Sola fide or fide laboreque?

The most critical question. Protestants believe in sola fide, Catholics don’t. To support sola fide, Protestants throw at you Ephesians 2:8 (and many others similar to it) which say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith; and this is not of yourselves–it is the gift of God.” Then to support the Catholic view, Catholics present James 2:24 which says, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Ok, what to do? Here we have two seemingly contradictory statements. Which is right?

Well the answer is, both! But you must understand that the two verses are referring to different things: Paul’s statements about faith and not works are talking about initial justification; James’s, to what we will call “sequential” justification.

Initial justification is that movement of the soul whereby it is converted toward God. This is entirely by God’s grace. Catholics will agree there. Were it not for the Father’s free grace, we could not be made pleasing to Him.

Sequential justification is that continual process which occurs after God has given you His grace, and this is by works. You can’t believe and do no more. Thus, St. Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

The problem is that people tend to isolate a verse as referring to both kinds of justification, which truly makes for a difficult interpretation of God’s Word.

God bless you!


7 thoughts on “Sola fide or fide laboreque?”

  1. I feel like even the Protestants who believe “salvation by faith alone” truly also believe that can’t just live passively and end up going to Heaven. Works accompany Faith and are a way for us to express our Love.
    However, this is also a tricky subject because Protestants also point to one moment of their “salvation” and believe the rest of their life doesn’t really matter because of that one point. Even someone who was Baptized can still sin and fall away from God; and if he does not repent, may still never reach Heaven.


    1. Yes, it’s a very confusing issue. I’ve asked Protestants before whether sola fide is license to sin. They, of course, say no. But doesn’t that mean that faith is not in and of itself sufficient for salvation if you need to maintain virtue?

      One Protestant discussion of James 2 that I saw said that it was not denying faith alone; rather, it was simply saying that faith WITH works is living and without works, dead. But that doesn’t maintain sola fide. The Protestant who wrote that would agree that we can’t have dead faith. So we do, in fact, need works.

      I’ve said this many times: things which are at variance with truth don’t tend to be logical.


      1. Yes, it is often the case that Protestant theology contradicts itself. I remember hearing at one point that we can know whether something is truly from God if it does not contradict the Word of God or any of the Church teachings.
        And as for the license to sin thing, I’ve heard the same thing regarding Confession: “because you say you can confess your sins to a priest, does that mean you just think you can sin all you want and then just be forgiven?” Also laughable.


      2. The problem with the confession argument is, they don’t understand how confession works. If someone goes into the confessional without the intention to “sin no more and to avoid near occasion of sin”, his confession is an invalid one and he is not forgiven. Perhaps this isn’t the case with venial sins, since they don’t, strictly speaking, need to be confessed (though they definitely should be, since they can lead to mortal sin), but it’s definitely the case with mortal sins.

        And also, I can, unfortunately, testify to the truthfulness of one thing–if have a mortal sin and don’t honestly confess it, your conscience will give you NO rest.


  2. Hmm, interesting. I am a Missouri Synod Lutheran and we believe in Sola fides. But this was still an very interesting point!
    I do have several Catholic friends, and I have great respect for the Church that has lasted 2,000 years.
    BTW, I’m from Tanicha’s blog.


    1. Welcome, Diana!
      I was wondering if/when we would find any Protestants coming here. I guess it’s rather nice to have them (you) to tell us if we accidentally misrepresent them (you) or to clarify something that they (you ;) ) believe.


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