Heres what he wrote, how do I respond?
(uncle wrote:) Thanks for the verses. I have a few thoughts I would like to share, but first I would like to say that I think it’s kind of dangerous to be pulling out single verses without looking at the broader message of both the book they are from as well as the bible as a whole and even more dangerous to take someone else’s word for it that the verses really mean what they claim them to mean. It’s pretty easy to form a premise and then go rummaging through the bible to find verses that support that premise be it good or bad. Let’s look at an example.
Compare James 2:24 with Romans 3:28. James says: You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. Romans says: For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law. It seems that these two verses are in opposition to each other. If we believe the bible is the inerrant word of God, then the problem is not with the verses, but rather with how we are reading them. The James verse is addressing the folks who would take Christianity as a license to sin. This idea that “Hey I’m a Christian, I’m under grace, I’m forgiven. I’m not under the old law anymore, I’ll live anyway I want to.” James is saying if you are a Christian then there should be evidence to support that claim. If my stated interpretation of the James verse were not so, then how could the thief on the cross have gone to heaven that day as Christ said he would? He had no ‘works’ to be justified by and no chance of doing any ‘works’ either. Further, just before Christ died he said “it is finished”. What is finished? The payment for our sin debt. He didn’t say It will be finished as soon as people start doing good works. Here’s a little analogy. If I say I’m a guitar player, you might say, “Well, let’s hear you play something.” As I begin to play you might say, “Hey, I’m hearing music, yes, this proves you are a guitar player.” However, the fact that I’m playing for you isn’t what makes me a player, it’s just the proof that I am. The reason I am a player is because of the work I have done in the form of practice. Going back to our Christian model, if I claim that I’m a Christian and do ‘good works’ the works would confirm that claim. However, my salvation isn’t because of my works it’s because of Christ’s work. Do you see the difference?
Here’s something else. Christ said: “I am the resurrection and the life he who believes in me will never die.” If we read this verse at face value it says that anyone who believes in Jesus will never die. Just what does ‘believe’ mean? Does it mean just believe he existed or does it mean believe that he is God in the flesh? What does ‘never die’ mean? It couldn’t mean ‘never’ die because I’ve known Christians who have died. When we get to the book of Revelation we find there is a second death, could it be that this is what Christ was referring to? Just another example of how we really need to dig deep into scripture and really do our own thinking.