Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JMAT 5:2 (Fall 01) p. 123
The Clarity of Scripture. James Callahan. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001. 272 pp.
There are many issues facing evangelical theology today. However, few of them are as significant as the question of the clarity of the Bible. The doctrine of inerrancy is irrelevant if the Bible is not understandable. The Reformation heritage championed by modern evangelicalism was a movement based largely upon a renewal of Bible study for all people. However, linguistic, literary, and theological studies over the last thirty years, including those by evangelicals, have left the impression, good or bad, that the evangelical world may be heading toward its own version of technical elitism with respect to Bible study. It is sometimes hard to see how the average man in the pew really has access on his own to the meaning of the words of Scripture in light of many methods and conclusions current in evangelicalism today.
However, the issue of the understandability of the Bible is not a simplistic one. James Callahan’s timely work, The Clarity of Scripture, helps the thoughtful evangelical to traverse this troublesome issue by raising many matters which must be addressed in the present postmodern climate. Callahan rightly notes that the issue involves a “sometimes complicated network of themes: matters of Scripture’s authority, history and literary quality (its realistic texture), origin, inspiration, and message, and the subject of its meaning” (14). He states as one of his goals the revival of “what has become a subject of disdain in certain circles” (12). To be sure, the overall outlook of Callahan raises some concerns when, for example, his objectives are stated in this way:
Most important, it is not my goal to champion a retreat to the good ol’ days when people did not question Scripture’s authority, sufficiency and clarity. The struggle is as much with self-critical awareness wherein what is clearest from one perspective is indistinct from another, and I do not wish to retreat from this encounter. The assertion of Scripture’s clarity does concern the character of Scripture itself but not without immediate attention to Scripture’s readers and the readers’ communities. (13)
His focus on the readers of the Bible and the ecclesiastical communities to which they belong may highlight the subjective side of Bible understanding more than many evangelicals are willing to do. Furthermore, the highlighting of self-critical awareness shows Callahan’s commitment to the post-critical mindset, which
JMAT 5:2 (Fall 01) p. 124
lends itself more easily to post-conservative or post-liberal analyses.
Any evangelical who has a commitment to the gram...
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