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February 17, 2023 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Friday Noon Study Group March 17 12-1
Last Friday, we continued our discussion of the Epistle of James with a look at Chapter 1:22-27 and Chapter 2. In the concluding verses of the first chapter, James advises us to “look into the perfect law [later called the “royal law,” the law of compassion] and to be not only hearers (who may forget) but “doers who act.” James clearly seems to be emphasizing the importance of action here–caring for widows and orphans, keeping oneself “unstained”–as opposed to simply proclaiming one’s faith. Our group spent some time discussing some of the ways we can act–rather than just paying lip-service to action.
Chapter 2 of the Epistle opens with a caution about judging people based on their wealth, advice that harkens back to the suggestion in Matthew suggesting that the poor shall be heirs to the Godly Kingdom. The heart of this chapter then focuses on the significance of performing good works to go along with any declarations of faith. According to James, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead,” that faith is “brought to completion by the works,” and that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Our group spent a good amount of time talking about how various denominations have chosen to unpack these statements:
Some Christian denominations believe in a doctrine of salvation by faith alone (sola fide): “we are accounted righteous before God . . . by faith and not for our work or deservings (Book of Common Prayer). Salvation comes by faith in Christ alone.
Some denominations believe that good works are an inevitable consequence of good works; they are evidence of true faith. “Faith, given time and opportunity, will result in good works” (United Methodist Doctrine). The suggestion here is that faith and good works should be perceived as a single unit.
Within Judaism, there is a concept that good works precede faith: when receiving the Torah at Sinai, the Israelites said, “We will act and we will hear” (i.e., understand/believe). Right belief may lead to right action, but right action is ultimately more important.
Needless to say, our discussion last week was quite rich.
This Friday, we will probably conclude our study of James’ Epistle of James with a consideration of Chapters 3-5. These are shorter chapters, but we won’t rush through our discussion and if we need an extra week to conclude we will take it.
Our discussion group meets via Zoom every Friday from 12-1 (see the CBI web site or Weekly Announcements for a Zoom link). All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise or attendance at previous Friday study group sessions.
Starting on April 7, the Friday Noon Study Group will begin discussion on a new topic: Rabbi David Cooper’s God Is A Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism. This book may be purchased through a variety of internet resources. Stay tuned to this web site for more details in the weeks to come.
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