In Christianity, what causes you to be “saved”, faith or works? Or to put it another way, what you believe or what you do. Most Protestants would say you are saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. They seem to think this for historical reasons that don’t really make sense any more.
- Paul emphasised faith over works, but this was because his mission was to spread Christianity from ethnic Jews to non-Jews. He figured an emphasis on works would be interpreted as converts having to obey all 600+ Jewish religious laws, including circumcision for males, which he thought would cause consumer resistance. Paul did however try to sneak behavioural standards in through the back door by excluding people with certain habits.
- Martin Luther claimed that salvation happened through faith alone. This was because he wanted to reduce the power of the (Catholic) Church, and good works at the time was interpreted largely as doing what the Church said and giving them money.
- Modern revivalists wanted to get people losing their religion to come to church, and they went about doing this by allowing people to call themselves Christians without the bothersome requirement of actually acting like Christians. So it became all feel-good stuff with no mention of Hell, no need for struggle or sacrifice, no need to change your sinful ways and everything will be fine if you just love Jesus.
This is all understandable from a historical perspective, but doesn’t make sense for saving your soul, much less for structuring an orderly society or getting people to work together for desirable goals outside of themselves. So what will cause you to be passed forward into the hereafter essentially whole rather than becoming the spiritual equivalent of mulch or being cast into the lake of fire, as it might be? I would suggest it is neither faith nor works but who you are – the information contained in what you call yourself and the types of traits you have developed. Of course becoming the right sort of person will require both faith and works.