A few thoughts on Faith, Works & the Book of James

Message
Author
wizardofoz
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Aug 20, 2017 7:47 pm

A few thoughts on Faith, Works & the Book of James

#1 Postby wizardofoz » Sun Sep 03, 2017 6:47 pm

Greetings to all! So first of all, if anyone here is in Houston or Texas & enduring the floods my thoughts and prayers are with you to find the strength to endure the trials you're experiencing. Us Aussies are well familiar with that particular trial - just be strong, don't panic & know that the waters will go down again. Just be safe and remember that losing your life saving any material object is worse than pointless - keep up your faith, recall that people have survived these things for millennia and you WILL get through it. God be with you.

So I had a bit of a thought come up in my morning prayer & meditation about some tangential issues that're related to this disaster and I thought I'd share. There's a lot of jokes (and anger) floating around the Internet right now about a certain Mega-Church Pastor in that city who only agreed to assist the many needy people in the natural disaster by sheltering them in his church under the weight of the criticism he received. For anyone not familiar with him, he's a proponent of the so-called "Prosperity Gospel" - which is roughly speaking the teaching that worldly wealth & power are rewards from Yeshua for blind faith (and a hefty donation of course!). So naturally, even among the exoteric Churches this is seen as heresy.

Now, there's a bit of a history lesson in order to understand how this came about. I'll spare you all of the gory details (I could write a thousand page book on that!), but this idea of "Salvation by Faith Alone" (and it's abominable younger offspring "And God will give you a cash prize" beloved by televangelists everywhere) goes back to the Protestant reformation. I'm sure we don't need to recount the corruption of the dominant Roman Church at the time to see that there was a lot of justification for Martin Luther's rebellion. And a lot of good came out of it. But there's more than a few issues with the theology that came out of it too. And a BIG issue is that it gave Protestants the idea that being a "Good Person" or "Saved" was purely a matter of saying "I accept Jesus Christ as my Personal Lord & Saviour" at some point in their life. But other than that, you can exploit the poor, chase materialism and worldly power, and just generally try to use God as a genie to fulfil every egotistical impulse that occurs to them. Meanwhile they condemn people of other religions, who could have led lives of piety and charity to hell for not using the specific name of God that they do!

One issue I've noticed on the occasion that I've attempted to explain Gnosticism to one of our exoteric kin is this very issue of "Salvation by Faith" - the doctrine of "Sola Fide". They take great issue with the fact that something other than JUST "confessing Christ" might be required for salvation - such as our disciplines of prayer and meditation or the sacred rituals we practice, or even our understanding that the Bible is intended to be read on many levels requiring specific knowledge to unlock it's true worth. And I've noticed this in particular among my American friends (with it's strongly Protestant religious background) that the assumption is that any teaching that goes counter to "Sola Fida" is un-Biblical and unholy. So let's have a look at a book, in the regular Bible all Christians use, that has VERY clear teachings about this.

As Wikipedia points out, Martin Luther (the Father of the Christian Reformation) wished to remove a number of books from the established canon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther%27s_canon. That SHOULD set off some alarm bells to any Christian, Gnostic or otherwise.

He specifically wanted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation. Why? They contradicted his own theology (and he hated the obviously mystical themes of Revelation - that's a tangent for another day!!). He was a devout but somewhat self hating man, who was obsessed with sin. He particularly hated the Church doctrine that salvation required Good Works in addition to Fatih to be saved. Since he was so obsessed with sin, he felt that no "Good Works" could ever compensate, so he arrived at the conclusion that since we are incorrigible wretches, only Faith mattered. He used many teaching of Paul to obscure that though - twisting Pauls words to make it seem like "Faith" was the one and only exclusive method of salvation. He particularly despised the "Book of James" for directly countering his teaching - as the entire book is basically a sermon against EXACTLY this particular heresy (as well as containing some excellent teachings on meditation!).

James of course is thought to be the brother of Yeshua - so he was someone intimately familiar with the real, inner teachings of Christianity. He makes a nice little quip in James 2:18-19 (NIV) about the falseness of the "Sola Fida" teaching: "You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder."

So obviously then it's not enough to acknowledge God - even the evil spirits, the Klippoth do that! Well, James then goes on the cite some evidence of this. James 2:20-25 goes on to say: "20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

So that's pretty clear!! I find it especially interesting that he mentions Rahab (the prostitute from the tale of the "Walls of Jericho"). There's a common teaching among many exoteric Christians that only Christians are saved. They'll sometimes (grudgingly) admit that the Jewish people before the coming of the Messiah might have been saved too - but that was a special case due to their covenant with God. But here we see James specifically mention a woman who was not only not a Christian, but was actually a Pagan as being Righteous (the name Rahab is a reference to Ra)! So much for "Only Christians are saved!". And what made her righteous? Her actions in helping the Hebrew spies enact God's plan in that tale.

James lectures the Church repeatedly on not judging people by wealth or outward appearance. He mentions in James 2:8-9: "8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. ". That "royal law" mentioned is the one found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:9-18 - and of course when Yeshua was questioned on what was the absolute essential, core of his teaching in Matthew 22:37-40: "37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”"

So having laid to rest the myth that the Bible (whether exoteric or esoteric) preaches that salvation is by Faith alone, what does James teach about Faith instead? Is he against Faith altogether? Absolutely not! The first part of James is a nothing less than a discourse about faith, prayer and meditation! There's particularly good advice in James 1:6-8: "6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.". So we need to cleave to God waveringly. That's what Faith helps us to do! For myself, I've come to see Faith as a particular "muscle" that needs to be developed, to provide strength and stability of mind, banishing the doubts that afflict us. There's a VERY obvious esoteric meaning to this: James is one of the more overtly "Gnostic" books in the Bible. When you pray, meditate or perform any other action to bring you closer to God, do it without wavering. Cultivate faith as a "fuel in the tank" of your practice.

We can also see in James that faith does NOT fee us from trials in life. In fact, there's quite a different message he gives us in James 2:4 :"2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.". So by enduring the trials of life we develop perseverance, or patience. It makes our life a living meditation that forges us ever stronger. So even in trials (like natural disasters) you can make use of them to strengthen yourself further and make progress on the path!

Now James has many other really nice lessons to teach us as well (cleaving to God, the danger of uncontrolled speech, lots of good stuff!) - so take the time to read it when you can. But the first 2 chapters have been playing on my mind in particular as once again Christianity is embarrassed by false teachings. James is of course indeed saying that we need to "walk the walk", do good deeds, good works, contribute to charity etc - those are extremely important and should be part of all of our paths in the exoteric world!

As Gnostics as well, who are also engaged with inner "good deeds" and preach that MORE than faith is required there's excellent advise for us. We need to make use of our Faith to propel us to our work. Don't feel like performing the Middle Pillar today? Be unwavering! Use your faith to get up and do it! There's also an inner, esoteric meaning to what James has to say about "widows and orphans" that I'm sure one of the Elders here would be better to preach about - but in essence we have a responsibility to those parts of ourselves we've neglected and forgotten (orphans) or that have experienced trauma that requires healing (widows). So through meditation and prayer, bring the light to those parts of yourself! Don't rely on pure Faith to get you through - you need to use that Faith to do the work. James warns us: "Faith without works is dead."

So hopefully that discourse was somewhat helpful to you. Let's not fall into the trap of viewing worldly wealth as having ANYTHING to do with spiritual wealth, or thinking that Faith alone with bring us to salvation. That's a big part of what has led to corrupted teachings & heresies in the exoteric Church. We need to put in the hard work, both within and without to reach our salvation. We need to be unwavering in this, cleaving to God, helping our neighbours, enduring the various trials of life as exercises that will make you stronger if you let them and following the example of the Messiah in all things. Tau Malachi made a great post about this here: http://www.sophian.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=281. And next time you need to explain to an exoteric Christian why they are mistaken about Faith being what saves our souls - remember to show them the teachings of this great Tzaddik & brother of Yeshua himself right under their nose in the conventional canon!

Edit: Wrong link to Tau Malachi's post!! viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3610. The other one is also great as well though!

Shalom & God Bless!

Elder Gideon
Site Admin
Posts: 1384
Joined: Mon May 10, 2004 8:41 am

Hearing After Doing

#2 Postby Elder Gideon » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:06 pm

Shalom!

I very much appreciated the big picture you shared. It opens up many concerns for what cause contemporary people to distrust Christian religion, concerns we too share as a Christian community of deep mysticism. Would that more Christians heard James in the light of Kabbalah, which stresses with so many diverse many metaphors the urgent need to embody, actualize, and realize the Divine. The entire point of the spiritual life and practice is to ground it with acts of service. To do, to make, is our realm: Asiyah! Here we are to grasp with our hands, walk with our feet, and speak with our voice as the Most High wills. How are others' prayers answered apart from righteous people?

Consider this mystery from Exodus when Moses inaugurated the blood of the covenant: Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be hear’ (24:7). This is a tremendous moment. How does doing precede hearing? When people act in generosity and solidarity with others, they hear things. All kinds of things. Many hearts open only after the fact of doing something for another. The awareness many might hear after genuinely helping comes in some experience of this mystery of Yeshua: Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me (Matthew 25:44). How sublime. "Me" is everyone in need.

If the Gospels were enacted with every resource available, there would be no hunger, no preventable sickness, or lack. The simplest reason this isn't a reality is because of talking about it. Instead of action, there's often too much bickering and debating about nothing, which changes nothing. How often there isn't even time to argue about faith itself, but to just act for the people and the land. All in a mystery, acting with compassion answers the biggest questions that often paralyze too many good Christians from acting. One is worthy of hearing only after acting.

May the people and land serve the urgent needs of the Holy Spirit as their own.

Elder Gideon

wizardofoz
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Aug 20, 2017 7:47 pm

Re: Hearing After Doing

#3 Postby wizardofoz » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:36 pm

Elder Gideon wrote:
Consider this mystery from Exodus when Moses inaugurated the blood of the covenant: Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be hear’ (24:7). This is a tremendous moment. How does doing precede hearing? When people act in generosity and solidarity with others, they hear things. All kinds of things. Many hearts open only after the fact of doing something for another. The awareness many might hear after genuinely helping comes in some experience of this mystery of Yeshua: Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me (Matthew 25:44). How sublime. "Me" is everyone in need.

...

Instead of action, there's often too much bickering and debating about nothing, which changes nothing.


So true! I'd not noticed the passage in Exodus before - that's an interesting point to consider.

Shalom


Return to “Mysteries of the Bible & Gnostic Scriptures”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest