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#1 John Buckle

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Posted 20 October 2017 - 10:03 AM

File Name: Another View of Faith and Works in James 2
File Submitter: John Buckle
File Submitted: 20 Oct 2017
File Category: Books
Author: Dr. Robert N WIlkin
theWord Version: 3.x - 4.x
Suggest New Tag:: Faith, Works, James 2, Lordship Salvation

How one understands any given passage is dependent, at least in part, on his understanding of the book in which it is found. James 2:1426 is a prime example.
E. D. Hirsch, in his book Validity in Interpretation suggests that the interpreter of any literature must make a series of genre guesses. Correct guesses, those that rightly understand what the author is saying, are called intrinsic genres. Incorrect guesses are extrinsic genres.[1]
Hirsch illustrates that extrinsic genre guesses result in a wrong understanding of the author’s point with Donne’s poem, “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.” When his students misinterpreted the poem, he attempted to correct them. They were unmoved, however, because they felt the particulars of the poem fit their genre conception. They were unwilling to see that Hirsch’s genre guess better fit the particulars.[2]
It is the contention of this article that something similar has occurred in the exegesis of Jas 2:14-26. The genre conception most often given somewhat fits the particulars of the passage; thus proponents of that view see no need to consider any other view. However, there is good reason to believe that another genre understanding better fits the particulars of the passage.
James 2:14-26 has long been recognized as a crux passage. A recent article in Bibliotheca Sacra by C. Ryan Jenkins laid out four interpretations:[3]
View A. In this view James 2 shows that works are instrumental in a sinner’s justification before God. Those who propose this view assert that James was arguing that a sinner’s acceptance with God depends on both faith and works.
View B. James was dealing with physical deliverance from the devastating affects of sin. James was not addressing unbelievers concerning [eternal] salvation…James then was referring to justification/vindication only before others in a nonsalvific context.[4]
View C. James was stating that a Christian’s justification before God depends not on faith alone but, on faith and works and…he was directly refuting Pauline theology (as expressed in Romans 4 and Galatians 2–3). This view is not committed to the inerrancy of Scripture.
View D. James’s concern was to refute antinomianism by showing that one’s true conversion will be “justified” objectively by works… James sought to show that a person who possessed faith in Christ will be justified (i.e., vindicated as a true Christian) by his or her works, and that a mere profession of faith that is not vindicated or evidenced by works is not characteristic of genuine conversion.
We might call these views respectively, the Arminian view, the temporal deliverance view, the New Testament scholar view (since many scholars see no need to harmonize Scripture or uphold inerrancy), and the traditional view. The traditional view is the one defended by Jenkins in his article and it is the traditional Reformed understanding of James 2.
In this article I will attempt to show three things. First, the traditional understanding has some difficulties. Second, the temporal deliverance understanding has points in its favor. And third, the traditional Reformed understanding of the perseverance of the saints is not dependent on the traditional understanding of James 2.



[1] E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967), 88-89.

[2] Ibid., 73-74.


[3] C. Ryan Jenkins, “Faith and Works in Paul and James,” Bibliotheca Sacra (January–March 2002): 63-64.

[4] Italics his.


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