James, Soteriology, And Synergism -- By: Alexander Stewart

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 61:2 (NA 2010)
Article: James, Soteriology, And Synergism
Author: Alexander Stewart


James, Soteriology, And Synergism

Alexander Stewart

Summary

The history of interpretation of James has often focused on what James teaches concerning salvation in 2:14-26, and has neglected other soteriological language in the book. This study will begin by investigating the soteriological synergism of faith and works in James 2:14-26, but will proceed by examining several other ways James describes the necessary, human response to God’s saving initiative throughout the book: repentance and humility, love and mercy, and perseverance and patience.

1. Introduction

The history of interpretation of James has often focused on what James teaches concerning salvation in the ‘problematic’ text of 2:14-26 and has neglected other soteriological language in the book.1 This essay, an

exploration of James’s soteriology, will begin by investigating the synergism of faith and works in James 2:14-26, but will proceed from there to examine several other ways James describes the necessary human response to God’s saving initiative: repentance and humility, love and mercy, and perseverance and patience. Our argument is that any discussion of James’s soteriology must go beyond the general categories of ‘faith and works’ to include other factors that James discusses in relation to final salvation and judgement. The holistic human response envisioned by James primarily indicates persevering, wholehearted obedience and devotion to God.2

Despite the common negative use of the word ‘synergism’ in theological discussions, James positively uses the verb συνεργέω (work together with) to describe the relationship of faith and works in the reception of salvation in 2:22. Dan McCartney represents the concern of many when he argues, ‘This sounds at first like “synergism”, but again we must remember that James is talking not about how one obtains a relationship with God, or how a sinner may hope to receive a verdict of “not guilty” in the final judgement, but about the necessity of faith being completed by works.’3 Despite the concerns of many, James does not seem to draw such nuanced distinctions between ‘faith being completed by works’ and final salvation.

This study describes the positive presentation of synergism in the book of James in terms of a holistic response where the adjective ‘holistic’ indicates...

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