Book Review: ‘A Peculiar Glory’ by John Piper

I want to start this review by saying a big thank you to SPCK for sending me the book to read. I feel very lucky to be in a position where I can be sent books to write about!

This particular book caught my eye because of the subheading: ‘How the Christian Scriptures reveal their complete truthfulness’. In the introduction, John Piper sets out his aim to explore the ‘peculiar glory’ of God that the Scriptures reveal, and says that he wants people from all backgrounds to be able to take something away from the book, whether or not they’re already a Christian.

The main body of the book is split into 5 parts as follows,

  1. A Place to Stand – Piper’s own story.
  2. What Books and Words Make Up the Christian Scriptures?
  3. What do the Christian Scriptures Claim for Themselves?
  4. How Can We Know the Christian Scriptures Are True?
  5. How Are the Christian Scriptures Confirmed by the Peculiar Glory of God?

There are some interesting questions raised in those headings. The book as a whole is very informative, and Piper lays out his own experiences and qualifications in book 1 so that readers can see for themselves where he’s coming from. Something I appreciate about this book is that, despite Piper is talking about something that has universal implications, his writing never loses a personal touch. If I had to describe the book in one sentence, I would call it, ‘a love letter from Piper to the Bible’.

For me, the book’s greatest strength is the way that Piper communicates his own love for the Bible. Whatever else you think about what he says, it is abundantly clear that he is writing this book because he thinks that this is something that everyone should know  about that. It didn’t take me long to want to go and read the Bible more myself, and I feel that if that was all this book made its readers do, Piper would be more than satisfied with that result.

In terms of whether or not the book achieves the rest of the aims that Piper sets out, I’m not so sure. Part 2 is certainly informative; I found it very interesting as a Christian to read about the history of the Scriptures, though I’m not sure that a sceptic would be particularly bothered about anything that is raised in this section.

My main gripe, I suppose, is that if someone – particularly a non-Christian, or a Christian looking to shore up their faith – approached this book thinking that it would convince them of the truthfulness of the Bible, they would be disappointed. Although Piper does address the issue, I felt like it was done in a very theological way, with arguments that would make sense to an existing Christian, but probably wouldn’t convince anyone else.

That, I think, is a warning to anyone who might be thinking about picking the book up off the shelf or on a whim, and it is not to say that the book is bad. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to Christian friends who are seeking to fall in love with the Bible again, and to understand more deeply what might be going in its pages.

Though I found the book slow at times (which is not uncommon for me when reading non-fiction!) I found it, for the most part, engaging and inspiring. Piper expertly opens up the truth of the Scripture for receptive readers, like myself, and his enthusiasm is infectious. It is a book that I will gladly keep on my shelf to turn to if I ever feel like I need a bit of guidance in my Bible reading, and I would recommend it to anyone else who feels they could benefit from the same thing.

I think the book probably averages out at around a 6/10, but it’s one of those that in the wrong hands could be a 3 or 4/10, but in the hands of the right person could be a 9 or 10/10.

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