If I were the devil (please, no comment), one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching people to know and love and serve the God of the Word. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching people to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and traps, to frighten people off. With smug conceit, no doubt, as if receiving a compliment, I should acknowledge that wise old Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) had me absolutely pegged when he wrote:
The devil never would attemptto beget in persons a regard to that divine word which God has given to be the great and standing rule. . . . Would the spirit of error, in order to deceive men, beget in them a high opinion of the infallible rule, and incline them to think much of it, and be very conversant with it? . . . The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light. . . . He is engaged against the Bible, and hates every word in it.
I should labor every day to prove Edwards’s words true.
How? Well, I should try to distract all clergy from preaching and teaching the Bible, and spread the feeling that to study this ancient book directly is a burdensome extra that modern Christians can forgo without loss. I should broadcast doubts about the truth and relevance and good sense and straightforwardness of the Bible, and if any still insisted on reading it I should lure them into assuming that the benefit of the practice lies in the noble and tranquil feelings evoked by it rather than in noting what Scripture actually says. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.
Were I the devil, taking stock today, I think I might be pleased at the progress I had made.
For more than a century, Protestant theology has been in conflict about the Bible. The first storm center was inspiration and its corollary, inerrancy. Eighty years ago, the debate shifted to revelation, the method and content of God’s communication through allegedly fallible Scriptures. Interpretation is now the central interest, and the subjectivism which yesterday concluded that the Bible is neither true nor trustworthy today interprets it on the basis that its message to us is neither consistent nor clear. The results of so doing are often muddled and messy.
Against this background, Dr. Sproul’s vigorous layman’s introduction to the interpretiveinterpretive task is more than welcome. What are its special qualities? Clarity, common sense, mastery of material and a bubbling enthusiasm which turns the author from a good communicator into a superb one. The Bible excites him and his excitement is infectious.
–Adapted from foreword written by J.I Packer to Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul (1997) Revised edition 2009 (InterVarsity Press, Kindle edition).