Thursday, November 16, 2017

Book Review - God's Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture

As many know, this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  5 centuries ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses against indulgences on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  What he thought was an invitation to theological discussion kicked off a movement that has changed the world.

Many books have been written in the past year to honor this event.  For example, I am reading one biography of Luther presently and have another in my too-read pile.  Other books have dealt with the theological issues of the reformation and have even asked the question of whether the reformation is still important.  Some of the best of these books can be found in the 5 Solas series, a set of 5 books exploring the 5 Solas of the Reformation – sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone) solus Christus (Christ alone) and soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone).

I recently had the pleasure of reading one of these volumes, Matthew Barrett’s book on sola Scriptura entitled God’s Word Alone:  The Authority of Scripture.  The discussion around the doctrine of Scripture – especially issues like inerrancy – never really ends.  The authority of God’s Word is being continually challenged, whether in lofty academic arguments or in day to day pastoral counseling situations where the counselee is not interested in submitting to what the Scripture commands.  Barrett’s book is excellent for anyone to read in order to bolster their confidence in the Scriptures and their understanding of the doctrine of the Word of God.

The book has three main sections.  The first is a historical survey of how people have understood the authority of God’s Word from the time of the Reformation to the present.  Barrett dives into the Roman Catholic view of authority that Martin Luther dealt with, the rise of liberalism and its denial of the Bible’s authority, and today’s postmodern world and its view of the Scriptures.  It is a very helpful survey and a good reminder of how over the centuries, people have challenged the authority of God’s Word in various ways, a pattern which continues today.

The second section of the book is journey through redemptive history.  Barrett explores the necessity of a Word from God, how God revealed his Word through the covenant relationships He established and finally how those covenants were fulfilled in God’s Word made flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The final portion of the book is a theological survey of four of the vital components of the doctrine of Scripture – inspiration, inerrancy, clarity and sufficiency.  In each of these chapters, Barrett does a great job explaining the importance of these ideas, showing how Scripture itself supports them, and then briefly tackling how these ideas are under fire today, both from outside the church and also from people inside the church who carry the label “evangelical.”  This was the most valuable section of the book for me – it reminded me how rich and how vital each of these ideas are for life and ministry.

God’s Word Alone does not answer all of one’s questions about the Bible – few books attempt that.  But it is a great survey of Biblical truth, a rich source of well-reasoned argument and will be encouraging and challenging for the reader.  I highly recommend it for anyone who has questions or is just looking to solidify their understanding of or faith in of the authority of Scripture.  I have already begun another volume in the series, Faith Alone:  The Doctrine of Justification by Thomas Schreiner, and look forward to completing the series in the coming year.

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