Saturday, October 29, 2011

biblical contradictions

There has always been those who would try to disprove or discredit the Scriptures. One tact is to attempt to show its contradictions. I think John Piper does an excellent job shedding some light on a weak attempt and in doing so increased my faith - not because I doubt the text but because when a regenerate person wrestles honestly with Scripture it is food to his soul.
Paul says in Romans 4:2,3: “If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'.”

James says in 2:21: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?”
Read Piper here to gain a clear understanding of the terms used by Paul and James. His bottom-line;
James 2:14-26 and Romans 4 are not saying the very same thing; their aims are different. James aims to confront the error of a man who has a kind of faith, but turns away his hungry brother unfed (2:16). Paul aims to confront a self-righteous Judaism which thinks it can boast before God on the basis of works (3:27; of 2:23). Confronting such varied problems we should not ask that they use the same terminology or say the same thing.

But do their viewpoints clash? There is ample evidence that Paul agreed with James that without deeds of love everything else is useless (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Romans 8:4,13; Galatians 5:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:6). When Paul refers to saving faith he includes obedience (Romans 1:5; 16:26) and works of love (Galatians 5:6).

Our Standing Rests Entirely on Grace

There is also evidence that James agreed with Paul that our standing with God rests entirely on grace and that there is no room for boasting before God in our righteousness. He refers to the start of Christian existence as a divine act of creation whereby we are “brought forth by the word” (James 1:18; i.e. by “the hearing of faith" [Galatians 3:2,5]) He refers to the continuation of the Christian life as a product of the “wisdom from above” (James 3:17) just as Paul describes it as the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). And finally, he calls for deep humility before God (James 4:10) in view of how “miserable” we are (James 4:9).

In view of these agreements, I would suggest that the tension between James 2 and Romans 4 is properly resolved when we recognize that “works” in James 2:14-26 is what Paul means by “faith working through love” in Galatians 5:6 or by the “obedience of faith” in Romans 1:5 and 16:26.


Jasonian said...

It looks to me like Piper has shown that there is no real contradiction here. Are you saying that the best way to deal with Biblical contradictions is to deny that any exist?

Rick Ianniello said...

Jessica - sorry, I wasn't clear. As you, I think Piper did a great job showing there is no contradiction. I think those claiming contradictions exist haven't really wrestled with them from a position of faith ... most are looking for excuses for their disbelief.