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Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age Paperback – March 10, 2009
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"The doctrine of Scripture is back on center stage once again, and Nichols and Brandt have provided us with a comprehensive survey of approaches to the doctrine of Scripture, showing the drift among evangelical and Reformed theologians over the past century from a commitment to Scripture's infallibility/inerrancy. This book deserves careful reading even by those who are familiar with the plot-lines of the issue. It would be difficult to exaggerate the timeliness of this book."
—Derek W. H. Thomas, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina; Robert Strong Professor of Systematic and Pastoral Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary–Atlanta
"Ancient Word, Changing Worlds is the best, clearest, and most reliable historical overview of the doctrine of Scripture for a contemporary audience. As careful historians, Nichols and Brandt show what the church has always believed about the Bible as the Word of God, and also how our understanding of the inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation of Scripture has grown through the centuries. The authors let scholars and theologians on all sides of the age-old battle for the Bible speak in their own words, giving us the historical context and theological framework we need to accept the Bible's own witness to its beauty, perfection, and divine authority."
—Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College; author, Loving the Way Jesus Loves
About the Author
STEPHEN J. NICHOLS is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He is the author of many books, including A Time for Confidence.
ERIC T. BRANDT is senior instructional designer for Ligonier Ministries and instructor of church history at Reformation Bible College.
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On the other hand, the "modern" history the book starts with basically begins with Hodge and Warfield at Princeton University at the turn of the 20th century. Granted, the book intends to focus on the "modern" discussion, but it would have been nice to have a decent introduction to tell us how the discussion went in prior centuries (our introduction is about four pages). After all, the real clash with biblical criticism started hundreds of years earlier in post-Reformation/post-Enlightenment Europe. Particularly Germany has been very important. The discussion did not start in the late 19th century in the USA.
In fact, it has continued to be true that the leading "modern" thinkers on the non-conservative side have often been from Germany. Our authors even quote Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Europe has produced the leading thinkers on the non-conservative side, the commentary sections of our book focus almost exclusively on the discussion in the USA during the last 125 years. Indeed, the author's preference for the conservative position is much more obvious in the commentary chapters. However, the book is worth having just for the quote chapters. After all, $10 is not all that much for the book.
While perhaps not in the league with a seminary textbook on the subject of the doctrine of scripture, this book still provides a tremendous overview on the subject, and one that particularly focuses on the changing and gemergingh views that have characterized modernity and post-modernity.
The authors have organized the book in a very friendly and readable structure. The book first of all, centers around three critical words with respect to the doctrine of scripture, inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation. These three words receive treatment from the authors in a separate chapter dedicated to each. In these chapters, they provide a narrative of the history and development of these three critical words as they relate to scripture and the differing points of view that have materialized from the mid-1800s to the present. Following each of these chapters is another dedicated to select readings from the primary source documents that were used to construct the authorfs narratives.
I don't believe I have ever read a book structured quite like this, and I admit that initially I didn't quite get it. But it proved to be very effective. Effective in the sense that rather than quoting a reference and simply footnoting it, the authors provide the actual texts from which they drew their conclusions, in the succeeding chapter. The three chapters containing these source readings are titled, fittingly enough, In Their Own Words. The theologians represented in these source readings include Hodge, Warfield, Wescott, Manly, Machen, Preus, Henry and Packer among others. But the authors also include some opposing views to these conservative theologians such as Barth, Berkouwer, Beegle and Fosdick along with others, who have succumbed to varying degrees to modernist/post-modernist sensitivities.
Ancient Word, Changing Worlds is an excellent book, but definitely not suited for the casual reader of religious non-fiction. Although it reads easily, and I found it incredibly helpful, anyone who is comfortably challenged theologically by authors such as Max Lucado or Rick Warren will likely be very frustrated by the technical content and more academic nature of this book. My guess is you will be frustrated within the first chapter. You will find a vast resource of information in this book, but very little in the way of reflection and contemplation, such as you might expect in books written by those two authors and others who are similar. But, if you are interested in a challenge and a trip that takes you much deeper into the important, let me correct that, the essential teaching of the authority of scripture, this really is an excellent book.