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I think I read somewhere that James' and Paul's differing points of view concerning "works" was actually a misunderstanding between them. Paul was actually refering to outward signs (circumcision) and old testament law as "works". If so, do the theological differences between "faith alone" and "faith and works" have some roots here?

-- mark advent (, April 29, 2004


Actually, Paul said " It is faiththat saves, not works, lest any mn Chould Boast" because it is our faith that, in the end, saves. James said Faith without works is dead. This is because if we rruly belived, we woudl do good works.

This is not a contradiciton, but rather, because one leads invariable to another, and faith is what prompts works, it is our faith that saves by changing our works, hearts, and minds.

-- ZAROVE (ZAROFF3@JUNO.COM), April 29, 2004.

Paul said that works of the Mosaic law could not save us, as the Pharisees preached. James said that faith cannot save us unless it is accompanied by works, as did Matthew. There are so many passages emphasizing the absolute necessity of faith, and so many passages emphasizing the absolute necessity of Christian works that it is simply ridiculous to suggest that either faith or works is unnecessary - or, that either of them is less essential than the other. If you don't have faith you won't be saved. If you don't do works you won't be saved. How could it be stated more clearly?

-- Paul M. (, April 29, 2004.

Was there a misunderstanding between James and Paul that was later cleared up???????????? Or were they completely unaware of each others supposed difference on the issue.

-- mark advent (, April 30, 2004.


there was no difference in doctrines between paul and james.

rather, james was talking about works of charity (the work of faith) when he said that faith without works was dead. Paul was talking about messianic law works (works of the earth) which have no merit in the next world.

does that answer your question?

-- paul h (, April 30, 2004.

I think I incorrectly posed the first question. I understand their teachings are in agreement and what the Catholic view is (and I believe it too). Do (possibly some) non-Catholics interperet a difference? The question pops into my head from a discussion I had as a kid with a Protestant friend's mom. Or should I just not think about it? By the way Paul, I get a lot out of your posts and really enjoy them.

-- mark advent (, April 30, 2004.

Hi Mark,

You asked: Do (possibly some) non-Catholics interperet a difference?

Most Protestants believe as Zarove explained, that faith is what is required for salvation, and works will inevitably follow as evidence of your salvation.

If they believe "Once Saved, Always Saved," they will likely say that a person who later lacks faith and who lives in repeated, major sin, was never really saved in the first place.

If they believe that it is possible to lose your salvation by turning away from God, then this will likewise happen when someone ceases to have faith or lives in repeated, major sin.

I have had many conversations with Protestants who accuse Catholics of saying that we must "work our way to heaven" or similar heresies. This is due in large part to their understanding of "by grace alone, through faith alone," as opposed to the Catholic view of "by grace alone, through faith and works." Since most Protestants admit that works are a manifestation of our faith, I see little difference between the two understandings. However, some Protestants continue to insist that Catholics believe they are working their way to heaven. We must always emphasize and stay true to Catholic teaching that it is all by God's grace that we are saved and that God's grace is the only way we can do anything good. They will agree with this view.

God bless,

-- Emily (, April 30, 2004.

mark, to make things even more clear,

yes, there is a distinct misinterpretation by the protestants in this regard. Go to the bible and look up the instances where paul talks about not being saved by works...

for all but something like one he generally follows up with reenforcing that acts of christian charity ARE important, highlighting the difference between messianic law and works of christian faith. then if your protestant friends give you a line of "paul said by faith only" you can show them in the very next verse how paul himself says their interpretation is wrong. I'd provide the context for you myself, but i packed away my notes and bibles for the summer while i go home from school (i have bibles at home that i use), so you're on your own for this one.

Look it up though, its interesting to note how different what paul says is from what most protestants interpret it to mean.

-- paul h (, May 01, 2004.

Paul also wrote. "Faith, Hope and Love, of these the greatest is Love." (1 Cor 13:13).

And what is love? Work, a verb.

-- Scott (, May 01, 2004.

I think the passage paul h refers to is this one:

Ephesians 2 (KJV)
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

Here we see that Paul was saying we are not saved by the works of the law. In vv. 8-9 it's saying we're saved by grace, not of works [of the law]. However, the "through faith" is no empty faith, but a concept that is intertwined with works. Thus, there is a difference between works of the law and works of grace.

Interestingly, I was just talking with a Protestant pastor yesterday, and in reference to this passage above and another, he said that in the Greek, the word for "faith" is a verb that requires action. Also, I have heard that the Jewish understanding of faith and works was an inseperable concept. That would explain the following passage from James 2:

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.

We see again the same idea in Romans 1

17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

At first glance, this verse may seem to be supporting the "faith only" view. However, notice two things. It says the "just," and this requires a certain lifestyle or action. Then it says they will "live" by faith, again requiring action. It seems that our modern understanding of the word "faith" has less depth than the one of the original readers, and the one of the Greek text. The passage continues...

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
. . .
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Here we see the wrath of God against the evil actions of people! Thus, we can only conclude that following God with both faith and works (only possible by His grace) is essential.

-- Emily (, May 01, 2004.

you got it emily,

[Ephesians 2:]10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

This verse says it all, we are the workmanship of God, created in Christ to do good works which God has ordained that we should do.

the rest goes on to describe works of mosaic law, but this, this clearly states beyond a doubt that we were created to live a life of faith and works of Christian charity. There can be no doubt about the difference if one just looks at james and this writing of st paul's.

-- paul h (, May 01, 2004.

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