gdemetz, I have no problem with the verse from James. Faith without works is dead because it is the life in Christ that follows the new birth that gives demonstration of the saving grace that has taken place in the heart of the believer. I think that if a person claims faith in Christ his or her life should reflect that faith. If it doesn't, if no real change has taken place, then it would likely be because their proclamation of faith is false.
yes, but the "real problem" is the persistence for the "claim" of faith.. whether it is sincere or not.
Read James 2:18 "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."
Clearly the notion of boastful claims about one's faith is being addressed here.
More importantly, it must be recognized that while works may be deceiving to men, in that one may do them without faith, there can be no mistake that when the works are absent faith is absent too. - that is to say, a man that does good works may or may not have faith, but a man that does not do good works has no faith at all.
The evangelical position is so focused on proclaiming their own faith that they seldom are seen doing actual good works. James 2:18 addresses this idea quite well.
Paul really hammers on this point of 'salvation' being in the hands of an individual's faith and these teachings really took hold as Christianity freed itself from popery. However, none of this discourse, nor the doctrine from God, has ever freed an individual from the command to do good works - as you are bound by faith you are equally bound by works, and none of us have the ability to exclude one form the other anymore than one can tear the roots from a tree and claim all that is needed is the fruit.