James 2:23 and the end of Sola Fide


#1

Protestants say James 2 is using the term “justify” differently than that of Paul. They say Paul means “justified before God,” saved, declared righteous - while James means “justified before men,” vindicated, giving evidence by works that you are a genuine Chrisitan.
They are forced to say this because if the usage were the same their theology would be contradicted.

What is very interesting, and no mere coincidence, is that James 2 quotes the most important Sola Fide passage: Gen 15:6. And it quotes this one verse prior to the (in)famous James 2:24.

First, some quick background in how Gen 15:6 is used in the NT:Romans 4: 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
HOW do we know that Gen 15:6 is talking about justification when the word “justify” does NOT EVEN APPEAR in Gen 15:6?
The reasoning is quite simple:
Paul in Romans 4:2 explicitly makes the context about justification by using the term “justify” (Strong’s Greek #1344) itself.
**However, what is just as profound - and what most people don’t realize - is that the English language hides something from us when translated from Greek. The terms for “justify” and “righteous” all through the Bible are actually are derived from the SAME Greek word group, though in English they appear totally different words.
****G1343: Righteousness; Greek: dikaiosune
G1344: Justify; Greek: dikaioo
****Do you see that? Someone reading it in Greek would not miss this. **The way Strong’s Numbering is done is an alphabetical listing of all the Greek words in the NT, as we see 1343 and 1344, these words appear in immediate sequence alphabetically. In English it would look like this if carried over directly:Romans 4: 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified/righted by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as justness/righteousness."
The way this comes out in English is a bit crude, that is why it is worded the way it is in normal translations. BUT the fact remains THAT is how you should be looking at these texts.

NOW comes the problem with the Protestant approach to James 2:23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
Do you see the problem? We have an IDENTICAL situation with Romans 4 of using dikaioo and dikaiosune in the SAME context (in both cases within two verses). James 2:23 is quoting Gen 15:6, and as seen with Paul this is a salvific dikaio being used, not a “vindicated before men” one. The Protestant has NO GROUNDS whatsoever to claim “justify” in James 2:24 must have a different meaning than Paul. To make such a claim would require an ideologically motivated abuse of the Greek and improper exegesis practice.

This evidence is utterly devastating to the Protestant position, and is an undeniable contradiction in their theology.


#2

Although I believe that the English is clear enough and that the exegesis can be done effectively without the Greek, there are those that remain unconvinced.

The Greek clearly nails it.

Good job.


#3

I talk to Protestants all the time about this. James no where ever says that he is talking about “being justified before men.” It simply isnt there. Protestants simply read that into the text. This is why I always tell the Protestant he is in grave danger. The Bible is practically screaming that we arent justified by faith alone, yet they still believe it. I truly believe(and I am saddened) that many of our seperated brethern will be in fact seperated from all the saints for this very reason. They refuse to accept the truths right in front of their faces. They are in grave danger of eternal damnation. Let’s pray and hope they accept God’s truth and come home to the pillar and foundation of truth the catholic church.


#4

If Abraham believed God about having offspring in Chapter 15, then why did he take Hagar to have children in Chapter 16 ?
Did he actually not believe, or was his faith actually weak?


#5

You must have posted this in the wrong thread.

This thread is about James 2:23.


#6

Sir, the flaw in your reasoning is that you assume that they even care what is Truth. They have decided what they want to believe, and will go to any length to wrap Scriptures to justify their own opinions. In so doing, they gather around them amature theologians with a Greek dictionary and assume they can derive some profound, self-serving exegesis from a single definition of a single word in a language they don’t even know.


#7

Actually, you haven’t nailed anything in the Greek.

[quote=James 2:24, NKJV]You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
[/quote]

There is a slight problem, namely, in the Greek, ‘faith’ (pistis) is a noun, but ‘only’ (monon) is an adverb. If ‘only’ was modifying ‘faith’, why would an adverb be used?

EDIT: The issue of ‘justified’ and ‘righteousness’ since, whether one is discussing justification by works or faith or before men or God, the words in the Greek are going to be the same.


#8

This is exactly what I meant. Instead of getting all technical and wrapped up around the nuances of a language that we don’t even know, why don’t we look to the context of the passage to aid us in our understanding?

James 2:23 was written in light of James 2:14-22. The Apostles weren’t lawyers. They were teachers. Why, then, do we treat the Scriptures as a Code of Law? Why don’t we read them as they were written and intended to be read: paragraph by paragraph and chapter by chapter, instead of verse by verse?

James 2:14 is absolutely talking about justification before God and the method of Salvation: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” The rest of the teaching follows from there, and should be viewed in light of that.

These lawyeresque nuances that we keep using to twist the Truth and miss the point are scandalous!

Guess what. There have been teams of scholarly linguists who have debated over the proper translation of each passage. I for one am not so arrogant as to think I know better than the ones I would turn to to teach me the language in the first place. After I check out a passage in three or four English versions and see that they have been independently translated in nearly identical manners, I tend to assume that they know what they are talking about better than me and a Greek dictionary.


#9

EDIT 2: Also, note that in Romans 4:2, it says that if Abraham were justified by his works, then he could boast before men, but not God. This certainly implies that one can be justified before men by their works (otherwise, why would the issue of boasting be mentioned?).

Also, runandsew brings up a very important point. If you read Genesis 15 and 16, one sees that, even after God had promised Abraham offspring through Sara, he (although guided by his wife) decided to impregnate Hagar, his wife’s handmaid.

By Catholic Dude’s argument, since Abraham’s works (impregnating Hagar since he did not believe Sara could have children) seem to show a lack of faith, then Abraham could not be said to be justified, yet both St. Paul and St. James affirm Abraham’s justification before God.

Unless one wants a contradiction (how can I be justified and yet not justified before God at the same time), the only reasonable answer is:

  1. Abraham was justified before God at the point of belief
  2. Abraham perhaps was not justified before men when his works did not go along with his beliefs (i.e. he impregnated Hagar to try and get a child)

God sees the mind, but men can only see one’s works.


#10

James 2:23 was written in light of James 2:14-22. The Apostles weren’t lawyers. They were teachers. Why, then, do we treat the Scriptures as a Code of Law? Why don’t we read them as they were written and intended to be read: paragraph by paragraph and chapter by chapter, instead of verse by verse?

In the original Greek, I do not believe there was any punctuation, paragraphs, or chapter/verse numbers (the same is true in the Hebrew Old Testament). All that was added later.

James 2:14 is absolutely talking about justification before God and the method of Salvation: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” The rest of the teaching follows from there, and should be viewed in light of that.

But the immediate context of that passage is not eternal Salvation, but temporal issues. Note that James uses the example of the person who is starving and approaches an individual and the individual gives him words of faith, but not food. We could say the starving man is not saved at this point (however, we are not talking about eternal salvation, but instead temporal issues) and, at least in the eyes of the starving man and any surrounding witnesses, the individual who did not give any food is not justified.

EDIT: It should be added that, in their own ways, both Jesus and St. Paul talk about the importance of being justified before me.


#11

You don’t seem to understand justification and sanctification. Abraham possessed free will and as such could always elect to reject God’s grace received through justification, just as we may do.

It is a surprising argument to see from an Anglican, since Anglicans are not known for belief in “Once Saved, Always Saved,” nor for believing that one lives a sinless life after baptism.


#12

You don’t seem to understand justification and sanctification. Abraham possessed free will and as such could always elect to reject God’s grace received through justification, just as we may do.

You’ve lost me here. What exactly are you getting at?


#13

A Simples, Practical Explanation of James 2:14-26 (note these that these are sermon notes)

Although I assume that there will be disagreements, I wish that both Roman Catholics and Protestants would stop taking the stance that there is no logic or evidence behind the other person’s point-of-view.

Such as:

Sir, the flaw in your reasoning is that you assume that they even care what is Truth.

This evidence is utterly devastating to the Protestant position, and is an undeniable contradiction in their theology.

And I admit Protestants do the same thing when arguing against Roman Catholic theologies.


#14

This logic does not follow in the Catholic view.

Abraham could quite easily be justified at one point in time, then later fail to use the grace God has given him to do God’s will. Repentance is then required for Abraham to return to the path of God and continue in sanctification.

Indeed, Abraham is by no means unique among the patriarchs in this regard. Was Moses justified when he failed to do as God commanded and thus was denied entry into the Promised Land? Since he was at the Transfiguration, we must surely presume so.

I have posted the Catechism on this subject any number of times. Rather than burden this thread with that and thus take us far astray from James 2:23, the subject of the thread, I will simply post the link to an online, searchable version of it for your reference:

scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

A keyword search on “justification” should be helpful in understanding why Catholic Dude and the rest of us see gaping holes in your logical formulation referenced above.


#15

Yet, that is exactly how we read it and treat it.

How can you say that the context is not eternal Salvation? That misses the entire point of the existence of the Apostles! James is clearly teaching that religious faith is useless without temporal manifestation. He is teaching about righteousness before God. What other righteousness is there? None! Especially not to an Apostle of Christ! He is teaching that there is no Salvation if you do not practice out your faith. “Jesus loves me so much that I can neglect the needy of the world and not lift a finger to do His work or be His servant, and still get to Heaven!” That doesn’t work. And that is James’s point.


#16

True, in whether it’s Greek or English the fact is Gen 15:6 is quoted in the immediate context of 2:24.

They do care what truth is, but their theology kicks in at passages like these and forces certain conclusions. I believe that if more of them looked at the Greek they would see less and less grounds to make the claim “justify” is being used differently.

No, it is saying IF works are the basis for justification, not they are. It does not mean that there is a justification before men and a justification before God. That would require two different definitions of justification within the same sentence, and that is the fallacy of equivocation.

Also, runandsew brings up a very important point. If you read Genesis 15 and 16, one sees that, even after God had promised Abraham offspring through Sara, he (although guided by his wife) decided to impregnate Hagar, his wife’s handmaid.

By Catholic Dude’s argument, since Abraham’s works (impregnating Hagar since he did not believe Sara could have children) seem to show a lack of faith, then Abraham could not be said to be justified, yet both St. Paul and St. James affirm Abraham’s justification before God.

Unless one wants a contradiction (how can I be justified and yet not justified before God at the same time), the only reasonable answer is:

  1. Abraham was justified before God at the point of belief
  2. Abraham perhaps was not justified before men when his works did not go along with his beliefs (i.e. he impregnated Hagar to try and get a child)

God sees the mind, but men can only see one’s works.

Those are not the only reasonable answers. Others could include Abraham lost his faith at that point and thus lost his justification and had to regain it. Or what he did was not a (serious) sin, and instead Abraham matured in his faith over the years (with some bumps along the way) and at major testing points like Gen 22:1 God could see Abraham’s obedience (Gen 22:9-11), further justifying Abraham.

James is a failure as a teacher if he wants to teach justification before men if he is quoting Abraham in Gen 22. In Gen 22 Abraham was deliberately sent AWAY from friends and family, the very people needed to verify if his faith was genuine! James should have picked Elijah or someone similar where the Prophet called down fire from Heaven in the midst of Jews and Pagans proving who’s God is true, that is an example of justification before men.


#17

I don’t claim that there is no logic – only flawed logic. I don’t claim that there is no evidence – only selective evidence taken to prove themselves right, and not to discern Truth.

I am a former Protestant. Very recently, in fact. I bounced from church to church and was constantly appalled for 15 years by the lack of intellectual integrity of the Protestant world. They use eisegesis so dazzling in its faux-erudition and claims to some gnostic notion of the special meaning of the Greek behind the translation that people can’t help but to be impressed! “Wow…he’s smart!” He’s dead wrong and twisting the Scriptures to support his own ideas, but he sure sounds smart! It was only by watching them in their schemes that I was so frustrated that I finally decided to open my mind to the possibility of Catholicism.


#18

How can you say that the context is not eternal Salvation? That misses the entire point of the existence of the Apostles! James is clearly teaching that religious faith is useless without temporal manifestation. He is teaching about righteousness before God. What other righteousness is there? None! Especially not to an Apostle of Christ! He is teaching that there is no Salvation if you do not practice out your faith. “Jesus loves me so much that I can neglect the needy of the world and not lift a finger to do His work or be His servant, and still get to Heaven!” That doesn’t work. And that is James’s point.

You’re being very subjective here and are arguing away from the text and from emotion. It is very difficult to respond to subjectivity because there is little that one can rebut.

No, it is saying IF works are the basis for justification, not they are. It does not mean that there is a justification before men and a justification before God. That would require two different definitions of justification within the same sentence, and that is the fallacy of equivocation.

I am not saying there are two definitions for justification. I am saying that one can be justified before different parties and how that justification occurs can be different. If one denies that one can be justified before God and also justified before men, then there is a contradiction.

After all, we see verses that point to justification by faith without works (Romans 4:2ff, Galatians 2:16, Acts 13:39, Romans 5:9 [yup…a works based justification, but the work of Christ, not man], Romans 3:28), but, as many people have pointed out, there are verses that point to justification either being of works only or faith and works.

Also, for an example of the word ‘justification’ that is in no way a Salvific sense before God, see Luke 7:35.

EDIT: I am not ignoring the rest of what you wrote. I will respond later.


#19

**I can’t say I know much about this topic, at least concerning apologetics.

I can say that Jesus instituted a Church that is defined as the universal sacrament of salvation - a Church in which the gates of hell shall not prevail against. This Church, which has been in existence for 2,000 years, has been leading people to God the correct way through the fullness of truth and sanctifcation. It would not only be absurd, but it would be contradictory to the Bible if the Church has erred in this most fragile of topics: salvation and justification before God.**

I’m only sure there is a Church out there that can lead people to salvation in the fullest way possible. Is Baptism just a symbol or is it necessary for salvation? Is Jesus present in the Eucharist? Am I going to heaven no matter what, just because I believe in Jesus? There’s a road out there with many twists and turns - many beliefs. Who is right? Did God leave us to our opinion, or did he leave us with an authoritive Church?

For much of the users on this forum, there is that Church - the Catholic Church. The biblical, historical, and the true Church of Jesus Christ: The Catholic Church.


#20

Abraham was justified on three occasions…perhaps that will solve your problem. If you would like a careful and clear presentation of that point I would refer you to my posts # 34, 35, 37, and 305 on the following thread:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=256967


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