An Exegesis of James 2 in Relation to Paul

One of the major points of contention between the Reformed and the Romanists was the exegesis of Romans 2. There are three terms that must be examined by means of questions: Do Paul and James use the term “justify” in the same sense? Do they use “faith” in the same sense? Do they use the term “works” in the same sense? We will get at this question in the course of the exegesis.

The passage begins in verse 14 with a control statement: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” This controls the entirety of the following passage all th way up through verse 26. Right away, we see that the question for James is about the genuineness of faith. In other words, if one were reading this passage aloud, one should emphasize the word “says” in the first sentence. Someone says he has faith. The idea then is to test the genuineness of the claim. Where is the evidence of the genuine faith? So, right from the get-go, we are looking for evidence. This makes the case for an evidentiary use of the term “justify” strong already. It will get stronger as we go along.

James then uses two test cases of real life. A person saying “go in peace, be warmed and filled,” but not doing anything about the brother or sister’s needs, is like a person saying “I have justifying faith,” but no works are forthcoming. The parallel is exact.

Verse 17 is then crucial, especially as we compare James to Paul. Set these two statements against each other: 1. We are justified by faith alone apart from works; 2. We are not justified by faith alone apart from works. If each term in these two sentences means the same thing (justified, faith, works), then we have a contradiction. So, some term has to mean something different, if we hold to the idea that God ultimately wrote the Bible, and that God is not irrational. Luther’s solution was a bit drastic: deny the authority of James in the Bible. We as Reformed folk have come to the conclusion that there is a better way. John Owen says that the term “works” means the same thing in Paul and James, but that “faith” and “justify” do not mean the same thing (volume 5, pg. 387). (Side note: John Owen’s treatment of the passage in volume 5, pp. 384-400 is not only masterful, but extremely representative of Reformed thought on the relationship of James and Paul).  The kind of faith that James here condemns is that “dead faith” (verse 17), not the faith that is without works in the Pauline sense of justifying. As Owen says repeatedly, James is not answering the question of how someone becomes right with God. He is answering the question, “how do we tell if our faith is genuine or not?” Again, this is based on verse 14. Evidence, evidence, evidence.

Verse 18 is quite a puzzle, really, since we would think that the first part of the verse ought to be reversed thusly: “But someone will say, “I have faith, you have works.” But, of course, that is not what the passage says. I think that Davids (following Dibelius and others) is correct when he says that the point here is not someone being an adversary, but rather someone claiming that faith can exist apart from works, separately. So James’ answer obviously holds faith and works together in the Christian life.

The real crux of the passage occurs in verses 20-24. Is Abraham made right before God because of his works? By no means. The justification of Genesis 15:6 happened about thirty years before the Aqedah, as Jews call Genesis 22, the binding of Isaac. He was justified by faith alone in Genesis 15:6, as Paul uses this very verse in Romans 4:3. Well, that’s just peachy. Paul uses the verse to prove that Abraham was not justified by works, and James uses it to prove that he was justified by works! Or does he? What is going on here is often missed by commentators. I believe that the correct explanation is that the Aqedah demonstrated that Genesis 15:6 was true. James does not quote Genesis 15:6 to prove that Abraham was justified by works in the Pauline sense. He uses it to prove that Abraham was both said to have faith (Genesis 15:6), and demonstrated to have true faith (Genesis 22). Genesis 22 fulfilled the sense of Genesis 15:6. That is, Genesis 22 proved that Genesis 15:6 was true. Just as gold is tested by going through trial, so also Abraham’s faith was tested going through the Aqedah. The reality is that Paul talks about justification by faith, and James is talking about justification of faith. Justification is something different in Paul and James. With Paul, it means our standing before God. With James, it means the testing of our faith’s genuineness (again, remember the all-controlling verse 14). They do not contradict. And they do not mean the same thing by the term “justify.”

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73 Comments

  1. squarles42 said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Lane, do you see any connection between James 2 these passages?

    Galations 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”

    1 corinthains 13:2: And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

  2. Wes White said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    On Galatians 5:6, Shepherd claims that Martin Luther did not teach that this was referring to justification. Shepherd says, “Calvin, however, did think the verse was talking about justification, and Calvin was right.”

    Calvin on Calvin (from his comments on Gal. 5:6): “When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or fo works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part fo the praise fo it to love.”

    Check it out for yourself.

  3. Craig Phelps said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Lane, I really appreciate your patience in this whole matter and encourage you to continue rejoicing in the truth of the gospel. This James 2 exposition has a great deal of merit.
    Squarles42, knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth. Even knowledge about what someone else should be doing. What should be done when those you really care about openly and resolutely maintain errors that destroy those who take them to heart?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    That’s page 153 of his commentary, for the reference. Galatians 5:6 is not talking about justification before God.

    Neither is 1 Corinthians 13:2. I have already exposited James as saying that a true faith will evidence itself by works. That is all that Galatians 5:6 is saying, and that is what 1 Cor 13:2 is saying. Neither passage speaks of how we are made right with God.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks very much for your encouragement, Craig. Was your use of the term “merit” a pun intended?

  6. Craig Phelps said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Yes. Lame as it is, yes.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    By the way, any merit it has it due entirely to the fact that it is profoundly unoriginal. Basically, I summarized John Owen (and Buchanan, and Edwards, and Pemble, and Hodge, and Calvin, etc.).

  8. Craig Phelps said,

    March 30, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    On the Luther commentary, I would encourage you to pay special regard to the way he explains what faith is and how it relates to love and works. This is the hinge of the whole thingamajig.

  9. squarles42 said,

    March 30, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    Lane, what does James mean when he uses the word “justified” in v24? Does he mean the same thing as Paul there?

  10. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Absolutely not the same thing as Paul. As I have argued in the post, James is answering the question of whether or not a person’s faith is genuine. That is the sense of “justify” in James. It is an evidentiary sense of the word. Paul means to say something different, namely, that a person is made right with God (declarative) on the basis of faith alone, without works.

  11. John said,

    March 30, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    Lane writes: “Galatians 5:6 is not talking about justification before God.”

    The WCF, however, cites Galatians 5:6 as one of the supports for this statement in the chapter on justification: “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love” (11.2).

    Of course, the other supporting text cited is James 2:17.

    It would appear, then, that the Westminster divines thought Galatians 5 and James 2 were both speaking about justifying faith.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    But it is not faith *as justifying* at which these texts are used to support the point. Rather, it is as faith is not alone *after* justification. Note that these proof-texts are not cited after “alone instrument of justification,” but after “worketh by love.” In other words, chapter 11 is making a crystal clear distinction between faith as the alone instrument in justification, on the one hand, and on the other hand, faith that has justified (instrumentally) not being alone, but being accompanied with all other saving graces. The point here is vital: it is *not* as faith is accompanied, living, active, or anything else, that it is justifying faith. It is faith in its receptive capacity that is justifying. FV and NPP guys blur this distinction to non-existence.

  13. Craig Phelps said,

    March 30, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Rev. Barach, this is the way it goes:
    “Therefore faith always justifies and makes alive; yet it does not remain alone, that is idle. Not that it does not remain alone on its own level and in its own function, for it always justifies alone. But it is incarnate and becomes man; that is it neither remains idle or without love. Thus Christ, according to His divinity is a divine and eternal essence or nature, without beginning; but Hos humanity is a nature created in time. These two natures in Christ are not confused or mixed, and the properties of each must be clearly understood,. It is characteristic of the humanity to have a beginning in time, but it is characteristic of the divinity to be eternal and without a beginning. Nevertheless, these two are combined(united CP), and the divinity is incorporated into the humanity with a beginning. Just as I am obliged to distinguish between the humanity and the divinity, and to say:”The humanity is not the divinity, and yet the man is God,” so I make a distinction here and say:”The Law is not faith, and yet faith does works. Faith and works are in agreement concretely or compositely, and yet each has its own nature and proper function.” Thus you have the reason why Paul puts such stress on this passage, namely, in order to distinguish faith plainly from love. Therefore…”( I would quote more but Luther uses language that would go beyond our hearing in this fragile and happy age.) He continues…” Although works follow faith, yet faith should not be works, and works should not be faith, lest they be confused;”
    “Love is not of faith…Faith is something different, namely, that which clings to the promise.”
    Luther’s Works, Vol. 26, Lectures on Galatians, 271-273, Concordia, St. Louis)

  14. John said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Lane, your statement in # 12 needs proof. You say that WCF 11.2 is not speaking of faith as justifying but rather of faith *after* justification. But that isn’t evident from the text of the WCF itself.

    True, the WCF says “in the person justified,” but I take that to mean “in the person being justified” not “in the person who has been justified at some point in the past.”

    After all, who ever heard of anyone who had faith but did not have love? Can you have true faith in God without having love for Him? Can you have true faith without repentance? Can you have trust in Christ without a desire to follow Him?

    The WCF is clear and correct when it says that we are not justified by that love or repentance or desire to obey Christ. But it also correctly states that justifying faith is not a dead faith (if it were, how could it justify?) but it a faith which is accompanied by all these things.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    “In the person justified” does not mean “being justified.” That would mean that justification is a process. You have absolutely no warrant whatsoever for taking the phrase in that way. Rome believed in a process of justification. If there is anything on which the entire Reformation is united, it is that justification is not a process, but a one time act of God of applying Christ to us. This is proved from WCF 11.4, where the clear distinction is between “before” and “after” justification with regard to the decree and the Holy Spirit’s applying Christ. Therefore, justification is not a process, therefore my reading of 11.1 is valid. I really cannot believe that you think that justification is a process. that puts you so far out of the Reformation tradition, that I have to use a bull-horn to speak to you.

  16. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    “I really cannot believe that you think that justification is a process.”

    Silly straw man. You’ve twisted his words. “Being justified” is certainly ambiguous, but you’ve put the worst possible spin on his choice of words.

  17. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Todd, I thought you knew English grammar. John’s whole point was that justification is not a thing of the past. That means that it is ongoing, which means it is a process. Logic, Todd, which you seem to be rather short on, which is ironic, given your occupation.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    I challenge all FV advocates to come up with a single Reformed theologian who argues that justification is a process. I am not talking about continuing in the state of justification, mind you, but justification itself. It is an instantaneous action.

  19. Stewart said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Lane,

    This has nothing to do with justifiction as a process. Taking it to mean “being justified” can be a referecne to the moment when someone has saving faith. That is what I beleive John was saying. If a non-beleiver has faith ay 2:26 pm does that faith also have love at that precise moment also? If not, does it come later?

  20. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Stewart, that is not how language works. If one says “I am being justified,” that implies a process of justification.

    Union with Christ is the central soteric benefit. Justification and sanctification come at the same time as union, the former being instantaneous, and the latter being a process. This is Calvin’s duplex gratia. The fact that saving faith works in love has ******NOTHING****** to do with justification. It is utterly irrelevant. I have zero problems with statements such as “faith is a working faith, faith is a busy little thing (Luther’s formulation), faith works in love, etc.” I have **EVERY** problem with saying, “it is because faith works in love that it is saving faith, and the working is somehow involved in justification.” It is saving faith if God says it is. And working has nothing to do with justification. Period. End of Reformation story.

  21. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Grammar and logic are definitely the problem here, Lane. “Being justifed” is anambiguous phrase. There are lots of things it could imply.

    “I challenge all FV advocates to come up with a single Reformed theologian who argues that justification is a process.”

    I challenge Lane to come up with a single FVer who *argues* that justification is a process.

    What’s nice here is that John’s gonna check back in some time and tell us what he meant.

  22. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    “If one says “I am being justified,” that implies a process of justification.”

    I agree. But this is not what John said. The way the phrase fits into John’s paragraph is still ambiguous.

  23. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    “I am being justified” is a present progressive tense, period. If that isn’t what John meant, then he shouldn’t have said it.

    Shepherd teaches justification as a process, because of his view of final justification. His view implies that justification in the final judgment is based on our works (as N.T. Wright holds as well).

  24. Stewart said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Lane, if someone says, “the guy being struck by lightening screamed,” this doesn’t half to mean it was a process.

  25. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    “Shepherd teaches justification as a process, because of his view of final justification.”

    But not Gaffin?

  26. Stewart said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    “The fact that saving faith works in love has ******NOTHING****** to do with justification. It is utterly irrelevant.”

    Yeas and know. You’re right that God doesn’t regaurd the love part in our justification. But If it’s not a loving faith, then it’s not real faith. So it is not “irrelevant.”

  27. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Nope, not Gaffin. Gaffin’s view is different (as he himself told me on the telephone just the other day). Gaffin’s view emphatically states that the basis for future vindication is the *same* as the basis for present justification: the finished work of Christ, and *nothing* else. Shepherd never says that.

    Stewart, I grant your point, and we’ll say that we’ll wait for John to clarify himself.

  28. Stewart said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    yeas and know? lol

  29. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Stewart, could you clean up your spelling a bit, please? It is difficult when ‘yeas’ and ‘know’ and ‘regaurd’ are used, instead of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and ‘regard.’

  30. Stewart said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Lane, dyslexia plus typing to fast. :-)

  31. Craig Phelps said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    ”The Law is not faith, and yet faith does works. Faith and works are in agreement concretely or compositely, and yet each has its own nature and proper function.” Thus you have the reason why Paul puts such stress on this passage, namely, in order to distinguish faith plainly from love.” Lane when Luther speaks in other places about the faith being busy, he still maintains that faith itself is only that which clings to Christ. When he speaks of faith being active, he speaks after the manner that the Son of man is God the Son. The nature of faith is that it itself is without works, but is only embracing Christ. Faith iteself does not have the properties or the nature of love, but is only the instrument that unites us to Christ and makes the sum total of the Christian life faith and faith’s love by which faith works-all gifts of grace. Faith itself reamains alone as it is in itself and always united to the love it brings, whereby it works. Faith has no obedience or works as considered in itself other than to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

  32. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Right, I agree with that, Craig.

  33. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Does this paragraph pass muster?

    “There are different phases of justification. When a person, convinced of sin and penitent, casts himself helplessly upon Christ, he is justified. Such a person will enjoy public, final justification when the reality of his justification is publicly vindicated by the ‘fruits’ of grace – obedience to God. And in this sense he is justified by works; his deeds of obedience prove his justification, but they do not themselves justify.”

  34. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Who said, and in what context? Todd, I already told you before that in a debate context like this, anonymous quotations are not allowed. That is my rule.

  35. John said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Lane writes: “John’s whole point was that justification is not a thing of the past. That means that it is ongoing, which means it is a process.”

    Nope, that wasn’t my point at all. You’ve misunderstood me rather seriously. I said nothing at all to indicate that justification is a process.

    When I said “being justified,” I didn’t imply that the justification was a gradual process. I was speaking of the person at the time of his justification. At the moment that person is being justified by God, justifying faith is accompanied by all other saving graces and is not a dead faith but one that works by love. That’s what the WCF is saying.

    Later, you write: “If one says “I am being justified,” that implies a process of justification.”

    If I hit you, that’s a momentary thing, not a process. At the moment of the blow, you could say, “I am being hit.”

    If God justifies you, you can say at that precise moment, “I am being justified.”

    I used “being justified” as a simple passive: you don’t justify yourself; you are justified. But when I say there “you are justified” I’m not saying “You have been justified in the past and now you are justified in the present.” “Are” there simply indicates the passive voice. So too with “being justified” in my previous entry: it simply indicates the passive voice.

    So when the WCF says “in the person justified” it doesn’t necessarily mean “in the person who was justified at some point in the past.” From the context, I’d say it’s referring to the person who is (passively) being justified by God at the moment of his justification. Faith is ALWAYS accompanied by ALL other saving graces, including at the moment of justification.

    Todd and Stewart are correct. Lane is incorrect about my view and about what my sentence meant. But Todd isn’t correct if he assumes that I’ll necessarily check in on this discussion. While I allow myself to get sucked into these discussions from time to time, I generally don’t find them profitable. Besides, I’m off to do some pastoring and won’t be able to check back on this discussion till next week.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Fine, John meant at the time point of justification. But what does he mean when he says, “Faith is always accompanied by all other saving graces, including at the moment of justification?” Does he mean only that faith is not alone in sanctification (which starts at the same time as justification, but is a distinct act of God’s grace)? Or does he mean that *in justification* faith is not alone? This is the absolutely crucial question, and which John has not made clear here.

  37. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    No, this one-time clarification is all I was predicting, John. You are excused. Thanks.

  38. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    The paragraph comes from Paul Helm, a little BOT book called The Last Things.

  39. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    “Does he mean only that faith is not alone in sanctification (which starts at the same time as justification, but is a distinct act of God’s grace)? Or does he mean that *in justification* faith is not alone?”

    Well, the divines were not afraid to use the “not alone” language specifically in connection with justification. It’s chapter 11, after all. It’s not part of the sanctification chapter.

  40. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong, Todd. The “not alone” has nothing to do with justification, as is clear from the first statement “faith…is the alone instrument of justification.” Are you trying to make me mad??? Todd, are you denying SOLA fide?

  41. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    On comment 33, I am mostly okay with it. I think a tad more qualification is needed to ensure that we are not saying what Wright is saying, for instance, but are sticking with the biblical definitions. But if he saying what I think he is saying, then it is fine.

  42. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    “The “not alone” has nothing to do with justification,”

    Strange placement choice on the part of the divines, then.

  43. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Lane’s cool with Helm. They both affirm a certain sense in which a believing sinner is justified by works. Now I know.

  44. John said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Lane: I meant “faith is not alone in the person at the moment of justification.” It’s impossible to have true justifying faith without having love for God, repentence of sin, a desire to follow Christ, etc. A bare faith — the “faith” of a man who doesn’t love God, doesn’t want to drop his agenda and follow Christ, doesn’t repent of his sins — is not a justifying faith.

  45. John said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Or, to put it another way, only faith justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone. Only the eye sees, but the eye alone — pulled out of the head and stuck on the table — doesn’t see. Faith is the alone instrument of justification, but the faith that justifies isn’t alone at the moment of justification.

    Seems to me as if one of the Reformers may have said that.

  46. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    Todd, 43 is unqualified. If one says “justified” in the evidentiary sense, and not in the declarative sense, then the statement, properly qualified, is fine. That is what Helm is saying.

    John, the concern I have here is one of conflating things: whatever faith has with it is irrelevant to justification. Again, we cannot use James to interpret Paul. James is talking about evidence, not about being right with God. I much prefer to speak of bare faith in justification. the accompanying things belong to sanctification, *not* to justification. It doesn’t seem to me that you are willing to formulate it this way. Because you are not, you are not closing the door on works in justification.

  47. John said,

    March 31, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    How am I not closing the door on works in justification when I say explicitly that faith is the alone instrument of justification? Even if I add that faith is not alone in the person at the time of his justification, I am stressing that the justification is not grounded on those other things that are present with the faith.

    And if I put things this way, I’m simply echoing WCF 11.2. If I’m conflating things, so were the Westminster divines.

  48. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    But how do you understand faith? This is the issue. True faith, of course, is living. But it is not even as it is living (or because it is living) that it justifies. It is only as it lays hold of Someone Else.

  49. March 31, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    Clarification for comment 11:

    The Westminster Divines did not view ‘their Scripture proofs’ very highly. They were forced to put them in and did not necessarily agree with all of them.

  50. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Another intestesting aspect of the debate is how both sides can, alternately, direct our attention to the WCF prooftexts when it suits them, or de-emphasize the importance of the prooftexts when that suits them.

  51. Stewart said,

    April 1, 2007 at 8:33 am

    Post #15 is a classic example of how FV folks are constantly misrepresented in this whole debate. I think a lot of this controversy can be explained by what went on there.

  52. April 1, 2007 at 9:20 am

    Here is a question I would like the followers of Shepherd to address: Is justification subject to increase or decrease? Or, to put it another way, is justification a state that is subject to change? It appears from what Shepherd is advancing, as well as the FV position of Lusk, a person may be justified at some point in this life but not utimately.

  53. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 10:31 am

    The issue of my misrepresentation of John’s views is now closed. Any further comments about it will be excised.

    Stewart, you are wrong. If the entire issue is merely one of misrepresentation, then why are all these Reformed churches getting in such a huff about it? For FV folk to rile up the church like this is completely reprehensible if the entire issue is one of misunderstanding. Whose fault is it, may I ask, if FV folk are misunderstood? If the brightest minds in the PCA, for instance, cannot understand it, but always misrepresent the views of the FV, then isn’t the trouble with the FV formulations, and not with the critics? One of the main criticisms that is levelled against the FV is that the formulations are not clear.

  54. Stewart said,

    April 2, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Lane, you’re doing it again,and proving my point. You misrepresented my position in post #51. I clearly said “a lot of this controversy,” not the “the entire issue.”

  55. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Whatever, Stewart. If you can’t tell the difference between rhetorical overstatement (though not that overstated, imo) and deliberate (or non-deliberate) misrepresentation, then you shouldn’t even be in the discussion.

  56. John said,

    April 2, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Re. # 53: Lane, you write: “Whose fault is it, may I ask, if FV folk are misunderstood?”

    Well, the answer to that, like the answer to many questions, is complex:

    1. In the case of a misunderstanding, it’s not always necessary to assign blame. If you misunderstand something your wife says, you need to get clarification but most of the time you shouldn’t blame her for communicating in an unclear fashion and she shouldn’t blame you for misunderstanding. Misunderstandings happen.

    2. Sometimes misunderstandings happen because people don’t read/listen well, and that can happen for a variety of reasons, not all of which are culpable.

    3. Sometimes misunderstandings happen because the person who is communicating doesn’t express things clearly enough. That isn’t necessarily culpable. It may be that person’s “fault,” but it would be wrong to assign blame.

    4. Sometimes misunderstandings happen because the people who are trying to communicate are using two different languages or speaking from two different perspectives or have some other sort of difference that keeps them from communicating.

    For instance, your wife might come from a family where if Dad said he was “upset,” that meant that he was rip-roaring mad and nobody better talk to him for a few days until he cooled down. So you marry her and she does something that bothers you a bit and you say, “Honey, what you did upset me a bit…” and boom! Not only a misunderstanding but one which scares her. She thinks she’s in huge trouble. “No,” you say. “It was just a bit irritating.” Oops! “Irritating” is another word her Dad used.

    That can happen in theological discussions, too. We all talk like the communities in which we live (our interpretive communities), and so sometimes we talk past each other. That isn’t anyone’s fault. It just means we need to work harder. We. Both of us.

    5. Some misunderstandings happen because the reader/listener is looking for something. He’s in a polemical mode and so he finds something to attack in everything he reads. If you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    There are probably many other reasons for misunderstanding.

    I suspect that some of the misunderstandings in the current discussion spring from # 4: some people in the debate think that the FV guys ought to be speaking their language (maybe that’s Westminsterese) and so they misunderstand when people aren’t speaking that language.

    Some of the misunderstandings seem to me to be # 5: People looking for a quarrel can find something to quarrel about. People looking for errors can often find errors. And a desire to find errors doesn’t help you to read well.

    Some of the misunderstanding is #1-3, and some of it is probably not covered by any of these categories.

    In any case, no one (I hope) claims that this whole debate is “really a matter of semantics” or “all a big misunderstanding” or wants to insist that we’re really all saying the same thing.

    But where there has been misunderstanding (and/or misrepresentation) it can hardly be wrong for someone to point it out. When it seems to happen repeatedly, it’s not wrong to wonder if a person is deliberately misunderstanding/misrepresenting.

    That’s not wrong, I say. Rather, it’s part of the necessary task of thinking “Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m not communicating well. How can I communicate better?” And for clarification to happen, both sides have to be able to talk.

    I’d love to hear more anti-FV people admit that they misunderstood something. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it, except for your acknowledgement above. And then I’d love to hear them say, “Okay. Explain it again, and I’ll try to catch it.”

  57. David said,

    April 2, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    I’m reminded of Thomas Kuhn. (http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/Kuhn.html) Check out (F.) under Chapter VIII’s outline.

    “A new candidate for paradigm emerges, and a battle over its acceptance ensues—these are the paradigm wars.”

  58. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    John, of course you’re right in describing the various causes of misunderstanding. What “irritates” me (to use a word in your post) so much is that FV folk will also claim to be misrepresented when they haven’t been misrepresented. And then, they will expect the critics to believe them when they say “I’ve been misrepresented.” Obviously, if the FV folk have said it, then it must be true. This seems particularly relevant regarding Guy Waters’s book. the only FV person who has even remotely said that Guy hasn’t misrepresented him entirely is Joel Garver, hardly a normative FV guy. I read Guy’s book. I read the FV folk’s stuff. Guy’s book is so chock full of quotations that the book is more than half the writings of FV guys themselves. It is not as though there aren’t any problems with Guy’s book. I have wondered why he didn’t quote the most recent edition of certain articles (the AAPC statement, for one, which he included in the footnotes, but not in the main body of the text). However, for the most part he didn’t do that. And I found his arguments compelling. However, if you read most FV guys who have responded to the book, they think that Guy is not only clueless, but petty and vengeful as well.

  59. Todd said,

    April 2, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    “The only FV person who has even remotely said that Guy hasn’t misrepresented him entirely is Joel Garver, hardly a normative FV guy.”

    This is a misrepresentation!

    Leithart: “Guy Waters devotes a chapter to my views on sacramental theology in his recent book. While much of it is a reasonably accurate summary of my various writings on this subject, he devotes a few pages to critique. Here are a few responses to that critique.”

    http://www.leithart.com/archives/002173.php

  60. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    I haven’t read everything, Todd. I didn’t read that entry. Okay, I should have said, “of the responses I have read…”

  61. Todd said,

    April 2, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    “I am a careful scholar, concerned to be accurate in my statements about what others believe.”

    “I haven’t read everything, Todd. I didn’t read that entry. Okay, I should have said, “of the responses I have read…””

    Seriously, Lane. You should have.

  62. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    The last argument of a desparate scholar, “You should have read x.” Weak, Todd, really weak. How do you expect me to read Leithart’s blog, when he posts 8 thousand times a day? Who has time? I read about 80 or 90 different blogs, and by reading I mean scanning.

  63. Craig Phelps said,

    April 2, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    “I’d love to hear more anti-FV people admit that they misunderstood something.” Rev. Barach, I know I am not a “big shot,” but I acknowledge that I have misunderstood Steven W and Douglas W on so many occasions I forgotten what all they were or how many times. I have appreciated where they corrected me so we could see where we really agree and disagree. Faith alone is one such place where we foundationally disagree.

  64. Todd said,

    April 2, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Come on, Lane. You’re the one boasting about your level of scholarship. “I am a careful scholar, concerned to be accurate in my statements about what others believe.” It’s silly to follow that up with an appeal for sympathy: Give me a break! I can’t read everything!

    And the Leithart response is found on the http://www.federal-vision.com page, the main source for the FV’s responses to their critics. Careful scholars should know!

  65. John said,

    April 2, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Lane writes:

    This seems particularly relevant regarding Guy Waters’s book. the only FV person who has even remotely said that Guy hasn’t misrepresented him entirely is Joel Garver, hardly a normative FV guy. I read Guy’s book. I read the FV folk’s stuff. Guy’s book is so chock full of quotations that the book is more than half the writings of FV guys themselves. It is not as though there aren’t any problems with Guy’s book. I have wondered why he didn’t quote the most recent edition of certain articles (the AAPC statement, for one, which he included in the footnotes, but not in the main body of the text). However, for the most part he didn’t do that. And I found his arguments compelling. However, if you read most FV guys who have responded to the book, they think that Guy is not only clueless, but petty and vengeful as well.

    1. With regard to Joel Garver (who, I submit, is as “normative” an FV guy as there is), I’ve heard that Waters sometimes criticizes early editions of some of Garver’s essays instead of later, improved editions. One might say, “Well, Waters can hardly be expected to keep up with that kind of stuff,” except that Waters elsewhere footnotes the latest editions of those essays, so he’s clearly aware of them.

    As you yourself have said about the AAPC statement, that’s strange. It’s like criticizing you for something you said yesterday, when today you said, “That wasn’t so clear. Let me rephrase that.”

    2. I didn’t say Waters misunderstood everything I’ve said. Much of what he says about me is true and, I believe, unobjectionable. As in: “Yup, I said those things. And they’re biblical. What’s the problem?”

    I have said that Waters misunderstood something I said. I said that in 2 Peter, Peter isn’t talking about A and he also isn’t talking about B. And Waters concluded that I think A is B. That’s just a weird, silly misunderstanding.

    And it was totally unnecessary. I contacted Waters while he was working on the book and offered to look over the sections dealing with me in order to prevent misunderstandings. Waters declined the offer. So if blame is to be assigned, whose fault is that misunderstanding?

  66. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Todd, care in scholarship is a way different thing from reading everything. It is impossible to read everything. I think I saw recently that scholarship is churning out publications at the rate of several thousand pages per second. That is, of course, all areas. But even in theology, it is impossible to keep up with everything. If you don’t know this, Todd, then you are behind the times. It’s time to close this thought-thread, as it is incredibly unproductive.

    John, as I said, number 1 of your response is my own opinion about Guy’s book. But, imo, it is his only weakness. John, the reason Guy didn’t email you (he has told me this himself) is that it doesn’t advance the discussion. I know that thousands of emails were exchanged surrounding the production of the Auburn Avenue book. Did it result in happiness all around? No. Guy decided that he would stick to written sources.

  67. Todd said,

    April 2, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    “But even in theology, it is impossible to keep up with everything. If you don’t know this, Todd, then you are behind the times.”

    Of course I know it. Humility is the way to deal with this reality, it seems to me.

  68. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    And my comment on my scholarship was in relation to what I *had* read, not in relation to what I hadn’t.

  69. RJ said,

    April 2, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    I’m a new Christian and not a scholarly type, so forgive me of my rather simple questions. But isn’t the book of James addressed to his brethern, Christian jews that have already been justified by faith? And if so, isn’t he just saying that now that we are Christians, we are to grow in grace, and our actions the evidence of that faith?

  70. April 3, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Why, yes in fact RJ, when James says, brethren it is referring to those in the Church and part of God’s family.

  71. greenbaggins said,

    April 3, 2007 at 9:16 am

    RJ, you’re absolutely right. That’s the whole point of the analogy of Abraham: Abraham was justified in the sight of God in Gen 15:6. The evidence of that justification is Gen 22. It is an “evidence” type of justification.

  72. Craig Phelps said,

    April 3, 2007 at 11:04 am

    I am wondering what happened to RC Sproul’s great book “Faith Alone.”
    What shift has occured that what ten years ago was hot tomales is now to be thrown out.as leftovers. Dr. Sproul not only says, along with Calvin, that James uses the term “justify” in a completely different sense than Paul, but also the word “faith.” I wish his book and its doctrine would become the cat’s meow once again. Everyone who would honestly use the term “reformed” needs to affirm every doctrine, without nuance, found in the chapter on faith and works.

  73. Craig Phelps said,

    April 3, 2007 at 11:07 am

    RJ, you’re on the ball.


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