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Klink's Three-Part Scheme for the Biblical Story
Creation as Hermeneutical Frame
Reading texts involves interpretation, or hermeneutics. We first ask, “What does it say?” Then, we move to “What does it mean?” If we consider implications and applications, we might ask, “What difference does it make?” or “How does it work?” or “What should I do?” or “How should I then live?” These questions do not detail the only approach to reading and reading well, but they are steps, and questions, that have proven helpful for me.
Reading is a practice that helps us grow in wisdom. Bible reading, one form of study, is an ancient spiritual discipline. A sound hermeneutic is important for reading texts broadly, and it is vital for reading a sacred text like the Bible. How do you read generally? More importantly, how do you read the Bible?
When we read the Bible, most of us have an overarching narrative, a “big-picture story,” a framework for understanding the whole. For example, we may read the Bible as the story of redemption, God’s salvation of humankind. Many read the Bible this way, and I believe it is the story of redemption.
We could also read the Bible as a book of wisdom that contains profound sayings, moral guidance, and instructive examples. I believe the Bible is that, and much more.
Our “big-picture” approach to the Bible shapes our reading of the smaller, constituent parts of the Bible. We read from “big” to “small.” Our “big-picture” should account for as much of the Bible as possible. But we also read “small” to “big.” When done carefully, our localized readings of Scripture should add up. We’re seeking congruence, a framework holding together parts “big” and “small.” It isn’t easy to do. But it can be done.
Let’s test this idea. Consider the two sketches I’ve offered above. Does the “big” story told in either summary capture all of the “small” stories of the Bible?
What do they keep in?
What do they leave out?
Does creation fit within these summaries? What about creation?
Creation doesn’t fit. Not really. That’s a problem. The Bible begins with God’s act of creation and ends with the fulfillment of God’s purposes in the new creation. In between, God remains Creator. How does God remain at work as Creator between the Bible’s beginning and end? If your hermeneutical framework can’t account for that question, something is missing.
Edward W. Klink III emphasizes the importance of the doctrine of creation for biblical interpretation in The Beginning and End of All Things: A Biblical Theology of Creation and New Creation. He notes many readers of the Bible limit their reflections about the creation and God’s revelation as Creator to Genesis 1-2. Alternatively, Klink proposes the Bible can be read from beginning to end as a story of creation, redemption, and new creation, a thread traceable throughout the Bible, making sense of all that we find from Genesis to Revelation, with the Creator’s intimate involvement found each step of the way.
Not all biblical readings fully account for the claims that God is Creator and the world is God’s creation. The result? Deficient readings. Anemic understandings. Klink’s reason for writing “is to tell the full story of the Bible, not a truncated version that speaks of redemption without creation, the soul without the body, or the beginning of all things without the end of all things.” Klink moves from Creation → to Redemption → to New Creation, describing these three movements in the biblical story as revealing God’s Purpose, God’s Provision, and God’s Praise.
Why does he choose to tell the story this way? What about sin? What about Genesis 3?
Klink attempts to address the central conflict of the Bible, introduced in Genesis 3 and labeled broadly as the problem of sin, without suggesting that God’s creation project was doomed from the start. His key? The person of Jesus. He seeks to maintain that the person of Jesus Christ reveals God’s purpose for humanity and that the work of Jesus Christ fulfills God’s purpose for creation. Klink maintains Jesus Christ is the one at the beginning, middle, and end of the story, holding all things together.
Klink writes, “Without the careful symbiosis of creation and redemption, a Christian’s thinking about God’s purpose and plan is likely forced to choose between a poorly created world and a poorly planned world.” He notes that the familiar schema of creation → fall → redemption → new creation suggests God’s plan was “immediately thwarted,” or Jesus was “plan B rather than plan A.” Klink adds that a clumsy handling of the relationship between creation and redemption “has the tendency to narrow the biblical story to fall and redemption, eclipsing creation and new creation as mere background to the real action.” To include creation and new creation, we need a bigger story, one that accounts for the full testimony of Scripture, one that begins with Genesis 1:1 and runs all the way through to the end of Revelation 22.
When I was in seminary, I had a professor who said many of us, if not all of us, needed to learn how to read. Considering the context, this statement was unsettling. Was he saying I didn’t know how to read? Was he insulting our intelligence? We were graduate students!
I knew something about reading. But I had much more to learn. My professor wasn’t insulting us. He was telling us the truth.
My professor jarred us into thinking about how we read and inspired us to become better, more effective readers. He pointed us toward the worthwhile end of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). One outcome? To “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). We could not impart what we do not possess. Apart from growth as a reader, we risked being deficient as teachers. Becoming a wise reader has personal implications, of course. But in the Christian community, it has communal consequences, too. We’re part of a community of interpretation. We want to live truthfully in light of our story. We want to tell our story faithfully, and well, and help others within the Christian community do the same.
A sound framework is a tremendous help. Develop an approach to the Bible that accounts for the whole testimony of Scripture, that magnificently captures and conveys the full story of God. Read the story well. With God’s help, tell it well.
I’m nearing the conclusion of James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky’s Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Nature of Morality, and I finished Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. The human dynamics explored in this novel remain in play. I finished the story sad and satisfied. It is a fantastic work.
I mentioned Edward W. Klink’s The Beginning and End of All Things above. I’m also reading Holly Catteron Allen, Christine Lawton, and Cory L. Seibel’s Intergenerational Christian Formation. The latter book details research findings that are in support of a particular ministry model, one that cultivates connections within the body of Christ across generations. Most contexts I have served separate the generations according to age-group demographics. Each approach has trade-offs. I think an intergenerational approach is the better way.
Two other books I finished recently: Don Everts’s The Spiritually Vibrant Home: The Power of Messy Prayers, Loud Tables, and Open Doors and George Marsden’s An Infinite Fountain of Light: Jonathan Edwards for the Twenty-First Century. These are very different books, but I recommend both, strongly.
Everts’s book is pastoral and research based, recommending (and showing) the possibilities and positive outcomes that come with cultivating and ministering within the context of a Christian household, which he defines more broadly than the nuclear family (though the nuclear family is included as one manifestation of the household). I was encouraged by this book because of ways my family has been impacted positively by precisely the kinds of households he describes, and how, by absorption, our household has adopted some of the same practices we encountered. Christian witness would be strengthened, I think, if more people viewed their household through the lens Everts describes and sought to minister with the postures and practices he recommends.
If you’ve read George Marsden, you know he is a clear, compelling writer and a very good historian with a great love for Jonathan Edwards. The book is but one more expression of his gifts. Marsden turns our attention to Edwards and two of his contemporaries, Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield, explaining how these figures shaped their moment, and now our own. If all you know of Edwards is his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” this book will broaden your knowledge of Edwards through an exploration of his thought concerning the natural world, philosophy, beauty, spiritual renewal, the marks of a believer, and the immense magnitude of the love of God. Marsden admits Edwards’ shortcomings as a person and preacher. But he also extols Edwards’ virtues and keen ideas, not only prescriptively for individuals in their pursuit of God, but as challenges to both modern American culture and modern American churches. I couldn’t put this book down. I recommend it.
Sights and Sounds
Still watching Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008). There are sixty two episodes total. We’ve completed Book Two. Twenty more episodes to go. The animation in the episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se” was beautiful, and the stories within—none of which could have carried a full episode—added depth to the overall story. It is one of my favorites, even as a parenthetical to the series (a “capsule episode”). Other thoughts: the Fire Nation is totalitarian, the Earth Kingdom has an isolationist foreign policy, Uncle Iroh is a sage, and the Earth King is a dope. Time for tea at the Jasmine Dragon, hotman!
I watched the 2010 feature film adaptation of Book One of the above animated series, The Last Airbender, directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Too many of the acting performances in this film were wooden, lacking depth. For fans wanting to see live actors take on the animated characters and for the story to stick closely to the Nickelodeon series, this movie delivers. While I enjoyed a few of the visuals, I was bored.
I also watched Tekken (2010) and Last Man Standing (1996). Each was a way to pass the time. My first viewing of Last Man Standing was years and years ago, before I’d seen Yojimbo (1961). Last Man Standing is loosely based on that Japanese samurai film, but is set in a Depression-era Texas border town. Bruce Willis plays John Smith, a drifter and gunslinger, who manipulates two rival mobster gangs to intensify violence against one another in a feud leading to the destruction of both. The only thing I really enjoyed about this movie was Christopher Walken’s appearances on screen. He’s so very weird looking.
Lastly, in case I didn’t share previously, the July music playlist is up.
Before I go, standard copy.
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P.S. - As a preacher, I can’t help but read this eschatologically first, and then, secondly, in terms of enjoyment. It is, indeed, later than we think. From the Stagecoach Restaurant in Salado, Texas.