Paul’s “Faith” and James’ “Faith Alone”

I’ve been studying in James a little bit today. I pulled out Doug Moo’s commentary on the book (in the PNTC series) to help me with it. Here is a quote from Moo in respect to v. 24 (a topic that came up in an earlier post here):

A more profitable approach is to compare the word “faith” in Paul with the phrase “faith alone” in James. The addition of “alone” shows clearly that James refers to the bogus faith that he has been attacking throughout this paragraph; the faith that a person “claims” to have (v. 14); a faith that is, in fact, “dead” (vv. 17 and 26) and “useless” (v. 20). This faith is by no means what Paul means by faith. He teaches that faith is a dynamic, powerful force, through which the believer is intimately united with Christ, his Lord. And since faith is in a Lord, the need for obedience to follow from faith is part of the meaning of the word for Paul. He can therefore speak of “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5) and say that it is “faith working through love” that matters in Christ (Gal. 5:6). This is exactly the concept of faith that James is propagating in this paragraph. Once we understand “faith alone,” then, as a neat summary of the bogus faith that James is criticizing, we can find no reason to expect that Paul would have any quarrel with the claim that “faith alone” does not justify.  [141]

I love the book of James. I had a NT preaching class where we just dealt with this book for an entire semester and I learned a ton. This is just one topic we had to deal with as we worked through the book. Although, when you work through the book one section at a time you can more easily recognize that this so-called problem is not so incompatible with Paul. Faith alone, as Moo says, “shows clearly that James refers to the bogus faith that he has been attacking throughout the paragraph.”



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