Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

A Brother’s Wisdom 70

JesusJames*.jpg James says something in James 4:11 that can be confusing:

Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his
brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you
judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

It does not follow that judging another person automatically judges the Torah, but if we read this verse in light of the next one, something becomes immediately clear. Here is James 4:12:

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?


James is not talking here about the need to render judgment in life — murder is wrong. Nor is he prohibiting labeling someone — murdering is done by murderers. Instead, he is talking about a kind of slandering — the kind that leads to verbal damnation. And he is talking about one person disagreeing or defying the Torah, which somehow supports what James is saying. And he is talking about a person who, in effect, takes the place of God. This reading of 4:11 is supported by 4:12.

Now one final point: What does James mean when he says someone speaking against and judging the Torah? In light of other texts in James, I think there is grounds to think James might have the law of love — 1:25; 2:8-10 — in view. In other words, the damning slanderer is not acting according to the law of love.

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Jim Marks

posted June 16, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Could we say here that what James is talking about here is when we pass judgments about others which exceed our understanding? We know murder is wrong. We -know- that. But what about sectarian disagreements about theology? What about Palagians? What about Buddhists? What about secular humanists? Are we not putting ourselves into a place of authority we have no claim to when we judge and slander people with whom we disagree by claiming that we -know- The Law with regards to these things and they do not?
Which is not a call for pluralistic relativism where all points of view are equally valid. It is a call to humble conversation in which all points of view are equally suspect until we can all, in love, agree.
Do we not judge The Law when we claim to know and understand all of it and how it ought to be applied? A place only G-d can occupy? We judge The Law to be something completely comprehensible to a human mind (which anything which arises from G-d’s perfection cannot be) while simultaneously insisting that The Other does not understand or own it the way we do.

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Joe B

posted June 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I am not saying that Scott agrees with my thinkng, but my thinking flows easily with his proposition:
I believe the word Law is used variously in the NT, though NT expositors, obsessed with the Law v. Grace dichotomy, seem always to take it to mean specifically the Torah. I would agree that this passage points to the perfect law of liberty, which I take as the very theme of James epistle.
If I am wrong on this the sky does not fall. I could argue the opposite, noting that the man who sits as judge is in a position superordinate to the law itself (after all, te law does not climb off the paper and execute judgement, the judge determines whether it is of any actual effect.) I viewed the passage thus for many years, and I still think it has some explanatory power that way.
Still, over time I have come to think that James’s summary of All Truth is expressed in this life governed by and flowing from this Perfect Law of Liberty. It’s a gross abbreviation, but since I am working on the virtue of brevity, I’ll now shut up.

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posted June 17, 2009 at 11:15 am

Jim Marks and Joe B

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