“Saved by Faith [Alone]” in Paul Versus “Not Saved by Faith Alone” in James -- By: Robert H. Stein

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:3 (Fall 2000)
Article: “Saved by Faith [Alone]” in Paul Versus “Not Saved by Faith Alone” in James
Author: Robert H. Stein


“Saved by Faith [Alone]” in Paul Versus
“Not Saved by Faith Alone” in James

Robert H. Stein

Robert Stein is the Mildred and Ernest Hogan Professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Stein has a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, taught at Bethel College and Bethel Theological Seminary from 1969–1997, and has served as a Professor at Southern since 1997. He is a renowned scholar and has written numerous books, articles, and book reviews. His most recent book is Jesus the Messiah and a revision of The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings has also been published recently.

Introduction

In contrast to Romans 3:28 where Paul states, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law,” James writes in 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”1 As a result, the relationship between faith, works, and justification in the teachings of Paul and James have been much debated.

On the one hand, there are those scholars who argue that the teaching and theology of Paul and James are contradictory and incapable of harmonization. No doubt the most famous of these is Martin Luther, who referred to James as a “right strawy epistle”2 and in his Preface to the book states that James

.. . 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 [2:21]; though in Romans 4 [:2–22] St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son.…3

More recent scholars give a similar assessment. “What we encounter [between Paul and James] is not simply a tension but an antithesis.…There are no grounds for blurring the fact that James 2:14ff. visibly appears to have been written intentionally in opposition to Paul’s statement.”4 J. T. Sanders argues that James “misunderstands Paul,” “opposes the writings of Paul,” and “rejects Pauline tradition.”5 Ropes writes that “James shows no comprehension of what ...

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