Reading the Bible Supernaturally ~ A Book Review

The lasting legacy of various books throughout history is quite phenomenal when we consider the conditions that must take place. For centuries writings were conveyed orally, thus its continuation relied heavily upon the memory, dictation, and communication of the storyteller. Later on came the parchments and advancements that morphed into the paper we have today. However, these have the tendency to break down. Now, we have the computer that comes with scanning and typing capabilities making preservation much easier, but even that is not without potential flaws. Therefore, we must consider a great act that we are not only able to capture the works of today, but also to ‘rediscover’ the works of the past.
I think of great works of literature, such as Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad or the great tragedies of William Shakespeare. Christians look forward to the readings of great works of the past like Augustine’s Confessions, Thomas Watson’s The Reformed Pastor, and of course the greatest work of all, the Bible. Many of us have come to rely upon God’s work through these great works of the past to stimulate our growth and sanctification. I wonder sometimes if any works of today will endure the tests of time. Some may be quick to point out J.I. Packer’s great work Knowing God or R.C. Sproul’s magnification of the Lord in The Holiness of God. Only the Lord knows and only time will show whose works will endure. I daresay though, that if any modern works mirror those of the past, worthy of preservation because of their motivation upon the Christian life, they are the works of John Piper. My recent reading of Reading the Bible Supernaturally only heightens this conclusion.
About the Book: Format
It may surprise some to learn that Reading the Bible Supernaturally is not actually the first aspect of reading the Bible. Recognizing the deep connection between God’s glory and reading, Piper paused his writing of this book in order to first write A Peculiar Glory. While it is not necessary to read one in order to read the other, certainly Piper does well at communicating how seeing the glory of God is both a result of and a function of reading God’s Word and seeing his deeper explanations in A Peculiar Glory would prove helpful. Regardless, this is very much the basis in taking readers through a journey that results in his goal: to show the proper reading of the Bible as a supernatural act.
In stepping towards that goal, John Piper has divided the book of 27 chapters and a conclusion into three sections. The 10 chapters of part one come together to dive deeply into the purpose of reading the Bible. Part two then consists of a mere three chapters geared towards proving that reading the Bible is more than a natural act, but a supernatural act. While the shortest section of each, his explanation of his premise is quite profound and worthwhile. Finally, chapters 14-17 give practical steps to reading the Bible supernaturally.
For those who have read any of John Piper’s works, perhaps you are like me and have grown to appreciate his clarity and logical flow of content. However, the clarity doesn’t make his books a quick read. They require time and effort to think about what he is saying. The same is true of this book. His information is easy to follow, but the depth of its content requires time to meditate upon. Thus, readers can expect the 432 pages to consist of deep profundity.
About the Book: Function
 For believers, Reading the Bible Supernaturally is an exceptional book that deserves attention. While focused on teaching and provoking deeper Bible reading, Piper offers a well-rounded book that teaches more than just why and how we should read God’s Word. Readers will note three major distinctions about how Piper approaches this topic and teaches readers so much more than what they are expecting:
  • Direction: The first is that the author gives readers direction for the Bible reading. In provoking more reading the Bible, John Piper indicates a primary goal for reading: That God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship act of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, and nation.
  • Doctrine: Not only are readers provided with a foundational direction about making Scripture a primary aspect of their lives, but he teaches theology throughout. Teaching how such concepts as justification impact our reading, Piper has a way of teaching that will make the learning process seem unnoticeable. However, upon conclusion of reading a look back will reveal just how much a person was able to learn through Piper’s insights.
  • Duty: Finally, the author emphasizes not merely the need to be doing something, but instead attaches to it a level of importance. In doing this, he raises both the expectations and the activity of readers who engage in reading their Bibles.
The author has written with such a deep conviction that readers will be sure to be captivated by the realities of Biblical truth being presented and their influence upon reading.
About the Book: Favour
What makes Reading the Bible Supernaturally such a worthy read is not merely the practical suggestions. Instead, Piper has set this book apart from others of similar topics by plumbing the depths in order to bring forth the richness of what the Bible reveals. In doing this he has elevated Bible reading to a place of more prominence than what many of us are often willing to give. To do this, readers will come away with the following:
  • An Elevated View of the Purpose of Reading the Bible: Many of us will no doubt say that the Bible is important enough to be read on an ongoing basis. However, John Piper indicates just how essential it is to the Christian life, relating our reading of it to our journey of it.
  • An Elevated View of the Process of Reading the Bible: Reading has become a very passive experience, which is unfortunate. The author recognizes this and thus invites readers to take a more active role in their reading, teaching some basic principles of hermeneutics, giving examples of how to read (i.e. humbly), and prompts readers to engage with the text through observations and questions. He even includes a short appendix on his well-known process of arcing, although one does not necessarily have to follow arcing for the book to be profitable, but is a mere example.
  • An Elevated View of the Product of Reading the Bible: Finally, a process yields a product. For some it means a check box on that to-do list; for others, it is a continuing development of what is permissible and what is not permissible for the Christian. However, because he has conveyed both an elevated purpose of reading and an elevated process of reading, the author naturally concludes with an elevated result of reading the Bible beyond some basic goals. First, that goal is to see the glory of God revealed, however, he does not stop there. Instead, he recognizes that a recognition of God’s glory compels transformation in the believer’s life because he or she has seen God as a result.
Reading the Bible Supernaturally is a tremendous book. Not only has Piper achieved his goal, but he has done so in such a way that is defensible and leaves readers without excuse.
While it would be simplistic to say that everyone should own and read a copy of Reading the Bible Supernaturally, the book demands much more. It is a book that demands attention, demands interaction, and demands application. Therefore, not only would I suggest it be found in every Christian’s hands, I would say that it is a book meant to be read alongside an open Bible and with deep reflection.
Click the following links to purchase a copy of A Peculiar Glory and/or Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper. If you are really interested in reading more of John Piper, you can always check out the recently released Collected Works of John Piper, a 13 volume set that will continue to be updated with additional volumes as he completes more (while I am greatly excited by this, I myself cannot currently justify the cost, but it’s worth a look for those interested).
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book at not cost from the publisher for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way but is the response and result of my own reading of the book.