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5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, thoughtful and insightful, 16 Mar 2007
By 
C. M. Green (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Mark Thompson has contributed the latest volume to this excellent series on the clarity (or `perspicuity') of scripture, and he analyses the issue with thoughtfulness, clear headedness and insight.

Thompson's thoughtfulness is shown in the historical perspective he gives, from the early church, mediaeval writers and the Reformation, as well as more recent times. He shows the contemporary relevance of the Reformers' debates with the Catholic Church over whether tradition and reason are necessary guides to reading an unclear scripture, and how we to be captive neither to a fundamentalism which denies the need for scholarship, nor a scholasticism which denies the need for faith.

The clear headedness is shown in his handling of Scripture. He is concerned to show that although perspicuity has frequently been attacked as an unbiblical imposition on the Bible, that is a misreading of both the explicit claims of scripture, and the implicit assumptions built into the way that biblical authors handle other biblical texts. By far the most important, of course, are Jesus' own assumptions, and that is summarised very helpfully.

The insightfulness is evident in the elegant way Thompson steers through contemporary thinking on hermeneutics, showing not just obvious perils, but more subtle and spiritual ones as well. Careful readers will be aware how much work has gone in so that we don't just avoid the massive and anti-Christian errors of Derrida or Ricaeur, but are appreciatively nuanced with regard to Karl Barth, John Webster and Alister McGrath. This part of the book is a master-class in how to make the obscurities of contemporary linguistic philosophy both accessible and relevant.

This issue is of particularly pressing concern for those of us who are Anglicans. The recent Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam, called for a "Hermeneutics Project", which looks like a dangerously open-ended concept. It might just be a reminder that we need to revisit the Biblical material dealing with homosexuality and check our interpretation once again. That is a good and necessary task, and is the kind of self correction which evangelicals should continually engage in. However, I and I guess many others suspect that this project is actually an exercise in how to find a way of reinterpreting texts, such that the liberals can be seen to be engaging in a theological task, whilst rewriting scripture and tradition. Hermeneutics has then become a linguistic game, a typically ironic post-modern way of playing with words so that an alleged authoritative text is made to stand on its hind legs and dance to an alien tune. Mark Thompson's book will encourage us that we can engage in this kind of debate and win it, the Lord being our helper, because we are dealing with "the hermeneutic of a clear text in the hands of a good God" (p.140). But he would warn us as well that this is not a neutral matter of language and interpretation, but a spiritual battle with the one who is a liar and the father of lies.
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A clear and present word: The Clarity of Scripture (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
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