I offer a clarification of my brief exposition (September 2009) of the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone in response to Rex Dale's comments in the February issue.
I shall attend to only one point in his letter, which is less than clear.
He writes: 'It is so natural to want to gain salvation by one's own efforts. I remember going through a period of darkness and uncertainty and I would catch myself thinking, 'Oh I have done this and I have done that', instead of looking to the fullness and sufficiency of Christ's work on the cross.'
It appears Mr Dale favours Sola Fide.
Let us think about his statement. Apparently what Christ has done is sufficient to effect my salvation. There is only one requirement - Christ's actions, not mine. So whatever else he taught and did has no bearing on my salvation. Seeing that there is nothing for me to do I might as well forget about salvation. It is a thoroughly boring teaching.
However, Luther and the Reformers in general insisted there was a 'work' which an individual must perform in order to be saved. One must have faith, that is, one must hold a unique belief. Which one? That Christ has saved each person. This is something an individual must do, such that it is the only necessary condition of salvation. That is why the doctrine is named Salvation by Faith alone.
Being inconsistent, Luther went on to say: 'Faith cannot help doing good works constantly ... Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever.'
So one who has faith is already saved and does good works. But suppose a person does not: is he or she still saved? No, says Luther, for this individual never had faith in the first place! Luther is so muddled that he does not recognise the fact that he has incorporated in faith the doing of works in obedience to God.
The refutation of Faith Alone lies in the four Gospels. Therein the Son of God teaches that we are saved by our choices, as well as by God's assistance or grace. For instance, our sins are forgiven, provided we have forgiven others' offences against us.
Thus humans are ennobled. God gives us the responsibility to make of ourselves good characters by our choices to do good rather than evil, to obey God rather than disobey: to be 'soul-makers', thus fitting ourselves for his company in heaven
This is something which only we can do. God cannot do the impossible - he cannot make us good because he cannot make our choices, for any choices he makes are his and not ours.
FRANK MOBBS (DR)