As was mentioned in part 1, the impetus of this series of articles was a brief conversation with a Protestant family member in which they, if the author is not mistaken, insinuated that St. Paul was a proponent of the “faith alone” doctrine of Protestantism. If this were true, then this would put Catholic teaching at odds with St. Paul. It is the author’s contention however, that St. Paul does not teach that “faith alone” saves and that his writings regarding salvation (as well as on other topics) were thoroughly Catholic.
It should be mentioned that these articles are not going to be an exhaustive treatment of the Protestant and Catholic beliefs about justification, grace, and salvation. They are more of a way in which the author can defend the challenge made to his faith by way of extending the conversation, as the author is familiar with the arguments that would have probably been made by the other party. Of course, in this scenario the author inevitably risks tearing down “straw men” but that is a chance he is willing to take.
So, the author asks, where does St. Paul teach that faith alone saves? The usual proof texts that would be brought to the table would be St. Paul’s teaching that man is justified by faith, which can be found in Romans chapters 3-4. After declaring that all (Jew and Gentile) are under sin in the preceding two chapters and in part of chapter 3, St Paul writes:
For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law. (Romans 3:28) [i]
We Catholics concur with St. Paul! A man is not justified by the works of the Mosaic Law but is justified by faith. Notice however that St. Paul does not say that a man is justified by “faith alone”[ii] (incidentally, Martin Luther added the word “alone” to his own mistranslation of this text.)[iii] In fact, the only time that the phrase “faith alone” is found in the Bible is in St. James chapter 2:25 where he explicitly states that a man is not justified by “faith alone.” Consequently, this is why Martin Luther “…rejected the Epistle of St. James as ‘one of straw’…” as it did not fit with his Theology; a Theology influenced by his own perturbed conscience. [iv]
To quote the footnote from the Douay-Rheims Bible (cited above) on what is meant “by faith” in Romans 3:28:
…By faith: The faith, to which the apostle here attributes man’s justification, is not a presumptuous assurance of our being justified; but a firm and lively belief of all that God has revealed or promised. Heb. 11. A faith working through charity in Jesus Christ. Gal. 5. 6. In short, a faith which takes in hope, love, repentance, and the use of the sacraments. And the works which he here excludes, are only the works of the law: that is, such as are done by the law of nature, or that of Moses, antecedent to the faith of Christ: but by no means, such as follow faith, and proceed from it. [v]
The author will point out that the Scripture referenced in this footnote to prove the Catholic teaching is Scripture that is authored by St. Paul himself (Hebrews 11, Galatians 5:6), although some may contest that St. Paul is the author of Hebrews. Thus if the Protestant understanding of “faith” here were correct, we would have St. Paul not only contradicting St. James as mentioned earlier, but also contradicting himself elsewhere in the New Testament.
To quote Dr. Ludwigg Ott:
When St. Paul teaches that we are saved by faith without works of the Law…he understands by faith, living faith, active through love (Gal. 5, 6) ; by works of the law he means the works of the law of the Old Testament, for example circumcision ; by justification, the inner purification and sanctification of the non-Christian sinner by the acceptance of the Christian faith. [vi]
To continue with a common proof text used to support the Protestant position, we move on to Romans chapter 4. In this chapter, St. Paul goes on to use Abraham as an example of how man is not justified by works but on the basis of faith. He does this by showing that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. In verse 5 the Apostle writes:
 Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt.  But to him that worketh not, yet believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is reputed to justice, according to the purpose of the grace of God. [vii]
The Douay-Rheims Bible explains the verses as follows:
To him that worketh: Vis., as of his own fund, or by his own strength. Such a man, says the apostle, challenges his reward as a debt due to his own performances; whereas he who worketh not, that is, who presumeth not upon any works done by his own strength, but seeketh justice through faith and grace, is freely justified by God’s grace. [viii]
To quote The Navarre Bible commentary:
The gratuitous character of justification is being emphasized here. The first step towards justification is the act of faith. It is not, therefore, good works that produce justification: it is justification that makes works good and deserving of eternal life… [ix]
To quote Dr. Ludwig Ott again, in reference to St. Paul and Romans 3:28:
When St. James, in apparent contradiction to this [i.e. Romans 3:28], teaches that we are justified by works, not merely by faith (James 2, 24…), he understands by faith, dead faith. (James, 2, 17 ; cf. Mt. 7, 21) ; by works, the good works proceeding from Christian Faith ; by justification, the declaration of the righteousness of the Christian before the judgment seat of God… The two Apostles [St. James and St. Paul] concur in demanding a living, active faith. [x]
When St. Paul is understood correctly, we can see how there is no contradiction between St. James and he, nor does he contradict himself. For the Apostle who tells us that we are justified by faith in Romans 3:28, also tells us in Galatians 5:6:
 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by charity. [xi]
And later in Galatians 6:7-8
 Be not deceived, God is not mocked.  For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. [xii]
As we have seen, in his argumentation in Romans 1-4 St. Paul is in keeping with his own teaching elsewhere in the New Testament, he is in keeping with the teachings of St. James, and far from refuting Catholic teaching on justification and salvation, he upholds it!
[i]http://www.drbo.org/chapter/52003.htm (accessed 11/27/2011)
[ii]For a brief explanation of the Catholic concept of justification and how “faith alone”, when properly defined, is acceptable, one can read the following article:
[iii]http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06701a.htm (accessed 11/27/2011)
[v]http://www.drbo.org/chapter/52003.htm (accessed 11/27/2011)
[vi]Ott, Dr. Ludwig. “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” , Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, IL: 1974. Page 254.
[vii]http://www.drbo.org/chapter/52004.htm (accessed 11/27/2011)
[ix]“The Navarre Bible – NT Expanded Edition” , Dublin : Four Courts Press ; New York : Scepter Publishers, 2008. Page. 575.
[x]Ott, Dr. Ludwig. “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” , Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, IL: 1974. Page 254.
[xi]http://www.drbo.org/chapter/55005.htm (accessed 11/27/2011)
[xii]http://www.drbo.org/chapter/55006.htm (accessed 11/27/2011)