The Instigator
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0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
8 Points

bible is not clear if we are justified by faith alone or if works are required in justification

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/17/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 502 times Debate No: 54904
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (2)




to lay the best examples of the ambiguity, we have two apparently conflicting versions of the story of abraham and his justification.

james 2
20You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is uselessd ? 21Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"e and he was called God"s friend. 24You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

then we have romans 4 on the other hand
'What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about"but not before God. 3What does Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."a 4Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
'We have been saying that Abraham"s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.

you can find quotes to argue both ways. these are just great examples using the same story and seemingly different outcomes. it's not contradictory, though, just a matter of how you reconcile everything.

to be sure, the only place where 'faith alone' is used in the bible is when James says we are not justified by faith alone. but it's too much to take everything from just that one quote.

to be sure, works are required in both versions. salvation = faith + works. faith = salvation + works. it's just a technical matter in how those works save or not. really, it's more academic than anything for practical purposes.


I'd like to thank my opponent for initiating this debate and gladly accept. The question of works or faith based salvation is one that has plagued Christianity for its entire history. For this debate, however, the only text we will consider as valid is the Bible (as it contains by necessity all doctrines essential to fundamental Christian understanding). I believe this is understood by both sides here today, as my opponent has also only cited the Bible.

That being said, I jump right in. The Biblical imperative for salvation is reliant on man's sinful nature. God's judicial system mandates that sin against His laws be paid for in blood. That blood can be attained by a.) a blood sacrifice or b.) eternal damnation. Throughout the indefinite time period before Christ but post Biblical creation, the Old Testament introduces various sacrificial rituals for atonement. If this is contested, I will cite examples in the proceeding rounds.

In the New Testament (which when considering the Bible must be held as equally credible as the Old), God sends an alternative to constant animal sacrifices in the form of Jesus- the incarnation of divinity. Jesus claims that He is "the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to God except through Him" (John 14:6). This eliminates the possibility of atonement through animal sacrifice and places explicit need on faith in Christ's power of salvation.

Yet, the question remains: after faith in Christ, are certain works still mandated? In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Bible says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast." This explicitly states that salvation is a.) Through faith b.) A gift (implying that no action was needed to earn it other than acceptance of it as a no strings attached gift) and c.) not by works.

There is no room for confusion. The only necessity to Biblical salvation is faith in the divinity and saving power of Jesus Christ.
Debate Round No. 1


first, con goes off on some tangent about the blood sacrifice of Jesus, before he actually address the faith v works issue. i think we can all agree it was pointless, dock him for that, and move on.

next, con simply ignores the James passage that says explicitly that we are not saved by faith alone. it also talks about the necessity of works. another passage by Paul says that we are "to work out our salvation in fear and trembling".
if we focus not so much on the letters of the apostles, and paul, and focus on Jesus, we see an emphasis on works. In the story about Judgment Day, (Matthew 25:31-46) where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats, the only questions that Jesus asks the multitude concern works.
Jesus also talks about the necessity to be baptized, participate in the lord's supper, etc. Jesus also gives examples of servants obeying their masters and doing right before the master returns.

i could go on and on with examples of works based salvation being emphasized.

his passage about faith and salavation being a gift is merely another side of the coin, that faith and works are required. this can be said about any verses he shows. how can we demarcate how jusitification is technically achieved with so many coflicting passage and theories? we can't. the bible isn't clear enough. we can know both faith and work are present, but not how they play into justification and salvation.


My opponent has no right to instruct voters on which of my contentions are valid based on his perceptions. The brief history of blood sacrifice through the time of Christ was vital to establish that no further "works" were required for salvation.

Your passage from James does not pertain to salvation. It explicitly states that faith without deeds is "useless" and without good works we are not "righteous", but that does not correlate to salvation.The original Greek translation of Paul's "fear and trembling" reflects reverence and respect, not nervousness or anxiety of losing salvation. Christian salvation is faith in and respect for God, not the works of man. Isaiah even states that "our righteousness is as dirty rags". Not even man's good work satisfies God.

There can be no two sides to the question of salvation. A gift is, by definition, not something that we must pay for or earn. It is something we must merely accept. The Bible is not vague, it explicitly says the words "it is a gift...not of works".
Debate Round No. 2


con says "but that does not correlate to salvation" when james says faith without works is useless and withotu works we are not 'righteous'. how does con necessarily say this? it says these things explicitly in addition to 'faith alone' being docked against.

'it is a gift.. not of works'. this could simply mean works do not do it, faith and works do. it could also mean, ultimately salvation is a gift that cannot be 'earned' as a matter of right. but in both scenarios of faith or faith and works, something must occur before the gift if given. no one disputes 'grace' is ultimately the situation.

con says the bible is explicit in his passage, what about the explicitness of this and other passages? con hasn't even addressed the words of Jesus himself.

at best the bible is ambiguous. con has shown no reason to necessarily say otherwise


Yes, faith without works is useless- just like a car without gasoline is useless. However, the car is still very real, despite the fact that it is functionally "dead". So it is with Salvation.

I have addressed misinterpretation as a major flaw in all of pro's examples except for Jesus' parable of the sheep and goats. I suppose I assumed since the story is already clearly not one to be taken literally (as that would involve real sheep and goats) it could be fairly simply dismissed.

The fact is that statements like "Saved by grace through faith...NOT works" are not ambiguous. That is not a paradox or an open ended question, leading to advanced equations about what part faith to what part works is mandatory for true salvation. My opponent even unwillingly admits this, in some respect. My opponent says we both know that everything comes down to grace. Grace is defined as the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. If salvation required works, it would be an act of mercy. However, the concept of this unmerited "gift" is the concept of a strictly faith-based gracious salvation.To have mandated works would make it an earned privilege, albeit a mercifully provided one.

My opponent has shown no reason to explicitly believe that works are vital to salvation, while I have provided a direct quote that not only says that we are saved through faith, but not by works. There is no ambiguity. The proof is explicit and as such you must vote Con.

Thanks for the debate Pro. It has been a pleasure.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Skynet 2 years ago
"as predicted in Timothy"? What now?
Posted by aburk903 2 years ago
Many apologies on improper gender usage. I've been swamped these last three days and didn't honestly spend much time on that last.
Posted by Valtin 2 years ago
Paul says salvation is received, Jesus says salvation is achieved, there is no need for confusion, because Paul is a false apostle as predicted in Timothy.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Skynet 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: A common point of confusion when studying the Bible. The "paradox" between James position and Paul's position is well explained by Con in R2. Conduct against Pro for demanding a points knocked for a perceived rabbit trail. I don't think there's a vote option for that.
Vote Placed by baus 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Lack of capitalization and consistent spelling errors by Pro lead me to give S&G to Con. I think Pro didn't win the arguments because they kept being on the defense without any offensive styled debating whereas con both defended their case and continually attack Pro's key points. There was not even a paradox as Pro tried to make there out to be.