Thankfully, the intended message of the Bible is clear, and readers of virtually any level can easily discern its gospel design. This doctrine – “The Clarity of Scripture” – is one we all hold in common, and we’re eager to affirm that God is very able and successful in making the message of grace understandable. (Actually, I’ve always gotten a bit of a chuckle from the fact that we refer to this doctrine of the clarity of Scripture as the doctrine of perspicuity – a term virtually no one understands!)
But this is not to say that all the details or teachings throughout Scripture are equally understandable. Indeed, some of what Paul wrote was difficult even for the apostle Peter to grasp (2 Pet. 3:16)! For this reason, now and then, well-studied Bible teachers have written books to address a chosen cluster of these puzzling questions. Sam Storms makes the most recent contribution of this kind of book in his Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions from Crossway.
Here is the Table of Contents:
1. Is the Bible Inerrant? 15
2. What Is Open Theism? 33
3. Does God Ever Change His Mind? 54
4. Could Jesus Have Sinned? 67
5. What Did Jesus Mean When He Said, “Judge Not, that You Be Not Judged”? 73
6. What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? 82
7. Does the Bible Teach the Doctrine of Original Sin? 91
8. Are Those Who Die in Infancy Saved? 104
9. Will People Be Condemned for Not Believing in Jesus though They’ve Never Heard His Name? 114
10. What Can We Know about Angels? 120
11. What Can We Know about Satan? 137
12. What Can We Know about Demons? 151
13. Can a Christian Be Demonized? 166
14. Does Satan Assign Demons to Specific Geopolitical Regions? Are There Territorial Spirits? 184
15. Can Christians Lose Their Salvation? 194
16. Does Hebrews Teach that Christians Can Apostatize? 208
17. Will There Be Sex in Heaven? 220
18. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? 232
19. What Is Baptism in the Spirit, and When Does It Happen? 252
20. Should All Christians Speak in Tongues? 276
21. What Was Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh? 283
22. Is There Healing in the Atonement? 295
23. Why Doesn’t God Always Heal the Sick? 303
24. What Is Legalism? 309
25. Are Christians Obligated to Tithe? 319
General Index 341
Scripture Index 351
Many “Bible Problems” type books focus on alleged contradictions and such, but Storms’ focus is on Scripture’s teaching on various subjects. The questions range from more personal to theological and matters of denominational debate. It’s doubtful that you’ve not puzzled over many of these questions yourself, and there are likely some questions here that you just haven’t yet dare ask – “Will There Be Sex in Heaven?” (chapter 17).
Storms’ book differs from most others of this “difficult questions” class also in that his discussions are generally more in-depth, leading the reader to think through the questions, with their complicating factors and alternative answers, to the solution he offers. If you are familiar with Storms’ work, you will not be surprised here to see that his conclusions are well considered and exegetically grounded.
Reviewers often want to qualify their positive endorsement of a book with a passing, “not everyone will agree with all of his conclusions” kind of statement. Of course. And with a book that takes for its chosen subject matter twenty-five questions of famous difficulty (some of notorious difficulty!), this will certainly be the case. Besides his wife and mother, perhaps, precious few will agree with all the answers Storms provides. You can expect his well-known outspokenness on topics of perennial controversy – the millennium, the miraculous gifts – to show up here also. But however much agreement you find with him, you will find that he provides a model approach to sorting through complex issues. He is an informed, careful thinker who in well-considered theological exegesis gives deliberate priority to the inspired biblical text.
Storms’ book differs from most others in this class also in the generally pastoral tone that is evident throughout. Some questions – such as “Are Those Who Die in Infancy Saved?” (chapter 8) in themselves are more personally oriented and sensitive, of course. But Storms, himself a pastor-theologian, frequently brings his answers to bear on the life and experience of the reader.
All in all Tough Topics provides both a model of responsible biblical interpretation and a rich source of information for understanding some difficult biblical questions. Yes, of course I would note any points of disagreement, but I would gladly recommend this book to parishioners. And I would happily use it as a text-guide for a study group on “how to interpret the Bible.”
Fred G. Zaspel
Buy the books
Tough Topics: Biblical Answers To 25 Challenging Questions