Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today Paperback – March 19, 2013
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
“The best book of its kind available.” (The Christian Century)
“N. T. Wright opens for us a path beyond of the paralyzing polarization of “liberal” and “conservative.” (Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian)
“In a fashion that is both old fashioned and new fangled at the same time Bishop Wright takes us through a sane and helpful study of what it means to treat the Bible as the authoritative Word of God. Highly Recommended!” (Ben Witherington, author of The Brother of Jesus)
“Written by one of the leading Christian thinkers in the world today, this book is a refreshing and accessible resource concerning the perennial question of biblical authority that moves the discussion beyond the liberal-conservative impasse of our times. Highly Recommended.” (John R. Franke, Professor of Theology, Biblical Theological Seminary)
“[P]robing, provocative, insightful…This is a book of uncommon wisdom for all who read and love the Bible.” (Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and Executive Editor of Christianity Today)
“This wide-ranging whirlwind-tour account of Scripture channeling God’s authority, with its tweaking of distortions back into shape and its first-class approach to Bible study, is masterly throughout.” (J. I Packer, Professor of Theology, Regent College)
“Wright offers sensible insights on the transforming power of God, very necessary in these times of skepticism and confusion.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Scripture and the Authority of God is a fabulous book. With characteristic verve and occasionally pungent grace… Scripture and the Authority of God could be the beginning of a more faithful listening, as well as sustaining more fruitful conversation about the nature of biblical interpretation.” (Books&Culture)
“Wright appeals to the reader to take another look at the Bible, not as an isolated phenomenon—a veritable rule book similarly applicable at all times and in all places—but rather as a book better placed within both the contemporary cultural context and as part of a larger tradition of interpretation.” (Explorefaith.org)
“Wright is a provocative theologian... there is so much here that you will wish that it were longer-- but its brevity makes for easy reading and it certainly deserves to be read.” (Church of England Newspaper)
“The whole book gives further cause for gratitude for God’s gift of Wright to his Church.” (ANVIL)
From the Back Cover
"But what does scripture say?”
That question has echoed through a thousand debates in the life of the worldwide church. All churches have officially endorsed strong statements about the centrality of scripture and its authority in their mission, life, doctrine, and discipline. But there is no agreement on what this might mean or how it might work in practice. Individuals and churches struggle with how to respond to issues such as war, homosexuality, and abortion, and especially how to interpret biblical passages that discuss these topics. These disagreements often serve to undermine our confidence in the authority of the Bible.
Bishop and Bible scholar N. T. Wright delivers a new model for how to understand the place of scripture and God’s authority in the midst of religious confusion. Wright gives new life to the old, tattered doctrine of the authority of scripture, delivering a fresh, helpful, and concise statement on how to read the Bible today, restoring scripture as a place to find God’s voice.
In this revised and expanded edition of the previously titled book The Last Word, Wright provides two case studies that delve into what it means to keep Sabbath and how Christians can defend marital monogamy. These studies offer not only bold biblical insights but also showcase Wright’s new model for how to interpret scripture and restore its role as the church’s main resource for teaching and guidance. Removing the baggage that the last 100 years of controversy and confusion have placed on this doctrine, Wright renews our confidence in the Bible and shows how it can once again serve as the living Word of God for our lives.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
Put simply, this book will revolutionize the way you read the Bible! Most of us actually misread the Bible in a number of ways, to the impoverishment of our souls and of God's Kingdom. "Scripture and Authority" is a wonderful antidote to poor readings of Scripture and moves well beyond the typical, tired debates over the authority of Scripture. Read meditatively, it will assist the Bible in changing your life and the way you see God and His divine purposes.
Wright's thesis, though hard to summarize, is best captured in this most important sentence in the entire work: "the shorthand phrase `the authority of Scripture,' when unpacked, offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus Christ himself, and now to be implemented by the Spirit-led life of the Church precisely as the Scripture-reading community." The rest of the book may be seen as an explanation of this definition which, unfortunately, doesn't show up until Chapter 8.
If you care about reading the Bible more carefully and faithfully, then I highly encourage you to read this book and digest it!
In the Prologue, Wright situates the Bible within 5 contexts, demonstrating the difficulty of any naked appeal to the Bible without any context. While often such an approach is a disguise for denigrating the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, it's good to know that Wright is solidly orthodox and makes use of such contexts because he believes them necessary in order to read the Bible well today. These contexts are: Scripture and Culture, Scripture and Politics, Scripture and Philosophy, Scripture and Theology, and Scripture and Ethics. In the Prologue Wright also draw attention to 3 key underlying questions in discussions of Scripture today:
1. In what sense is the Bible authoritative in the first place?
2. How can the Bible be appropriately understood and interpreted?
3. How can its authority, assuming such appropriate interpretation, be brought to bear on the church itself, let alone on the world?
Throughout the book, Wright is asking us to put aside simplistic understandings of Scripture, either on the liberal or fundamentalist side of things, and to address these 3 crucial questions with faith, intelligence, and integrity.
One of the most important things that Wright says (it would be worth the price of the book if everyone reading it understood this one thing) is that "Authority of Scripture" is a shorthand for "God's Authority Exercised through Scripture." Scripture's authority is a derivative or delegated authority, for all authority truly belongs to God. This mediated authority is different than we often assume. How, for example, can "story," which comprises large parts of the Bible, be authoritative? Ultimately, Wright sees Scripture as God's unfinished story in which we are to act out the final scene, which requires an active participation and not a passive reception of the Word of God, which is all too common among Christians. Wright goes further and says that the Bible is more than just revelation or repository of truths and more than just a devotional aid.
In Chapter 2, Wright relates the Scriptures to God's Kingdom-People, the Church. This is a much needed concept since modern Christians so often read the Scriptures apart from the Church and out of the context of God's people in which the Scriptures were written, interpreted, and lived out. The Scriptures are nothing less, therefore, than the place where and the means by which the people of God discover again and again who God is and how His Kingdom-purposes are being taken forward. Israel and the Church are, therefore, fundamentally a "Scripture-hearing people."
So how does Jesus relate to Scripture? He accomplishes that to which Scripture pointed. Likewise, the Apostolic preaching of the Word in the New Testament is told as "The Jesus-Story Fulfilling the Old Testament Scripture Story." The Word of God in the New Testament becomes the vehicle by which the Holy Spirit exerts His authority over God' people.
Over the centuries, however, God's people began to believe in a distorted view of the Scriptures, which was originally to be seen as "God at work powerfully through Scripture to bring about the Kingdom, by calling and shaping a new covenant people and equipping its leaders to be teachers and preachers." This devolved into the understanding of Scripture as a divine rule book to be referred to or as a resource for private devotions, both useful but very inadequate and distorted views of Scripture.
In Chapter 6, Wright addresses a series of misreadings of the Bible, beginning with the allegorical method of Origen and the medieval Church. But even the Reformers lost sight of the grand narrative of the Scriptures at times and the revelation of God's Kingdom and purposes. He is most forceful when he deals with Enlightenment rationalistic readings of the Scripture. He's right to point out that Enlightenment thinkers had an alternative eschatology, a new view of evil, and of man - views which undermined the authority of Scripture. Wright continues by showing the impotence of the deconstructionist readings of postmodernism.
In Chapter 7, Wright spends an entire chapter continuing the theme of "misreadings" of the Scriptures. In Chapter 8, Wright offers what may be the most important sentence in the entire book: "the shorthand phrase `the authority of Scripture,' when unpacked offers a picture of God's sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus Christ himself, and now to be implemented by the Spirit-led life of the Church precisely as the Scripture-reading community." That's a mouthful, but in this careful definition Wright preserves an equal emphasis on the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the cosmos. It's a definition meditating on, which is exactly what Wright's book does. Most understandings of the Scripture do not get this balance right and have a much more impoverished view of the authority of Scripture, and for this reason alone "Scripture and Authority" is worth reading. For Wright, the Scriptures ultimately only have authority as they are lived out by God's people in God's Kingdom.
In the end, Wright calls us to a fully contextual reading of the Scripture, including the proper use of tradition and reason. He likens our reading of Scripture as the fifth and final act in a play. Act I is Genesis 1-2; Act II is Genesis 3-11; Act III is the remainder of the Old Testament; Act IV is the decisive and climactic act, which is the story of Jesus; and Act V is the Creator's redemptive drama being lived out in us through the Scriptures and the Church by the Spirit in the midst of a cosmos God is redeeming.
Wright's strategies for honoring the authority of the Scriptures are also wonderful and worth the price of the book. They are:
1. A total contextual reading of the Scripture
2. A liturgically grounded reading of Scripture
3. A privately studied reading of Scripture
5. A reading of Scripture refreshed by appropriate scholarship
6. A reading of Scripture taught by the Church's accredited leaders
If only Christians would heed all that Wright says, we would honor the authority of Scripture more and act as more faithful ministers in God's Kingdom and players in His cosmic drama!
Wright concludes by applying his understanding of the authority of Scripture to 2 test cases: the Sabbath and monogamy.
Wright tackles his material in 9 chapters and a Prologue:
1. By Whose Authority?
2. Israel and God's Kingdom-People
3. Scripture and Jesus
4. The "Word of God" in the Apostolic Church
5. The First Sixteen Centuries
6. The Challenge of The Englightenment
7. Misreadings of Scripture
8. Case Study: The Sabbath
9. Case Study: Monogamy
The questions are nearly endless and they’re not insignificant. Many of these questions (and the answers given) have divided believers for hundreds of years.
And the situation today is no different. Conservative Christians argue for a ‘literal’ interpretation of the Bible. Theological liberals counter that the words of scripture are so culturally tied-up, they must be unbound and allowed to speak in new ways (or fresh ways – liberals love the word fresh).
But what does a ‘literal’ reading of scripture mean?
- Should Christians embrace polygamy since it’s never explicitly condemned in the Bible? The same could be asked of slavery.
- The books of Exodus and Leviticus describe Sabbath keeping as a permanent practice – it’s even in the Ten Commandments. So why don’t most Christians observe it?
- What does apocalyptic and prophetic literature even look like when read ‘literally’?
Reading scripture ‘literally’ isn’t as simple as it sounds. The Bible is filled with different types of literature addressed to a variety of audiences for a number of different reasons. We don’t read the Bible ‘literally’ by treating it like a dictionary or newspaper. So, how do we read it faithfully?
And how far can this holy text be stretched before it breaks?
- If we relativize scripture based on culture, doesn’t it cease to have any meaning of its own?
- When we pick and choose what we’re going to accept as ‘authoritative’, don’t we elevate our own thinking above God’s special revelation?
- Are there limits to where and how far we can accept scripture being understood as culturally-bound?
Christians today need a solid understanding of how to interpret scripture faithfully. I’ve seen too many believers dragged off into the ditch of flat literalism – where Revelation is an advanced copy of tomorrow’s nightly news – or that of squishy liberalism – where scripture’s meaning is found in the prevailing beliefs of the culture. Neither is a place I want to be.
Fortunately, N.T. Wright has written a book that cuts through the detritus on both sides of the debate. While holding scripture up as the authority for the Church, Wright isn’t satisfied with pat or simplistic answers to the question, ‘What does that mean?’ Instead, he examines what it means for scripture to be called an ‘authority’ at all.
One of the most important statements Wright makes on this front is that “the phrase ‘authority of scripture’ can make Christian sense only if it is a shorthand for ‘the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.'” Since the Bible is largely narrative in nature, the ‘authority of scripture’ cannot solely be about giving the Christian authoritative commandments or lists of sins. God’s Spirit works through all of scripture to lead us into a story he is still telling – in the life of the Church. And scripture gives us the bounds within which we can improvise our lines faithfully.
While always acknowledging the truth of scripture, Wright encourages us not to read the Bible as if it’s a repository of divine facts. Instead, he argues that we need to see it as it is – a divine story. More specifically, he writes, “we must once more see the Bible as a story with different movements, a play in different acts, and we must understand the whole story in terms of the climax which is reached in Act 4 and the resultant resolution, and the restoration of the original project, in Act 5″ (pg.194). This scheme of interpretation may sound foreign to many of our ears but I have to say, it makes so much more sense of the entirety of scripture than most of the alternatives.
Seeing scripture as a divine comedy – a story in which God creates man in Act 1, man sins and falls into rebellion in Act 2, God rebuilds a relationship with man through the nation of Israel in Act 3, Jesus fulfills the promises of God and institutes new creation in Act 4, and the Church carries that new creation into the world in Act 5 – aids us in understanding why Sabbath laws aren’t binding on Christians or why monogamy is God’s preferred marital arrangement even though scripture never explicitly says that or how we can live faithfully under the authority of God and into the story he is telling.
Wright examines how scripture has been read (and misread) over the past 2,000 years and lays out certain principles which he hopes will get the Church back on track. I believe his prescription is exactly what we need today: reading scripture contextually, liturgically, privately, in concert with contemporary (and past) scholarship, and alongside faithful preachers and teachers. He also puts tradition, reason, and experience in their proper place, as helps to understanding what scripture is saying to us.
The last two chapters are case studies in which Wright examines the issues of Sabbath and Monogamy in detail. He models how we can use this understanding of scripture as a five-act play to more faithfully understand what is going on in the pages of the Bible.
If more Christians could get ahold of this view of the Bible, I believe it would revolutionize the way they see both the text of scripture and their place in God’s work in the world. You see, the story God is telling in the pages of the Bible is not over. That story is being written each and every day – in the lives of Christians all over the world. In my life and in yours. And as we understand the Bible better, we will also understand how we can live more faithfully and more fully under the authority of God.
May we all seek to live into the story God is telling.