Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Review of R. C. Sproul's Knowing Scripture

Car advertisements on TV have progressed (??) from being informative in years past, to idiotic, to truly moronic in modern times. So please pardon me when I borrow an overused phrase from contemporary silly car commercials, but Sproul’s little volume, Knowing Scripture, is truly “best-in-class” for concise books that help the reader interpret the Bible.

Sproul’s writing is warm and friendly, almost whimsical at times, which belies the immensely intelligent, well-schooled, sharp mind behind the volume. The average layman will find this book easy to read, easy to understand, and very encouraging as it admonishes him to read—and interpret—his Bible.

The first chapter explores the motivations and necessity behind the Christian’s obligation to read the Scripture, and the second chapter follows on smoothly with the question of private Bible interpretation. Sproul argues for the idea that private interpretation is necessary and legitimate, but must be informed by the teachers (through history) God has gifted to the Church. He also deals with the matter of objectivity and subjectivity in interpretation.

A wide-angle view of hermeneutics occupies the third chapter as Sproul deals with larger issues such as genre analysis, metaphor, the grammatical-historical approach, source criticism, and how such matters inform literal interpretation.

If chapter three deals with hermeneutics on the “strategic” level, chapter four approaches it from the “tactical” level as the author unfolds and explains eleven rules to guide the interpretive endeavor. Chapter five deals with some of the difficult issues swirling around the question of how both the biblical writer’s and modern reader’s cultural contexts affect meaning.

Finally Sproul lists numerous helpful resources and tools for Bible study in chapter six. As a humorous side note, Sproul thinks it is a simple matter to master the Greek and Hebrew alphabets (well, okay), and a thousand-word vocabulary of Greek (ah, not so simple). Maybe it is simple for him and for other men and women of his intellect, but I found it very challenging (and then found maintaining a hard-earned Greek and Hebrew vocabulary to be nigh unto impossible, since other demands crowd into post-seminary life).

Knowing Scripture is truly the “best-in-class” volume for an introductory look at how to read and interpret the Bible. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Review of E. B. Sledge, With the Old Breed

This was a fascinating but painful read. E. B. Sledge has been in the worst of combat that man can endure (in fact, most cannot endure it) and writes with the quiet, unembellished confidence of a survivor who managed to retain his sanity--and decency. Sledge is one of the few writers I have ever read who exposes the raw brutality of war--and hates war and all its wanton destruction--and yet admits to the sad fact that war is sometimes the only solution.

With the Old Breed tracks the actions of K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division at Peleliu and Okinawa. Once the narrative gets to the actual extended battles, it is a horrific exposition of a meat-grinder beyond what our imaginations are even capable of conceiving. Sledge writes as an enlisted man: the perspective of the jarhead in the foxhole. He manages to convey to the reader the mud, the bone-weariness, the filth, the stench, and the terror of extended battle under constant shelling and nightly attacks from an opponent for whom suicide raids were standard operating procedure.

I understand that With the Old Breed is required reading in officer school--and it should be. It should also be required reading for every politician at the federal level.

May we all come to hate war with the passion, logic, and reasonableness of Sledge--even while understanding that in a fallen world filled with evil, war is sometimes the only way to restrain the worst of men and societies. Five stars, highly recommended.