Sola Fide in a Church Father


But to one who does not work, but who believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. When an ungodly person converts, God justifies him by faith alone, not for the good works he did not have.”

Pelagius, Commentary on Romans, 4:5

“So that all who belive among the Gentiles are children of Abraham, when faith alone is credited to them as righteousness and they too become circumcised, but in heart.”

Ibid, 4:12

For those he foreknew. The purpose acording to which he planned to save by faith alone those whom he had foreknown would believe, and those whom he freely called to salvation he will all the more glorify as they work. He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. To predestine is the same as to foreknow.”

Ibid, 8:29

“Because they did not know that God justifies by faith alone, and because they thought that they were righteous by works of the law they did not keep, they refused to submit themselves to the foregiveness of sins, to prevent the appearance of their having been sinners, as it is written, ‘But the Pharisees, rejecting the purpose of God for themselves refused to be baptized with John’s baptism’ (Luke 7:30). 4 For the end of the law is Christ, for the righteousness of all who believe. On the day one believes in Christ, it is as if one has fulfilled the whole law (cf. Gal 5:3) 5. For Moses wrote of the righteousness which is by the law. Moses himself distinguished between the two kinds of righteousness, namely the righteousness of faith and the righteousness of deeds, because the one justifies the suppliant by works, but the other by belief alone.”

Ibid., 10:3-5

I didn’t say it was Sola Fide in a Church Father of the Orthodox Church. 😉


  1. Why would Pelagius, who identified grace and nature and who believed we could move ourselves apart from God to please Him and be saved, espouse sola fide? It seems as if it he thought works *could* save us, so what gives?


  2. Dave,

    Didn’t you know that any and all times the term “faith alone” is used in a source prior to the reformation it means all and only what Luther meant? 😉


    No, that doesn’t seem to be what Pelagius means by the term.


  3. Oh yes, Perry, I understand well that words equal concepts! But is your point that, if Pelagius did *not* believe by “faith alone” what Luther had in mind, that therefore it is quite possible that when Orthodox Church Fathers use this phrase they may not mean the same thing by it either? If not, I am afraid you have lost me.


  4. Dave,

    Gosh, did you look at the tags at all for this post? I thought the whole post was hysterical.

    Second, I thought I’d throw some quotes out there just as people who throw out quotes from the fathers to support the silly contention that they taught Luther’s notion of faith as the intrinsically worthless yet formal cause of justification. They routinely latch on to such terms and then try to show that they taught such views, usually by conflating sola gratia with sola fide.


  5. The faith vs. works thing in St. Paul’s epistles,
    is always in context of the ritual works of the
    Mosaic Law, the keeping of sabbaths, circumcision,
    food laws, special holy days that were obligatory
    to be part of the Old Covenant with God.

    The works that prove one’s faith is real are works
    of prayer, charity, virtuousness, fleeing evil and
    opposing evil.

    Luther reacted to a context of ritual and routines
    external without the heart being involved or even
    necessary as being the means of salvation. Though
    this was NOT the teaching in theory of the RC it was
    in practice the misunderstanding therefore the
    teaching and example of clergy monastics and laity.

    Luther sought holiness and theosis, in his inadequate
    way, and reacted against the sort of dead formalism
    that St. Theophan the Recluse warned against, when
    he said that you may even be harming your soul if
    your prayers are without your heart and without any
    real turning to God to seek faith even, (such as
    “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief” that a
    man said to Our Lord Jesus Christ), and even said
    that modification of the prayers and adding to them
    can be a leading from The All-Holy Spirit.

    In the quote of Pelagius, he isn’t exactly preaching
    the classic Pelagian heresy, that we can without
    ANY help from God, have all the saving faith and
    good doing and avoiding of sin that we need to get

    That we have it in us to see that some things are
    seriously wrong, without much help or revelation,
    would be indicated by God here and there in The
    Prophets condemning some things like idolatry as
    insanity, and saying in The Law that He was
    casting out the Canaanites, because of their practice
    of homosexuality, close family incest, idolatry and
    human sacrifice of children, which apparently should
    be so self evidently wrong, that one doesn’t need
    special revelation to know it, but people sell out
    to the peer group, etc.

    heretics usually have some good stuff in their

    Sola fide, however, doesn’t mean mere agreement
    formally, or even mentally without application of
    “the faith” to oneself, dedication of oneself to
    “the faith.”

    Luther’s sola fide was not like Calvin’s sola fide.


  6. Justina,

    I don’t think I’d say that Luther was looking for theosis. Rather Luther seems to think that sensible particulars are real and that his own personal holiness as a product of grace working in him, is not one of them. Consequently, grace must be extrinsic and forensic.

    The classic Pelagian heresy isn’t that one works for salvation without any help from God. To be fair what Pelagius thinks is that human nature is intrinsically unchanged after the fall, it is naturally righteous still, and that God gives external helps only whereby we reach up and lay hold of Christ by faith. Pelagius is not an 18th century deist.

    On the fundamental concept, there seems to me to be no significant difference between Luther and Calvin with respect to sola fide. Faith is an intrinsically worthless virtue which is the formal cause that acts as a conduit for the transfer of moral credit which is extrinsically applied to its recipient.


  7. Perry Robinson, the claim of our nature being
    unchanged by the fall, and the claim that we
    can be saved without God’s help, are flip sides
    of the same coin, and both are ascribed to him.
    St. Augustine got his reputation by fighting
    pelagianism as well as by opposing paganism, but
    he seems to have gone a bit too far in some
    ways and laid the groundwork for Calvin’s TULIP,
    incl. predestination to salvation or damnation.
    The fundamental concept you describe is nothing
    like i understood faith as an evangelical. But
    then evangelicals in theory were more biblical
    than blindly following of famous teachers. Sort
    of. Faith was hardly worthless, it is a turning
    to God and a belief that affects your behavior
    not mere mental assent and then go and ignore it,
    keeping religion in one pocket and life in another.


  8. Justina,

    What I tried to offer was a more precise view of Pelagius’ heresy. To say that humanity is unchanged by the fall is capable of an orthodox understanding if by that we mean that the imago dei is unchanged in and of itself. But if we confuse natural goodness with personal goodness, which seems to be what Pelagius had in mind, then it is incorrect.

    I don’t think Augustine lays the groundwork for TULIP for a whole host of reasons. First because Augustine thinks that grace is added to nature, whereas the Reformed like Pelagius take it to be natural. Augustine didn’t believe in a penal model of the atonement and he thought one could be regenerate and not elect.

    If the picture I describe to you of Reformation teaching is doesn’t resonate with your evangelical background, this is not suprising given thatmost evangelicals do not know what the Reformation taught in its key doctrines. Faith is an instrument and in and of itself it is worthless before God. It can’t be a basis for favor or merit. But what it can do is act as the highway by which moral credit from Christ’s earthly obedience is imputed or accredited to us.


  9. I didn’t say it was Sola Fide in a Church Father of the Orthodox Church.

    Perry Robinson, yu are an Anarchist but a very entertaining one.


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