For the past three years I've been teaching ancient biblical history for 9th graders. This class essentially amounts to "Biblical Theology for High Schoolers." When I was first asked to teach the class, I had really no idea how to go about doing that. I was reading a lot in biblical theology at the time and was largely unconvinced by the idea of central unifying theme. However, I also wasn't convinced that the Bible was all diversity with random streams of thought in each book. I also wasn't convinced by the idea that Jesus is the central unifying theme of all of Scripture. I believed that all of Scripture testified about Christ and I also believed that the Prophets and Law spoke concerning Christ (see John 5 and Luke 24), but I found it unhelpful as THE central unifying principle.
With class being the next day and with time for writing my lesson running out, I threw my hands in the air (like I just didn't care...sorry, I couldn't resist) and said, "What if there isn't a unifying theme but a unifying question?! And what if the answer to that question was manifold? Therefore, each topic in biblical theology seeks to answer the same question."
What could that question be?
I thought back to my junior year in college when I took a class on Romans. My professor, Dr. Horn, argued that rather than Romans 9-11 being a set of throwaway chapters, they were actually central to the argument of the entire book. They were seeking to answer the question, "How can all of the good blessings promised to believers in Romans chapters 3-8 be true if God had failed to keep his covenants to rebellious Israel?"
There it is. There was the question. What if the book of Romans was essentially a microcosm of all of Israel and mankind's story, which is told in the entire Bible?
It was then that I resolved to teach my students that the Bible asks a central question: "Is God able to keep his covenants, even when things look bad?" Later, after reading Matt Chandler's The Explicit Gospel, modified the statement to say (what now every student who has taken any Bible class with me can recite by heart):
"Is God able to keep his covenants, both to the individual and the cosmos, even when things look bad?"
To which God responds, "Yes. Yes I can."
Later I will post several themes that I see interacting with this and how this question is seen in all 66 books of the Bible.