Brian Hadin is the founder of the Audio Bible, a daily podcast where he reads through the Bible every year. There are somewhere around 40 million listeners across the globe that tune into his broadcast.
His new book Passages is part chronicle of how he started and who benefitted from his podcast, and part lesson on why reading the Bible is important.
And while I think what he’s doing is a great thing, I don’t agree with his reasoning about why reading the Bible is important. I really wanted to like this book because I think this is a great ministry, but without a correct view of the Bible and its purpose, I think scripture becomes dangerously misleading.
Why is reading the Bible important?
Perhaps the most famous scriptures used to emphasize reading the Bible are 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training,” 2 Peter 1:20-21: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” and 1 Corinthians 2:13 “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.”
I want to say first off that I think these scriptures are absolutely true. The scriptures are inspired by God and completely true. I’m going to add a big “BUT” here that some people aren’t going to like. But the scriptures are not God; they’re not even a good substitute for God.
Jesus tells exactly what the purpose of the scriptures are when He says, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
And this is where Passages falls short. I don’t think it’s purposely. I would even say Hardin would completely agree with what I’m saying, but he never says so in the book, and that paints a disastrous picture of the Bible. For example he says things like “Wouldn’t it be comforting to have just one friend who actually knew what was going on, who would always tell the truth and not be afraid to tell it like it is? . . . We do have such a comrade—the Bible”, “hope is one of the great blessings that the scriptures give us”, and even goes so far as using scripture and Jesus interchangeably in his lesson on the vine and the branches when he says “this is our fate [spiritual death] if we remain disconnected from the lifeblood of Scripture.”
Listen, God is our friend who is always true, and it’s His Holy Spirit that leads us into all Truth. Sometimes He uses the Bible, sometimes it’s a fellow Christian, sometimes it’s just the Holy Spirit speaking to our heart, and sometimes He splits the sky and speaks in thunder, but it’s always, always God. God is the one who not only gives us hope; He is our hope. Jesus is the only vine you have to worry about being separated from. Some day you may find yourself in a distant country, in prison, never to see a Bible again. If the Bile is where you think life resides, you’re not going to make it. Get it?
Understand I’m not undermining scripture’s authority or denying Sola Scriptura here. Scripture is important in leading us to Christ, helping us to test the spirits and our hearts, rebuking false doctrines, teaching, training and all that, but without the Holy Spirit interpreting, it’s just a book, and a dangerous book at that if anyone but the Holy Spirit is doing the interpreting, which is exactly what Peter is talking about in 2 Peter 1:20.
Ultimately it comes down to this. One day we all will stand face to face with God. If you’re claim to relationship with Him is that you read the scriptures daily, don’t be surprised when He says, “Then why didn’t you come to Me? I never knew you.”
Obviously Hardin’s book stirred me up a bit. And I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt in saying I don’t think he intended the book to come across the way it does, but at the same time, coming to Jesus is what the Bible is all about, and I don’t see how anyone can read it in its entirety, year after year, and not get the major theme of the book.
So while there is some great stuff in Passages about community and plans for Bible study, overall I can’t recommend the book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.