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.


michael said...

TF, after listening, I came to the conclusion that regeneration brings us to LIFE, not to the "gift" of Faith. Faith as you know is a gift just like eternal Life is a gift. One must first come to LIFE before they receive the "gift" of Faith. God does not give a dead person the "gift of Faith". That in and of itself does not "produce" good works.

One must first be made a disciple and come under disciplined by the hand of the Living God, the Only True God and by the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ and this discipline comes under the sanctification work of the Holy Spirit who conjoins us to Christ and activates the gift of Faith or rather trains us by the gift of His Faith to produce His good works, the righteous deeds of the Saints.

Rev 19:7 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;
Rev 19:8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

It seems to me you could have made your points clearer had you started with that argument first?

Of course of the two, I am on your side though as I do not hear in Mr. Albrecht he has the "same" LIFE you have when speaking. He indeed has a faith and more than that a reasonable knowledge of other men's writings. None of that is a substitute for being trained by the Only True God, experiencing His discipline and without it we would be bastards; trained by Christ to do those good works the gift of Faith cause us to do and to be done; and trained by the Holy Spirit so that in everything we do we are doing it for His Glory by His breath and leading and wisdom and knowledge and understanding.

Unknown said...


Chafer DTS said...

The relationship between the apostle Paul and James on justification

The question of the harmony between St. Paul and St. James is one of great importance, and must, of course, be studied in all discussions of Justification, but there is no real difficulty if the two situations are made perfectly clear.

(a) St. Paul in Rom. 4 is dealing with Abraham as recorded in Gen. 15:6 (cf. Gal. 3:6), and in that story Abraham is regarded as a man “justified by faith”.

(b) St. James in ch. 2 is dealing with Abraham in regard to the story of Genesis 22 which happened twenty-five years afterwards.

(c) If, then, Abraham in Gen. 15 was living by faith, his standing during those twenty-five years must have been in accordance therewith, and this we know was the case (Heb. 11:8–19).

So that the two Apostles are dealing with different though related standpoints in the life of Abraham; the former referring to the instrument and the latter to the proof of Justification. St. Paul is writing about non-Christians (Rom. 3:28); St. James is writing about professing Christians (ch. 2:24). St. Paul uses Gen. 15 to prove the necessity of faith; St. James uses Gen. 22 to prove the necessity of works. St. Paul teaches that works must spring from faith; St. James teaches that faith must be proved by works. St. Paul is thus dealing with the error of legalism; St. James with the error of Antinomianism. St. Paul is warning against merit; St. James against a mere intellectual orthodoxy.

Like every truth of the New Testament, Justification has various aspects. Thus, we are justified by God the Author (Rom. 4:5); by grace the reason (Rom. 3:24); by blood the ground (Rom. 5:9); by resurrection the acknowledgment (Rom. 4:25); by faith the means (Rom. 5:1); by words the evidence (Matt. 12:37); by works the fruit (Jas. 2:24). It has been aptly said, and the words sum up the whole contention, that St. Paul and St. James are not two soldiers of different armies fighting each other, but two of the same army fighting back to back against enemies coming from different directions. All this gives point to the well-known words of Calvin, “It is faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.” ( The Principles Of Theology : An Introduction To The Thirty-Nine Articles, pg. 205- 206, by Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas )

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