In the early-ish days of blogging, it was normal to have a blogroll: a list of links to other (often more popular) blogs that the author was interested in. The blogroll would sit calmly in the sidebar and let readers browse their way to other blogs and other authors, discovering fresh ideas and insights. Now, nobody maintains a blogroll. The best hope you have of finding someone else is to follow a link in the body of a post or in a comment or in a link dump. Around here, they also show up in link posts that I share fairly frequently.

But the fact is that I kind of miss the blogroll, and I think that it’s worthwhile to share some of the blogs I read and a note one why I read them. So here’s a new series titled People I Read. I’ll try to put up one example every couple of weeks.

This post’s person I read is James McGrath from Exploring Our Matrix.

I’ve been reading Exploring Our Matrix for a long time, which makes sense since James – the Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University in Indianapolis – has been writing there since February 2007 (when he started it as a ‘sequel’ to a previous blog). Professionally, he writes on early Christianity, Mandaeanism, and religion and science fiction. While those are all interesting subjects, I read him mostly for his work on mythicism.

Mythicism is the idea – popular in some corners of the internet – that Jesus never existed as a real, actual human being. Mythicists argue that Jesus was originally a mythic figure like Hercules or Perseus who was later imagined as a historical figure. James writes passionately and compellingly against this position. He also does an excellent job of linking to other authors making a similar case. If you’re interested in the case for the historical Jesus, Exploring Our Matrix is a great place to start.

Right now, there is a movement in churches and nonprofits arguing that charity is toxic, that helping hurts, and that the entire nonprofit sector needs to be reformed to truly lift people out of poverty. These charity skeptics are telling Christians that traditional charity deepens dependency, fosters a sense of entitlement, and erodes the work ethic of people who receive it. Charity skepticism is increasingly popular; and it is almost certainly wrong.

Now available from Wipf and Stock’s Cascade Books imprint, Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church) weaves together research and scholarship on topics as diverse as biblical scholarship, Christian history, economics, and behavioral psychology to tell a different story. In this story, charity is the heart of Christianity and one of the most effective ways that we can help people who are living in poverty. Charity—giving to people experiencing poverty without any expectation of return or reformation—can save the world and help make God’s vision for the church a reality.

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