Luther's Actions Disproved Sola Fide!
Catholics often use Saint James to illustrate the role our works/behaviors have in determining our ultimate destiny. Catholics don't believe we work our way to heaven but by His grace we cooperate with Christ through faith working through love. The scripture tells us that faith without works is dead and we are not saved by faith alone. Though there are many other examples in scripture which also illustrate this we often use James to help our Protestant brothers see that scripture clearly does not support the novel concept of sola fide, proposed by Martin Luther and subsequently taken up by the other reformers.
But wait! The Protestants claim that James 2 really doesn't mean that "we are not saved by faith alone." Instead, they claim that James was talking about a different kind of faith. A "non saving" faith is one explanation they use: "When James says: “Can faith save him?” his meaning is “Can the faith which he says he has save him?” that is, faith which is dead and produces no works; for that is the faith clearly* intended here, as it appears from what follows. To make the meaning more evident, Macknight renders the sentence thus, — “Can this faith save him?” that is, the faith that has not works." (Commentary on the Epistle of James by John Calvin)
Here is my point in all of this: I believe Luther knew exactly what Saint James was talking about. I suspect Luther exegeted this verse exactly the same way the Church had for over a thousand years. Luther took this verse at its face value and concluded that these verses in chapter 2 would contradict his new theology of sola fide. He didn't attempt to make it say the opposite of the "plain reading" of scripture as some of the reformers did. Instead, he took an easier route: "Let's throw Jimmy in the stove!" So he criticized the book of James and attempted to remove it from the canon of the NT. Luther claimed James was an "epistle of straw" and meant to be cast into the stove because it lacked "the nature of the gospel."
By these actions and comments we can see that Luther knew sola fide wasn't scriptural and wouldn't fly with that pesky epistle of straw hanging around the back of the bible. His attempt to discredit the epistle of Saint James and remove it is an indisputable proof of this. In his heart of hearts he knew that James was clearly saying that faith without works is dead, but this troublesome "Saint Jimmy" clearly repudiated one of the keystones of his sola system. He would have none of that. Thus we have on record his actions of attempting to remove Saint James thus proving that even Luther himself felt his doctrine of sola fide was un-supported by Scripture. Why else would he have tried to remove Saint James' epistle from the canon?
"Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. 'Faith justifies' and 'faith does not justify' contradict each other flatly. If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor's hood and let him call me a fool." -Dr. Luther 1520
"Saint Paul and Saint James never contradict themselves. One focused on mosaic law, the other on the good behavior that was needed to accompany a proclamation of faith. Clearly Luther was wrong about his sola system by misunderstanding this. If anyone can't see this I will give him my stethoscope and let him call himself a fool." -Dr. Rentler 2012