I’m going to lift this out of the combox because it makes an excellent stand-alone contribution to the current debate.
To begin with - the formulation "evidence in the form of deeds [as] a constituent part of saving faith" is your own construction - it is not how I would describe my own position, nor do I think James White would use that precise wording either.
Unless you can point me to something in print that frames the traditional Protestant perspective in that way you may need to revise your understanding of an opposing view point once again.
In any event - the difference between the traditional Protestant understanding of faith and works and the Catholic understanding is this:
Protestant Christians (of the non-Sandemanian variety - which is the vast majority of Protestant Christendom I might add) see works as a necessary evidence of genuine faith, something that follows conversion and subsequently vindicates one as a true believer as opposed to a mere confessor of the faith.
Works function then, much like the fruit of a tree does, they reveal the underlying nature/root. Just as apples on a tree don't make a tree an apple tree (rather they reveal it to be truly an apple tree) so too works (according to traditional Protestant theology) reveal whether one is truly born again or merely one who professes to know God while still unregenerate (cf. Titus 2:15-16).
In other words, according to traditional Protestant soteriology, works follow genuine conversion/justification and they do not precede or cause/contribute to it.
In contrast, Catholics have traditionally understood works as something that contributes together with faith (in an a priori fashion) toward one's standing/justification with God (Catholics also see justification more as a process rather than a one time declarative act as Protestants do).
Works are not to be understood merely as the result of God's salvific action in justifying a sinner through faith alone according to Catholic soteriology - rather works contribute together with faith (all enabled by God's grace allegedly) in establishing the righteous life that God demands for eternal life.
This essential difference between the two perspectives was emphasized repeatedly during the soteriological debates of the reform era.
A grasp of historical theology would immediately make it evident how different of an understanding of sola fide the Protestant Christians of the reformation era had from contemporary Sandemanians/ineffective grace proponents.
# posted by Der Fuersprecher : 1/25/2006 3:02 PM