Something is bothering me about James 2.14-26. Verse 26 is probably the biggest (though not the only) irritation to what I thought I understood about the passage: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” In my thinking, faith has always been this animating force, a motive power, from which good deeds are the consequence, result, effect, fruit, etc.
But doesn’t this verse go the other way? Spirit animates body so that without spirit the body is just a corpse, right? Isn’t James saying that faith is a mere corpse without the animating power of works?
Of course, we actually come close to this model when we talk about “dead orthodoxy.” So maybe James is talking about something closer to verbal affirmations then personal trust. Without acts of trust the verbaql affirmations become dead propositionalism…? Is James’ point that without a life words are empty?
My other question is why does the objector in verse 18 claim to have works and claim that James has faith? I would expect exactly the opposite statement. In fact, I think I’ve been suppressing it in order to make it fit. Why would someone being told he needs to show his faith by his works object that he has works but that his critic has faith?
Time to hit the library when I get a chance!