Friday, June 26, 2009

FATHERS: Faith Works


The method of godliness consists of these two things, pious doctrines, and virtuous practice: and neither are the doctrines acceptable to God apart from good works, nor does God accept the works which are not perfected with pious doctrines. For what profit is it, to know well the doctrines concerning God, and yet to be a vile fornicator? And again, what profit is it, to be nobly temperate, and an impious blasphemer? A most precious possession therefore is the knowledge of doctrines: also there is need of a wakeful soul, since there are many that make spoil through philosophy and vain deceit. (The Ten Points of Doctrine, Cyril of Jerusalem, CA 350 AD).


The Catechism of St Cyril begins by placing faith and works in their proper places. Cyril wants his readers to note that there are no works considered acceptable to God apart from faith, and there is no faith considered acceptable to God apart from a faith that works. But what about if we ask, "can one be saved without works?" What is the appropriate answer? This is not a trick question, in fact it is an essential question. The reformation axiom "salvation is by faith alone," has led many to conclude that what we do bears no significance in our salvation. However, this kind of conclusion regarding faith is not what the reformers meant, nor is it what we find in the earliest of church catechisms. Cyril insists that works apart from faith cannot save, and he also insists that true faith works. So, can one be saved by a kind of faith that does not have works? No! Can one then be saved without works? Equally, No. Are we saved by our works? By no means, we can only saved by "a faith that works." The two must co-habitate if either is to be acceptable to God.


  1. I love St Cyril. His catechetical lectures were among the first things I read during my catechumenate.

    I was encouraged by your comment on the ad orientem blog. Whatever happens in the final resolution, I hope that some normality and peace can be found.

  2. Michael,
    My hope is for much more normality & peace. I pray that the Anglican church in the US can overcome the mindset planted by the 16th century Elizabethan command to conform in external but do as you wish with the internals. This inherant way of thinking has been the Achilles heal of Anglicanism, and it is what has not allowed it to return to a proper communion with the one, holy catholic, church of Eastern Orthodoxy. The fact is that Anglicanism was othrodox long before it was Roman, and a millenia before it was Protestant. Orthodoxy is our inheritance; will we receive it? If not, I expect that there will b a flood into the Orthodox chruch in due time.