10 Reasons To Take A Second Look At “Faith Alone”

Since I’m questioning “faith alone,” many of you may be thinking that I’ve denied the faith and need to shut up. Admittedly, I may be pushing one of your hot buttons, tipping one of your sacred cows. But please, don’t hate the messenger. You may think “faith alone” is a basic, settled doctrine of the church and scripture. It really is not. 

So, let me give you 10 reasons why I think “faith alone” needs to be questioned:  

  1. The phrase “faith alone” is not found in scripture except in James 2.24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” St. James’ point: human beings are justified by faith and works not by faith alone. 
  2. For over 1500 years, beginning with her inception, the apostolic Church did not teach faith alone (and does not, even to this day). 
  3. A belief that salvation is by faith alone stymies motivation to engage practices that are necessary in being a Christian. 
  4. There are no examples in scripture of men or women who are “saved or justified by faith alone.” 
  5. “Faith alone” was “discovered” by one man, Martin Luther, who was searching for counter-measures to discredit the Roman Catholic church. Individual, independent interpretations of scripture must not be received without question.
  6. Justification by faith alone places a massive wall between justification and sanctification that is not borne out in scripture or real life (1 Corinthians 6.11). 
  7. Not even one Church Father (100-700AD) advocates “faith alone.” 
  8. Those who promote “faith alone” do so by quoting scriptures that only refer to faith yet present them as if they teach “faith alone.” 
  9. Belief in faith alone causes other scripture to be overlooked, misinterpreted, or denied. For example: Jesus’ exchange with the wealthy young man (Mark 10.17-27) where faith for salvation is not mentioned but “selling all” is and Matthew 25.31-46 where Jesus teaches that the kingdom is prepared for those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty and welcome the stranger. See also Philippians 2.12-13: “work out your own salvation…”
  10. Faith alone just doesn’t make sense. In no other arena of life do we operate by faith alone. Having to believe is essential to most of life – marriage, friendship, children, jobs, science, driving, computers, shopping, practically everything else and certainly our relationship with the Trinity. Yet, belief always involves some form of effort. Faith alone does not enable a true experience of anything. Belief alone that I’m going to lose weight or have a clean house isn’t going to get it done. 

Belief alone that Jesus lived, died and rose again for salvation will not “get it done.” Believing these truths is essential. Yet, a participation in them in some manner is necessary also. 

Reminder: My objective is to eliminate “faith alone” as an excuse for not living as a Christian more fully. 

Thanks for hanging in here with me. 

Dr. K 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

8 thoughts on “10 Reasons To Take A Second Look At “Faith Alone”

  1. Dr K, This is a sacred cow. You are right. This cow is a cow that tore the Church apart. If the 3 reformers, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli were alive today at least one and perhaps all 3 would call you a heretic. I also have come to realize that some of the later translations of our beloved scriptures have included words to make the reformers points on “faith alone”. The NIV Bible is perhaps the one that has taken the most liberties. Quite disturbing. And for me personally I always thought that all people everywhere from the beginning believed how I did in regards to faith alone. I have been shocked to find out that literally nobody for the first 1500 years of the Church believed this way. What has happened to us??

    • Thanks, Bruce, for your comments. There are many unintended consequences to the Protestant Reformation that occurred immediately and that we experience today. Radical reactions have led to rash results. Many do not understand this. It takes a bit of courage and dare I say “faith” to explore these issues. It’s dangerous if we want to maintain the status quo. Thank you for engaging. Thanks be to God for all things. Keith

    • Hi Helen. Your question is perceptive beyond words. You’ve hit the ball out of the park! Faith is a mystery. We don’t like that. So people like myself (in foolishness) attempt to define and describe what is beyond our comprehension. We know it when we experience it. But to describe it is impossible. Yet, here we are. We know there is a reality that we call faith and we know that there’s a reality called works which must accompany it. Trying to make sense of it all raises more questions. We need to just live it not try to explain it. Thank you for your wonderful insight. Thanks be to God for all things. Keith

  2. Hey Keith,

    It’s times like this when I really dislike you. I’ve heard the concept of being saved by faith alone for so long that I took it as an irrefutable truism. Then guys like you come along and challenge it! My first reaction was to get my defenses up. ‘Gotta admit, though, that your thoughts have me re-thinking this. You’ve got some great points. Thanks for your role in being the uncomfortable prodder! You are a great friend (even if you do poke and prod to the point of discomfort at times).

    • Hey Brian. I like being disliked by you!?! I appreciate your humility and teachableness. It is when we are disoriented, perplexed, and uncertain that God does His best work in us. Our reliance on our own ability to make sense of things gets us in trouble with God continually. Let me copy and paste what I wrote to Helen. It should make matters even worse!?! — Faith is a mystery. We don’t like that. So people like myself (in foolishness) attempt to define and describe what is beyond our comprehension. We know it when we experience it. But to describe it is impossible. Yet, here we are. We know there is a reality that we call faith and we know that there’s a reality called works which must accompany it. Trying to make sense of it all raises more questions. We need to just live it not try to explain it.— There you go. I appreciate you. Keith

  3. Pastor, regarding point 4, what about the criminal who was crucified next to Jesus? He was saved without works.

    • Hi Tom. Thanks for raising the example of the criminal crucified with Jesus recorded in Luke 23.39-43. He helps clarify my challenge. First, there is no mention of faith in this passage let alone “faith alone.” We assume faith has been exercised from what Jesus says to him about being with Him in paradise. Second, the criminal “does” something – he declares his understanding of Jesus’ innocence while rebuking the other criminal. Thirdly, he realizes that he deserves death as a “due reward for [his] deeds.” Fourth, he asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. There is much more going on here than just “faith alone.” True. It’s not “works” as we often think of works. Yet the criminal does (“works”) many things as he exercises faith. Does this make sense? Thank you, Tom, for the question. Thanks be to God for all things.

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