In God’s Big Picture, Church of England minister Vaughan Roberts sets out to “provide all Christians … with an overview of the whole Bible that will help them see how the different parts fit together.”1Page 10. Roberts states that he grasped the need for such a book after realizing that, even with a theology degree, he was not sure how Scripture fit together as a whole: “[At university], we looked for the message of Ezekiel, Jonah, or John without considering how those biblical books contribute to or fit in with the message of the Bible as a whole.”219. He acknowledges that he draws heavily on Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel and Kingdom as that was the first book that he read that attempted to draw the whole of Scripture together.
Roberts utilizes the kingdom motif, just as Goldsworthy does. He acknowledges that there have been many attempts to identify a unifying theme in Scripture and that harm has been done by forcing a theme on Scripture that is not broad enough to encompass the entirety of Scripture. “Any unifying theme … must arise out of Scripture itself … and must be broad enough to allow each part to make its own distinct contribution. The theme of the kingdom of God satisfies both requirements.”321, emphasis mine. Roberts continues by defining the kingdom of God as, “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing.”4Ibid. This definition closely mirrors that of Goldsworthy.
Using the kingdom theme, Roberts divides Scripture into eight alliterative sections. He addresses each section in a chapter of the book. Included at the end of each chapter is a mini-Bible study with related questions.
A valuable aspect of this text is it’s everyman accessibility. Roberts’ style is conversational and engaging. The book reads almost like a transcript for a series of talks more than it does a textbook. This is a quick read at just over 150 pages. The downside is that there is little examination of other views of summing up Scripture. If I had to choose an introductory book for students, I would not choose God’s Big Picture. Instead, I would suggest a book such as The Drama of Scripture by Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, which includes extensive footnotes and a thematic exploration of Scripture.
After reading God’s Big Picture, I’m left wondering whether the kingdom is actually the overriding theme of Scripture. Roberts acknowledges that, “there is one supreme subject that binds [the Bible] together: Jesus Christ and the salvation God offers through him.”517. I would have preferred Roberts stick to that idea rather than focusing on the kingdom concept. It seems the author actually does what he suggests others do: “They warn of the danger of squeezing all parts of the Bible into a mold rather than letting them speak individually in their rich variety.”620.
The illustrations seemed like an afterthought. Perhaps the publisher inserted these and Roberts wasn’t responsible, but they were poorly designed and did little to visually communicate the author’s ideas.
Overall, I benefitted from this text. Though I am uncomfortable with Roberts’ argument that the kingdom is the overall motif of Scripture, I would recommend it to laity who want a brief overview of Scripture. I have met Vaughan and have heard him speak, and I trust teaching.