“Faith and Works: An Understanding,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
My dear Christians and you of all faiths and thoughts and all views and opinions, I bid and ask you to join with me in another voyage of intellectual discovery where those who may wish to engage in critical thinking and to not engage in media lies falsehoods and political code words and hype can join in the effort to gain truth and facts amid the barrage of corruption and virtual darkness we are confronted with and befuddled and made effective fools of. I welcome you in this quest and task of attaining and coming to know intellectual honesty and honest discernment Join with me in this voyage to discovery to get at and find what is valid and authentic in this world of confusion and to come with me in tearing apart the curtain of lies and darkness that hides from us what is truth and facts.
I would like to talk with you who wish to listen about works and faith and how to come to an understanding and grasp of these essential ideas and concepts. Most people regard their lives and actions as good and righteous. Most see themselves as if not ok then more likely as good if not great. They will say to themselves, I work, support my family, and hurt no one in the course of my life, and in fact if given opportunity set about to help and assist my neighbor and am a force for good in the community.
This is what I think most people see and regard of themselves and if they make any judgment of themselves or others base their judgment and thinking in this regard on good works and do not think at all unless they are Christians about faith and the world has little regards for faith in this post-Christian world.
Christians see the matter quite differently. They see a world encased in sin and in need of rescue by Jesus Christ and his offer of eternal life and forgiveness on the cross where he died for the sins of humanity to bring them the eternal life and the joy and love of heaven with all the angels archangels and all the company of heaven and the holy trinity father son and holy spirit.
In short, the true informed Christian sees himself in the bondage of sin and in need of rescue by the son of god who became a man lived a human life and died on the cross to save us from our sins. The world, or rather the secular society, does not believe or accept this. Yet it is clear that our works and who we are are quite insignificant and amount in reality to little or nothing. If we truly take a good look at ourselves, we will see a selfish being consumed and involved in self-love. This is what makes us sinners persons self-consumed barely touched by any concern for our neighbors as Jesus commands us not only to love our neighbors but to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, commands we rarely if ever fulfill.
Martin Luther in the Reformation shifted the theological perspective with the doctrine of justification by faith. If anyone gives the matter some thought, they will conclude that their works which, they may think will suffice for them in fact do not amount to a great deal. Thus Christians and non-Christians alike will conclude their works will not mean and work a great deal for them if they take that honest look at themselves, as I suggest, and having done so will find themselves lacking, inadequate and wanting in short sinners.
In the past, the Roman Catholic Church did not see and take up the position of Martin Luther and took the view that monasticism and the works of those in the monastic movement constituted justification essentially by those monastic works. However, the ancient church prior to the church of the Middle Ages taught and teaches today that we are justified not by our own works but by the grace of Christ. Saint John Chrysostom said that god pours his gifts into us prior to battle. Saint Basil said the faithful glory in god alone because they realize they lack true justice and are justified only by their faith in Christ. The Second Synod of Orange stated that no one can buy or merit the gift of divine grace. The Council of Trent and the Catechism of the Catholic Church say the same.
What do I conclude here my friends, Christians and non- Christians alike? You as I do confess our lack and inadequacy and, if you will, sin which is grossly obvious to all if we give the matter any thought and even if we do not believe in Christ or any god we are and must be led to conclude that something else and more is necessary to make us full and developed human beings free of our selfishness and self-love. For the Christian, that is Christ. For others, you may reach your own particular conclusion on this issue but as we live our lives, all of us understand our limits and our emptiness and come to understand that more is needed than our own selfish puny efforts that we must know at some point do not suffice.
For the Christian, it is Jesus that is the answer for our sin and lacks and inadequacies. For others, make your choice and I ask you to know the truth and let the truth make you free.
Note: I am indebted for the ideas on this essays and for the references to the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis entitled “On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World,” pp. 34-37 pub. by Pauline Books and Media, 2018.