God’s Word Alone ~ A Book Review

From the period of the Reformation, Christians have had a succinct way to categorize priorities within the Christian life through the development of the five solas. These five solas, referring to grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, God’s word alone, and God’s glory alone set the basis for one of the most sweeping transformations in church history. They would define the ministry of Martin Luther as he countered the Catholic Church and have come to define essential life applications for Christianity. Yet in proclamation of these core solas, few comprehend the depths of what they mean.

When a new book series was announced to (re)discover the principles contained within the five solas, I must confess it seemed more promotional to me. With the first book released in 2015, the final two are scheduled to be completed in 2017 in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of the commencement of the Reformation, the books seemed to be more of a gimmick. Yet with a team of top scholars (scholars such as Matthew Barrett, Carl Trueman, and Thomas Schreiner have all taken part), excellent research, and considerate writing the series is much more than a gimmick. While I cannot vouch for the entire series since I have not read them all (especially since two are yet to be released) those that I have looked at are phenomenal and lend much credibility to the entire set. The most recently released book, God’s Word Alone by Matthew Barrett, is one that I have no hesitation in recommending to others.

The topic of God’s word is not only vast in its own regard, but finds its influence in every other area of life. It makes addressing such a topic within a short amount of space very difficult. However, Barrett does a great job in presenting the material in a succinct and efficient manner without cutting any corners. His writing takes on three distinctive characteristics that makes it a worthwhile read:

Structure

The most beneficial aspect of God’s Word Alone is the structure and layout of the information. This point alone is worthy of noting because it is not only the key strength of the book, but it impacts the other strengths.

A study of doctrine usually requires distinctive materials in order to look at a particular doctrine from the necessary perspectives. However, Barrett has done well to structure his book around theology. Organized into three parts, each section examines the doctrine of Scripture from the three primary theological disciplines. Section one reads as a historical theology that shows the traditional doctrines of Scripture with a special emphasis on the Reformation period. Section two then takes the form of biblical theology, examining the doctrine of Scripture across the whole counsel of God’s Word. The final part forms a systematic theology with each chapter taking a look at a different aspect of Scripture (the four topics include inspiration, inerrancy, clarity, and sufficiency). Thus, the author has looked at God’s Word alone across multiple disciplines making this one of the most distinguished and comprehensive resources that a person can utilize in their study about the Word of God.

Study

It is certain that Barrett undertook an extensive amount of research when completing this book. It was not a simple task, yet he masterfully navigated the materials out there in order to present a comprehensive look. You cannot read this book without being thankful for the study that he did.

Simplicity

Finally, the information being  present is at times complex. Tracking the different teachings, perspectives, and theories, not just in a modern era, but across all of history (biblical and historical) can generate convoluted information and confused understandings. However, Barrett writes in a way that is easy to follow and understand. Again, the structure that he has chosen helps this greatly.

While the strength of the book is found in its structure, study, and simplicity, there are two areas of improvement that would also benefit those areas. The first is simple formatting and layout issues. Periodically through the book there were issues with the page numbers (at one point my book went from page 371 to 335 to 350. At other points, the word order of the sentences did not make sense (most notably at the start of chapter 5). After several readings, I think I determined that somehow all of the words needed for the sentence were there, but their order had been tampered with. It is worth noting that the copy I used for review was the Kindle edition, and therefore these layout issues may only occur in the electronic edition of the book.

A more extensive section on applicability would be beneficial. I recognize that book is already long (409 pages, counting the three appendices) and adding more application would only add to that. It is also worth noting that the author has included some application, especially in part three. However, those inclusions are brief and miss the extensiveness of application that results from a right theology of God’s Word.

In reality these issues are minor and constitute a very small portion, Even one of those issues may be specific to the Kindle edition of the book. Neither would prevent me from recommending this to others.

This is a book that will anger some who are of the higher biblical criticism following. Suggesting that inerrancy is an indefensible and cringeworthy doctrine, they would disagree with the positions of Barrett. However, it is clear that he has an exalted view of God resulting in a high regard for God’s Word. Because of that, the theological defenses presented by Barrett in the book are noteworthy and solid.

As you purchase this book, here is a pro reading tip: read the book with your Bible open. That should go without saying as we should read everything in light of what we read in Scripture. However he does a good job at providing some insights into passages of Scripture and thus they should be read alongside his points and references.

To purchase any of the books in the Sola Series click the following links:

  1. God’s Word Alone
  2. God’s Glory Alone
  3. Faith Alone
  4. Grace Alone (to be released in 2017)
  5. Christ Alone (to be released in 2017)

This book was provided to me free of charge for the purposes of review. However, that did not impact the ‘type’ of review I gave and the opinions contained in this post are the result of my own reading of the book.