The Big Story and the Particulars

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I love biblical theology that focuses on the overarching meta-narrative of the Bible. It has been really encouraging to see many new biblically solid books, curricula, and family devotionals that emphasize the beautifully cohesive storyline of the Bible. But there is a cautionary note that I want to sound here…something to carefully consider. Just as we once may have underemphasized the importance of biblical theology, are we being careful not to exclude and underemphasize other important disciplines? For example, are we giving our students solid systematic theology, moral instruction, and the ability to see and interpret the “particulars” as well?

I found these words from Pastor John Piper to be very helpful:

I rejoice at every effort to see the big picture of the Bible. The whole story. The narrative from creation to consummation. The clearer the whole, the clearer the parts. And the more clearly we see the parts, the more accurately we will construe the whole.
But here’s the note I want to sound. Not only should the particulars of the Bible be seen in relation to the larger storyline of the Bible, but we should also realize that the story exists to reveal the particulars of God and his ways. And those particular glories of God are seen and enjoyed not mainly by gazing over the whole dazzling landscape of redemptive history, but by focusing on some particular thing God did or said inside the story.

He then gives an example of what he means by this,

For example, Isaiah 41:10 is a particular promise that has sustained me hundreds of times. (“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”) I would argue that the whole of Isaiah exists so that I might have that kind of faith-sustaining personal encounter with its particular parts.

Yes, Isaiah is a magnificent whole, and, yes, it fits magnificently into redemptive history for the sake of Christ and his kingdom. But if its particulars do not stun us and gladden us and strengthen our faith and increase our hope and intensify our worship, the big picture will have been in vain.

(“The Great Story and the Single Verse”, desiringGod.org)

(Image courtesy of Stoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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