virus: Faith and Works

Eric Boyd (
Thu, 6 May 1999 16:14:09 -0400

Dear Snow Leopard,

Glad to have you (plural) back! I am always interested in talking with a sincere Christian. I just finished reading "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis, and I certainly found them to be very enlightening. It's pretty obvious that the book is written to be pro-Christian, and doesn't seriously represent the position of the Devil well, but I found it a fascinating looking glass into Christian idealism. I recommend it.

Anyway, on to what you had to say:

Read James 2:20 to verify. In fact, if you wanted to be efficient, you'd learn that chapters are better than verses. For those of you who don't have the time, the chapter pretty much says, "All you need is faith, but we can't see faith. You show me your faith without works, I'll show you my faith by my works." <snip -- into next message for summation> Breaking this down:
Keep as many rules as you can
I'll pay for the rest
(faith in His grace)


This is indeed what Paul said: he maintained that we are saved by faith completely -- that any works we may do indicate our faith, even stregthen our faith. But in the final analysis, one can do no works and faith will still pull you through.

However, that is not what James said. James said that "faith without works is dead" or useless. James 2:20, which you cite above, is exactly my point -- "You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?"[1] (the Biblical authors are often quite harsh in their condamnations of those they disagree with, Jesus cheif amoung them). James is saying that those who have faith without works are not saved, in direct contradiction to Paul's position that "we are saved by faith, not by works".

As to chapters being better than verses, absolutely. I always read large stretches before and after any verse I wish to quote. One can read James's entire argument here in about a minute. In essence, James is merely elorabating on what he said in James 1:19:27 -- that one cannot just listen (and believe), one must also DO.

Before we go any farther, I'll just point out that Jesus himself often preached that we are saved by works -- e.g. read Luke 19, where donating to the poor and paying back debts yields salvation. Another excellent example is the Parable of the Two sons -- Matt 21:28-32, where the Sinners and Tax Collectors are entering Heaven before you.

I really don't want to fight an individual. It feels like crud. On this list, I can take a good stab at you NOTHING-worshippers, with full knowledge that there are enough atheists to respond with a decent answer

Nobody here fights against individuals. We fight against the memes (or Virus's of the Mind) that some individuals have. We are not "throwing stones" and making ad-hominum arguments but rather critising ideas, and seeking the truth.

As to atheists being "nothing worshippers", I think you've got the wrong religion -- that's Taoism! Atheists don't worship anything -- because we don't worship at all[2]. Instead, we spend our time attempting to understand the universe as it really is -- through such means as science, intellectual debate and personal exploration.

To conclude, I'll leave you with the two verses you quoted -- still contradictory:

Romans 3:28-
Therefore, we can conclude that a man is justified without the deeds of the law.

James 2:24-
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.


[1] I'm using the NIV. Hope you don't mind.

[2] Indeed, I've never even understood worship, either in practice or theory. Just why should any god even care what we grasshoppers think of it? Does it bring the Almighty pleasure to see us grovel and declare ourselves unworthy? But this is just my age old question -- what is the meaning of God's life?