Ancient Word, Changing Worlds the Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt, is another one of those jewels that I ordered largely on the basis of needing to increase my order for some other books, to recieve free shipping. I’ll grant you that the title of this book caught my attention, but I was not really shopping for a book on the doctrine of scripture. Nevertheless, I am very glad I bought it. I found it to be an informative and helpful read. I am also pleased that I now have this as a resource in my library because it contains the writings of some really brilliant minds, representing orthodox and reformed Christian theology. More about this in a moment.
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 “emerging” 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-1800’s 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 author’s 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.