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UNITY OF TRUTH

A book of theology historically designated a unified treatment of Christian Truth, and specific titles would speak of Systematic or Dogmatic Theology. Subsequent to the Reformation and as a result of the Enlightenment theology was divided into Systematic or Dogmatic Theology and Biblical Theology. This development led further to the appearance of New Testament Theology and Old Testament Theology. Later dissection led to the Theology of John, the Theology of Paul, or the theology of some other writer. This trend led to an unhealthy fracturing of the Christian Truth; the whole gave way to the parts, with the parts many times being presented as though they were at variance with each other. The unity and agreement of Christian Truth was undermined and lost.

An enduring question of Biblical studies is the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Some have rejected the Old Testament (Marcion); others have virtually made no distinction between the two. Some have said that the Old Testament is for Israel and the New Testament is for the Church (Dispensationalists). Perhaps the best approach is that ancient one expressed by Augustine of Hippo who believed that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. Central to this viewpoint is the conviction that there is an intimate relationship between the two Testaments, an essential unity—a unified message.

Part of the appeal of the Christian faith resides in its unified explanation of God and His holiness, of man and his predicament, and of Jesus and His atonement. God spoke through Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and John. It must be remembered, however, that it takes Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and John, and all of the other writers of Scripture, taken together, to give to us what God said. Individual writers must be studied, but never in and of themselves. They must be investigated in light of the other Biblical authors.

The writers of the Scriptures stand together; they do not stand alone. No single writer has the full Word of God—together, however, their writings are to be equated with God’s message to man. Each contributes, but none is exhaustive. Each author, standing alone, is in need—in need of the other authors. Each complements the others; each clarifies the others; each develops the others. Each contributes to the whole. It is the whole that must be studied; the parts are to be studied only as they relate to the whole. Every book of the Bible is needed to interpret any single book of the Bible; no author’s writings exist in isolation.

There is no theology of Paul; there is no theology of John; there is no theology of the Old Testament. Such concepts are misleading and confusing; they convey the image of a Bible composed of various writers’ impressions and reflections. An undue preoccupation with any single writer undercuts the essential unity of the message.

The Bible, however, is one Word from God and must be approached and studied with this overwhelming conviction that it is a single Word (a unified Word), though it was given, admittedly, progressively and selectively through individuals (see: Revelation was Progressive). But the individual authors should not be emphasized. It is the message to which they made a contribution which must be set forth. Essential is what God said, not what God said through Paul, John, or one of the other writers. When the input of each is taken the result is what God said. The diversity creates the unity and it is the unity which is indispensable.

The student should be interested in what the message says concerning hamartiology, not what Paul said, Moses said, Isaiah said, or Peter said concerning sin. To have the writings of either is not to have what God revealed concerning sin, but their contributions, along with the contributions of other Biblical writers, constitute God’s Word to man concerning sin. It is the unified Word concerning sin that is vital, not the individual contributions that are a part of the unity, but not the unity itself.

This is not to preclude the study of individual authors and books; they must be studied. That is the exegetical necessity. Theology must flow from exegesis! But the study of individual books is done with the goal of adding the result of the specific study to the results of other specific studies. The final product is an attempt at giving the message from God that is characterized by unity. To give prominence to a single author’s contribution (the Theology of Paul or the Theology of John) is to project an improper concept and is to undercut the truth that all the books are really one Book, and that all the words really constitute one Word from God. The study must be book by book, but the formulation after the study must unify all the books. The point is that no book can be studied in isolation.

Historically Scripture was viewed as a unity within diversity, but the modern concept produces diversity with no seemingly perceptible unity. This modern diversity yields an apparent conflict between the Jesus of the Gospels and the apostolic writers who emphasized the Christ, an inconsistency between the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament, differing perspectives regarding the nation of Israel produced by J, E, D, or P, and raises questions such as the number of writers of the book of Isaiah.

All such concepts stress diversity rather than unity, and for many the diversity is viewed as disparity or inconsistency between the different writers. But diversity does not necessitate disparity. Diversity is merely various approaches to the same truth, or complementing viewpoints from different authors who were inspired by the same Author. The proper view is that the diversity contributes to the unity—in fact, the diversity produces the unity.

A distinguishing and supernatural feature of the Holy Scriptures is this unity in diversity. This Scriptural phenomenon is reflective of the unity in diversity that characterizes the Divine Essence; there is one God, who exists as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As we meditate upon the Revelation we have of the Three, we are drawn to worship and adore the One. The unity of the Word is reflective of the unity of the One who spoke the Word.

There is one Book which exists as sixty-six books. As we meditate upon the various segments of the revealed Truth we are made to realize that each segment, like the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle, is significant only as it contributes to creating a single picture, a united Word from God. The beauty is seen in viewing the finished product in its totality not in framing for display a single piece or several pieces of the puzzle. To do so reveals a lack of insight into what the books really are—one Book.

The truth of YHWH endures forever.
Ps. 117:2


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