Now this is interesting. Reading Tom Wright’s writings on Paul, especially the “new perspective” on the meaning of “justification” in Paul, led me to ask:
Does Paul actually ever say that we are “saved by faith”?
I put this question to my Logos bible computer software in the form of a search for verses with “pistis” and “sozdein” (I don’t know if I have transliterated that last one right) and their cognates in the same verse.
What did it show? Well, aside from all the predictable “Your faith has saved you” passages in the Gospels and Acts (where “sozdein” actually is better translated “healed” than “saved”) and in James 5:15 where the same applies (in reference to the “prayer of faith” of another), and an obscure passage in 1 Tim 2:15 which says that a woman is saved through childbearing if she continues in faithfulness, there are only two places where the two congnates occur together:
James 2:14 “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?” (lit. “Is the faith (he pistis) able to save him?”)
Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (“grace” is dative of instrument, and “through faith” is “dia pisteos”).
Strictly then, not only do the two passages do not contradict one another (the Ephesians passage says that it is grace that saves, albeit through faith) but nowhere in the scripture does it say that “faith” (let alone “faith alone”) saves, except in the sense that people are “healed” of illness by faith.
There are plenty of passages in Paul that assert that “justification” is by faith (Romans and Galatians mainly, with James 2:24 as a dissenting voice). But, if I read the “new perspective” rightly, “salvation” and “justification” are different categories, just as “justification” and “sanctification” are different categories.
In view of the “new perspective” therefore (post Augustinian/Pelagian theological development notwithstanding) I think it is quite possible for a Catholic to affirm that justification is “by faith alone” in the terms that Paul originally meant it (although not in the terms in which the Reformers and Trent argued the point out).
On the other hand, one can speak of being “saved by faith” if one understands “salvation” as “healing”, but one must also acknowledge that in this category of “healing”, to be “healed by works” makes no sense at all. So the New Testament (and Paul himself) never really envisages a controversy about whether one is “saved” by works or by faith.
To follow this further, we would need to see “salvation” (and all its cognates) as being parallel to the terminology and imagery of “justification”, “sanctification”, “participation”, “forgiveness”, “redemption” etc., rather than the latter categories as a subset of the former.
The controversy of “faith and works” belongs to the terminology and imagery of “justification”, but makes no sense in the terminology of “sanctification”, “participation”, “forgiveness”, or, I am arguing, “salvation”.
What do you think?