God has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible

Written by J. I. Packer Reviewed By Tony Lane

In this second edition God has Spoken, which first appeared in 1965, has been revized and enlarged. The main changes are as follows: First, there is a new Introduction and an Appendix containing the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). Secondly, the Anglican emphasis of the first edition (which appeared in the Christian Foundations series) is to some extent broadened by the addition of extra material (pp. 34–8) and the modification of some titles (pp. 32, 134). Thirdly, some new material is added, to qualify what was earlier stated (pp. 58f., 83f.), to answer possible objections (pp. 73, 120–4), to bring the book up to date (pp. 28, 94f.) and to add a healthy Christological dimension (p. 30, cf. pp. 14f.). Perhaps the most interesting addition is a section entitled Infallible? Inerrant? (pp. 110–4). The author argues that we need not be wedded to these particular terms as long as we maintain the truths that they were designed to affirm. Finally, a number of footnotes have been updated (pp. 30, 119, 124—p.80, n. 1 slipped through the net), taking note especially of the influx of liberalism into Roman Catholicism since Vatican II (pp. 26, 31, 90). The author’s claim that his ‘positions taken in 1965 are maintained, so far as I am aware, unchanged’ (p. 7) would appear to be justified. The revision helps to bring the book up to date and the appendix is especially to be welcomed since it will make this important statement more readily available.

Dr Packer offers us, as we would expect, a lucid and forthright exposition of the doctrine of Scripture. He relates it to other Christian doctrines (ch. 3), traces it in the formularies of historic Protestantism (ch. 2) and affirms it in opposition to the liberal view of the Bible (ch. 2, 4f.). In the last chapter (ch. 6) he considers the use of the Bible. This book will serve as a useful introduction to the subject for the thinking Christian, though its usefulness will be lessened when the long-awaited revision of Fundamentalism and the Word of God appears.

There are two main weaknesses in the book. First, not enough attention is given to historical criticism and its relation to the divine authority of Scripture. We are told that historical criticism is ‘essential’ (pp. 91f.) but told little about how it should function for the bible-believing Christian. It is a pity that the opportunity was not taken in the revision to introduce and develop the important insights of Dr Packer’s ‘Hermeneutics and Biblical Authority’ (Churchman 81, 1967; Themelios 1.1, 1975). Secondly, there is a tendency to write off modern theology too sweepingly in a manner that cannot escape the charge of caricature and which merits some of the strictures of James Barr (Fundamentalism pp. 164–6). It is a pity that an otherwise excellent book should be marred in this way.

Tony Lane

London School of Theology