Is the Book of James Really ‘An Epistle of Straw’?

We have a lot of books in our New Testament. All of them, we believe, are divinely inspired. And yet we don’t spend equal amounts of time reading them. For most of us, our reading pattern is profoundly lopsided, focusing mostly on Paul (especially Romans and Galatians) and the Gospels (with John leading the way). Indeed, some books (like 3 John) hardly get read at all.

This trend raises intriguing questions about why certain books were even included in the New Testament. What purpose do these less famous books serve? This becomes particularly acute with the book of James. Although 500 years have passed since Martin Luther called it …

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Three Reasons the Old Testament is More Important than You Think

When it comes to the reasons people reject the Bible, the Old Testament might just rank near the top of the list.  Whether it’s just something confusing (the book of Leviticus), or something historically hard to believe (the “giants” of Genesis 6), or even something offensive (God’s supposed condoning of genocide), the Old Testament has it covered.

A number of years ago, Kristin Swenson published A Most Peculiar Book: The Inherent Strangeness of the Bible. She covered a lot of ground in terms of what makes the Bible peculiar, and certainly some examples came from the New Testament. But most examples were overwhelmingly from the Old Testament. (For more, …

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Think You Know the Christmas Story?

Bah, humbug.

That’s probably one of the most well-known lines in literary (and now, cinematic) history. Everybody immediately recognizes the curmudgeonly voice of Ebeneezer Scrooge as he pours cold water all over our Christmas spirit.

And his point is still made today by some, albeit in different words.  It’s that the Christmas story just isn’t true. It’s rubbish. It’s made up. It’s all in our heads.

While now is not the time for a full-scale defense of the historicity of the Christmas story, Scrooge’s skepticism does prompt us to wonder whether we’ve gotten the story right. Are we telling the story that really was, or are we just telling the

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6 Ways that Christian Students Can Prepare for College: #2 You Won’t Have All the Answers

Last week I began a new 6-part series helping Christian students think through how to prepare for life at a big university. The series is based on a recent lecture I gave to the Regents School in Austin, Texas, where I laid out 6 principles designed to help rising college students think more clearly about what’s ahead. It’s also based on my book, Surviving Religion 101.

In the first installment my advice was simple: “Take this transition seriously.”  Yes, students can be overly skeptical about their future college experience—what I call a “martyr complex”—where they begin to think everyone is out to get them. But the opposite is a …

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Keeping the Faith in College

Now that it’s officially August, the “back to school” conversations have begun. For many parents, however, it is not back to school for their kids, but “away” to school. Some parents are sending kids to college—perhaps for the first time.

My family is in exactly that position. My second child, John, heads to college in just a few weeks. My oldest, Emma, already left three years ago. And I know what parents are feeling. They are wondering how their child will survive the intellectual and spiritual challenges of university life.

Indeed, I can still vividly remember my own college experience as a believer on campus. In the fall of 1989, …

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