To practice biblical theology is to know God’s macro story of redemption. Second, the biblical theologian is a person committed to understanding the history of revelation, the grand themes and doctrines of the Bible, and how they fit together. In other words, healthy church members given themselves to understanding the unity and progression of the Bible as a whole–not just isolated or favourite passages. They approach the Bible knowing that they are reading one awesome story of God redeeming for himself a people for his own glory. And in that story, they see that God is a creating God, a holy God, a faithful God, a loving God, and a sovereign God as he makes and keeps his promises to his people, beginning with Adam and Even and progressing to the final consummation of all things.
Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), p. 28
This is one of the biggest problems in our churches today: Christians who cannot think about the Scriptures with the grand progress of redemption in mind. They look at Scripture in isolated ways and in a moralistic fashion. I mentioned this problem in a previous post, Is Too Much Bible Teaching the Problem or the Solution?
Let’s consider the book of Esther for instance. I have heard so many times in both children’s and adults Bible studies that the main purpose of Esther is to stand up and be courageous for what you believe in the midst of tough circumstances. My friend Chris Brauns, in a post on this issue quotes Karen Jobes in her commentary in the NIVAC in attempting to know the point of Esther.
Beyond the fact that the book of Esther is conspicuously nonreligious, the two main characters, Esther and Mordecai, do not seem to reflect the character of other great biblical heroes and heroines. Unlike Daniel and his friends, Esther shows no concern for the dietary laws when she is taken into the court of a pagan king. Instead of protesting, she conceals her Jewish identity and plays to win the new-queen beauty contest. Esther loses her virginity in the bed of an uncircumcised Gentile to whom she is not married, and she pleases him that one night better than all the other virgins of the harem. When Esther risks her life by going to the king, she does so only after Mordecai points out that she herself will not escape harm even if she refuses to act. Furthermore, Esther displays a surprising attitude of brutality. She hears that the Jews have killed five hundred people in Susa, she asks that the massacre be permitted for yet another day and that the bodies of Haman’s ten sons be impaled on the city gate. As a result, three hundred more Gentiles die (Karen H. Jobes, NIVAC commentary on Esther, page 20).
In my response to Chris I wrote this as the point of Esther:
God preserves and protects providentially His covenant people, upholding His promises to accomplish His grand redemptive plan to bring a people to Himself, even when His people are in a pagan nation and forget His statutes. God preserves His covenant even when His people do not.
That is the point of Esther. But that requires thinking. It requires thinking about how the book fits in with the grand progress of redemption and God’s purposes for bringing a people to Himself for His glory. This requires hard work and thinking and interaction with the text in its canonical context. It is not “this is what I think about….” We as pastors need to teach our people to interpret Scripture with this grand story in mind and not focus on the moralistic interpretations of Scripture (particularly the Old Testament) so prevalent in our churches and especially in our children’s and youth ministries.