With Assurance and Affection: A Primer on How to Read Scripture

bibleWith the final seconds of 2015 ticking down, some bookish people are considering what they will read next year. Those who prize the Bible above all books are considering what reading plan they should adopt in 2016. At our church, we recommend three different reading plans for three different kinds of people (see Ben Purves’s blogpost). I will have more tomorrow on reading plans for those who don’t like to read.

For today, I want to tackle a different question: How will you read the Bible in 2016?  Continue reading

Finding Life “According to Your Word”: What Psalm 119 Says to Tired, Doubting Souls

lifePsalm 119 is a elongated exaltation of the truth, beauty, and goodness of God’s Word. In twenty-two stanzas it leads the reader to consider all the ways in which God’s Word intersects our lives. There are dozens of themes to consider, but one that stands out is the way in which the Word mediates and regulates our relationship with God.

While most systematic theologies present the doctrine of God’s Word in categories of inspiration, authority, sufficiency, clarity, and inerrancy, Psalm 119 speaks of the Word in purely existential terms. He commends us to pick and read—Tolle Lege!—because of what the Word has promised and produced in his own life. Psalm 119 is devotional theology of the highest quality, and for those struggling to get into the Word of God, it’s praise for God’s Word may be the very thing a tired and doubting soul needs to (re)turn to the Word. Continue reading

A Biblical Meditation on God’s iBible (1): Illumination and Intervention

In a informational age, where “data smog” threatens to pollute the air we breathe, where iPods, iPhones, and iGoogle have become part and parcel of daily living, and where keeping up with the Jones requires 24-hour instant information, it is salubrious to be still and know that our Lord is still God (Ps. 46:10) and that His Word remains fixed in the heavens (Ps. 119:89).  Yet, God’s Word is not a static, concrete fixture of law, suspended in time and space; it is living and active (Heb. 4:12), it has taken on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), and as we will consider over the next three days, it has come to God’s people over an extended period of time that has been marked by a number of progressive steps.  By means of nmenonic device, these stages included: general illumination (i.e. general revelation), historical intervention, divine inspiration, and Spirit-wrought inscripturation, transmission of information, and personal illumination.  Taking these “I” steps together, you might say that God has given us his own iBible.  Let us consider together the amazing process by which God has given us his Word:

Illumination (in General): In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). With the power of his voice he breathed life into being (Ps. 33:6; cf. Gen. 2:7) and with the command of his voice he spoke light into existence (Gen. 1:3ff). In a very real sense, the first day began with a massive burst of light, a grand illumination. From this moment in time until now God has illuminating his world with his glory and has been making himself known (cf. Rev. 22:5).  He maintains the existence of all things by the power of His Word (Heb. 1:3), and in his creation he has made his divine nature and infinite power known (Rom. 1:18-20).  As Psalm 19 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaim his handiwork; day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge; there is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.”  In other words, God’s general revelation, or general “illumination,” has transcended the cosmos.

Intervention (in History): Throughout the Scriptures, the God of the Bible is a God who reveals Himself. This is seen in his creation (Ps 19:1-7) and in his written Word (Ps 19:8ff); this is evident in the Imago Dei and in the mystery of marriage. In every area of life and in each stage of creation he gives more light to view ponder his nature and understand His work in the world. As the author of Hebrews says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son, who he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Heb. 1:1-2)” This progressive revelation can be seen in the way that each stage of Scripture offers are more complete picture of who the Triune God is:

Pentateuch: The God who is (Ex. 3:14)
History: The God who acts in love on behalf of his people (Ex. 34; Deut. 7)
Psalms: The God who reigns and deserves all worship (Ps. 93, 97, 99)
Prophets: The God who keeps his Word; the Covenantal God (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36)
Gospels: The God who is with us (Matt. 1:23)
Epistles: The God of Glory seen in the face of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:1-14)
Revelation: The Creator and Redeemer God; the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8)

(For a more complete discussion of theocentric revelational see Timothy George’s chapter on God in Theology for the Church, edited by Danny Akin [Nashville: B & H Academic, 2007]).

Perhaps today is the day to be still and once again know that he is God, to turn off the iPod and pick up God’s inspired Word. If that is hard, as it so often is, there is all the more reason and need to once again hear the voice of God in his eternal Word. Or perhaps, instead of opposing one against the other, download God’s Word on you iPod. Listen to it as you go, drive, workout, or whatever. In any case, wherever the word finds you, may we together make sure that we find the Word; may we have ears to hear what the Spirit of Christ is saying in God’s holy book.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss.