It amazes me that Protestants, the very ones who claim to go by Scripture alone, continue to this day to use a non-biblical phrase (“faith alone”) to describe how one is justified. In fact, Scripture goes out of its way to avoid using “faith alone” in reference to justification. For example, St. Paul used the word “faith” and its derivatives over 200 times; and the words “alone” or “only” a few dozen times. Some of the appearances of “alone” or “only” occur right in the very contexts that address the subject of Justification (Romans 3:29; 4:12; 4:16; 4:23; Galatians 2:10; 3:2; 4:18; 5:13). Yet in not one instance did St. Paul feel compelled to combine the two words to specify how Justification was procured. What would have kept him from using such an all-telling, all-important, phrase, if, indeed, the concept of “faith alone” was on the forefront of his mind? A haunting question, indeed, for anyone of Ron’s burden to contemplate.
The burden is compounded when we recognize that Scripture considers the phrase “faith alone” to have the utmost importance, since it uses it in one very crucial place – – the very place it decides that it is appropriate to nullify the concept that Justification is by faith alone — James 2:24. In fact, not only does Scripture nullify “faith alone” as justifying, it reinforces its nullity by prefacing it with the clause, “You see, a man is justified by works” prior to adding “and not by faith alone.”
Now, the way Ron tries to dismiss the fact that Paul refrained from using “faith alone” is to say that when Paul condemns justification by works, we are to interpret this to mean that Paul believed in faith alone for Justification. This may seem plausible to him, but it is quite wrong. Condemning works does not automatically mean faith is alone. There are other things that could be added to faith that are not considered works, and thus faith would not be alone. In fact, Paul condemned only one kind of work. He called them works of DEBT (Romans 3:28-4:4). How do we know there is a distinction? Because in the previous chapter Paul says that those who do good works will receive eternal life (Romans 2:6-7) and that those who obey the Law will be justified (Romans 2:13).
As for works of DEBT, Catholics also condemn the idea that man can put God in debt to save him by his own works. The very first canon of the Council of Trent states this quite plainly:
If anyone shall say that man can be justified before God by his own works which are done either by his own natural powers, or through the teaching of the Law, and without divine grace through Christ Jesus: let him be anathema.
If you ask Ron how he deals with Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:6-13 9 (that those who do good works will be justified and receive eternal life), he will answer something like this: “Oh, Paul didn’t really mean that one can receive justification and eternal life for good works. It only appears that way. Actually, Paul was setting up an impossible task for man in order to drive him to the next chapter where he teaches that only faith without works will justify.” But notice what he’s done. Without any indication from Paul that he is setting up an impossible task.
Why does Ron do this? Because he must in order to make his theology work. Look at it this way: There are two solutions to the seeming contradiction between what Paul says in Romans 2:6-13 and what he says in Romans 3:23-4:4. Either you conclude that Paul is dealing with two different kinds of works (works of debt and works of grace), or you say he is dealing with only one kind of work (any work). The Catholic Church has chosen the former; Ron has chosen the latter.