Did Dr. Douglas Beaumont Destroy Protestantism?

Dr. Douglas Beaumont

As I’ve mentioned before, YouTube likes to make suggestions on videos that they believe I’m going to enjoy. Recently, a video popped up on my feed at the suggestion of YouTube called, “The Bible Verse That Could Destroy Protestantism.” You can watch the video here. It’s from the YouTube channel of Dr Douglas Beaumont, who, of other things, is a Catholic apologist. I had never heard of Dr. Beaumont before, but I was intrigued enough by the title to click on the video and watch it.

I found the video interesting enough that I thought it might be something to discuss. Dr. Beaumont seems to be a pretty engaging guy, and I found him easy to watch and understand. But first, let me take the time to point out – as I have in the past – that I am completely disinterested in bashing our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. If a person loves and serves Jesus in the Catholic tradition, then they are my family member, and I don’t tolerate speaking despairingly of them.

The purpose of this blog is to respond to a theological matter, not a people. Please keep that in mind.      

Okay, Dr Beaumont argues in his video that there’s a verse of Scripture, James 2:24, that is quite determinantal to the Protestant position – not because non-Catholics can’t respond to the verse, but because in doing so, he contends, Protestants must surrender one of their foundational beliefs.  James 2:24 reads, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (ESV)

So, let me layout Dr. Beaumont’s argument as I understand it: Dr. Beaumont suggests:

1. Protestants believe in faith alone and the Bible alone.

2. Scripture plainly says in James 2:24 that we are not justified by faith alone.

3. Because this passage appears troublesome to Protestant dogma, Protestants appeal to their tradition to understand it.

4. By appealing to tradition, Protestants demonstrate that we don’t go by Scripture alone.   

Now, this is how Dr Beaumont believes that Protestantism could be destroyed. So, let’s take a look at his argument, point by point. We’ll start with # 1: that Protestants believe in faith alone and the bible alone. Well, I can’t speak for all Protestants but many do hold to those foundational beliefs. However, I’ll point out that the Scripture does not say anywhere that we must follow Scripture alone, and that the words “faith alone” only appear in the verse that we just read that says we are not saved by faith alone. Both of these statements came out of the Reformation in response to the Roman Catholic Church. While I don’t really have a problem with them, I don’t live or die by them either. For the purpose of this video I’ll just concede to point number one, though we will have to talk about the understanding of “Scripture Alone” a bit later. 

Point number two is the passage from James 2:24, and we will most certainly agree with that. Now, it’s with number three that we must spend some time. Dr. Beaumont argues that to reinterpret the obvious clarity of James 2:24 we must appeal to our non-Catholic traditions. This is where I believe the misunderstanding begins.

Now, let me point out that I can’t speak for all Protestants here, but can only share how this argument in no way threatens my non-Catholic position. First, me and many of the non-Catholics that I worship with, don’t reject tradition. We have many traditions in the life of our church that we enjoy. We fully recognize that traditions can contribute to the life of the church. We ideally want our traditions to be in accordance with Scripture, and certainly never in opposition to it. The rallying cry of sola scriptura – or Scripture Alone came out of the Reformation, which really kind of began with Martin Luther’s opposition to the Catholic tradition of the selling of indulgences. Luther rightly observed that the selling of an indulgence was not supported by Scripture. He wrongly assumed that if the Pope only knew how indulgences were being preached, that he would be aghast.  And so out of this situation, Protestants began to challenge the Catholic church on their traditions and came up with the slogan, “Scripture Alone.” Again, I’m not defending that position here. 

But, as far as interpreting James 2:24 out of my tradition I completely disagree with Dr Beaumont. The tension caused by that verse is not between Catholics and Protestants, or even between Protestants and the “Scripture Alone” rallying cry. Rather, it’s found between the Apostle James and the Apostle Paul. Paul wrote we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. (Eph. 2:8-9). Yet James said we are saved by works and not by faith. Now, I suppose it’s possible that a Protestant might think to themselves that they have to interpret one or both of these passages to keep with their tradition.   However, I don’t know anyone who actually does that.

Rather, what I do is compare both passages, not to any tradition, but to the whole of scripture. I might consider what those who came before me taught, but I’m not bound by that. In many theological issues I actually agree with my Catholic brothers and sisters, not because of their authority but because I agree with their reasoning. Now, I know, that will make a lot of Catholics very nervous.  But you see this demonstrates what I believe is a fundamental difference between the Catholic mindset and the Protestant mindset. In determining what Scripture teaches, Catholics look to the authority of the Church and also to the authority of tradition to reveal to them the interpretation. Both are binding. So, when Dr. Beaumont tries to understand how a Protestant seeks to interpret Scripture, he apparently assumed the same thing is true: that Protestants will look to tradition as some sort of an authority. This, however, is not the case.

Protestants generally do not consider traditions to be authoritative. Paul did tell the church in Thessalonica to hold to “the traditions which you were taught.” And, I of course, would be happy to follow those traditions if I knew what they were, but Paul didn’t spell them out for us. I know the Catholic Church claims that they’ve preserved them, but I believe that history and the scriptures have demonstrated that that’s just not the case. 

So, did Dr. Beaumont destroy Protestantism with James 2:24?  No. What he did was demonstrate how differently Protestants and Catholics think in terms of authority.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 35 years.




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