The Drama of Scripture
To be honest, when I saw I would be reading a book about the Bible as a whole, I did not think I would be reading much I have not already heard before. Not even 3 pages into the prologue of The Drama of Scripture, I was vigorously underlining sentences and passages. The major points of this book by Bartholomew and Goheen are 1) The Bible is and should be understood as one, unfolding, dramatic and true story, and 2) Everyone has a part in this story. In this paper, I am going to briefly explore my reactions to the book The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen.
One major element of this book that stood out to me is God’s all-encompassing redemption plan. Through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all things will be made new. So often people view salvation as being able to go to heaven when they die. It delights my heart to know that God intends to redeem everything he created. This idea can be seen in the story of Noah. God did not instruct Noah to bring several of every animal onto the ark just for the fun of it. God gave these instructions because he is “concerned for the whole of creation—including the animals. Salvation does not stop with humankind: it embraces the whole creation” (Bartholomew & Goheen, p. 50, 2004). The passage that stood out the most to me also illustrates the idea of redemption for all of creation:
In the cross, Jesus acts to accomplish his purposes for all of history—to save creation. Too often we reduce the significance of the cross to the fact that ‘Jesus died for me.’…Yet God’s purposes move beyond the salvation of individuals…Jesus dies for the world. (Bartholomew & Goheen, p. 164, 2004).
Understanding this concept truly changes my perception of why Jesus died. Yes, Jesus loves me and died for me, but me being able to go to heaven was not nearly the whole purpose of his death and resurrection.
Something that really hit me was how radical a Savior Jesus Christ was. He was nothing like what God’s people were patiently waiting for. The Jews were expecting the kingdom of God in the form of a mighty sweeping away of their oppressors and enemies. As they waited in “fervent expectation, a young man from Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, would announce that the kingdom of God had come to Israel and was even now present in him” (Bartholomew & Goheen, p. 127, 2004). Reading this made me literally jump out of my seat, thrust my fist in the air and shout, “YES!” I got chills thinking about what it would have been like to be alive when the kingdom of God was first present on the Earth.
Jesus was no militant king. He was a carpenter and instructed people to love their enemies and to be full of forgiveness instead of revenge. Jesus challenged the practices of the Pharisees, “He deliberately eats and drinks with all those the Pharisees would exclude” (Bartholomew & Goheen, p. 139, 2004). However, he did not simply reject the Pharisees eating practices, he rejected what had been represented by them: “separation, hatred, and a thirst for vengeance” (Bartholomew & Goheen, p. 139, 2004).
As much as I loved this book, I have a couple issues to take up with the author. One small one is their interpretation of “Let us…” in Genesis 1:26. The authors say that it is God addressing the heavenly council of angels, but I have heard that it is God addressing the Son and the Spirit (Bartholomew & Goheen, p. 35, 2004). I have heard that it was a reference to the Trinity. Another issue I have is with the reasoning given for the genocide that God commanded in Deuteronomy 20:16-18, “Above all else, Israel is to be characterized by the worship of the Lord alone…And if the Israelites live among Canaanites, they are in danger of being lured into the worship of other ‘gods’” (Bartholomew & Goheen, p. 84, 2004). If this is the case, should we not then kill our unbelieving neighbors so we are not tempted to sin? Perhaps a better explanation is that God is God and we are sinners. God does not have to justify his actions because he is blameless and holy. Although it is hard to swallow the idea of God commanding the Israelites to commit genocide, we must trust Him and his love for us.
Understanding the Bible as one, continuous, unfolding story has overwhelmingly opened my eyes to the gravity of God’s love. It also enriched the meaning of the things Jesus said and why he did what he did. I am filled with such joy after reading this book.