I’ve just finished a manuscript for a book on the doctrine of Scripture – provisionally called Bible Matters: Meeting God in his Word – which is due out next year. So I recently read A Peculiar Glory, John Piper’s latest book.
A Peculiar Glory is a sustained argument of the self-authenticating authority of the Bible. That is, the belief that the authority of the Bible is not established through a scholarly investigation of historical evidence, nor is it conferred on the Bible by the church. Rather it shines from the pages of Bible as it displays the glory of God. So God is the source of its authority. We recognise this not just because we trace the process by which the Spirit worked through the human authors, but because the content of the Scriptures captures our hearts. A distinctive slant of this argument is Piper’s emphasis on this approach making confidence in the Bible accessible to all people, not just those with the time and ability to explore questions of historicity.
This is a really important truth for the church. A strange thing can happen when we’re faced by hostile questions from unbelievers. We forget all about why we believe the truth and suddenly think we need some clever intellectual answer. But the reality is most Christians believe the Bible is reliable because they’ve found it to contains words that bring life, hope and glory.
There is a slightly odd vein to the book. While Piper emphasises the pedigree of his argument with plenty of references to the Westminster Standards and (of course) Jonathan Edwards, he also keeps emphasising the newness of what he’s saying to his hearers. Perhaps this reflects an American context.
What John Owen calls ‘the self-evidencing efficacy’ of the Bible is an important, confidence-building truth and Piper tackles it with his usually clarity and passion. Although I believe this may be the first book by John Piper not to have originated from sermons, all the characteristics of a Piper book are here: a chapter of autobiography, a chapter on Jonathan Edwards, a big central idea involving the glory of God, and every angle explored and every implication pursued.
UPDATE: Justin Taylor tells me he estimates about half of Piper’s books did not begin life as sermons – and he should know because he’s recently finished editing the Collected Works of Piper for publication in March 2017.
In a future post I’ll provide a quote from John Owen.