You may not be familiar with IVP Academic’s Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture series, but you should be. The project only recently began in 2015, covering a few particularly narrow topics within theological study. Ike Miller’s Seeing By The Light is perhaps the most “niche” of all of the titles to date. The subtitle reveals its focus: “illumination in Augustine’s and Barth’s Readings of John.”
You may assume that such a book lends itself to seminarians, academics, or Augustine/Barth enthusiasts. But Miller’s Seeing is a wealth of wisdom on an important and, sadly, often-ignored Christian doctrine.
As I began reading this book, I started to realize the lack of material that’s been published on illumination. I perused through a handful of my systematic theology resources to confirm my suspicions: only one or two even cite it in their “subject index.” Even an internet search returned little in the way of fruitful resources. This is disconcerting when we compare it to the Bible’s seeming emphasis on the reality of illumination throughout the pages of Scripture. Miller argues from his opening paragraphs that “illumination is at the core of God’s self-communication to us” (1). He describes its place in Scripture briefly:
“The great arc of Scripture begins with a God who is the initial Creator and giver of light, a gift that reflects his nature in creation as a God who shines light into the darkness. The Scriptures build toward the climactic moment of the incarnation of the light of the world, along with this light being extinguished in his death before he is resurrected to new radiance for all the world to see his glory. This light is then taken out into the world as the Spirit communicates it through the church, culminating in a coming kingdom of God, a new Jerusalem, a bright city that needs no sun because God himself gives it light.” (171)
Ike Miller has written a book that is not only stimulating to students of Barth, but any student of the Bible. In illumination, God is giving us eyes to rightly see who He is. It is His Trinitarian work of looking upon humanity, who gropes in the dark, and says to them, “Let there be light.” God is light, most radiantly displayed in the Son, and applied to us by the power of the Spirit. When we participate in God’s light, we not only better bear the image bestowed on us and live in His light, but we better reflect His light to a dark and sore-eyed world.
The real strength of this book is watching two theological giants (Augustine and Barth) process John’s gospel with this doctrine in view. It is almost as if Miller steps out of the way to let their insights on these important texts shine through. Not only do we get to bear witness on how these two teach us much about an important doctrine, but we get to see their theological interpretation of Scripture take place before our eyes. One of the real surprises of this project was seeing how many conclusions Augustine and Barth shared.
Seeing By The Light has turned out to be one of the most insightful and helpful theological books that I have read this year. It offers us a fresh understanding of John’s Gospel, brings attention to this important doctrine that often goes unmentioned, and gives us newfound appreciation for Augustine and Barth. Even if you’re not a seminary student or a pastor, you can gain much wisdom from this resource. This book itself is a light to us, shining forth the goodness of God’s light for our growing in Him.
*Thanks to IVP Academic for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.