Saturday, October 27, 2012

Understanding James using a Center-Out Outline

In the previous post (dated October 21, 2012) I discussed the outline of James.  After studying conflicting outlines from several different scholars, my conclusion was that the letter from James uses a Center-Out approach instead of the traditional Left-to-Right flow.  The difference may be difficult to understand since this writing style is so unique.

To help you adjust, let me give a good example based on James’ instruction to those in humble circumstances as found in James 1:9-10a (NASB).  “But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation…”  The rest of this instruction, in verses 10 and 11, continue to talk about the rich man.  There is no further discussion of the poor. 

Based on Verse 9 we know that the poor, often considered in a low position, should take glory in their high position.  However, James doesn’t provide any reason or cause for this unusual attitude.  He does continue to discuss the rich, but not another word about the poor.

In a traditional Left-to-Right outline we would expect James to give more detail about this attitude change in the following verses.  However, since this is a non-traditional outline, James leaves the subject without giving a full explanation.

But wait, in Chapter 2 we find another discussion about the rich and the poor.  This time, in Verse 5, James gives a very convincing reason for the poor to glory in their high position.  “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5, NASB)

Why should the lowly glory in their high position?  They should rejoice because God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith.  And, they should remember that those who love Him are heirs of God’s kingdom.

This is a great example of James’ writing style.  His letter doesn’t flow from topic-to-topic in sequential order.  Instead, he set down an anchor point, “various trials,” in the second verse.  From this anchor he moves through many different challenging situations.  Very often he skips from topic to topic with no warning.  You will have a much, much better understanding of this important letter, once you appreciate and apply the Center-Out, or Hub-and-Spoke outline format.

No comments:

Post a Comment