Book Reviews

A Theology of James

Christopher W. Morgan Phillipsburg, NJ 2010-11-01

This is one of several books published recently in the Explorations in Biblical Theology series. Morgan, professor of theology and an associate dean at California Baptist University, Riverside, California, discusses many aspects of the theology of the Book of James. In discussing influences on James’s thought (Morgan’s chap. 2) he lists thirty parallels between the Epistle of James and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (pp. 32–33) and fifty-seven parallels between the epistle and Jesus’ teachings (pp. 34–36).

He proposes that James offered “wisdom for consistency in the community” (p. 40). The goal of wisdom is maturity, completeness (cf. 1:4), and integrity—what we are calling consistency” (p. 41). And wisdom “in the community means that James is addressing church matters from a pastoral perspective” (ibid.). Then in chapter 4 Morgan discusses wisdom in James, and in chapter 5 he discusses consistency in James.

Chapter 6 focuses on the subject of suffering in James, and Morgan discusses these seven points: (1) Suffering does come and in various forms (1:2–12). (2) Suffering is not good, but is used by God for our good (1:2–12). (3) Suffering is linked to the present age (1:9–12). (4) God will bless those who persevere through suffering (1:9–12). (5) Churches must minister to the suffering (1:27; 2:6–7, 14–26; 5:13–16). (6) God judges all who oppress His people (5:1–6). (7) Sufferers must be patient (5:7–11).

Poverty in James is the topic of chapter 7, and words in James is the topic of chapter 8 (in which Morgan discusses ten points on speech). God’s Word and the Law are considered in chapter 9.

In chapter 10 Morgan argues that James was not contradicting Paul on the subject of faith and works. He wrote, “True faith includes intellectual assent to truths, but also includes personal trust, manifests itself in obedience to God, and displays mercy toward others” (p. 134). “True faith issues in good works, love, good fruit, and obedience to Christ. Such works are not additions to faith, but organic expressions of genuine faith” (p. 135). Morgan says James was emphasizing the role of works because “people often fail to live out what they claim to believe” (p. 137). “Genuine faith results in genuine works” (p. 139).

Chapter 11 presents a nice summary of what James taught about God (thirty-three facts), Jesus, the Holy Spirit, humanity and sin, salvation and the Christian life, the church, and last things.

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