Scripture and the Authority of God

This bookreview was written by Annemarie Huijink

“Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so”. We all know this song but what is exactly the authority of the Bible and how does it relate to the authority of God. These were some questions I thought about when opening the book: Scripture and the Authority of God by Tom Wright. Before I will give my opinion on the book first I will first share a little background about the writer.

Tom Wright is a retired Anglican bishop and is now a research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College, St Andrews in Scotland. He is a well know writer among various parts of the Christian community. His book Surprised by Hope, made him more well known to a wider audience and his study guides for the New Testament are used for individual and group Bible studies all over the world. For Wright, devotion and academics are not to be separated so to make it possible to read the bible properly.
In this book, Wright is looking for answers to the next three questions (and I summarise):”

1. In what sense is the Bible authoritative?

2. How can the Bible be appropriately understood and interpreted?

3. How can its authority be brought to bear on the church itself, let alone on the world?”

To get the full understanding of the answers Wrightgives to these questions I would, of course, recommend you to read the book, but I will give a little summary on what stood out for me.
The Bible is a book full of stories and Wright states that, normally, the authority of a story is not high. Nor is it a list of rules and regulations which are easily followed. Thisdoes however not mean that the Bible has no authority. On the contrary, “through the Spirit, who is at work as people read, study, teach and preach Scripture, God is at work and to God is all authority in heaven and on earth.” The Bible has a key place in the church and is part of the tradition of reading and studying together to understand Gods word. To understand God’s word, Wright says that we should know the whole story and read it contextually. We should not only be placing a story from the Bible into its own timeframe but also in relation to the rest of the Bible. God is working in the world towards a climax throughout time and that means that we as Christians live in a different part of the story than people living in the time of the Old Testament. But to understand the part of the story in which we are living, we need to try to understand the history of the story.
In the book there is a big part for church history. The reason for this is that Wright thinks it’s important to know our history as a church as well, because every part of that history has an influence on the current way we read the Bible. The same counts for the reality of present day life, and the culture and politics we live in now. By having an open debate with other people about how to understand the Bible, we learn more about our own ways of reading the Bible and our own assumptions.
The book ends with two case studies, trying to give examples for how to face actual situations or questions with this way of reading the bible.

Now for my own opinion about this book: I would say I’d recommend it to anybody who likes to read the Bible and gives it a important place in their lives. It truly gives a refreshing view on what the Bible can give us as Christians, in the sense that we learn about the history of God’s plan in which we are a part today. Next to that it also reminded me how much culture, church history and tradition influenced our way of reading the Bible, which is not a bad thing, but an important thing to be aware of.
However, at the same time this book is not easily disagreed with. In my opinion, some urgent and bigger topics don’t quite get the attention they deserve. This probably makes it more readable, but somewhat lacking in depth. Furthermore, I have not been able to find Wright’s answers to all of the questions he asks in the beginning of his book. To me that has been of no consequence to a pleasant reading experience, but I hope you won’t pin me down on giving you the answers to the—I think, rather interesting—questions next Sunday at the coffee table.

I have to admit that this was the first book I read from Tom Wright and sometimes I had the feeling I missed a bit of background information when he shortly refers to his earlier books or articles. This only motivates me to read more of his books. I hope you enjoyed this review and that it makes you curious about the rest of the book.