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Timothy Ward: Words of Life


Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture As the Living and Active Word of God (IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 2009), 184 pages, ISBN 9781433501302.

This book is full of contemporary appreciation of the dynamic power of Scripture and invites a reappraisal by the reader of what we really think about the Bible. There are sections that will evoke a loud ‘amen’ from among Pentecostals and Charismatics, as when Ward insists that God always does what God’s Word says (p 26ff.). There are also warnings, though, as when Ward identifies a tendency among some Charismatics to place the Scriptures in an apparently less valued place than ecstatic and spontaneous eruptions of revelation, such as in worship services. He also bewails the reduction of well researched and applied expository preaching and the increase of anecdotal surmise and impressions. He insists that we need to avoid the ‘refusal by some to link God’s ongoing dynamic action through the Spirit directly with the speech acts communicated by the words of Scripture’ (p 158).

Timothy Ward, a Church of England vicar and an unashamed Calvinist, has produced this book on the back of his earlier thesis publication, where he examined an understanding God’s Word as His ‘speech act’. He successfully unwraps the implications of a properly Reformed doctrine of Scripture in the contemporary church. The result is excellent and most helpful to all who instinctively hold the Scripture in the highest regard yet sense, albeit unwittingly, the contemporary pull away from a high doctrine of Scripture in differing parts of the church today.

Ward’s dealing with how the doctrine of sola Scriptura should be applied in the church in a manner faithful to the Magisterial Reformers is especially helpful and illumining. Ward emphasises that the Bible is not a talisman, and needs to be read in order to hear the Word of God released towards us today. We need to have a higher appreciation of it as the very words of God released to us. He points out that a doctrine of sola Scriptura properly roots the understanding of the Bible and the exercise of its authority within the Christian community, and contrasts this with a more individualistic use of the Scriptures, without reference to the Christian community’s authority, as ‘solo’ Scriptura (p 154).

This is a serious and well researched piece of writing, written at the pastoral and applied level. Any preacher, who has been disturbed by the challenges of ‘post-modernity’ and ‘post-foundationalism’ and wonders what they are really meant to be doing with the Bible, would benefit from reading it.

Reviewed by Jim Purves

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Category: In Depth, Pneuma Review, Spring 2011

About the Author: James Purves, Ph.D. (University of Aberdeen, Scotland), has been serving in pastoral ministry since 1980 and is presently Mission and Ministry Advisor to the Baptist Union of Scotland. He is a research tutor at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague, Czech Republic and author of The Triune God and the Charismatic Movement (Paternoster, 2004). His blog is

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