How do Protestants deal with James on faith and works?


yes…twas rhetorical question…but trying to shed light on why he might question the authenticity of James (like others before him if I recall, and way before the church as an institution was heavily formalized, especially with a labyrinth of righteous works ).

Have mentioned this in another thread, but like God worked powerfully and perhaps more simply as when He graced the early church when they first met in homes, local synagogues, or a bit later in little romanessque churches, to the much later Gothic, baroque and rococo, where one can lost in such “business”, and really feel ''inspired" by the architectural “work”.

Religion feels good…the whole world does it…perhaps why Jesus had to clarify by saying true religion is visiting sick and widows etc, but new life in Christ is something else.


Doh. Sorry for not knowing it was rhetorical.

I have my theory why, but it’s silly armchair psychology, like I mentioned above :stuck_out_tongue: I think he had serious guilt/obsessive problems and may have latched on to this doctrine at all costs.


Absolutely! Anyone claiming to have a faith that is alive and salvific, but does not have works, then that faith is dead and of demons. However, if someone claims faith and has works, then he is justified!

Right! But, you still weigh something, right? :grin:


It is a red flag about his attitude. He was willing to set aside all that the Church believed and taught, and start over from his own point of view.

I do think his preconceived notions were blinders for him, but it is clear that he was taking baby steps in faith. He did not understand, but sought to understand, and was active in trying to understand. His understanding did grow over time. Not all of us have a sudden epiphany like Paul.

Yes, and these are not without merit. Although I agree with you, Simeon was much more mature in his faith. He still followed the rules and laws of that institution, but knew he was waiting for something much greater.

Cornelius also did “good works” that rose to heaven as an appeal to God. What Nicodemus and Cornelius had in common was a response to prevenient (drawing) grace. God led them toward Him and showed them where to find the life He desired for them to have.

Or it might be said that a lifetime of preparation in study and good works led him to the point where he could be mightily used by God when he was finally able to grasp how to be filled by grace through faith. This was certainly the case with Paul, whose great learning and assiduous observation of his Pharisee tradition resulted in a very powerful set of tools at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Augustine is another example of great learning that, when moved by faith, does great things for the Kingdom. In all these cases, God led persons to study and religious observance because He intended to use all that for His glory.


Curiously, or maybe not so, the first part of the commentary is missing from your post.

Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it,…

Now, why is it important to include the first part? Because it actually sets up his following sentences.
He praises what is good about the book, even he recognizes, accurately, that it had been rejected by the likes of Eusebius. Why does he like it? Because it sets up no doctrines of men, but pushes the law.
Again, he praises it, then states his opinion about its authorship.
Now, if you leave that first part out, you’ve changed the narrative altogether. So, you have provided no evidence that he wanted to remove it, or that Melanchthon convinced him not to, since he actually included it.


Oooh…I have heard a few preists tell newly converted “Jesus freaks” that, like a Catholic need not such a dramatic experience in faith and grace in Christ (due to the nature of God and the Catholic church they grew up in, like they needed not to fear God and or judgement, even hell so much…like they were baptized and God is love etc. )

Maybe Luther was overboard , but would not want to touch with a ten foot pole one’s fear of God, that could be the beginning knowledge and wisdom, even new life in Christ. I heard one of the Wesley’s had similar experience, was physically ill for months in what later could be seen as spiritual birth pangs…long months.


Yes, and any serious student of Scripture as Luther was would certainly want to understand and appreciate the controversies around these books. What is different with Luther that we don’t see with other scripture scholars was the refusal to accept how the Church ruled on the matter. It demonstrates that he was already rejecting the authority of the Church.

Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit, through the Sacred Councils, guided and ratified the NT. For us, it is one of the infallible acts, similar to the writing of scripture. I have heard many Protestants say the opposite, that it is a “fallible collection of infallible writings”, which seems to leave open the possibility that the Church got is wrong (or from our perspective, that the Holy Spirit got it wrong).

Yes, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.


Man, you must be a lawyer or something. You have what you need right before you, and you still managed to weasel your way out.

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” :stuck_out_tongue:


Oh, man! @straykat, meet @JonNC! Love you, @JonNC :smiley:


To be fair, I think his criticism is less about the authorship and more about the content.


yes, but Jesus meets him where he is, draws him a bridge, that Nic had no idea he needed, new birth…religion did hinder him, and why Christ could say the drunkards and prostitutes see and enter in more easily or quickly…the thief only needed an hour or so, and only a few sentences form the Lord while on the cross.

What merit would have been afforded to Nic without new life, where Christ would have otherwise been destined to say ," depart from me , I know you not.

There is no record that Cornelius needed to be born again, but in fact probably was like Simeon.

Lol…you struggle to always justify religious works…I think you partly might be right , but I would think Luther himself would say he would rather no one else go thru the same error, thru proper teaching in the first place, of the role of grace and faith first , and not to trust in institutional works beforehand.

yes, but then he called it all “dung”

Again, the preferred method is to be justified first, be born again, to enter in first by faith thru grace , and not hop over the fence, avoiding that gate… that God can use bad practice and failed methodology does not change that, but in fact would lead to teach against it.


Understand, but Jon, our resident Lutheran lol, answers it better…but "willing’’ and “his own” are easily qualified, or have “the rest of the story”…was his flesh “willing” but his spirit stronger for he did include the book?.. and was not “his view” that of previous Catholics in good standing ?


Yep,takes guts to go against the grain, the hand that feeds you…but he did not reject authority of a teaching church, after all, do not others say he started a church also, and who would not want to be toothless himself, over his congregation.

No, others first rejected that the church could ever err, even in practice (they didn’t counter reform till after Luther was ex’ed ).

Luther rejected erroneous teaching and practice, not church authority (unless they, office holders, insisted on error).


No, it’s a matter of honestly presenting the history. No one has ever offered a source for the story that Luther’ friends talked him out of excluding James


I’ve only heard it secondhand too. I don’t go around digging in Melancthon and Luther correspondance tbh. Funnily, I got it from Josiah Trenham… he’s an Orthodox priest, but was once a Calvinist. I wonder where he got it from. He wasn’t a lightweight…he was taught by RC Sproul/JI Packer/etc…


No, the merit is in that they lead one to Christ, and make one useful to Him after having arrived. Nicodemus demonstrated his growing faith by his actions. Who knows which of the Sanhedrin and others later came to believe because he took some baby steps?

I am confused about this. Some Jews needed to be born again, but others did not?

It is no struggle at all! When one reads the work of people like Paul and Augustine, realizing that the great bulk of their education and learning preceded their conversion, it is clear to see that God was building them for His purpose. Augustine’s “works” were not even religious, but secular. But I agree, all those who were built in this way for God’s service prior to encountering the living Christ would say they would not want anyone to have to go that route, most especially Luther, who suffered so much anguish in is angst to know God, to be in right relationship with God, and yet so lost in how to arrive there.

I am not saying that any of us should “trust in institutional works beforehand” either, merely observing that works do demonstrate fledgling faith, and can be pre-venient grace. To those who have, more is given, so a response to this drawing grace will bring more grace, as is the case with Cornelius.


Comparitively, yes, but one cannot deny how God used all of that dung to build the Church! Dung is great fertilizer.

I don’t believe it is possible to “hop the fence”.

If the CC did not believe what you have written here (justified first) we would not baptize infants and raise them in the faith.

Once the Church ruled on the canon, Catholics in good standing accepted it as inspired and Apostolic. This is the case with all dogmatized matters. The truth is that Luther’s view of the book of James was quite anti-Catholic in many ways.

Curiously, no, he did not reject the authority of a teaching church. He just seemed to consider his own authority of more value.


I don’t think so. There have been erroneous practices since the beginning of the Church. If there were not errors, a counter reformation would not been necessary! The difference lies in the nature of the Church. Catholics understand the Church to be incarnational, like Jesus, so that there are human and divine natures in it. What makes the Church infallible are the divine elements. Jesus is the Head, and the Holy Spirit is the Soul of the Church. These divine elements protect her from error.

The human element of the Church, like Jesus, suffers fallibility. As He was hungry, thirsty and tired, similarly the members of the Church are subject to human frailties, and the temptations of the flesh. Members of the Church err in theology and practice.

He rejected both, though he did not reject all of Sacred Tradition. He expected the Cardinals and Bishops to correct the erroneous ideas promulgated by the indulgence preachers, and when this did not happen, it set a fire within him. He was right to expect that the authorities should correct what was wrong teaching and practice. Had they taken him more seriously and responded in sanctity to his concerns, there may not have been a rebellion.


Oh, there is no doubt he was critical of James’ content. His view is the cross. It’s all about the cross. In Luther’s thinking, James makes little mention of gospel. That’s why he considered it a book of straw compared to the letters he holds most valued.
But his argument regarding authenticity is about the author. And that still wasn’t enough to exclude it.



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