5 Interesting Facts about the Letter from James

Saint_James_the_JustThe 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

Why could God not have made men such that they always freely choose the good?

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).

Irenaeus

Irenaeus

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

It seems we have been made to suffer…

We have been teaching a class on the Foundations of the Christian Life. We are using C. Michael Patton’s book, Now That I’m a Christian, as a guide (see review here).

This week we tackled several questions related to God and evil – questions like ‘what is evil’ and how do we address the ‘problem of evil’.

While the mindless philosopher C3PO may be right that “we seem to be made to suffer”, the question is how does this fit with the notion of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and good God. Why is it that “bad things” happen to “good” people? Continue reading