Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review – Understanding Scripture

I have some favourite theologians. I confess. I am not a pulpit-sniffer or a scholar fan-boy. But there are some teachers and preachers whose teaching and preaching resonates with me. And as an intentional practice I try and get my hands on anything and everything these leaders and educators write or speak. If I find a particular man's ministry is used strongly by the Holy Spirit in my edification and sanctification, then I want to avail myself of that resource. Thus, when it came to my attention that two of those pastor-teacher-type authors were joint editing a book, along with a third editor C. John Collins, I decided I must read it. Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible's Origin, Reliability, and Meaning is a book that has two editors whose ministries have had a significant impact on my life. Wayne Grudem and Thomas R. Schreiner are two men whose works I try and access whenever I can. And in this Crossway published survey of biblical issues I have been, yet again, strengthened and stretched in my faith.

Comprehensive but Not Extensive

By definition an overview is a general review or summary of a subject. It is not a thorough and meticulous investigation or a complete elucidation. It can be comprehensive, but it shouldn't be extensive. As an introduction to important matters pertaining to Scripture, this book does an admirable job. The broad scope of its inquiry is easily demonstrated with a listing of its parts:
  1. Interpreting the Bible
  2. Reading the Bible
  3. The Canon of Scripture
  4. The Reliability of the Bible Manuscripts
  5. Archaeology and the Bible
  6. The Original Languages of the Bible
  7. Old Testament and New
As is obvious, this book covers a lot of ground, all of which is salient to people of the Word. Chapters by numerous esteemed pastors and scholars constitute each part. In light of the topics and the purpose of this book, the chapters are brief but they are so without being scant. This book makes for a great introduction to these Biblical subjects.

A Springboard for Further Study

For those uninitiated with the many issues this book presents, Grudem and friends offer an excellent starting point for understanding the concepts and the seriousness of what is at stake. The writers are knowledgeable and passionate about their topics and they deal with the subject matter in a way that should encourage further study. With the smorgasbord of topics available, every reader should find a morsel or dainty that elicits further consumption; this book offers only the appetizers with a feast waiting those inclined to eat. But this book is not simply for the novice.

A Refreshing Review

I have looked into most of these issues at one time or another, pursuing the questions and doubts I had to my satisfaction. And though I'm no expert, I was delighted to find several chapters that piqued my interest and generated a desire to seek more information. As an English high school teacher, I found Leland Ryken's chapter titled Reading the Bible as Literature superb and will definitely be follow that trail and see what else Ryken has to offer on the subject. Other chapters of note were those by J. I. Packer, John Hannah, and Daniel B. Wallace. This booked worked well for me as a review but also provided some stimulus for further investigations.

One for the Shelf

My house is quite full; seven of us and all our stuff. Shelf space, or any other kind of space for that matter, is quite limited. My wife reminds me that I need to be selective when choosing books. Hence, I look for books that I believe will be a solid resource for the household. Books of interest are those which I foresee reading again, or at least consulting again, or books which I think my children will find helpful. Understanding Scripture is just such a book. It is a book that I'm certain I will use as a reference in the future. And it is a book I will direct my children to for initiation into some of the issues that are sure to crop up in their lives as they live them out as men and women who rely on the Bible for the 'daily bread'. This volume will find its way on to my bookshelf, and I recommend it for yours.

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