Saturday 3 October 2009

Six of the Best 4: Books on the Biblical Story

This is the fourth in a series of ‘Six of the Best’ books in a particular area related to engaging with Scripture which are first posted on the website of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.

The first one profiled books for beginners on interpreting the Bible, and the second one looked at books on biblical themes. The third one highlighted biblical worldview formation. This one looks at books on the ‘big story’ told in Scripture.

The resources listed here overview the whole biblical story from beginning to end, and explore its significance for Christian thinking and living. The notion of Scripture being one unfolding story moving through creation and fall to restoration in Christ and final consummation has rightly been seen by many as crucial in shaping a Christian worldview (on which, see the previous ‘Six of the Best’).

Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (London: SPCK, 2006).
This is one of the best books to explore the biblical ‘big story’ and its significance in developing a distinctively Christian worldview. The authors trace the theme of the kingdom of God in six acts through Scripture: 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. The book is also supplemented by a website containing a number of useful resources.

Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom: A Christian Interpretation of the Old Testament (Exeter: Paternoster, 1981), reprinted in The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2000).
Goldsworthy argues for a threefold idea woven throughout Scripture, which is ‘God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule’. When we use that as a rubric, we can see God’s kingdom in Eden with Adam and Eve (God’s people) living in the garden (in God’s place) under God’s rule. But, he says, we see the same motifs again as the biblical story goes on, with the kingdom revealed in Israel’s history, the kingdom revealed in prophecy, and the kingdom revealed in Christ. Goldsworthy’s book has been highly influential on some segments of evangelicalism in Australia and the UK.

Winn Griffin, God’s EPIC Adventure: Changing Our Culture by the Story We Live and Tell (Woodinville: Harmon Press, 2007).
A large-format book, and not at all prettily laid out inside. It perhaps tries to cover too much, but the content is great (heavily influenced by N.T. Wright) and the ‘workbook’ approach (with learning objectives and questions) will appeal to some. This gives the book by Bartholomew & Goheen a run for its money as the fullest and best of its kind in this list.

Ian Paul and Philip Jensen, What’s the Bible All About? Understanding the Story of the Bible, Grove Biblical Series 40 (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2006).
An excellent booklet-length treatment outlining the biblical story. Read this if you don’t have time for Bartholomew & Goheen (above) or Roberts (below). And read it even if you do.

Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-line of the Bible (Leicester: IVP, 2002, reissued in a larger format in 2009).
Briefer and easier than Bartholomew & Goheen and Griffin (above), this book (heavily influenced by Goldsworthy’s approach, also above) organises the biblical storyline around the theme of kingdom, defined as ‘God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing’, which is then traced through Scripture in several stages: 1. The pattern of the kingdom; 2. The perished kingdom; 3. The promised kingdom; 4. The partial kingdom; 5. The prophesied kingdom; 6. The present kingdom; 7. The proclaimed kingdom; 8. The perfected kingdom.

Michael D. Williams, Far as the Curse is Found: The Covenant Story of Redemption (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2005).
As you might guess from the title this book looks at the scriptural story of redemption from the perspective of God’s covenant with his people.

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