Paul on Faith
"In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to the last, just as it is written; the righteous will live by faith."
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access (by faith) to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God."
"We, who are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles, (yet) who know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."
James on Faith
But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works."
The two positions are diametrically opposed. Paul says, man is "justified" through faith alone. James retorts, faith without works is dead. James recognizes that faith plays some roll in spiritual advancement but designates works (right action) with prime importance. Notice the correlation between statement of James (demonstrate faith through works) and Jesus "Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:16.
Is there any way to reconcile these two positions? Consider this quote from Abd al-Kader, Algerian Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic (1808 - 1883):
His faith is no longer of any use to him. In fact his faith is only useful so long as he is veiled and has not obtained direct vision and evidence. . . . When that which was hidden becomes evident, when that of which he was merely informed is directly seen, the soul no longer derives any profit from that which it believes but only from that which it contemplates and sees.The Spiritual Writings of 'Abd al-Kader (1995), Kitab al-Mawaqif. Link.
For Abd al-Kader, the beginning spiritual aspirant needs faith to take the initial steps on the path. But the mystic who has had direct knowledge (gnosis) of the divine no longer requires the crutch of faith. "Faith is no longer of any use to him." Is there any parallel teaching in the Christian traditions? I think so. See the following from the Gospel of Philip (Nag Hammadi library):
Farming in the world requires the cooperation of four essential elements. A harvest is gathered into the barn only as a result of the natural action of water, earth, wind and light. God's farming likewise has four elements - faith, hope, love, and knowledge. Faith is our earth, that in which we take root. And hope is the water through which we are nourished. Love is the wind through which we grow. Knowledge, then, is the light through which we ripen. Grace exists in four ways: it is earthborn; it is heavenly; [...] the highest heaven; [...] in [...].Per the Gospel of Philip, "faith" is the first step in spiritual growth. Knowledge is the last step on the path. I would go one step further and say that faith is a necessary element on the path but, once it outlives it's usefulness, the doctrines of faith must be shed least they become a burden to further advancement. An infirmed person relies on crutches while in physical therapy to regain full use of one's limbs. But once the ability to walk is regained, the crutches no longer have utility for him and, in fact, become a burden were he to continue dragging them around. Once the caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, the cocoon must be shed.