I would say that I spend a good deal, if not a majority of my time working with, talking to and being around people that are not Christians. Truly enjoyable and intelligent people really, and as diverse as they all are from one another there is one thing that nearly all of my non-Christian friends have the same view on: The Bible. Most non-Christians that I know are not hostile towards the idea of the Bible, but instead see it as a collection of stories with some moral undertone that dictates how one should live their life.
And I would argue that most non-Christians believe that the main difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is whether or not a person chooses to follow the rules laid out in this Judeo-Christian version of Aesop’s Fables. And I see this same pattern with some Christians that I know, they see the bible as this rule book that God wants them to follow to make sure that they will be good enough to make it into heaven. I just recently had a conversation with a friend who is pondering such things, and they said to me “I’m really not into the bible, I’m more of a big-picture kind of person”.
But on the contrary to the typical American religious thought, the bible is THE big-picture book! My friend, like many of you, had been told bible stories about these really moral, upright people and been required to memorize out of context bible verses about being good. But Jesus (in the very same Bible) tells us the polar opposite, he says to the religious bible scholars of his day|
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:38-39)
Jesus here is says that the bible is not a self-help book that will teach you to “get into heaven in 6 easy steps”, but instead, it is a big story about Jesus. Later, after Jesus’ resurrection actually teaches how the entire bible is really about Jesus.
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27)
But why would it be all about Jesus? How does that help us be good Christians? Well, first you have to understand what being a Christian actually means. It is not a manifesto or religious code of conduct, but instead it is the idea that you are no good at all, but that this man Jesus (who claims that the Bible was written about him) was actually God incarnate and was executed as the punishment for the sin of those who would believe in him. The bible that is so often thought to be about man learning to be good is actually about how evil man really is, but how perfect a savior man has been given.
The bible is a hopeless, confusing and terrible book if you look to it for examples of obedience and piety (Moses committed what would be tried today as first-degree murder, Noah is a textbook angry drunk and the great King David was a dirty adulterer) but in this mess of humanity, God consistently promises a savior to save these lousy jackasses.
This starts as soon as man messes everything up in Genesis 3, that is when God instantly starts making promises to make everything right again, and then he starts slowly coming through. In Genesis 15 God explicitly tells Abraham|
“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve and they shall come out with great possession” (Genesis 15)
If you have been around church at all, this doesn’t seem too crazy, that’s the story of the Exodus, and that is exactly what happened. But the passage above was God telling Abraham in precise detail what would happen hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years before it freaking happened. Because there was a plan, a planned chain of events that would lead to the redemption of the world, I do not think it can get much bigger picture than that.
And do not neglect this topic, because it really proves true that what you believe about the bible is what you believe about Jesus, and there is no more important question than what you believe about Jesus. This is not just my opinion, but the product of much scholarly study and revelation by God to much, much more competent people than I, for more on this, I would recommend strongly the resources below:
D.A. Carson “The God Who Is There” (Book)
Graeme Goldsworthy “According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible” (Book)
The Story (Gospel Resources)
Essays on Biblical Theology compiled at Monergism (Note the first article by Carson)