Drama of the Bible: Our Place in the Story
A Strange Book and the Modern Mind
If you have ever found portions of the Scriptures to be strange, boring, or confusing, you are not alone. The Bible is a remarkably unique book. Evangelicals believe that God has miraculously revealed himself through a collection of writings. Written by 40+ human authors over a period of 1,500+ years and containing historical narrative, poetry, parables, letters, and even erotic literature, the Bible can easily lay claim to one of the most unique books to ever exist. But how is the modern reader to understand such a big, old, odd, and seemly fragmented book? As a long-time student of the Bible, I would humbly suggest that any reader of the Bible would benefit immensely from the book "The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story".
Intended as an introduction to what theologians call Biblical Theology, authors Bartholomew and Goheen argue that the Bible should be primarily read not in fragments or portions but as a flowing, cohesive story of the history of the world. More specifically, they suggest that the Bible can be viewed as a six-act play or a drama. God who serves as the both the director and an actor in the play uses the earth as his stage to display His glory and purpose for the world. Here's the plot they suggest:
- Act 1: God Establishes His Kingdom: Creation
- Act 2: Rebellion in the Kingdom: Fall
- Act 3: The King Chooses Israel: Redemption Initiated
- Intermission: A Kingdom Story Waiting for an Ending: The Intertestamental Period
- Act 4: The Coming of the King: Redemption Accomplished
- Act 5: Spreading the News of the King: The Mission of the Church
- Act 6: The Return of the King: Redemption Completed
At risk of overstatement, I find the benefits of this approach too numerous even to list, so I'll limit myself to two.
The Bible is Actually Literature
As in any story, characters and scenes find their fullest meaning only in the context of the entire story. In the same way a new reader of the Harry Potter books would be remarkably confused by starting on page 165 of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (Book 3), modern Bible readers should not be surprised at their retarded understanding of the Bible by doing the same. When the Bible is taken seriously as an actual piece of literature, readers will suddenly be able to contextualize strange stories of talking animals, strange miracles animal sacrifices, tribal warfare, and foreign cultural oddities. This six-act structure enables informed readers to place any portion of the Bible in it's proper context among the whole. To achieve this goal, I am aware of no better summary than this little book.
Finding Meaning in God's Story
A second benefit to reading the Bible as a cohesive story is that it helps us find meaning for our lives. In this book the authors argue that people give meaning to and frame their lives by placing themselves within the context of some story. The essence of the Christian faith is that it offers an alternative story of the world. In some measure, to be a Christian means that one has accepted and lives within the Biblical Story.
There are many alternative stories, or world views to choose from, but you can't mix & match. A product of the Enlightenment, the widely accepted Western Story is in sharp conflict with the Biblical Story. Yet it seems that many people both inside and outside the Church, try to find meaning by combining favored elements of both stories. Yet, as the authors rightly argue, once you mix two stories, each story loses its meaning.
The Bible claims that it is the True Story, God's Story — and it should be read as such. Consequently, as readers approach the Bible, they will be invited to find meaning for their lives. This is accomplished by understanding their place in God's story, which as readers will find out, is squarely in Act 5: Spreading the News of the King.
I highly commend this book to any student of the Bible and suggest that it could perhaps be the 'most important book' about the 'Most Important Book' that you'll ever read.
For a more critical review of this book intrested readers can view my review on Amazon.