A Model to Explain the Entire Bible (a new series)

A Model to Explain the Entire Bible (a new series) August 15, 2013

This is the first post of a series that introduces a new tool that helps retell the grand biblical story from beginning to end.

English: The current edition of the 10-volume ...In developing this model, I had two things in mind:

(1) It needs to draw from the entire canon (Genesis-Revelation) in a balanced way.

(2) It needs to takes seriously the theme of honor and shame.

This model partially grows out of the article I published in the July issue of Global Missiology, titled “Biblical Theology from Chinese Perspective: Interpreting Scripture through the Lens of Honor and Shame.”

Can You Tell the Whole Story of the Bible?

The Bible tells a big story. There are so many details and characters. For this reason, people have a hard time keeping story straight. For many, the Bible seems like a random collection of stories that somehow loosely tie together in the person of Christ. It’s something of a mystery exactly how one part of the Bible fits with another. That’s the work of theologians (so one might say).

Ask yourself a question. Could you retell the grand story of Scripture in a coherent way that makes sense of the whole Bible? Let me adjust the question. In the story that you would tell, does Israel play a prominent part, or does it function more as scenery on the way to the cross?

I think Scot McKnight is correct on this point: We tend to skip from Genesis 3 (the Fall) to Rom 3 (the cross). We can be a bit uncomfortable with the Old Testament, not knowing its relevance to us today. Sadly, it often becomes nothing more than the material from which we teach children about God before they “graduate” to Paul as adults. Sure, we may mention the Law, the need for sacrifice, and predictions from the prophets. However, our comments tend to be general and quick.

Can They . . . .?

What about those with whom we minister? Are they able to tell the whole story from beginning to end in a coherent way? Can they make sense of the various themes and motifs so as to tell one grand story? If our people can discuss soteriology, ecclesiology, and other topics of systematic theology but they can’t recount the grand biblical narrative (including the various aspects of Israel’s history), then perhaps we are aiming too low?

If they/we are better at systematic theology (abstracted and topic focused) than biblical theology (focused on exegesis in context), then they/we are falling into a dangerous trap? Our assumptions and traditions will subtly consume our regard for Scripture. We will assume theological conclusions prior to interpreting the passage in its own context. This is how we get syncretism. As I have mentioned in Saving God’s Face and in another article, there are at least two kinds of syncretism––cultural syncretism and theological syncretism. The former leaves Scripture; the latter limits Scripture.


In the next post, I’ll explain why current models that try to tell the big story are still not enough . . . and why we need to develop a new approach.

Photo Credit: CC 2.0/commons.wikimedia

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