Monday, December 14, 2009

Read this before yelling "James 2!"

“When James says that faith alone does not justify, faith here refers to mere intellectual assent. For instance, demons affirm monotheism, but such “faith” is not wholehearted and glad-hearted assent that leads demons to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Instead, the faith of demons is theologically orthodox, but leads them to shudder because they fear judgment (James 2:19). The faith that saves, according to Paul, embraces Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, placing one’s life entirely in his hands. James criticizes a “faith” that notionally concurs with the gospel but does not grip the whole person. In other words, James does not disagree with Paul’s contention that faith alone justifies, but he defines carefully the kind of faith that justifies. The faith that truly justifies can never be separated from works. Works will inevitably flow as the fruit of such faith. Faith that merely accepts doctrines intellectually but does not lead to a transformed life is “dead” (James 2:17, 26) and “useless” (James 2:20). Such faith does not “profit” (ophelos [James 2:14, 16 RSV]) in the sense that it does not spare one from judgment on the last day. Those who have dead and barren faith will not escape judgment. True faith is demonstrated by works (James 2:18). James does not deny that faith alone saves, but it is faith that produces (synergew) works and is completed (teleiow) by works (James 2:22). The faith that saves is living, active, and dynamic. It must produce works, just as compassion for the poor inevitably means that one cares practically for their physical needs (James 2:15-16)....The foregoing comments, of course, need qualification. As I argued above, in some contexts Paul also emphasizes that good works are the fruit of faith and are needed for justification (e.g., Rom. 2:13; 4:17-22). The purpose of James as a whole, as is evident from this entire discussion, is to emphasize that good works are necessary for salvation. His letter apparently responds to a situation where moral laxity was countenanced. Nevertheless, James should not be interpreted to teach that believers can gain salvation on the basis of good works. Righteous deeds are the fruit of faith. James recognizes that all believers sin in numerous ways (James 3:2), and that even one sin makes a lawbreaker of the one who commits it (James 2:10-11). Being sinners, humans lack the capacity to do the works required to merit justification. They are saved by the grace of God, for in his goodness and generosity he granted believers new life (James 1:18). Even faith is a gift of God, for God chose some to “be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:5). What James hammers home is that such faith must always manifest itself in good works if it is genuine faith, but such good works are a far cry from perfection, as James 3:2 clarifies.”
-Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), pp.603-605.

(HT: Saint and Sinner)

For more detail, check out Excursus 2 in Dan McCartney's commentary on James.
(HT: Steve Hays)


Unknown said...


If you don't think this is what I've been trying to say all along, then I sincerely apologize that I haven't properly communicated myself. I find nothing in this man's statements with which I disagree.

I hope that you've learned something from him in your false understanding of James 2 as "justification before men." Are you now willing to renounce this terribly illogical eisegesis?


The faith that truly justifies can never be separated from works.

Therefore: not faith alone. It's the word "alone" that we're getting hung up on here. But even you, if you endorse this quote, now admit that works must accompany Faith in order for said Faith to be salvific -- therefore, Faith alone is not salvific Faith (it's not even real Faith anyway).

Excellent quote, Rho.

Rhology said...

James does not disagree with Paul’s contention that faith alone justifies, but he defines carefully the kind of faith that justifies.


Sounds to me like you're the one not taking sin seriously. Let me get this straight: so I can cheat on my wife, never share a dime with the poor, drink myself stupid, eat to my heart's content, and even murder that neighbor that plays his stupid music at top volume all day and night -- and, as long as I have faith -- I'm still saved? Tell me if I'm getting this right.


Something like that. It's synergy -- our cooperation with God's grace -- but the partnership is somewhere in the range of God's end = 99.9999999999999999999999999% and our end = the remainder. Our .0000000000000000000000001% is still necessary though, as it completes the agreement.


I don't think that's what you're saying.

Unknown said...

The faith that truly justifies can never be separated from works.

It's exactly what I'm saying, even if I haven't said it so well in the past.

But, of course, I'm sure that you know better than I do what I mean -- you know better than the Apostles what their writings mean, better than the Fathers what their writings mean, better than Christ what his teachings mean, so you must know better than I what my writings mean.

Unknown said...

And I ask again, kindly:

Are you willing to renounce your illogical, strained former contention that James 2 is referring to "justification before others"?

Rhology said...

Why would I renounce it? It fits perfectly into the context.

How can you agree totally with Schreiner when I quoted you saying that your own effort is necessary? 0.000001% and all that?

PChem said...

Great quote Rho!

Jnorm said...


"The letter of Saint James and the word "faith"


Jnorm said...

I dissagree with Schreiner, for I was tought that mess in my Baptist years, yeah it sounds good, but I don't think that is what James is saying in context. In context, Saint James is truelly saying something, and it's not really what Schreiner said.

The interpretation he gave was one of the protestant interpretations I heard alot growing up....but that's not really what James was obviously saying.


Rhology said...

DavidW: If you don't think this is what I've been trying to say all along, then I sincerely apologize that I haven't properly communicated myself. I find nothing in this man's statements with which I disagree.

Jnorm888: I dissagree with Schreiner, for I was tought that mess in my Baptist years, yeah it sounds good, but I don't think that is what James is saying in context.


Jnorm said...


I was raised Baptist, and I use to teach the crap Schreiner was spittin, and so I know exactly what he is saying.

Salvation is not for demons, but regardless, I know all about the mumbo jumbo distinction between "faith" and "saving faith" that some protestants make.

I know all about the protestant scholasticism of always making "works" automatically flow from "faith".....or else it will be called "faith plus works"....which easily can lead to the let go and let God nonsense of the easy believism I was raised up in.

I also know about the protestant scholastic distinction of always having "Sanctification" automatically flow after "Justification"...or else you will be seen by the reformed heretic hunters as teaching "justification" by works.

I know all about that, and so I am able to see through Schreiner.

And so for me, it's a matter of personal experience. To be honest, the Orthodox don't really care about all the scholastic distinctions that protestants make in regards to this issue. We only care about the fact that you accept both...and so it doesn't really matter if you say...."a working faith, a faith that produces works, or faith and works"

But I know what different protestant groups mean, when they say what they say in regards to this issue.


Rhology said...

To be honest, the Orthodox don't really care about all the scholastic distinctions that protestants make in regards to this issue.

Or that the Apostle Paul makes, apparently.

Why do you disagree with davidW?

Unknown said...



I'm not going to keep repeating myself to you. If you choose to willfully misunderstand in spite of my dozens of attempts at explaining to you in what our unity lies, God is the judge.


I didn't think about it that way; I think you explained my position well here -- that it doesn't matter how we phrase it "Faith and works," "works from Faith," whatever -- I prefer "Faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6) -- doesn't matter though, the concept is the same to me: Faith without works is dead.

I appreciate the explanation of the implications that the Protestant interpretation of "Faith producing works" can lead to. I didn't think about that -- I was never a Protestant, so it's difficult to see their mindset sometimes, as foreign as it is to biblical and historical Christianity. It seems like they'll find any way they can to get around their obligations to the Lord.

Darlene said...

Such controversy and argumentation. In the END, the genuine, Spirit-filled followers of Christ, those who are in Him and He in them, will have both faith and works. When they stand before Christ, their life, the way in which they LIVED, will be clearly seen by our Lord Jesus Christ. And the manner in which they LIVED will either justify or condemn them. "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them." Rev. 14:13

"Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure - for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints." Rev. 19:7 & 8

Hypocrites confess Christ and live in continual disobedience and disregard toward Him. Hypocrites are those who confess with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. The manner in which they live condemns them and the confessions they make with their lips are meaningless. Thus, John the Apostle in his letter exhorted us, "Let us not love one another in word and speech, but in deed and in truth."

You fellas just keep going round and round, but in the end, the Christian will stand before Christ with both faith and works and these will grant him/her entrance into Christ's everlasting and eternal Kingdom.

Tain't gonna be any hypocrites there. They will be sent among those who are weeping and gnashing their teeth.

May Christ's peace rule in your hearts.


Rhology said...

No hypocrites there?

I think you need to read this again.

Darlene said...


??? Are you saying there will be hypocrites in Heaven? Did Jesus speak to the Pharisees so boldly for naught?

You seem to be meshing things together so much so that our manner of living, the way in which we conduct ourselves, our very love for God is insignificant because, well...we're all sin.

Rho, do you PRACTICE sin? If we practice sin, the Apostle John makes it clear that we are not born of God. I cannot pray to my Lord Jesus, the Savior of my soul, and tomorrow cheat on my husband, or hate my children, or go to a strip club, and somehow think I am right with God. Such behavior among those who call themselves Christians is reprehensible.

If one practices sin, and calls themselves a Christian, they are a liar. Just read John the Apostles's letters.

Taking sin lightly is justifying such actions before God as being the human condition, ya know, we just can't help it.

If I think I'm saved, and no matter what I do can effect my salvation, hey, what's the point in living like a Christian. Think I'll eat and drink and fornicate and ignore all those around me. Hey, I'm going to Heaven so it don't matter what I DO, cuz I've been Saved!

Yep, met lots of Christians like that. They bring scandal and reproach upon the glorious name of our Lord Jesus.

And ya know what, I have believed this way ever since the grace and mercy of God has been shown to me. I know many Protestants who would say a HEARTY amen to all the above.

Rhology said...


Your self-righteousness is daunting. Did you read the post I linked to in my last comment? You really think you're all that, huh?

Darlene said...


You do not know me or my heart. Who are you, O man, to judge another? If I had said I never sin, that would be one thing. On the other hand, we who fear the Lord should make it our aim to please Him, and to turn away from sin. Has He not given us power from on high to live as children of God?

I asked, do you practice sin, not do you ever sin. There is a difference. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." I ask for forgiveness often because I know that I need His cleansing. Also, because sin effects my communion with Him. So I take heart that the Scriptures say, "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

But the same apostle said, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him."

and "No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has either seen Him or known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right is righteous, as He is righteous."

and "By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother."

and "We know tht we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death."

There are many such verses, as I'm sure you know that point to the difference between believers and unbelievers by the very manner in which they live. How can I be a witness to my neighbor in pointing him to Christ if I am not living like a Christian but rather, like the world?

In a sense, it is a dichotomy, an enigma, if you will. The apostle John says on one hand, we deceive ourselves if we say we have no sin. And yet, on the other hand, if we sin, we do not know Him. How can such two opposing ideas be reconciled?

We are saved from our sin by Christ who suffered for us. And yet, we must ask for forgiveness and repent often, because we sin even after He has given us His spirit. However, the difference is that the child of God no longer practices sin. When he/she encounters the living God, the desire for the things of the world abate. Should the Christian attempt to commit grievous sin, the Holy Spirit will convict them. Many times this happened to me within the first year of my conversion. Over and over I saw the hand of God working in me to develop a hatred of sin. No longer did I desire to do those things which I had once enjoyed. The Lord had given me a godly fear, and I praise Him for it. It was this very desire He had put within me, and the power to overcome sin and live for Him that convinced me He was real. If I had just gone back to being the same way I had been before, and if there had been no inward change after repentance, I doubt I would be a Christian today.

Now, having been a Christian for at least 30 yrs., I no longer struggle with the same sins. But I still struggle, and I'm still tempted. The battle is just different. Yet, we should all be able to testify of the change that Christ has made within us. For does not the Scripture say that we are being changed from one degree of glory to another?

If I were still stuggling with the same sins as when I was 18 and first came to Christ, certainly this would be a bad testimony. How can I say I love God yet have no desire to obey Him?

Somehow Rhology, I don't know if I will ever be successful in communicating with you. But, perhaps if you read John Wesley's sermons, you will better understand me, for his teachings have had a great effect upon me. And I think he took sin quite seriously.

Rhology said...

I understand your question quite well, and I'm quite familiar with 1 John.

But when you say "I cannot pray to my Lord Jesus, the Savior of my soul, and tomorrow cheat on my husband, or hate my children, or go to a strip club, and somehow think I am right with God", you are expressing great self-righteousness. Where did I ever say I could read your heart? All I can do is look at your expressions, what you say.

When we're discussing the Gospel and salvation and grace, the correct response is not "well, I'm not THAT bad!" The correct response is "I'm a complete and total worm. May the Lord God have mercy on me, for I have no works that can even approach Him." But that's not what the resident EOdox are saying when pressed. I'm saying that should worry you, a lot.

ag said...

Interesting comments. I'm a Reformed Christian with Eastern Orthodox leanings. I believe the EO's basic view of faith/works can be summed up as: "Faith and works go hand in hand." And I heartily agree. Ultimately, you can't have one without the other. This actually fits within a proper Biblical Protestantism. I think the EO and at least the Reformed view is compatible.

The problem with modern debates on "faith alone" is that very rarely are terms agreed upon. Faith, works, alone, justification, etc are usually way too ambiguous in these conversations. The best way to explain "Faith Alone" is that it is truly faith alone that justifies, but it is not a faith that is alone. For example, it is the eye alone that sees, but the eye is not alone. Many other parts are needed for the eye to function. I believe this is a good analogy on how the term "faith alone" is not so crazy. After all, it was created in an attempt to refute Rome's silly false-dichotomy/work-out-session-to-salvation program, which EO's and Prots are equally against. It was not penned to combat EO doctrine.

However, I think it is wise to make a distinction between infant faith and mature faith. It is the same faith, but of different degree. The Bible clearly teaches that covenant infants have faith (the EO is consistent with this by allowing infants to the Table - something Rome and Protestantism need to recover). The Bible also teaches that dead covenant children are more than likely in heaven, but not by a mythical "age of accountability," but because of the Covenant-faithfulness of God. If we are to say justification is by "faith+works" or "working faith", then what do we do about the child who dies in infancy? Did he have works? Was his faith working through love? Or are babies the exception to the rule? I don't think they should be the exception, or else we've changed the definition of faith. Instead, I think we can safely say that "seed" faith or "infant faith" is a relational trust, but as it grows and matures it becomes cognitive and a "working" faith. Thus, faith and works still go hand in hand, there is no dichotomy between the two. Thoughts?

Darlene said...


Are you PCA or OPC? Friends of ours whom we have known for many yrs. call themselves Covenanters, meant to distinguish themselves from other Reformed. They only sing the Psalms (without instruments). They also baptize their infants. I thought them to be quite peculiar, but have since understood the reason for their practices.

Thanks for your comments. They've given me something to ponder today. Btw, if you are unaware, Charles Spurgeon, in no way a Presbyterian, also preached that infants go to Heaven. I forget the title of the sermon, but you can find it at a Spurgeon site. Come to think of it, Al Mohler, who is also Reformed, preached a sermon on the same topic basically confirming Spurgeon's pov.

Thanks for bringing your ideas to the discussion.

ag said...

Thanks Darlene. I'm currently not a member of a denomination. (There are no reformed churches in my area, so I've been attending a LCMS Lutheran Church for the liturgy). I'm not against accompaniment in worship, as long as it's not the focus. And I'm also not against singing hymns. So, I probably couldn't be OPC. You'd find me in a liturgical PCA or a CREC church. I'm paedofaith, paedobaptist, and paedocommunion. Luther and Calvin both held to paedofaith of covenant children and the historical Church had been practicing paedocommunion from the beginning (the Eastern Orthodox still do it consistently).

Perhaps I should clarify my point on infants in Heaven. Since I do believe in Election, I cannot say with all certainty that anyone is with the Lord. Only God knows ultimately. But we expect to see certain people in Heaven based upon their profession of faith, baptism, good works, not apostasizing, etc. It's a measure of faith. Based upon God's promise to covenant-parents, we can have this same hope with our children that they are elect and already believers. This is why we can baptize them as infants. Every infant baptism is a believer's baptism! :) So, if they die in infancy, we should have all assurance that they are with the Lord. Their faith starts out as relational trust, and then grows into assent and loyalty (good works), which are the 3 components of the historic Reformed definition of faith. If a child grows up and doesn't display those things or is excommunicated, we could assume he was not elect and had fallen away from the Covenant. In essence, the way we judge an infants salvation is no different than we would a grown man's "profession/conversion" experience.

I imagine Spurgeon held to the unbiblical "age of accountability" that ALL dead babies go to heaven because they were not "old enough" to be guilty or responsible for sin. I reject that view completely. Babies are still deserving of God's justice because of original/ancestral sin. The infants of non-believers may go to hell, but we have to remain agnostic about that. Blessings!

Darlene said...

Following these threads on faith/works and taking sin seriously has reminded me of the film "Presumed Innoncent." The character Rusty Sabich, a prosecutor (played by Harrison Ford) has been charged with the murder of his colleague Carolyn Polhemus. At one point in the film, the defense appears to be on the losing side. Rusty, desperate to save his life and reputation, makes a plea to his attorney, Sandy Stern (played by Raul Julia). "Just let me get on the stand and tell them that I didn't kill Carolyn Polhemus." Rusty is certain that he can convince the jury of his innocence if only given the chance to take the stand. His attorney gives him wise advice. Although I may not have it down word per word, it goes something like this. "With every word that you try to convince the jury that you are innocent of killing Carolyn Polhemus, you will be convincing them of the very opposite. That is, rather, that you indeed did kill Carolyn Polhemus."

And now for those of you who care to ponder the allegory, perhaps you will understand the meaning and how it applies to these ongoing threads. :)

Happy pondering!

Rhology said...


Probably one problem with communication that you mentioned is that EOC mixes justification (or functionally eliminates it altogether for any useful purpose) and sanctification. The problem with this is that sanct is obviously and biblically a problematic and unsteady and never-complete process throughout the life of the believer. Yet the NT also speaks of HAVING BEEN clothed with Christ and the impossibility of Christ's losing His sheep, the impossibility of their perishing, and the utter completion of His work on the Cross.

Only the Reformed/evangelical view encompasses all of this data. EOC gets the sanct part pretty well, but whiffs on justification.

Darlene said...

"When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth, - when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us, - when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the thing abides in our hearts - when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for - then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men." - John Owen

Most current day Calvinists couldn't hold a candle to that kind of preaching.

CathApol said...

I responded to this as well on my blog and was actually impressed that Alan (Rho) actually exposes the lie of sola fide!


Rhology said...

Rho actually exposes the lie of sola fide!

Totally unintentional, I assure you! :-D

Anonymous said...


you're a fraud, fool and fake. Please stop posting these foolish blogs. Do us all a favor and walk out in traffic.

Rhology said...

Welcome, Church of Christ troll!

Kaffikjelen said...

I don't see how this is any different from the Roman Catholic view.
Furthermore, how can you believe the Gospel and still go to Hell? Because that seems to be the implication of this.

Rhology said...


RCs don't agree that faith alone saves. Yet Schreiner says: "The faith that saves, according to Paul, embraces Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, placing one’s life entirely in his hands...James does not disagree with Paul’s contention that faith alone justifies."

Kaffikjelen said...

Thanks for your reply.
It's just that, when you define "faith" as belief and works, there is little difference between "faith alone" and "faith + works". "Faith alone" could be written like this:
Belief and works alone.
And who among the Romanists would disagree with that?

Rhology said...

I don't think that takes all of Schreiner's comments here into account.