The Bible teaches that whatever God does is always for His self-glory. He exists both from Himself (i.e., He is self-existent or uncaused) and for Himself (Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 15:28b; Col 1:16). There is no higher standard for God to meet than Himself. There is nothing outside of God with which He can compare/contrast Himself nor is there anything external to God from which to offset Himself in order to define Himself. He exists in self-contained tri-unity does all things for His self-glory.
The question is, Is there a unifying principle to all of God’s activity? That is, is there some kind of rubric that can comprehend all of God’s activity external to Himself (i.e., with reference to the “universe”)?
This principle will also include one’s approach to the Bible. What is the unifying center or theme of the Scriptures? This unifying center of all of God’s activity—with reference to the universe—will also be the unifying theme of the Bible. The two are correlative to each other.
The Difficulty of Finding a Unifying Center
The Diversity of the Biblical Literature
The different genres of the Bible include narrative, wisdom, law, poetry, prophecy, epistle, gospel, et al. Each of these carries its own hermeneutical maxims, making it more difficult to find the central thread of Biblical teaching. Is a certain kind of Biblical literature more fruitful and important than another?
The Historical Difficulty
God’s activity with reference to the universe must be viewed as beginning with creation and carrying on into the eschaton, the so-called diachronic approach. What can unify God’s attitudes and work through all of this vast amount of time?
The Diversity of Themes in the Bible
The themes of Scripture generally run along the lines of systematic theology; i.e., the doctrines of Scripture, God, Christ, angels, man, sin, the Holy Spirit, salvation, church and eschatology. How do these contribute to a more ultimate Biblical theme?
The Difficulty of Constructing a Method for Finding a Unifying Center
What criteria does one use without being arbitrary and selective? Which of the recurring themes of Scripture does one include or exclude? Should the methodology be based on the total number of verses on a topic, or on the major peoples involved? Is the secret in comparing Israel’s beliefs with those of other religions in the Ancient Near East, or the Roman Empire? Is the theme to be found in one testament over the other; i.e., is the New Testament more authoritative and productive because it is later and has further revelation?
- Patterns of God’s stated purpose, such as: “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33).
- Theological importance having to do with God and His dealings as over against isolated events and personalities.
- Historical epochs, such as creation, the flood, the call of Abram, the exodus from Egypt, the advents of Christ, and the like.
- Major revelation at these epochs, such as covenants and other blocks of revelatory information.
- Ability to comprehend all of God’s activity and revelation. For example, a unifying center will need to have its starting point at creation, not at Genesis 3:15, the flood or the call of Abram. It will also need to explain God’s activity up to and including the eschaton.
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Dr. Rolland D. McCune served at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary from 1981 to 2009 as professor of systematic theology, dean of the faculty and president. He previously taught at Central Baptist Seminary for 14 years. He is the author of A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity, 3 vols. (Allen Park, MI: DBTS, 2008-2010) as well as other books and many journal articles. It is a truly a blessing to include him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.
Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Rolland D. McCune. Used by permission of the author.
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)