Gregory Jenks, who edited the volume, has also contributed the first chapter. It sets up the rest of the discussion in terms of the 'problem' that the Bible is for the contemporary church. Given the decision to proceed along these lines, it is not surprising that again and again in this chapter negative assertions are made about the traditional doctrines of biblical authority, truth, clarity and sufficiency. (I had really hoped to use the word 'assessments' rather than 'assertions' in the previous sentence, but the simple reality is that the negative comments are are far too often bald assertions with little anchoring in evidence and seemingly no awareness that serious scholarly work has established the complete opposite of what he is asserting.)
According to Jenks, since the Reformation, 'grassroots Christian views of the Bible have become increasingly exaggerated and naïve, claiming far too much for the Bible' (p. 11). What does he mean? Well, immediately he identifies this 'uncritical attachment to the Bible' as that which defends its unique authority, inerrancy, infallibility, historicity, self-sufficiency, internal consistency, clarity and universal applicability. Putting aside the fact that convictions on each of these matters have repeatedly been shown to have been commonplace long before the Reformation, Jenks ignores serious and sophisticated treatments of these aspects of Scripture in the last twenty to thirty years. Is he really so unaware of the scholarship of men like Kenneth Kitchen, Allan Millard, F. F. Bruce and Paul Barnett when he insists that 'the events represented in the Bible [are] more often fictional than historical' (p. 14)? The evidence in fact goes in entirely the opposite direction from his claim that '[a]s a result of our increased knowledge of the ancient past, the historical character of the Bible has been seriously compromised' (p. 13). This reads like the liberalism of the early twentieth century that was found to be so seriously lacking in credibility in the second half of the century. So he insists that '[c]ritical investigation of the world behind the biblical texts has established beyond reasonable doubt that the origins of the Bible were very different than Christians like to imagine' (p. 14). Really? Does he really imagine that Christians generally, and especially those who hold more conservative views of Scripture than he does, are unaware of the messiness of the historical processes even as they affirm ultimate divine superintendence and strong theological and not just historical reasons for the final form of the canon as listed in Article 6 of The Thirty-nine Articles? [Click here to read the review: The Once and Future Scriptures.]Although I disagree with Dr. Thompson on many issues, including common grace, 4 point Calvinism, and the idea that Scripture is an analogy of revelation rather than a univocal revelation in propositional form, this book review reveals that he is committed to the plenary-verbal inspiration of Scripture and the inerrancy of the Bible. If only he were more suspicious of Van Tilians like Vern Poythress!