Scott R. Swain. Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation. New York: T&T Clark, 2011. 168 pp. $27.95.
This slim academic book is gold. It is well written and conversant with a wide-ranging collection of ancient and contemporary theologians (Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Owen, Barth, Bavinck, Vanhoozer, Webster, Gentry, Peterson, et al.). His discussion on the inspiration, clarity, and sufficiency of Scripture is grounded and precise.
One element I appreciated is his emphasis on the exegete’s own heart toward the Lord in the task of interpretation:
– “We do not stand over [the Bible] as interpretive lords. We do not sit beside it as interpretive equals. We kneel beneath it as interpretive servants. The Lord looks upon the one who trembles at his Word. Therefore, the stance of biblical interpretation is humble attentiveness and the goal of biblical interpretation is obedience: ‘speak, Lord, for your servant hears’ (cf. 1 Sam. 3:9ff).” – p. 76
– “There is a real sense … in which our capacity for understanding Scripture grows along with our capacity for obeying Scripture.”
Perhaps most helpful are the final two chapters on reading Scripture “as an act of covenant mutuality.” In these chapters he highlights the “rule of faith” and the “rule of love.” I wasn’t entirely convinced by the various “dogmas” we should subscribe to, but it was good fodder for thought. Swain’s presentation of the four “phases” of interpretation—prayer, explication, meditation, and application—ought to be instilled in every student of Scripture.
One final word: Swain identifies himself with the TIS movement (Theological Interpretation of Scripture). The movement as it currently stands is broad on the theological spectrum—it has Roman Catholics, liberal Protestants, and evangelicals. I’m wary of TIS and afraid that will move people away from “the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” but this work presents the movement at its best.
** Rob Plummer, professor at Southern Seminary, has a helpful chapter on TIS.