The following is an excerpt from The Whole Thing by Jason English. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
The Whole Thing: Fragments
The Bible is often explained with an overwhelming emphasis on the brokenness of the world.
This book is my wholehearted, simplified explanation of the Bible.
I want to explain what I think the whole thing is about. Where it’s coming from. Where it’s headed. And how the story isn’t about brokenness, but wholeness.
This is my attempt to teach the story of the entire Bible in a way that is simple, fresh and memorable.
I’m not trying to explain everything. I’m trying to explain the whole thing.
Our English understanding of the word Torah is a bit misleading (this seems to happen quite often,
actually). The word Torah is usually translated as “Law,” but that translation is actually a tiny bit off. The Hebrew word itself means to instruct, and the root of this word means to point in a certain direction.
Like a finger pointing.
Later, God even carved the ten things in stone with his finger.
“When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God.”
To simply narrow Torah down to the basic word “Law,” misses the point.
Torah means GO THIS WAY.
Can you see the image? The Invisible One, Who holds vast amounts of eternal, hidden knowledge, speaks to make something known.
The giving of the Ten Things was the moment God initiated the next part of the story – the story of God setting people free from the slavery of unknowing. Let’s think about the logic of this moment. God set his people free from slavery, but then they had to figure out what to do next. Where would they go? If they weren’t slaves, who were they?
The One true God didn’t leave them in a state of
unknowing, but spoke instructions to them and pointed the way.
Often, the pointing of the finger can seem like an accusation. This can be a hang-up for some. Maybe you think that somehow this story is about you
doing something wrong.
To make matters worse, many religious people do actively point at others in accusation. This kind of pointing has a darkness to it. (Interestingly, the name Satan comes from the
Hebrew HaSatan, meaning the accuser.) But God’s story is not the story of a judgmental, religious person. It’s a story for former slaves who don’t know where to go, so God points the way.
But to where?
May you realize how lonely you aren’t.
May you begin to believe in the eternal things over the temporary things. If you are willing to externalize the tension intentionally, and even artistically, you have a lot to offer the rest of us.
Some of the best art ever made came out of difficult circumstances.
There is a rabbinic concept called kavanah, which means direction, intention, or devotion.
The idea is to choose to set the direction of your heart toward God”
“It is a good thing to know the direction of your own heart.
If you are curious. If you struggle. If you doubt. It means that you are attempting faith. You are attempting to see what you can’t quite see.
You can question God…
even as you set your heart in the direction that God is pointing…
even if you still don’t know where that is.
When I was 22, I got a flyer in the mail. It was one of those get-rich-quick flyers. The system they were selling was $19.95. I hesitantly admit that I bought it. A week later, a VHS tape showed up in the mail. I was excited. I’d just watch a video, do what it said, and I’d be rich. Sounded awesome. In the video, there was a guy giving a seminar, using a flip chart, explaining how to sell the video.
Let me repeat that. The video was of a guy explaining how to sell the video.
Did you catch that? There was no product.
I’m afraid that much of the message of Christianity has been reduced to this.
Step one: Say you believe in Jesus.
Step two: Tell other people to believe in Jesus.
Step three: Why? So they can tell other people to believe in Jesus.
What do we do after believing in Jesus? What does believing in Jesus lead to? Does it only lead to convincing other people to believe in Jesus?
Have we come to a place where we think that convincing someone else to believe what we believe is the good news? Are we trying to get people to believe something that we don’t even understand ourselves? What are we doing?
From the voice of the invisible came the visible. God did not create from nothing, but from himself. God said let there be light, and we later find out that God is light.[1 John 1.5]. God is the very thing that he spoke. Creation is made ofGod. He began with light, and then created water and sky and ground, plants and animals and everything else. Well, almost.
Finally, a man and a woman were made in the image of God.
The invisible God had an image, a likeness that was masculine and feminine.
The Hebrew word for image is tselem, meaning resemblance.
The Hebrew word adam was used to describe humanity.
And this word comes from the word adama, meaning earth.
God formed humanity from the dust of the earth. From the dirt.
We are dirt-people, and we look like God.
We are made of the visible stuff that came from the voice of the invisible God. God made it then made us from it. Humanity is not just made in the image of God, but made of the image of God.
This is the beginning of our story. It’s not bad being made of the dirt. After humanity was formed, God said that it was very good.
The man and the woman didn’t walk in that truth very well.
Disobedience and brokenness entered the story very, very quickly. They didn’t stay grounded in their true identity. They disobeyed their Creator,
demonstrating that they didn’t completely trust him. Then they covered their bodies, no longer able to see each other for who they were initially made to be.
And thus, they were sentenced to return to the earth, back to the dirt, in death. The consequences of disobedience are costly, and not to be taken lightly.
This happened so quickly, in fact, that brokenness is often the primary focus of the human narrative. But let’s remember that the initial act of God in our part of the story was creating the man and woman in his image.
Our disobedience doesn’t define us. Our likeness does.
The root of the human narrative is not brokenness, but wholeness.
The burden of death that came from the consequence of disobedience was redeemed in and through Christ. And now humanity’s connection with the dirt is an indicator of our potential.
Praise for The Whole Thing
“Jason English writes with a spirit of awe. He welcomes his readers with a breath of fresh air. Through the eyes of a neo-rabbinical thinker, he weaves the prophetic language of both the Torah and the Gospel into a vernacular of using imagery to show the awesomeness of God, imaging himself throughout salvation history. His critical thinking and exegetical cleverness births a renewed look at reviewing Biblical history, prophetic orations, and wisdom literature. This is a must-read book.”
—Dr. Harvey Shropshire, former Chairman of the Department of Religion at Barber-Scotia College, Former Professor of Biblical Languages at Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary.
“The Whole Thing is a compelling narrative that will spur readers on to delve further into the study of Scripture in pursuit of God and their own identity in Him. Jason has an incredible gift for communicating deep truths that have been lost through languages and culture but still have so much relevance and significance for us today!”
—Joy Marinelli Cover, President of Freedom 4/24
“I’m a HUGE fan of Jason’s teachings. His ability to take ancient biblical texts and paint a relevant picture that I can understand has literally helped alter the course of my life. This book is a perfect example of the great gift he’s been given.”
—Doc Hendley, Author of Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World, Founder and President of Wine to Water, Top 10 CNN Hero
“The Whole Thing will motivate you to explore the Story afresh. I believe it holds the possibility of healing wounded relationships with the sacred text, for healing wounded relationships with the One who writes our stories.”
—Chuck Degroat, Professor of Counseling and Christian Spirituality at Western Theological Seminary, Co-Founder and Senior Fellow at Newbigin House of Studies, Author of Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self
About the Author
Jason English lives in Boone, NC with his wife, Kimberly, and their two daughters, Grey and Violet. He is the teaching pastor of a church family called theHeart. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Public Speaking at Appalachian State University and a Visiting Professor of Biblical Studies at Charlotte Christian College and Theological Seminary.
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