Predictably enough, Francis Beckwith tries to roll out the Jacobean artillery against the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. Cf. Return to Rome, 104f.
We’re treated to an extremely cursory discussion of the Protestant position. But that’s not the only problem. He doesn’t bother to interact with Catholic scholarship. However, Catholic exegesis has come a long ways since the Counter-Reformation. I’ll quote from the standard Catholic commentary on Romans, followed by the standard Catholic commentary on James:
“Consequently, this uprightness does not belong to human beings (10:3), and it is not something that they have produced or merited; it is an alien uprightness, one belonging rightly to another (to Christ), and attributed to them because of what that other has done for them. So Paul understands God ‘justifying the godless’ (4:5) or ‘crediting uprightness’ to human beings quite ‘apart from deeds’ (4:6; see Käsemann, Kertele, Lyonnet, Reumann, Schlatter, Schultz),” J. Fitzmyer, Romans (Doubleday 1993), 117-18.
“[3:28] But his [Paul’s] emphasis falls on pistei, ‘by faith,’ as Kuss, Bardenhewer, and Sickenberger recognize. That emphasis and the qualification ‘apart from deeds of (the) law’ show that in this context Paul means ‘by faith alone.’ Only faith appropriates God’s effective declaration of uprightness for human beings,” ibid. 363.
“How should the critical passage in James 2:18-26 be read in comparison to the Pauline discussion? The first thing to note is that James’ understanding of nomos, as I have already twice stated, has nothing whatever to do with the issues Paul is combating. James does not connect nomos to any sort of ‘works,’ much less those concerning circumcision or the ritual laws. Second, James is entirely in agreement with Paul on placing pistis, epangelia, and kleronomia in the same column (James 2:5). Third, James places in opposition an empty pistis theou (‘faith in God’) or pistis Christou (‘the faith of Christ’), which consists in profession or claim to membership (2:1,19), and the living ergo pisteos (‘works of faith’), which make such profession real. Forth, Abraham is an example precisely of this ‘active faith’ by his sacrifice of his son Isaac (2:21). Fifth, this ergon pisteos is itself ‘co-worked by faith’ (synergei) and perfects faith,’ that is, brings faith to its full realization in deed (2:22). Sixth, the action of Abraham in Gen 22:2-9 is read by James as the textual ‘fulfillment’ of the declaration by God in Gen 15:6 that Abraham’s faith made him to be reckoned as righteous (2:23). Finally, James’ climactic statement, ex ergon dikaioutai anthropos kai ouk ek pisteos monon (‘a person is shown to be righteous on the basis of deeds and not on the basis of faith only,’ 2:24), which superficially appears to contradict Gal 2:16, does nothing of the sort, for the terms in the respective sentences have quite different referents,” L. Johnson, The Letter of James (Yale 2005), 63.
“[2:20] There is no reason to read this statement as a response to such Pauline passages as Rom 3:28: ‘We maintain that a human beings is made righteous by faith apart from (choris) the works of the law (erga tou nomou),’ because that contrast is simply not at issue here. Rather, James’ contrast is between mere faith as belief and faith as a full response to God,” ibid. 242.
“[2:21] The hardest term to translate here is dikaioun, primarily because of its frequent use by Paul in contexts opposing righteousness by faith and ‘works of the law’ (Rom 2:13; 3:4,20,24,26,28,30; 4:2,5; 5:1,9; 8:30,33; Gal 2:16-17; 3:8,11,24) and the complex use of the verb and its cognates in the OT (e.g., LXX Gen 38:26; Exod 23:7; Deut 25:1; Pss 50:6; 81:3; 142:2; Sir 1:22). The precise meaning in each case must be determined by context, not some general theological concept. Given the previous statement demanding the demonstration of faith, the translation here as ‘shown to be righteous’ seems appropriate (see Hort, 63, ‘appear righteous in God’s sight,’ and Marty, 104, ‘God sanctions his righteousness’). The meaning would be similar to such NT passages as Mt 11:19; 12:37; and 1 Cor 4:4. The phrase ex ergon (literally, ‘out of works’) has the sense of ‘on the basis of deeds,’ meaning that the deeds make his righteousness manifest. At first glance, the sentence appears flatly to contradict Paul’s argument concerning the righteousness of Abraham on the basis of faith rather than works (Gal 2:16; 3:5-6; 3:24; Rom 4:2), until we remember that in Paul’s case, the contrast is with ‘works of the law’ (including circumcision), whereas in James it is with a pistis arge (ineffectual faith),” ibid. 242.
Therefore, even based on modern Catholic exegesis, the Protestant doctrine of justification is entirely consistent with Paul and James alike.