Justification by works and not by faith alone: James bluntly says it

My title did not suggest a question, but I am wondering if the following makes sense. Please tell me if there are errors to it, or what a non-Catholic Christian would say.

James 2 says:

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.

[INDENT][INDENT]Often non-Catholics will say that this passage is not talking about justification before God; rather it is a kind of justification before man. Good works proceed from a true faith as good fruit.

However, does not the simple statement in verse 24 - **You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone - **manifestly express that this is justification before God? In this way: Faith is not something, in itself, expressed to man. Faith is directly connected to God. “We are not justified [before God] …by faith alone.” Works are actions that may demonstrate to others that we are justified before God. But faith cannot demonstrate anything in this regard.

Therefore, since faith cannot be in reference to justification before man, then it follows that works is not being treated this way here, either.

There are other arguments, too, of course. Such as how can Abraham’s sacrifice be a justification before men when the whole story of that was about Abraham’s obedience to God. (Unless one wants to make the argument that this sacrifice was meant to show the single other character* Isaac* that Abraham was truly right before God. I don’t think that’s very strong.)

Anyway, do you think that one sentence in verse 24 is enough to highlight that yes, indeed, James is speaking of justification just like Paul: Justification before God, and we are justified not only justified by faith but also by our good works.[/INDENT][/INDENT]

I have read that Martin Luther wanted to take James out of the canon of Scripture, calling it an ‘epistle of straw’.

I often hear this too, probably because he thought it contradicted his doctrine and what he thought Paul was saying.

However, others have attempted to reconcile James with Protestant doctrine by suggesting things as mentioned above.

I agree with your argument, though it might be the rare Protestant who agrees.

James is not talking about initial justification.

Regarding Faith and Works in St. Paul

From Pope Benedict XVI

(Two audiences from the Year of St. Paul)

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081119_en.html

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081126_en.html (begins a bit down)

That is the Catholic perspective of course. Most Protestants don’t think of justification as a process, though. Naturally, many non-Catholics do not conceive this passage talking about justification before God.

Well, you read wrong. Here is his commentary on James:

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, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow.
In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24). It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6. Although it would be possible to “save” the epistle by a gloss giving a correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, it is impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses’ words in Genesis 15 (which speaks not of Abraham’s works but of his faith, just as Paul makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham’s works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

In the second place its purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ. He names Christ several times; however he teaches nothing about him, but only speaks of general faith in God. Now it is the office of a true apostle to preach of the Passion and resurrection and office of Christ, and to lay the foundation for faith in him, as Christ himself says in John 15:27], “You shall bear witness to me.? All the genuine sacred books agree in this, that all of them preach and inculcate [treiben] Christ. And that is the true test by which to judge all books, when we see whether or not they inculcate Christ. For all the Scriptures show us Christ, Romans 3:21]; and St. Paul will know nothing but Christ, I Corinthians 2:2]. Whatever does not teach Christ is not yet apostolic, even though St. Peter or St. Paul does the teaching. Again, whatever preaches Christ would be apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod were doing it.” (ibid).

But this James does nothing more than drive to the law and its works. Besides, he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper. Or it may perhaps have been written by someone on the basis of his preaching. He calls the law a “law of liberty” [1:25], though Paul calls it a law of slavery, of wrath, of death, and of sin.

Moreover he cites the sayings of St. Peter [in 5:20]; Love covers a multitude of sins" [1 Pet. 4:8], and again [in 4:10], “Humble yourselves under he had of God” [1 Pet. 5:6] also the saying of St. Paul in Galatians 5:17], “The Spirit lusteth against envy.” And yet, in point of time, St. James was put to death by Herod [Acts 12:2] in Jerusalem, before St. Peter. So it seems that [this author] came long after St. Peter and St. Paul.

In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task in spirit, thought, and words. He mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture. He tries to accomplish by harping on the law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love. Therefore I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. Therefore I will not have him in my Bible to be numbered among the true chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him. One man is no man in worldly things; how then, should this single man alone avail against Paul and all Scripture.

Concerning the epistle of St. Jude, no one can deny that it is an extract or copy of St. Peter’s second epistle, so very like it are all the words. He also speaks of the apostles like a disciple who comes long after them [Jude 17] and cites sayings and incidents that are found nowhere else in the Scriptures [Jude 9, 14]. This moved the ancient Fathers to exclude this epistle from the main body of the Scriptures. Moreover the Apostle Jude did not go to Greek-speaking lands, but to Persia, as it is said, so that he did not write Greek. Therefore, although I value this book, it is an epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which are supposed to lay the foundations of faith.

Jon

I wonder is your interpretation agrees with this:
from the Vatican website
vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/lutheran-fed-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_2013_dal-conflitto-alla-comunione_en.html

"128.** Since faith is understood not only as affirmative knowledge, but also as the trust of the heart that bases itself on the Word of God,** it can further be said jointly: “Justification takes place ‘by grace alone’ (JD nos 15 and 16), by faith alone; the person is justified ‘apart from works’ (Rom 3:28, cf. JD no. 25)” (JDDJ, Annex 2C).(44) "

or this?

from the Vatican website
vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_31101999_cath-luth-joint-declaration_en.html
JOINT DECLARATION
ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION

by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church
vatican.va/roman_curia/po…ration_en.html

“25.We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God’s gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him. Such a faith is active in love and thus the Christian cannot and should not remain without works.**
But whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it. **”

read that again:

** But whatever** in the justified
** precedes
or
follows** the free gift of faith
** is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.**

Do you agree with this from a few years ago?

By defining “faith” as “identification with Christ expressed in love for God and neighbor,” **Pope Benedict **qualified his statement, noting that the Apostle Paul had written about such faith in his letters, especially the one to the Philippians.

According to this report, **Benedict affirmed that Luther had correctly translated Paul’s words as ‘justified by faith alone’ – the well known sola fide. **

. "Yet, said the Pope, it was indeed biblical to say, as did Luther, that it was the faith of a Christian, not his works that saved him."

According to Fountain, the Pope highlighted the fact that prior to his Damascus Road conversion, Paul had strictly adhered to all the Pharisaical laws and rules. **However, after meeting the Lord Jesus in his vision, Paul began leading a lifestyle of faith alone. **
blogs.cbn.com/ChurchWatch/archive/2009/02/06/pope-benedict-xvi-luther-was-right.aspx

Yes, the key that resolves this supposed contradiction is that Paul never opposes works being done, whether obedience of the law or works prepared for us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:10) so long as it’s consistent with Gal 5:6:** “Nothing counts except faith working through love”**, and “…love fulfills the law” (Rom 13:8) Neither works nor the Law, by themselves, performed for the sake of earning salvation or proving our justification, can actually justify us. Neither can faith alone.

Because Paul, himself, tells us in 1Cor13 that he is nothing if he does not have love, even if he has a ‘faith that can move mountains’. Love acts-works-by its nature. And this is the right and proper New Covenant means to becoming just; this is what faith is meant to lead to; this is how it justifies us, by transforming us into the image of God Who is love.(John 15). The link between faith and good works, IOW, is love. Without it, faith is worthless in the end. As Augustine put it, “Without love faith can indeed exist, but avails nothing”.

It begins with grace, which calls us to faith, which calls us to communion with God, Who calls us to love. No piece of the puzzle can be left out.

Paul and James were never at odds, that’s a fiction that has been sold, ironically, for self justification. However Rom 2:13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” , eliminates the justification before God vs man, the single justification vs initial and final justification, works as dirty rags etc.

None of the arguments can stand up to the above verse imho.

Peace and God bless
Nicene

Nooo… I do not disagree with this. The language is different. The church is comfortable saying faith alone justifies in a very nuanced way - when we understand that faith as existing with a confidence and love of God. But James is not speaking of this and neither is the usual Catholic who encounters Protestant definitions of faith alone. James is speaking of an intellectual assent, the virtue of faith that is distinct from hope and love. This is obvious from his statement that “even demons believe.”

Therefore in this context, and in my post, I am addressing in what sense works justify. James plainly says they do. I think his statement aligns with traditional and current Catholic doctrine that says good words done through and because of God’s grace increase our justification; that is, we grow in relationship to God whom first gave us a “partaking of the divine nature” (as Peter says) through our initial conversion, faith, and baptism.

Good works are not merely fruits of justification. They are this. But they are also a cause for our further justification and sanctification. For justification is not only a legal declaration: it is a real transformation and indwelling of God’s life in us.

James 2:24

We are justified by works and not by faith alone.

very bluntly it says:

"128. Since faith is understood not only as affirmative knowledge, but also as the trust of the heart that bases itself on the Word of God, it can further be said jointly: “Justification takes place ‘by grace alone’ (JD nos 15 and 16), by faith alone; the person is justified ‘apart from works’ (Rom 3:28, cf. JD no. 25)” (JDDJ, Annex 2C).(44) "

and
But whatever in the justified **precedes or follows **the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it. "

Make sure to take the time to read Pope Benedict XVI here.

I’m appalled at the things that are said about this. Jesus, Paul, James and John, and the whole Bible, are all of a piece, from beginning to end. (I don’t pretend to follow Benedict’s arguments. He is a Bavarian.)

Not our previous works qualify us to access God, but His grace and our faith.

From then on as we walk, we should care for the concretes of our fellow believer, to show God, each other and our own consciences that we are bearing fruit of that new life.

Of course that does not equate to the Pharisaical, that’s blatant.

Jesus is going to ask us questions. The gardener was going to cut down the tree after three or four years.

Tell Jerusalem that her warfare is ended (it was time to trade). Feed the widows and the orphans in your midst - in more ways than one.

The main work of Christians is interceding. Work. Christians.

no Sola Fide Protestant believes that intellectual assent justifies

We all would do well to read this, and I truly think he had Luther’s commentary on Galatians 5:6in mind.

 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.

Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith. Thus the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ on all sides. He declares on the one hand, “In Christ Jesus circumcision availeth nothing,” i.e., works avail nothing, but faith alone, and that without any merit whatever, avails before God. On the other hand, the Apostle declares that without fruits faith serves no purpose. To think, “If faith justifies without works, let us work nothing,” is to despise the grace of God. Idle faith is not justifying faith. In this terse manner Paul presents the whole life of a Christian. Inwardly it consists in faith towards God, outwardly in love towards our fellow-men.

Jon

The two audiences are good - it was his earlier piece that had me.

For me, the part of this scripture that nails it down is what I have highlighted instead below in read ( I copied your text from the question and highlighted my part).

*18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. *

The red text makes it clear to me that the author intends to communicate that faith by itself is barren and that one must have both the thought and action. And as another has said, Love is the source of both of these. The fact that this refers to Abraham means it is in reference to justification before God.

If you love someone, you will have faith that things will go well for them. Also you will do things to help them. Love is both a source of motivation, but also of action. There is no great controversy here at all. Paul is in agreement with this notion. They say the same thing.

I have seen protestant commentaries try to find some way to hold on to faith alone. But it is clearly un-biblical. I have never read a convincing argument.

It is interesting to look into WHY Luther wanted to have faith alone. Perhaps another topic altogether though.

I have read descriptions of how Luther’s home lacked love. So he was actually in search of love but appears to have never experienced it. His self loathing lead him to reject any of his own works as inherently sinful. It appears he was depressed by today’s understanding. catholic.com/encyclopedia/martin-luther

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.