We are quickly approaching the 500-year anniversary of the event that people often date the Reformation back to — Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 thesis to the doors of Wittenberg. As we approach this anniversary, there are certain to be many books and articles written on the importance of and reflections about the Reformation and its impact on our theology today. And rightfully so.
A New Series
One such books comes to us as the third in a series from Zondervan. The series is called “The 5 Solas Series: What the Reformers Taught … and Why It Still Matters.” I reviewed the two previous volumes in this series here and here
Now, allow me to introduce you to the third in the series written by Systematic Theology and Church History professor, Matthew Barrett — God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture
In this book, Barrett looks at the doctrine of sola Scriptura. But what is sola Scriptura exactly? Barrett says that it means that “only Scripture, because it is God’s inspired Word, is our inerrant, sufficient, and final authority for the church” (23). This means, then, that Scripture is our final authority, that it alone is our sufficient authority, and that, as God’s inspired Word, it is our inerrant authority.
Unfortunately, these are not truths that are embraced, let alone cherished, by all Christians today … even within so-called-Evangelicalism. Some want to say that the Bible is authoritative, but not inerrant. Others want to say that it is inerrant, but not sufficient. Still others say that it is all these things, yet in practice they do, believe, and act in ways that subvert their confession of such truths.
Barrett utilizes historical, biblical, and systematic theology in this book in order to help the reader gain a broad, biblical picture of the doctrine of God’s Word.
In part 1, Barrett travels back in time to show that a shift in authority has taken place since the Reformation — a shift that has massive implications for today. Beginning in the time of the Reformation and passing through the Enlightenment, theological Liberalism, and ending today with postmodernism, this first part is a dense, scholarly, but necessary look at how we’ve come to where we are today.
Part 2 shifts from historical theological to biblical theology by tracing the redemptive-historical context for the doctrine of Scripture in order to show that the triune God has made himself known covenantally, and that His covenantal Word always proves true.
The final section of the book, part 3, turns to systematic theology by looking at the topics of inspiration, inerrancy, clarity, and sufficiency. This last section is really the heart of the book, but the first 2 sections lay the groundwork in order for the reader to fully understand and appreciate the truths here in part 3.
This book, addressing the topic of God’s Word, is as needed today as it was 500 years ago. As Barrett says in the conclusion:
“While some hiss at biblical authority, I cherish it. If God did not speak with authority in his written Word, I would be lost in my sins to this day, and so would you. So it is with much confidence that I can say that if the authority of Scripture is abandoned, our faith will be too. It is only a matter of time. To quote Augustine: ‘Faith will start tottering if the authority of scripture is undermined'” (374).
What do you believe about God’s Word? Does what you say you believe about God’s Word square up with how you handle God’s Word, or with the other books and authors that you read and listen to their teaching? The reformation is not over. As the Reformers’ mantra stated — The church is reformed and always in need of being reformed according to the Word of God. May it be so with us today as well.
I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and dive into the deep end of the pool in studying the doctrine of the Word of God. It will be a challenge for you. It is not an easy read, nor is it an easy topic. But the challenge will be well worth the reward, for in this book you will get biblical, accurate, and informed teaching on what God’s Word says about itself — something that we are all continually in need of.
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Zondervan publishers for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.