Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Introduction on Series in James 2:14ff (Post 1)

The Epistle of James is a beautifully constructed Christian letter written by an author with a pastor's heart. The writer is a skilled communicator. His style is both terse and graphic, employing a wide range of effective illustrations. As an indispensable element of the NT canon, the letter's profound substance renders invalid Luther's initial evaluation of the work as a "right strawy epistle." The Book of James is the voice of a great Christian leader whose grasp of the spiritual life and of the human nature is equal to any in the canon of NT Scripture. The modern church ignores James's immensely practical admonitions at its own peril.

Yet in the church community itself, battle lines have been drawn in a war of words fought to properly define the saving message of Christ. The stakes are high in this conflict. The eternal destinies of men and women hang in the balance of an accurate and rightly understood gospel proclamation. The solemn admonition of Paul:

Gal 1:6-9
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

The propogators of false 'gospels' rightly fall under the curse of God. For whether the broadcasting of their perverted message is sincere and unintentional or flagrant and malicious the results are the same: the innumerable casualties of the hearers.

Much of the current debate centers on the issues of faith and works. One side believes that the eternal salvation that Jesus offers is received Absolutely Free! through the intermediate agency of faith alone in Christ alone. The other position forcefully states that mere faith alone is insufficient to appropriate eternal life. Their contention is that what saves is a faith that is not alone apart from works.

I am not hesitant to explain how the opposing side elucidates their stance with sophistication. Although I admit that they claim the mantra "faith alone in Christ alone," the logical conclusions of their theology mitigate against against a simple understanding of that phrase.

I assert that, what I will henceforth call Lordship Salvation, requires the added contingent element of obedient works in order to ultimately gain salvation. How can they do this and still, with out much offending of conscience, retain some allegiance to "Sole Fide" and "Sole Christo"?

This they do in one or both of two ways:

1) The impregnation of the word "faith". I call this the "kitchen-sink" method. What those who espouse Lordship Salvation (from here on LS) do is to introduce into the semantic value of the word "faith" the very idea of works! One of the many dozens of quotes from John MacArthur, advocate of LS, should suffice : "A concept of faith that excludes obedience corrupts the message of salvation" (TGAtJ, 174).

Here we see that the radical redefinition of faith makes works necessary for salvation.

2) The exercise of faith necessarily results in perseverance in a life characterized by works until the end. If such a one fails to persevere, hell is his destiny. For a great discussion of this very theme, refer to here and here (posts on my blog).

An interesting quote by John Piper illustrates this very point: "...we must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith." (John Piper "TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism...", pg 25).

James 2:14ff has long been understood by those advocating LS to teach these things. This passage has been religiously used by them to silence and bludgeon their opposition.

I am proposing a series on James pertaining to his writing on the relationship to faith and works. This post serves as an introduction to this study.

James is not addressing the issue of the eternal destiny of his readership! Although this famous passage is often taken that way, this approach actually rips James's text out of the larger context in which it is found. It introduces into the text a concern which James did not have here at all, and ignores the fact of his intended readership's regeneration.

To get the subject wrong, of course, is to misunderstand James's entire text and to create a false theology about which James knew nothing at all. If this sounds too strong, it is not. The damage done to the Christian Church by an incorrect understanding of James 2:14ff has been incalculable. It also betrays superficial thought and study, not only of the passage itself, but also of the entire epistle.

7 Comments:

Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Interesting thoughts.

November 20, 2005 7:36 AM  
Blogger H K Flynn said...

Exactly right!

Misunderstanding James is sending Dispensational Churches off biblical tracks, and pushing individual Christians off of the 'mental turf' they need to grow in grace.

November 20, 2005 3:57 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

dp,

Thank you for visiting my blog! You and your comments are welcome any time!

HK,

thank you sister for your AMEN!

Antonio

November 20, 2005 5:25 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

Hi Antonio,
I like some of John McArthur's materials and my pastor quotes him all the time. Actually, my pastor is a good friend of his. I asked my p about the book "the gospel according to jesus" and he said that McArthur had a follow up book that was better, but I have never read it.

BTW, I also think it is very important to consider the intended purpose of the writer when reading. KEY.

Anyways, I look forward to reading your posts on this to consider a fresh perspective.

November 20, 2005 7:57 PM  
Blogger Antonio said...

Rose,

what "material" are you talking about? Just wondering.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I appreciate your support!

I agree about your the key issue of finding out the intended purpose of a writer. Such is the case with the gospel of John being the only explicit and expressly written book in the Bible with the purpose of evangelism (John 20:31).

I look forward to my serioes as well! It makes me study hard.

Your friend,

Antonio

November 20, 2005 8:47 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

I think this will be good. The battle against Lordship Salvation has been going on for longer than the MacArthur era. Louis Sperry Chafer's Vol Systematic Theology Volume III, from no later than 1948, which was part of required soteriology reading for Dallas Theological Seminary students through most of the 80's, has some of the most eloquent and understandable words against it in the chapter on the terms of salvation, I recall (I need to find a set and repurchase it).

December 21, 2006 5:37 AM  
Blogger ricky said...

I totally agree with you. It is time for LS people to sart reading the Bible in its context. It is also sad that many Reformed people are not consistent in their view. Undistinctly of the differences that we may have about predestination.... wouldn't it be consistent of many calvinists to say that "if God is sovereign in salvation He will preserve his sheep"? to think otherwise (LS) is to believe that, in the long run, salvation depends on man's works.

July 08, 2007 5:50 AM  

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