Why do Catholics believe we can work our way to heaven?
The answer is simple, we do not. Pelagianism, the heresy which denied original sin and held that man could be saved without grace- through human endeavor, was condemned in the 400's by St. Augustine, the Council of Carthage, and yet again by the Council of Ephesus. Of course, since this bit of history is not recorded in the Bible, my Sola Fidelis / Sola Scriptura Sisters were not satisfied. It can not be assumed that we are to ignore the call to take up our cross and follow Christ's example. Alas, Our Heavenly Father will not leave us in confusion. Today's readings (along with many others) are a reminder that we do have some responsibility in our walk with Christ on the road to salvation:
- Jas 2:14-24, 26
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them,“Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,”but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say,“You have faith and I have works.”Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.