Demons (2:19)

The first example is devastating. What could there possibly be from which people of "faith" would want to distance themselves farther than demons? You believe (pisteueis) leaves the continuity of the theme of faith (pistis) unmistakable. But it is a doctrinal belief (believing that something is true) rather than genuine Christian faith (believing in Christ with trust and obedience); therefore it is hardly a rebuttal to what the apostle Paul wrote about faith. For the particular point of doctrinal belief James chooses the fundamental affirmation of Judeo-Christian monotheism from the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4. This is devastating again, for no one claiming to have Christian faith could dismiss this as a trivial example. Even the demons believe in the sense of recognizing the truth, and they at least realize that it leaves them cause to shudder in fear rather than rest in confidence that they are saved. James may well be remembering the monotheistic fear that demons exhibited when confronted by Christ, for it made a powerful impression on observers (Mk 1:23-28; 5:1-20). The point is that believing the truth without obeying the truth does not save us at all, any more than it saves demons. In fact, the comparison to demonic "faith" implies that belief without obedience is even worse than useless.

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