I was pleased to recently make the acquaintance of Jim Thompson, and was even more pleased when he told me he’d recently written a book – and gave me a copy. The book is:
A King and a Kingdom, a narrative theology of grace and truth. By Jim Thompson. Auxano Press, 2011.
Narrative theology has been a bit of a fad the last few years, and it refers to looking at the Bible through the lens of a story. While there are some legitimate concerns with narrative theology, correctly used it can help us better understand the Scriptures. For example, I think evangelicals often view their faith in bits and pieces. We go to church and hear sermons on this or that Bible passage, and fail to connect the dots and see the big picture of our faith. I also think that much inaccurate teaching stems from this failure to see the overarching story of Christianity. An over-realized eschatology seems a common problem – which is just a fancy way of saying that people apply biblical blessings or promises that refer to the future state to our life here and now. We’ve forgotten where we belong in the story! One might outline the biblical story like this:
Creation (of the world) → the fall (of man into sin) → the cross of Christ → future hope of re-creation (new heaven and earth)
In comes Jim Thompson’s book! If all this is new to you, this book will give you a great introduction to the big story of the Bible and the themes which unify it. An early chapter in the book is entitled “Inclusio.” Inclusio is a literary term about beginning and ending a story in a similar way in order to show what the middle is really all about. We can see this in the Bible in the opening chapters of Genesis and closing chapters of Revelation. Thompson points out biblical themes such as glory, kingdom, and covenant to emphasize the unity of the Bible. In chapters 5 and 6, he does an exceptional job of reviewing the key events of the Old and New Testament. Finally, in the ending chapters of the book, this is all applied to our life today – in regards to salvation, life in the Spirit, the church, and our future hope.
The writing style of this book is unique. While on the academic side, it is also accessible to your everyday layperson. If the author uses a big theological word, he explains what it means. He is often witty, and uses illustrations from everyday life to help complex ideas be easily understood. If you go to the Auxano Press web site, you can download free review questions and application questions for each chapter of the book. These would be highly useful for using this book in a teaching or small group setting. If you want to go deeper, this book also has awesome footnotes. (I love footnotes!)
I’d recommend this book to both new believers and long time believers. A new believer can be introduced to key Bible themes and the over-arching story of God’s plan for the world. However, long time believers can definitely benefit as well. We can get lost in the details, and forget what our faith is really all about! A grounding in the narrative theology presented in this book can help bring a healthy spiritual and theological balance by reminding us of our place in the biblical story.
(Here is a past post of mine – Faith and Suffering, part 1 – where I discuss the metanarrative of Scripture. It really is an important foundational issue!)