Book Review: Hearing God's Words
I said I will finish this book no matter what, and I did. No one can hit me now.
As I began to read Hearing God's Words, I had high expectations. I got this book because I felt it is always important for me as a reminder not to approach the Holy Word of God academically as I do find myself doing sometimes. There is a need to read it devotionally. As much as what D.A. Carson said during his conference here a couple of months ago that we can and should combine both the devotional reading and studying of Scriptures - do devotion in Greek for example and in my case, do devotion through my assignments - it is still a good reminder.
Halfway through the book however, I felt a bit lost: either I lost him or he lost me. I understand that the word "spirituality" is notoriously difficult to define. Peter Adam did not define or explain it and as such, when I was midway through, I did not know what he was getting at.
He started by stressing the importance of biblical spirituality without quite explaining what it is exactly. That was followed by what I refer to as short introductions of various books in the Old and New Testament. I kept saying, I know but so what? When I reached the chapter where he summarises Calvin's theology of revelation, I had to start again from the beginning, because he totally lost me. It was not until the third quarter of the book, when he discussed the issues in spirituality that I began to have an idea where he is going. With that, I had to again restarted right from the beginning!
Adam segregated the Christian belief into 3 schools of thought (p.40-41):
(1) The Reformed and Evangelical View
- all God's saving words and works are found within the Bible
- spirituality of the Word will focus entirely on the Bible for the content of the knowledge of God
- the witness of the Spirit within the believer and the Church will correspond with his external witness in Scripture (I don't quite understand this statement, by the way)
(2) The Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and some charismatics view
- in addition to the Bible, God has continued to do his saving works and words over the last 2000 years
- he has revealed new truths and supported them with new miracles
- spirituality of the Word will not only include the words of the Bible but also words given to the Church since Bible times, whether recognised by the Pope, Patriach, or Council of the Church, or given by a prophet in a local church
(3) The Quaker and Liberal View
- revelation comes direct from God today by observation, reason, experience or emotion
- it may include some ideas from the Bible, tradition of the Church but will find other parts obsolete and irrelevant
- a spirituality of discerning what God is saying at the present time, in the world around or within our own conscience
- a spirituality of the contemporary words of God
Holding the first view, Adam writes to show how the Bible is a rich and fruitful resource for spirituality. He writes to show the fundamental shape and structure of the "spirituality of the Word" and the spirituality that the Bible teaches and encourages and what it results from using the Bible. He does it through highlighting the importance of the imparting of the Word through the Old and New Testament, what John Calvin said about revelation, through some issues and examples in spirituality.
Holding the first view myself, I kept having this feeling that he is merely stating the obvious. As such, I am not sure how it would follow through with those holding the second or third view.
In a scale of 5 stars, I'd give it a 2.
Adam, Peter. Hearing God's Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove:IVP, 2004.