Are Christians saved by faith alone or by a combination of faith and good works? Well, it depends on which epistle in the New Testament you read. If you read Paul’s epistles, it is faith alone. If you read James’ epistle, it is clearly not just faith alone.
Can the two epistles be reconciled?
Christians have twisted themselves into pretzels for two thousand years in an attempt to do so, but let’s step back and look at who wrote these two epistles. If it is true, which we can not know for sure, that James, the brother of Jesus, wrote the epistle of James, then I believe that the stark differences between Romans and James can be best explained by this: James, the brother of Jesus, taught Jesus’ teaching that the Law would never pass away. Paul invented his own version of Jesus’ teaching, telling his mostly Gentile converts that Jesus had abolished the Jewish Law, and that they could ignore it.
The reason that the epistles of James and Romans appear to contradict one another in such stark terms is because they do contradict each other! The two epistles are teaching two very different “gospels”: one, the Gospel of Jesus, and the other…the Gospel of Paul.