The Faith Of Demons: James 2:19 -- By: John F. Hart
JOTGES 8:2 (Autumn 95) p. 39
The Faith Of Demons: James 2:19
Professor of Bible
Moody Bible Institute
Informed Christians are aware of the ongoing debate in modern evangelicalism concerning the content of the Gospel and the nature of faith. In the heat of the discussion, it’s inevitable that the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone will not be allowed to rest without a hurried disclaimer: “True faith will inevitably evidence itself in a life of consistent good works.” An appeal is made to James 2 as final confirmation that genuine saving faith must produce consistent good works, otherwise such a “faith” is obviously spurious.1 While other passages are cited as confirming this theology, James 2 is given preeminence.2 This seems a little surprising when some scholars see the Epistle of James as practically oriented rather than theologically oriented. Burdick even feels
JOTGES 8:2 (Autumn 95) p. 40
that, with the exception of Philemon, James “is without doubt the least theological of all NT books.”3
A natural reading of the epistle fails to uncover hints that a genuine Christian faith will by its very nature produce ongoing good works. If it were not for the clear theological conflict with Pauline justification by faith, such verses as Jas 2:14 would simply be read as an exhortation to add works to one’s faith as a means of gaining salvation and not as a by-product of it.
The primary purpose of this article is to reexamine the issues in Jas 2:14–26 in light of the Gospel debate. We contend that the Jacobean passage does not establish the traditional Reformed theological position that genuine faith always results in consistent, visible works. Instead, it reflects James’s exhortations to his readers to add works to their (genuine) faith for progressive sanctification. Our intention is not to examine each verse sequentially nor to present a detailed interpretation. Instead, we will exegetically investigate key points of contention according to their relative importance to the debate. A lengthy theological discussion to define genuine faith will be avoided.4 Instead, we will supply the exegetical evidence that eliminates this verse as a prooftext used to define genuine faith.
A few o...
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