About 30 years ago, when I was a young seminary student, an Old Testament professor from Australia visited our campus to deliver a series of lectures. His theme? The connections between our worship today and that of Israel, especially the worship described in Leviticus.
While there are many (far too many!) lectures from my seminary training that I have long since forgotten, these remain fresh on my mind yet today. Indeed, like many experiences, I had no idea at the time that much of my life’s work and study were being shaped by what was happening.
Unbeknownst to me, during those lectures, seeds were being sown that have since grown into trees that still populate the intellectual orchard of my mind and soul, the fruits of which are seen in my own writing and teaching.
That Australian professor was Dr. John Kleinig. And today, three decades later, I continue to be his student, most recently by reading his delightful new book, God’s Word: A Guide to Holy Scripture (Lexham Press, 2022).
Like all the volumes in the Christian Essentials series, this one opens “up the meaning of the foundations of our faith” (XII) by drawing upon the wisdom and insights of the communion of saints. The goal is not to say something novel, much less provocative, but rather to introduce (or, in some cases, reintroduce) readers to the golden wisdom of the past—a treasure trove that is often bypassed by those seduced by the sparkle of the latest theological fad.
This is a slim volume, about 170 pages. Eye-pleasing artwork is a welcome addition. It is the kind of book I would place in the hands of someone who asked, “Why is the Bible so important?” There would be a twinkle in my eye as I did so, for I would know not only that was I giving them a well-written and informative book, imbued with orthodox teaching about Scripture, but I was also inviting them to explore pages that would woo them into a love of the beauty of these holy writings.
That is one of the reasons I admire this book: far from just a stale compendium of doctrinal truths about the Bible that leave the reader yawning and underwhelmed, there is a love of the beautiful in these chapters. They truthfully express what God’s Word is, who speaks in that Word, how we hear and study it, and the fruits borne by the Word of God.
Far from just a stale compendium of doctrinal truths about the Bible that leave the reader yawning and underwhelmed, there is a love of the beautiful in these chapters.
But they do more. Kleinig invites us to feast on the Word of God. To chew on it. Savor it. In these chapters, all of which are replete with biblical narratives, quotations, and images, we sit at the feast. The meal is one of beauty, of joy, of music, where the Word of God is shown to be not just ink on a page, but the living voice of Christ, just as alive and present now as when the words of Genesis or Matthew or Revelation were first spoken.
One of my perennial gripes about the way the Scriptures are studied and taught, in the academy as well as in congregations, is how the Word of God is so often (mis)treated as a dusty old artifact. We poke and prod it, lift it by the corner, and hold it up to the light. Then, having uttered some serious words about this antiquated object, we shelve it and walk away from it. In so doing, the Bible is treated like the handiwork of a taxidermist, some dead thing that looks interesting and almost alive, but isn’t.
But the Word of God is far from dead. It doesn’t just have the appearance of life. It is living and active. The divine voice is booming and blaming, whispering and wowing, one minute accusing and the next absolving. The Scriptures are laced with stories of horror and comedy, with characters that make your heart sing or your skin crawl. And woven into all the narratives, in one form or fashion, is Christ, the Word by whom the heavens and earth were made, who finally came down from heaven in his incarnation to our wild and wacky world, all to redeem us as his own.
Kleinig’s volume treats the Bible not as an artifact but the vivifying, recreating Word of the Father, full of the Spirit. It artfully opens up the beauty of this library of Spirit-inspired psalms, prophecies, histories, gospels, and letters.
Let me put it this way: when I finished the book, I loved the Bible, and the Bible’s author, even more. And I can’t imagine a better endorsement than that.
Till I am old and gray, I will continue to be a student of Dr. Kleinig. I am grateful that the Lord has blessed his church with such a teacher. May the Lord use this book to help every reader taste and see that the Lord—and his Word—are very good, indeed.