The letter from James is “a one-of-a-kind document”, according to scholar and commentator Scot McKnight, with “no real parallel among ancient letters, essays, and homilies.”
It is a letter that addresses numerous topics, many of which underlie the tensions behind the headlines today, including suffering, social justice, and poverty. It also contains some challenging passages related to the role of faith and works.
Here are 5 interesting facts as we start our study.
1) It was probably written by the brother of Jesus
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1)
Most scholars (at least those writing evangelical commentaries) agree that the author of this letter is James the brother of Jesus (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal 1:19), also known as James the Just. Another candidate is James, the son of Zebedee, the older brother of John, and an apostle in Jesus’ inner circle (Matt 17:1; Mark 5:37, 14:32-33). Many rule out the latter James, due to his early death at the hands of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2) around 44 CE. But that shouldn’t disqualify him. James the son of Zebedee would have been alive to write the letter if the earliest suggested dating of the letter is correct.
The primary reason for accepting James the Just as the author, over other possible candidates, is the tradition of the early church, which attributed the letter to him. Continue reading
I finished reading The Trouble with Physics by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin. In this book Smolin tackles the current state of physics and its lack of progress in solving the five fundamental questions. It was an interesting read, though if you are not someone who tackles popular works of science I would recommend Brian Greene’s Elegant Universe first.
Toward the end of the book, Smolin laments the inability of the scientific community to jump start another series of great discoveries, like those of the early twentieth century, to help move science forward toward finding the grand Theory of Everything (TOE). He attributes this to an academic system that rewards master craftsman who don’t challenge the current theories, while also failing to promote an environment for seers to flourish. Continue reading
Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world if the Judaeo-Christian God exists? This question presents us with the challenge known as the logical problem of evil. The solution to this problem, Scripturally and logically, is the high value placed on significantly free (ie libertarian free will (LFW)) people (see post).
A common challenge to the free will defense (FWD) is that God could create a world in which significantly free people never “go bad”. The FWD, as posited by philosopher Alvin Plantinga, however, rests on the idea that creating people with LFW makes such a world impossible (quotes).
God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all. … He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so.
C.S. Lewis would agree with Plantinga, a world in which people are significantly free yet never do anything but good is not possible, even for an omnipotent God. Continue reading