Paul says that Abraham was justified by Faith. James says Abraham was justified by Works. Which is it?


4 thoughts on “Paul says that Abraham was justified by Faith. James says Abraham was justified by Works. Which is it?

  1. They are both “it.” James does not teach a justification by works without faith. Likewise, Paul doesn't teach a justification by faith without works. Paul is insistent that the final judgment will be based on works (see, for example, Romans 2). The law that he is saying is unnecessary is the Jewish law, whereas he always insists on the law of charity. It is not that Paul and James taught contradicting theologies (regardless of speculations about politics among the early Christians). Rather you are realizing that Paul was not a Lutheran. No wonder people are confused when they try to read sixteenth-century Reformation theology back into 1st century Jewish texts.


  2. I agree with you that when Paul talked about the Law he was talking about Jewish Law, not good works. I accept the professor's analysis that the author of James and the author of Romans (Paul) simply had different definitions of “faith” and “works”. My problem is that if the Bible were edited by the all-knowing, perfect Creator God, he wouldn't have allowed such confusing language to be written down as “his Word”; confusing language that led to brutal wars between factions of Christianity, causing horrific suffering and the deaths of millions (1/3 of the population of Germany).

    The Bible is a man-made book. There is no “divine” guidance anywhere between its covers.


  3. The way I see it, there was not any significant controversy until rather late in the history of Christianity. If you look at patristic writings, you do not see any real confusion about what Paul and James are saying. I think the ambiguity on this point is overstated. Also, if you look at the Protestant Reformation (I'm assuming that is what you're referring to in your comment), it appears to me that sola fide was more of a battle cry than an actual doctrinal position (since sola fide means radically different things to different people). The Reformation was not primarily over how to interpret Romans 3:28 (or other verses), but about deeper issues about the authority and identity of the Church. Your perspective is clearly very different from mine since you were brought up a Fundamental Baptist then worked as an LCMS pastor, but I don't see the confusion I do.

    That does not mean that I don't think any parts of Scripture are confusing. There are obscure places that are not self-explanatory, and some places that we will likely never know for certain 100% what the original author intended. This is not one of those places however. Maybe that bothers me less than it might some because my understanding of Christian doctrine is not a reconstruction of an entire religion from scratch using my independent interpretation of Scripture alone. I think the professor (and you) will agree with me that this was not Paul's intention for his audiences either.


  4. I'm not sure what Paul's intention was. After studying Paul's writings and what Christian and skeptic apologists' say about him, I have come to the conclusion that Paul was most likely mentally ill; probably bipolar. He was a man of wild visions. Today we would call such a man delusional and manic.

    At the end of Paul's ministry he complains to Timothy that “all in Asia (Minor) have forsaken me”. Ephesus was the capital of this region. The writer of the Book of Revelation has Jesus praising the Church in Ephesus for rejecting “false apostles”. I find that an odd coincidence. I know that orthodox Christians will say that Paul was not meaning to imply that all his churches in Asia Minor had rejected him, but I tend to think that that is exactly what he meant.


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