Sunday, April 26, 2009

Which is greater - Faith or Charity?

Pelikan makes an interesting point in Mary that I've never encountered elsewhere, but is certainly an intriguing one.
[T]he Reformers, beginning with Luther, taught that authentic Christian love was dependent on faith and therefore, despite the identification of love as 'the greatest of these,' [1Cor. 13:13] assigned to faith the central position in that triad and therefore assigned to the word of God what must be called a sacramental function: as the sacraments were, in a formula that the Reformation took over from Augustine, a 'visible word,' so the preaching and teaching of the word of God could have been called an audible sacrament. Thus Calvin, in a carefully crafted discussion, defined 'faith to be a knowledge of God's will toward us, perceived from his Word.' [p. 159f.]
On Pelikan's reckoning of things, then, it seems that the Protestant reformers have turned things on their heads for the sake of their novel view of justification (and of faith, for that matter, which they seem to have understood in a way that was, if not completely new, at least atypical).

But St. Paul says that faith without charity is nothing (1Cor. 13: 2). St. John says "he that loveth not abideth in death" (1Jn. 3:14). Hence we say that it's not mere belief that saves us. Christ is our Saviour, but he does not save us apart from what we do.


David Murdoch said...

That is an interesting point. We are justified by faith, however, love is clearly greater than faith and love requires works.

St Paul said in his letter to the romans:

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Reginald de Piperno said...

Hi David,

Thanks for stopping by.

I was pretty intrigued by the thought when I read it. That love is greater than faith seems to be a necessary implication of James 2 as well (among other passages that we could probably list): if even the demons believe, clearly the charity that motivates our works must be that which distinguishes our faith from theirs.