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Spiritual audiologists

BOOKS | Helping us hear what the Spirit says to churches


R.R. Reno Handout

Spiritual audiologists
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What is the purpose of interpretation? And how can one mine the Bible for everything it says about a particular topic?

A recent book from R.R. Reno addresses the first of these questions. To call a book The End of Interpretation (Baker Academic 2022) may suggest that interpretation is over, but actually Reno means that interpretation has a specific goal. That goal is to enjoy Scripture. How? Reno provides several examples, reading and commenting insightfully on Genesis 1:1, John 17, and 1 Corinthians 7.

Reno is Roman Catholic, but his book gives Protestants much to consider, too. Throughout, he insists that exegesis serves the Church by forcing readers to confront anew the question “How is this text related to what the Church teaches?” Reno shows that, far from stultifying or short-circuiting the process of interpretation, bringing the sprawling breadth of the Bible into conversation with Christian doctrine is the most fruitful way of reading for enjoyment. He finds proof in a historical example: “Reformation debates about justification” triggered “remarkable exegetical creativity”—demonstrating that doctrine is not some outside imposition that shuts down exegesis.

Rather, Christians engage in a “vast, never-ending project of using doctrine to interpret Scripture and Scripture to illuminate doctrine.” Doctrine was developed to help Christians read the Bible—all of the Bible—as the Word of God. Reno does good service in reminding us of that.

A second book shrewdly mines the Bible’s teaching on the prince of the power of the air. In The Exorcism of Satan: The Binding of the Strong Man by Christ the King (Free Grace Press 2022), Joshua Howard has collected every significant mention of the wicked one in the text of Scripture and written a page or two of commentary on each reference. This makes up the bulk of the book, and it is fascinating. The summary of his findings attempts to comprehensively answer the question: To what extent and in what arenas did Christ’s Passion victory curtail Satan’s wicked activities?

Howard finds that the Devil is not “physically or spatially restrained.” Rather, his activities are curbed in the following ways: (1) He used to accuse believers before God’s throne, but is no longer allowed to do so. (2) He can no longer fool all of the nations all of the time and thereby prevent the spread of the gospel. (3) He cannot control the time of the nations’ end-time rebellion. Nonetheless, he can still lie, deceive large parts of the world, and inspire false teaching within the Church. Howard’s precision is helpful, and his thoroughness is impressive. He and Reno serve as readers’ spiritual audiologists, strengthening ears for those who want to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


Caleb Nelson Caleb is a book reviewer of accessible theology for WORLD. He is the pastor of Harvest Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) and teaches English and literature at HSLDA Online Academy. Caleb resides with his wife and their four children in Gillette, Wyo.

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