This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Do not pit faith against works

If you run upon the question of “faith vs. works,” you shouldn’t find it difficult to solve. It is a false dichotomy. Pope Francis stated it well in an Apostolic Exhortation that I happen to be reading just now: Man is not saved by either faith or works. Man is saved by grace. In other words, like all dualisms, it is solved by transcending it.

But what is grace? It is the action of the spirit to which we must be open and to which we must respond, but it does not have its origin in ourselves. God, in salvation, initiates. We prepare and respond. The response takes place in the will and usually manifests itself first as a “decision” or a reorientation of the will. An individual’s “faith” and “works” are nothing but two different ways of manifesting that response, and they are both in a sense secondary to the essence of the thing.

Faith and works are two levels of action, but they are both “actions”: one is a movement of the mind, the other of the physical body, both having their origin in the will and initiated on the basis of a decision. Those who put them at odds as if they are entirely different orders of human activity are fooling themselves. Once seen as what they are: basically two ways of expressing the will (one bodily and the other mentally), the whole debate becomes a bit silly, and at the same time we begin to see why Paul could insist on faith while James could insist on works, since on the level at which they operate, they are both necessary.

If we use the terminology of Evangelicals, who are perhaps more insistent than any other group on the notion that “faith” is the means of salvation, we often hear from them that one must “make a decision” for Christ. And this “decision” results in Salvation.

But where does faith come in? Every decision manifests itself in an action of some kind, whether mental activity of physical activity. Faith in the Gospel message is correctly assumed to be the result of the “decision for Christ.” But this means that faith is really an “action” that results from a decision. It only differs from “good works” in that it is strictly internal.

The Evangelical rejection of good works, then, becomes even more problematic because “good works” are also, according to St. James, the necessary result of this “decision for Christ” and evidence of it.

So in reality, Salvation occurs at the moment of decision, while faith and works are two “actions” that testify, albeit on two different levels, that the decision has truly been made.

To sum it up plainly, if one cannot be saved by works of any kind, then one cannot be saved by faith, since belief in something is nothing other than a kind of action or “good work” of the mind.

The moment we put faith and works in opposition to one another, we become blind to the nature of grace.

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