Review: The Drama of Scripture (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen)

In my ministry experience, I have come across many Christians who understand a random number of dots when it comes to scripture but they don’t understand how the dots are connected and the direction they wish to take us.  That is to say, many Christians understand numerous stories and passages from the Old and New Testament scriptures but they don’t understand the unified story being told and its direction and goal (and there was a time when I didn’t understand this story either as I do now…though I am still learning).  I have also found that despite our wishful thinking, simply picking the Bible up and reading it as a novice to scripture will not so easily yield the results of understanding this unified story. 

Consequently, I have been looking for a book that would help readers of scripture see how all the dots connect together for the redemptive purpose.  I have found that book: Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004 (you can also view their website: http://www.biblicaltheology.ca/).  About the authors…Bartholomew is a biblical scholar who holds a Ph.D from Bristol University and teaches at Redeemer University College in Ontario; Goheen’s expertise is in the field of missiology, holding a Ph.D from the University of Utrecht and teaches at Trinity Western University in British Columbia.

This book was given to me by another Christian (thanks Amy!) and lo and behold, it was also on my Amazon wish list.  The book was easy to read…let me repeat, this book was EASY to read!  It was written for first year university students for the purpose of telling “the biblical story of redemption as a unified, coherent narrative of God’s ongoing work within his kingdom” (p. 11).  Because it was written for first year college students, the book is free from academic jargon.  When the authors do make mention of certain theological terminology (which is not much) they make sure to provide an adequate and clear explanation.  Rather than being written in traditional sections and chapters, the book is divided into six acts with an interlude: Act 1) God Establishes His Kingdom: Creation; Act 2) Rebellion in the Kingdom: Fall; Act 3) The King Chooses Israel: Redemption Initiated; Interlude) 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.

Holding a high view of scripture, the authors concern is that without understanding scripture as a unified story the Bible becomes a fragmented book which becomes absorbed into whatever story (controlling narrative) is shaping our lives (p. 12) which has been for many Christians living in the western Europe and North America is “the story of the secular Western world” (p. 197).  With a high view of scripture, the authors believe scripture “functions as the authoritative Word of God for us when it becomes the one basic story through which we understand our own experience and thought, and the foundation upon which we base our decisions and our actions” (p.21).  Readers will also discover that the authors are very concerned in their telling of scripture to remain true to the historical Christian faith (theology) while bringing out the emphasis of discipleship and mission in scripture.  Also noteworthy, the book remains above the various disputed controversies that have emerged in history on how certain passages of scripture should be interpreted.  For example, the authors acknowledge the different understandings of the millennium, rapture, judgment, antichrist, and tribulation in Revelation while gently reminding the reader that such details should not command our attention away from the goal (p. 211).

Whether you are teaching an introductory class on the Bible and/or Christian faith or you just have a group of people who want to understand the message of the Bible a little more, this book I highly recommend as an aid and companion to the Bible.  It would be a great book to read in a small group of some sort.

2 responses to “Review: The Drama of Scripture (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen)

  1. Interesting. But before I add it to the list I have two questions in regards to the book.

    The first comes from what I see in “story” or “journey” kind of talk; that the overarching storyline is emphasized (which I have zero problem with) but that storyline lacks the actual occurrences of history. Meaning we see the forest, but fail to see the oak tree and the pine tree. In other words, with the overview look, we may miss the essential details that occur during that breadth of time. Does this book identify the story while neglecting detail?

    The second is that of the centrality of Jesus as Savior of sinners and ultimate Redeemer of all things. Many I have read in the “story” or “mission” aspect of things lately focus on, for example, Kingdom of God language; where Jesus becomes nothing more than a pointer to how that is achieved (instead of the purpose, definition, and ultimate end of it). How does this book relate to the centrality, exclusivity, and purpose of Christ?

    Thanks!

    • Jr.,

      Good questions and important ones to ask if we are to use the book as a teaching aid. In answer to the first question, I would say “yes”, the book is very detailed oriented (as much as a book 252 pages can be). As for the second question, the authors uphold Jesus as the one through who all things are redeemed, as the one through whom we are saved from the present age of sin, death, and evil to the new age which is guaranteed to us by the seal of the Spirit. I would say (and this may be important to your interests) that the authors are influenced more so by the like of George Eldon Ladd, N.T. Wright and the ‘new perspective on Paul’ than reformed theology.

      Well, I hope that helps answer your questions.

      Grace and peace,

      Rex

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