“Reading The Bible Supernaturally ?” A Review Article -- By: Mark A. Snoeberger
DBSJ 23 (2018) p. 105
“Reading The Bible Supernaturally ?”
A Review Article
In his recent book Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture,2 John Piper offers us an extended treatment of the doctrine of illumination (though he only occasionally calls it that). The title offers, in effect, his definition of illumination, viz., “reading the Bible supernaturally.” I did a double-take when I saw the title on a publisher table at ETS last year and immediately wondered about the provocative title. Was this another titillating but largely harmless title like Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, or was there something more sinister here? Being aware of the intensifying battle to keep continuationism at bay in the evangelical community, I was suspicious. Not only was Sam Storms, at the very conference I was attending, using his platform as society president to leverage for greater sympathy toward continuationists in the evangelical scholarly community, but the leadership at Piper’s own church had recently gone on record as bent on becoming a more “functionally” “continuationist church.”3 Quests for the supernatural, the ecstatic, and the existential were on the rise and I wondered if this title reflected another step. I bought the book.
The introduction helped me to set my very worst fears aside. Piper assures his readers that the primary supernatural work he has in view is God’s regenerating impulse: God miraculously grants to his elect eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to embrace what they previously would not (25 et passim). He adds further assurances that he is not abandoning the “natural” reading of the Scriptures—what is “there” in Scripture has always been there, plain for all to understand, but rejected by all whose minds are not illumined (chaps. 3–5). Relieved, I settled back for a routine read about the doctrine of illumination, wondering vaguely how it could possibly fill 400+ pages.
My relief was short-lived. Having received these assurances, I arrived at what I believe to be the twofold thesis of the book under review: (1) that “our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot
DBSJ 23 (2018) p. 106
worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation” (39) and (2) that this white-hot worship is realized in part through a continuing miracle called “supernatural reading.” I have tensions with both ideas.
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