Monday, April 02, 2007

Paul and James - Faith or Works?

"In Romans 3:28 Paul says, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." In James 2:24 we read, "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone." If the word justify means the same thing in both cases, we have an irreconcilable contradiction between two biblical writers on an issue that concerns our eternal destinies. Luther called "justification by faith" the article upon which the church stands or falls. The meaning of justification and the question of how it takes place is no mere trifle. Yet Paul says it is by faith apart from works, and James says it is by works and not by faith alone. To make matters more difficult, Paul insists in Romans 4 that Abraham is justified when he believes the promise of God before he is circumcised. He has Abraham justified in Genesis 15. James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?" (James 2:21). James does not have Abraham justified until Genesis 22.

This question of justification is easily resolved if we examine the possible meanings of the term justify and apply them within the context of the respective passages. The term justify may mean (1) to restore to a state of reconciliation with God those who stand under the judgment of his law or (2) to demonstrate or vindicate.

Jesus says for example, "Wisdom is justified of all her children" (Lk 7:35 KJV). What does he mean? Does he mean that wisdom is restored to fellowship with God and saved from his wrath? Obviously not. The plain meaning of his words is that a wise act produces good fruit. The claim to wisdom is vindicated by the result. A wise decision is shown to be wise by its results. Jesus is speaking in practical terms, not theological terms, when he uses the word justified in this way.

How does Paul use the word in Romans 3? Here, there is no dispute. Paul is clearly speaking about justification in the ultimate theological sense.

What about James? If we examine the context of James, we will see that he is dealing with a different question from Paul. James says in 2:14, "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?" James is raising a question of what kind of faith is necessary for salvation. He is saying that true faith brings forth works. A faith without works he calls a dead faith, a faith that is not genuine. The point is that people can say they have faith when in fact they have no faith. The claim to faith is vindicated or justified when it is manifested by the fruit of faith, namely works. Abraham is justified or vindicated in our sight by his fruit. In a sense, Abraham's claim to justification is justified by his works. The Reformers understood that when they stated the formula, "Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.""

R. C. Sproul - Knowing Scripture; InterVasity Press, p. 83, 84

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Work out your salvation in fear and trembling. God will repay each according to each one's deeds. Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord, . . . they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them. See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's works. Faith without works is dead."

As J. H. Newman demonstrated in his Lectures on Justification, Calvin's and Luther's Doctrine of Justification completely misses the sense of righteousness that is demanded from Jesus's "be perfect, as your Father is perfect." There is no distinction between Jesus, his Apostles, or Paul, on the merits of faith bearing the fruits of good works. Thus, Calvin and Luther both misread and misunderstood a text they barely had any sense or understanding of.

For example, where in the Bible is Luther's sola scripture or Calvin's "the Bible is the literal and inerrant Word of God, which alone is sufficient for salvation?" Nowhere! So both maxims are extra-biblical self-refuting assertions. 1 Tim 3:15 makes it clear that the Church, not the Bible, is the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

Who appointed Luther and Calvin divine oracles? Clearly, the Renaissance Church was debauched, having abandoned the faith for humanism. So, Calvin and Luther could not abide the processionism of antiquity, which leads to the ontology of the Church, which scriptures insist is the groundwork and pillar of the truth, not the Bible. But one cannot get to the Bible without the Church.

As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sent the Apostles, who by the Holy Spirit sent the overseers (bishops), who sent the presbyter and deacons, who send the faithful, using the tool of the Book of Spiritual Perfection (Bible), prayer, fasting, and good works to be a leaven, which sends the kingdom of God, and the Consummation. The Doctrine of Processionism is writ large by Clement, Ireneaus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and every primary figure in the apostolic age, well before the canon of Christian scripture is established, but is found nowhere in Calvin or Luther. The universal moral imperative, "do no harm," is never mentioned in scripture, not are the concepts of ethics, virtue, vice, human excellence -- but nor is Original Sin, Total Depravity, Irristable Grace, Divine Election, or Calvin's other ad hoc nostrums. Scriptures set "righteousness" against "sin," with sin identified broadly as wrongdoing, and righteousness equal to blessedness.

"Voices in the wilderness" come and go, but only those with Authority have staying power. All Authority in heaven and earth is given to the Incarnate Son, who confers them on the Apostles (of which Paul is not one), since the Twelve do not admit of Thirteen (parallels to the Twelve Tribes of Israel would be broken). Paul was a Platonic Jew who had a delusion on the road to Damascus, and insisted he was made an Apostle to the Gentiles on his own authority. So did Ron L. Hubbard insist things on his own Authority. The Authority of the Twelve proclaimed the Gospel, those who welcomed it were baptized, and devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings, fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers (Act 2:37-47).

Acts 15 establishes the ecumenical council at Jerusalem, in which the Apostles reached decisions, consented by the elders (presbyters) and the whole Church, sending Paul and Barnabas as missionaries to Antioch. Acts 20:25-35 establishes that the Apostles' sending of bishops (overseers) would shepherd the Church in the whole purpose of God. So, we're right back to the Church, not scriptures, which is historically and ontologically antecedent to any scriptures. The Authority of apostolic succession by the laying-on of hands is transmitted throughout the generations. Ecumenical councils have always been the Authority in matters of faith, discipline, and practice -- not the Bible.

As a historical matter, the Latin Vulgate was the first effort to codify a Christian scripture, including the Deuterocanonicals from the Septuagint, which Augustine also identifies as canonical. But it would take 16 centuries before a definitive canon would be determined. It would also take that long before the printing press could distribute the scriptures to the masses, yet Christianity flourished without either. As Paul observes, God's word is delivered by oral and written testimony (2 Th 2:15), but only its spiritual senses (moral, allegorical, and anagogical) are of the Spirit, the literal-historical sense is of the Letter. The Spirit's sanctification comes through belief in the truth to comfort and strengthen believers in every good work and word (ibid).

The kingdom is brought about by the leaven of faith manifested in good works. Faith without works is useless, but works without faith is still counted as righteousness. Alas, another distortion of the Truth by Calvin and Luther, men of little significance and no authority, to "reform" a debauched Church. But since the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, established by Jesus through his Apostles and their legatees, the bishops, only that mission which conforms to the Divine Plan of Processionism speaks with Authority. Others speak with arrogance, hubris, and pride, distorting the truth with lies. They are the sheep in wolves' clothing, and they have done just as much debauchery of Christianity as the Church of Rome. But their idolotry of the "Book" and by their "Divine Judgments" (Rm 2) only proves them unfit for the kingdom. Even Paul claims they have no excuse, and still they've done so.

"Not all who call, 'Lord, Lord,' but only those who do the will of the Father will inherit the kingdom." They shall be counted as righteous, but the unrighteous will be cast into the fires of hell for eternity. Maybe Calvinists and Lutherans will one day understand the Bible they insist is an Authority on their own say-so. Until then, dissimulation prevails.