A Book* Review by Jimmy Snowden
Many Christians do not read the Bible regularly, not because they lack a desire to commune with God or hear His voice, but because they find Bible reading to be frustrating. Some find it too difficult to understand thinking that relating with God through His word should be far easier. Others are completely unaware that there are actual rules and principles to abide by to read the Bible correctly. Christians are often times told to read their Bibles, but aren’t given any help in regard to navigating such a large and, at points, complex book. Sure, there are parts of the Bible which are immediately accessible to any believer who will take the time to prayerfully read (John’s Gospel, for instance). But a Christian does need instruction when it comes to reading the whole counsel of God’s word if they want to read it correctly and meaningfully.
This is just what Jen Wilkin has provided in her book, Women of the Word. In this work Wilkin seeks to provide a basic ‘How to’ in regard to reading the whole counsel of God’s word. The principles she sets forth are simple and easy to understand. God has clearly given Wilkin a wonderful ability to clearly and simply communicate ideas and principles usually considered academic.
One of the most encouraging features of this book was Wilkin’s honesty about the amount of time and energy that is required to achieve biblical literacy. This seems to be the issue that precipitated the writing of this book: to help Christians (and women in particular) get serious about biblical literacy. She says:
“When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environments we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible.”
Unfortunately we live in a Christian culture that believes that grace and effort are mutually exclusive. But Wilkin exhorts Christians (and women in particular) to regain the vision of biblical literacy.
Many in the Christian church approach the Bible as if it were a super spiritual riddle that can only be deciphered in a purely supernatural way. Wilkin helpfully demonstrates that this is a mistaken approach. The Bible, while having a spiritual message, was written and can only be understood correctly with the use of our minds. Wilkin puts great emphasis on reading the Bible in its literary, historical, cultural, and canonical contexts.
I first came across this book when looking for resources for the leader of the Ladies small group at our church. I was stoked to find such an accessible, realistic, and ultimately helpful book for the women in our church to study.
Words like ‘hermeneutics’ and ‘exegesis’ are words that create disinterest immediately in the minds of well meaning Christians who just want accessible instruction on reading the Bible meaningfully unless those words are creatively explained and illustrated. Wilkin has provided us in this work such a work that provides all the meat of such a study without throwing the reader in over their heads.
This is not to say that Wilkin is only focused on the technical, cognitive aspects to reading the Bible. Wilkin’s purpose in writing a book on how to read the Bible is not merely to make Christians more intelligent, but to give Christians principles for reading the Bible with a view to knowing God and all that He has done for us in Christ. Thus,
“A Bible-worshipper loves an object. A God-worshipper loves a person. We can love the Bible with our minds, but we cannot love it with our hearts any more than we can love a car or a cappuccino. An object cannot receive or reciprocate love. Only a person can do that. So if you have read this book in an effort to love the Bible more, I want to applaud you and caution you at the same time. Please do learn to love God with your mind through the faithful study of his Word, but please don’t attach your affections to anything less than the person of God himself. Our study of the Bible is only beneficial insofar as it increases our love for the God it proclaims. Bible study is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. It is a means to love God more, and to live differently because we have learned to behold him better.”
The one frustrating thing about this book is that it was marketed specifically to women. This was frustrating for the same reason that Bruce Ware’s book, Big Truths for Young Hearts, was marketed for children. Both books can serve a much greater purpose. Wilkin’s book should have been titled, “Laymeneutics” or “Bible Reading for the Average Jill (or Joe!).” I would happily take a group of men through this book regardless of the title just as I would take any aged believer through “Big Truths for Young Hearts” to reintroduce them to the basics of systematic theology.
This book is far too helpful to be targeted to one gender. The principles, insights, tips, and arguments are presented in such a compelling way that the targeted audience needs to be significantly broadened. In fact, I would urge every pastor to get a copy of Women of the Word to sharpen your own ability to communicate these important principles in a more clear and simple manner.
I highly recommend this book by Jen Wilkin. I hope that this book is widely read by men, women, and children. The principles and exhortations laid forth in this book are worthy of the attention of all of God’s children. There is no greater pursuit than the pursuit of a relational knowledge of God through an ever deepening accurate understanding of who He is and what He has done to save and transform sinners through His Son as revealed in His word. If you feel that you need help in reading the Bible with a greater deal of clarity (who doesn’t!), get this book.
*I received a free copy in exchange for an unbiased review*
I am always glad to hear from readers. Just write me at jimmy.snowden [@] gmail.com.
About Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship
in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previously he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.