Rule Book or Story?: The Difference it makes in How We Approach the Bible

How is it helpful to see the story of God’s people as the unifying factor of the Bible?

First, this understanding makes this history our history. We, the church today, are the continuation of the story of God’s people. The story that began with Abraham and goes through Jesus and the early church is the beginning of our identity as God’s people. This reading displays the entire Bible, not just the New Testament, as our book.

Second, recognizing this story as the unifying element of the Bible should impact the way we understand it. Seeing this story means we should expect to see developments and changes in the story as the people of God grew in their understanding of what it meant to be God’s people. We should expect to see instances where people got things wrong, without thereby seeing that recognition as a rejection of the truth of the Bible.

Stated boldly, we should get used to the idea that not all writings in the Bible speak with the same voice, and we can see that some ideas in it are wrong or misguided and can be abandoned. Thus the most important point of all is to see the direction of changes as the writers grew in their understanding of God. And since the important culmination of the story is in the narrative of Jesus, his story becomes the key to identifying the earlier voices in the story that most truly reflect the will of God.

Third, seeing the unifying factor of the Bible as the story of God’s people enables us to see that everything in the Bible reflects the particular context in which they lived.

Obviously we live in a different context. Our task is not to try to copy and transplant directly the ideas and practices from 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. Rather than assuming the history speaks directly to us, we should read their story to understand the direction in which things were moving and changing. Then, in our context, we will discuss how to be the continuation of that story, how to keep moving the story in the same direction.

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