I Believe in the Bible
David Jackman sets out to answer two clusters of questions in this solid and thoughtful, if at times rather heavy, book. The first is how should we see the Bible? What sort of book is it? What authority does it possess? Is it reliable? How does it relate to today's world? As might be expected from an author and preacher with an established evangelical track-record, his answers are a trenchant re-statement of a thoroughly conservative position: the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative and sufficient Word of God, with the power to speak to twenty-first century people and to transform their lives. Jackman not only has no time for those who place reason above revelation, he also dismisses those who concede that the Bible is not thoroughly and entirely self-consistent or who hold a view of inspiration weaker than full-blown inerrancy. At points some evangelicals may feel that he rather overstates his case!
The second cluster of questions addressed here concerns our practical use of scripture: our understanding of the broad picture, our interpretation of particular passages and our engagement in Bible study at both personal and corporate levels. For this reviewer, this was where the book really came alive, in the combination of Jackman's passion for scripture and his wise guidance as an exegete and an encourager of Bible study. The use of worked examples to illustrate interpretative methods and the sound advice on personal Bible reading, small group study and expository preaching were helpful, inspiring and challenging. I recognised the picture of house group discussions degenerating into swopping opinions about different Bible translations rather than really, engaging with the text!
It was fascinating to read this book against the backdrop of the debate on the recent I Faith and Order report on the place of the Bible in the Methodist Church, A Lamp to my Feet and a Light to my Path. Many of the opinions I noted (though not endorsed) by the report would be very far from David Jackman's position on biblical authority, but the recommendations adopted by the Conference of 2001 might win his approval in their encouragement of all means for 'the promotion of the reading, study and practical use of the Bible.' This book needs to be worked at, but it should certainly assist careful readers to make more of the Bible, and it is therefore warmly to be commended.