A contentious topic between Protestants and Catholics concerns the role of good works. Luther sticks to his sola fide principle and denies that our good works can be in any way relevant to our salvation. It is refreshing to read the reflections of Kierkegaard on good works (despite being raised as a Lutheran in the Church of Denmark). (Source: Jesus.org.uk)
(1) God cannot stand good works in the sense of earning merit. Yet good works are required. They shall be and yet shall not be. They are necessary and yet one ought humbly to ignore their significance or at least forget that they are supposed to be of anysignificance. Good works are like a child giving his parents a present, purchased, however, with what the child has received from his parents. All the pretentiousness which otherwise is associated with giving a present disappears when the child understands that he has received from his parents the gift which he gives to them.
(2) It is not our effort that brings atonement. No, joy over being reconciled, over the fact that atonement has already been made, produces an honest striving. It is not good works that make a good person but the good person who does good works. And one becomes good by faith alone. Consequently, faith first of all. It is by faith that one does truly good works.
(3) Imagine a girl in love: for a time she will find it sufficient to ex press her love in words, but there will come a moment when this will no longer satisfy her, when she will long to embrace her beloved. So also with the believer in relation to God – expressing his gratitude in words. He will finally reach a point where he must say: I cannot stand it, this no longer satisfies my need. You must, oh God, permit me a far stronger expression for my gratitude – works.
(4) In every human being there is an inclination either to want to be proud when it comes to works or, when faith and grace are emphasized, to want to be free from works as far as possible. Christianity’s requirement is that your life should express works as strenuously as possible. Then one thing more is required – that you humble yourself and confess: I am saved nevertheless by grace. Luther wished to take meritoriousness away from works. In typical fashion, we have not only taken meritoriousness away, but also the works.
Read more Quotes by Sören Kierkegaard Here (online version of Provocation – Spiritual Writings by Kierkegaard, complete and free of charge thanks to Jesus.org.uk).