Journey to Orthodoxy:
Faith and Works

by Thomas Katsampes

March 7, 2008

Many criticisms can be made of the so-called "faith plus works" doctrine of the Catholic and other Christian churches where one is actually required to do something in order to be saved (or accepted into the Church). Indeed, as the Catholic Church believes nulla salus extra ecclesiam, one's good standing in the church can have eternal consequences. Whatever the criticisms of faith plus works may be, we should remember that having a set of obligations can be beneficial.

In many protestant or evangelical denominations you can become a full-fledged member of the church simply by virtue of showing up - they literally welcome you into the church family from day one. At first I thought this was great. But as I tried different churches this soon became a great source of emptiness. After all, if I can walk in from day one and be accepted, so can anyone else, regardless of what they believe.

In becoming Orthodox I have to do certain things. I have to come to church. I confess the Nicene Creed. I have to attend the catechism class. I receive the antidoron at the end of the service. Even the coffee hour plays a role: I fellowship with other parishioners after the service. I've been encouraged by the priest to pray more (though I am truly dreadful at it). Come, attend, confess, receive, fellowship, pray. These are all active verbs. Things I do - not to be more "religious" as it were, or to try to somehow win or merit my salvation (which is impossible as we are saved by grace alone through faith - Ephesians 2:8-9) - help me progress on the Christian walk. It's not faith plus works, or works themselves, that save. "Faith alone saves, but saving faith is not alone." So spoke John Calvin, one of the great reformers of the Church. I call this "works by faith." Because I have a priori faith in Christ, I have been asked by His Church to come, attend, confess, receive, fellowship, and pray. I do these things as I am able out of gladness, out of the desire to learn and grow in Christ and in the Church; not out of any obligation whereby if I do not do them I bring my eternal salvation into question. For my salvation - while in this world clearly a process of my becoming Christ-like - has been accomplished once and for all by Christ Himself (Hebrews 1:3).
Journey to Orthodoxy
God Became Man and other thoughts
Thoughts on Mary
Visiting the Church
Returning to the Church
The Communion Question
Losing the Sense of the Sacred
Conversation with Fr. Tom
Icons and Worship
Differing Viewpoints
Can we truly know?
Faith and Works
Child Baptism