Protestants accept the doctrine of faith alone. If they accept the doctrine of free-will, how do they reconcile James 2:20-24 faith is dead without works, since works to do good is a free- will of man.

James 2:20-24

  1. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
  1. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar?
  1. Seest thou that faith did cooperate with his works and by works faith was made perfect?
  1. And the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God.
  1. Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?
  • 2
    I'm not sure I understand; how is doing good works contrary to free will? Also, does this answer your question?
    – Matthew
    Apr 6, 2021 at 1:52
  • I have amended it to make it more logical and makes sense.
    – Kaylee A
    Apr 6, 2021 at 2:07
  • What does the question have to do with free will? Isn't it just a question about faith and works? How would a Protestant who accepts free will have a harder time with this than a Protestant who doesn't? Whether or not the Protestant accepts free will, James 2 is still going to pose a problem for sola fide.
    – zippy2006
    Apr 17, 2021 at 1:54

2 Answers 2


I don't understand the problem here.

(Disclaimer: The following is spoken from a Protestant perspective.)

We are Justified through faith alone, and faith is the free gift of God. Good works are not necessary for faith, but they are the fruit of faith.

We also have free will, which means we can choose whether or not to do good works. (Note that an "evil" person — meaning, a person without faith — might still choose to do good works for various reasons.) So, we could choose to not do good works... but if we have faith, why would we make that choice?

What James 2:20 is saying is that faith without good works is (at best) suspect. I'm not being "forced" to do good works, but through faith, I want to do good works.

Perhaps what you're really asking is if a person can reject faith/grace? If so, then I would say the answer is "yes". The doctrines of Faith Alone and Grace Alone are not, at least so far as I know (YMMV depending on just what denomination you ask) do not mean that faith and grace are "forced" on us.

  • “Fruit of faith” is the out put or result of faith. Faith and work go together. It takes two to make grace or faith work. i.e. God give you grace and it’s up to man to accept or reject this faith therefore it’s an action to do good or bad. Hence there’s no fruit of your faith if there is no motivation on your part. Even the devil have faith but reject God.
    – Kaylee A
    Apr 6, 2021 at 2:38

The biggest problem is that there seems to be confusion regarding the identity of a Christian.

A Christian is a disciple of Christ, having faith in and obeying Christ.

To not have faith and not obey Christ is to not be a disciple of Christ.

By definition having faith and obeying the Lord are characteristics of the disciple.

Therefore one has freewill to be a disciple or not be a disciple by the way one chooses to live out ones life.

  • It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God, who showeth mercy. The outcome is not (thank God) dependent on what one 'chooses'. Whom he called them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 6, 2021 at 19:47

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