- Breathing is evidence of a living body, and good works is evidence of a living faith.
- Not breathing is evidence of a dead body, and the absence of good works is evidence of a dead faith.
- You can’t revitalize a corpse by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and you can’t create genuine faith by good works.
That’s my paraphrase of Dan G. McCartney on James 2:14–26 (James [BECNT; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009]). An 18-page PDF sampling of the commentary includes “Excursus 2: Faith, Works, and Justification in James and Paul” (pp. 272–79). Here’s how McCartney concludes his chapter on James 2:14–26 (p. 172):
James’s principal point is not in doubt, in any case: that which distinguishes living faith from dead faith is works of faith. By no means does any of this suggest that one could create genuine faith by works, any more than an effort at mouth-to-mouth resuscitation could revitalize a corpse.