Bible-Saturated vs. Bible-Based

When John Piper was asked in an interview which theologian of the past he would like to visit, it is no surprise he stated Jonathan Edwards. This explanation, which was part of his response, is compelling.

Edwards’ mind was uncommonly capable of holding complexities of reasoning long enough to sort them into threads that he could then weave into compelling arguments for great biblical truth. But what gave explosive power to this use of reasoning was how Bible saturated it was, not just that it was Bible-based. Many scholars say their work is based on biblical truth. But you will look in vain for any clear evidence of that. It is as if the contemporary thinkers feel the need to hide the Bible lest they be accused of proof-texting. Edwards was not so insecure. He had more respect and confidence in the Word of God.

Though not many have been blessed with the mind of Edwards (or Piper for that matter), it does explain why those of us not so blessed need to read people like Edwards. They help us to think long, hard and deep about the Bible, God and biblical truth.

I am also taken with how Edwards was Bible-saturated, not just Bible-based. The difference can be subtle, but profound. And anyone who is Bible-saturated can quickly discern the difference. The former is a result of being immersed in the text of Scripture, praying over, pondering, studying, reflecting. It approaches it as a primary source. The latter is a result of knowing Scripture, more often theology and theological systems (which are important, but as a second step from the Scriptures, which can only be faithfully articulated from spending time in the Scriptures). It often approaches Scripture as a secondary source.

In looking at these two points, read the Bible first, not Edwards. Read Edwards after you have read the Bible. And read people like Edwards because they will cause you to go back to the Bible, not away from it.

Finally, it is an exhortation to many who are insecure or doubt the sufficiency of the Scriptures. It is the Word of God that is inspired, inerrant, complete, final and sufficient (Ps. 119:160; Prov. 30:5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). It is living and active (Heb. 4:12). It is the hammer that breaks into pieces the rocks thrown against it (Jer. 23:29). God’s Word does not need an apology. It is our life (Dt. 32:47; Matt. 4:4)! Therefore, it must be humbly believed, faithfully submitted to and boldly proclaimed.


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