The James Code: 52 Scripture Principles For Putting Your Faith Into Action, by O.S. Hawkins
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
Readers not familiar with the author’s previous works  may find themselves somewhat confused by the book’s title since the book does not, properly speaking, have a code at all, or at least its code is not a biblical skip code of the kind that is popular among those who seek to mine the scriptures for supposed double meanings. The only code this author has is in the way that he manages to turn the passages of James into rants about stress, easy-believism, the corruption of contemporary Christian faith and its lack of moral credibility and its search for political power, as well as issues such as the theft of employers’ time and the need to support godly causes with one’s money. Most of what the book of James talks about, with the exception of James’ harsh attitude towards those who proclaim their faith in the absence of visible fruits of that faith, are at best tangentially related if at all to the subject matter of the book. And yet the author feels it necessary to support his strident Calvinistic books by shoehorning his personal and political ideas into what are ostensibly 52 short Bible commentaries that together make a year-long devotional series on the Book of James.
In terms of its contents, this book is simple and straightforward. Each of the book’s 52 chapters begins with a title, often connected in some sort of thematic fashion with chapters around it, one or more verses among the slightly more than 100 verses of the book of James, and a discussion that lasts several pages including everything from the author’s personal experiences, his off-topic ramblings related to some sort of sociopolitical ranting, occasionally insightful biblical cross-references to the writings of Paul or the Sermon on the Mount, followed by some sort of action step that the reader is supposed to apply in their lives to turn the head knowledge about the Bible that the author seems to decry with the heart knowledge of obedience and practice. These are valid concerns, and some people share both an intense interest in the application of knowledge rather than the mere accumulation of it  as well as a particular interest in the deeper spiritual meanings of the book of James , but still, this book is deeply unsatisfying.
In trying to figure out why this book is a letdown, I pondered the fact that on the one hand it urged other people to say few words, yet itself it took almost 300 pages to talk about a very short book of the Bible. In terms of its double standard, it reminded me of the bank in the novel Middlemarch that had as its motto: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” without realizing the contradiction between its line of business and its statements. Those who make a living by being full of words can hardly criticize people on social media for being quick to speak and slow to listen. This is a book that is quick to point the finger at others, condemning the reader for reading non work-related materials on the job, for example, without a great deal of self-reflection. It would have been a better book were it more confessional and less accusatory, but that would require the author to be self-reflective and not a judgmental Calvinist, and that might be hoping or expecting too much. It is far better, if one is reading this book, to take it as an opportunity to read and research James, and to find whatever is of worth in one’s own reflection and practice, and to pass over the rest as charitably as possible.
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