You can Trust the Bible by John R.W. Stott 1991
The substance of this little book was given as a series of five sermons in All Souls Church, Langham Place, London, during February and March 1980. I am grateful to Michael Baughen, rector of All Souls, for inviting me to preach them; to Inter-Varsity Press (UK) for suggesting that they should be written up for publication; to Mark Labberton, my former study assistant, for working through the first draft and making a number of helpful suggestions; and to Vivienne Curry for typing the final draft.
Although I have striven to eliminate the more obvious sermonic touches and have elaborated some
points which (owing to the constraints of the pulpit) were skimpy, the material remains substantially what it was when first delivered. The book’s origin as sermons explains some of its characteristics. Each chapter seeks to expound a biblical text. There are no footnotes. The style is colloquial rather than literary. And the readership I have had in mind is similar to the composition of the All Souls church family, namely, students and other thoughtful lay people who want to think seriously about the authority and relevance of the Bible.
The book claims to be no more than introductory. Important questions which are being discussed in scholarly circles today — questions, for example, about the meaning of language, the influence of culture, the sociology of knowledge and the perception of truth — are hardly raised here. This is a basic book about the historic Christian attitude to Scripture and about the Bible’s own understanding of itself, both of which need to be restated in every generation and which remain the essential perspective from which to grapple with other pressing problems.
I imagine we all know that the Bible continues to be a world best seller. I am told that the Qur’an (Koran) has now been translated into 128 languages. But the whole Bible has been translated into 275 languages, the New Testament into 495 more and at least one book of the Bible into 940 more. This makes a total of 1,710 languages and dialects into which some major portion of the Bible has been translated. In 1979 the United Bible Societies distributed 501 million copies of the Bible, and the total world sales by all publishers must run into thousands of millions. Why? Why does this old book remain at the top of the list?
Paradoxically, however, this much purchased book is a much neglected book. Probably tens of thousands of people who buy the Bible never read it. Even in churches, knowledge of the Bible is abysmal. Thirty years ago Cyril Garbett, then Archbishop of York, wrote that “the majority of men and women [in England] neither say their prayers, except in some terrifying emergency, nor read their Bibles, unless to look for help in a crossword puzzle, nor enter a church from one end of the year to the other, except for a baptism, a marriage and a funeral.” And if that was
true thirty years ago, it is even more true today. Few parents read the Bible to their children, let alone teach them out of it. Few church members make a practice of daily Bible meditation. Few preachers wrestle conscientiously with the biblical text so as to grasp both its original meaning and its contemporary application. And some church leaders are brash enough publicly to express their disagreement with its plain doctrinal or ethical teaching. It is a tragic situation. What can be done to remedy it?
I am convinced that the Bible is a book, indeed the book, for today. A recognition of its unique inspiration and consequent authority has until quite recently been part of the historic faith of all Christian churches. Certainly submission to the authority of Scripture, or, as I think we should express it better, submission to the authority of God as it is mediated to us through Scripture, has always been and still remains a major hallmark of evangelical Christians. We believe its instruction. We embrace its promises. We seek to obey its commands. Why so? Mainly because we believe the Bible is the Word of God, but also because he speaks to us through it with a living voice.
The Bible was the book for yesterday. Without doubt it will be the book for tomorrow. But for us it is the book for today. It is God’s Word for today’s world. Its continuing popularity, its regrettable neglect and its contemporary relevance are three good reasons why we should give our minds to the Bible.