The Drama of Scripture
Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen, SPCK, 2006, 180pp. £9.99 ISBN 0 281 054740 0
This book offers us an outline of the Biblical story, into which we can locate all the extracts we read without being aware of the big picture. It runs from ‘Act 1: God establishes His Kingdom, Creation’ to ‘Act 6: The Return of the King, Redemption completed’. I found it very helpful.
People love a story and we are familiar with the smaller stories in the Bible. This book, with much learning behind it, helps us grasp the Lord’s Big Story and see our place in it. We can see, for example, how Leviticus plays a role in the great drama and we can shed light on the part played by different people and groups in the Lord’s overarching plan of redemption.
I believe this is important, as the authors make a very clear point in their preface: ‘The dominant cultural story of the secular Western world has been twisted by idolatry. If as believers we allow this story (rather than the Bible) to become the foundation of our thought and action, then our lives will be shaped not by the story of Scripture but the lies of an idolatrous culture’.
I write this just after Christmas when, it seems to me, the dominant culture has been consumerist. The authors will help us see the Biblical story as it stands over against ‘idolatrous’ views and live out more consistently the great drama of God active in this world.
The book includes reflections for today, so that we do not just read it with tacit approval, but are invited to see how it impacts our lives.
Covering the whole Bible in less than two hundred pages leaves no room to expand points or engage with other perspectives, but the book can help us inhabit the Biblical world view that is so vital in these pluralistic days. As Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham says in The New Testament and the People of God, ‘The whole point of Christianity is that it offers a story which is a story of the whole world. It is public truth’. We need all the help we can get to live out the story that is public truth, even if many of the public do not see it like that. As the saying goes, the only Bible most people will read today is in the lives of the ordinary Christian.
If we are to be truly evangelical, ‘Gospel people’, we need more books like this to help us grasp the wonder of God’s activity in the world. It can help us address key contemporary questions, not by quoting texts but by seeing the whole sweep of God’s creative and redemptive purposes through the ages: Who am I (what does it mean to be human); ‘where am I’ (where did our world come from?); ‘what is wrong’ (why does this world seem to be so troubled); ‘what is the remedy’ (can humans alone fix the problems of the world)?
Cell group leaders, house group leaders and preachers will particularly benefit from reading this book.
Reviewed by Andrew J M Barker a freelance preacher and teacher based in Nottingham.
Headline Spring 2007 p.27.