I have tried my hand at understanding a little around the epistemological perspectives (“how we know what we know”) of the 3 eras of history, which are pre-modernism, modernism and post-modernism. In this, I owe much to the works of James K.A. Smith and Kenton Sparks, particularly Smith’s, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism, and Sparks’, God’s Word in Human Words. Both books were super-informative and illuminating in getting my mind around some of these philosophical concepts. Continue reading
As I mentioned not too long ago, I have not been involved in much theological engagement the past couple of months. I simply wanted to read Scripture and more devotional books for a season. And that is still the main season where I am situated as of now.
However I did recently find out that Kenton Sparks released a new book, Sacred Word, Broken Word: Biblical Authority and the Dark Side of Scripture. I held off purchasing it for something like a week. But after finishing a particular devotional book this week, I decided to purchase Sparks newest work.
This book is not completely unlike his previous work in 2008, God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. The difference is that the former was 416 pages in length with the newer work being a mere 192 pages, making it much more digestible for common folk (though I would argue the former was not difficult to comprehend; it was simply very lengthy). If interested, I reviewed God’s Word in Human Words – part 1, part 2, part 3. Continue reading
Chapter 6 looks at the genres of human discourse, how human beings speak. That being the case, chapter 7 then lays out the genres of divine discourse, or how God would speak.
I appreciate this introductory comment from Sparks:
It is by listening to the Bible’s human discourse that we begin to understand how it might be understood as divine discourse (p206).
This is where the whole conversation links in with the ‘incarnational’ revelation of God within Scripture. When God speaks, he doesn’t primarily enter our (or their) context with abstract, overly fanciful communication. He has always communicated in ways that we (or they) can understand. As Scot McKnight put it: Continue reading
This is a continuation of my review of Kenton Sparks’ title, God’s Word in Human Words. In part 1, I mainly laid out an introduction to the book and chapter 1 alone, which looked at the 3 sweeping eras of philosophical and epistemological understanding: pre-modern, modern and post-modern.
In general, Sparks is looking to help evangelicals to move forward in maintaining a high view of Scripture as divinely inspired and authoritative while also engaging with the arena of critical scholarship.
You see, for most evangelicals, the concept of critical scholarship or historical criticism (or whatever specific terminology one would use) is very dirty, very unChristian. But this is where we go a little askew in our understanding of being critical. This term does not always mean criticising from a negative perspective. Rather it is more about assessment, thinking through things, which can lead to both positives and challenges/negatives. As Sparks says himself:
I would like to suggest, however, that the Bible itself invites us, at least implicitly, to ask hard and critical questions of the divine Word (p74)
Of course it does! This is why the church has been willing to engage in such a practice in some form or fashion since its inception (though, yes, more in the past few centuries than previous centuries). Even more, such communication is part of the practise of the biblical writers, especially as voiced in the poetic sections such as the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations. And you’ve got some pretty stern arguments coming forth from other writers as they speak with God. Right now, I’m thinking of our friend, Habakkuk.
We have to put a stop to automatic rejection of critical scholarship because of the word critical, or because some of it is produced by non-Christians.
But let’s move into more of the details of the book. Continue reading
Kenton Sparks serves as professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, which is located on the northwest side of Philadelphia. His 2008 release through Baker Academic, God’s Word in Human Words, stands as a beneficial work for evangelicals who hold to the inspired and authoritative nature of Scripture who are also looking to engage within the realm of biblical and historical criticism.
The book is not unlike Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation (of which I review in part 1 and part 2). But, as one acquaintance said: Sparks’ book is like Enns’ on steroids. And that it is. Whereas Enns’ work is 208 pages, Sparks’ treatment of a very similar topic weighs in at just over 400 pages.
I specifically wanted to review this book in 3 parts, mainly for a couple different reasons:
- The book is longer and has much to offer, and so this will keep my own word-count down with regards to each of the two posts.
- The book addresses something that I believe is very important for evangelicals to understand. First, how we understand knowledge and, secondly, dealing practically with critical scholarship. It is the first point of #2 here that I will look at in this post, moving on to the rest of the book in my second and third articles.
From the outset, Sparks makes his purpose clear with writing this book: Continue reading