As I said:
My main approach to theology is biblical theology. In other words: I start with passages from the Christian Bible and move from those texts into descriptions of the things I’m studying, the things I see there.
When I approach the Bible, Old or New Testament, I try to read it two ways. First, I try to read it historically; that’s the post preceding this one.
Second, I try to read it as part of the biblical story. The Bible consists of 66 books, written by dozens of authors over a period of 1,600 years, but it has been arranged to tell a single story. There are echoes and internal threads within those 66 books, allusions and cross-references, conversations between the different authors, all of which connect the separate books into a single entity, a single story.
An alliterative shorthand description of the plot of the story goes like this:
- – CREATION: God creates the world, and the creatures of the world. And as the crown of creation, God creates man and woman. Everything God created is good. Everything has a purpose and fulfills its purpose.
- – CORRUPTION: the humanity God created rebels against him. Their rebellion doesn’t just affect them, it effects all of creation. The parts of creation begin to forget their purpose, and don’t do exactly what they were created to do. All of creation is cursed because of human rebellion.
- – COVENANT: in order to deal with the corruption, God seeks out a family of people (Abraham’s family, the Jews) who will be more or less (frequently less) faithful to him. He promises to be their God, and to keep them as his people, even when they aren’t faithful. He promises to bless them so that he can bless the whole world through them.
- – CHRIST: the ultimate fulfillment of this promise to Abraham is Jesus of Nazareth. In him, God the creator became a human being. He lived a life of perfect love and service, was executed for his trouble, and rose from the dead. His resurrection seals God’s redemption of creation; it undoes the curse from #2. To save his creation, the creator had to bear the curse himself.
- – CHURCH: in order to spread the news of his victory over the curse, God worked through the followers of Jesus, those who were more or less (frequently less) faithful to him. He is their God, and they are his people, even when they aren’t perfectly faithful. He promises to bless them so that he can bless the world through them.
- – COMPLETION: God’s redemption of creation is not yet complete. For a time, he allows people to hear about what he has done and decide if they want to be involved in it or not. But the time of deciding is not infinite; when individuals die, God judges them based on what they did with the knowledge of his plan that they had. And the day is coming when God will replace the present creation with a new, uncorrupted creation.