Im not sure even what I'm saying, the Evangelical argument makes just as much sense if not more sense than the Orthodox argument at times. As soon as I start to understand the Orthodox argument the Evangelical one seems to just shoot it right down.
This is a statement from an evangelical on another orthodox forum I go to. He was describing a possible discussion between a Protestant and an Orthodox. He was once Orthodox for several years.
P: You are justified by Jesus Christ which you receive by grace through faith alone.
O: So works have nothing to do with salvation?
P: No, works have everything to do with salvation. Everyone will be judged by God's Law and saved and damned based on works.
O: What!? So it's not really by faith alone?
P: We are saved by Christ's works which we receive by grace through faith alone. We will be judged based on our works and inevitably found guilty. But if we have repented and put our trust in Christ, His blood will cover us and His works will count in place of ours. So it is by faith alone that we receive Christ's saving works.
O: Well, what about the command to do good works in this life?
P: We are indeed commanded this and they bear witness to a genuine "saving faith." But they cannot save us on judgement day. Only Christ's righteousness, Christ's works will save us, and any good works we do after our justification are themselves only possible because of the work of the Trinity in our lives. So true believers strive to work because we're saved, not in order to be saved. Make sense?
O: Yes, but you said earlier that you have to repent and trust in Christ. Aren't those works?
P: Yes. But notice that grace proceeds faith. We cannot come to the knowledge of our sins, repent of them, and trust in Christ unless we receive all of these as a gift. Faith itself is a gift of grace. Thus, salvation from beginning to end, truly is "of the Lord" because we are saved by the grace of God.
The Protestant argument just seems to be more "complete" to me. It just seems to make more sense!
Yes, this is a nice and neat presentation, but it cannot be accepted without rejecting much of the Scriptures. In past posts I have presented many of the verses from the Scriptures which contradict the above presentation, and you would have to ignore these Scriptures altogether to adopt the nicely packaged presentation above. Of course, the presentation above is not entirely wrong on every point, but “faith alone” is not Scriptural, nor can one claim to already “be saved” in the sense of having “eternal security”.
So far, you have mostly presented Protestant ideas and have not provided much in the way of a reply to the Orthodox responses and critiques offered to you in return, nor to the Scriptures presented to you which contradict the belief in “faith alone,” “grace alone,” etc. For a more productive exchange, perhaps you can explain how you think the above presentation from the Protestant fits in with the instruction to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” or that the Lord will judge each “according to their works (Rev 20:12)” and not according to the works of Christ, that faith is always tied to action (Acts 2:38 says we do not receive remission of sins without repentance and baptism, and the Lord says in John 3:5 that we will not enter the kingdom of heaven without baptism), and that “he who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22).” The Lord says many things that we must do to be saved, all of which we cannot do without faith, but nevertheless there is no “faith alone” but always “faith working together with works”. Faith is a cooperation with the grace of God and not a “mere” gift. God does not overwhelm our will, or replace our will with His, and force us by His grace to believe and obey his commandments. While we cannot be saved without faith, God cannot save us against our will if we exercise our free will in rejecting his commandments and refusing to repent. The fact that God will not save us against our will does not mean, however, that we are “saved by our own will alone”. So, with faith and grace there still needs to be the full and intentional exercise of man’s free will to accept God’s grace, to be baptized, to fulfill the commandments, to turn from evil, and to repent.
Again, in the Orthodox Church we know that our works cannot save us and that salvation only comes by the mercy of God on account of what Christ has done for our salvation and our response to Christ. However, we do know that our deeds will be examined to see if we truly repented in this life and served Christ rather than our own passions. Will we fall short when we are examined? Will we come up lacking? We leave this judgment to God, realizing our sinfulness and hoping in His mercy. We do not have the right to claim that we know how God will judge, that He will consider our sins washed away by the blood of Christ, or any such thing. Such assertions give us false hope, they cause us to grow slack in the following of Christ’s commandments and negligent in repentance, and lead to the rejection of the words of the Scriptures themselves.
Every year in the liturgical calendar, on the third Sunday of Great Lent, all Orthodox Christians throughout the whole world participate in a service dedicated to the Last Judgment which expresses the Orthodox and ancient Christian attitude towards this future event. Below is a small excerpt from the Vespers service. Note the attitude and disposition expressed in these words, the realization of our sinfulness, the sincere contrition, the sorrow over our sins, and the hope that God will save us even though we are unworthy. One will not find any attitude of boasting, of asserting that “we are saved already”, of rejoicing at the Judgment, nor any great confidence that God will definitely save us despite our sins because of the work that Christ did on our behalf. We know that God is God, and we can only offer him our repentance and hope that He accepts this: from Vespers for the Sunday of the Last Judgment
When Thou shalt come, O righteous Judge, /
to execute just judgment, /
seated on Thy throne of glory, /
a river of fire will draw all men amazed before Thy judgment-seat; /
the powers of heaven will stand beside Thee, /
and in fear mankind will be judged according to the deeds that each has done. /
Then spare us, Christ, in Thy compassion, /
with faith we entreat Thee, //
and count us worthy of Thy blessings with those that are saved.
The books will be opened and the acts of men will be revealed /
before the unbearable judgment-seat; /
and the whole vale of sorrow shall echo /
with the fearful sound of lamentation, /
as all the sinners, weeping in vain, /
are sent by Thy just judgment to everlasting torment. /
Therefore we beseech Thee, O compassionate and loving Lord: /
spare us who sing Thy praise, //
for Thou alone art rich in mercy.
The trumpets shall sound and the tombs shall be emptied, /
and all mankind in trembling shall be raised. /
Those that have done good shall rejoice in gladness, /
awaiting their reward; /
those that have sinned shall tremble and bitterly lament, /
as they are sent to punishment /
and parted from the chosen. /
O Lord of glory, take pity on us in Thy goodness, //
and count us worthy of a place with them that have loved Thee.
I lament and weep when I think of the eternal fire, /
the outer darkness and the nether world, /
the dread worm and the gnashing of teeth /
and the unceasing anguish /
that shall befall those who have sinned without measure, /
by their wickedness arousing Thee to anger, O Supreme in love. /
Among them in my misery I am first: /
but, O Judge compassionate, //
in Thy mercy save me.
When the thrones are set up and the books are opened, /
and God sits in judgment, /
O what fear there will be then! /
When the angels stand trembling in Thy presence /
and the river of fire flows before Thee, /
what shall we do then, guilty of many sins? /
When we hear Him call the blessed of His Father into the Kingdom, /
but send the sinners to their punishment, /
who shall endure His fearful condemnation? /
But, O Savior Who alone lovest mankind, King of the ages, /
before the end comes turn me back through repentance //
and have mercy on me.
Alas, black soul! /
How long wilt thou continue in evil? /
How long wilt thou lie in idleness? /
Why dost thou not think of the fearful hour of death? /
Why dost thou not tremble at the dread judgment seat of the Savior? /
What defense then wilt thou make, or what wilt thou answer? /
Thy works will be there to accuse thee; /
thine actions will reproach thee and condemn thee. /
O my soul, the time is near at hand; /
make haste before it is too late, and cry aloud in faith: /
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned against Thee; /
but I know Thy love for man and Thy compassion. /
O good Shepherd, deprive me not of a place at Thy right hand //
in Thy great mercy.
I’m sure you see how the above texts impress upon a person a “Godly sorrow” which “produces repentance leading to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10).” A man becomes immune to such Godly sorrow when he convinces himself that Christ will save him despite his sins, that he is saved already for all eternity, that he has been given a free gift of salvation which he can never lose, etc. In twisting the Scriptures to provide such a “positive” message, a man becomes incapable of the true and authentic repentance needed for salvation. He also becomes incapable of hearing the real gospel of the true Church which is not nearly as appealing to the flesh, but which has within it all of the grace and tools given by God for the salvation of man. The one Church of Christ is the Ark of Salvation built by God to bring man into His eternal kingdom. Protestants have build many small yachts and motor boats, many of which have very attractive designs and appear to be both fast and efficient. However, in the end, one has to make a choice between what God has built for our salvation and carefully and consistently guided for 2,000 years, and the multitude of small crafts, recently created by men, that travel in various directions and all claim to be the true Ark of living God. The Ark is old and rather austere, with few bodily comforts, but we know Who built it, where it is going, and how it is going to get there. It has been on a single trajectory for 2,000 years, has never veered off course, and has shone no signs of deterioration during this time. With the various newly built crafts of uncertain origin that are constantly falling apart, being rebuilt, and changing course, we do not know where they are going but we know for sure that they do not have the same builder or the same captain, and they are clearly not travelling in the same direction.