Understanding the interface between who God is and what we have come to know of him personally (if we are Christians) is essential for Evangelicals, for therein lies the backbone of our doctrine of Scripture. What we believe about the nature Scripture must be derived from what we understand about God's identity and character. If God is trustworthy, then so ought the Scriptures to be; otherwise how can their claim to be his word to us stand up to scrutiny? As the editors remark of the Bible as a whole, `that God is, in a sense, the words he speaks, or, perhaps better, that God is towards his people the same as the words he speaks to them, is a recurring theme.' [p. x]
Amongst many questions, this raised two significant ones in my mind at least: (i) what does it actually mean for God to be trustworthy, and once that is established, (ii) can/does the Bible fit into categories which tally with the answers to (i)? They are different questions, and require a broad range of skills and understanding that cross the disciplinary boundaries of modern theology. Hence the successful (in my view) endeavour of the editors to compile an anthology from a number of walks of contemporary theology. As the editors are right to bemoan, the fragmentation of knowledge has meant that the vast majority of us involved in any area of theology are almost inevitably going to be `ignorant of, and certainly incompetent in' scholarship in other areas. This reviewer can certainly relate to the cold reality of this phenomenon! So this book is a treasure trove, forcing one to face issues with a rigour and attention to detail that is challenging but also accessible and enjoyable to read. The whole approach is refreshing and significantly hones a more robust doctrine of Scripture for our times, while never claiming to be an all-encompassing analysis. The explicit aim has been to draw outsiders into particular theological disciplines and by and large this has been successful - a couple of the more philosophical essays towards the end are not as accessible as others. Having more of a biblical studies focus myself meant that they lost me at times, thus confirming the phenomenon of knowledge's fragmentation! However, the vast majority of the essays were extremely stimulating (and i found very helpful for a number of my students in Uganda), as were the 2 responses at the end (by Colin Gunton & Francis Watson). I did feel that both my questions were amply addressed with some helpful and sometimes unexpected implications. Particularly striking were Paul Helm's frustratingly brief application of the theme to the adherents of the `Openness of God' school (pp 249-252), Timothy Ward's challenging proposal of viewing Scripture's diversity as a `canonically limited polyphony' (p218) and the link between God's faithfulness and his words that emerges as a running theme in many of the earlier biblical essays (especially those by J. Gary Millar, Gordon McConville, Drake Williams and David Peterson).