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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Romans, the “Righteousness of God,” and the 1984 NIV

I was recently on the Knowing Faith podcast with Jen Wilkin, J.T. English, and Kyle Worley. We had a great time focusing on some of my favorite verses in the Bible, Romans 3:21-26.  Martin Luther called those verses, “The chief point, and the very central place of the Epistle, and of the whole Bible.”

This wonderful passage begins with a key line, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law” (v.21).  As I noted in the podcast, this phrase “righteousness of God” has occasioned much debate in the modern day. Is this a reference to God’s righteousness (subjective genitive)? Or a reference to righteousness from

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Is the “New Perspective on Paul” a Product of Our Current Cultural Moment?

Ever since Krister Stendahl’s seminal essay, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” one of the foundational arguments for the New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP) has been that the traditional protestant/reformed view of justification is largely due to the cultural influence of “the West” and its emphasis on individualism and subjectivism.

Paul is not really concerned with individual sin, guilt and forgiveness (we are told).  Reformed folks are simply reading that issue into the text due to their cultural situation. Indeed, according to Stendahl, the Reformed view of justification is largely due to Luther’s individual struggle with his own conscience.

In place of the reformed view of …

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The Achilles Heel of the New Perspective on Paul

As most readers know, there has been a long scholarly debate over what is known as the New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP). This approach argues that “justification” in Paul does not mean what many Christians (especially Reformed folks) have always believed.

In short, NPP advocates (e.g., N.T. Wright, James D.G. Dunn) argue that when Paul mentions “justification by faith” he is not referring to a doctrine about how one gets saved but to how membership in the covenant community can be obtained without the standard Jewish boundary markers laid out in the law of Moses (food laws, circumcision, Sabbath observance).

In other words, justification is less about soteriology and more …

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A Word of Encouragement to Weary Pastors: God Does Not View Your Labors as “Filthy Rags”

When it comes to our justification–our legal standing before God–our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.”  Indeed, that is the very thing that makes the gospel good news.  We are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done.  We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.

But what does God think of our good works after we are saved?  Here is where, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages.  Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace …

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