Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: The Story

Book Review:
“The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story 
of God and His People” 
Zondervan, 2008.  

Recently I read an on-line article posted by the editor of our local paper who indicated that his church was using this book.  I also discovered that at least two other churches in our community are using this book. 

The Story is a book is an attempt to tell The Story of redemption by summarizing the high-points of the Bible.  In this sense it bears some resemblance to “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  In The Story, large sections of Scripture are woven together into thirty-one chapters.  Along the way the editors include brief editorial paragraphs to explain a particular person, event, or concept.  The Story is clearly geared for new believers or even non-Christians. 

The Story has a number of positive aspects:  A person can “read” the entire Bible in a short time.  Persons and events are also arranged in chronological order.  Another nice touch was the insertion of various epistles into the unfolding drama of the book of Acts so that the New Testament reads chronologically.  There are also helpful maps and timelines to guide the reader.  That said, there are a number of negative features.  

First, The Story provides no book titles, chapters or references to Bible verses.  Thus, if a person wanted to read about a person or event in more detail they wouldn’t know where to go in the Bible to find that information.  Second, The Story uses the 2010 edition of the New International Version of the Bible (NIV).  The NIV follows the “dynamic equivalence” theory that tries to interpret the Bible in terms that modern people can understand.  It is not a paraphrase but it is not a word for word translation either.  Compounding matters is that the 2010 edition is “gender neutral” with many references to “he, him, his, man, etc.” removed so as to make the text more inclusive and politically correct.   

Probably the biggest flaw is that The Story lacks a redemptive-historical focus.  The subtitle, “The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People” tells you all that you need to know about this book.  It views the Bible as one continuing story about God and His love for His people.  While there is truth in that statement it falls short of the Bible’s own assessment of itself. 

In Luke 24 Jesus called the two disciples on the road to Emmaus “foolish” and “slow of heart to believe”.  He then reinterpreted the Old Testament (Moses and the prophets) to show them that both parts of the Old Testament testified about him.  A brief study of the sermons found in the Book of Acts also reveal this same basic conviction as expressed by Peter, Stephen, Paul, or any other apostolic figure.      

This truth hit home as I read the first chapter which summarizes Genesis 1-3.  The Story makes no mention of the promise made to Adam and Eve that one of their descendants would come to crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15).  Formally this is known as the protoeuangelion (first Gospel) because it is widely understood to be a reference to Christ.  This verse ought to be the lens through which all Scripture is properly understood.  Everything in Scripture somehow relates to Christ and the conflict with Satan that culminated in Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.  Christians throughout the ages have understood that the “bruised heel” was a metaphor for Christ’s death and burial and that the serpent’s head was “crushed” through Christ’s resurrection.  That this important summary was left out is more than a little disturbing.  

Similarly the book of Ruth is summarized by talking about her great-grandson, King David, but no mention is made to the significance of Boaz as the ‘kinsman-redeemer.’  Proper analysis of this book must come to grips with Boaz, who in this role anticipated Christ’s work to be our ‘kinsman-redeemer’ in his incarnation and death for sin.   Omissions like this reduce the book to a series of stories with God as the hero and humans being the recipients of his grace.  I wish that these were isolated examples but they are not.

The Story can be improved with the editorial changes I’ve suggested but I cannot endorse it in its current form.  I suggest choosing something else that summarizes Scripture with Genesis 3:15 and Luke 24:27 in mind.  Examples include Edmund Clowney’s book,  The Unfolding Mystery, or Promise and Deliverance by S.G. DeGraff, which was originally published for children.  One recent book that comes highly recommended is D. A. Carson's work, The God Who Is There.  Other resources can be found at the blog entitled, “Beginning With Moses.”   

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