Faith v. Works - the old discussion revisited

There’s been a lot of discussion recently on faith here in GD and it got me thinking about the old argument of faith versus works. I’m a former Catholic and the way I understood it was that one needed both faith and works to get into heaven. Protestants (I think) believe that faith is all you need for the eternal reward.

As a non-believer these days (I guess agnostic is most appropriate if regarded as weak by both sides IMO), it seems to me that works alone should be the important thing. Do good and you’ll get good in return. Seems simple enough and something a just and loving god could (would) be in favor of. Now I understand that it isn’t necessarily possible to understand the mind of god, but I can’t get my mind around the fact that if some random person devoted their life to caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and clothing the poor but didn’t possess faith that this person wouldn’t be admitted to heaven.

So I guess what I’m asking here, is why would an all-powerful, loving god need us to have faith? Ego boost? I’m not asking y’all from god’s perspective, but more from a theological standpoint. Also, because if there is a heaven, it doesn’t look like I’m going to make it if I can’t do it on works alone (and I’m not a saint yet in that department either). :slight_smile:

Perhaps this was covered in the “What is the value of faith?” thread, but I didn’t pick it up in there.

As a non-believer, you should have picked up on the fact that all religion is invented and it also has an answer for everything, also invented. And there is no religious rule at all that things have to add up to match reality. The whole field is the supernatural, i.e., fiction.

What bothers me is the lack of a third quality; benevolence. The idea that works alone get you into heaven basically lets opportunists con their way in; they could be outright sociopaths if they go through the motions. And faith isn’t much of a qualification; you can be a mass murdering torturer who’s never brought anything but misery and death to anybody, and still have faith.

Of course, but one can still discuss fictional beings according to the rules and logic of the work of fiction they come from.

Of course none of the people telling you these rules have been to Heaven. :smack:

Given there is no evidence for any God, then presumably if He exists, He does want us to use faith. He’s just not good at communicating? :eek:

The way I see it is who is the one you put trust in. By doing what you think is ‘good works’ you are placing yourself in the place of God, you are deciding in the flesh what is good or what is not good, regardless of if God sees you doing something for the good. By having faith and acting on that faith you are deferring to God, letting Him decide how He wants His plan to unfold and you are acting as His servant - so everything you do that is ‘good’ adds to the glory of God and not yourself.

IMHO doing “good” is all that counts.
Of course getting to the pearly gates and finding out your idea of good is wrong…welll.

So if someone is somehow internally utterly depraved and immoral, but live their lives spreading kindness and charity, improving the lives of all they meet, acting selflessly in the context of this life, they should be denied the rewards of the next because they had bad thoughts?

I think the idea of works being important is that if you have faith, acting in accordance with that faith will cause you to do good works. And similarly if one is acting willfully contrary to the tenets of one’s faith one obviously doesn’t really have that faith anyways

Because God is the one who decides what “good” is in the first place, right? If God says build an ark but let all the babies in your village drown, or tells you to sacrifice your son on an altar, or instructs you to massacre the population of a small country because you need the land, it is Good.

Exactly, I think you are finally getting it :wink:

Again you are looking at the issue in the flesh, not in the spirit. God is the creator and rightful owner of those lives, He can do what He choses.

I am owned by no “god”. I own my successes and I own my failures. I take responsibility for everything I do consciously. If my creation is somehow due to the works of a “god”, then she/he/it abandoned this property a long time ago, and I’m claiming salvage rights.

Where does this get you?

Freedom to think for myself and take responsibility for my own actions. Freedom to praise others for their own accomplishments, and freedom to congratulate myself for a job well done. Freedom to place blame where it truly belongs and seek solutions where they truly exist. Freedom to learn to the best of my ability without being told to drop a subject because it is “forbidden” or “mysterious”. Freedom to be ethical and true to myself without having to try to figure out which of the 999 god’s rules I’m supposed to be following. I am free of the guilt of Original Sin, and free of the fear of an afterlife. I am free to accept facts even though they conflict with religion. I am even free to accept whatever god is shown to me to exist, though I might not worship this god if I disapprove of her/his/its ethics/morals.

Pertaining to the OP-If I were to follow a god, I would follow one that admired us for how we treat each other, and not one that was so vain as to need constant reassurance.

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:34-40

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40"The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41"Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44"They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45"He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

We seem to be very much on the same page, I guess it would be ethically speaking.
However, kanicbird raises a point that I never thought of: that by doing what I think is good, I’m presuming to think that I know what god thinks is good. I don’t know that I believe it offhand, but it’s a way of thinking about it that I never considered before.

Well, I’ve thought about it. Since the only record we have of what this particular god considers to be good is in the Bible, I have determined that I prefer my ethics to his.

But isn’t the desire to be rewarded for doing good by going to heaven . . . inherently selfish? Doesn’t that conflict with Christianity’s altruistic ethics? Wouldn’t it be more “Christian” to do good without any personal reward?

(All in all, I’d rather be in Czarcasm’s heaven.)

IMO, it’s implicit in (and is in fact the solution to) the apparent conflict or tension between faith and deeds. The way I see it, it’s supposed to be that the faith, if genuine, brings about a change of heart (including the benevolence), causing the deeds.

No, if you do good according to the bible, then you are not deciding for yourself what is good, you are doing what god says is good. So if I stone a woman for not being a virgin on her wedding night, that is good by definition, because god commands it. I have not decided for myself that it is good, I am acting on faith that god knew what he was talking about when he commanded me to do that.

It doesn’t work like that, though it is often watered down to this. It is a desire born of love to serve God because it is the right thing to do. It is not do good go to heaven, do bad go to hell. It is if you take your rightful place in God’s plan you will keep that place as God’s children. If you reject this you will take the place of one that rejected God’s plan.

Also a follower of Christ does not do ‘good’, a follower of Christ serves God. If your king commands you to help the little ol’ lady get across the street and you do it the credit goes to the king, as you were just doing your job.

I’m aware of that; it just doesn’t seem to work. Faith doesn’t actually specify behavior, it specifies belief in ( in this case ) the Christian faith, and that can mean anything from"love thy neighbor" to “I come not to bring peace, but a sword”. And assuming for the sake of argument that God really is benevolent himself, I really can’t see him being happy at people who abuse other people in his name, no matter how much faith in him they have.

I suppose it depends on what version of God you believe in. Some people seem to believe in a God whose primary concern is the maximization of believers; a God like that might very well put faith above everything else. On the other hand, a benevolent God, it seems to me, would want to let the good people in, not the fervent ones or the opportunists.