Review by Derek Brown, The Gospel Coalition
It is always refreshing when you come across an accessible, edifying book on Scripture. Sinclair Ferguson’s From the Mouth of God: Trusting, Reading, and Applying the Bible is an easy-to-read, straightforward guide to understanding and profitably using God’s Word.
But Ferguson doesn’t leap right into the specifics of biblical interpretation. He knows our attempt to interpret and apply Scripture will falter to the degree we’re unable to wholeheartedly trust Scripture. In order to prepare us for the task of reading and applying, then, Ferguson begins by discussing the doctrinal prerequisites to fruitful Bible study. In this first of three sections, the professor of systematic theology at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas examines essential topics including inerrancy, canonicity, and inspiration.
After briefly traversing the subjects of general and special revelation in order to establish the necessity of Scripture, Ferguson touches upon the doctrine of inspiration. Brevity, however, does not keep him from approaching topics that require some rigor.
For example, in order to understand how God breathed out his Word through human authors, Ferguson introduces us to the category of concurrence:
God works in his ordinary providence in a way that involves concurrence. He is active in bringing about his purposes, yet at the same time we are also active in a significant way. In one and the same event God is active in a “God way” while we are active in a “human way.” We cannot collapse these two dimensions into one and apportion, say, 50 percent of the action to God and 50 percent to man. . . . [The] concept of concurrence prevents us from adopting a mistaken logic and concluding that if God is active in an event then to that extent man must be inactive. (11)
While not answering every question (there will always be some room left to mystery when speaking of the mechanics of inspiration), the category of concurrence helps us make sense of God’s sovereign activity in producing Scripture. Concurrence simply teaches us that during the inspiration process God was fully at work while the human authors were also fully at work. Once this category is established in our minds, we are able to take seriously the implications of Scripture’s origin. The Bible is ultimately from God, so we know with certainty it is always true and authoritative. Yet Scripture is also from man, so we discover its meaning through careful study and by applying sound hermeneutical principles.