Stephen Burnhope. How to Read the Bible Well: What It Is, What It Isn’t, and How to Love It (Again). Cascade Books, 2021.
Stephen Burnhope is a British Evangelical pastor-scholar. How to Read the Bible Well reflects the strengths of the combination of those two vocations. The writing is clear and accessible. The focus is on practical theology in the sense of how the Bible may be read in ways that encourage faithful living. Burnhope is not interested in abstract, authoritarian theology. At the same time, he is well-read and draws effectively on current theological scholarship.
This book serves as a good resource for people who want to know not only how we best read the Bible, but why we do so. For someone working in an Evangelical context, Burnhope displays an admirable openness and honesty about the alleged problems of the Bible—its apparent internal contradictions, its humanness, its proclivity to give us positive views of violence, the tensions between the Old and New Testaments, how Jesus can be God and human at the same time, and the problem of evil among others.
Being an Evangelical, Burnhope’s thoughtful responses to these issues tends toward affirming the Bible’s divine inspiration and its authority for Christians. He’s clearly right of center on most theological issues. Even for non-Evangelical readers, though, this conservatism should be seen as an asset more than a liability. We are not given simplistic, authoritarian answers here, but carefully reasoned affirmations of the positive role the Bible may play for seekers. We may consider some of Burnhope’s positions to be more traditional than we would prefer, but we will still learn good things by sharing in his wrestling with questions commonly asked about the Bible.