Tentatively Breaking Silence

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:

2012-10-24-poor-paul

Yes, it’s kind of funny, and my Protestant readers most likely agree with it. But consider this:

James 2:14-26

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.

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17 Responses to Tentatively Breaking Silence

  1. Jill says:

    Is Adam4D funny? I’ve always found the comics more dogmatic than funny. Or ironic, which can be funny, depending on circumstances. But re faith vs works….no binary there. They walk hand in hand. I don’t know what I am, but I don’t agree with the sentiment of this comic.

  2. James says:

    As my long suffering wife would say, “Oy.”

    • I thought of you when I read his “Jews don’t worship God” argument.

      • James says:

        I’ve encountered that sort of thinking plenty of times. I try to ignore it. Otherwise, I’ll just become angry at the ignorance.

      • In case you’re feeling masochistic: http://adam4d.com/christians-jews/

        I think the argument, in any case, is poor at best. Say you have a group of people who for thousands of years all claim that they worship the immortal being Bob. Bob has spoken to many of them. They know he wears a green shirt, slacks, and has a beard.

        Suddenly Bob comes down from the sky. He looks a little different than they realized. He tells everyone he is Bob. But the group of Bob-worshipers look him over and say “I’m sorry, we worship Bob, and we don’t think you’re really Bob.” They go back to worshiping the green-shirted, slack-wearing, beard-faced man they’ve been talking to, not realizing that he’s the guy in front of them who happened to shave.

        Can we really say that the thing they’re worshiping is no longer Bob? I don’t think so. They’re obviously still worshiping Bob. That guy they’re worshiping is still there. They just don’t realize he’s ALSO the guy in front of them.

        So with God. They are clearly worshiping the same God they’ve always worshiped. That they’re incorrect about Jesus not being God just means that they don’t know that they’re worshiping Jesus. But that doesn’t make what they’re doing somehow invalid.

      • Chad says:

        It does make it invalid in that they have rejected God. God, being singular in essence, cannot be accepted or rejected in part or parcel. They, having rejected Christ, have rejected God.

        That is not to say that they do not reference God nor mean the same thing, in a general sense, as any other monotheistic religion that believes its god is the only valid one. But there’s a difference between acknowledging that and saying its a valid worship, implying it will merit anything in regards to their eternal salvation – which it does not.

      • Dr. Feser used the phrase “thin sense of worship” a lot in his article.

      • Chad says:

        I recall that. Most of the disagreement I recall at the time, between my own position, Zippys, and Dr Fesers, were centered around what people meant by worship. I don’t recall many besides Feser addressing the need to do so.

        To me it was that a person makes a sacrifice (time, money, thought, prayers, animals, etc) to a being that they call a god. Or, in the case of monotheistic religions, a being they call The God. At which point the being may or may not accept it.

        Muslims sacrifice to the wrong being (satan) though they may correctly reference God while doing so. Jews have rejected God through the rejection of their Heavenly King in Christ, and serve the prince of this world in his stead (though, again, they correctly reference the concept of God). Other heretics get more complex, though I would assert that they cannot correctly worship God either through a faulty reference, worship directed to the wrong being, or an invalid sacrifice found unacceptable by God.

      • James says:

        Not particularly masochistic. I’ve had my fill of internet rage for one week. 😉

  3. Damn Crackers says:

    The sola fide arguments are silly. Maybe I don’t appreciate the Reformation, but if you have faith – you will perform works. Case closed.

  4. Jakeithus says:

    It’s not strictly a Catholic v Protestant thing since those of us who are Arminianists are also likely to be criticised for a works based salvation by some of the more Calvinist among us.

    I agree it’s kind of silly, as the most accurate picture needs to take account of both Paul and James (the best metaphor on the topic is to imagine Paul and James back to back defending against opposite heresies on the matter). It’s always a little unsettling to run into a hardcore Calvinist, as perhaps my most spirited in person debate was with someone who couldn’t believe I held to conditional security of the believer.

    • You’re absolutely right. My beef here is the indication that it’s SO OVERWHELMINGLY OBVIOUS you heretic that Paul was totally talking about Sola Fide.

      He probably makes the strongest argument for double predestination I’ve seen yet, but I’m just not convinced. Why should I convert or do anything? Whatever I do is predestined anyway. If I don’t convert, well, I guess I’m just not part of the Elect.

      I know, I know, there are a ton of different possible responses to that, but I just can’t see it.

  5. One way I’ve seen the faith vs. works thing explained is roughly along the lines of: Having faith means accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. But accepting someone as your Lord means obeying the orders they give you — that is, in a Christian context, works. So there’s really no dichotomy between faith and works, because one is an integral part of the other.

  6. James says:

    For me, whether or not Jews worshiping God without acknowledging Jesus as Messiah or as part of the godhead is complex and I don’t believe the topic can be properly addressed in a short comment here (at least by me).

    I’m a “fan” of the writing and commentaries of NT Bible scholar Larry Hurtado. On his blog, he said something about the relationship between Jesus and God I found interesting. I don’t always agree with everything Dr. Hurtado says, but I always find him interesting and compelling, which includes the aforementioned blog post.

  7. Mike T says:

    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?

    Protestants come in two camps: those who believe that faith is independent of works and those that don’t. In fact, even most evangelicals will eventually concede that faith that produces no works is dead. That’s really what James meant. You are not saved by works. In fact, planning to go to heaven telling God you relied on works in your heart is going to lead to damnation because the order of salvation is faith in the sufficiency of the atoning sacrifice and then that faith producing obedience (a chunk of which is good works).

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