Classical Theism at the Center: The Theological Motive for James’s Practical Christianity

James is widely regarded as the most practical letter in the New Testament. Scholars also consider James as the most Jewish letter. Therefore, one is not shocked when Frankemölle asserts that “the whole Epistle of James is theocentric.” Most scholars at least recognize that James’s Doctrine of God lies behind much of his ethical exhortations. This recognition normally focuses on such actions and attributes of God that one can easily see the ethical implications of like creating, benevolence, compassion, holiness, omnipotence, justice, and impartiality. What is surprising is that the God at the center of James’s practical exhortations is immutable, impassable, and simple. These three key tenants of classical theism (immutability, impassability, and simplicity) are frequently attacked in modern theology for being too Hellenistic and impractical. James demonstrates that the immutable, impassable, simple God of classical theism is both Jewish and practical.
To show that James’s concept of God is immutable, impassible, and simple, the paper begins by defining the terms as they are disputed. The paper then examines the text of James for the presence of these attributes moving from the most explicit reference to divine immutability in 1:17 and tracing it throughout the letter. Next, impassability in James is explored since it is a corollary of immutability. Finally, divine simplicity is explored. While simplicity is not as explicit in James as immutability, its presence is pervasive. In fact, it is so central to James that David Gibson sees it as responsible for James’s “governing and unifying theme” of wholeness.

6 thoughts on “Classical Theism at the Center: The Theological Motive for James’s Practical Christianity”

  1. Cornett, Classical Theism at the Center: The Theological Moti
    This is a good project for bringing NT exegesis and classical theism together. If well done, its interdisciplinary example will be valuable.

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  2. I think this could be done
    I think this could be done well, but seems more at home in ST sections (at least a sizable portion of the paper will likely be defining these commitments of classical theism & reflecting on the theological language of a select few phrases from the letter, etc).

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