Reading the Bible can strengthen your confidence in the Bible. There are good arguments already for the trustworthiness of God’s word, and I’m thankful for faithful scholars who argue for it from historical, archaeological, and manuscript evidence. But when a reader is immersed in the majesty and glory of God’s story, that simple act of reading can become a powerful apologetic.
In my academic studies I was introduced to biblical theology, which is a discipline that considers the Bible as a whole, attending to its organic unity and progressive revelation and seeking to understand how later authors interpret earlier texts. I enjoy learning how to think about the Bible in these ways, and I am still rejoicing at the many truths biblical theology teaches us. Here are three.
- The Bible is telling one story.
From the beginning of Genesis to the consummation of all things in Revelation, there is a discernible and coherent storyline. The Bible’s sixty-six books are not filled with unrelated accounts. Rather, in multiple languages, on multiple continents, and over the course of about 1,500 years, many different authors were inspired by God’s Spirit to tell the story of promises made and kept, of a redeemer who was prophesied and who entered our broken world in the fullness of time and bore our sin and shame. The Old Testament prepares the way for Jesus, and the New Testament heralds the coming of Jesus, the most important person who ever lived and died—and lived again.
- The Bible is interpreting history.
The Bible does much more than report major historical events from the ancient Near East. The one true God is Lord of all and wields human history for sovereign purposes. The Bible not only records history, it interprets history. For instance, the Israelites left Egypt, but that event should be understood in the larger context of how God was working out his will to rescue his people through an appointed deliverer who would lead them to a promised land. In the first-century A.D., a baby was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and died on a cross outside Jerusalem, and the Bible explains the theological and cosmic significance of these events. History is not a collection of random happenings. The grand narrative of God’s plan is a marvelous tapestry that testifies to his infinite wisdom, where all of the parts have meaning in light of the whole. The meaning of history is not in the eye of the beholder but in the mind of the Creator.
- The Bible is unfolding a worldview.
The Bible calls you to a different kind of seeing. The biblical authors, across sixty-six books, give you a set of lenses through which to view the world. The Bible’s worldview allows us to see why we’re here, what went wrong in the world, what God has done to rescue us, and what will happen when Jesus returns. We need biblical theology because we need to live faithfully before God, walking in a manner worthy of the gospel and understanding that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. To be a disciple on this narrow road, we need to see the world and our lives as the Bible does. We should immerse ourselves in Holy Scripture, beckoning God to renew our minds and conform our hearts and orient our affections. We should read not just verses and paragraphs but chunks of chapters and whole books. The Christian faith begins in Genesis, so we should rejoice in and submit to the whole counsel of God, which spans a garden in Eden to the holy city where all things have become new.
As Erich Auerbach rightly put it, “The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality—it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy. All other scenes, issues, and ordinances have no right to appear independently of it, and it is promised that all of them, the history of all mankind, will be given their due place within its frame, will be subordinated to it. The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us—they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.”
Mitch Chase (PhD, SBTS) is an Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at Boyce College, and is the Preaching Pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church. He tweets sporadically from @mitchellchase.