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A useful book for bible study apologetics, less so if you're non-Protestant
on June 23, 2012
This book pretty much assumes the reader accepts the Bible as the inspired word of God, or is hoping to find support for that belief in this apologetic tome. It attempts to answer common objections that are made that the Bible "contradicts itself" which often comes up in conversations between Christians and non-Christians. Therefore it seeks to be an apologetic resource for those wishing to defend the integrity of the Bible (and to the wider strategy of supporting the doctrine of "inerrancy" that the Bible, being an inspired text, is without error). It cannot possibly answer all objections one could imagine, but does deal with many of them, and it is not the only major book out there to do so (Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties is famous for having the same goal).
I recommended this book to some students of mine to help supplement their research (if they chose) on Old Testament books. On the other hand, I feel that the writer is often very fair-minded when dealing with differences between Protestant interpretations of different passages, normalizing these disagreements as options when one is reading the Biblical books. However, when it comes to something "Roman Catholics" say about a passage, the author(s) immediately attack that difference and do not present it as a possible option. So the Catholic reader may find themselves arguing with the writers of this book, since their beliefs are never given the option of being right, while differing Protestant views are usually treated much more charitably. And extensive works HAVE been written addressing the types of criticisms of Catholic biblical interpretation given by the writers (such as the rather amusing claim that the Catholic Church "added the Apocrypha" to the Bible at the Council of Trent to spite Luther and the Reformers, as if there was a clear consensus of what "The Bible" was before the Reformation, which the Church sought to suddenly change after the fact; the authors also misread 2 Esdras 7:105 to say that prayers for the dead are forbidden by this book and this proves that the RCC was being arbitrary in "adding books to the bible" to support their doctrine when the book clearly speaks against such prayers ON THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT, that is, at the end of the world, not on the day any individual person dies while the rest of us are still alive on earth, additionally this book is accepted by many in the Eastern Orthodox Church, who nevertheless freely follow the same practice as Catholics in prayers for the dead. The argument that the belief in "purgatory" is an "insult" to the "sufficiency" of Christ's sacrifice on the cross is of course from their point of view only. One might argue that it is an "insult" to the sufficiency to say that anyone Christ died for would end up in hell--yet the authors do not therefore declare the strict Calvinist viewpoint to be the only correct one. Nor do they see an "insult" to the sufficiency in the individual Christian needing to repent of their sins--even after their conversion--and continuing to need to do good works and maintain their faith throughout their life. So some of these arguments may frustrate or alienate readers who are familiar with the history of the Protestant-Catholic debate).
Despite this weakness, I would consider this a helpful book, even in the age of the internet, for reference on how evangelical Protestants respond to claims of "contradictions" in the Bible. Some of the material is more universal amongst Christians who consider the Bible to be Sacred Scripture, but some of it is needlessly sectarian as mentioned. Again, I would not recommend this book as a sole guide or final word on the subject of biblical interpretation, but it is one helpful resource to be in one's library, though much of the same type of information is also available in electronic format for free online.