Putting The Letter From James In Its Place: A Candid Assessment Of Its Continuing Theological Value -- By: Dan Lioy
Conspectus 21:1 (March 2016) p. 39
Putting The Letter From James In Its Place: A Candid Assessment Of Its Continuing Theological Value
This journal article undertakes a candid assessment of the continuing theological value of the letter from James. The incentive for doing so arises from the claim made by some within the Lutheran tradition that James and Paul either contradict or are at cross-purposes to one another. An additional motivation is connected with the assertion put forward by other Lutheran acolytes that in order to preserve the integrity of the gospel, James must be read through a Pauline lens. The major findings of this essay are threefold: (1) a careful and thoughtful reading of James challenges the notion that it either contradicts or undermines Paul’s teaching about justification by faith; (2) there remains value in taking the letter of James seriously in its own right and objectively evaluating its theological importance in that regard; and, (3) the epistle’s message of salvation is consistent with that found throughout the rest of the New Testament, including what
Conspectus 21:1 (March 2016) p. 40
Jesus taught (as recorded in the Gospels) and Paul wrote (as found in his letters).
As a permanent faculty member within the graduate programs division of the Institute of Lutheran Theology, I teach biblical theology courses. For instance, during the 2015 autumn semester, I taught a course dealing with the general or catholic (i.e. universal) epistles. I especially remember a two-week duration in which I had the students consider the theological argument and themes of the letter from James.
Of particular interest was the way in which James and Paul deal with the issue of justification by faith. Corresponding issues include the relationship between faith and works, as well as the dynamic tension between law and gospel. In one research paper assignment, I had the students wrestle with the meaning of such phrases as the ‘perfect law that gives freedom’2 (1:25; 2:12) and the ‘royal law’ (2:8). I especially wanted them to deliberate how the latter related to a Lutheran understanding of the gospel of grace.
Within the Lutheran tradition,3 there are some who think James and Paul either contradict or are at cross-purposes with one another.
Conspectus 21:1 (March 2016) p. 41
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