Light in a Dark Place: The Doctrine of Scripture

Light in a Dark Place: The Doctrine of Scripture

by John S. Feinberg


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433539275
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 04/30/2018
Series: Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series
Pages: 800
Sales rank: 867,136
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

John S. Feinberg (PhD, University of Chicago) is department chair and professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of Ethics for a Brave New World (with Paul D. Feinberg) and is general editor of Crossway’s Foundations of Evangelical Theology series.

John S. Feinberg (PhD, University of Chicago) is department chair and professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author of Ethics for a Brave New World (with Paul D. Feinberg) and is general editor of Crossway’s Foundations of Evangelical Theology series.

Read an Excerpt



Life without light is unthinkable, impossible! "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). And God "lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see" (1 Tim. 6:16 NIV 1984). So to try to live without God and to embrace moral and spiritual blindness instead would be as foolish as if someone with perfect natural vision deliberately blinded himself, choosing instead to live the rest of his natural life in absolute darkness.

Of course, some people through no fault of their own are physically blind. We admire their courage and tenacity as they struggle each day to handle this infirmity and try to live anything like a normal life. It is hard to believe, however, that anyone who can see would choose a life of blindness, or that any blind person wouldn't gladly choose to see, if merely willing it could make it so.

As debilitating as natural blindness is, spiritual blindness is even worse. For it seeks to defeat us during our natural life on earth, and ruin our eternity. Darkness challenges every aspect of our existence.

God, of course, fully knows this; we would expect nothing else. Moreover, our beneficent creator knows exactly what we need in each area of life, and he has provided it. In particular, God gave three special expressions of light to meet life's most pressing needs.

The first is creation light. In Genesis 1, we read that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (v. 1). But the earth as initially created was formless and void, and darkness was everywhere (v. 2). So what did God do next? Divide the land from the water? Create any of the creatures that would inhabit this new world? No, God first spoke physical light into existence (v. 3). On the fourth day of creation, he created the sun, moon and stars, and "placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth" (v. 17). God knew that no natural life could exist without these lights, and so he created them.

God later created the first man and woman to live in the paradise he had made. As created, they were morally and spiritually right with God, for they had never sinned. But sadly, they bowed to temptation and chose to disobey the one rule God gave them, plunging themselves and the whole human race into moral and spiritual darkness (Gen.3:6; Rom. 5:12ff.).

This was and is a problem no mere human can possibly solve. But without a solution the race would be condemned to live forever apart from fellowship with its creator. That would lead only to endless suffering and separation from the blessing and presence of the God who desperately wants a loving relation with us.

Again, God had the solution. The human race needed another infusion of divine light! This time it was redemption light. God sent his Son Jesus to pay the penalty that sin had incurred, so that fellowship between God and humans could be reestablished. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). The darkness of which Jesus spoke is moral and spiritual darkness. Those who have followed Christ by faith can well attest that he is the light of their lives, both now and for eternity.

There is a third form of divine light, revelation light, given again to meet humans' needs. In his second epistle, the apostle Peter wrote about it. Peter wrote this letter toward the end of his life, and he wanted to remind his readers of things he had told them many times before. He began chapter 1 with a reminder that God has given believers everything they need for life and godliness, and he has promised great blessing to those who follow him (2 Pet. 1:3–4). In light of that, they should reject the moral corruption of this world and make every effort to develop Christian virtues. If they do, they will make their "calling and election sure," and they will be warmly welcomed into Jesus Christ's "everlasting kingdom" (vv. 5–11 KJV).

Undoubtedly, Peter had encouraged his readers to godly living on many other occasions, but it was right for him to refresh their memories, especially because he knew that before long his mortal life on earth would end and he would go to be with the Lord (vv. 12–14). In verses 16–21 Peter rehearsed for his readers one more time the basis of the hope that he and they had for eternal life and blessing. He knew that salvation with all of its blessings is a marvelously wonderful hope for followers of Christ. But Peter also knew that some things sound much better than they actually are. So, how did Peter know that the gospel and its blessings were true? Perhaps all of that is just a "cleverly devised" story to make people feel secure (v. 16), but has no basis in fact. In the rest of chapter 1, Peter explained why the blessings of which he wrote are not just wishful thinking. They aren't because there are two guarantees that the gospel is absolutely true.

Peter and the other apostles proclaimed many amazing things about Jesus. How could they be sure that what they said about him was true? Peter says that he knew that Jesus is all he claimed to be, first, because of the experience that he, James, and John had at the Mount of Transfiguration (vv. 16–18). During most of Jesus's earthly life, there was little outward, physical evidence that he was the glorious and all-powerful Lord of glory. But Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of his true majesty when they saw him transfigured, and heard the voice from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased" (Matt. 17:5).

We often say that seeing is believing. Peter says, in effect, "I was there, and I saw and heard, and I believed." Clearly, this event was irrefutable proof for Peter that Jesus was everything he ever claimed to be (2 Pet. 1:17). But Peter knew that only three mere humans witnessed the Mount of Transfiguration event. Peter, James, and John were convinced, and many of their followers believed because they knew these men to be honest and reliable witnesses. But how could others be sure, especially those living at other times and places than in first-century-AD Israel?

In verses 19–21 Peter adds a second reason that anyone can be sure that Jesus is everything he claimed to be. In fact, Peter says that this second evidence is even more certain than his eyewitness testimony (v. 19). That is truly remarkable, for we usually think that there is no better proof of a claim than tangible, empirical evidence, especially eyewitness testimony. What could be stronger proof than that?

Peter's answer? Scripture! Why? Because Scripture, though penned by mere humans, was inspired by God, who supervised the writers and their writing at every step along the way (vv. 20–21). Peter had no doubts about what he saw and heard as he followed Jesus, but he knew that even eyewitness testimony can sometimes be mistaken. Peter and the other apostles weren't wrong about what they saw and heard Jesus do and say. But even so, Peter says that Scripture is even more certainly true than their eyewitness testimony! Whatever Scripture says is unassailably true, and hence, totally reliable — something all can stake their very life on!

Because Scripture is even more certainly true than the most reliable eyewitness testimony, Peter advised his readers (v. 19), "you will do well to pay attention" to it, "as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." There you have it — the third form of light God gave to guide and protect humans as we live in this world of moral and spiritual darkness: Scripture is a light in a dark place.

From the earliest days of my life, through my childhood and adolescence, and throughout my adult life, Scripture has been the foundation of my life. My parents taught my siblings and me that no one is more important than God, and so if God says anything, we must give it our undivided attention, and obey it. Like others, my life has been blessed with many "light places," but there have been "dark places" as well. What has always remained the same, regardless of circumstance, is the light that Scripture casts upon my way.

And so, I have always loved Scripture, especially as I grew and studied it more. In my preaching and teaching ministries, Scripture has always been and continues to be the foundation and content of whatever I say. In addition, as a teacher of theology, I have the extremely great privilege of teaching others about Scripture.

Scripture is a ray of divine light in a dark place, but we can and should say much more about it. How did Scripture ever come into existence? Why is it so important that we learn and live its content? Can Scripture be trusted in what it says, regardless of the topic?

All of these questions and more demarcate the issues that must be addressed in a book on the doctrine of Scripture. I write unapologetically from a firmly embraced evangelical stance. That means, in part, that as a theologian, I assume that apologists and philosophers of religion have made the case that Scripture is trustworthy in whatever it says about any topic. Given that belief, what does Scripture teach about itself? That is the subject of this volume. I contend that Scripture claims to be the inspired, inerrant, and powerful revealed word of God. Moreover, Scripture also affirms that its basic message of how to establish and grow a positive relationship with God is understandable, and that the Holy Spirit stands ever ready to move and enable each person to apply Scripture's teachings to his or her life so as to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I believe all of these things about Scripture, and more, because, as I shall show in this book, they are what Scripture teaches about itself. I also know it to be true from personal experience, and from seeing Scripture's transforming power in the lives of people who obey it.

Evangelicals are people of the book — the Bible. The hallmark of evangelical theology is its contention that Scripture is God's inspired and inerrant word. Given that belief, evangelical theology strives to be consistent with whatever Scripture claims. And there is very good reason for this understanding of and approach to theology. Systematic theology covers the person, works, and relationships of God. Of course, a crucial question then becomes, what is theology's source material? Nonevangelical theology typically is based on tradition, human reason, and/or some current worldview or philosophy. Scripture may also be a source, but it isn't the touchstone of nonevangelical thinking. If Scripture disagrees with the prevailing philosophy and mind-set of the nonevangelical thinker, Scripture is adjusted to match the theologian's vision of reality and God's place in it.

Evangelical theology is different. While it may use as source material data from various disciplines of study, its primary and governing source is Scripture. Moreover, scriptural teaching, properly interpreted, is the touchstone for anything that goes into an evangelical theology. If the data one proposes to include in theology disagree with Scripture, the data must be either rejected or revised to fit the vision of reality that Scripture presents.

Why does evangelical theology take this approach? The answer is rather simple. The subject matter of theology is God and his relationships with all creation. Who would know the most about what should go into a conceptual scheme that aims to articulate an accurate picture of God? No one knows as much as God does! So, then, if God tells us something about himself, his deeds, his relationships, and anything else he cares to communicate, that information should be the most complete and accurate information available, and hence, it should be the foundation of our theology.

Where can one find such information? That's where Scripture enters the picture. Though Scripture is not the only place God has revealed himself, it is a marvelously thorough, accurate, and clear deposit of the things God most wants us to know about himself, ourselves, and our relation to him. Evangelicals believe that Scripture is God's word, and since no one knows more than God, we would do well to base our thinking on God's word, the Bible. This is why Scripture must be the foundation of evangelical theology, provide its main contents, and be the touchstone against which any and every theological claim is judged.

And so, in this volume I intend to present the various concepts involved in the doctrine of Scripture. I have divided my presentation into four parts. The first deals with how Scripture first came into existence. That is, it covers the creation of Scripture. The concepts of revelation and inspiration explain how Scripture came into existence. The second section treats various attributes or characteristics that are true of Scripture. The discussion will focus on the inerrancy and authority of God's word.

Of course, a discussion of Scripture invariably addresses how it was decided which books would be part of Scripture. Thus, the third portion of our study investigates the boundaries of Scripture. The issue in view is, of course, canonicity. The key question is, what criteria were used to decide which books should be part of the Bible and which should not be?

The final section of this book covers the usefulness of Scripture. In this section I shall discuss various reasons why Scripture can accomplish so many things in people's lives. Some chapters in this section will focus on qualities of Scripture, so they could easily be placed in the second section of the book. But I have placed chapters such as the ones on Scripture's clarity, power, and sufficiency in this fourth section because all of these attributes of Scripture are so crucial to understanding and applying Scripture in individual lives. Of course, without the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Scripture is a "dead letter" to its recipients. Thus, this portion of the book also includes a chapter on the Holy Spirit's illumination of the minds and hearts of Scripture's readers to Scripture's message.

Clearly, in the doctrine of Scripture much more is at stake than merely "filling in" the details of this doctrinal locus in an overall system of theology. What is at stake is what one thinks Scripture to be, how one understands the person of God, and whether one is required to live as Scripture prescribes. If Scripture is merely a compendium of religiously pious thoughts of religiously sensitive people and nothing more, then we may find it inspirational and instructive, but we shouldn't feel any urgency to live in accord with its teachings. But if Scripture is, as evangelicals and their theology have affirmed throughout history, the very word of our almighty, omniscient, and all loving God, then the only sane choice is to let it enlighten our thinking and our actions each and every day.

As you read this book, I hope you will be thrilled and overwhelmed with appreciation to God for everything he has done to give us Scripture! Just as the giving of his word over so many years to so many writers in a variety of circumstances is truly remarkable, so is God's preservation of his word, despite attempts to silence and even eradicate it altogether! Because God has done that, Scripture can be light in the various dark (and light) places of our lives. May God grant that as you read, you will be thankful that God has not left us to wander and stumble through life without knowing the way to him, and may you be even more determined than before to follow the precepts for the God pleasing life that Peter exhorted his readers to pursue. Christianity and the Christian way of life are not some cleverly constructed myths and legends. They are truth and they give abundant life and eternal life, because they follow God's light, Scripture!


Excerpted from "Light in a Dark Place"
by .
Copyright © 2018 John S. Feinberg.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Series Introduction,
1 Introduction,
2 Light Unveiled: The Doctrine of Revelation,
3 Light Unveiled (II): Special Revelation,
4 Light Written: The Inspiration of Scripture,
5 Light Written (II): Other Biblical Testimony about Scripture's Inspiration,
6 Light Written (III): Theological Formulation of the Doctrine of Inspiration,
7 True Light: Inerrancy and Infallibility,
8 True Light (II): Objections to Inerrancy,
9 True Light (III): More Objections to Inerrancy,
10 Divine Commanding Light: The Authority of Scripture,
11 Light Canonized: The Doctrine of Canonicity,
12 Light Canonized (II): Scripture on Canonicity,
13 Light Canonized (III): Old Testament Canonicity,
14 Light Canonized (IV): New Testament Canonicity,
15 Light Embraced: The Doctrine of Illumination,
16 Clear, Understandable Light: The Doctrine of Perspicuity/Clarity,
17 Living, Powerful Light: The Animation of Scripture,
18 Light Enough: The Sufficiency of Scripture,
19 Enduring Light: The Preservation of Scripture,
20 Light in a Dark Place: Does It Make a Difference?,
Scripture Index,
General Index,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“John Feinberg has written a splendid work that brilliantly expounds and winsomely defends a classical evangelical doctrine of Scripture. Readers will discover an engaging and comprehensive exploration of topics such as revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and canonicity, among others. This thoughtful and clearly written volume will certainly be welcomed by students, scholars, pastors, and church leaders alike. It is a genuine joy and privilege to recommend this most recent addition to the outstanding Foundations of Evangelical Theology series.”
David S. Dockery, President, Trinity International University / Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Building on a lifetime of scholarship, John Feinberg provides us with a superb exploration of the ‘perfections’ of Scripture for a new generation. This is a wise, well-informed, and very important summary of the normative source of faith and practice. What a gift!”
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Justification (New Studies in Dogmatics)

“In 1978, a young theologian, John Feinberg, signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a watershed document for contemporary evangelicalism. Forty years later, as a veteran scholar, he makes another significant contribution to the evangelical doctrine of Scripture, extending his treatment beyond its inerrancy to include inspiration, authority, canonicity, clarity, power, sufficiency, preservation, and intersection with the work of the Holy Spirit. Light in a Dark Place is a must-read for scholars, pastors, believers, and skeptics alike!”
Gregg R. Allison, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Elder, Sojourn Community Church; author, Sojourners and Strangers; Roman Catholic Theology and Practice; and Historical Theology

“The doctrine of Scripture serves as the foundational doctrine of Christian theology. Apart from God’s triune self-disclosure in Scripture, which results in a fully authoritative and reliable Word, everything we say about God, ourselves, and the world is ultimately left unwarranted. For this reason, every generation needs a robust and faithful exposition and defense of Scripture as God’s Word written in light of current challenges and debates. From a seasoned theologian who leaves no stone unturned, Light in a Dark Place wonderfully meets this need. In this volume, John Feinberg discusses the most significant points of the doctrine of Scripture and tackles some of the toughest issues the doctrine faces today with precision and care. This book will serve as a superb resource for today’s church, and it demands a careful reading and embrace of its faithful elucidation of Scripture as God’s most holy Word. I highly commend this work.”
Stephen J. Wellum, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, God the Son Incarnate; Kingdom through Covenant; and Christ from Beginning to End

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