In 2014, a movie was released called The Theory of Everything. It told the story of Stephen Hawking, the brilliant British scientist widely considered to be among the smartest people in the world. Hawking is a physicist famous for developing a theory of the cosmos incorporating the latest ideas about general relativity and quantum mechanics.
The movie was designed to portray Hawking’s brilliance. But as his story unfolds, we see him depicted as an unfaithful husband, an adulterer, a pornography devotee and a divorcee. The message to the discerning viewer? Hawking may be an intellectual tour de force, but he is simultaneously revealed to be a moral pigmy. Clearly, his understanding of this world in its fullest sense—material and moral—falls woefully short as a “theory of everything.”
But there is another work—God’s Word, the Bible—that actually represents the true “theory of everything.” The Bible is a comprehensive and accurate representation of this world, including its origin, its development and its underlying realities—both material and moral. In it, God tells the world what is vital to know regarding His purpose and plan for creation. Most importantly, the Bible tells the reader about the dire effects of sin and how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, rescues the repentant believer who trusts in His atoning sacrifice.
Given this, it is astounding how many professing Christians fail to appreciate the information revealed in the Bible. Because God’s Word proposes truth often in diametric opposition to the world’s perspective, many professing believers disregard—or worse, distort—what God has to say about this world and its operation. As a result, modern evangelical Christianity has, to a large extent, lost sight of many truths God wants His people to know.
This theological drift really hit home to me several years ago. While helping to oversee a Stanford ministry called Cardinal Life, I sensed a profound biblical illiteracy among the students. Many of these students, while earnest and zealous for the Christian faith, had an anemic understanding of what that faith actually entails. In particular, I was saddened at how biblical revisionism had robbed these students of an ability to comprehend the profound, mesmerizing cohesion of God’s message from beginning to end.
Because of this, there grew within me a desire to present these students a comprehensive survey of God’s Word, from beginning to end. I wanted to show the students how God wrote the Bible as a clear and comprehensive presentation of His purpose and plan for creation. I wanted the students to know the Bible’s unequivocal propositional truths, and that its essential elements are not up for debate. Finally, I desired to show them how the Bible is meant to be understood and embraced in its plain-meaning, using the same cognitive skills that one uses to interpret any other informational text.
We titled the lecture series “God’s Glorious Story,” based upon the Bible’s central theme—that God is glorious and that His glory will be revealed. The material for the lecture series derived predominantly from the teaching of Pastor John MacArthur of Grace Community Church and his ministry, Grace to You. About halfway through the series, I contacted Pastor MacArthur to see if he thought the lectures would have value in a published format. Pastor MacArthur has authored well over one hundred works in his prolific career, but had yet to write a synopsis of the entire Bible. He thought it was a terrific idea, and offered to write a Foreword upon review of the finished manuscript.
The book, God’s Glorious Story, thus recapitulates the lectures as they were taught. It begins with two chapters covering the “ground rules” for studying the Bible, unveiling fourteen qualities about the Bible which make it the unique and inimitable written Word of God: it is divinely-inspired, infallible, inerrant, complete, authoritative, sufficient, necessary, effective, determinative, ontological (i.e. universally binding), immutable/ eternal, perspicuous (i.e. clear), sustenance for the soul, and mysteriously inter-related with the personification of God.
From there, God’s Glorious Story explores what the Bible says about God before time began. It shows that God had an underlying motive for creation—to bequeath His glory to His Son. Not only that, God had a means for that to happen—His Son would suffer and die and thereby redeem a “bride” of sinners, that they might give the Son perfect praise throughout eternity. Finally, God conceived a message delineating His plan—His holy Word.
The fourth chapter explores the origins of the earth and of humanity. The first half presents five theological imperatives which necessitate a literal understanding of the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. The second part presents catastrophism, as opposed to uniformitarianism, as the proper paradigm for understanding the manner by which the world began, and by which it will end.
Chapters 5 through 7 tackle the problem of evil. Chapter 5 presents the fundamental reality that all humans are born spiritually dead and in need of spiritual “rebirth,” a rebirth that is completely out of our own hands to initiate. Chapter 6 explains why God permitted the intrusion of evil into His creation, and exposes why Arminianism and its idea of autonomous free will is a faulty philosophy for understanding the purposes of God. Finally, Chapter 7 shows how, even in the Garden of Eden, God had a plan in place for the redemption of sinners: repentant faith and hope on the part of humans, atonement and security on the part of God.
Chapters 8 through 10 present God’s purpose for Israel. Chapter 8 shows the history of Israel in the framework of the four covenants God gives to Israel (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants). Chapter 9 examines whether the covenantal promises of God to Israel are now nullified and transferred to the Church (as many modern evangelicals contend) and answers this question by looking at how the Old Testament writers, the inter-testamental Jews, and Jesus all view the ongoing relevance of these promises. Chapter 10 then shows how the New Testament writers all view the covenantal promises of God to Israel, and how God’s plan for Israel factors in the future of this world.
Chapter 11 transitions to the New Testament and is the apogee of the book, for it explores God’s most glorious revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. In particular, it explores the significance of the birth, triumphal entry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus by asking and answering five questions around these events: Why did Jesus have to live? Why did Jesus have to arrive in Jerusalem as He did? Why did Jesus have to die? Why did Jesus have to rise again? And, finally, why did Jesus have to go away?
Chapters 12 and 13 explore the Church Age. Chapter 12 describes the early Church and reveals six qualities that led to its exponential growth. Chapter 13 brings us to the present, detailing what Christ meant in speaking about the “Kingdom of God,” the overarching task for the Church today, and Jesus’ “report card” on the early Church.
Turning toward the future, Chapters 14 and 15 explore what comes next for this world, the ordo eschaton: Rapture, Tribulation, Second Coming, Millennial Kingdom, and Great White Throne Judgment. Finally, Chapter 16 reviews all that has been learned, presents the grand finale God has planned with the New Heaven and New Earth, and ends with an offer for the reader to repent and believe.
Stephen Hawking may be intelligent, but his insight falls far short as a “theory of everything.” There is only one Source for that, God Himself. And His Word, the Bible, is no simple “theory of everything.” Rather, it is the truth about everything, and God’s Glorious Story is written so that God’s people might know it from beginning to end.