The Revolutionizing Your Bible Reading Series
The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’
Using “Family Theology” to Understand the Single Overarching Story Told Throughout the Scriptures, Which Makes the Bible Our Family History as Christians
Lovingly Dedicated to all who Love God and who love His Written Word of Love to us, the Bible
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Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another … By this all men will know that you are [Christians], if you love one another” (John 13:34-5). Jesus prayed to His Father “that all [Christians] may be one … so that the world may believe that You have sent me … May [Christians] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.” (John 17:21,23)
This book is meant to teach what I call “Family Theology,” a comprehensive interpretational framework for Bible reading which should help all Christians “get the most out of reading their Bible” because it ties all of both Testaments together and shows how the entire Biblical history flows naturally from the very nature of God as the Holy Trinity of Love, who exists as a Trinitarian Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Any individual Bible story one reads will fit into the single overarching story or ‘Big Picture’ of the Bible which is identified by Family Theology, and many Bible passages will make much more sense, and will much more wonderfully demonstrate the unbounded love of God, when viewed in terms of Family Theology (even passages which seem incomprehensible or even offensive to many Christians when viewed from other frameworks).
Family Theology combines classic Trinitarian Theology with Covenant Theology, a Biblical theological framework put together by my well-known theology professor Dr. Scott Hahn, drawing from Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant scholarship – thus it combines the insights of all who love the Bible as the inspired Word of God! All good theologians gain their highest insight by “standing on the shoulders of the giants” of those who have gone before them in lovingly contemplating the Divine Revelation of Jesus Christ in Person (the Living Word who dwells in our hearts) and in the Written Word (the Bible), as Dr. Hahn has done with his Covenant Theology framework and as I have attempted to do with my Family Theology framework built upon it.
Trinitarian Theology recognizes the family nature of the One God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the Spirit of love that binds the Family), and Covenant Theology starts from the principle that covenants make families (as indeed, the marriage covenant, the one covenant still common in our age, takes two parties who were not related and makes them into a new family). Thus all the Covenants in the Bible are a form of adoption into God’s Family. I offer this work on Family Theology to the reader in this still unpolished (though very readable) form because I am confident in the quality of the Family Theology framework thanks to the comments of my professor, noted Biblical theologian and author Dr. Scott Hahn. My original work on Family Theology was a greatly over-length term paper for him (now expanded and entitled Love Unbounded: Tracing Salvation History from the Eternal Trinity to the New Covenant Church – Using Family Theology to Answer the Question “How and Why Does Jesus’ Death Save Us?”) which Dr. Hahn wrote was “outstanding,” “excellent,” and “clear, thoughtful, and thorough.” I am distributing this book now so I can get feedback to help me improve the final version, and to get Family Theology’s framework for Bible reading out into the greater Christian Community because I believe it contains much to enrich the personal Bible reading of any Christian, as well as much to help today’s divided Christians to come together more and more as one loving family.
I was quite surprised when my work on Family Theology began to connect very significantly with what I thought was separate theological work on Church Unity and my studies of the Undivided Early Church. It turns out that Family Theology shows how the practical, lived reality of the Undivided Early Church was God’s intention for redeemed humanity right from the times of Adam and Noah! Truly understanding the nature and structure of the Undivided Early Church, which temporarily displayed God’s plan for redeemed humanity since Adam and Noah, is key to eventually healing the scandalous divisions which plague the Christian Church. Moreover, Family Theology also makes very explicit how God the Covenant Father committed himself since the time of Adam to patiently raise humanity to its maturity in love, which He did through a series of Covenant adoptions which each trained the adopted Covenant Family to an ever higher standard of love which the Covenant Family always took much time to mature in.
This means that the failures of the New Covenant Christian Church to remain in the loving unity it first had were expected by God. The previous Covenant Families of the Old Testament likewise often had initial success followed by failure in the lower standards of love God had set for them to strive for (failures including divisions, as between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of divided Israel). We must understand that our failures in love and unity as the New Covenant Christian Church were expected by God who is a wise and loving and above all patient Father, but that we must continue to strive to live by the standards of love given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the standards of unity given in Jesus’ above prayer from John 17, which directly links the belief of the world with the unity of Christians. After the First Millennium of Christian Unity in Diversity followed by the Second Millennium of Christian divisions, now is our opportunity to show God our Covenant Father that we are maturing in love as His children in the great and challenging task He gave us, by making this the Third Millennium of Christian reunification. Thus it is my hope that this book will:
1. help Christians to enjoy reading their entire Bible more as their own Family History, and help them come to ever deeper comprehension of the Loved Unbounded that is God the Holy Trinity: the Eternal Father of Love who sent the Eternal Son of Love Incarnate (Jesus the ‘New Adam’) to restore to humanity the indwelling Eternal Holy Spirit of Love lost by the first Adam, the “Spirit of Adoption” (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) which makes us God’s Family; and
2. help Christians to think about Christian unity the way the Undivided Early Church actually lived it – never a uniformity but always a mutually enriching unity in diversity, which should help us to see that with our current diversity while being already united in vast common faith (listed below) despite a few significant misunderstandings and disagreements, we are already much closer to the Undivided Early Church’s temporarily lived ideal than we usually realize. Each of the major divisions of Christianity today are the best today at preserving certain elements of the Undivided Early Church’s character and spiritual life, so we really can and must learn from each other for all of us to be all we are meant to be as the Church and Body on Earth of Jesus Christ. It is my hope this book models and will stimulate loving ecumenical dialogue between today’s divided Christians so that we can all come to mature together in love as God’s adopted Family, the Christian Church.
The “Common Creed” of Christianity: The Vast Common Faith of Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christianity (and “Messianic Judaism”) Which is the Basis for Restored Christian Unity in Diversity
the One God, Creator of the Universe, who is Love, exists as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, making Jesus fully God and fully man, able to make Atonement for the sins of all humanity, which He did by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead so that humanity can be forgiven and saved (and find human fulfillment) through Him; we acquire this forgiveness from sin and salvation unto eternal life through, drawn and empowered by God’s Grace, our turning away from sin (anti-love), accepting what Jesus has done for us and coming into loving, saving relationship with Him (and His Father and Holy Spirit) through belief and baptism, as He taught (Mark 16:16), which makes us members of the one Body of Christ the Church; Jesus’ literal Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; Jesus’ future return in glory and judgement and the bodily resurrection of all the dead; the tenets of traditional Christian morality (described in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages of Scripture) as how to be loving and so how to please the God who is Love; the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures which testify to all these things.
This above “common creed” encapsulates the essential or fundamental Christian teaching of all the Ecumenical (worldwide) and other major Councils of the Undivided Early Christian Church, Councils which the Catholic Church in its Western and Eastern Rites2 and the Eastern Orthodox Churches consider to have established the irrevocable norms of Christian faith in the early centuries of Christianity, and it also encapsulates all the details of the early 20th Century “Fundamentals” tract series which began the Protestant Fundamentalist movement as well as the details usually included in the many conservative and Evangelical Protestant creedal “statements of faith” (the early 20th Century Protestant Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements were “doctrinally conservative,” orthodox responses to the huge “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox trend within the earlier Protestant “mainline” churches). Those Protestant “mainline” denominations and congregations which are going increasingly “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox may or may not still preserve with certainty all of these ancient fundamental beliefs of orthodox Christianity (orthodoxy means “right teaching,” as opposed to unorthodox or heretical teaching). The above common Christian beliefs are the wonderful, life-changing, saving truths of Christianity which “turned the world upside down” in barbaric times and transformed the ancient world with God’s Love, truths which still make Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christians brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and most certainly instruments of God’s salvation in the world (despite our misunderstandings and disagreements over some of our different secondary doctrines, differences which each side sees in the light of the above common fundamentals we are already agreed on).
The “Doctrinally Liberal” Streams of the Protestant “Mainline” Denominations Which Do Not (Or Do Not with Certainty) Hold All of the above “Common Creed” Still Have Basis for Dialogue but Lack the Extremely Profound Basis of Unity of the above Churches
I do not wish to simply write off the huge “doctrinally liberal” portion of historical or “mainline” Protestant Christianity, especially since many self-described “liberal” Christians are not actually unorthodox or heretical but simply not as certain about the Christian fundamentals as they should be. Many “liberals” have genuine saving Christian faith in Jesus and personal loving relationship with Him; many are genuinely in touch with the above orthodox Christian Mysteries with their proven historic power to transform lives and societies for the better, despite the modern confusion within their churches mostly thanks to certain 16th to 18th Century Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment era ideas. Nevertheless, the lack of absolute certainty about the traditional, essential, fundamental tenets of spiritually powerful, historically world-changing, orthodox Christianity even at the highest denominational level means the “liberal” mainline Protestant churches lack the solid major foundation towards building Christian unity which the Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/ Evangelical Protestant churches possess, and thus my books which promote the rebuilding of Christian unity in diversity as in the Undivided Early Church are addressed primarily to these churches which are currently formally separated but which are already most profoundly united in the above common saving Christian faith (whereas Protestant “liberals” have no consistency even amongst themselves, as to which bits of historic and powerful Christianity they will accept or reject). It is my hope that as the Catholic, Orthodox, and doctrinally conservative Protestant/Evangelical Christian churches which are confident about traditional Christian orthodoxy gradually unite in ever more beautiful loving expressions of Christian unity in diversity modeled after the Undivided Early Church (even while our formal divisions remain), that the “doctrinally liberal” Protestant churches which question, doubt, or outright deny fundamental aspects of traditional Christian faith will become ‘jealous’ and will consider once again embracing traditional Christian orthodoxy with certainty in order to be part of this beautiful and enriching communion Jesus intended for His Body the Church (and I hope that the many more-or-less “nominal” or “in-name-only” members of all fundamentally orthodox Christian churches, members who have been unduly influenced by the greater culture’s secularist ideas and lifestyles, will similarly become motivated to really practice their church’s orthodox Christian faith).
Introduction to the Excerpts in this Shortened Edition
This current volume is a collection of excerpts from a much longer work; for much more detail on the “Family Theology” which helps Christians to “get the most out of reading their Bible” and which helps them to see the path to restoring the 1st Millennium Christian Church’s loving unity in diversity which was lost in the 2nd Millennium, see the full version of The Bible’s ‘Big Picture.’ For much more detail which does more to “prove” from the Scriptures, Christian history, and reason certain things simply asserted here, see my book Love Unbounded: Tracing Salvation History from the Eternal Trinity to the New Covenant Church – Using Family Theology to Answer the Question “How and Why Does Jesus’ Death Save Us?” For a much more thorough treatment of the topics of Ecumenism and Church Unity, including practical steps for talking about our differences as Christians while maintaining our brotherly Christian affection for each other on the basis of our common Bible and vast common faith (listed above) “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21,23), see my 3-volume book So That The World May Believe: A Call to Christian Unity – Teaching Christians How to Restore the Lost Unity in Diversity of the Undivided Early Church Through Lovingly Seeking to Truly Understand Each Other’s Differences While Celebrating Our Vast Common Saving Christian Faith “So That the World May Believe”.
Contents – 12 Groupings of Excerpts (and some Highlights)
The Single Overarching Story Told in the Bible: The Gift, Loss and Eventual Restoration of the Indwelling Holy Spirit of Supernatural Adoption Through the Means of a Series of Lesser Legal, Covenant Adoptions Through Which God the Father of Love Raised His One Ongoing Covenant Family to Gradually Higher and Higher Stages of Maturity in Love
Family Theology Explains Both Biblical History and Christian History as the One Story of God’s One Ongoing Covenant Family Being Patiently Raised to Maturity in Love
Salvation Is a Work of the Whole Trinity of Love: God the Father of Love Sent Jesus the Son of Love Incarnate to Restore to Humanity the Indwelling Holy Spirit of Love Which Makes Us Supernaturally Adopted Children of God
5: What the Parable of the Prodigal Son and His Loving Father Tells Us About Father God’s Intentions Towards Both the Faithful (Jewish) and Fallen Away (Gentile) Nations of Humanity Descended from Adam and Noah
God is Lawmaker and Judge Only Because He is First a Loving Father, Who Establishes the Family Rules (Law) and Enforces Them (Judgment)
Through the Series of Biblical Covenants God Raises His Covenant Child Humanity to Gradually More Mature Standards of Love Just Like Human Parents Raise Their Children
The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church (The Formation of the Different but United Culturally-based Rites of the Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) Church, the Different ‘Sister Churches’ in the Universal (Catholic) Communion of Sister Churches Known Collectively in the First Millennium as the Catholic Church)
Part 1: The Old Testament History Leading up to the New Covenant Christian Church
Part 2: The New Testament Spread of the Gospel From Christian (‘Messianic’) Jews to the Gentiles
Part 3: The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Formation of the Original Pentarchy of Five Patriarchates (Church Provinces) of Different Culturally-Based Sister Churches or Rites Which Together Clearly Articulated and Established the Traditional Essential Fundamentals of Christian Orthodoxy (Against Many Early Christian Heretical Interpretations of the Bible) at the First Millennium Ecumenical (Worldwide) Councils of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
One Body One Spirit: God Already Treats Us as One Body Despite Our Current Divisions – the Holy Spirit Fell in Power at the Protestant Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas on New Year’s Eve, 1900, Beginning the Protestant Pentecostal Movement (Which Was Later Mainstreamed in Protestant and Catholic Churches as the Charismatic Movement) – on Exactly the Same Evening Pope Leo XIII Was at Mass in Rome Formally Dedicating the 20th Century to the Holy Spirit, after Leading Catholic Christians for Years to Pray for Exactly Such an Outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church (God Sent the Holy Spirit Initially on Protestant Christians in Response to Catholic Christian Prayer Because Despite Our Divisions We Are One Body of the Redeemed in Christ)
Learning from Each Other: We All Need to Be Both “People of the Table” and “People of the Book” Exercising Our Gifts from the Holy Spirit If We Are to Recapture the Success of the Undivided Early Church
10: “Catholic at Heart” – What Fundamentally Orthodox Protestant/ Evangelical/ Pentecostal Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians and Catholic Christians Are Already United in Is Precisely the Catholic Faith of the Undivided Early Catholic Church
11: A Proposal for the Reunification of Today’s Divided Christians According to the Model of the Undivided Early (Catholic) Church’s Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, for the Great Benefit of Both Today’s Catholic and Non-Catholic Churches and Towards the Belief of the World Which Jesus’ Prayer Linked to Our Christian Unity
including: Ecumenical Conclusion of these Excerpts
12: The Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican Council II) Which Recently and for the First Time in an Ecumenical Council of the Church Clearly Defined (Above) the Nature and Structure of the Ancient Undivided Early Church (Which Has Tremendous Implications for the Eventual Re-establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity), Officially Recognizes the Holy Spirit as the Source of the Church’s Unity and “Places its Hope [For Reunification] Entirely in the Prayer of Christ for the Church, in the Love of the Father for Us, and in the Power of the Holy Spirit”
© 2007, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
Go To Next Section The Great Importance of the Bible to the World as Well as the Church
Go To the Beginning of this Book Excerpts from The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’
2Also called Western and Eastern Sister Churches within the Universal (Greek katholikos, or Catholic) Christian Communion of Eastern and Western Sister Churches collectively known as the Catholic Church. This Christian Communion gathers around the pope as its visible center of unity. The Western, Roman Catholic Church, is currently by far the largest Rite or Sister Church in the Catholic Communion, though this was not always the case.