The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Sola Fide is Scriptural

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/17/2018 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 524 times Debate No: 106806
Debate Rounds (4)
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I am defending the position that scripture teaches we are only justified by faith apart from any works of the law. To be clear, I am not saying that good works are unimportant or that Christians should not do them. I believe true faith always results in good works, but the good works do not merit our salvation or even contribute any merit. Nearly all would agree that faith is necessary, so I simply need to demonstrate that it is this faith alone that saves by grace.

Con may go first with arguments.


How would you dispute James 2:14-26?

"What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe"and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for your reply. First, let me note that I am a Christian and take all of the Bible to be accurate and authoritative. Therefore, I must recognize that if your interpretation of James 2:14-26 is the correct one, I am forced to believe in a contradiction between James and Paul. If James is not saying what you think, then there is no contradiction, and scripture stands. I take the position that Paul is addressing the idea that it is faith alone that justifies, but James is addressing the question "what kind of faith justifies?" Let me also clarify again that Sola Fide means we are justified by faith alone but not by faith that is alone. We do not believe in faith plus works; we believe in that that works. With this in mind, I shall examine the passage in question before going on to provide more evidence for Sola Fide.

Verse 10: This verse was not quoted by you and is rarely quoted by those who deny Sola Fide. As it occurs directly before the portion you cited, it provides the context by which James wants us to view the rest.
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10).
This echoes what Paul says elsewhere, confirming that James is in agreement with Paul. If you or I violate any one piece of the law, we have certainly fallen from all of it. Therefore, it would be silly to argue that we can actually merit our salvation when we constantly fall under the burden of all of it.

Verses 14-17: This addresses the idea that just because someone claims to have faith, it does not actually mean they have true faith. There is a difference between true faith and counterfeit faith. Sola Fide is only addressing the justification by true faith. This is brought out more clearly in other translations besides the KJV "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" (14). Can THAT faith save it is not accompanied by works? Clearly, the answer is no; only true faith can save, and true faith always results in good deeds. James uses examples to make this more clear in verses 15-17.

Verses 18-20: The same distinction made above is reiterated here. Just because someone says they have faith, it doesn't mean they actually do. Those who have true faith will always produce good works as the fruit of their faith (18). Even belief alone does not constitute true faith (19). This is why true faith has three parts: trust, belief, and intentions. Trust is the primary meaning of the word translated faith. Belief is important because faith always has an object, and we must put our faith in the correct object according to scripture. This is why it is so problematic to worship false gods. Intentions are clearly important according to passages such as James 2. This is why faith apart from work is useless. That kind of counterfeit faith does not have the correct intentions.

Verses 21-23: In verse 21, we immediately run into a translation issue. The version you cited says "Was not Abraham our father justified by works..." The NIV says "Was not our father Abraham considered righteous..." The question of this verse is: do good works justify us before God, or are they merely the evidence that we have already been justified before God. While a little over half translate it similar to the way you cited, while many others translate it more similar to the NIV. Therefore, since we cannot solve this question grammatically, we must solve it using context. Once this is done, the NIV is clearly the correct interpretation. The entire passage up until this point is about showing or demonstrating true faith, so it would be consistent to interpret verse 21 in the same way. Verse 23 also confirms this because it says that Abraham was justified by his faith. James is making the same distinction that I am: we are not justified by works, but works are the result of faith.

James 2:24: Your version translated this verse as "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." In order to fully understand this passage, I will provide a few more translations of the same verse:
"You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." (NIV).
"So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone." (NLT)
You can see that it is completely valid to translate the passage as "shown to be justified" rather than "justified". Again, the context clearly supports my interpretation since the entire passage up to this point is about how we can know whether people have true faith. The passage is about epistemology.

James 2:25-26: Verse 25 can be translated similarly as "shown to be justified" as in the above passages. Therefore, it can also consistently be viewed as talking about the evidence of our justification. Verse 26 confirms this by again speaking of the fact that faith without works isn't true faith. This is why a person is shown to have true faith and be justified when they produce good works as fruits.

If we only considered James in our analysis of Scripture's teachings, it would be possible to legitimately deny Sola Fide. Fortunately, James is not the only book that addresses the idea of justification regarding faith and works.

The Book of Galatians:
Gal 1:6-9 "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel" not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

This is the classic passage used to demonstrate that there is such a thing as a false gospel, yet not everyone continues through the book of Galatians to actually find out what Paul considered as a false gospel. This idea of a false gospel is the lense that Paul wants the Galatians to use when reading the rest of this letter.

Gal 2:21 "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose."

This important philosophical point illustrates the importance of Sola Fide. Why did Christ die? If one believes that we have to earn even part of our salvation, one is necessarily claiming that Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross was not sufficient. Essentially, if you think you have a part in our own salvation, you are claiming that God did not do enough on the cross. You are claiming that Jesus Christ just couldn't manage to atone for everything; we have to fill in where He left off. This is why Paul considered this a false gospel.

Gal 3:1-6 "1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain"if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith" 6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?"

This passage contains the harshest words in all of the New Testament. Paul is completely furious with the Galatians. But for what reason? Did they not believe faith was important? No. They believed faith was necessary; they simply added good works on top of that. He calls them foolish for believing that they are even being perfected by good works. This is the false gospel of the Galatian people.

Gal. 3:7 "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."

We know that Paul is saying that Abraham was justified by faith alone. This is clearly brought out by the analogy of Abraham.

Gal. 3:10 "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." 12 But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us"for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"" 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith."

Those who rely on works for their justification are cursed by scripture and Paul. Not only are we justified by faith alone, but you will be cursed if you believe otherwise. This is why our only hope is in the atonement of Christ.

Gal 5:2-6 "Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love."

Paul clarifies that it is Circumcision that is the good work that makes the Galatians have a false gospel. If one believes this false gospel of even one good work, they are severed from Christ. They are cut off from salvation and cannot be justified. Due to the character limit, I will stop here.
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Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by ANANIGMA 3 years ago
Sorry buildingapologetics, I caught the RL bug and completely missed responding. If you want I can respond in comments here, or you can have next round and I'll wait to respond after that.
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