Subscribe to Christianity Today
Prima Scriptura: An Introduction to New Testament Interpretation
N. Clayton Croy
Baker Academic, 2011
288 pp., $25.00
The apostle anticipated the time when "itching ears" would drive Christian audiences to reject sound doctrine in favor of teaching that would merely suit their own desires. His remedy, given solemnly to Timothy: "proclaim the message," teaching it with persistence, patience, sobriety, and a readiness to endure suffering. Thankfully, Timothy and his progeny have followed this stiff advice, making the Christian message available today in more cultures, languages, and settings than ever.
Yet, diseased ears continue their baleful influence. In a Sightings piece last year, Martin Marty bemoaned the fame, following, and feckless scholarship of David Barton, whose cause is "to show from eighteenth-century documents that [the] Founding Fathers determinedly and explicitly established a Christian state, which leaves all non-Christians as second-class citizens." Leaving aside the claims here concerning the Christian nature of the early Republic, I note the passions so easily enflamed by anyone preaching the idea of a Christian state. Yet where is the evidence—on Barton-inspired websites or any other—that such a position could be considered biblically sound doctrine?
To prepare Christian teachers to deal with this and all other modern cases of itching ears, up steps N. Clayton Croy. His remedy—Prima Scriptura: An Introduction to New Testament Interpretation—is far longer than the advice that Timothy received. But in its goal and serious-minded tone, it stands squarely in the tradition of those original, inspired words.
In Prima Scriptura (Scripture as "primary," "first," "final"), Croy, true to his Wesleyan Methodist roots, jettisons the venerable sola Scriptura, darling of Reformed stalwarts everywhere. Yet as he develops his comprehensive view of New Testament interpretation, it's clear that he yields to no one in his high view of Scripture. Furthermore, in language that Pietists would appreciate, Croy hopes that, even through the blood, sweat, and tears ...