Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Double Minded Man

James 1:2-8 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. [6] But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. [7] For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; [8] he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

What do I say here? Let him ask in faith, with no doubting… For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
Then who do I receive it from? Is it not the Lord himself who gives me faith? I’m sorry I read James and I am left wondering about it. Some people read it and say they see nothing but gospel. I read it and really begin to wonder. The opening blurb my bible has for this book calls it the proverbs of the New Testament. Sorry, I’ll stick with Proverbs. Not that I encourage doubt, but I don’t think that faith is man’s work. And God does in fact give everything to all people; even evil people receive whatever they have from God. I can't help but think here of the father who responds to Jesus “I believe, help thou my unbelief”! And of course Jesus grants his request.
Of course then this does also expose the problem with the sinner’s prayer, doesn’t it? Either one has faith with which to ask God, or he doesn’t. If you have come to the point where you would want to pray the sinners prayer, you already have faith. If you don’t believe, how can you then ask God for forgiveness. Prayer is born of faith. Weak faith prays, and so does strong faith. But if you have no faith at all then you have no reason to pray either.
This too goes for the prayer at the end of the book of Mormon. By even praying it you show that you believe it, or want to believe it. Everything afterwards follows on that. You pray to that which you believe.


Steve Martin said...

I am double minded. I see it all the time.

Thanks be to God that my unfaithfulness is not a barrier to His faithfulness to me.

Larry said...

I too Steve. "Lord help thou my unbelief", is meat and potatoes to my prayer well as the Lord's Prayer that teaches us to ask that we come to know we are forgiven and "lead us not into temptation" but "deliver us from evil".


Bror Erickson said...

thats why you guys havn't been blessed with wisdom. you haven't believed hard enough. come one believe. As if belief were even a possibility for you outside the work of the Holy Spirit.

Steve Martin said...

'The Purpose Driven Shotgun'

(you're next book title, Bror)

Brigitte said...

Ohuu, aren't you a little rough on James? Can one never exhort anyone to "believe!"? Well, maybe he overstates it. But, we are to pray with confidence.

"...fourth, true faith, based on this Word and promise of God, praying with the certainty and confidence that he will hear and help us--and all these things in the name of Christ, through whom our prayer is acceptable to the Father and for whose sake He give us every grace and every good."

Yea, I guess James did not say that like that.

Nancy said...

I really love you guys! It is so fun to watch you try to out DO each other in NOT Doing...*; )

Brigitte said...

Nancy, I think about it once in a while. And I wonder if the position is extreme.

And I've concluded that those are the people I really have the greatest understanding or connection with--those who know that they've done nothing, useless servants, altogether.

How do you see it?

Brigitte said...

Nancy, I think about it once in a while. And I wonder if the position is extreme.

And I've concluded that those are the people I really have the greatest understanding or connection with--those who know that they've done nothing, useless servants, altogether.

How do you see it?

Bror Erickson said...

I thin you can exhort someone to believe all you want, but without the Holy Spirit...
I don't know every time I read that section I'm held up wondering. If I have doubts what good is telling me not to have doubts. James doesn't remove them he tells you not to have them and it is somewhat self defeating. So no he didn't say it that way.

Bror Erickson said...

I like ti Steve. My Shotgun though does have a purpose, and I know that purpose even if the Shotgun doesn't. It's purpose is to take down as many upland game birds as possible when I pull the trigger. Now my life, whether it has purpose or not I don't really care. I have life that God has given me, and forgiven me for, and that is enough. Other than that it is vanity, purposeless. It has value, but no purpose.

Brigitte said...

Getting away from the subject. Re: purpose. On Dr. Patrick's CD's there is a philosopher who explains from the Greek. Your "purpose" is to be that tree, to grow and flourish and bloom, that tree that you are.

It pleases God that we are.

I felt like that when I read some Christmas mail. So and so got married and had a baby. They used to be our babysitters. I was just so very pleased. It is hard to describe.

It's kind of the same as what you say: "I have life that God has given me, and forgiven me for, and that is enough."

Larry said...

Do/not doing.

I think the irony, and I don’t share this much because it DOES sound like a Pharisee and could be misunderstood, but I almost laugh at folks when they think I’m leaning towards “doing nothing” or “what shall we sin that grace may abound”. To imitate Paul a bit here, I’m actually a VERY disciplined and conservative person who day is FILLED with work. It’s kind of like Luther, it’s laughable of those who accused him of making grace so strong just to free himself to be at more libertine ways…nothing could be further from the truth, few of these huffer and puffers could even imitate 10% of his work and effort, especially as a monk.

That’s the irony I saw in my pietist SB days, I was out doing nearly everyone huffing and puffing preaching and teaching about doing in order to have assurance or fruit, especially the pastors. I could never figure just out how they rested assured on what they did seeing it was so small, but when pressed, rest they did, not on the Gospel but the fruits of their sanctification. Because being very disciplined I was busting my ass on “fruit” production and “good works” and STILL couldn’t arrive at assurance. In fact I only became MORE ASSURED I was NEVER elect.

With pietistic huffers and puffers the “exhortation” is ALWAYS toward that implied “other guy” over there and not so much toward one’s self. The language of the pietist is ALWAYS speaking of exhortation “toward the other guy/gal” in the room. And they ALWAYS have this “list” of works in their hip pocket or house rules they wish to implement that way. They ENUMERATE fruits and works and they always “exhort” that “poor slob over there” to be doing. That works pretty good until you the exhorter run up against someone harder working than yourself, then it looks only like so much huffing and puffing.

It’s really just a pietistic trick to evade the Law for one’s self. If I can exhort “the other guy over their” with the Law, I can, so I think, keep the Law at arms length from myself. Unless of course I’m spiritually showing off and saying, “Yea I need to get busy doing X myself”.

It just goes to show the real stumble stone nature of the Cross, we trip ENTIRELY over it. You do not have the Gospel right unless you are willing to release all works and be able to never speak of them again. It doesn’t mean you never do after the Gospel is firm, but if you are simply itching, you can’t wait to get that word of exhortation in edge wise…you can’t restrain from the “Yea BUT…”, then you really are tripping over the Cross. If you have a fear in your soul if you don’t at least somewhere down the theology train exhort lest all hell break out, you are tripping over the Cross.

I’ve NEVER seen a pure Gospel post left simply at PURE 200 proof Gospel without a lawyer coming in and getting that law in edge wise, that “yea but…”. It’s practically a pietist identification secret password: “What’s the password?” “Yea but”, “let’em in his a member.”

I’ve always told my wife, “ANYONE could sneak the law (the wrong use) and works righteousness into ANY church and nearly NO ONE would ever know it. All eyes would be blind. Luther’s Galatians warning, “Only Paul has his eyes open”. But the Gospel, most denominations and some unfortunate Lutherans are almost on the guard for it. They look for it like a trouble maker coming to town.


Steve Martin said...


'Doing'when it comes to the gospel, needs to be 100% of God.

1% of doing is like one drop of poison in a big glass of pure, spring water.

Now, no part of that water is fit to drink.

I think this is why we try and stay focused on God's doing it ALL for us.

Of course, we will do (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), but that is His business. When we place an emphasis on our doing (even a little bit) we shoot ourselves in the foot and can create a much bigger problem than was there to begin with.

Frank Sonnek said...

James: faith is to the body as works are to breathing.

If we are aware of our breathing, there is something wrong with our breathing.

Luther (I paraphrase here from memory):

when we talk about faith, then works and the law must not even exist.

when we talk about works and the law and being outwardly righteous, then we should talk as though faith does not exist, for faith has no place here.

Frank Sonnek said...

In guiding someone through James we aim to do one thing:

remove ALL talk of faith and christ from the outward righteousness James talks about. A reading of James MUST exclude all talk about faith and Jesus. We need to be rather brutal about this point.

Holding fast to the Holy Gospel cannot be done without doing this. So the Gospel is at stake here. but in a different way than most of us have been raised to think.

if Righteousness is faith ALONE then it is ALSO completely, comprehensively, and absolutely true that outward earthly righteousness is about works ALONE.

If we are not clear on the second ALONE Luther says in his sermon on two kinds of righteousness, that we will lose that all important first ALONE.

Frank Sonnek said...

true, God-pleasing EARTHLY morality, righteousness, and being just and so justified is ONLY about self-discipline/restraint + making the earthly life of our neighbor better.

Pagans can be and often ARE more righteous and just than most christians in this true and earthly sense.

Once we have driven this Christ as Example home, we must show that this earthly righteousness, since it IS earthly, will die along with all who seek life there.

Then we point to that Christ as Savior Who is The Righteousness that will not perish. We who live in that righteousness will live forever and ever. World without end. Amen!

Larry said...

“James: faith is to the body as works are to breathing”


Do you mean to say breathing is to the body as works are to faith? Or maybe my neurons are not firing, it’s been a rough mental day at work and quite possible!

Then “If we are aware of our breathing, there is something wrong with our breathing” and thus “If we are aware of our works, there is something wrong with our works”?

“when we talk about works and the law and being outwardly righteous, then we should talk as though faith does not exist, for faith has no place here”

The only problem I see with this is that James talks about faith and works in one breath, “you show me your faith, I’ll show you my works” and “Justified by works and not faith alone.” It’s hard if not impossible to get past that.

The ONLY way James “might” line up with Paul is if one understands James to be speaking actually against the kind of false faith pietism speaks of. A crucial verse is where he speaks of “you believe there is one God, good you have the faith of a demon and they tremble.” (paraphrased). Another way might be to look at it EXACTLY the way most Calvinistic/reformed Baptist and Baptist might think “you believe God is sovereign (one God), good…etc…” In other words THAT kind of slogging along servile faith to make sure you are elect is really a false self serving faith. After all I must do good works to prove to myself (and fruit police) I’m assured I’m TRULY - reborn, elect, saved, converted, regenerate, predestined, etc…

If James is rejecting THAT kind of faith (which sounds like he might be), which does beget the spiritual hierarchies in churches which begets the upper, middle and lower class Christians whereby all those beneath your class are ultimately questionable as Christians – the “really on fire for the Lord” versus the “just pew sitters”, then James would be indirectly in line with Paul (from the negative side). Because THAT causes the kind division between the super Christian and the “lesser” “maybe not” christian you see in the church James and today.

There the irony would be this: James’s fire would not be against those the pietest tend to pull this epistle on, “the low works producers” but “the high octane works producers”, the church yard piety folks. This would line up in that James says true good works are these very low unimpressionable things like widows and orphans (eating, drinking, sleeping, changing diapers, milking the cow in Luther lingo) and NOT the fine exalting glorious church yard works or ‘high end’ things that even Hollywood glories in and makes certain a photo op captures “all the good they’ve done”. In other words IF James is addressing the enumerated “good works” list driven from a false dead faith which is driven from a “you believe God is one, sovereign, etc…” demon faith that causes terror and whip snapping works, then those grand works are nothing from a nothing faith. Contrasted with a naked trusting faith, a Father driven faith for the sake of Christ which produces just doing mundane works via mundane callings without caring yea or nea about them, then James might be indirectly from the negative side in line with Paul.