God’s Word, His Church & His Drama

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Over vacation this spring I read Glenn R. Paauw’s Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well. It’s a book about the Bible, what it is, and what it isn’t, and how what we (consciously or unconsciously) think the Bible is effects what we do with it, and how we live it out. Paauw has what I think can properly be called a high view of the Bible, and a significant portion of his book is dedicated to a critique of what he sees as distortions in the form and use of the Bible by the modern Western church, and the distortions of church practice that result. However, this is not a carping book of “back in the 1400’s, people did church right!”; for each critique, Paauw provides a Biblically grounded view of what the Bible and the church should be, and the mission God has us on. Paauw describes a Bible which is deep and rich, with more to offer than scattered, out-of-context verses, a Bible which is deeply grounded in and concerned with the real and present human concerns of its original recipients, and a Bible which tells the story of a personal God and his relationship with his people, as a collective body as well as individuals. From this Bible, “saved from ourselves” as it were, he tells the story of a Church, that, like the God she follows, is not removed from the world, but deeply and presently concerned with its redemption, a Church that, like Jesus, is fully and vibrantly and life-givingly alive and human as it acts out that redemption, and a Church that acts and lives in deep relationship between each member of her body and with her God.

The picture I think will stay with me the most is in the key passage of this book (in the middle, as in the Jewish style), where Paauw describes the story of history as a play – an improvised drama, with God as both the director and the key actor, played out on the stage of “the heavens and the earth”. In this drama, the opening acts have already been played, the conflict and characters established, and the climactic resolution of the plot accomplished in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and the story of all this is the script of what has gone before, recorded in our Scriptures. What is left, then, is the final act, the working out of Christ’s climactic resolution in its fullness, and here is the part that belongs to the church. We, like all of our spiritual forebears, are improvising the script as we go along, but we know the major themes, we know where the story is going, and most importantly, we know the Director, and he guides us just as he has guided his actors throughout his story, as we can read in the pages of his word.

To conclude my review, I think this is going to be one of those rare and special books that change how I look at the world, and I would encourage any of you to give it a read as well (though my copy is an ebook, so unfortunately I can’t lend it out).