Are We Justified by Works or Grace
October 8, 2008
Rather than approach this like a formal debate, I will respond in dialog format, quoting first Mr. Hofstetter’s article and inserting my responses. My purpose in responding to these articles is because Hofstetter claims I have ignored his arguments regarding James 2. When I challenged him to present the arguments I have allegedly ignored, his only response was “read my articles.” I have now done so (see below) and renew my challenge to Mr. Hofstetter to demonstrate where I have ignored any argument regarding James 2 and the discussion of sola fide (we were not discussing sola gratia).
(All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version, ESV.
The reader should be able to see the Greek if UTF-8 Unicode is enabled
on the computer. Greek transliteration follows the B-Greek standard,
The question concerns the meaning of the term “justification” (Grk.,
δικαιόω, DIKAIOW) in James 2:14-26, and the relationship between faith
and works. Are Paul and James proposing two different schemes of
salvation, as it were, or are their ideas actually complementary, with
the sort of variation we would expect from two different authors having
two different emphases in their respective works? Closely related to
this is the overall canonical teaching on faith and works. In this
essay, I will restrict myself primarily to to the Pauline conception as
expressed in Romans and Galatians for purposes of comparison with the
exegetical treatment of James (though some passages from elsewhere in
the Pauline corpus will be cited for clarification). The primary text to
Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but
does not have works? Can that faith save him? Jas 2:15 If a brother or
sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, Jas 2:16 and one of
you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving
them the things needed for the body, what good is that? Jas 2:17 So also
faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Jas 2:18 But
someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith
apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Jas
2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons
believe--and shudder! Jas 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish
person, that faith apart from works is useless? Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham
our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the
altar? Jas 2:22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and
faith was completed by his works; Jas 2:23 and the Scripture was
fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as
righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. Jas 2:24 You see that
a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Jas 2:25 And in
the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when
she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? Jas 2:26
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from
works is dead.
This is a frequent discussion and a major dividing line between those
the Pelagians and semi-Pelegians (Roman Catholics, Arminians) and the
followers of the Augustinian tradition as interpreted through Calvin
sw: Let me stop you here. Pelagianism (P) and Semi-Pelagianism (SP) are both condemned heresies by the Catholic Church (P in 431 at the Council of Ephesus and SP in 529 at the Council of Orange). Faithful Catholics are neither of these. You’re building a strawman (thus far) on a false premise.
In this essay, I am not going to directly interact
with the “New Perspective on Paul” or the “Federal Vision”
controversies, accept to note here the similarity between those two
approaches and the historic RC/Arminian conclusions.
Overview of Paul's Treatment of Justification in Romans and Galatians
In both Romans and Galatians, the apostle sees justification as the act
of God in declaring the sinner “not guilty” before the law. The source
of justification is the grace of God, understood as God's decision to
supply this acquittal, and the ground or basis for justification is the
work of Christ understood in its holistic sense.
Rom 1:16-17 provides the theme for Paul's exposition of the subject in
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God
for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the
Greek. Rom 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from
faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith."
sw: And what is faith? Or, more specifically, what is “saving faith?” It must be noted that Hofstetter begins this essay stating he will explain James 2, yet rather than beginning with James, he begins with St. Paul. I submit, as I have already done on CDF, that there is no conflict between Sts. James and Paul in the Catholic view, as Hofstetter, amongst many/most Protestant apologists, implies. The fact which differs between the two Apostles is that St. Paul speaks against “works of the Law” and St. James supports works done in the state of Grace.
Like any good preacher, Paul uses a biblical text, in this case Hab 2:4.
Paul's point is that both Jew and Greek (understood as the Gentiles in
general) are under the same standards and must meet the same
requirements for salvation, a very controversial idea in the NT church,
as Acts 15 and related passages indicate. “From faith to faith” has been
variously interpreted, but most likely refers to faith as expressed
throughout redemptive history. In other words, Paul expresses (and this
is consistent with his exposition throughout) that salvation (in the
broad sense) has always been about faith. The terms translated
“righteousness” and “righteous” in the ESV are simply the noun and
adjective forms of the verb frequently translated “justify” (all have
the root δικαι-, DIKAI-, changing only the ending to indicate the
precise part of speech). This demonstrates the relevance of this passage
to the subject at hand, and also helps make sense of Paul's development
of this theme throughout Romans.
I will interject here, no Catholic doubts that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, resurrected and ascended into Heaven. The question at hand, the one Hofstetter and I were discussing, is the matter of sola fide - “faith alone” - and James 2 clearly preaches against sola fide. In fact, it is in verse 24 that we find the ONLY PLACE in ALL OF SCRIPTURE that the words “faith” and “alone” (or “only”) are used together, and what does verse 24 say? Let us use Hofstetter’s preferred version:
Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.It says “NOT BY FAITH ALONE!” What’s more it clearly states that a person is “justified by works!” Now, I must clarify here too - the implication of the passage is also opposed to what I call “sola opus” (works alone) for it says “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” therein implying that the works are accompanied by faith, and directly stating that faith is accompanied by works - therefore it is “NOT by faith alone.” We’ve seen several Protestant writers dance around this one - and what it typically boils down to by them is doublespeak. They will make a statement like, “justification is by faith alone, it is not by a faith that is alone.” (Sproul, RC, qtd. on http://www.americancatholictruthsociety.com/articles/contra_sola_fide.html). We shall see that Mr. Hofstetter uses the same doublespeak... later... I just had to throw that in now.
Continuing now with Hofstetter’s essay:
After establishing his theme, Paul elaborates that both Gentiles (Rom
1:18-32) and Jews (Rom 2:1-3:20) are under sin, and thus equally in need
of the grace of God revealed in Christ. This involves an extensive
discussion in chapter 2 on the nature of works and their relationship to
salvation. Paul says:
Rom 2:6 He will render to each one according to his works: Rom 2:7 to
those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and
immortality, he will give eternal life; Rom 2:8 but for those who are
self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there
will be wrath and fury. Rom 2:9 There will be tribulation and distress
for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
Rom 2:10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the
Jew first and also the Greek. Rom 2:11 For God shows no partiality. Rom
2:12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without
the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
Rom 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before
God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Rom 2:14 For when
Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires,
they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. Rom
2:15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts,
while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting
thoughts accuse or even excuse them Rom 2:16 on that day when,
according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Now, does this indicate a form of salvation by works? Paul is actually
working toward the purpose of the law in demonstrating culpability and
the inability of any human being to keep that law. What Paul says above
is true in the absolute sense, but only hypothetical in the existential,
as the continuing discussion clearly indicates. In 2:15-16, he compares
the written law of the Jews with the “law of conscience” written on the
hearts of the Gentiles, a law which does not save, but which bears
witness that there is in fact a higher law of which even the Gentiles
have some knowledge, so that his comparison here certainly does not
indicate law keeping has the purpose of any kind of salvation. Even more
to the point is the further development to the end of chapter 2, where,
using the circumcision as a metaphor for keeping the law, Paul indicates
that true law-keeping is a matter of the Spirit, and not of any outward
observance (a theme which is also evident in the Prophets). The use of
circumcision here, besides making perfect sense in the comparison
between Jew and Gentile, also indicates that the ultimate work is not on
the part of the law-keeper, but on the part of the Spirit (which is to
say God himself). The individual no more contributes to the spiritual
law-keeping than the did the Jew under the Old Covenant contribute to
his own circumcision.
My argument here would be that St. Paul IS arguing that even works of the Law CAN justify, and our Lord made the same argument!
Mark 12:28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (ESV)What’s this? Keeping the commandments (works of the Law even!) and in doing this, Jesus stated that the scribe who challenged Him was “not far from the kingdom of God.” Yet, he was not quite there - I submit that the implication here is contra sola opus, that works alone do not gain salvation - but works with faith may. The scribe, while having the works, lacked the faith necessary.
Back to Hofstetter’s essay:
This sets up Paul's conclusion in 3:1-20, the driving point of this
section of the discourse. In fact, no one is able to keep the law in any
kind of saving sense, and Paul liberally quotes his Bible to demonstrate
the impossibility of doing so. “There is none righteous (Grk., δίκαιος,
DIKAIOS), no, not one.” (Paul summarizes this in 3:23 as he rhetorically
refers to the previous discussion, “All have sinned, and fallen short of
God's glory.” Whether the oracles of God or the unwritten law of
conscience, the law serves the purpose of condemning all people and
preparing them, in its message of hopelessness, for the hope of Christ.
And I agree with Hofstetter here - no one is able to perfectly keep even just the two “Greatest Commandments” I quoted earlier, thus all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” I again repeat, I do not, nor does Catholicism, teach that one can be saved by works alone - no more or less than one can be saved by faith alone. But, where one has faith WITH works - THAT is a “saving faith” and can lead to salvation for those who persevere in that faith.
Back to Hofstetter’s essay:
3:21-26 is the response to 3:1-20 and furthers the original theme
statement of 1:16-17 showing it's particular application through Christ.
How is the dilemma of sin and the judgment of the law solved? It is
solved only through faith in Christ. Through the work of Christ, God
justifies, declares righteous, acquits the guilty. Both Jew and Gentile
have sinned, and both Jew and Gentile find righteousness not through
their works (an impossibility, Rom 3:20), but through faith in Christ.
There is an element of theodicy here, as well. How can God remain
righteous himself, and acquit the guilty? He does so on the basis of
Christ's work, Christ as the propitiation (Grk., ἱλαστήριον,
hILASTHRION), and he does so as a free gift (Grk., δωρεὰν, DWREAN). What
the law could not do, God does through Christ and on the basis of his
sacrifice. As Paul goes on to say:
Rom 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of
This, then, is the primary theological premise through which the rest of
Romans must be read. To use somewhat more theological language, the
emphasis is on God's grace particularized through the sacrifice of
Christ, with faith is the instrumental means of accessing the consequent
Has anyone begun to notice that we’re STILL not discussing James 2? Remember, Hofstetter claimed that his essays contained the arguments I have allegedly ignored regarding James 2. Other than quoting James in passing, Hofstetter has, so far, ignored St. James’ epistle. For what it’s worth, I am in agreement with Mr. Hofstetter here! Works alone do not justify nor can they save.
Back to more of Hofstetter’s essay:
One of the sub-themes of interest to Paul, and a theme which will be of
great concern also in the general epistles, is that of actual spiritual
reality vs. outward appearance. Paul actually goes in a direction
similar to James to show that real faith is validated by its fruits. How
does one know that one is really in Christ? Is mere profession verbal of
faith enough? Certainly not, or as Paul might say, μὴ γένοιτο, MH
GENOITO, “absolutely not!” True faith and truly being in Christ (as
opposed to mere verbal profession) always results in a changed life and
a changed attitude toward sin, as Paul makes clear in Rom 6.
This is certainly part of the background subtext for understanding the
“conditional” passage in Rom 11:
Rom 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although
a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in
the nourishing root of the olive tree, Rom 11:18 do not be arrogant
toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the
root, but the root that supports you. Rom 11:19 Then you will say,
"Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Rom 11:20 That
is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand
fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. Rom 11:21 For if
God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Rom
11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward
those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue
in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Rom 11:23 And even
they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for
God has the power to graft them in again.
Well at least Hofstetter has mentioned St. James again! However, as we see, it is only a passing mention and he returns quite quickly to his essay on St. Paul. Since he has mentioned St. James again and even states St. Paul “actually goes in a direction similar to James” - let me affirm again, Catholics do NOT see a conflict between Sts. James and Paul! BOTH of them teach that neither works alone nor faith alone justifies! Rather, it is a working faith or “saving faith” which justifies.
Back to Hofstetter:
Is it possible therefore to turn one's back on the grace given? That
would run contrary to practically the entire preceding discourse. Paul
makes clear in Rom 8:29-30 that the redemption of the believer is rooted
in all eternity and dependent wholly upon God's grace. Note the
commitment on the part of God to bring the believer to glory. In Romans
9, Paul emphasizes God's sovereign grace, likening God to the potter and
his people to the clay. In Rom 10, Paul shows the universal nature of
the Gospel in reminding his readers of the words of Joel that “whoever
calls upon the name of the Lord [Jesus] will be saved.” Here in Rom 11,
Paul is contrasting Israel, which has been rejected, with his new
people, the Gentile believers in Christ, who have been “engrafted.” One
should not take the grace of God lightly, nor presume upon it, but
instead should fear, in the proper biblical sense of the word, implying
awe and gratitude for the immense grace of God. One should not presume
that simply because one has professed this faith that one is actually
engrafted, but should instead humbly seek to demonstrate that one's
faith is in fact real. This is in fact an implicit theology of
perseverance. The proper attitude of one who has truly experienced
engrafting is humble reliance on God and his grace, and seeking to live
according to that grace – Paul is about to spend five more chapters
informing his readers precisely what living according to God's grace
really looks like. If those fruits are not present, it means that the
inward reality intended to be represented by the outward profession is
absent. One has covenant identification without the covenant reality.
Well, Hofstetter concludes this essay going into yet another subject! He has abruptly moved from a discussion of sola fide to the “Once Saved, Always Saved” (OSAS) discussion. Is this a deliberate move to distract the reader further from the fact that throughout this entire essay he does not deal with what St. James wrote AT ALL? This essay, from the perspective of it being a “response” to what I have argued from James 2, was a complete waste of time. I have, however, taken the time to answer each of Hofstetter’s arguments from this essay - with the exception of not going down the rabbit hole of yet another discussion (OSAS) in his final comments. Now, in fairness, he did point to TWO essays on the subject, as if they were somehow linked. Let the reader note, this first essay was written in 2008 - and the second (which I’m about to get to) was written in 2011, a good two and a half years later! Not that it matters too much - but let me state that the two essays are as much disjointed in subject as they are in time.
Faith and Works Part 2
April 10, 2011
Salvation by Grace Through Faith or Works?
(A “continued” essay from Barry Hofstetter)
One of the major themes of the catholic epistles is the place of the
Christian in the world. What does it mean to be a Christian?
To be a Christian means that one is a follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings. Of course from the Catholic perspective this includes NOT being separated from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which Jesus Christ Himself not only promised to build - but DID build upon the 12 foundations of His Apostles. Those who are separated from THAT Church may be following a portion of the Truth, but the fullness of Truth - the fullness of the Faith can only be found in THE Church which Jesus Christ built. Outside of that One Church you’re missing something.
How do Christians live their lives?
Christians are called to live in the world, but not of the world.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (ESV)Note, that it’s not merely a matter of having faith or believing - but DOING the will of the Father - that’s “works.”
Back to Hofstetter’s questions which open this part of the essay:
What is the relationship of the Christian to society? How do Christians
“look” when those outside the community observe them?
As stated above, we are to be IN society, but not necessarily OF society. How we “look” to those outside of the Christian community should be as those who love one another, as Jesus Christ so loved us first. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “preach the gospel always, if necessary - use words.” In short, our DEEDS show those outside of our community what our relationship is to Christ. As someone else said (not sure who) “Actions speak louder than words.”
Back to Hofstetter’s essay:
This is in contrast to Paul's epistles, which are much more concerned
with the new theological and eschatological reality in which believers find
themselves. The questions raised in the Pauline epistles are more in the
nature of “What is the relationship of the believer to God? How and why do
Christians have this relationship? Paul is interested in the indicative, in
the essential nature of the Christian life. The catholic epistles are
interested imperative, the results, the shape and form, of that indicative.
I would beg to differ with Hofstetter’s assessment here for it is in contrast to what he stated earlier! St. Paul DOES speak of how the Christian is to act! He DOES speak to the necessity of works/deeds! Hofstetter concedes this contrast in the very next passage:
This is certainly a matter of emphasis and focus. Paul at times is very
concerned with Christian behavior, including how believers conduct
themselves in relationship to the world, and one may find a number of
references to the theological rationale for the Christian life in the
So, I’m not quite sure why Hofstetter felt the need to say St. Paul is contrasted in respect to those questions! Now, while he concedes that St. Paul is not contrasted - he immediately goes back to arguments indicating he is and (finally) mentions James 2 again!
But the difference in emphasis is real, and often leads
to differing vocabulary, expressions and figures of speech as each author
makes his unique contribution within this framework. Such is particularly
the case in the passage which concerns us in this essay, James 2:14-26.
Paul and James use the similar vocabulary (works, justify, faith, et al.), but
they seem to use these words quite differently from one another. They use
the same OT paradigm (Abraham), but the lessons they draw from this
paradigm are quite different, some would say even contradictory. Luther is famous
here for wanting to exclude James from the NT canon on this very basis. Was
Again, Hofstetter seems to be attempting to draw attention to conflict between Sts. James and Paul, and even draws Martin Luther into the mix. Again I affirm that Sts. James and Paul are in complete agreement when it comes to faith and works and the necessity of BOTH of them WORKING TOGETHER for justification. As for Martin Luther, no - he was not correct and had not the authority to make such a judgment in the first place, but let us not digress into yet another distraction.
To answer that question, a closer examination of the specifics
of this text is in order.
[Greek is unicode utf-8; transliteration follows the b-Greek protocol]
Jas 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but
does not have works? Can that faith save him?
Jas 2:15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
Jas 2:16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled,"
without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
Jas 2:17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Jas 2:18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me
your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Jas 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons
Jas 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from
works is useless?
Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up
his son Isaac on the altar?
Jas 2:22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was
completed by his works;
Jas 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God,
and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of
Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Jas 2:25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by
works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
Jas 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart
from works is dead.
In this passage, James is concerned with true faith and the way in which
that true faith is manifested. The two cannot be separated. Faith, what we
truly believe, always manifests itself, something which we known not only
from the Scriptures, but from life experience as well. If there are no works
(and James makes clear what sort of works he has in in mind), then faith is
not present. Intellectual apprehension of the truth or doctrinal knowledge
of the truth is not sufficient. A faith that does not result in actions is
simply no faith at all – even the demons believe that God is one, but that
belief doesn't do them any good at all.
Hofstetter begins this paragraph stating the truth! Saving faith is ALWAYS manifested with works accompanying it! That being said, Hofstetter does go into a bit of a false statement. The “faith” of the demons is also a “true” faith! They DO have faith in the truth that Jesus is God! What the demons don’t have is that true faith accompanied by works of faith. Saving faith will ALWAYS be accompanied by works done in charity/love - for God IS love. So while I agree that the faith of the demons “doesn’t do them any good at all,” it is false to say they have “no faith” or that somehow their “faith” in the “truth” is “untrue.” What we DO see here, however, is the necessity of WORKS going along WITH FAITH for a “saving faith.”
Back to Hofstetter’s essay:
The kind of works that James has in mind are of a very practical nature,
and call to mind the various justice passages of the OT which have a similar
theme, e.g., Isa 10:1-3. Taking care of brothers or sisters in Christ who
are in dire straights is a clear manifestation of true faith, and refusal to
do so is a clear indication that whatever the profession of the individuals
involved, true faith is lacking. James does not exclude other types of
works, and determination of what those might be may be made from other
Scriptures, but his focus here is on just this type of very practical, real
world application. This is almost certainly due to problems in the practice
of those to whom James is writing.
The kind of works James has in mind and the speculation as to why he wrote this does not negate the fact that he states, quite clearly, “You see, a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” The necessity of works WITH faith cannot be ignored. The FACT that he clearly states “NOT by faith alone” equally cannot be ignored. The CLEAR teaching here is that sola fide is flatly DENIED in Scripture!
Back to Hofstetter’s essay:
James then proceeds to support his assertions with two OT examples, Abraham
and Rahab. His text for Abraham is Gen 22, and the testing of Abraham. This
passage has a rich background in and of itself (it cannot be understood
apart from the probation of Adam and Eve in Gen 3, as God continues to work
in Abraham in providing the nucleus of the new humanity who will renew the
Adamic covenant and stand as vice-gerents over God's universe). But here, as
always, James is concerned with the practical implications. Abraham showed
his faith by obedience to God's command, even his willingness to sacrifice
the Son of the Promise, upon whom Abraham's hope for the future rested.
In this context, we find James using language similar to Paul. Paul's claim
is that Abraham is justified by faith apart from works (Rom 4:1-5). How
does this square with James language, that Abraham was justified by his works?
Vs. 22 is central to properly interpreting this:
“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was
completed by his works...”
In other words, works complement faith. Works are what makes faith alive in
that they show that the faith is a true and living faith. How do we know
that Abraham really believes, that Abraham true faith? Because his faith
works. It is effective faith. Abraham was justified by this faith because it
was real faith, and not dead.
Not to be too nit-picky here, but Hofstetter points out that St. James uses two OT references here, Abraham and Rahab, but only deals with the reference to Abraham. I feel I need to be a bit “nit-picky” because of Hofstetter’s challenge that I have somehow ignored some of his arguments. Back to the point.
Again, we would AGREE that Abraham’s faith is a living or saving faith and why? Because his faith has works! It is not merely that works compliment faith - but that works are absolutely necessary WITH faith - or that faith is a “dead faith.” Again I assert, even a “dead faith” is a “real” faith - but a “dead faith” avails us nothing upon the Day of Judgment.
Back to Hofstetter’s essay:
Paul's concern in Romans is quite different. He is interested not in the
probative value of works, but in the actual nature of faith as the
instrument through which God communicates his grace. Paul wants to make it
clear that the works of the law do not have any saving value, and that
reliance on such works (he especially has in mind circumcision and the
ceremonial aspects of the law) is a false gospel. His point is that
Abraham's justification took place before circumcision, before Gen 22, and
is related solely to his faith.
And we’re back to St. Paul again. Yes, St. Paul is primarily preaching against “works of the Law” when he speaks of such “works,” we AGREE! St. James agrees too! However, we need to go to that which precedes the part which Hofstetter quotes:
James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty (ESV).Note, St. James does not wholly throw out “works of the Law,” in fact he says that one is “doing well” if they keep the Law. However, if one breaks even ONE law - he is guilty of ALL the law - and therefore positing the near impossibility of justification through the Law. THEN he goes into the part about the necessity of faith WITH works in order to have justification - AND the FACT that faith alone (sola fide) is just as “dead” as works alone (sola opus).
So yes, Abraham (and Rahab too!) is justified by LIVING his faith and by his works - and “not by faith alone.”
Back to Hofstetter’s essay:
Although the same Greek word is used by both Paul and James, δικαιόω,
DIKAIOW, they are clearly not using the words in the same sense. Even in
English, “justify” may have different senses. There is the legal or forensic
use of the word, “to justify” in the sense of declare “not guilty.” There is
also the probative sense of the word, “to justify” in the sense of “declare
right,” as in “My prediction was justified when the evidence was
considered.” In Paul, as the context clearly indicates (and not simply the
few verses cited, but beginning in 3:21), the usage is forensic. “Justify”
is used in the sense of “declare not guilty.” That declaration is based on
faith in Christ and his propitiatory sacrifice. In James, as demonstrated
above, the sense is probative, fitting well James' theme of how faith is
truly shown to be faith.
Well, there is a difference without distinction here. “To declare not guilty” and “to declare right” are really the same thing. I’m not sure why Hofstetter (and other Protestant apologists too) feels the need to try to make a difference here where no real difference resides. It seems as though he is trying to make St. James to be saying something different from St. Paul, but as we have already established - they are really saying the same thing. There is no conflict between them, and in fact, Hofstetter returns to that in his next statement:
It should also be noted that the idea of true faith resulting in works is
not at all foreign to Paul. Not only such verses as Romans 5:1-4, but the
entire structure of Romans indicates this. The first 11 chapters of Romans
are largely theological, exploring the implications of what it means to be
justified by faith. Chapters 12-16, on the other hand, explore the practical
implications of what it means that “the just shall *live* by faith.” There
is therefore no contradiction between James' view of faith and works, and
Paul's view of faith and works.
And again, WE AGREE! Where we DON’T AGREE is in Hofstetter’s irrational insistence upon the slogan of “sola fide.” The slogan is rooted in a lie! The slogan is soundly and clearly refuted in the ONLY PLACE IN SCRIPTURE where the words “FAITH” and “ALONE” are used together. I understand the Protestant “need” to rationalize their way around this - but all their argumentation is essentially doublespeak. It is the attempt to make truth out of the lie. Why is it so important to them? Because it is one of the foundational teachings of those who left the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church less than 500 years ago. To erase sola fide from their vocabulary is to erode the very foundation of their “faith.”
I also assert that the “faith” of Protestants IS a “true faith” - it’s just not the fullness of faith. Most Protestants believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord, God and Savior - which is true! But they fall short of the fullness of the truth, the fullness of the faith, when they have abandoned that One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. They claim “reform” - but TRUE reformation does not happen separated from the One, for that is not “reform” at all, but a new forming.
The believer is justified through faith apart from works, but if
that faith does not result in works, it was not true faith at the
And there is Hofstetter’s folly. The believer is NEVER justified through faith apart from works! Faith without works is dead. Again, even a “dead faith” is a “true faith” - it is just not a “saving faith.”