Plan or Person?

What’s the unifying element of our bible overviews?

Progress towards Christ

or

Christ?

There’s a massive difference.

If the spotlight is on the progress, a person might come away astounded at the themes they’d never seen before, the common threads, the disparate elements that now seem to have coherence.  It’s enough to make them really excited about the bible.  For a good six months or so.

But it’s possible to get excited by a plan and miss the Person.  A system and miss the Son.

Posted on by Glen in covenant continuity

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

10 Responses to Plan or Person?

  1. Hiram

    I don’t know, but I can’t seem to see this as a concrete problem. When I see the plan, I see the Person. I think the two are inseparable, as Paul seems to indicate in 1 Corinthians 15: The historical plan of redemption is saturated with Christ. If we see the plan and not the Person, then do we really see the plan? Or have we replaced the real plan with another?

    I dunno.

    -h.

  2. Glen

    Hi Hiram, the two are definitely inseparable. What I’m objecting to is the teaching of a plan overview that only gets to the Person as an unexpected surprise. Such an overview communicates very strongly that plan is primary – the Person is icing on the cake.

  3. Tim V-B

    I agree Hiram – cannot separate the two. But people do. We end up with what I call ‘Bob the Builder Theology’ (do you know who I’m referring to :) We have a world in which ‘God’ and ‘Man’ are supposed to relate well, but don’t, so Jesus comes along to fix the problem. After all, you can preach 2/3 of the Bible without Jesus actually being present or known. Problem is, he ends up as the ultimate fixer, not the goal of salvation. It’s more important to know that he saves us, rather than actually knowing him.

  4. Coldfusion

    Yup, but…

    I’m with you on the emphasis towards a person, rather than ‘God’s big plan’… but, just as the ‘big plan’ bozos are mistaken, you are perhaps in danger of the same thing.

    The last 50 years of evangelicalism is littered with abandoned systems. It is part of the idolatory of our age that we think that we can ‘master’ a subject through discovering magic principles or rules. We should be careful about buying into the project of looking for ‘a principle’ or ‘a system’ because…

    Firstly, there isn’t much scriptural support for this principle based approach in scripture. We do see the centrality of Christ, but this is kept in balance with other doctrines, and while it is necessary to be Christocentric, we also need to watch out for a view of the Trinity that overemphasizes the Son, at the detriment of the Father and Holy Spirit.

    Secondly, it doesn’t change lives – bear fruit. We need the wider Christian outlook and view to be able to live. We should be Christocentric yes, but having a mystical or cognitive experience of Jesus isn’t enough for E.G. an addict.

    I also have a question about your dichotomy

    Have you presented a false choice?

    Why can’t another possible answer be…

    C) The Triune God as the unifying factor?

  5. theoldadam

    The “plan” IS the person.

  6. Matt Stone

    Love that last line.

  7. Glen

    Hi Coldfusion,
    I’m not trying to suggest a ‘principle based approach’ – just John 5:39 ‘these things bear witness of me.’ And if you click around the place (e.g. the Christ in the OT tab in the header) you’ll find that I’m all for ‘the triune God as the unifying factor.’

    I’m reacting against popular bible-overviews that leave people saying “Ah yes, the grand theme of the bible is *land* or *kingship* or *progeny* and… ooo look… Jesus (in an unexpected way) fulfils these abstract blessings.’

    Hi Matt, Thanks, welcome to comments :)

  8. Greg S-R

    Hello Glen

    Came across this as recently retweeted.

    Genuine and not hypothetical question: How would you go about doing a 4 talk bible overview to a mixture of people many of whom will never had had the bible presented to them as a single story?

    I’ve read most of what you’ve written on this and agree. But using a kingdom/people/land/blessing structure along with a diagram seems like a good way to help people follow where you are going and where you’ve been. Is it redeemable?

    Or would you would do an extended version of the talk at the top of your /christ-in-ot/ page e.g. Talk 1 Jesus is present, Talk 2 Jesus is promised, Talk 3 Jesus is pictured, Talk 4 New Testament.

    Or take major characters and pick the major bits which would probably fall under present, promised or pictured in each case:
    Talk 1 Adam and Abraham
    Talk 2 Noah and Moses
    Talk 3 David and Isaiah
    Talk 4 The apostles

    I am basically thinking about a structure which helps provide focus for the speaker (as I have the whole bible open to me to use!) and perhaps help the hearers remember and follow.

  9. Glen

    Hey Greg,
    I think it’s great to give people an overview of the narrative. The Bible Project have some excellent videos to help with that (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak06MSETeo4). Perhaps I would begin with the Bible’s own view of itself (John 5:39; Luke 24; 2 Tim 3:15ff). Explain the Presence, Promise and Pattern lenses and then go through the Torah, the Writings and the Prophets, unpacking the contents of those bits but concluding with Christ present, promised and patterned in those parts. Maybe.

  10. Greg S-R

    Thanks. In the end I went with

    Jesus the snake crusher
    Jesus the sacrifice
    Jesus the king
    Jesus returns

    Lots of useful stuff I used from your posts, so thank you for that!

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