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24-10-2008, 03:59 PM,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One topic which often comes up in conversation with those interested in Orthodoxy is the question of 'justification by faith alone', and the issues of sanctification and regeneration. Writing to a Protestant friend who wanted to know what 'our' position was, I found myself, as so often, having to say that as far as I understood it (thinks to self: how far is that :oops: ) this was not how we thought about these things, and that the distinctions being made were not ones Orthodoxy made.

I wrote as follows, and would be extremely grateful (before I make a bigger fool of myself) for any corrections.


Dear ....

I am genuinely unsure when you phrase ['justification by faith alone, regeneration and sanctification are of God alone'] it this precisely, for this is not how we proceed, neither am I sure that it is how the NT Church proceeded. Let me explain how we approach these matters - but please bear in mind I am a very 'baby Orthodox'.

When Orthodox Christians approach the doctrine of salvation, the discussion centers around the New Covenant. Justification (being or becoming righteous) by faith in God is part of being brought into a covenant relationship with Him. Whereas Israel was under the Old Covenant, wherein salvation came through faith as revealed in the law, the Church is under the New Covenant. Salvation comes through faith in Christ who fulfills the law, and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, leading us to the knowledge of God the Father. Whereas some Christians focus on justification as a legal acquittal before God, Orthodox believers see justification by faith as a covenant relationship with Him, centered on union with Christ (Romans 6:1-6).

Orthodoxy emphasizes it is God?s mercy - not our faith - which saves us. ?Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God? (Romans 5:1-2). It is God who initiates or makes the New Covenant with us.

This is why the modern evangelical Protestant question, ?Are you saved?? gives pause to an Orthodox believer. As the subject of salvation is addressed in Scripture, the Orthodox Christian would see it in at least three aspects: (a) I have been saved, being joined to Christ in baptism; (b) I am being saved, growing in Christ through the sacramental life of the Church; and © I will be saved, by the mercy of God at the Last Judgment.

A final difficulty for us is the word 'alone'. Justification by faith, though not the major New Testament doctrine for Orthodox as it is for those in the reformed Churches, poses no problem. But justification by faith alone brings up an objection. It contradicts Scripture which says, ?You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only? (James 2:24). We are ?justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law? (Romans 3:28), but nowhere does the Bible say we are justified by faith ?alone?. On the contrary, ?faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead? (James 2:17).

As Christians we are no longer under the demands of the Old Testament law (Romans 3:20), for Christ has fulfilled the law (Galatians 2:21; 3:5, 24). By God?s mercy, we are brought into a New Covenant relationship with Him. We who believe are granted entrance into His Kingdom by His grace. Through His mercy we are justified by faith and empowered by God for good works or deeds of righteousness which bring glory to Him.


That was as clear as I could make it out; but if I am wrong, or if there are things I should have said, I should welcome correction.

In Christ,

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
25-10-2008, 09:34 AM,
by faith alone?
Quote:Luther went so far as to insert the word 'alone' into his translation of Romans 3:28 making it read: 'that man is justified without the works of the law, through faith alone'
Jaroslav Pelican Reformation of Church and Dogma p.252

Quote:In 1529, Dr. Link, the pre-eminent German language scholar of the day, wrote to Luther asking him why he had been inserting words into the German Bible. Luther's astonishing written answer nicely sums up the heart of the Protestant problem of individualistic subjectivity, "It is so because Dr. Martin Luther says it is so!"
Frank Schaeffer Dancing Alone p.77

Thought you mind that of interest and relevance.

I agree with your main thrust that as Orthodox we are dealing with a relationship model rather than a legalistic (Anselmian) model of salvation. I also find the healing model extremely helpful too - that sin is a spiritual sickness and that the Great Physician at great personal cost to Himself has provided the medicine of His Body and Blood and established a hospital we call the Church with doctors (clergy) and all kinds of specialists (spiritual fathers)... We must take the medicine but as with medicine for my heart or lungs or liver if I continue to eat fatty junk food or smoke or binge on alcohol I am working against that medicine whereas if I abstain or fast from these things I am working with the medicine. Salvation is of God but we are called to work with God - "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12&13) But this doesn't mean, as some Protestants then tell us that we are earning our salvation for the simple reason that the whole concept of earning and that entire legalistic framework has nothing to do with the concept of salvation I am expounding. They are completely and utterly different concepts of salvation and, I believe, of God. Any concept of earning is totally alien to my (I hope Orthodox) understanding of salvation.

And we never get past God's mercy - do not our cries of "Kyrie eleision" continue throughout the Liturgy from beginning to end, even after we have receieved holy communion? I am aware, sometimes all too aware as I stand in the altar at the holy table, of how imperfectly I do everything, of how poorly I concentrate on the prayers... and as we might say outside the immediate context of the Liturgy certainly aware of how imperfectly I work out my own salvation... so I never get past or reach a stage where I have left behind the need to call out for the mercy and forgiveness of God, at least not in this life. And does God forgive me because I ask Him? Well we think in such terms as I suppose it makes sense to us to think in such terms but perhaps what is really happening is that God is always forgiving and loving and showering His mercy upon us but when we ask and pray and call out we are opening ourselves up to receive that mercy and love and forgiveness.

Can't resist inserting here an illustration I once (probably more than once!) used in a sermon. As some will know I am something of a Sherlock Holmes fan and some years back when the excellent Granada series was broadcast I set up my new video recorder (back then the height of technology) and avidly watched the first episode, planning to enjoy it again later... only to discover afterwards that I had made an excellent recording of the nine o'clock news on the other channel! Now it wasn't the television company's fault as they had broadcast the programme fine (indeed I had watched it)... the fault was entirely my own. Even so as God showers forth His mercy and love and forgiveness the fault is mine if I am tuned in elsewhere or turned off from receiving Him.

Just a few random thoughts from a busy soul - hope some of it helps.
06-11-2008, 09:29 AM,
Climbing out of my sick bed (apologies for my silence!) I would simply like to add that the basic problem with protestants is that they do not understand the meaning of the word faith, thinking that it is a synonym of belief. Anyone can believe without doing anything about it, but faith is an active principle which inevitably includes works. Works are an expression of the depth of our faith. Salvation comes through the grace of God and not through what we do because each human soul is equal, being in the image of God. Someone who is able to do many things for other people is not due a better salvation than a paraplegic whose physical abilities to do good works are greatly impaired. However, if we then shrug and say, "I believe" and expect God's grace as a right, we will be in for a shock. If all we can do is help the lives of those we live with,and we do this in prayer, then we are fulfilling our faith.

Kirk Yacoub

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