Book Review: “Basic Bible Studies” by Francis Schaeffer (1972)

Studying doctrine can be addictive at times. I can recall the countless hours I spent not-so-long ago studying for my ordination. In the 17-page doctrinal statement that resulted from all that study, I tried to marry thoroughness with conciseness, which is never an easy task. I read a number of books by authors that I trust, as well as perused the doctrinal statements of pastors I know and admire. In the end, I felt like I had articulated virtually everything about my beliefs that I could articulate. But then came my review before a board of pastors who riddled me with so many tough questions, I thought I had forgotten “articulation” at home.

Now several years later, reading through Francis Schaeffer’s Basic Bible Studies, I get a refreshing sense of awe at how simply the doctrines of our faith can be discovered within the pages of God’s precious Word. Schaeffer does extremely well as reconstructing the major tenets of Christian Systematic Theology in this short volume, brick-by-brick as it were, from the personality of God all the way to the dismal future-state of the lost. He does so in a unique way, by stating a reference (or several) and the making one or two brief comments about particular truths these verses teach.

I found Schaeffer’s title, Basic Bible Studies, misleading at first, simply because “Bible study” is a fairly abused piece of jargon Christians throw around these days (for example, “We’re reading Desiring God for Bible study this Fall”; or “Not enough people can come, so we’re just going to play games for Bible study tonight”). Even beyond my slight aversion to the jargon, I’m also not a big fan of most of the Bible study guides I’ve tried in the past. Such books generally only scratch the surface of a text and somehow trick the reader into a hour of “me-focused me-time” under the guise of “quiet time in the Word” rather than a genuine encounter with God. Schaeffer’s book is also not at all “basic,” for he covers well some of the deepest truths of the Christian faith. When I read “basic,” I’m thinking: “read your Bible, pray, and act kindly.” Of course, Schaeffer gives so much more than that.

As I currently teach a theology class based off the outline of my own doctrinal statement, I am finding Schaeffer’s passage selection in Basic Bible Studies and short explanations of important doctrines extremely helpful. For anyone leery of “proof texts,” this certainly wouldn’t be the guide for you, because that’s really all this book is! Far from “basic,” it’s certainly a healthy read for anyone wanting to better understand the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith.

©2015 E.T.

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