Essay: Are We Justified by Faith?
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Essay: Are We Justified by Faith? 

The notion of “justification by faith” grew out of the recognition that all people sin and therefore cannot be fully acceptable to God. Therefore, a person’s actions, alone, cannot earn that person everlasting life with God. There are biblical passages that support the theory that people can be justified by having faith in Christ as their redeemer and savior, but these passages are open to different interpretations. For example, Rev. Paul Nuechterlein has argued that the authentic Pauline epistles talk about the importance of “faith of Christ” rather than “faith in Christ,” contrary to the way that many English translations put it.
I think that popular notions of “faith in Christ” are problematic, but a modified version of this theory can address many of my concerns. Many Christians hold that the only those who profess faith in Christ are justified. A first difficulty is that those who are born into Christian families have a far greater chance of being saved than those who are born into non-Christian households, and this strikes me as very unfair. A common retort is that God’s ways are not our ways, and what seems unfair to us is righteous according to God. However, such a response can be used to defend any kind of injustice, and at the least should give one pause about the merit of a theory. Alternatively, some have argued that faith is a gift from God rather than something we choose to have. This theory doesn’t eliminate the fairness problem, and I don’t find compelling evidence to support it.
A second problem is that some people have difficulty having faith in Christ. For example, there are people who, after evaluating the evidence, don’t find the doctrine of faith in Christ reasonable. My image of a loving and compassionate God does not accord with a theology in which God expects people to have faith in something that they can’t bring themselves to believe. Many nonbelievers are people who have suffered greatly and cannot have faith in a God who seems to endorse such suffering. It’s much easier to have faith in a loving God if one has had a relatively benign existence.
I suggest a notion of faith that involves works. It is difficult to ascertain what our purpose is in our brief moment in history on this small planet in a vast universe. It takes great faith to believe that our actions matter at all, and even greater faith that our actions matter to the creator of the universe. Those who have such faith can gain a sense of connection to God and a sense of direction and meaning in their lives, which can save them from the prospect of despair. I think a narcissistic existence, which among other things countenances harm to animals to satisfy human desires, undermines this sense of connection to the divine.

I’m not sure how faith relates to eternal existence with God, and I don’t think we have much empirical evidence from which to draw conclusions. Perhaps someday I’ll find out. 

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