Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Bible Revival

In Bible Revival:  Recommitting Ourselves to One Book, Kenneth Berding states that this book was written to answer "the question of why we need a revival of the Bible in our generation and what it will take to see it happen."  The author also notes that "this book can be used in a church context or as a way to draw in students who are taking an introductory class on the Bible."  Discussion questions are included at the end of each chapter.  However, I do not find the questions thought provoking; they are highly subjective and can be incorrectly answered without any guidance to the correct, biblical response.

In addition, I do not agree with Mr. Berding's definition of the Bible:  "The entire story of the Bible could legitimately be described as a message about God the King inviting his people to join the wedding of his Son Jesus Christ," (Kindle location 585).  Later, he restates his definition, but it is still incomplete:  "It [the Bible] was written first and foremost so that we might come to know God through Jesus Christ," (Kindle location 995).  The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (LBCF), Chapter 1, paragraph 6 states:  "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture."  This statement makes it clear that the Bible is more than just a wedding invitation or a road map.

Overall, I am disappointed with  Bible Revival.  Early in his book, Mr. Berding writes:  "My paternal grandfather, who never came into personal relationship with Jesus Christ, read his Bible regularly and had many passages committed to memory," (Kindle location 115).  This statement begs the question as to why the author continues to promote a "Bible revival", when his personal experience clearly shows that more than just Bible reading is needed.

In Chapter 2, Mr. Berding starts off his section on the clarity of Scripture with two personal stories about his students.  One student was questioning his faith and contemplating moving to a "different church tradition" and the other student wasn't sure whether or not the Gospel was true, (Kindle location 327).  Instead of recognizing the fact that these two students were probably not saved and relating his interaction of sharing the Gospel with them, the author talks about how neither student "really valued the Bible."

The above scenario sums up the major error I see in this book.  Mr. Berding assumes that people who attend church or Bible class are Christians, regardless of whether or not good fruit is being produced in their lives, (Matt. 7:18-20).  I do want to acknowledge that in Chapter 5, Mr. Berding does recognize the fact that his reader may not be a Christian.  Unfortunately, a clear Gospel presentation is not given.  If a professing Christian is not hungering after God's word, then there's a deeper issue involved.  Ultimately, the person may not be saved.

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, (Rom. 10:17).  Therefore, it's important for that person to read the Bible and, if possible, to sit under sound teaching in a Bible-believing church.  However, saving faith is more than just intellectual assent; it also involves the heart and the will, (Rom. 10:10).  In addition, the LBCF also acknowledges "the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word," (Chapter 1, paragraph 6).  Only those who have saving faith love God and keep His commandments, (1 John 2:3).  Therefore, a "Bible revival" happens when a person's heart is truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

At the end of Chapter 2, Mr. Berding states that "When we really and truly begin to believe that the Word of God is sufficient and clear regarding life and godliness, we will begin to act like it," (Kindle location 440).  But then in Chapter 3, he makes the following statement:  "In 2 Timothy 2:14-16, Paul challenges Timothy to 'do your best' or 'be diligent' (not 'study' as the King James Bible translated it)," (Kindle location 649).  Ironically, the author's biased implication, that the King James Bible is mistranslated, is inconsistent with the major point of his book that Christians should read the Bible because it is sufficient and clear.

According to Strong's Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible, the Greek word spoudazo in 2 Tim. 2:15 means "to use speed, i.e. to make effort, be prompt or earnest:--do (give) diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavor, labor, study."  Strong's clearly shows that 'study' is an acceptable translation for spoudazo; and therefore, the King James is correct in its usage.  By trying to discredit the King James Bible, the author implies its insufficiency; and then he wonders why no one reads their Bible, or if they do read it, they don't consider it authoritative.  The author's unwarranted display of scholarly arrogance reduces the Bible to "just another book" that is subject to textual criticism.

The main reasons that I do not recommend Bible Revival are because Mr. Berding uses inconsistent argumentation as noted above, and he does not clearly define his audience.  If he is writing to mature believers, then his advice is not needed because a true seasoned Christian already reads and properly studies the Bible.  If he is writing to new believers, then I think Living by the Book by Howard & William Hendricks is a better how-to guide for reading the Bible.  If he is writing to unbelievers, then his advice will fall on deaf ears.  As his personal experience clearly shows:  "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," (1 Cor. 2:14). 

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

NB:  Please see my follow-up post to this review.