Ottawa Citizen

Which is more important in your religion: faith or works?


Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdioces­e of Ottawa.

The Catholic Church’s understand­ing of the relationsh­ip between grace, faith and works recognizes that it is God who takes the initiative and who freely bestows His grace upon us, while also respecting the freedom of humanity to accept that grace.

The Councils of Orange (529 AD) and Trent (1545-1563 AD) teach us that grace from God comes first, before any activity on our part, but that we need to accept God’s grace and co-operate with it for it to bear fruit in our lives.

God respects our free will to such an extent that He will not force His grace upon us.

In the New Testament, St. Paul in his letters to the Romans and to the Galatians writes that faith justifies us, not works.

ABDUL RASHID is a member of the Ottawa Muslim community, the ChristianM­uslim Dialogue and the Capital Region Interfaith Council.

My faith is not limited to worship and ritual. While it is a prerequisi­te to be steadfast in faith and consistent in worship, Islam is much more than these foundation­s and pillars.

The Holy Koran tells us that God Almighty “has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on Earth: behold, in that are signs for those who reflect” (45:13). The Islamic philosophy is that we should use God-given physical strength and mental faculties to achieve felicity on this Earth (28:73).

In a narrow sense, worship consists of particular acts in a particular form at a particular time and place. However, the broader Islamic view is that each and every action is worship

BALPREET SINGH is legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organizati­on of Canada.

For Sikhs, faith and works are connected, like a tree and its fruit. If I truly have faith in a set of beliefs, then my life and actions will reflect them. Faith must translate into action, or it cannot be said to truly exist in the first place.

One of Guru Nanak’s first teachings was that labels don’t matter. One can be called a Sikh, Muslim or Christian but what matters is the

Elsewhere, in the Letter of James, we read: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’

“Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2.18)

So, although faith is fundamenta­l, how we respond to God’s grace as demonstrat­ed by our works is important as well.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that works (or merit) have a place in our faith lives, but only because of God: “Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man’s collaborat­ion. Man’s merit is due to God.” (CCC n. 2025)

The Catholic Church recognizes God’s sovereign power and mercy in giving us the gifts of grace and faith but it also recognizes humanity’s God-given freedom.

God’s grace justifies and sanctifies us before any action of ours, but how we live our lives in response to that grace helps to determine whether we grow in justificat­ion and sanctifica­tion. as long as it is performed in accordance with the Divine guidance. Thus, Islam honours every person who earns his livelihood by manual or mental labour. The bricklayer, the engineer and the teacher share this honour equally. The only forbidden activity is work that produces, or leads to, harm and injury.

Both the Holy Koran and the Prophetic tradition extol work to earn a living. Islam dignifies labour by equating it to worship. The Holy Prophet said: “Earning of lawful livelihood is a duty only next in importance to the duty (of prayer)”.

Islam does not partition life into mundane and spiritual or secular and religious. Instead, the entire life — education and training, earning a living, marriage and raising children, forming friendship­s, protecting the environmen­t, taking care of physical and mental health and every other aspect of life in this world — is religious as along as we are conscious of God. Whatever we do within the boundaries laid down by Him is an act of worship. content of one’s character.

I can profess to be a Sikh but if my actions do not reflect the virtues and beliefs of the Sikh faith, then the label is really just an indulgence of my ego. Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, said, “one cannot call one’s self a Sikh without the conduct.”

To give beliefs a practical form, Sikhs observe the “Rehit Maryada” or the Sikh code of conduct. The Rehit explains how a Sikh’s daily lifestyle can embody the principles of the faith.

As a part of observing Rehit, Sikhs wear five articles of faith, such as the turban and the kirpan. The articles remind us that our beliefs must

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA, head of Congregati­on Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa, hosts Sunday Night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

Let’s put the question a bit more crudely. Which of the following two alternativ­es is preferable — a person who professes abiding faith in God but whose behaviour is despicable, or a person who rejects God categorica­lly but whose behaviour is exemplary? The answer is clear. Good behaviour is the winner.

Ironically, a variation of your question is the subject of a debate in the Talmud. “Which is better — study of God’s word (the Torah) or action, deeds?” In a sense, study of God’s word is a faith expression, even though it could also be seen as an intellectu­al exercise. In the end, the Talmud concludes that Torah study that leads to action is preferable. On this either-or question, the Talmud’s response is — both!

Faith without works is a deficient

Rev. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolit­an Bible Church in Ottawa.

Which is more important for your car: gas or tires? You get the point — both are essential.

When it comes to your spiritual life, it’s a similar situation. The Bible makes it clear that we need faith and works. Faith without works is a dead end (James 2:26). And good works not done in faith fail to gain traction with God (Galatians 2:16).

Faith in Jesus is the fuel that ignites a person’s spiritual engine. But good works are where the rubber meets the road. But here’s an important clarificat­ion. When it comes to faith and works, faith must come first. To put it another way, good works must be driven by faith. That message is highlighte­d in Ephesians be reflected in our daily lives. Each article represents a core Sikh belief and is also a public and very visible commitment to living those beliefs on a daily basis.

The Rehit also stresses the importance of the dual concepts of simran (meditation) and seva (selfless service). We meditate in order to become closer to God but the true measure of our spiritual progressio­n is whether our daily life reflects divine virtues such as compassion, truth and equality. These virtues take a practical form through seva and our service to humanity.

So in short, Sikhs believe that one who talks the talk, must also walk the walk. faith. Faith in God means we naturally embrace God’s creations, human beings. Faith must lead to works, or there is something fundamenta­lly flawed in the faith. At the same time, works without faith, though noble, are likewise deficient. When works derive from faith, they become faithimbue­d deeds. A faith-imbued deed is carried out with humility, with the appreciati­on that it is a “must” in life, not just an option. Giving charity because we have to, rather than because we want to, may on the surface seem less laudatory. But in real life, once we know we have to, our deeds are not subject to mood or whim. They are basic components of our being, like it or not.

Society is better served, and the needs of others more likely to be met, if goodness is seen as an imperative rather than a choice.

Yes, we obviously choose to abide by the imperative, but an imperative it is. As an imperative, the poor can at least know that their sustenance will always be forthcomin­g, since the faith dictates, and yes, even demands, the works. 2:8-10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanshi­p, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

These verses explain that we are saved by faith in Jesus, not by our good works. But once we are saved by faith, we go to work. We start doing the good works God has prepared for us. Theologian­s put it this way: faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone — it is followed by good works.

For your car, fuel must come first. Gasoline provides the power to turn the tires and move the car. For your spiritual life, both faith and works are essential, but faith must come first. Faith provides the spiritual combustion to energize your good works and move you forward spirituall­y.

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