What Is the Bible’s Drama, Why Should I Care? Michael Horton Explains
In his new book Core Christianity, Michael Horton describes a childhood church experience similar to my own. Like his church, we loved the Bible, took Sunday School seriously, and trained in Bible knowledge. Yet I had a problem similar to Horton:
with all of this knowledge of the Bible, I never knew how it all fit together. There were lots of interesting (and some not so interesting) stories. But I never heard the big story that moves with dramatic force from Genesis to Revelation. For the most part the Old Testament was alien to me, and I was lost in the forest of its laws and rituals. (118)
Perhaps you, or others you know, have asked Horton’s question: How do you make sense of the Old Testament?
We explore Horton’s response below. It will help you understand the “What” of the Bible’s dramatic narrative, and why it matters to Core Christianity.
The “What” of the Bible’s Drama
The “What” of the Bible’s drama contains three aspects:
1) The Characters
Horton says one of the ways he was taught the Old Testament was through character studies. Yet they didn’t always relate to each other. It wasn’t until years later that he made a joyful discovery, important for discovering the “What” of the Hebrew Scriptures:
these Old Testament stories were all connected. Each was a new episode in the unfolding drama of redemption…Scripture is the epic story of the coming offspring of Abraham through whom the nations would be blessed, of the prophet greater than Moses who leads us to the true promised land, and of the faithful king whom God the Father calls “my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). (101)
This latter character in the Bible’s drama is actually the center of the Old Testament.
2) The Center
“Jesus himself told us to read the Bible—which at that point was the Old Testament—with himself as the central character.” (101)
Though the religious leaders of Jesus’ day didn’t get this, the disciples eventually did. We know this because their sermons in Acts proclaimed that Christ was the key to the Old Testament. When we consider Jesus’ story as the disciples did in light of the Old Testament, “we find that he is the faithful prophet, priest, and king that Adam and his posterity—including Israel—failed to be.” (101)
Not only that, when we read the Old Testament through Jesus we discover a single thread running throughout the Bible’s drama:
The Bible is the history of a very specific promise. It is the unfolding of God’s promise that though we deserve nothing but death, God will bring us into his glory through the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of his Son. (101–102)
3) The Thread
This promise-thread is crucial for understanding the “What” of the Bible’s drama and connecting its pieces. Reading the Old Testament without understanding how the parts fit is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle without the box-top!
The Old Testament is made of three parts: the law, the prophets, and the writings. These writings are all tied together by a word of hope, “of God’s promise of life beyond the fall, just as we first heard in Genesis 3:15.” (108)
This thread is a covenant, a relationship that God established between himself and humanity. Horton traces this covenantal thread from Adam to Abraham, Moses to David, and on to the Son. Which brings us to the “Why” of the Bible’s drama.
The “Why” of the Bible’s Drama
Why does the Bible’s drama matter so much in the Christina faith? Jeremiah 30:22 reminds us: “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” Here’s our why.
Something lay ahead that was far greater than the exodus from Egypt and the glorious days of the conquest of the promised land. It was something far greater than a renewal of the Sinai covenant, with a geo-political theocracy…It was a new covenant, a far greater covenant, with greater promises and a greater mediator. (116)
Horton explains that even though all of us “have failed to keep our promise to God. Yet God’s promise remains.” (116) We find this faithfulness throughout the Bible’s drama, climaxing with the wonder of God making us part of his story in Jesus Christ—fulfilling his original promise.
In Core Christianity, “we meet a skilled master seeking to train the novice,” contends Dr. Kelly Kapic. “Taking rich theological concepts and explaining them in a way that is both beautiful and practical, Horton’s book proves genuinely inviting to the newcomer.”
Explore Horton’s book yourself to “Learn from a master who is not afraid to put things simply and clearly.”