Faith OR works? OR Faith AND works?
It's perfectly clear -- unless we have a particular ax to
grind, I think -- that there is an intricate and involved relationship between
faith and works in the Bible. I alluded to this recently, I think, by pointing
out in passing that Romans and James are both Scripture -- Romans with Paul's
detailed examination of faith, and James with its practical emphasis on works.
Even Romans makes a lot of our need to "do" something, while
stating plainly that we are saved by the righteousness of God made manifest in
Christ. In Rom 4, Abraham's faithful obedience to God's call, and his lifetime
of faithful waiting and hoping for the fulfillment of God's promises, as well as
his absolute willingness to offer his son Isaac... all this put him into the
place where he might be saved by his faith, and -- just as importantly -- KEPT
him in the place where he might be saved by that faith!
In "What Are the First Principles?", I wrote:
"Men are justified or declared 'righteous' through their faith
and not their works...:
" '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. For
we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath
before ordained that we should walk in them' (Eph 2:8-10).
"Nevertheless, works are important. As the passage above
indicates: while grace saves, good works are one of the tools God uses as He
continues to work upon us, so as to produce -- at last -- the 'workmanship' of
Christ's 'new creation' in us... All those who believe these teachings should
strive also to live godly, Christ-like lives... The commandments of Christ...
are therefore an important part of any Statement of Faith... Not to earn
salvation, but to strengthen and complete and perfect one's faith (Jam 2:14-26),
and thus to keep oneself in the one place where forgiveness is available, and
where salvation may at last be received!"
Brother Len Richardson, in his book "Balancing the Book", has
a really balanced [what would we expect, with that title?] view of the "faith
versus works" question. And he's not the only Christadelphian who has addressed
Understanding the Bible, and living the Truth, is a lot like
walking down a road, or path. You will notice when walking down a footpath in
the woods, or the fields, or wherever, that it is always... always... most worn
in the middle. There is a reason for this. Many people have walked that path to
make it what it is. And most of them have stayed in the middle because the going
is easier, and because those who have gone before have already shown them the
way that is smoothest.
True, every such path has edges... which are also part of the
path, and it is possible -- of course -- to get to the same destination by
painstakingly (or is it stubbornly?) walking on the very edge of the path all
the way! You can even walk half way on the far left edge of the path, and the
other half on the far right side of the path... and still make it to your
destination. But you are increasing the likelihood of tripping over an unseen
root, or stubbing your toe on a hidden rock.
Then, of course, we might become so infatuated with the edges
that we wander further and further afield... until we are no longer walking on
the path, but wandering here and there in the woods.
Sometimes, too, those who like the far left edge of the path,
or even beyond, find themselves throwing rocks (or at least barbs!) at those who
like the far right edge of the path, or beyond.
It becomes possible even to lose sight of the fact that... IT
IS A PATH, and therefore meant to be... WALKED DOWN! So the "path" may be
transformed, in our minds, into -- let us say -- a "site for the
self-actualization of the individual", or "an opportunity for making new
discoveries", or a "laboratory experiment", or in extreme instances, into a
Maybe I'm just an "old fogey", or a "stick in the mud", or --
worst of all -- a "compromiser"... but lots of times when I encounter two views
that seem contradictory, or opposed to one another, I tend first to ask the
question: "Is there a middle-of-the-road here?" or "Can we split the
And I know this approach is subject to abuse. I can hear the
retort now: "So... George... a little bit of sin, then, is okay? If there's
righteousness on one extreme, and wickedness on the other, then you'll be right
in the middle, right?"
No, not at all. At least, I hope and pray not. But... when two
points of view each have some Scripture that appears to support them, then...
especially... I would look for -- and suggest others look for -- a compromise
position, one that gives some weight to each viewpoint, and seeks to integrate
the one with the other.
That's what I mean by the "middle of the road".