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Does St John Chrysostom speak of 'faith alone'?


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#1 Xenia Moos

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 07:27 PM

I am having a conversation with a Lutheran about the concept of salvation by "faith alone." He has brought to my attention two quotes from St. John Chrysostom:

What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by GRACE ALONE. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest apart from the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.”

-Discourses Against Judaising Christians, Discourse VII:2


and

“They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed. John Chrystostom (First Corinthians, Homily 20, PG 61.164)


I am presenting the quotes as they were presented to my by my friend.

Does this "prove," as he hopes it does, that St. John believed in salvation by faith alone?

#2 Ryan

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 07:48 PM

Something to understand about works and grace is that, while works are a necessary expression of our faith and the grace we have received, our works are insignificant and unworthy. We should never think we can be saved because we are doing something good- the best that we can do is a humble cooperation with the grace of God. It is always grace which saves us and our works are merely a trifling manifestation of our cooperation with that grace. When the saints do great things they always consider it to be the work of God and not themselves. In this sense it is faith that saves. However, as St. James tells us, there can be no faith without works, and we must make the choice and the struggle to remain receptive to God's grace.

On the larger question of faith and works, it might be beneficial for you to read this article, which consists of extracts from the letters that Patriarch Jeremiah II sent to Lutheran theologians:

http://orthodoxinfo....faithalone.aspx

It includes some lengthy extracts from Chrysostom which, while complementary to the quotes your friend provided, show that they do not mean what he thinks they mean.

#3 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 07:53 PM

It is worth quoting St James:

"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead. But someone will say: 'You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.' You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son, Isaac, upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone, as we said a short time ago. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead ."

The quotes given from St john Chrysostom miss out the preceding paragraph:

"Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned. Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift. This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins. All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification."

So, St John is talking about works of the Law, the letter being to Judaizers.

#4 Xenia Moos

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 08:12 PM

Ryan and Rdr Andreas, thank you. Your posts were very helpful.

#5 Matthew Panchisin

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Posted 19 October 2012 - 08:17 PM

Dear Xenia,

You might mention that one of the works that he is known for was writing the Divine Liturgy (of St. John Chrysostom) which is considered the work of the Orthodox Christian people.

How could he be an advocate of the complete practice of Orthodox Christianity, which embraces the work of asceticism and believe in faith alone?

If he believed in faith alone, heedlessly (to so very many of his own words) he could have just sat around in his cells (saved himself from some abuse) and not worked and suffered in the faith like saintly and blessed Bishop that he is.

With faith alone people can become working protestants against Christ's Church, the Orthodox Church and faith.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

#6 Ernest E. W. Herman

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 04:18 PM

I am having a conversation with a Lutheran about the concept of salvation by "faith alone." He has brought to my attention two quotes from St. John Chrysostom:


and



I am presenting the quotes as they were presented to my by my friend.

Does this "prove," as he hopes it does, that St. John believed in salvation by faith alone?


This is what we read in the Orthodox Study Bible in this regard:
"He who believes and is baptized will be saved" Mark 16:16.
"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, NOT by works or righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He save us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" Titus 3:5.

As far as the works go, yes, we MUST work - it can't be otherwise. But we can't work FOR our salvation. It is the same thing with pretending to un an unborn child to work for his/her birth. Not so. After we are born again (John 3:3 and Titus 3:5) we become children of God (John 1:11-13). Then, as children yes, like in the biological realm, we start to eat, later on to stand up, to walk... till we become fully developed as human beings. Then all that we do is a result of being born by our parents. This is why we read in Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we shoud walk in them".

#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 05:55 PM

Grace is enabling. Within it we work.

#8 Xenia Moos

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 06:01 PM

Thank you for your answers. The gentleman has now given me several more quotes from St. John. I prefer not to be argumentative- batting St. John quotes back and forth- so I've not responded.

But it brings into sharper focus the fact that people outside Orthodoxy can "quote mine" the fathers but don't really understand what they are reading. St. John wrote in the context of the Church and has to be understood within the context of the Church and any attempt to drag carefully selected pieces from his sermons into a non-Orthodox understanding will miss the mark.

(Or so I think.)

#9 Paul Fowler

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 11:03 PM

Thank you for your answers. The gentleman has now given me several more quotes from St. John. I prefer not to be argumentative- batting St. John quotes back and forth- so I've not responded.

But it brings into sharper focus the fact that people outside Orthodoxy can "quote mine" the fathers but don't really understand what they are reading. St. John wrote in the context of the Church and has to be understood within the context of the Church and any attempt to drag carefully selected pieces from his sermons into a non-Orthodox understanding will miss the mark.

(Or so I think.)



Dear Xenia,

You are absolutely right, we must understand everything within the context of the Church. A saying I learnt in my pre-Orthodox times "a text without a context is a pretext" is true. St John can only be seen within the context of the Church and all ALL she has to offer. Rip anything of his (or indeed anything of the Church, including Holy Scripture) out of the context of the Church and anything becomes possible, sadly.

Reader Paul

#10 Sacha

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 11:27 PM

This is what we read in the Orthodox Study Bible in this regard:
"He who believes and is baptized will be saved" Mark 16:16.
"But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, NOT by works or righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He save us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" Titus 3:5.

As far as the works go, yes, we MUST work - it can't be otherwise. But we can't work FOR our salvation. It is the same thing with pretending to un an unborn child to work for his/her birth. Not so. After we are born again (John 3:3 and Titus 3:5) we become children of God (John 1:11-13). Then, as children yes, like in the biological realm, we start to eat, later on to stand up, to walk... till we become fully developed as human beings. Then all that we do is a result of being born by our parents. This is why we read in Ephesians 2:10 "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we shoud walk in them".


No one here is saying that we work FOR our salvation. This is a straw man argument.

What is at issue here is this: what happens to those who have been born again and over the course of their life, quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5), insult the Spirit of Grace and trample on it (Heb 6 and 10) and in the end remain barren instead of fruit-bearing (John 15)? Read John 15:6 to find out, they are thrown out and burned.

Christ is LORD. And as Lord, He is coming back to judge the church first and those outside second. And when He judges the church what criteria will He use?

6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”

"22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control."

This fruit is borne by servants who consider themselves as unworthy of their justification.

Luke 17:10
10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

So you can see Ernest that whatever is done by the one who received the grace of God by faith, is done out of a sense of gratitude and humility. The idea that these are 'working' for salvation is so foreign to their thinking that it is strange that it is even brought up. And yet this is the straw man argument levelled at those who reject Protestantism.

Note carefully that the servants say whatever they did, it was their duty. That duty is not one borne out of compulsion or coercion or a "Oh no, I must earn it now" but rather one borne out of great thankfulness and rejoicing and a sense of great honor which is now being returned to the benefactor of Grace. This is the patron-client understanding of Grace that 1st century jews and gentiles had implicit in their culture. When a patron rescued a slave and provided a job for him, the latter did not respond with an attitude of "Oh no, I must earn my master's favor now!". He had already been granted favor through no effort of his own. And it is precisely because of that benefaction, that the slave would be willingly loyal and faithful to his master, as a servant merely doing his duty.

You use the image of a child growing up to eat, stand, walk. Yes, this is a good analogy. But remember, even children rebel against their parents, against the very ones who birthed them. There is nothing deterministic about grace, if there were it would no longer be grace.

#11 Sacha

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Posted 20 October 2012 - 11:31 PM

Xenia,

Here's an idea: you could present your Lutheran friend with a copy of Clement's epistles. These are the earliest recorded sermons outside of the NT and one would expect to find the idea of sola fide in them as such. But such is nowhere to be found in them. Same with the rest of the Apostolic Fathers. Show him Polycarp's epistle as well where he juxtaposes Ephesians 2:8 with James 2:24 so beautifully in the very opening lines of the letter.

That should be enough for an honest inquirer, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

#12 Dan L.

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Posted 22 October 2012 - 08:29 PM

One thing that brought me to Orthodoxy was reading a "quote-mining" website written by a protestant apologist. I read all the quotes, convinced that I had some real ammunition against "the idolators". I happened to read several of the quotes in context and BAM, five years later, I'm a catachumen in the Orthodox Church. So much for combatting "the idolators". lol

#13 Ernest E. W. Herman

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 05:23 PM

It is worth quoting St James:

"What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead. But someone will say: 'You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.' You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son, Isaac, upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone, as we said a short time ago. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead ."

The quotes given from St john Chrysostom miss out the preceding paragraph:

"Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned. Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor's favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift. This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. "All have sinned," says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins. All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King's loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification."

So, St John is talking about works of the Law, the letter being to Judaizers.


A few comments on the subject “It is worth quoting St James:

St. James brings in scene an interesting fact. He talks in here about the demons’ believe. Is it not strange to hear that demons believe? Yet this is true – they believe and shudder.

What is St. James’ point by talking in this context about the fruitless believe of demons? Whatever other deeper meaning there is hidden in here one thing is sure. St. James, actually the Holy Spirit of God, wants to prove us that, certainly so, the faith without work is dead.

Next, what kind of work did the demons miss that made their believe fruitless? Were they supposed to do good deeds like us, humans? Not so because they are spirits. What else then? What kind of work were they required to add to their believe in order to make it effective?

The answer is in John 1:11-12: “He (namely Jesus i.e.) came to His own and His own did not receive him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”.

Note, please, the relationship between believing and receiving in this context. The believing must be accompanied by receiving. Believing without receiving transformed the good angels of God in bad angels. They still believe in the power of God and His judgment. Don’t they know as fallen angels much better the truth about God than us, humans? Yes, they do. But for the very reason that they don’t receive, don’t accept God’s authority over them, their belief changed them from the angels of light in angels of darkness.

Now here is our point. When the Holy Spirit of God made it known to us by the writings of St. James that “faith by itself, if it has not works, is dead”, He had in mind the work of accepting the One in Whom we believe. As we read already in John 1:11-13, those that got God’s right to become children of God did NOT perform any good deeds whatsoever. Read these verses careful and you’ll see it plainly like day and night that these people did NOT do any kind of works; they simply received Jesus, accepted Him. That was ALL that they done in order to become children of God. Is there anybody unhappy with God requiring ONLY one work, accepting Jesus, in order to get the right of becoming His eternal children?

#14 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 06:27 PM

Dear Ernest,

I am afraid you are talking the one line of Saint James Epistle and turning it into a belief which is not justified by the rest of the Apostle's words. The blessed Apostle and Brother of the Lord James, speaks to those who "Since the Apostle Paul, preaching that man is made righteous by faith without works was not well understood by those who took this saying to mean that once they had believed in Christ, even though they might commit evils, and live wickedly and basely, they could be saved by faith." After speaking of being a doer and not only a hear of the word, and setting forth examples of caring for orphans and widows, he goes on to say, "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?" and then gives examples of ones brothers and sisters who are without food and clothing, after further discourse to show the error of those who maintain that faith is in believe only and without any works of faith he sets forth the daemons as believing there is one God, so as to show that even they who work wickedness can believe and it is no big thing but rather that those who believe in God that is us Christians are to have true faith which as the blessed Paul says, "faith energizes itself through love" showing that faith and love are inseparable, and who then has the Love of Christ who loves not his neighbour? And who loves his neighbour who tends not to his needs? Who has the Love of Christ who does not try to Love Christ by being obedient to him, trying not to sin, rather trying to do all things that are pleasing unto him? Saint James continues then with the example of Abraham, showing it was through faith and the work of that faith that Abraham justified. For if he had faith in God but not energised that faith with love what credit would it have been to him, but by both believing in God and acting on that believe by his deeds he foreshadowed through the sacrifice of Isaac the mystery of Christ's Holy Passion.

Thus we cannot take the passage regarding the daemons alone as you have set forth, but rather we must regard the whole, believing that faith without being bound with love and action is dead, for should we do so we would be then as a hear and not as a doer of the word, not that we take it as good deeds of ourselves but as working with God as doing only our duty as good servants by the Grace of God. "Now to Him Who is able to do exceedingly above all things that we ask for ourselves or think, according to the power which energizeth itself in us, to Him be the glory in the Church, in Christ Jesus, to the generations of the ages of ages, Amen"

In Christ.
Daniel,

#15 Owen Jones

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 08:33 AM

Dear Mr. Herman,

You seem to have a very strong bias against the customs and rituals of the Orthodox Church for some reason. I assume that you are well familiar with them -- have attended Orthodox services and are aware of our worship customs and rituals. Why the opposition? Why is this something that would trouble you as a non-Orthodox person?

#16 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 02:56 PM

Dear readers,


I have culled this thread of the (many) posts that had abandoned the topic of the thread itself and begun a second conversation about the nature of Orthodoxy vs. Protestantism, the nature of tradition, etc. Please note that not only are such topics beyond the scope of the question at the heart of this thread, they are also outside the scope of the forum itself, as is explicitly stated in the terms of use.


Please ensure that all future posts in this thread deal directly and only with the question of St John Chrysostom’s comments on faith and works, and how these can and should be read.


INXC, Fr Irenei




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