Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What "Faith Alone" Looks Like

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Here's another Escher drawing of impossible objects.



Below, two more, not his but inspired by him.



These are what "faith alone" looks like. I mean faith considered apart from works. You can't consider it apart from its works, because, as all Christians acknowledge (so far as I know), it doesn't exist that way, except on paper, or in the human imagination. As it doesn't exist, God doesn't do anything with it, because of it, or about it. Except eventually to expose the illusion for what it is.

And here, with multiple impossibilities, is what a theology ends up like if it contains too many absurdities. (You have to look very closely, as also at some theologies, to see the impossibilities, but the most obvious ones here are 4. I'm told there are several more; have fun.)

5 comments:

Dixie said...

I have really enjoyed your last few posts on faith, works and righteousness.

You know what I really appreciate? I just love how Orthodoxy keeps it all straight without crashing in the ditch on one side of the road(merit/earning salvation) or the other (faith alone). And try asking an Orthodox about either error...they'll look at you like you have two heads! The errors just doesn't compute for them. It's like a foreign language.

I have experienced life in both ditches and, accordingly, so appreciate the clarity and lack of contradiction in the Orthodox understanding of faith and works.

By the way...your post put the Rich Mullins song, Screen Door, in my head this afternoon (...faith without works, babe, it just ain't happening. That was a treat, too!

William Weedon said...

Just a comment, dear. Faith alone is said in reference to our justification (or, as you said it, faith IS our righteousness), but those who hold for faith alone in justification (in Paul's sense of the word "faith" - not James' sense, which even demons can have), we are always quick to add that the faith that saves is never alone; it always shows itself in good works. Much love.

William Weedon said...

Another thought. We sing it like this:

For faith alone doth justify;
Works serve the neighbor
And supply
The proof that faith is living.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dixie,

Glad you enjoyed. I also enjoy your blog.

William,

Thanks for the love, which I always need, but esp. in these days, and certainly reciprocate. (It needn't keep you from debating , as I hope you know.)

Yes, I know Lutherans hasten to add that faith is never alone; I was including Lutherans when I said all Christians I know of acknowledge it doesn't exist alone.

Trouble is, when it comes to justification, you speak of it as if it *were* alone, meaning without its works, even while acknowledging that it never is.

Yes, I wrote that faith is righteousness, but I also defined faith in a way that makes works implicit in faith. For the man acting in faith, everything he does, because it is for Christ's sake, is (imperfectly) good: his comings and goings, his sitting and standing, even his breathing (for he breathes in God's air with thanks and breathes it out as praise); whereas, for the faithless man, all he does is for himself, which spoils it.

Of course, in real life, we all act one moment from faith and another moment from faithlessness. Grace has not made us perfectly righteous until it has perfected our faith, and grace does this, as St. James points out, through faith being exercised, practiced.

The "instant righteousness" we acquire with faith, like that new faith itself, is only in seed form. The seeds in the parable sprouted, some having received the Word "with joy," but not all survived. Or it's like being pregnant, but the baby has not yet been safely born. Or, it's like having brought your ship around to the right course, but you have a lot of tough sailing to do before you reach home. To have been justified is to have been put on the right path, but is not yet to have been saved. We are saved from sinning when we no longer sin.

love right back to you,
Anastasia

s-p said...

Hi Anastasia,
Nice to see you still writing on the topic. I'm delving into "essence and energies" on the Our Life in Christ radio program, and it struck me as I was reading your post that the patristic understanding of the nature of God in essence and energies is also the foundations for how we must understand faith. A God who is "essence only" is a philosopher's god, a God who is energies only has no Personhood and is not the Christian God. I'm sure you can do the math from here. For a brief but excellent exposition on essence and energies check out the latest post at http://benedictseraphim.wordpress.com/