ONE SHOT, ONE BOOK, ONE GOD
Apologetics and the Unity of Scripture
Sometimes you only get one shot. If so, you’d better make it count.
So it was with me one day several years back when my father-in-law and I arose from our chairs in a classroom at the local senior center. During the discussion time in a history lecture I had volunteered a brief comment about the Bible’s amazing historical memory; about how the biblical narratives had actually spawned modern archeology, and how archeology, in turn, had consistently vindicated the biblical narratives. I was grateful for the opportunity to speak up, but thought that nothing further would come of it.
How wrong I was.
Immediately after the lecture ended, an agitated man made his way straight for me. Before we could even exchange pleasantries, his question burst forth. “How can you possibly believe that the Bible is the Word of God?” It was not the first salvo in a tirade. He wanted an answer and, with some difficulty, was waiting for it.
How would you have replied? Seeing that your interrogator is upset, that he will stand for no non-sense, and that you doubtless have but one brief opportunity to deposit in his spirit your best single evidence for the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible, what would you give him?
Without pre-meditation–and I hope by the Spirit of the Lord–I gave him my best shot.
“Sir,” I replied, “there is one piece of evidence above all others that persuades me that the Bible is the Word of God. It’s what we call the unity of Scripture. As you may know, the Bible is actually a collection of books–sixty-six of them–written by over forty authors in the course of some 1600 years. And yet for all this diversity, it really is one book. In all of its pages it tells one story, about one God, who sends one Savior into the world, to the gather together one beloved people for His eternal possession. The more you study the Bible, the more you see this amazing, underlying unity. It is so pervasive, so intricate, and so beautiful that no mere mortal could possibly have produced it. Rather, it simply has to be the product of a single divine Mind, working through many different authors. Above all else, it is this astonishing, supernatural unity that persuades me that the Bible is the Word of God.”
And with that, he turned and walked away.
Orders, Orders Everywhere!
I reflect upon this interesting experience with satisfaction. I believe that by God’s grace I really did get off an excellent shot. My words, if quickened by the Spirit, were well able to give this troubled man a glimpse of one of the great supernatural realities in the world today, what I will here refer to as “the biblical order.” In the paragraphs ahead, I want to examine this order in some depth. My hope is that its intricate, beautiful, and majestic unity will not only strengthen your faith in the Word of God, but give you renewed confidence to share that faith with others.
Let’s begin with a few introductory remarks about the common but mysterious and richly significant phenomenon that we call “order.”
The dictionary defines order as an arrangement of differing objects, integrated into a system according to a definite plan. This definition says it all. Order begins with a multiplicity–a collection of differing objects. But it requires something more: the multiplicity must be brought into a unity (or system) by means of an arrangement of its parts. But even this is not all. Any old arrangement will not do. Rather, there can be no unity, and no order, unless the arrangement displays a rational plan and purpose. This is, of course, the spiritually significant characteristic of ordered systems: their patterns, complexity, beauty and fruitful functioning all arouse within us an immediate and inescapable intuition: an intelligent person with a purpose has been on the scene. Order is, as it were, the very fingerprint of personal intelligence and power at work in the world.
Now let me sum all this up by introducing you to a friend. His name is order-design-a person with a purpose. As you can see, he is a three-in-one being, a little trinity. And this is precisely what makes him so interesting: No matter where you look in all the world, there you will find him. You cannot not see him. Always and everywhere, you will find order, design, and a person-with-a purose together. My friend is very stubborn about this. He will not allow one of his faces to be seen without the other two.
The Bible knows my friend very well, and embraces him as a vital partner in the apologetic task. We see this in the fact that it calls our attention to at least three different orders. One is the biblical order itself. But to appreciate this order fully, we must first look at two others. As we do, let’s keep an eye out for my friend.
The Natural Order
First, there is the natural order, the totality of all physical objects, the universe, the world. Opening our eyes upon it, we see immediately that order pervades the parts and order pervades the whole. It is present in the tiniest building blocks of nature, the atomic elements, which are composed of orderly arrangements of protons, neutrons, and electrons. It is present in the largest objects in nature–those vast and lovely aggregates of stars that we call galaxies and galactic clusters. And it is present in all the objects in between: crystals, clouds, columbines, conches, crickets, cuckoos, crocodiles, and chemists. It is seen in the structure of things, the motions of things, the relationships of things, the complexity of things, and the beauty of things. Great or small, organic or inorganic, all the things we call “things” are actually systems: orderly arrangements of component parts. Furthermore, these systems are always part of bigger systems; and the bigger of bigger still, till we reach the biggest system of all, the cosmos itself.
And what is the spiritual significance of this all-pervasive order? In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul answers by telling us that order in nature is intended to impress upon our minds a revelation of the existence and attributes of its divine Creator. Seeing order in nature, we cannot help but see design. Seeing design, we cannot help but see a person with a purpose. Self-evidently, this person is divine (what other kind of person could fashion such a world?). And at least one of His purposes in nature is to reveal to us that He is infinitely wise, powerful, and good (Romans 1:18-32).
The Moral Order
Next, there is the moral order. Unlike the natural order, this order is spiritual rather than physical. Nevertheless, it no less real or consequential for our lives. Paul discusses this order as well, affirming that all men innately know its several elements (Romans 2:1-16). These include the moral law, to be understood as a fixed code of moral absolutes, planted like solemn sentinels deep within our hearts. Then there is moral obligation, an objective spiritual reality perceived by the spiritual faculty that we call conscience. Together with conscience, moral obligation continually moves us to align ourselves with the moral law, or else to reconcile ourselves with it when we break it. Finally, there is the law of moral cause and effect. Our innate awareness of this law assures us that throughout history good will always triumph over evil; that what we sow we shall surely reap; that righteousness will always bring reward, and evil retribution, if not in this life, then surely in the next.
Again, the moral may be invisible, but it is no less real than nature itself. It is rather like like the wind: Though we cannot see it, we can see its effects. Every day we observe people relating to it: striving to honor it, warring against it, stumbling over it, longing to be reconciled to it, etc. Clearly, it is just as pervasive, complex, powerful, and beautiful as anything in the natural order. And like the natural order, it too manifests design and points to a person with a purpose. This person is clearly divine (what other kind of person could fashion such an order and keep it functioning everywhere?). Here, however, his purpose is to show us that He is a holy sovereign, that He desires us to live well, and that He will reward us if we do, but judge us (or someone else in our place) if we do not.
We find, then, that both the natural and moral orders bear witness to a personal god. But what is their importance for the defense of biblical faith? Simply this: They teach us that the “unknown god” behind nature and morality definitely likes to reveal Himself to us in orders: in multiplicities of different objects that He skillfully draws into sublime unities (or systems) according to a rational plan. Systems are, as it were, His signature, through which we can learn important things about Him. Note carefully, however, that the natural and moral orders only tell us so much. They tell us that He exists, that He is powerful and wise, and that He is holy and sovereign. But they do not give us answers to any number of urgent philosophical questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are going? Etc. Where, then, shall we turn to find the answers that we so desperately need and desire?
In light of what we have discussed so far, a solution immediately comes to mind. In the natural and moral orders the unknown god is clearly trying to rouse us to faith and curiosity, so that we might seek from him a further revelation, a revelation that will answer the ultimate philosophical questions that burn in our hearts. Now if this is so, would it not make sense for him to cast his revelation as a sublime unity; to make of it an intricate and sublimely beautiful “revelatory order?” Yes, it surely would, since in so doing he would be assuring seekers everywhere that the god who is exalted in this special revelatory order is the very same god who once created and now maintains the natural and moral orders as well!
Observant seekers know that for centuries Christians have been arguing for this very thing, asserting that the unknown god has indeed given us just such a revelation. But how can we be sure of this? How can we know that the Bible really is the “revelatory order” for which the god of the natural and moral orders has prepared the human heart?
It is time now to find out.
The Multiplicity of the Bible
We cannot appreciate the unity of the Bible unless we see it against the backdrop of its very great multiplicity. Let us briefly consider it here.
The Bible contains a multiplicity of books, 66 of them.
It was written over a multiplicity of years, about 1600 of them, constituting more than 40 generations.
It was written in a multiplicity of places: on three separate continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe), in city and country, palace and prison, at home and abroad.
It was written by a multiplicity of authors, about 40 them. Note that these authors were not just priests or theologians, but men from every walk of life. Among them there were kings, peasants, fishermen, poets, statesmen, a herdsman, a military general, a cup-bearer, a Gentile doctor, and even a tax collector! Furthermore, many of them were opposed by the spiritual leaders of their day, and some were even regarded as heretics. Clearly, the Bible is not the handiwork of a closely knit religious cult.
Finally, it is written in a multiplicity of literary genres. at least eight of them. These include historical narrative, law, poetry, drama, proverb, prophecy, epistle, and apocalyptic vision.
If, then, the Bible really does display a striking, multi-layered unity, the historical facts concerning its origin and literary character assure us that this unity is neither the product of one man, nor of the collusion of many. But if it is not from man, from whom is it?
The Unity of the Bible
The unity of the Bible is indeed striking, multi-layered. and, I would argue, patently supernatural and divine. I will now try to make that case by showing that the Bible is actually one story, about one God, administering one plan of salvation, centered around one person, who is attested by one body of signs, and worshiped by one people, according to one (eminently satisfying) worldview.
One Story: Anyone who takes time to read the Bible will soon discover that it tells a single story. This story has a beginning, middle and end. Distilled to its essence, it tells of the creation of the cosmos, its ruin by the sin of Adam, and its glorious restoration through the righteousness of Christ. This story has many characters – divine, angelic, and human. It has many themes: the love of the Father and the Son for one another; their love for man and nature; the triumph of good over evil, of truth over lies, of humility over pride, etc. It has a plot, and many sub-plots. There is rising action, developing conflict, apparent defeat, and sudden, unexpected deliverance and final victory. There is romance, mystery, comedy and tragedy. And — for everyone who plays his part in the story well–there is this above all: a happy ending.
In short, the Bible displays an outstanding literary unity, and in this unity we discern the hand of a single divine Author. Note carefully, however, a fact of immense importance: the biblical story is not a mere story (i.e., a myth or legend), but the kind of story we call “history.” It is not a fabric of words only, but, far more importantly, a fabric of actual historical events–events later recorded in words. Moreover, this story is the story par excellence–the story from which all lesser stories, be they history or fiction, derive whatever beauty and truth they may have. This is why we all love stories, and why the biblical story ever draws us to itself: deep-down we already know that history is a story (His Story), and that we must find and play our parts in it. Said the wise Sam Gamgee, “What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven’t we?” We, too, know what Sam knows. But how we yearn to find the Book in which the whole tale is told; to have our role in the tale clarified; and–if at all possible–to meet the Author besides! But does not the literary unity of the Bible aim us in His direction?
About One God: In the one story, one character towers above all: God. Part of the drama of the story is this, that as it unfolds we learn more and more about Him: His names, His titles, His attributes, His divine prerogatives towards man, His mighty works and mysterious ways. Then, as the story nears its climax, something of extraordinary interest comes to light: this one God is actually a trinity of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And when it does, we also learn that His works in history are most fully understood, not in terms of God’s love for man, but of the love of Father and Son for one another! (John 17:1-5)
And yet, despite all this unfolding light, the message in every book of the Bible remains the same: Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one; there is no one else besides Him, (Deuteronomy. 6:4, 4:35). In other words, the Bible, unlike ancient pagan scriptures with their endless theogonies and vast pantheons, displays a consistent theological unity. Like its literary unity, this too comforts us, for intuitively we know that there is, and can be, only one god. Moreover, if we come to believe that the Bible is His book, we are hardly surprised to learn that part of His mission in history is to expose and dethrone every other so-called god, so that ” . . . in that day there will be one LORD, and His name (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) the only name,” (Zechariah 14:9, John 4:22-24).
Administering one Plan of Salvation: By and large the Bible is a history book. But it is history of a special kind: salvation history. That is, it tells a story of God’s redemptive acts in history – past, present and future. Reading this story – especially the part we call the New Testament – it soon becomes clear that God is acting according to a plan. Thus, the Bible is most deeply understood as a history of the administration of a single divine plan for the redemption of the cosmos. To catch of glimpse of the plan that unites the events of salvation history, let us work our way through the time-line supplied below. (1) (To see diagram, click HERE)
First we have the eternal covenant, the heart of salvation history. In the NT we learn that even before the creation of the world, God foreknew Adam’s sin and its terrible consequences for man and nature. Therefore, in eternity past, He devised a plan to redeem the cosmos. The writer to the Hebrews calls this plan “the eternal covenant,” (Heb. 13:20). (2) From Scripture we learn that it is an agreement involving two parties (God and man); a promise to all who freely enter it (forgiveness of sins and eternal life in fellowship with God); a penalty for all who spurn it (eternal punishment away from the presence of God); a provision by which God can justly offer eternal life to man (God’s incarnate Son, living and dying in behalf of His people); and a proviso, or demand (repentance from sin and simple faith in the Person and Work of Christ). God determined that for many years the realities of this covenant would remain a “mystery” –a secret hidden in Him. Only in the fullness of time, at the appearing of His Son, would they be revealed to all nations. (3)
Next we have, in rapid succession, the creation, probation and fall of man and cosmos. The sin of the first Adam, head over all, alienates man from God, forfeits the tree of (eternal) life, and places the whole world in bondage to various evil powers: the guilt and power of sin; Satan, sickness, suffering and death; and, worst of all, the peril of eternal punishment. There is only one hope. Another, better Adam must come, to recover what the first has lost, and to undo what the first has done. The administration of the eternal covenant may–and must–begin.
Next, there is a lengthy Era of Promise and Preparation. During this time God begins to act redemptively in history. At various times and in different ways He administers the eternal covenant to sinful men, urging and expecting them to respond, (Hebrews 1:1). But there is something unique about these OT administrations: Christ and the covenant are revealed in a veiled manner, largely by means of “types” – symbolic persons, places, things, events, and institutions pointing ahead to the future. In other words, these administrations do not fully disclose actual realities of the eternal covenant themselves, but symbolically look forward to them. They are the shadow, of which Christ and the covenant are the substance, (Colossians 2:17).
In the time-line I have given four examples. Let us consider two.
When God administered the covenant to Adam and Eve, He killed animals so that they might be covered and unashamed before Him. Here, Adam and Eve represent the people of God. The animal represents Christ, killed by God Himself to supply an alien righteousness for His people. In putting the skins on, the guilty pair unconsciously display faith towards Christ, and so experience forgiveness and enter the covenant with God. Despite their sin, they belong to Him once again.
Now consider Noah. God tells Noah to build an ark, for a terrible flood is coming. Noah obeys, and because he does, all who trust him and enter the ark are safely carried over the waters of judgment into a new world cleansed of sin. Here, Noah is a type of the Person of Christ, and the ark a type of His work: through Jesus’ perfect obedience in life and death an ark of salvation is prepared for all who are willing to get on board by faith. Noah’s family pictures the believing people of God. Their safe passage through the flood pictures the deliverance of this people from His final judgment by fire, (2 Peter 3:7). Their descent from the ark into a new world pictures the descent of God’s Church from the sky onto a new earth overspread by a new heaven. The rainbow that God first displayed to Noah and his family speaks of God’s eternal promise to His covenant people: the last judgment will indeed be the last, and henceforth heaven and earth will be forever united as one.
Many more examples could be given. This is the marvel of the OT, and the source of its profitability for Christian faith and witness — that it superabounds with just such types of Christ and the covenant. Some are obvious, others quite subtle. But all carry our thoughts Godward: no mere mortal could ever devise correspondences such as these!
But this is not all. Throughout the Era of Preparation God not only administers His covenant by types and shadows, but also awakens in His people a hunger for the coming realities themselves. This He does by means of prophecy. OT prophecy is, in essence, a promise that the provision of the covenant will come (Christ, the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King), and that through faith in Him God’s people will receive the manifold blessings of the covenant (pardon, spiritual rebirth, holiness, resurrection, and eternal life with God in a glorious new heaven and earth). Thus, by means of type and prophecy, the multiplicity of OT events is bound into a mystical unity. Together, they constitute a single veiled revelation of the coming Christ and the eternal covenant of grace.
All of this brings us to the Era of Fulfillment. Here at last the eternal covenant is unveiled–and that is “gospel,” good news! Note, however, that this era unfolds in two stages. During the first–the period of proclamation–the covenant realities are unveiled only partially, and only to the eye of faith. During the second – the period of consummation – they are fully unveiled, no longer to faith but to sight. Let’s look at this important era a bit more closely.
At its onset, the provision of the covenant–the Son of God–enters history as a man, the Last Adam. As He embarks upon His ministry, the Father, through Him, now begins to administer the covenant as it is in itself. The period of (gospel) proclamation has arrived. By manifold good works, Christ displays the promises of the covenant, and by preaching He calls all Israel into it–to repentance and faith in Him. But it is a call the nation largely rejects. And so, at the end of His ministry, He seals His holy life with an atoning death, thereby making justification–and all the covenant blessings–possible for those who will believe. After His resurrection and ascension, the Father seats Him at His right hand as King of Heaven and earth, and from Heaven He continues to proclaim the covenant through His Church. This time, however, He calls people of all nations to repentance and faith. Those who respond receive precious spiritual blessings (forgiveness of sin, spiritual rebirth, growth in Christ-likeness). Nevertheless, they are saved in hope: eagerly they await the day when Christ–and complete perfection–shall come.
Next is the Parousia. It is the second great hinge of history, when Christ returns in glory to seal the period of proclamation, administer the covenant promises in their fullness, and inaugurate the period of consummation. Upon His arrival from heaven, He raises the dead, judges the world in righteousness, renews the cosmos, and delivers up the perfected Kingdom to His Father.
Finally, the Era of Consummation begins. Henceforth and forever, God and His people live and work together–no longer by faith, but by sight–in a glorious new heaven and a new earth.
Here, then, in too few strokes, is something of the Bible’s astounding soteriological unity. (4) The more we see it, the more we are amazed. Like tiles in a mosaic, the myriad stories of the two testaments somehow unite to create a single picture. They show us a single God, administering a single covenant, for the salvation of a single beloved people. Who on earth could devise such a plan — or such a Book to tell us about it?
Centered Around One Person: Just as Christ stands in the midst of the eternal covenant–the one mediator between God and man –so too He stands in the midst of all Scripture. Like planets around the sun, all revolves around Him. Jesus Himself taught this very thing. He said of the Scriptures, “These are they that testify of Me,” (John 5:39). Similarly, He told His disciples, “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me,” (Luke 24:44). This stands to reason, since one of the Father’s highest purposes in creation, providence and redemption is to glorify Christ. He desires that all should honor the Son, just as they honor Him, (John 5:23).
Accordingly, in the NT we ever find Christ “in the midst:” of the doctors, the disciples, the crowds, Moses and Elijah on the mount, the seven lampstands, the 24 elders, even the very throne of God! Likewise in the OT, by means of Christophany, type and prophecy, we also find Him in the midst. If the Bible may be called the body of truth, then its skeleton is the history of the administration of the covenant, its sinews are the 66 books, and its heart–burning in the midst of all–is the Person and work of Lord Jesus Christ.
Who is attested by One (Large and Diverse) Body of Signs: Since Christ is in the midst, God the Father desires to draw all men to Him, that they may enter His covenant and experience its blessings, (John 6:44). Jesus taught that He does this by means of signs: vividly supernatural phenomena that cause men to marvel and therefore inquire about Christ and the gospel, (John 5:20, 31ff). Looking through the window of Scripture, we see that God has posted such signs all along the highway of salvation history. In the NT, for example, God spotlights Christ by means of His virgin birth, angelic visitations, theophanies, mighty miracles, and–most importantly–His resurrection from the dead. Note also from the book of Acts that Christ intended His people to be signs–and from subsequent Church history that they indeed have been, right up to our own day, (Acts 1:4-8).
Of special importance here are the signs that appear in the OT. They are of two kinds: Messianic types and prophecies. Types, as we have seen, are persons, places, things, events or institutions that point forward to a Christ who has not yet come. For beauty and sheer abundance, they are indeed a marvel.Think, for example, of the miracle baby that God promised Abraham–and how, by believing in him, Abraham was reckoned a righteous man. Think of Moses, a deliverer who, through waters of judgment, led his people out of bondage and into a promised land. Think of the Passover lamb (not a bone of which was broken), whose blood, faithfully applied, wrought protection from the angel of death. Think of the bronze serpent on a pole, lifted up for the healing of all who would look to it in faith; of the once-stricken rock that gave forth water to the thirsty; of the delicious cluster of grapes from Canaan, suspended on a pole between two men; of the scapegoat, who bore the sins of Israel into the wilderness; of Jonah, who spent three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish. Is it really possible not to see Christ in all these pictures?
Similarly, we have the sign of OT Messianic prophecy. It too is vividly supernatural, causing us to marvel and consider Christ. For how can it be that even before He was born, the entire course of Christ’s earthly and heavenly life was predicted, not by one prophet, but by many? How could they speak of His divine nature and pre-existence, His virgin birth, His birthplace, His miraculous ministry to the poor, the minute details of His atoning death, His resurrection, His heavenly reign, and His second coming in power and glory to judge, redeem, and usher in the Kingdom of God? Reading them, we cannot help but ask: Who inspired these prophecies, and why? Perhaps the One who fulfilled them can tell us! (5)
Christians must never underestimate the importance of the body of Messianic signs, especially OT types and prophecies. The signs draw the Scriptures into a wondrous, Christo-centric unity. They are a chorus of witnesses, singing the divine Prophet, Priest and King. Because of them, we see that the Old Testament confirms the New, and that the New Testament illumines and fulfills the Old. Because of them we understand that the two testaments really do belong together, that they really do constitute a single book. It is The Book–the very Word of God–given to direct us to the Christ of God.
And Worshiped by One People: The Bible tells of a divine Father gathering a single people for the worship of His Son, just as it tells of a divine Son gathering the same people for the worship of His Father. This people is a multiplicity: Jew and Gentile, male and female, (a few) rich and (many) poor, slave and free, good and (formerly) evil. And yet, because of their God-given love for Christ, they are one people. By many striking images the Bible highlights their spiritual unity: they are a seed, a people, a nation, a race, a priesthood, a congregation, a body, a temple, a flock, and a new man, (see 1 Peter 2:9-10). Jesus called this people His Church, by which term He understood the totality of all persons of all times who are called out of the world into fellowship with God.
In Revelation 12, the unity of His Church throughout history is vividly portrayed under the image of a single woman. Prior to the birth of the royal Child, the dragon (Satan) opposes her, trying to keep Him from being born (hence, the vicissitudes of the OT saints). After His birth, the dragon again opposes her, trying to keep the Him from being preached and thereby born into the hearts of God’s elect (hence, the vicissitudes of the NT saints). In the wilderness of this world the one woman is ever pursued by the dragon, yet ever preserved by God’s grace – until the heavenly King returns. Then, when her humiliation is over, she is unveiled for what she truly is: a glorious Bride and a glorious City, dwelling forever with her Beloved in a new heaven and a new earth, (Colossian 3:4, Revelation 21:1f).
According to One (Eminently Satisfying) Worldview: When the signs do their work, they draw a people, not only to Christ but into His world — the biblical world. What a feast of fat things there awaits their wondering eyes!
There they find fascinating answers to all the great questions that have ever burned in the hearts of men: What is the ultimate reality? What is the origin of the universe, life and man? What went wrong – why is there evil suffering in the world? What – if anything – can be done about it? What is the meaning, or purpose, of life? How shall we live? What happens when we die? Where is history heading? How can we find trustworthy answers to the questions of life?
There they find that the answers are worthy: intuitive, reasonable, hopeful and ethically sound – and far moreso than those offered by other philosophies and religions.
There, most comfortingly, they also find that the Bible speaks to the existential anxieties associated with all these questions. For example, the Bible is not satisfied simply to identify the ultimate reality, but to explain how alienated sinners may be united with it. Or again, it is not content simply to tell sinners about an afterlife in heaven or hell, but also uncovers for them the grounds upon which they may sure that they are going to the one and not the other.
Finally, there they find that all these answers miraculously coalesce into a unified worldview; that somehow they are now able to look upon all things: things past, present and future; things above, upon, and beneath this world; things without and within; things human, angelic, and divine; etc. In short, through the Bible they can now see and understand – albeit through a glass darkly — reality as a whole.
Such fullness, such intricate beauty, such vast comprehensiveness leave them breathless: it will take a lifetime, nay, an eternity, to take it all in. But of this much they are certain: their search is over. Unity in the natural and moral orders moved them to seek out a personal god and his spiritual truth. Unity in the biblical order–especially this amazing philosophical unity–now convinces them that they have found both. The God of the natural order, the moral order and the biblical order is clearly one. And according to one eminently satisfying worldview, they will worship Him forevermore.
A Concluding Word of Personal Testimony
Under God, it was the amazing unity of the Bible that revolutionized my worldview and transformed my own life.
Prior to my conversion I was a pantheist, a student of the Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist scriptures. Undoubtedly, these writings displayed a certain religious and philosophical unity, since they all taught “salvation” by absorption of the individual person into an impersonal Big Mind, from which had sprung our (illusory) phenomenal world. But beyond the fact that I wanted to believe them, there was little in these scriptures, or their threadbare philosophical unity, to convince me that they were true.
With respect to the Bible, however, the situation was almost completely reversed. Here there was much that I did not want to believe, but a very great deal to convince me that they were true anyway. In the difficult time of turning, I well remember the decisive facts and the decisive moment. For some weeks I had been reading Christian books with a mixture of deepening hope and fear. At last, a copy of the Scofield Reference Bible fell into my hands. As I perused its extensive notes, in which the commentator spotlighted the things of Christ even in the earliest pages of Genesis, the lights went on. All the fragments of my (limited) biblical knowledge coalesced into a single picture. I could see the Bible’s fantastic, supernatural unity: the one story, the one God, the one purpose, the one people, and the one Redeemer – a Redeemer veiled in the OT, but unveiled in the New.
Furthermore, in seeing this unity, I could see all I would ever need to know about the Bible: that it had been inspired by a single divine Author; that it must therefore be inerrant and infallible in all that it affirms; that it must be authoritative in all it commands; and that it must be complete, since the One promised in the OT and revealed in the New is a divine Prophet, authorized by the Father to bring to His people a full and final revelation of the truth, (6)
Order, design and a person with a purpose. I had seen them in nature and morality, and concluded that there must be a god. But now I saw them in the Bible. And so, in fear and trembling, I concluded one thing more: I must call upon this God for salvation. I must be born again.
Now you can understand something of my enthusiasm for the unity of the Bible. It is an enthusiasm that has only grown over the years, being deepened by my further study of Scripture, as well as by my study of other sacred writings which conspicuously display nothing of the kind. In short, the unity of the Bible is a miracle, a solitary marvel in all world religion and philosophy. (7)
If, then, you are not yet a Christian, please consider this unity carefully. Perhaps it will become to you a bridge over which you may pass to the Christ it celebrates. And if you already are a Christian, please keep that bridge in mind. For in a tight witnessing situation–with only seconds to explain why you believe the Bible is God’s Word–it may well be your only shot.
And your best.
- This time-line reflects the traditional Reformed view of salvation history. Pre-millennial and Dispensational interpreters would construct it somewhat differently. Nevertheless, all would agree in representing salvation history as the administration of a single, Christ-centered plan in two basic eras – one of promise and another of fulfillment.
- For an excellent brief discussion of the eternal covenant (of grace), see Louis Berkhoff, Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1949), pp. 262-301.
- Christ’s apostles were well aware that they lived in the era of fulfillment, when the mystery of the eternal covenant, formerly hidden, had now been brought to light. See Mk. 4:11, Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:9, 3:3,9; Colossians 1:26, 2:2, 2 Tim. 1:10.
- Closely related to the Bible’s soteriological unity is its cosmological unity. Through the story of redemption, the Bible supplies a clear, comprehensive and hopeful history of the entire cosmos – it’s origin, wounding, restoration, and eternal glory. In all world religion there is nothing nearly so satisfying.
- See Psalm 110:1, Isaiah. 7:14; Micah 5:2; Isaiah. 61:1-3; Psalm 22, Isaiah. 53; Psalm 16:8-10, Isaiah. 53:11; Psalms 2, 110, Daniel 7:13-14; Isaiah. 66; Isaiah. 63:1f.
- Many texts affirm what the whole tenor of the NT implies: that the One Who inaugurated the Era of Fulfillment brought a full and final revelation of God’s truth. This means that Christ closed the biblical canon, that the Book is complete, and that religions that pretend to supercede Christianity are false. See Mt. 7:24-29, 13:16-17, 28:18, John 4:23-26, 12:48, 14:15-18, 16:6-7, 12-13, 18:37, Eph. 2:19-20, Jude 1:3.
- The unity of the Bible–and its truthfulness–is greatly magnified when seen alongside the disunity of non-biblical scriptures. The Koran, for example, contains a unified system of (anti-trinitarian) religion: Mohammed’s. But there is no supernatural unity to verify his claims. Neither the Old Testament nor the New typify, prophesy, or in any other way anticipate Mohammed. Meanwhile, the Bible also contains a unified system of (trinitarian) religion: God’s. And here we know it is God’s because there is a supernatural unity to verify its claims. The Old Testament authors–who are many–all anticipate Jesus and His teachings about the eternal covenant. How could they have done so if His religion was His alone, and not that of the one true God? Theological unity amidst historical continuity: These are God’s imprimatur. You will find it on the Bible, and on the Bible alone.