Faith+works and formal logic

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming… I would apologize for the lengthy interruption, but I’m actually not at all sorry. I’m sure you’ll hear more about thunder and lightning in the future, but for now I figure I’d better get back to regular ranting before I lose the last few readers that I flatter myself into believing that I have. đŸ˜› Thus, today’s topic is a brief foray into the issue of faith+works and formal logic.

This was prompted by a Sunday School discussion last Sunday where the discussion leader wrote the following on the board:

faith + works = salvation

This was the proposition that the Reformers took issue with. The major scripture passage that comes to mind regarding this issue is Ephesians 2:1-10. Here are a few pertinent verses from that section:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

Also relevant is James 2:20. Here’s the main point:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? … So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

The Sunday School leader claimed that in light of these passages, the Reformers changed the equation to the following:

faith = salvation + works

Upon further consideration, I decided that this doesn’t make sense because faith is not in any way construed to be “equal” to salvation and works, but rather than faith leads to both salvation and works. (This sidesteps the issue about whether faith is in fact sufficient as well as necessary for salvation, but that’s a question for another day.) Thus, we have transformed the algebraic equation into a logic proposition:

faith -> salvation ^ works

For those who aren’t familiar with logic, this reads “faith implies salvation and works,” and means that if we have established the presence of faith, we can also (by this implication) establish the presence of salvation and works. This assumes the implication is valid.

The interesting point (to me) is when you use and-elimination to get the following:

faith -> works

And then form the contrapositive:

~works -> ~faith

That reads “not works implies not faith.” The passage from James (“faith without works is dead”) seems to support this conclusion. This raises the following dilemma: if there are no observable works in the life of a self-professed believer, are we justified in questioning that believer’s faith? To a further extreme, are we obligated to perform this questioning?

This seems to be a very slippery slope. The Bible seems pretty clear that as humans, we cannot know the state of another person’s soul, and thus this issue of questioning another person’s salvation seems very dangerous.

When I brought up the issue, the discussion leader decided that I was taking the mathematical application too far and drew a large X through the entire derivation. đŸ™‚

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