I have to say that this book gave me indigestion. But who am I to contradict the high praise of reviewers like Kathy Keller, Assistant Director of Communications at Redeemer Presbyterian Church or singer/songwriter Bethany Dillon who ‘cannot wait to purchase many more copies for the women in my life whom I know will love it too!’
If you’re looking for a book to help you to learn bible study skills then this book is indeed a useful starting point. Jen Wilkin highlights from the beginning the importance of recognising that when we read the bible, we come to read about a God who has revealed Himself in the pages of His Word rather than to read about ourselves. Fair enough. She argues the case for biblical literacy amongst women. Again, no complaints. She then, in classic conservative fashion, talks us through five alliterated guidelines on how to read the Bible i.e. with Purpose, Perspective, Patience, Process and Prayer finishing with some worked examples and suggestions for those involved in teaching the bible in various contexts.
Perhaps the pitfall for teachers that she fails to address is that of becoming so biblically literate that you become intolerably rigid about how to read a passage which can then lead all too quickly to judgmentalism of those who come with a more ‘pinball’ approach. Was there perhaps a slightly disparaging tone in her reference to those who ‘just ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me through whatever verse I flip to.’ Her criticism comes out of a right concern that texts be read in context but such flippancy shows a lack of love for our more charismatic brothers and sisters who perhaps don’t exercise all the appropriate tools when it comes to reading scripture (though plenty do) but who are nevertheless ‘dearly loved children’ too.
Jen Wilkin says, no doubt sincerely, that she ‘want[s] women everywhere to develop a deep and abiding love for [God] through the study of the text that makes him known.’ This is undoubtedly a noble goal but with such a great concern for putting her readers in their place in the Big Story, reminding them never to forget that ‘Before you can hear it with your ears, hear it with theirs’ (i.e. the original hearers’) that she fails to take us to the crucial place of hearing it for ourselves. Bible study thus leaves a cautious student too afraid to ‘hear’ God speak to them personally lest they fail to handle the text correctly.
Bible study can become like a Home Economics lesson if we’re not careful. We’re so busy examining the ingredients and their nutritional content that we forget how to enjoy the meal. Speaking personally, picking apart the food in this way has begun to cause me to lose my appetite.