Ok, picking up where we left off last week discussing belief, specifically on the Biblical angle, I’d like to add in just a note about a theory of salvation that there wasn’t room to discuss in the previous post. This is the theory that Matthew and James could support salvation by faith plus “works”.
Rabbit trail – I put scare quotes around “works” because I think that James and Matthew are both talking about the same thing and that it isn’t just any kind of “works” that will do, but very specifically works of selfless love for others that are called for in those passages. Further aside, this view of a lifestyle characterized by a caring relationship with those around yourself is close to my own ethic.
Now, James is already pretty friendly with the view that salvation might come through faith and works – in fact a standard reading biases in favor of the notion that faith, but not faith alone, is necessary. Matthew, on the other hand, is more difficult. But, to reconcile it to the theory it could reasonably be suggested that Matthew portrays the sheep and goats of chapter 25 as being all believers (in the Johannine sense). Likewise, in chapter 7, many of those who are turned away are those who have “prophesied” and even done certain works in the name of the Lord. This would suggest that they are believers, and raise the possibility that the criterion of works required of them would not be sufficient for non-believers.
This is just a surface examination. I would guess believers might find it easier to harmonize this view of Matthew/James with Paul/John than the stricter dichotomy that I presented last week. There’s so much more to say on the subject… but I’m sick today & running low on time, so I’ll close with this:
I still maintain that ethics done right – and therefore religion done right – cannot lay too much importance on the intellectual function of belief.