The Gospel of Our King - A Review

What are people for?

That is the question Bruce Ashford and Heath Thomas set out to answer in their book, The Gospel of Our King.

This book is another example of contemporary authors attempting to present the biblical storyline in a way that is fresh, innovative, and inspires appropriate action in response. Thomas and Ashford do quite well in their attempt.

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Books like The Gospel of Our King are part of an effort to counteract the dominance of the metanarratives of our culture. In the West we are taught that the world exists to meet our demands and serve our presence. We custom order t-shirts to bear our favorite messages, choose the facts we will be subjected to, and select every expression of our identities. This is the story of our world. But the contemporary story is a damaging one, because it drives us away from the truer, better story of Scripture. Unlike to world’s story, God’s story, as laid out in the Bible, is life giving and conforms with reality.

The book begins by outlining the grand story of Scripture in four movements. The first four chapters of the volume outline creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, respectively. These four movement describe the arc of God’s work from the beginning of time into the future. Having offered this summary of the movements within Scripture, Ashford and Thomas turn to providing definitions for commonly misused terms, which are essential to this discussion. Chapter Five defines worldview, gospel, and mission. The final four chapters look at how a gospel-formed mission, built on a Christian worldview, works itself out in theological, social, cultural and global dimensions. None of these four terms will surprise anyone who grew up in a sound, biblical church oriented toward getting the good news of Christ’s resurrection out to the world. However, the authors put some meat on the terms by arguing that the mission of God must remain grounded in sound doctrine, expressed to people in real, often practical terms, brought to bear in culturally specific ways, across the globe to people of every tribe, tongue and nation.

The Gospel of Our King affirms the reality that we were not made for ourselves, but to serve the King of the Universe.

I have read dozens of books on worldview, the gospel, and mission. I found The Gospel of Our King to be a refreshing presentation of this topic. This is a book that I am glad to recommend. Above all, this is a volume that helped to remind me of the central purpose of the Christian life: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

The book is written at a very accessible level. Even though it is published by Baker Academic, this is a volume that would be helpful in a high school class or a discipleship class with believers seeking to go beyond the most basic outlines of Christian doctrine. This will also be a helpful tool for more academic settings, like an undergraduate or seminary classroom.

Perhaps more significant than its helpfulness as a teaching tool, The Gospel of Our King is encouragement even those who already know the story well. I read this in a day (in part because I read it on an airplane travel day), but I found it a balm to the soul, an exhortation to live more faithfully, and an inspiration to tell others about the gospel of our King.

NOTE: I have worked with both of the authors of this book, but I enjoyed it and think it is good, so I am reviewing it.

The Story of Scripture - A Review

Hershel Hobbs was a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, a faithful pastor, and a theologian for the church. He helped guide the SBC through the doctrinal struggle that is commonly referred to as the Conservative Resurgence, where the theologically orthodox majority of the denomination reclaimed the SBC from the revisionist minority that had gained control of her seminaries, mission boards, and other structures. He was faithful through that work, but importantly, he was deeply concerned about the long-term health and viability of the local church. For Hobbs, the vitality of local churches was dependent upon a reliance and intimacy of the Word of God, which is why many of his 100+ published books are popular-level, verse by verse commentaries on books of the Bible.

With that background, it is a fitting tribute that the first volume in the Hobbs College Library series from Oklahoma Baptist University is an overview of the narrative of Scripture. It is a book designed to introduce the reader to what academics call biblical theology, but which is really just the process of looking at the big picture of Scripture and reading the Bible in light of the common, interwoven, recurring themes.

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Matthew Emerson, associate professor of religion at OBU, was commissioned to write the inaugural volume, The Story of Scripture: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. This little book is targeted at the average Christian who is interested in understanding the Bible better, though it is written by someone who has studied Scripture academically and continues to engage in deep, rigorous scholarship about the Bible. The book is divided into six chapters, including the introduction.

Summary

In Chapter One, Emerson lays the groundwork for the volume. He begins by arguing that Scripture is united in its theme and thrust. Though it was authored by more than forty authors over a period of 1000+ years and consolidated into one volume with 66 books, Scripture has a single main story to tell. In this chapter, Emerson outlines the meaning of and history of the study of Biblical theology, which is essential for those who will do further reading on the topic.

Chapter Two lays out the first three major themes in the story of Scripture: creation, fall, and redemption. As we piece together the overriding message of Scripture, the storyline is clear: God created the earth good, but Adam sinned leading to the curse. This is the story of Genesis 1-3. God didn’t leave it there, though, he began to enact a pattern of redemption that is evident throughout the rest of Scripture and whose seeds were planted along with the curse. Chapter Two takes the reader through the book of Genesis.

In Chapter Three, Emerson continues to trace the theme of redemption through the rest of the Old Testament, as God’s plan and providence are made evident through the Law, Prophets, and Writings. Chapter Four continues to outline redemption as it is accomplished and applied through the life of Christ, and finally described as consummated in the book of Revelation.

Chapter Five explores some of the major topics or keys that are commonly used to frame biblical theology. These include covenant, kingdom, creation, wisdom, God’s servant, mission and other. Emerson does not provide a comprehensive list (if there is such a thing), but does explain some of the most frequent approaches. Finally, in Chapter Six, Emerson succinctly outlines methods for applying biblical theology, including development of doctrine, ethics, counseling, and other suggestions.

Analysis and Conclusion

This book does not add depth or detail to the literature on biblical theology. However, The Story of Scripture does provide a helpful entry point for the study and application of a critical method of handling Scripture. Emerson does well in providing an entry point for students, pastors, or the average layperson who wants to know how to study the Bible better and piece together a big picture understanding of God’s work in redemptive history.

The Story of Scripture would be a useful volume to give to a new believer who is trying to figure out what is going on in the Bible. It would make a helpful text in an introductory course on the Christian faith or an overview of Scripture. This volume would also be useful in a home school setting, as the concise volume could be easily digested and discussed by the average high schooler.

Emerson has kicked off the multi-volume series from the Hobbs College Library well with this volume that should serve as a tool for churches and individual Christians for years to come.

NOTE: I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review.