As a Protestant, I held firmly to the belief that salvation was by faith alone. To explain passages like James 2, I said that, by saying faith alone is not enough to save us, what James meant was that real, strong faith produces good works and it is that kind of faith that saves us. Faith causes deeds. That was the bottom line for me. And it did seem that those who had the strongest faith did the most good for the world. This seemed to prove that I was right in my belief.
But in my statistics class my professors stressed time and again that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. In other words, just because as faith increases good works does the same, does not mean that faith causes that increase in good. I don’t know many people, if any, who would say that the increase in good works causes the increase in faith, but the relation between the two could reasonably be interpreted that way, as well.
But I don’t think that either one causes the increase the other. Rather it would seem that there is some sort of outside variable that is causing this correlation between faith and good works, as is common with most cases of correlation. That variable is God’s grace. This is the only thing that causes an increase in either. This is why it is possible, though uncommon, to see someone who has strong faith but few good works. God’s grace is the only thing that saves us, and it’s God’s grace that allows us to have faith and do good. Both are necessary responses to God’s grace. That is my new bottom line.