Film / Book Reviews


Nov 2011    

The Enduring Word: The Authority and Reliability of the Bible

Author: Robert M. Solomon
Publisher: Armour Publishing & the Bible Society of Singapore 224 pages, $19.25 (with GST)
Available from the Bible Society of Singapore (Tel: 6337-3222) and Armour Publishing (Tel: 6276-9976)

THE ENDURING WORD, as its sub-title suggests, is a book about the authority and reliability of the Bible. It is written by Robert M. Solomon, Bishop of e Methodist Church in Singapore, in response to critics who have sought to undermine the Bible as the Word of God by casting doubts about its accuracy and textual integrity.

An introductory chapter – worth reading not least for its dramatic re-telling of the development of the English Bible – provides the background to the controversy that the likes of Dan Brown and Bart Ehrman have generated over the Bible’s trustworthiness. Admittedly, due to their charge that the Bible is full of errors or inconsistencies and that the texts had been distorted, the carpet has been pulled from under the feet of many a Bible-believing Christian!

The Bishop’s overall strategy in answering the misleading claims of the critics is well conceived. He first makes a crucial theological point that there is a supernatural dimension to the Bible. In his words, “ The Bible is not merely the work of human beings; it is in essence the Word of God, written as God inspired men to write its various parts.” (page 19). roughout the book he continually returns to this theological assumption.

It is inevitable that this rebuttal to the critics of the Bible should involve a fairly technical discussion on “revelation”, “inspiration” and “illumination”. However, the author’s ability to explain these concepts and relate them as aspects of a divine process which resulted in the birth, transmission and preservation of the Bible fills the gap that has separated those who are familiar with the Bible’s history and those who know very little about how the Scripture came to be.

In a chapter on the canonicity of Scripture, the Bishop fields questions about how the books of the Bible came to be admitted into the corpus, who made the decision to include or exclude certain books, and what criteria were applied in the evaluation. In his treatment of these matters, the author sounds forth yet another point of theological significance, namely the recognition that God had played a central and essential role in the canonisation process. “It was divine illumination,” he continues, “that gave the ability to early Christians to discern which of the books they were reading were to be considered as divinely authoritative, and therefore, canonical.” (page 37).

The book is also invaluable in addressing the issue of manuscripts and textual variants, and giving assurance that though we do not have the autographs (original writings), we possess texts which can be read with confidence in terms of approximation to the original manuscripts. His assessment of the various Bible translations will be welcome for its objectivity.

e author has certainly succeeded in re-asserting the authority and reliability of the Bible. Indeed, he has achieved more by providing what a reviewer has described as “a soul-nourishing look at the truthfulness of Scripture”. For this reviewer, Solomon’s approach has an added indispensable feature

– it is grounded upon the vital theological premise that “the Bible is God’s Word because God is behind it”. Why? For if one believes that God is the source of Scripture, embracing the authority and reliability of the Bible follows naturally.

Lim K Tham is the General Secretary of the Bible Society of Singapore and the National Council of Churches of Singapore.

John Sung’s life for Christ

JOHN SUNG (1901–1944) or Song Shang Chieh was a valiant and powerful Chinese evangelist who brought a strong revival to the Church in China and many parts of Asia in the first half of the 20th century. A scientist-turned-preacher, his public ministry lasted “a mere 12 years” but his impact and influence can still be keenly felt all over the world today.

In conjunction with his 110th birth anniversary on Sept 27 this year, local company Armour Publishing has released two new books on him – The Life and Ministry of John Sung and e Diary of John Sung – and re-launched A Biography of John Sung.

The Life and Ministry of John Sung by Dr Lim Ka-Tong is a thorough biographical study of the man. Based on archival and library research as well as personal interviews, the book uncovers significant aspects in Sung’s formative years, including his childhood in China and early adult years in America.

Bishop Dr Robert Solomon has described e Life and Ministry of John Sung as an “an inspiring and insightful book” that “shows how Sung was a man for and of his time, and how God works in souls and societies”.

For readers who are interested in Sung’s original works, e Diary of John Sung: Extracts from His Journals and Notes would be the book to read. It is a new, more dynamic and accurate translation of Sung’s Chinese diaries, which were originally published as e Journal Once Lost. Various Chinese names and phrases are rendered more effectively, and the overall bulk of the book has been reduced for a more enjoyable read.

Armour Publishing has also re-issued the popular A Biography of John Sung with a new cover. Written shortly after Sung’s passing, this landmark publication is, in British evangelist John Stott’s words, “an honest biography of an extraordinary man” that shows Sung for who he is, complete with idiosyncrasies and weaknesses.

The Life and Ministry of John Sung ($25), The Diary of John Sung ($28) and A Biography of John Sung ($16) are available at all good bookstores.


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