Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Critical Text: Extra Evidence of Jesus' Divinity

Listening to someone preaching from the gospels, I noticed an interesting evidence of Jesus' divinity I had previously overlooked. I generally use the King James Version, but this pastor was using the ESV or some other modern translation based on the critical text. In this particular passage, the critical text underlying the ESV is different in a small but important way from the text underlying the KJV.

Immediately after recounting the mount of transfiguration, Mark provides the following account:

Mark 9:14-29 (KJV)
And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them. And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. And he asked the scribes, "What question ye with them?"
And one of the multitude answered and said, "Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; and wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not."
He answereth him, and saith, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me." And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, "How long is it ago since this came unto him?"
And he said, "Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us."
Jesus said unto him, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, "Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him."
And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, "He is dead."
But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could not we cast him out?"
And he said unto them, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting."

Mark 9:14-29 (ESV)
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”
But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

My initial thought was that possibly this was just a case of so-called parallel corruption, where the "and fasting" was probably borrowed from the account in another Gospel. And indeed, in Matthew 17:21 the KJV has "prayer and fasting." The full account there is as follows:

Matthew 17:14-21 (KJV)
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him."
Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me." And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, "Why could not we cast him out?"
And Jesus said unto them, "Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
However, it turns out that the final verse of this passage is entirely omitted in the ESV:

Matthew 17:14-20 (there is no 21) (ESV)
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”
And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

This account is also in Luke's gospel, but lacks any comment about prayer and/or fasting, in both the KJV and the ESV.

The significance of all this is that in the ESV, the "fasting" reference is entirely gone. With the "fasting" reference gone, Jesus' comments at Mark 9:29 become more clear.

Jesus said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” But where is prayer in this passage? Jesus simply rebukes the spirit and the spirit comes out. Jesus does not pray to the Father. Nor in the immediate context had Jesus been involved in prayer. Who then had prayed? The answer becomes clear in the context. The person praying is the father of the demoniac, and he was praying to Jesus.

Notice the indicia of prayer: the expression of faith and the entreaty in Mark's immediate context. Moreover, we find further confirmation of this from the kneeling posture and the reference to Jesus as "Lord," in Matthew's account (neither of which are mentioned in Mark's account).

Thus, not only does Jesus receive prayer (which is something that God alone should receive), he attributes the success of this miracle to the prayer offered to him by the demoniac's father!

Is this a lock-tight argument in every aspect? Obviously not. The argument relies in part on a question of a textual variant. Moreover, while the most apparent reference to prayer in the context is the father's prayer to Jesus, one could interpret this text as suggesting that Jesus had a life of prayer that the nine disciples did not. Indeed, if the text "and fasting," is not original, it would certainly seem as though the scribe who inserted it had that kind of understanding of the text.

Nevertheless, despite not being a fully lock-tight argument as to the variant verse, it still remains the case that Jesus received prayer, that Jesus accepted that prayer without rebuking the man who prayed to him, and that God's response to the prayer was to answer it with healing. That part of the argument stands in both the KJV and the ESV. So, the only difference between the two is that the ESV provides a little extra evidence for the divinity of Christ - something we hardly need (given the superabundance of such evidence in the Bible) but something we can still treasure.

-TurretinFan

Friday, January 08, 2016

We are all children of God? Pope vs. Jesus

In his first video, Pope Francis asserts: "In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: we are all children of God."

But Jesus' rebuttal of this view is set forth in John's gospel:

John 8:39-47
They answered and said unto him, "Abraham is our father."

Jesus saith unto them, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father."

Then said they to him, "We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."

Jesus said unto them, "If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."

Neither the pope nor the followers of the other religions he cites in the video (Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, etc.) are children of God. If God were their Father, they would love Jesus and hold to Jesus' words. But the others explicitly reject Jesus as God, and while the pope claims to follow Jesus, he contradicts Jesus' clear teachings.

Contrast that with our situation as the sons of God, distinct from the world, a privilege bestowed by the Father through the power of the Spirit and faith in Christ our Savior:

Romans 8:14-17
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Romans 9:8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

Romans 9:26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

-TurretinFan

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Origen Against the Innovation of Christmas? Check your sources!

I came across the following statement, which immediately sparked my interest (source):
Speculation on the proper date began in the 3rd and 4th centuries, when the idea of fixing Christ’s birthday started. Quite a controversy arose among Church leaders. Some were opposed to such a celebration. Origen (185-254) strongly recommended against such an innovation. “In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world” ( Catholic Encyclopedia , 1908 edition, Vol. 3, p. 724, “Natal Day”).
I tend to agree with the overall point of the author of the page, namely that the celebration of Christmas is an innovation that lacks any authentic apostolic tradition. Nevertheless, I thought that the patristic quotation would be very interesting, if indeed Origen were against the celebration of Christmas.

There are, however, a number of problems with this citation. First, the citation is not to any of Origen's works, but to the "Catholic Encyclopedia," a secondary source. Thankfully, one can look up this secondary source (link to "Natal Day" entry).

Second, the work of Origen being cited is his Homilies on Leviticus. We don't have the original Greek of this work. Instead, we have Rufinus' Latin translation. Moreover, this work is one that Rufinus himself acknowledged heavily editing. Accordingly, while this may be Origen, it might instead be Rufinus. Moreover, Rufinus translated this in the early fifth century. Thus, if this expresses Rufinus' views, it may represent a fifth century view, rather than a third century view.

Third, the context of the discussion is not the celebration of Christ's birth by his contemporaries. In other words, Origen's words (or Rufinus' words) were not addressed as a correction to his contemporaries.

Fourth, while Christ's birth is mentioned in the homily, it is mentioned as the sole exception to the standard case. In other words, applying the logic of Origen/Rufinus may cause us not to celebrate our own birthdays, but it would not similarly require us not to celebrate Christ's birthday.

For those interested, I've posted a modern English translation of the text and the Latin original, as well as some related quotations from the same homily at my "Ancient Voices" blog:

On Celebrating Birthdays and Original Sin
Unique Conception of Jesus
Original Sin and Infant Baptism

- TurretinFan

Monday, December 21, 2015

James 2:24 Debate with William Albrecht

Roman Catholics shouldn't cite James 2:24, because it doesn't mean what they think it means. Last Saturday I conducted a debate with William Albrecht (Roman Catholic) on the topic of the meaning of James 2:24. (link to mp3) I hope you enjoy it, particularly the cross-examination section. With all due respect to Mr. Albrecht, I think you will share my lack of satisfaction with the answers he provided. I even had the opportunity to ask him an additional (related) question during the "audience question" portion of the debate, so hopefully you will find the entire recording useful!

The following are some of my notes for the debate, much of which you will hear me present during my affirmative presentation:

James 2:24 is often referenced by Roman Catholic apologists whenever the topic of Sola Fide or Justification by Faith Alone comes up. They keep on citing this verse, but it does not mean what they think it means. Thus, they shouldn’t cite it for at least the following reasons:
1. Context of Book
2. Immediate Context
3. Distinction between James and RC Justification

1) Context of Book

The book of James is primarily wisdom literature. It’s not exactly the same as Proverbs, but like Proverbs it has a focus on the same kind of practical wisdom: how to live a godly life. The opening passage (James 1:2-8) lays out the major themes of the book:

a) Trials when applied to faith produce patience.
b) If you lack wisdom ask in faith
c) Contrasted presented to a wavering, double-minded man

None of these themes bring up the kind of theological discussions we see in Romans or Galatians, where Paul provides the theological framework for Sola Fide.

2) Immediate Context

James 2:24 is part of a longer passage that stretches from verse 14 to verse 26. The opening line of the passage is this “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”

James then compares such a statement to another statement: the statement to a hungry and naked person “be warmed and filled.” It sounds like a nice blessing, but it’s obviously insincere if it’s not accompanied by you actually helping them out, assuming you can.

James says that such an insincere profession of faith is “dead” because it is alone, like the dead blessing he just provided.

James then compares the profession of faith to the demonstration of faith. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works”

James then notes that it’s good to believe that God exists – but insists that even this level of true belief can be the wrong kind if it leads merely to trembling, like the devils, not to right action.

James then provides two examples of works demonstrating faith:

1) James argues that Abraham’s faith was justified by works, when he offered up Isaac.
2) James argues that Rahab’s faith was justified when she aided the spies.

James then concludes by again reiterating that faith without works is dead.

The part I’ve skipped over (vs. 24) falls right between those two illustrations. In that context, James’ point should be clear – man is not justified by a faith that doesn’t bear fruit in works but by one that does.

3) Conflict with RC Dogma on Justification

Although sometimes Roman Catholics say they believe in Justification by Faith and Works, their system doesn’t provide a good match for what James is saying, at all. Even if James were speaking theologically and not practically, the examples James provides do not provide examples either of RC initial justification or RC subsequent justification.

Keep in mind that in RC theology initial justification is by infusion of faith, hope, and charity in baptism. Subsequent justification is work-based in a sense, but it is by simply avoiding mortal sin.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Immediate Context of James' Faith/Works Pericope

James discusses the relationship of faith and works in a pericope with well-defined boundaries: the passage starts at James 2:14 and ends at James 2:26.

We can see this from the signal, "my brethren," which James uses repeatedly throughout the book in various forms to set off various pericopes. James uses it once in verse 14 and then again at verse 1 of chapter 3 (the verse after James 2:26).

We can also see this from the subject matter of the pericope. Within the pericope, James mentions faith or believe (or some form thereof) about a dozen times, whereas James' only mentions faith a few times outside the pericope.

Nevertheless, while the pericope is an entity to itself, it also has a context within James as a whole (Wisdom literature with a central theme of demonstrated faith) and an immediate context.

The immediate context of Faith/Works pericope is the preceding respect-of-persons pericope (James 2:1-13) and the following tongue-bridling pericope (James 3:1-10). The respect-of-persons pericope generally deals with the importance of not discriminating against poor people in favor of rich people. By contrast, the tongue-bridling pericope deals with the importance of controlling one's tongue, as being the most difficult to control and dangerous part of the body. Nevertheless, they both have some common threads.

The respect-of-persons argument argues for the seriousness of the sin of discriminating against the poor by arguing that a violation of any aspect of the law is a violation of the law as a whole: "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Accordingly, James counsels that we should speak and act as those who will be judged by what James calls "the law of liberty," (James 2:12) warning that "he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment." James 2:13). Similarly, the tongue-bridling pericope begins by confessing that we have many offenses ("in many things we offend all" James 3:2), focusing on offenses of the tongue, which James says no man can tame (James 3:8).

Thus, both passages deal with the sinfulness of men and the inadequacy of men to keep the law. The references to tongue-bridling and the law of liberty actually hearken back to James 2:22-27, which states:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
In other words, the bridling of the tongue is part of the obedience to the law of liberty, as is care for the needy.

When it comes to the Faith/Works pericope, we will see care of the poor as an example, which tends to tie that pericope together with the pericopes before and after it, since care of the poor is part of obedience to that law of liberty.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Not So Much Mystery, as Error

Per Cardinal Koch (link to report), the RCC affirms salvation through an explicit or even implicit faith in Christ and says that Jews can be saved without explicitly confessing Christ:
"While affirming salvation through an explicit or even implicit faith in Christ, the Church does not question the continued love of God for the chosen people of Israel." (17)
"That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery." (36)
It would be better to characterize that as a real contradiction and consequently an error, not a divine mystery.

Interestingly enough, the report acknowledged the fact that this view is a departure from tradition:
On the part of many of the Church Fathers the so-called replacement theory or supersessionism steadily gained favour until in the Middle Ages it represented the standard theological foundation of the relationship with Judaism: the promises and commitments of God would no longer apply to Israel because it had not recognised Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, but had been transferred to the Church of Jesus Christ which was now the true ‘new Israel’, the new chosen people of God.
(17)

The same section goes on to admit the novelty of the Vatican II position:
Arising from the same soil, Judaism and Christianity in the centuries after their separation became involved in a theological antagonism which was only to be defused at the Second Vatican Council. With its Declaration "Nostra aetate" (No.4) the Church unequivocally professes, within a new theological framework, the Jewish roots of Christianity.
It should be interesting to listen to the various attempts to deal with this from various "conservative" RC groups.

Possible ideas:

1) It's only a report by a commission, it's not a papal encyclical. Therefore, even though it's on the Vatican website, it's not "really official."
2) The old standby, "well, this isn't ex cathedra."

Friday, December 04, 2015

Should We Pray to Michael the Archangel?

Pope Francis tweeted: "Let us ask the help of Saint Michael the Archangel to defend us from the snares of the devil." (source)
Paul, Apostle of Jesus, wrote: "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind," (Colossians 2:18)

And yes, that's what asking Michael the Archangel for help is - an example of worshipping of angels. We are nowhere encouraged to trust in angels for deliverance. Instead, our trust is to be in God. We should ask God for deliverance, not Michael the Archangel.

In case you think there is some ambiguity in the tweet, and that the pontiff could be just asking God to send Michael - consider these more complete remarks (from two and a half years earlier), "In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him." (link)

Michael wasn't the only worshiped creature at that particular consecreation:
We also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day.
(same source)

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Early Father Worshiping with Icons?

I was listening to a recent panel discussion with William Albrecht and David Withun and a caller called in and asked if they could name any father before the 300s that used images in the church. Albrecht pointed to Tertullian, in his work on Modesty. In that work he makes reference to the image of a shepherd on a chalice. Even this reference (which is the best they could muster) falls short.

Tertullian's reference to an image on a chalice is part of a very flowery discusssion, not of his own practices, but of those of a different sect (one that, according to him, tolerated adultery). His words: "to which, perchance, that Shepherd, will play the patron whom you depict upon your (sacramental) chalice" (note the "your").

By "Shepherd," there, Tertullian is referring to the Shepherd in the book called the Shepherd of Hermas, a non-canonical early writing.

Contrasting with that, Tertullian describes himself by saying: "I, however, imbibe the Scriptures of that Shepherd who cannot be broken."

You can break a cup, but you can't break the Scriptures.

(Augustine was mentioned in the talk, but he was against the practice that was budding in his day.)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

James as Wisdom Literature

It's important to recognize that James is unlike most of Paul's epistles. James, while a letter (James 1:1), is a book of wisdom in the category of the books of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes.

The prologue (James 1:2-8) introduces wisdom in exactly the way wisdom literature would: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Notice the characteristics of identifying the practical need and the practical mechanism to resolve the need. Notice as well the method of argumentation supporting the practical instruction. It can be illustrated in this form (James 1:5):

Need | If any of you lack wisdom,
Technique | let him ask of God,
Argument 1 | [God] giveth to all men liberally, and
Argument 2 | [God] upbraideth not; and
Solution | it shall be given him.

We see James use this form or similar forms throughout the book. For example, in the very next maxim, James writes (James 1:6-8):
Technique | But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.
Argument 3 | For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Result | For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
Argument 4 | A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

The remainder of the book tends to address the same issues at the prologue, though in greater depth, with the same wisdom-genre emphasis on holy living.

James 1:9-15 is a discourse on the temptation issue mentioned in James 1:2-3.
James 1:16-18 is a discourse on the God's gift issue mentioned in James 1:5.

James 1:19-4:12 are discourses on holy living with frequent returns to the issue of double-mindededness. James 2:14-26 provides a special case with respect to faith, that we will discuss in more detail in another post, Lord Willing.

James 4:13-17 and 5:1-6 are two calls of condemnation on the presumptuous rich.

James 5:7-8 and 9 are two encouragements to the brethren to holy living in view of the Lord's imminent return.

James 5:10-11 is an exhortation to endure trials/temptations harkening back to the James 1:2-3 and James 1:9-15 points.

James 5:12-18 are more encouragements to holy living.

Finally, James 5:19-20 is particularly an encouragement to assist other brethren in holy living.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Faith Demonstrated - a Central Jacobian Theme

After a brief greeting, James immediately begins his first of several brotherly admonitions.

James 1:2-3 calls believers to be thankful for trials because the testing of faith works patience.  

James 1:12 promises the crown of life to those who endures temptations.

James then approaches the same point another way.  He points out that the engrafted word is able to save our souls, but immediately distinguishes between a (mere) hearer and a doer. (James 1:21 and following)

James 1:26 proposes a specific test - the use of the tongue.  A person who seems religious but fails to bridle his tongue is self-deceived and his religion is "vain."

This vain religion is then contrasted with a pure religion that results in care for those who have lost fathers and husbands.  

This second test becomes more central in the second chapter.  Here James suggests that care of these poor people is a part of obeying the law of God.  

He even explains (vs 18) that faith is shown by works in the form of a challenge to a "vain man" (vs 20) who claims to have faith but lacks works.

James then illustrates the principle by providing two examples of people performing works that demonstrated their faith:

1). Abraham offering his son
2). Rahab sending out the spies another way

James then compares faith without works to a corpse.

James then returns to his previous example about the tongue (ch 3).  He argues that wisdom is demonstrated by - you guessed it - works (vs 13).

James contrasts such works with sinful envy and the like.  James concludes that the good works are the fruit sown by the peaceable wisdom from above (vss 17-18).

Chapter 4 is an extended call to holiness. James begins by identifying an internal source of sin (vss 1 and 5).  James contrasts that with the grace that God gives (vs 6).  

Chapter 5 begins with a condemnation of rich oppressors before turning back to exhort the brethren to patience.  The letter then ends with a variety of practical guides for such endurance, including the prescription to sing Psalms when we are merry and to pray when we are not.

James is a sort of anti-Joel-Osteen - eager to exhort his listeners to go beyond surface level professions of faith and especially to beware of rich hypocrites, rather than favoring people who are rich.