Our “Book of the Month” feature (which, by the way, is not a monthly installment) allows us to highlight books that we have appreciated and that we feel may be beneficial for you as well.
This “month” I want to share one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read: The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. If you want to get a sense of the story and purpose of the whole Bible, then this book is essential. It’s not exactly an easy read, but I (and many of my colleagues and students) found that it does an excellent job of pulling out the major themes of Scripture and tracing the biblical storyline.
This book is unique because it was written as a team effort between a biblical scholar and a missiologist. So not only is it biblically grounded and well researched, it is also intensely practical.
As the subtitle suggests, the purpose of the book is to help us find our place in the biblical story. Not only is the Bible a story in the best sense of that term, it’s also a true story. And it’s a story in which we are called to play a part.
My favorite part of the book is an illustration they adapt from N. T. Wright. In this illustration, a group of actors finds a six-act play. The first four acts are entirely intact:
- Act I – God Establishes His Kingdom: Creation
- Act II – Rebellion in the Kingdom: Fall
- Act III – The King Chooses Israel: Redemption Initiated
- Act IV – The Coming of the King: Redemption Accomplished
The first half of the fifth act is intact, but the second half of the act is missing:
- Act V – Spreading the News of the Kingdom: The Mission of the Church
And the sixth act is entirely intact:
- Act VI – The Return of the King: Redemption Completed
So this group of actors knows how most of the story goes, and they know the trajectory of Act V because they see how that act begins, and they know how the play ends in Act VI. As they act out the second half of Act V, they will need to improvise (they don’t have a precise script), but they are able to do this effectively because they see where the story has been, where it is headed, and how all the loose ends get tied together in the ending.
Do you see where this is going?
As we read the biblical storyline, we see what God is doing in this world, what has gone wrong, and what he has been doing to set everything to rights. We see how Act V began (with the early church in the New Testament), and we see how the world will end. The part that we are called to play is the second half of Act V. We don’t have an exact script for this, so we will have to improvise. We would be foolish to simply repeat portions of the script from earlier in the play (precisely imitating the book of Acts, for example). Instead, we continue to carry the story forward, playing our roles to keep the story moving toward its appointed end.
A book like this is no substitute for reading the Bible, but I’m confident that you will find it helpful in understanding what the Bible is saying as a whole. The Drama of Scripture will help you understand what the prophets are all about, for example, or why the book of Revelation was written. As I said, it’s one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it as well.