28 October 2006

Patristic Quote for the Day

"They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed." - St. John Chrysostom (First Corinthians, Homily 20, PG 61.164)


Anonymous said...

These "faith alone" phrases are not in the NPNF translation of Homily XX on 1 Corinthians by St. John Chrysostom. Who translated your citation, and from what compilation did it come from? I'd be interested in the context of this passage since it is rare to find "faith alone" apart from in the Epistle of James.

William Weedon said...

It has been a number of years since I copied them down. I believe that I got that reference from patristic scholar Thomas Oden in his work on Justification in the fathers. I hope to go to St. Louis tomorrow afternoon, so I will check Migne and see what the Greek gives us.

William Weedon said...

I checked the page and Migne and cannot even come up with anything LIKE the citation. I think I either copied it incorrectly (but that IS the page for Homily XX on 1 Cor???) or it was written incorrectly. I will follow up on that when I can get hold of the book by Oden again.

Meanwhile, the use of the word faith and only can be found in Homily 7 on Romans:

"Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only."

So it is not an uncharacteristic phrase in Chrysostom by any means. But I will definitely hunt further for info on the one listed First Corinthians.

William Weedon said...

FOUND IT! Just had to think about the words he was commenting on. It's in his homily on Galatians 3:

"Again, they said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to faith alone, is blessed."

Now, how it came to have that other reference is beyond me!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I think it's perfectly clear from the contexts (see links below) that both St. Paul and St. John Chrysostom are contrasting the attempt to be saved by obeying the Law with being saved by grace through faith. The "alone" does not mean to contrast faith with the works of faith, which are included within faith! But with the works of the Law (ceremonial AND moral), apart from or outside of faith -- or for that matter, keeping the Law (of Moses) even WITH faith. Law-keeping per se isn't what it's all about; walking in communion with God is, and faith is the onlyw ay to do that.

There is no such thing as faith apart from faith's works, either in concrete practice or even in logic. Faith is *not something that exists in its own right* that is merely followed by works or manifested in works; rather, it is something that only exists relative to works -- as their motive and mode and rule. Faith is the motive; without works, it's a motive motivating nothing, a logical absurdity. Faith is the rule of Christian life, but if there is no Christian life being lived, faith is a rule governing nothing; it's meaningless. Faith is the Christian's modus operandi. Without the "opera" (works) the "modus" is the method of nothing at all. As you see, even to speak of faith in the abstract (abstracted from works) is to gut it. That's why Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, is the great chapter on heroic deeds. "By faith" somebody did this; "by faith" another did that. Faith is our "by which" -- and it cannot rightly be spoken of any other way. It is always and only the motive, the manner, the means, by which and in which something is DONE.

love in Christ,


The Romans commentary:


And the Galatians commentary:


William Weedon said...

Dear Anastasia,

What is there to disagree with in what you wrote? I am very happy to see that you say that works of the law include the moral law and are not limited to the ceremonial - I've never understood how St. Paul (or St. John Chrysostom) could be read that way.

But when Lutherans speak of "alone" we most certainly are NOT excluding the works which are faith's fruit and show it living. Almost inevitably you will here a Lutheran say: "Faith alone saves; and the faith that saves is never alone, it is always accompanied by love."

christopher3rd said...

And so, we are not saved by faith alone. Why hold to such a particular defintion of alone when that is not exactly what you mean. Otherwise, we get into questions about what the definition of "alone" is, (cf. '...what the definition of is is').

And I have heard confessional Lutherans say that we are saved with no strings attached, including those dependent on whether we 'show' our faith in works after our justification. True faith will always show forth works, but the fact that we do or do not have works cannot be correlated to whether we have saving faith: saved by faith alone.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, you know, you're not absolutely required to disagree with me! :-)

But underneath the similar sounding words, I suspect there may possibly be some disagreement after all; it depends upon what is meant. If, when you say, "Faith alone saves," you mean Grace saves but by no other means than through faith, and never outside of faith, fine.

OTOH, if you mean to distinguish faith per se from faith's works, which, however, are inevitably to follow, if you wish to separate them just long enough to say, "It's this and not that" -- and then of course we'll immediately re-unite them -- then there is disagreement. That's like saying the method itself will save you, or the motivation itself will save you, or the ability to live the Christian life itself will save you, or the rule of living itself will save you. There's just no such thing as any of those.


William Weedon said...


Don't argue with the Lutherans about it. Go argue with St. John Chrysostom. He didn't think it was the least bit problematic. : )


The only distinction that Lutherans make is this: that though faith is a busy, lively, active thing (or it's a false thing and not faith), it is not its business, liveliess or activity which renders its salvific, but precisely its grasp of divine grace, or divine grace's grasp on it.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Heh-heh...It's the business, liveliness and activity of it that render it *faith*.