Posts Tagged Faith
I have spent enough time both in and out of the flock to know which Bible verses give believers fits, and James 2:14-26 probably tops the list:
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:14-26 (KJV)
I must confess, I’m not entirely sure I’ve heard a truly satisfactory reconciliation of this passage in James and Paul, specifically, “Therefore we conclude that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:28. I think the reason is because there is an attempted reconciliation where none is necessary.
Explanations usually begin with an acknowledgment of an apparent contradiction then employ circularity to explain why the two are not contradictory (e.g. the Bible cannot contradict itself, therefore there is no contradiction). Other explanations suggest James really means something other than what he is saying. These are equally problematic.
Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that all such explanations are necessarily aimed at an opposing logical fallacy, the straw man that the two are contradictory.
Paul clearly maintains that one is justified by faith, regardless of works. James clearly maintains that one is justified by faith and works. The assertion that these positions contradict each other is only valid if justification is a one-time event, and only a one-time event. If justification is both an event and a process, there is no contradiction.
Was Abraham justified by faith apart from works? Yes. Was Abraham also justified by his subsequent works? Yes.
To say that “faith without works is dead” means “faith alone is insufficient for justification” is simply a misunderstanding of the faith/works relationship. In James 2:22 he writes, “and by works was faith made perfect.” What came first? Faith, by which Abraham was initially made righteous. Then, works which worked to perfect that faith. Thus, Abraham was made righteous by his faith and continued to be made righteous by the perfection of his faith through works.
In Part 2, I will discuss the nature of works and whether any ol’ good works will do.
I was introduced to Veggie Tales a couple of weeks ago – my wife bought The Libster a DVD. And now that we’ve watched it a thousand times, I’m amazed by both the simplicity and profundity of something like the song “God is Bigger (than the Boogie Man)”.
I think this is a notion we give intellectual assent, but rarely employ in practice. We like the idea of having a big God, but we don’t like the responsibility of having a big God.
For example, I like the idea that God is bigger than the Boogie Man, but what happens when I meet the Boogie Man face-to-face (or, insert scary thing of your choice). I can think back to instances where I’ve cowered, forgot how big I thought God was, or simply realized that I didn’t believe what I thought I believed. Thankfully, there is grace for those situations, and, slowly but surely, I’m learning that God really is that big.
I’m not on the lookout for Boogie Men or Women, but I believe my God is bigger.
Following yesterday’s 5 Sources of Bad Theology, I thought I’d mention a few buzz words that we need to re-define. And not so much re-define as just take back. But here goes:
5. Moral/Morality – Despite efforts of organizations like the Moral Majority, the fight for “morality” is a lost cause. Why? Because it labels everything and everyone else “immoral,” or worse yet, “amoral.” And when you do, someone who was moral does something immoral and tries to explain why the immoral act was actually amoral and it’s a great big morality mess. Let the philosophers have it back, and let’s worry about changing hearts rather than changing behavior.
4. Born Again – I know Jesus said it, and I believe it is absolutely necessary, but we Christians should really evaluate whether we are indeed “born again.” Lest we be born again, we cannot enter the kingdom of God, and lest we be born of water and of the Spirit, we cannot. Going to Church doesn’t make you born again. I went to church for years completely ignorant of this, as do many, I’m sure.
3. Believer – I have many friends who are “believers,” but very few of us actually believe the same thing. “She’s a believer, but her husband is not…,” “Is he a believer?,” “Are her parent’s believers?” Sound familiar? “Believer” is not an item on a checklist to be checked off thereby making someone okay and/or acceptable. And what if your believer daughter is dating a believer boyfriend, but he “believes” at a church that belongs to a differently believing denomination. Do you know who, often times, most need ministering? Believers! Why? Because they don’t really believe, or they don’t know what they believe. Believe me!
2. Pray/Prayer/Praying – How often do you hear, “Pray for so-and-so…,” or “You can be in prayer for…,” or “How can we pray about…”? How often do those needs really get prayed for. I think this has become a very clever, religious way of venting, or worse, gossiping. I am a part of a study group that has determined not to let real prayer requests/needs go idly by. If you ask any of us for prayer, you’re getting it. Right then. Right there. Be it on the phone, in the grocery store, at the ball game, or wherever. Plus, I’m forgetful, so I have to do it right then or it won’t get done.
1. Evangelicals – Can I be perfectly honest? “Evangelicals” who evangelize everything and anything but the gospel really bug me. If you evangelize a political cause, you are political, not evangelical. If you evangelize a political cause and mask it as a religious one, you are clever, but still political. If you evanglize yourself (other than to promote your own little Bible blog), you should be ex-communicated. Why the “Moral Born Again Believers for Life” should take a stance on interstate highway funding is beyond me. But, it does suggest that they might be mildly more political than evangelical. So, let’s leave the “evangelical” stuff to those who actually preach the gospel, shall we?.
I’ve always been taught that when you die you go to heaven (if you’re a Christian, of course). However, I’ve always been a little ambivalent about the immediacy of that trip. I’ve never been entirely persuaded that I, or any of us, will end up in heaven immediately upon death, without a little stop over in “paradise,” “Abraham’s bosom,” or some other equally-cool name for the heavenly holding tank. But, I must admit, I’m not entirely sure.
Well, yesterday during our Revelation Bible study (specifically 1:17-18), this very question was raised (and not by me), as were a few eyebrows, and more than a few hairs on the back of necks. It didn’t generate an argument, but it did generate a great discussion (a perfect example of brothers and sisters disagreeing without becoming disagreeable). One which will no doubt continue in the hallway of our church, over coffee and lunches, and on the blogs of our church members (here, here, and of course, here at BOB).
So, I ask you, my blogging brethren, where do we go immediately upon death (if anywhere)?
We finally had the fourth week of actual study last night where we covered Hebrews chapter 6, sort of. We actually made it through the first six verses.
I knew once we got into this part of Hebrews, we would be able to cover less ground in our 1.5 hr meeting. Chapter 6 is challenging. It’s not necessarily the most intellectually challenging part of Hebrews, but it is definitely one of the most spiritually challenging. I don’t know many Christians who can read Hebrews chapter 6 and honestly say they are partakers of the “solid food” referenced in chapter 5, and not “milk.”
Do you wonder whether you are? Consider what the author is saying in the first two verses:
1 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. Hebrews 6:1-2 (NASB)
Has the church (collectively) left the “elementary teaching about the Christ”? Hardly. We discussed each item listed individually. “Repentance from dead works,” still plagues the church – we battle with legalism continually, and repentance. There is simply no earning your way into heaven, yet we try our best to measure our salvation by work-related measurements.
How about “washings,” or baptisms. There is still plenty of in-fighting about when, where, who, how, and how often to baptize. Is there one baptism, two, three, or multiple? The author clearly intends to communicate multiple, so which is he or she meaning? We collectively determined the potential for three: (1) water baptism, (2) the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and (3) the baptism by fire. I, personally, had never made the distinction between (2) and (3) until after our discussion last night, but I do now. We also concluded that the list might not be exhaustive, but those were the three we were able to identify.
And “the laying on of hands,” how well is the church coping with that one? Do we? Don’t we? Why do we? Why don’t we? We determined four reasons for doing so still today: (1) healing, (2) commissioning or sending out, (3) impartation, and (4) baptism in the Holy Spirit. Not that the laying on of hands is necessary for each, or that the list is exhaustive, but these are certainly reasons for doing so.
Oh yeah, “and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.” As sophisticated as we have become in the Western church, we are regressing in matters of the Spirit. We are able to get the word out better than we ever have, but the word has lost its power. It’s no wonder there’s a problem with “faith toward God.”
I say only half jokingly, fortunate for us that so few of us “have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come“ otherwise we would be in danger of the condemnation contained in verses 5 and 6.
Hopefully we will finish chapter 6 next week and move into chapter 7.
Thanks to my blogging buddy Jeff (Scripture Zealot) for alerting us to Mel Lawrenz’ new book I want to Believe, and how bloggers and media types can obtain a free review copy thereof.
My review copy arrived very promptly today (in about a week).
It seems like it will be an interesting read, and it is now on my ever-increasing-to-do list.
I have been contemplating the nature of Christian denominationalism, and it seems to me there are better ways to handle disagreements over doctrine and theology.
Before jumping to label someone a “heretic,” let us remember that even the fathers of the faith had disagreements over fundamental issues. Peter and Paul almost came to blows (probably more than once). How did they deal with this stuff?
They got together at a little meeting we now call the Jerusalem Council and decided issues that effect the Gentile church still today. Not only are the results of that meeting memorialized in scripture, so is the fight.
So, it’s okay to fight over doctrine, theology, how to worship, alcohol or juice, or the color of the carpeting, but we should come together, reach an acceptable resolution, and proceed accordingly.
I think God would honor the results.
One of my best friends in the whole wide world (who happens to be an atheist/agnostic – we even debate the appropriate tag for him) asked me late last week about the relevance of Judges 19. He suggested that it adds nothing of any significance to the scripture, historical record, or served no sociological/ethical purpose or lesson that needed to be learned.
I quickly reread Judges 19 while he paced in my office, and I then began explaining the symbolism of the coming dispersion as the result of Israel playing the harlot, yada, yada, yada. I was fairly sure I was correct in my on-the-fly interpretation, but I asked for time to study it out more.
Later that evening, I came across a reference to Hosea 9:9, “They have sunk deep into corruption as in the days of Gibeah.” So, I scimmed Hosea and was confident it was key understanding Judges 19. I texted him back, “You need to read Hosea to fully understand Judges 19.”
The next morning, during a phone call about other business, he mentioned to me that he had read Hosea, but that he was less interested in understanding a perceived internal explanation, and, rather, more interested in understanding its cultural and/or sociological significance and cross-cultural applications.
I explained the significance is in the repeating of history, from the individual account, to how it is replayed in the history of Israel, and, ultimately, to how it will play out spiritually in the Church at large.
This is obviously an abbreviated version of what has transpired over several days, but it has been a while since my friend and I have discussed anything Biblical so I’m excited. At the very least, he’s reading the Bible, and I firmly believe:
…the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
I’m also convinced that the book of Habbakuk is important to the discussion, although I haven’t quite put my finger on the exact connection yet. I know Judges 19 is tough, and I have not been completely satisfied with any other teachings I have come across on the subject. Do any of you have any thoughts on the matter?
I want to credit our church for fashioning ministries around the members rather than trying to fashion the members around the ministries.
For example, our church has started a prophetic art ministry and a writers’ circle. These ministries developed around members who were interested in these artistic media. And when the church goes out and meets the needs of the people rather than having the people meet the needs of the church, good things happen.
Our writers’ circle recently published a month-long daily devotional entitled Fresh Focus, which the church gave as a Christmas gift to the church members. I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute a few of the devotionals. Altogether, I believe there were eight church members who contributed. The project was truly something to be proud of.
If you or anyone you know is a reader of daily devotionals, I encourage you to check out the online version of Fresh Focus. Each daily devotional contains a scripture verse and short story/testimonial which are meant to encourage you in your walk with Jesus.
We conclude Fresh Focus by encouraging the reader to pass along the book to someone who needs a fresh encounter with the Lord, and I would appreciate it very much if you would do the same.
It’s a compelling question, and one that has stuck with me for about a month now. I meant to tackle this question three weeks ago, but I have been swamped lately, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Here was my initial reaction to his post (copied directly from the comment I left):