By Faith "Alone"

The  Protestant term “by faith alone” is one that separates orthodox Protestantism from not only every other world religion outside of Christianity, but also from certain segments of Christianity. Strictly speaking, Protestants believe that human justification before a Holy God is by faith “alone”, apart from human works of any sort. 

Those who would add human works to faith sometimes use the argument that the word “alone” does not appear alongside “faith”, and therefore gives license to add imperfect human works to the perfect, finished work of Christ. Not only does adding that which is imperfect to that which is perfect sound a bit incongruous, it also falls a bit short in the sound logic department.

The argument from silence (also called argumentum ex silentio in Latin) is generally a conclusion based on silence or lack of contrary evidence. [i] In the field of classical studies, it often refers to the deduction from the lack of references to a subject in the available writings of an author to the conclusion that he was ignorant of it.[ii] When used as a logical proof in pure reasoning, the argument is classed among the fallacies, but an argument from silence can be a convincing form of abductive reasoning, a form of reasoning that allows one to insert a desired meaning into a certain text.

There are a couple of problems with that form of reasoning when it comes to the matter of man’s justification before a Holy God:

First, there are many things taught in Scripture that are not explicitly stated: common examples are the words “Trinity” and “monotheism” which are nowhere stated in Scripture. To argue that the absence of the specific term “faith alone” means that human works can be added to faith for justification, when the context of scripture (both OT and NT) clearly teaches otherwise, is pure nonsense.

Justification by faith alone is derived from the fact that 1) Scripture teaches that salvation is by simple faith or trust in Christ and 2) that Scripture absolutely affirms salvation cannot be by works. Therefore, if salvation is by simple faith, and cannot be by works, the phrase, “Salvation is by grace through faith alone,” cannot be considered anti-scriptural but a true presentation of what the Bible teaches.

Hear the familiar words of the Apostle Paul:

“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” – Rom 3:28

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Eph 2:8-9

“But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” – Rom 11:6

These are not remote, isolated passages of scripture. They reflect the entire body of Paul’s teaching, to both Jews and Gentiles. Furthermore,the often used argument in the face of such clarity of the text, that Paul was only speaking of the Moasic law in passages such as Rom 3:28, is as as fallacious as arguing from silence.

[i] “argumentum e silentio noun phraseThe Oxford Essential Dictionary of Foreign Terms in English. Ed. Jennifer Speake. Berkley Books, 1999.

[ii] “silence, the argument from”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Ed. E. A. Livingstone. Oxford University Press, 2006.

7 responses to “By Faith "Alone"

  1. Romans 9

    30What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

    31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

    32Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

    33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

    Galatians 3
    1O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

    2This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

    3Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

    4Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

    5He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

    6Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

    7Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

    8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

    9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

    10For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

    11But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

    12And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

    13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

    14That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    15Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

    16Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

    17And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

    18For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

    19Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

    20Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

    21Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

    22But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

    23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

    24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

    25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

    26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.


  2. Good Word, Kit.

    My post was partly for a friend who is heading straight for Rome, who has been under the influence of a couple of ‘apoogists’ for the Pope. Thie friend is no longer sure about any of the Reformation Sola’s. The latest email I received with the ‘doubts’ was just about line for line from what The Church says in several different documents. It’s enough to make me weep.


  3. It’s that tradition. You can’t reason with tradition if you don’t have the understanding that scripture is the final word. I swear that church has more tradition than the pages of scripture have themselves.


  4. Hopefully, she’s just investigating their claims and it will all come to naught. Rome is sneaky. They use the right words, but those words don’t have the same meaning that the Bible intends. I guess you gotta climb over the language barrier and define your terms.


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