Thursday, August 23, 2007

Paul contradicting James?

"Ever since Martin Luther, the great Reformer, referred to James as a "strawy epistle" (German strohern Epistel), the apparent disagreement between Paul and James has been notorious and has resisted solution. Some interpreters simply say that one writer corrected the other and that therefore we have evidence of two divergent forms of Christianity. I do not agree.

"What James was trying to counter is the notion that faith in God does not necessarily call for works of righteousness and compassion. What use is that kind of faith? James says, "you believe that God is one? (Jas 2:19). Without any works, this faith proves nothing. Why? The clue is found in the verse of Scripture that James quotes. He quotes the first part of the Shema: "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" (Deut 6:4). The Shema goes on to say, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deut 6:5). Does this sound familiar? According to Jesus, we are to love God and our neighbor as ourself (Mk 12:28-31). In James's letter, he is complaining of those who readily confess the Shema ("God is one, and I love God") but do not put into practice what Jesus required and is taught in the law of Moses: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev 19:18).

"Therefore, if someone is in need of clothing or food and all that the so-called believer extends is a greeting, "Be warmed and be filled," then the faith of this person is dead. James appeals to Genesis 15:6, but in connection with the great story of Abraham's willingness to offer up his son Isaac (Gen 22).

"None of this contradicts Paul. Indeed, Paul did fundraising for the poor of Jerusalem (1 Cor 16:1-3; Gal 2:10), thus putting into practice what James regards as a faith proven by works. Paul also agrees that faith results in 'good works' (for example, Eph 2:10). This is why elsewhere he speaks of the 'obedience of faith' (Rom 1:5; 16:26). The question is one of emphasis and situation.

"The letter of James serves a pastoral function, urging (Jewish) believers to demonstrate the living reality of their faith through good works. It was not written to deal with teaching that claimed good works and self-made righteousness complete the saving work of Messiah Jesus. That was the problem Paul addressed."

Craig A. Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, (Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity, 2006), 200-201.


  1. :::YAWN!!!:::

    go back to your pig-pickin' Dusman!

  2. Orthodox, you just repeated what Dusman's quote said. It was not written for that reason, exactly. Paul often wrote against self-righteousness by one's own works, however.

    It's just that people like yourself love to chortle "James 2! James 2!" whenever someone like me argues sola fide on the basis of a dozen psgs in context. You then take James 2 OUT of context in order to produce a contradiction in the biblical text. Then you whine and complain b/c you're labeled as someone who doesn't care about the integrity of Scripture. It's rich.

  3. Yes, Orthodox, that's b/c sanctification and justification are different categories biblically.
    Why not just confuse human and divine? Oh wait, that's a bad example to use w/ you...

    God makes his people righteous. There, I said it. He just doesn't make them PERFECT until after death.

    You can call it sanctification if you want, but the bible calls it righteousness.

    Yes, but to what extent and in what way?
    If righteous = perfect, ie, good enough to get into heaven, no.
    If righteous = sanctification, ie, the Holy Spirit moves us to be MORE conformed to Christ over the course of time, yes.

    Which has nothing to do w/ the justification of the guilty sinner before a holy God. Conflating the 2 is a damnable idea.

    But that we aren't saved by our works does not mean that God can't be in the process of making us righteous people by our works.

    Nobody's denying that.
    You talk out of both sides of your mouth.
    ME: Does faith alone save?
    YOU: No.
    ME: OK.
    YOU: But that we aren't saved by our works does not mean that God can't be in the process of making us righteous people by our works.
    ME: Is that what we were talking about? No.

    The implication of your view is that the sinner's actions/works are part of the justification of the guilty sinner before a holy God. That is the domain of faith alone.

  4. All Orthodox has to do for his "proof" is actually acquaint himself with the opposing position, but he's too cheap or too lazy to do that.

    He could read The Justification of God by Piper or The God Who Justifies by James White, both of which go into great detail on the exegetical evidence.

    He could also read the articles on justification and sanctification at

    Or, he could search the archives here.

    No, he doesn't do that. He continues to raise the same objections that Evan May addressed.

    And, I might add that if he wants to use biblical terms - to the exclusion of others - then we should just all stop saying "Trinity." Orthodox argues like an Arian.

  5. Orthodox asks for evidence, yet he so often refuses to offer any evidence for his claims. He still hasn't made a case for Eastern Orthodoxy, even after being asked to do so many times. And we've discussed the doctrine of justification with him in previous threads. He leaves the discussions, then expects us to reinvent the wheel when he decides to discuss the subject again in a later thread. He can ignore our responses again, wait a few days or a few months, then expect us to reinvent the wheel again.

  6. I have read these books. Since the former only addresses one chapter of one book, it can hardly amount to an overview of the biblical usage. The latter book skirts the issue. It looks at all the passages which support the subset of meaning that protestants support while ignoring the rest. Then it's main argument that they are different is that justification occurs in the past. But of course, while this is true, it is not the end of the story. The bible then goes on to talk about the righteousness of works.

    Then you could also address the wider topic of soteriology and demonstrate, rather than claim, that the Protestant position is incorrect. You could acquaint yourself with the opposing position, and you could actually produce an exegetical argument.

    But you don't do that.

    You say White skirts the issue, but I'm looking at the text right now, and he includes a small section on the differences. He also includes an exegesis of James 2, or did you miss that? It covers nearly 30 pages. If you find his exegesis of James 2 a problem, by all means produce a counterargument.

    It's kind of like the claim that salvation is a past event, quoting one's favourite proof text. But there are also the texts saying we are being saved and will be saved. If you can't deal with the whole bible, you've got a problem.

    Notice how Orthodox claims to understand the opposing position and then immediately misrepresents it.

    Aside from people like "Henry" who regularly equivocate between the terms "saved" and "justified" and "regenerate," who does this? Here you've found us using nomenclature quite particularly.

    Reformed theology's nomenclature follows those terms. If he thinks it doesn't, let him demonstrate it.

    So I guess if selective quoting to support a subset of the truth is convincing, then you'll be convinced. But if you want to look beyond the protestant proof texts, it is not.

    If you have something in mind, then by all means state you case. Which prooftexts? Where's your exegetical argument?

    ORTHODOX: Another straw man, since my current objection is not against unbiblical terms, but it is against your objection to my use of biblical terms. Why would you react against the biblical terminology?

    Demonstrably false, for you're assuming what you need to prove. You're also conflating dogmatic usage and exegetical usage, as we've pointed out to you many times.

    So, either put up or shut up Orthodox, craft an intellectually responsible post that deals with the specifics.

  7. Orthodox wrote:

    “The real issue, which isn't really that big of an issue at all”

    Then why have you been making such an effort to argue against justification through faith alone in various threads? Why did the synod of Jerusalem and other Eastern Orthodox sources see fit to address the issue, distancing themselves from justification through faith alone? The fact that there’s some overlap between a Protestant and an Eastern Orthodox view of justification doesn’t change the fact that some of the differences are major. I and others have addressed such differences in posts you’ve ignored, including posts that mentioned you by name, posts that were responding directly to you.