Book Review: Reading Scripture With the Saints

March 2, 2015

black-rswsBy Drew McIntyre To read the Bible alone, either personally or chronologically, is to tempt heterodoxy and stunt our growth as disciples of Jesus.  C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory, comments, "A [person] who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village."  This conviction, applied to Scripture, drives an excellent new work by Princeton Seminary Professor and WNCC Elder Dr. C. Clifton Black.  Reading Scripture With the Saints (Eugene: Cascade Books 2014) is an illuminating look at Biblical interpretation through a wide variety of characters, from earliest days of the church to today. Dr. Black describes his book as a small museum.  There are large exhibits and small, rooms in which the reader will wish to roam around for a bit and some which one might pass through quickly.  Nevertheless, each room serves a purpose: to illuminate today's interpretation of Scripture with the best efforts of our forebears.  Professor Black includes in his lovely museum characters both beloved and surprising: Augustine, Benedict, Aquinas, and Luther all receive treatment,  but so do some unexpected guests like Charles Wesley (present here as an exegete, not merely a hymnist), Shakespeare, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln.  The chapter on the Trinity and exegesis is alone worth the price of admission. All Christians, by virtue of the faith which is our gift from the Holy Spirit and our inheritance from the saints, are inescapably readers of texts.  John Wesley famously told his preachers that if they did not like reading, they should find another vocation.  The text, of course, which followers of Jesus are called to acquaint ourselves most intimately is the Bible.

Too many Christians (especially Protestants) approach the Holy Writ as archaeologists who have discovered a treasure previously unseen.  We would do well, instead, to treat Scripture as an old treasure, long beloved.  To appreciate this treasure fully, to let its glow really penetrate our imaginations, requires spending time with those who have pored over these treasures before us.  

Clifton Black's Reading Scripture With the Saints invites readers to do that very thing.  Spend time in his museum of familiar and surprising saints.  You will come out better equipped to treasure Scripture - and with it, the Triune God Who is revealed therein - in all their resplendent beauty. Rev. Drew McIntyre is the pastor at West Bend UMC, Asheboro- and will be a guest on CONNECT on Wednesday, March 4, 2015