Monday, April 7, 2008

The Bible Is Not Topical

As I have written in a previous post, the marriage seminar with Paul Tripp was outstanding. Having been familiar with Tripp’s writings and teaching, I was confident that what we would receive would be refreshingly biblical. I say “refreshingly” biblical because much of what it taught and written about marriage by and for Christians is stunningly unbiblical. It often sounds nice because Bible verses will be used. The problem is that those verses are merely sprinkled atop unbiblical presuppositions. The faulty and misleading teaching remains. From his opening words, Tripp established that God’s Word would form the foundation for all that was discussed during the seminar.

His opening remarks were important. He pointed out that “there is a reason the Bible is not arranged topically.” This is so because the Bible was not intended to be used as a compendium of wise sayings to be accessed when the need arises. The Bible is God’s grand narrative of redemption. It is Christ-centered and Gospel-driven. As a result, when we go searching for verses that speak to marriage specifically we are not only selling the Bible short, we are robbing ourselves of the Scripture’s vast wisdom in teaching us how to live as redeemed people.

In his book “Lost in the Middle” Tripp writes:

“Many Christians adopt a ‘Bible-for-the-religious-part-of-my-life” perspective on Scripture. They tend to seek the Bible’s help only where it has spoken clearly about certain topics. As a result they will tend to look elsewhere for the wisdom they need in the vast areas of life that are not directly addressed within the pages of Scripture.

“Or they may fall into another subtle error. If they are Christians, they know that the Bible is a book filled with stunning wisdom revealed by the God who is the source of all wisdom. They will be hungry to know his mind in every area of their lives. Driven by this zeal, they may bend, twist, and stretch Scripture to provide the information that they are seeking.

“Now, both groups of people have made the same mistake. Both view the Bible as God’s great encyclopedia, a topical index of human problems and divine solutions. The one person is a bit sad that the Bible doesn’t speak to more of life. The other person is growingly convinced that the Bible speaks to more topics than he first thought. Both have missed the genius, the core of what the Bible is really about…

“The Bible is a narrative, and because it is a narrative, it tells us everything we need to know about midlife concerns. The Bible is the great story of redemption that encompasses the stories of every human life. It is the overarching ‘everything’ story. It is comprehensive in scope without being exhaustive in content. It gives us wisdom for everything without directly discussing every particular thing.

“The great narrative of the Word of God gives me everything I need to know about God, about myself, about the purpose and meaning of life, and about what is true, good, and beautiful. The Bible is the lens through which I look at all of life. In it I find the truths, values, goals, and hopes that are meant to give shape and direction to my life. All of these things are cords woven into the fabric of one grand and amazing story. It is God’s story. He is the principal actor and the grand hero. Without his story, the doctrines, principles, commands, and promises make no sense whatsoever” (pp. 14-15).

Paul Tripp Ministries
Paul Tripp’s newest book


Noel said...

I have a completely unrelated question: What was the name of that book that explained words related to the gospel such as redemption, justification, propitiation, etc... Did I hear about that from you?

Todd Pruitt said...


There are two books that come to mind:
"18 Words" by J.I. Packer
"Concise Theology" by J.I. Packer
"A Faith to Live By" by Donald MacLeod