Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Sawyer / Johnson Dialogue - Conclusion

Part 1 Part2 Part 3
Part 4 Part 5

Please see the introductory paragraph to Part 1 of this series for an explanation of the literary license taken in formatting this dialogue.

Phil: I’m on vacation this week while I’m speaking here and there and attending a board meeting, so I’m not going to spend hours and hours on this, but I do want to say that the problems with Hodges’ soteriology are deep and systemic. The fact that his supporters often want to steer discussions to niggling points about Hodges’ novel exegesis of James 2 is telling. If we’re going to spend time debating this, can we at least deal with the big-picture issues first?

Jodie: Your desire to start with the big picture is reasonable, but in practice, the only way to understand the big picture is through the details. Of course, the only way to truly understand the details is by understanding the big picture, so proper interpretation has to proceed patiently in order to allow those two parallel concerns to be discovered without running roughshod over either aspect. This is what is so amazing about Hodges’ interpretation. James’s thought shines in a very cohesive, subtle and rational way. His diatribe argument does prove the narrow point, and also indicates that his big picture interpretation of James is far more probable than the popular view. This is why I’ve focused on it. The idea that Hodges’ view on James is driven by a need to “explain away” anything is farcical.

Phil: Hardly. Hodges’ “exposition” of James came years after he had published multiple books setting forth his soteriological peculiarities. As far as I know, he has never claimed that he came to these views by reading James. Rather, his James volume was a response to people who kept pointing him to James in reply to his repeated championing of the idea that dead faith is nonetheless saving faith.

Jodie: I can’t believe I’m reading this. Trust me, he claims just that. Apparently we’ll just have to agree to disagree on Hodges’ inner motivation! One of the most obvious and hilarious differences between the GOP and the Dems is that the latter is obsessed with their perception of tainted motivations.

No hurry, if you’re on vacation, I’m busy too. I’ll continue to respect your time and will definitely try to be as concise as possible.

Since you have described your view of the ‘big picture’ of James, I’ll flesh out my view.

Verse 1:19 is the key verse that acts as a hinge between the ideas of the introduction and the main body. This introduction posits James desire that the believers live a consistent God’s word empowered lifestyle which is not only “steadfast” (consistent) but “perfect and complete” (a God empowered expression of the miracle of new birth, the word implanted). The climax of the introduction is a contrast between how sin produces death but God sovereignly produces the miracle of new birth.

The key verse says, in light of the trials God is giving you to produce a consistent spirit-filled life in you, be quick to receive meekly God’s Word, be slow to speak and slow to wrath. the body of the epistle unpacks these three admonitions.

James beautiful conclusion reminds the readers of the practical ramifications of applying this advice, the need for the patient faith of Job and Elijah.

In general James is shot through with the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount, concerns doing God’s will and is essentially the law of Christ. James insists that not just the Mosaic law had to be obeyed in total not in part but that every syllable of the Lord’s lofty commands must be obeyed:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11For 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. 12So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

At the very end, James teaching on the proper response to trials, humble obedience, which is the only response that will yield righteousness in the lifestyle of the Christian, is threaded into his desire to obey the royal command to love:

James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

I’m sure there is much you disagree with here, but maybe I touch on some things you would agree with.

God bless.
This was the end of the dialogue, as far as I know.