I get it that, properly engaged, sola fide means to lead the believer to a life of holiness. That it means that "true faith" will "flip a switch" whereby the true believer will become sanctified (though how quickly and how thoroughly in this life is never addressed).
The problem with this is that it's all a psychological construct. There's not a way to know that you've actually come across true faith. Reformers tend to quote the admonition to "make one's calling and election sure," but if you aren't sure of your calling's permanence to begin with, and if you have to make your calling and election sure (active verb), then what's the point of acting as if you're actually sure of salvation?
Sure, you can say you're "pretty sure," even admit you're "not 100% sure, but pretty dang close," but then again, that's no assurance. From your point of view, you can't be sure that you're not actually damned now, but just completely deluding your own self before you wind up abandoning God later on.
What I'm saying, then, is this: Sola Fide may be a good concept on paper, but it's not how anybody actually lives out their Christian life. Everyone knows, whether by gut instinct or life experience or James 2.22 that faith must be made perfect by works.
Darlene also asked about my quoting the Ochlophobist's post, as she was concerned (among other things) about the "hopeless" tone therein.
I linked to Och's article because it is a stellar example of someone who has struggled with the untenable position of "really, really, really knowing that I'm saved" business and found it wanting, and I can relate to that. But more than that, there's the idea of a real lack of a mindfulness of hell in American religion in general, even in (and at times, especially in) Orthodoxy. We have things like The River of Fire and Romanides' Patristic Theology which, for all their good points, make unqualified statements that say that God has no wrath and that hell is just love experienced negatively. And it's dangerous to talk that way, because Scripture doesn't talk that way at all, and making statements like that without qualifying or explaining them is extremely unwise and unpastoral, I think. (For a very balanced treatment, in my opinion, of the subject, reference the audio files of some talks by Fr. Thomas Hopko in this old post of mine, as well as this post on Athanasius from the day after).
Is the Orthodox view of salvation hopeless? I don't think so. From a post I put both on this blog and (originally) on a discussion forum:
"When you take the stated doctrine of having all your sins completely and permanently wiped out, forever, of never having to deal with any kind of ascetic effort in order to arrive at purification and sanctification, and are 'free' to rejoice in a perceived spiritual perfection that God has granted you apart from any obedience you may or may not have actually walked in -- well, as virtual and artificial as it may sound when I put it that way, it does make for a VERY grateful reaction on the part of the believer. 'He who has been forgiven much, loves much,' and all that. The Evangelical perceives that his sins have been declared null and void through the legal transaction of the blood of Christ before the Father, and so they are free simply to rejoice in an already finished righteousness, an already guaranteed place in heaven. Couple this grateful state with AGRESSIVE memorization of proof-texts that seem to bolster this teaching, and you have the added rush of thinking that God's biblical stamp of approval supports the idea, adding confidence to enthusiastic gratitude.
"It is difficult, then, to put Orthodoxy next to that and say, 'Christ has died and risen again; through baptism we are brought into His Kingdom so that we would have the POTENTIAL of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, making every effort to enter into the rest He prepared for us through His Passion and Resurrection. The enemy, however, still prowls around as the wolf of souls, seeking to make us his prey, so we must be ever mindful of sinful habits that remain in our lives, as they could be occasion for the enemy to gain a foothold. Our life in Christ consists of constant vigilance, constant repentance, constant participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and constant sorrow and (should God grant) true tears of repentance over our state as 'chief of sinners' so that we might gain times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord which is the comfort for those who have mourned.'
"Evangelicals will say that this gospel has been tried and found wanting, pointing to the Orthodox hierarchs' and clergy's moral failure, as well as the laity's laxity and lack of fervor in studying about and participating in their faith outside of services. I would say that the faith is not so much tried and found wanting as it has been found difficult and left untried."
I'm convinced, Darlene, that though the Orthodox Church will not state the comfortable teaching found in Calvinism of a guaranteed place in heaven which one can know about in this life--and in doing so they make hell a very real part of the whole picture--it is better to have uncomfortable truth than a comfortable lie when it comes to God.