Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God’s Word, Nigel Beynon & Andrew Sach, Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. Soft cover, 158 pages, $16.50.
Just as happens today, the presiding minister in a Reformed worship service in sixteenth-century Geneva would pray for God’s blessing over the reading and preaching of the Word. Some of John Calvin’s prayers for illumination have been preserved. One of them begins like this: “Almighty and gracious Father, since our whole salvation stands in our knowledge of your Holy Word, strengthen us now by your Holy Spirit…” Calvin was right: our entire salvation depends on the Word of God. It is critically important for us to be familiar with that Word and to know how to work with it and understand it. This book is intended to help us to that end.
Both authors are experienced in the study of Scripture. Nigel Beynon is a Christian conference organizer and Andrew Sach is a pastor of a large conservative Anglican church in England. This book was originally published in the UK in 2005 as a result of their efforts at helping university and college students to better understand the Bible. Crossway has now republished it for a North American audience.
Overall, I am impressed with this little volume. I’ve long been looking for a simple, short, and faithful summary of biblical principles for interpreting the Bible. I’m pleased to say that I’ve found it with Dig Deeper. Through seventeen chapters, the authors unfold a comprehensive set of tools that will allow those who do not have a formal theological training to get a good handle on what the Bible says and how it should be applied to their lives. As an example, chapter 15 deals with “The Bible Time Line Tool.” Whenever looking at a Bible passage, the authors encourage us to ask three questions:
1. Where is this passage on the Bible time line?
2. Where am I on the Bible time line?
3. How do I read this in light of things that have happened in between?
Some readers will no doubt recognize this as a way of approaching the Bible from the view point of redemptive history. This is the approach found, for instance, with S. G. De Graaf in his still very useful Promise and Deliverance.
I have only a small number of reservations. I wish, for instance, that more emphasis had been placed on the fact that all of Scripture points us to Christ. The authors do mention this, but it comes rather late in the book, almost as an afterthought. This should be central. Would I have written this book, I might also have included a paragraph or two distinguishing between the indicative (what God has done) and the imperative (what we are called to do). I also disagree with some of the interpretations of various passages and biblical concepts. For instance, chapter 7 tells us that we do not have to go to a special building or place to worship God. “There are no holy places anymore, only a holy person” (66). However, doesn’t 1 Corinthians 3:16 say that the church is “the temple of God”? When the church is gathered in worship, is that not a holy place where God is present to bless his people with Word and sacrament? These sentiments betray an unfortunate acceptance of a minimalist ecclesiology by the authors.
Yet generally this is a well-written book. It has excellent illustrations and practical examples. They emphasize the importance of prayer for Bible study. Most importantly, the authors have the highest possible respect for the authority of Scripture and that respect is not mere lip-service. That’s something that can’t be taken for granted. So, who might benefit from Dig Deeper? High school Bible teachers would be the first ones to come to mind. It could be used as a textbook for high school Bible classes. However, certainly anyone who wants to enrich their knowledge of God’s Word would be well-served by reading this little book carefully.