterton who said that all his reasons for faith could be boiled down to one reason – it’s true.

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