Fully Human and Fully Divine
Jesus Christ is the living Word of God – the definitive and complete revelation of who God is. At the same time, he is completely human: God coming to earth as a man and experiencing humanity in all its fullness.
Something similar can be said of the Bible. God inspired the words in the Bible as his written, authoritative Word, meant to communicate his intentions and fulfill his purposes for the world.
Yet the Bible is also a fully human composition, authored by real people in real historical and cultural settings. In the Bible we find languages and literature that were common during the time periods in which the Bible was composed, reflecting God’s desire to speak in ways that real people can comprehend.
These divine and human characteristics do not compete or conflict with each other, but rather work together. As God was truly with us in the life and presence of Jesus of Nazareth, so God comes to us in the Bible through words that are fully connected to and embedded in our world.
A Collection of Whole Books
The foundational “building blocks” of the Bible are the individual books that make up its diverse collection of literature. God inspired the Bible’s composers to use particular kinds of writings from the ancient world – letters, poems, parables, stories, wisdom sayings, meditations, dialogues, songs, sermons, and prophetic oracles and visions – each with their own unique literary conventions.
When the composers of the books of the Bible chose these literary forms and used these conventions, they offered readers (or hearers) a covenant, expecting that they would accept the offer and engage with the books as the specific kind of writing they are.
The additions of chapters and verses as reference tools late in the Bible’s history (thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, respectively) have sometimes resulted in people the Bible as a “flat text”, a collection of individual statements of truth that are all the same. But the individual book remains the core intentional unit of the Bible, dictating the terms by which the Bible must be read.
A Story to be Engaged
Each of these books, however, does not exist in isolation. There is a common thread woven through the books of the Bible, binding them together. A narrative arc, stretching from the beginning of all things in Genesis to the renewal of all things in Revelation, brings an essential unity to the whole.
Not everything in the Bible is a story, but everything does contribute to the story. The main storyline develops over the course of six key acts in the Bible:
Act 1 : God’s creation
God makes the world to share with his human creation.
Act 2: Exile
Humanity rebels and sin enters the world, bringing death and separation from God.
Act 3: Israel’s calling as a light to the world
God initiates his plan to redeem the world, starting with one nation.
Act 4: Jesus’ kingdom inauguration and victory over evil
God comes in the flesh to end humanity’s exile and conquer death.
Act 5: The renewed people of God
Jesus’ earliest followers spread the good news of God’s reign, and God gathers people from all over the world.
Act 6: Heaven and earth, reunited
God returns and makes his home with us in a new heavens and a new earth.
A Drama We’re Invited Into
The Bible does more than simply tell God’s story of restoration. It invites us to participate in it.
God is the author of this narrative and the maker of the stage where all its scenes play out—the heavens and the earth. He is the key initiator of the action, moving the story forward by establishing covenants and choosing key role players. In the end, he will also prove to be the protagonist, the hero of the story who saves the world.
The story, however, is unfinished. We find ourselves in “Act 5”, in-between Jesus’ definitive victory and the ultimate establishment of his kingdom on earth. The Bible has given us the story so far, and it has given us strong indications of what the final act will look like. But what it has not given us is our exact “scripts” – how we are to play our parts in God’s story in our everyday lives. The lines with our exact words and actions have not been written in the Bible.
So the Bible invites us to improvise – to let God’s story seep into our bones and change our hearts so that we can faithfully carry it forward in our time and place.