I make a point to very rarely tread into Catholic v. Protestant territory here, but I’ve been reading the Christian webcomic Adam4D lately. Now, I’m greatly enjoying it and highly recommending it, but the writer for the site is a Calvinist.
This in itself doesn’t bother me at all. Many times people get angry at Calvinists. I do not. I just think some of their teachings are kind of silly (mostly because double predestination and traditional Christian teaching make for some very strange bedfellows). Adam (as I suppose his name is) has also tried to make the argument that Jews who don’t recognize Jesus don’t worship God, something I consider absurd on its face.
But that’s pretty minor, at least to me (I suppose for some of my readers rather less so). This comic is really what I want to gripe over:
Yes, it’s kind of funny, and my Protestant readers most likely agree with it. But consider this:
Faith and Works
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can [a]that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, [b]be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is [c]dead, being by itself.
18 But someone [d]may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that [e]God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?22 You see that faith was working with his works, and [f]as a result of the works, faith was [g]perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
Now, what do you think any Protestant would say to me if I quoted those verses on their own as a killshot to sola fide?
They’d object for any number of reasons that ultimately boil down to context. Fine. I’m not here to argue about that.
So my problem is this: If I can’t use my seemingly obviously worded and clearly phrased quote as a killshot, you can’t either. And acting as if sola fide is the most obvious thing in the world when the phrase “Abraham was justified by works” appears almost word for word in the New Testament Epistles stretches rhetoric to the breaking point and comes dangerously close to a lie.
And it’s impossible to have a real discussion with somebody about that. If it’s that self-evident to you, and you know the James Epistle exists (and Adam surely does), there’s really nothing I can do except to shrug and say “You have your verse, I have mine”. And that isn’t going to get anybody anywhere. This is just a lazy way to ridicule your opponent and shut down discussion.
All right. I’m done with that for now. Do go read the comic though, it’s really excellent.