Debate: Is the cross necessary for salvation? (Adnan Rashid vs. James White) (and interaction with a Roman Catholic Response)

This was an excellent debate on the subject of the necessity of the work of redemption/ the atonement that Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.

Except Adnan spent a lot of time shifting the discussion from the cross/ sacrifice of Christ/ atonement of Christ, to the alleged tension between the apostle Paul’s theology (Galatians, Romans) vs. the epistle of James (Paul vs. James).

A Roman Catholic blogger, Allan Ruhl has made some comments.  

I left a response at his blog and repeat it here:

There is no contradiction / dichotomy between the apostle Paul’s theology and the epistle of James or Acts 15.

Luther (in his negative comments on the epistle of James)  was over-reacting to the 15 centuries of justification by faith alone being eclipsed and covered over by adding the merit of good works to justification, purgatory, treasury of merit, praying to saints before statues and icons, over-exalting of Mary, Transubstantiation, etc.

Luther also said that true faith is living faith that results in the fruit of good works. His statement that the epistle of James is a “right strawy epistle” meant in comparison to Galatians, Romans, I Peter, gospel of John, Acts, regarding justification by faith alone.

The other reformers and the Westminister Confession of faith and 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession get it right: “We are justified by faith alone, but true faith does not stay alone” (it results in good works, deeper levels of repentance and spiritual growth, sanctification, etc.)

Adnan was a little tricky in that he subtly shifted the discussion from “is the cross (atonement and forgiveness through Christ’s work on the cross) necessary for salvation” to “Paul vs. James” and claiming that James, Jesus, Matthew & Luke taught Pelagianism – “just repent and obey the law and you will get to heaven.” (assuming that unregenerate humans even desire true repentance and obedience)

James 2:14-26 does not contradict Galatians or Romans, properly understood. James White was right in that James is talking about the kind of faith that justifies. It is not a dead faith of intellectual assent only, as in that demons believe (James 2:19), but they do not repent or trust in Christ. (and cannot) They know the truth about the Lord, but they don’t commit or trust or surrender to the gospel.

James the apostle and half brother of Jesus, (James 2:14-26) cites the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make in Genesis 22 as the good work of obedience that confirmed his true justifying faith that is communicated to us in the text in Genesis 15:6. Abraham was first justified in Genesis 12:4; but the Genesis text does not communicate that to us; so that the apostle Paul and the rest of the NT (Romans 4, Galatians 3, James 2) is right to quote Genesis 15:6 as proof that a person is justified by faith alone, before any condition and merit of good works. (before the good work of circumcision – Romans 4, Genesis 17; and before the good work of obedience in Genesis 22)

“justify” in James 2 means “confirm”, “prove”, “vindicate”, as in Luke 7:35; Matthew 11:19; 1 Timothy 3:16

“wisdom is vindicated / proved right, by her deeds”


Allan graciously responded:  (see in the combox)

Hi Ken,

Hope all is well. We both agree on one thing. James and Paul don’t contradict each other, however we both think that they taught the opposite.

What cannot be denied is that people like Adnan Rashid, other Muslims and liberal “Christians” are convinced that this contradiction exists because of Luther. Rashid quoted Luther for support of his position that they contradict each other. Why didn’t he quote a Catholic theologian from the previous 15 centuries where Sola Fide was being “eclipsed” as you put it? No one had this problem until Luther came along. Luther is the reason why this exists.

Could you imagine me debating Rashid in this debate? His argument would have been completely useless.

One more thing Ken. Since Luther thought there was a contradiction between the two authors, can you admit that Luther is a heretic?


My response:

Thanks. I hope you are well also. I enjoy discussing and debating with you.

Was a Luther a heretic?

No, Luther was not a heretic because his statement about James being a strawy epistle was about it on the contents of justification by faith alone, in comparison with Romans, Galatians, the Gospel of John, Acts, and 1 Peter. No one allowed Luther to take James out; and later, Luther was not against James. He used it and quoted it in sermons.

The other quote that Adnan brought from Luther – I would need to see the reference (which he did not give) and when he said it and the context; and beyond that, it might be one of those RC myths that James Swan is constantly having to correct. (At “Beggars All Reformation and Apologetics” )

As others have pointed out, Luther also said that true faith results in good works; so ultimately, Luther did not speak against James, only against his wrong surface level understanding of it at the time; and only in comparison to how those other aforementioned epistles teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone much more.

Could you imagine me debating Rashid in this debate? His argument would have been completely useless.

Only in the aspects of what Adnan brought up pertaining to Luther. Adnan would still try to divide up the NT, using liberal scholars, into what he thinks is Pelagian (“just repent and obey the law in your own strength” = “Islam on steroids”) vs. the apostle Paul’s letters; and he would use James D. G. Dunn and liberals to try and bring a wedge between Jesus’ teaching, Matthew, James, and Luke vs. Paul’s epistles and Mark 10:45 and the Lord’s supper passages. but then you would have to explain original sin and internal corruption in the heart (concupiscence) and how faith in the atonement of Christ (Romans 3:21-26) justifies us and perfects our salvation (Hebrews 10:10-14) and then why there is a need for all that other Roman Catholic man made traditions that are added to faith alone.

It might (if the Muslim’s way of questioning and presenting his case) force you to explain how you put all those RC centuries later traditions of the 500s AD to 1500s back into verses like Acts 13:38-39; Romans 1:17; 3:21-26; Romans chapter 4; book of Galatians, Ephesians 2:8-9.

But it would be very interesting to see a debate like that, a Muslim vs. you or someone like Robert Sungenis. The Muslim would not be able to use Luther as a smokescreen, and it would force the RC side to deal more with what the Muslim would bring up in Paul’s epistles and letters.

Allan’s very interesting response:

Hi Ken,

I actually agree with most of what you said here.

Something else I should have pointed is that you brought up Mark 10:45. He mentioned that Luke “takes it out” based on liberal scholarship. What should have been stressed is that in Matthew which he stated has a huge emphasis on Law, keeps it in. I was going to add this to my review but I didn’t want this to be that long a post.

Btw Ken, Bart Ehrman has a book coming out in less than a month. I’m going to post a review. I’d be interested in your input.

One earlier question I forgot to answer:
Why didn’t he quote a Catholic theologian from the previous 15 centuries where Sola Fide was being “eclipsed” as you put it?

Probably because Muslims don’t know much about those guys, and are not forced to think about Roman Catholic theological issues on salvation, because 99 % of Roman Catholics don’t do evangelism to Muslims (as you alluded to; even Robert Spencer puts politics/civilizational issues/ Jihad and terrorism issues as first priority in his debates and never even mentions the gospel / salvation/ theology issues), and the current official Catholic Catechism says that Muslims are saved without Christ ( paragraph # 841 – a result of post Vatican 2 theology).  Most of what Muslims know about Catholicism are the massive statues and emphasis on Mary, and the Pope and his big hat (many Muslims have said this to me over the years), and the tendency toward Universalism and/or Inclusivism.)

Most people today, not just Muslims, but since Vatican 2, in Roman Catholicism, because of Vatican 2 and Post Vatican 2 theology, and the last few Popes of recent decades, consider Roman Catholicism as Universalistic or Inclusive (see paragraph # 847 of the Catholic Catechism) and they don’t try to do evangelism to atheists, Muslims, Hindus (as Mother Teresa confessed – she did not try to share the gospel with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists before they died; she said to them “go to their own gods to prepare for death”. (see article at Tim Challies blog. “The Myth of Mother Teresa”)

“While she worked with the poor, Mother Teresa was adamant that any type of evangelism was unnecessary. In her book, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations and Prayers, she says:

“We never try to convert those who receive [aid from Missionaries of Charity] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence and if Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, or agnostics become for this better men — simply better — we will be satisfied. It matters to the individual what church he belongs to. If that individual thinks and believes that this is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into their life — his life. If he does not know any other way and if he has no doubt so that he does not need to search then this is his way to salvation.” (Pages 81-82)

With such a statement we can only be left believing that she was more than a Catholic, but was a Universalist, believing essentially that all religion leads to the same God. Time and again we see her expounding such universalist beliefs. In an interview with Christian News a nun who worked with Mother Teresa was asked the following in regards to the Hindus they worked with, “These people are waiting to die. What are you telling them to prepare them for death and eternity?” She replied candidly, “We tell them to pray to their Bhagwan, to their gods.”

from Tim Challies’ article, “The Myth of Mother Teresa”


Regarding Allan’s question about Mark 10:45:

Yes, Matthew keeps it (Mark 10:45, cross theology) in Matthew 20:28.
But Muslims are wrong to accuse Luke of “deleting” it; and Paul Williams does.

Not mentioning something is not the same as deliberately deleting it.

Also, the Lord’s supper passages in Matthew and Mark are also good; and Dr. White did an excellent job on dealing with the textual variant in Luke 22:19-20.

About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Atonement for sin, Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Islam, Justification, Martin Luther, Muslims, Roman Catholic False Doctrines, Roman Catholicism. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Debate: Is the cross necessary for salvation? (Adnan Rashid vs. James White) (and interaction with a Roman Catholic Response)

  1. Geoff says:

    The constant appeals to “you have to have Rome to know anything” may work against some Protestants, but you actually need to be able to talk to non-Christians to see how weak that is. Roman Catholic apologists assume we’re working within Christianity, but if they want to go the skeptic route let’s go all the way. Who authorizes the Bible? Rome? Who let’s us know that Rome is the correct church? Who validates Christianity? Theism?

    They want to dismiss private judgement, but it’s all a house of cards on their end.

    Lastly, what’s the point of debating justification by faith alone with conservative Catholics when their church teaches justification without faith? Trent is dead. Not by official decree but by neglect and later pronouncements that ignore it.

    The only somewhat rational Catholic position is the sedevacantist position and when you get there what’s the point?

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