I first thought of this line of thought as fitting for a paper, in debate with anti-Catholic Matt Slick (who oversees the CARM discussion board), in my first “debate” with him. I later made a capsule version of the argument on pp. 87-93 of my book, The Catholic Verses (2004). Matt’s words below will be in blue:
First of all, I don’t see anywhere in the Bible that God ever acts like this (if I have overlooked it, you can educate me; the Bible’s a big book — the book of Job would seem to present a quite different perspective), so this is simply one of many Protestant catch-phrases or slogans or evangelistic techniques which cannot be found in the Bible (as far as that goes). I’m not saying it’s UNbiblical; just not the sort of thing that one can find there, by example.
Going to heaven and being saved or damned is not a trite affair like a TV quiz show or something. One will either be saved or not, and they will know that instantly when they stand before God. There will be no arguing with God (Job 40:1-2; cf. 42:3). They will know truth and know why they missed the mark. People who are damned may try to foolishly plead their case, I suppose, as in Matthew 25. But Jesus simply declares and sends them away to their fate. He doesn’t stand there like Bob Barker and ask them questions — not in the sense of this Protestant catch-phrase, anyway.
That said, Catholics believe in sola gratia as much as Protestants do. You ought to know this, but it appears that you do not.
Would you mention your prayers to Mary, your indulgences, your works, your sincerity, or what?
This is covered in my above answer. Each of those matters must be discussed individually, given the abominable ignorance that many Protestants have concerning them. Suffice it to say that we do not accept the unbiblical, damnable notion of “works-salvation.” Catholics are neither Pelagians nor semi-Pelagians. And you ought to know that, too. But (by the looks of it) you do not. Join the crowd.
You didn’t answer my question. Instead, you blurred the issue with prose. I am waiting.
I answered in four different ways:
1. I said Catholics believed in sola gratia.
2. I said that we are not Pelagians.
3. I said we don’t believe in works-salvation
4. Furthermore, I denied that the hypothetical situation would even take place (thus questioning why you put it in those terms), judging by the biblical teachings. I will be silent when I am before God, on Judgment Day, and I’ll already know in an instant if I am damned or saved, and there is no arguing with God and no nonsense or prideful self-delusions any longer at that frightful, awesome hour.
What I was trying to get across was that the very situation was implausible to me, and couldn’t be backed up by biblical example (I don’t recall God acting like this anywhere in the Bible, and nothing Matt offered in reply disabused me of the notion at all), and so I wondered aloud why Matt asked the question in the first place?
One knows with absolute certainty in heaven on Judgment Day whether they are saved or damned, and God will not question them like a TV quiz show host or certain Protestant evangelists who too often resemble carnival barkers or used car salesmen in the subtlety of their approach.
I replied to Matt that I didn’t find such a scenario in the Bible; that at the Final Judgment God doesn’t wrangle with people (and people don’t argue with God — just as with any earthly judge); He simply declares judgment, which is precisely what happens in Matthew 25. He doesn’t ask them questions about their eschatological fate in heaven or hell. This is true in Matthew 25 and also suggested at the end of Job (which I also cited).
My point was that God (as far as we know from revelation) doesn’t inquire of the person on Judgment Day, “why should I let you into heaven?” Lastly, while one may know he is damned, all the particular reasons may not be known, as indicated in Matthew 25, and God could explain that, as indeed He did in this instance. But I wasn’t dealing with that question in my reply; I only asserted that God didn’t talk (based on biblical revelation) in the manner that Matt’s familiar evangelical slogan and lingo would have Him talk.
Nowhere does God ask people to give Him a reason why He should let them into heaven. All we learn is that He declares and records earthly deeds and damnation or salvation: precisely as I argued: God declares, He doesn’t act like a game show host! — talking back and forth with the sinner, as if salvation were the equivalent of negotiations at a vegetable market.
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Then He will also say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for you did not believe in Me with Faith Alone.” These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous who believed with Faith Alone into eternal life.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to whether they had Faith Alone. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to whether they had Faith Alone.
Instead, we hear all this useless talk about works, as if they had anything to do with salvation! Doesn’t Jesus know that works have no connection to faith whatsoever, and that sanctification and justification are entirely separated in good, orthodox evangelical or Calvinist theology? After all, Matt has informed us:
. . . the distinction between justification and sanctification in Catholicism is not only blurred, it is castrated.
Maybe our Lord Jesus attended a liberal synagogue, influenced by heretical Romish ideas. Why does Jesus keep talking about feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, and being judged “according to their deeds”? What in the world do all these “works” have to do with salvation? Why doesn’t Jesus talk about Faith Alone??!! Something is seriously wrong here. Perhaps all those Pelagian, idolatrous Catholic monks who transcribed the Bible changed it in the Middle Ages.
Seriously, though, what is in the Bible is the following declaration against faith alone:
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? (James 2:14; RSV)
So faith itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:17; cf. 2:20, 2:26)
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)
Despite all this overwhelming biblical data, Matt insists on speaking only of faith at the Judgment, to the complete exclusion of works (most contrary to the biblical record of what actually happens, whenever judgment is described).
Now, I may not personally mention my works, but the striking point here is that God certainly does mention works, and works alone, as at least one reason (if not the sole one) for someone’s salvation, in the same exact passages we have been presented for supposed confirmation of Matt’s slogan, which expressly questions any role for works whatsoever. Catholics do not believe in “works-salvation.” Works do not save anyone. This is Catholic teaching. But works are neither absolutely separated from faith nor from salvation. This is a different concept. And we clearly see that in the passages above.
Biblically speaking (at least from the above passages, if nothing else), the exact opposite of what Matt asserts is true: if God asked me Matt’s question (assuming for the moment that God acts like this), and I replied by recounting repeated acts of charity and mercy that I had done: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, inviting in strangers, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, and various other “deeds” of mine, I would be doing nothing other than what Jesus Himself does when He describes why a person is saved (at the very least part of the reason why, but the only one given in these passages — which is my immediate point).
Here are 50 biblical passages I have found about judgment where works are mentioned as the criteria but not faith alone. If anyone can find related passages that give faith alone as the criterion for salvation apart from any mention of works (i.e., in the context of the final judgment), please let me know. I’ll be forever indebted to you (no pun intended).
I did finally find one that at least mentions faith in the context of judgment (but alas, not faith alone): Revelation 21:8 includes the “faithless” among those who will be damned for eternity. Even there it is surrounded by many bad works that characterize the reprobate person.
1 Samuel 28:15-19 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress; for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me; for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Am’alek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”
2 Kings 22:13 (cf. 2 Chron 34:21) “Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”
Psalm 7:8-10 The LORD judges the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish thou the righteous, thou who triest the minds and hearts, thou righteous God. My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.
Psalm 58:11 Men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”
Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Isaiah 59:18 According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; . . .
Jeremiah 4:4 (cf. 21:12) Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”
Ezekiel 7:3 (cf. 7:8; 33:20) Now the end is upon you, and I will let loose my anger upon you, and will judge you according to your ways; and I will punish you for all your abominations.
Ezekiel 36:19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries; in accordance with their conduct and their deeds I judged them.
Micah 5:15 And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance upon the nations that did not obey.
Zephaniah 2:3 Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his commands; seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the wrath of the LORD.
Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.
Matthew 7:16-27 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So every sound tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. Not every one who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” Every one then who hears these words of mine, and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine, and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.
Matthew 10:22 (cf. Mt 24:13; Mk 13:13) . . . But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.
Matthew 18:8-9 (cf. Mk 9:43, 47) And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Matthew 25:14-30 “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, `Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, `You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’
Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Luke 3:9 (+ Mt 3:10; 7:19) Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Luke 14:13-14 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
Luke 21:34-36 “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.
John 5:26-29 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
Romans 2:5-13 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
1 Corinthians 3:8-9 He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.
1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 . . . may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:7-12 . . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 6:7-8 For land which has drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed; its end is to be burned.
1 Peter 1:17 . . . who judges each one impartially according to his deeds . . .
1 Peter 4:13 (cf. Rom 8:17)But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
2 Peter 3:10-14 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
Jude 6-16 And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day; just as Sodom and Gomor’rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. Yet in like manner these men in their dreamings defile the flesh, reject authority, and revile the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these men revile whatever they do not understand, and by those things that they know by instinct as irrational animals do, they are destroyed. Woe to them! For they walk in the way of Cain, and abandon themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error, and perish in Korah’s rebellion. These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever. It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own passions, loud-mouthed boasters, flattering people to gain advantage.
Jude 20-21 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Revelation 2:5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Revelation 2:23 . . . I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.
Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done.
Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.
Revelation 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.
Therefore, in light of this survey of biblical statements on the topic, how would we properly, biblically answer the unbiblical, sloganistic questions of certain evangelical Protestants? Here again is the question from Matt Slick:
If you were to die tonight and face judgment and God were to ask you why He should let you into heaven, what would you tell Him? Just curious.
He’s completely well-intentioned and has the highest motivations. He desires that folks should be saved. But he is dead wrong in his assumptions, when they are weighed against the overwhelming, (far as I can tell) unanimous biblical record. Our answer to his question and to God when we stand before Him, could incorporate any one or all of the following 50 responses: all perfectly biblical, and many right from the words of God Himself:
1) I am characterized by righteousness.
2) I have integrity.
3) I’m not wicked.
4) I’m upright in heart.
5) I’ve done good deeds.
6) I have good ways.
7) I’m not committing abominations.
8) I have good conduct.
9) I’m not angry with my brother.
10) I’m not insulting my brother.
11) I’m not calling someone a fool.
12) I have good fruits.
13) I do the will of God.
14) I hear Jesus’ words and do them.
15) I endured to the end.
16) I fed the hungry.
17) I provided drink to the thirsty.
18) I clothed the naked.
19) I welcomed strangers.
20) I visited the sick.
21) I visited prisoners.
22) I invited the poor and the maimed to my feast.
23) I’m not weighed down with dissipation.
24) I’m not weighed down with drunkenness.
25) I’m not weighed down with the cares of this life.
26) I’m not ungodly.
27) I don’t suppress the truth.
28) I’ve done good works.
29) I obeyed the truth.
30) I’m not doing evil.
31) I have been a “doer of the law.”
32) I’ve been a good laborer and fellow worker with God.
33) I’m unblamable in holiness.
34) I’ve been wholly sanctified.
35) My spirit and soul and body aresound and blameless.
36) I know God.
37) I’ve obeyed the gospel.
38) I’ve shared Christ’s sufferings.
39) I’m without spot or blemish.
40) I’ve repented.
41) I’m not a coward.
42) I’m not faithless.
43) I’m not polluted.
44) I’m not a murderer.
45) I’m not a fornicator.
46) I’m not a sorcerer.
47) I’m not an idolater.
48) I’m not a liar.
49) I invited the lame to my feast.
50) I invited the blind to my feast.