Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Faith and Works - A Synergy Not Conflict



For many Christians, there is a battle between faith and works.  Some proclaim that our salvation comes through faith alone. They are concerned that one might think they could get to heaven by their own efforts, I guess, without faith. For Orthodox Christians there is no battle between faith and works. We know that both faith and works are necessary. We call it synergic cooperation with God. But, the starting point is always an act of believing in God.
Saint Seraphim tells us the following:
Before anything else, one must believe in God, "that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6).
One who is a doubter is like a man lost at sea without a life raft. He is incapable of doing works that will lead him to God.

Saint James says,
"...he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8 NKJV)
Faith is the necessary first step on a journey to be united with God and know Him through direct experience.  Without faith we could not undertake the necessary preparation. We would not know where to begin. Such preparation for many is seen as works without God, trying to earn our way to heaven. This is a concern without basis. To seek to know God, we begin with faith, believing that it is God who sent His Son for our transformation to be united with Him and that it is His teachings that we must follow. With this belief we will undertake meaningful works that with patience leads us to an intimate knowledge of Him.

Faith of necessity involves works. It is James who tells us, "Faith without works is dead" (James2:26).  He points out that the necessary works involved are love, peace, long-suffering, mercy, humility, rest from all works, bearing of the Cross, and life in the Spirit.
Saint Seraphim says,
True faith cannot be without works; one who truly believes will unfailingly have works as well.
Our journey with Christ is one of cooperation where we submit our will to His will to do His work. To realize this we have many works to do in preparation to receive His grace which transforms and unites us with Him. With faith we desire to under take many works to perfect ourselves in His grace.
Reference: Little Russian Philokalia, Vol 1 , p 25.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this! I came upon you from another site and have enjoyed reading. My dad is named for Seraphim, so this is perfectly Providential, thanks!

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  2. You quote Saint Seraphim in writing, "Before anything else, one must believe in God, "that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him"

    I agree with the synergy between faith and works. To separate them is to not understand either. But I believe that we are saved not by faith, or by works but by grace alone. The originator of our faith and our good works is God. It is because He has faith in us that we are able to have faith.

    Glory be to God.

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  3. Interesting thought as it raises question, what is meant be grace "alone". Is this a passive stance in the world or does it also call for synergy with the human will?

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