Knowing ScriptureWritten by R. C. Sproul Reviewed By Schneideman
R. C. Sproul entered the inerrancy debate early in this decade by convening a symposium which produced the book, God’s Inerrant Word (Bethany, 1974). His stand was clear: the Bible is fully inspired and without error in all that it affirms to be true. The foray has intensified from that time to this. Students examining Themeliosknow that its pages have contained healthy and helpful contributions to the issues at hand.
Sproul once again probes the issue of Holy Scripture, but this time from a different approach. His concern is the proper use of the inspired Word which the Christian community possesses. The Bible is being increasingly read by the Christian public. Some persons manipulate the Bible to justify personal positions, doing violence to the Scriptural intent. Others judge the Word of God to be obscure and impossible to comprehend. In the genre of T. Norton Sterrett’s, How to Understand Your Bible (Intervarsity Press, 1974), Sproul offers, Knowing Scripture (any facsimile to Knowing God is intentional for Dr Packer writes Sproul’s Foreword).
Knowing Scripture attempts to bring together both a rationale and a methodology for proper study of the Bible. His approach is undoubtedly stimulated by his teaching ministry at the Ligonier Valley Study Center, Pennsylvania. The volume before us is founded upon the author’s commitment to life-long Christian education for the laymen.
The book is highly readable. An open, dynamic style flows avoiding technical jargon and obscure issues. The first portion challenges the Christian to his duty to study, not merely read, the Word of God. Lazy excuses are uncovered and strong exhortation is given. The Christian must be a person of the Book and spiritual understanding is found through effort. Knowing Scripture moves on to give sanction to the right of private interpretation and the roles of objectivity and subjectivity in the study enterprise.
The next two chapters deal with the basics of hermeneutics. Issues such as the analogy of faith, historico-grammatical exegesis are dealt with in a sweeping but helpful manner. Generalizations tend to leave the reader with more fluff than stuff. But Sproul has a special knack of treating difficult subjects succinctly yet adequately. Practical rules for Biblical interpretation are presented in the next chapter. Helpful examples are given.
In the fifth chapter Sproul discusses special problems in Biblical interpretation which involve hotly debated issues of the day (woman’s role, ethics etc.). While final conclusions are left to the reader, Sproul gives insights necessary to proper conclusions. The book ends with survey of tools useful to the student of Scripture. This portion of the work is weak, for its brevity repeats information found in a number of sources.
R. C. Sproul’s concern should strike a deep and harmonious note within the evangelical student. Church revival and reformation are manifest by the Spirit of God through sturdy study of the Scriptures. Sproul dreams, as we should, of knowledgeable Christians making a renewed impact upon their respective cultures. This points up the need for the education of the Christian community in basic hermeneutics and the use of tools for intelligent Bible study. Knowing Scripture is a significant aid to this end. Its use should bring general Biblical study to a new level of enrichment and competence.
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia