The Skeleton and the Bones:
The Parts Must Relate to the Whole
Dr. John Robbins teaches that the various parts of a system are explained by the whole. For example, some of the incredibly tiny and exquisitely shaped bones of our inner ear would be very difficult to understand if we were to examine them one at a time, individually. We might well not be able to comprehend what their function is. But their utility immediately becomes apparent when we see how they fit into the structure — the system — of the ear. To expand this analogy only slightly, most of us would be unable to identify a great many of the 206 bones that make up our skeletal system that if we were to view them individually. It is only when we see how they fit into the overall skeletal system that we come to a complete understanding of their contribution to the body.
The Bible, as I have said, is a complete, coherent, comprehensive, system of truth. Just as with the human skeleton, we aren’t going to completely understand the parts without a clear view of the whole. Unfortunately, even in churches that genuinely desire to feed the flock with the truth of God’s word, the pastor has no clear, unified theological system that he is following. He has no skeletal system to which he can attach the individual bones of truth. As
a result, each Sunday, he’ll pull out an individual bone from randomly selected parts of the theological body of knowledge and explain it to the congregation.
“Here’s the femur bone of God’s view of marriage.”
“Here’s the ulna bone of spiritual warfare.”
“Here’s the vertebrae of eternal security.”
Each Sunday the congregation learns all about a different bone, but nothing about how it relates to the whole! The people are handed a jumbled pile of disjointed, unrelated, isolated bones, which, apart from a theological system, have no real significance. You might approach a church member and ask him how he likes the teaching at his church.
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” the church member beams. He is dragging a large suitcase behind him.“I’ve been coming here ten years, and we almost always learn fascinating things about these bones!”
You glance curiously at the suitcase which he is straining to haul up the aisle. Perhaps he is packed for an extended trip to Europe. Your new friend notices your eyes flickering towards the heavy suitcase.
“Ah, you like my sermon notebook, eh?” he asks delightedly. “I have every one of Pastor Smith’s sermons in here.” He lets the suitcase fall to the floor with a heavy thump, unzips the cover, and throws it back. “See?” He looks up at you proudly. “I’ve saved every one of them!”
To your astonishment, you see that the huge suitcase is filled with dozens and dozens of bones! There are large bones and small bones, thick bones and slender ones, long and short bones, all tossed willy-nilly into the suitcase, like some sort of ghoulish chef’s salad. You realize that your mouth is hanging down somewhere near your chest, and you abruptly snap it shut again. You ask the first question that comes to your mind: “Wow, you sure have a lot of bones in there! What do you do with them all? How do they fit together?”
The church member stares silently, almost resentfully, back at you. His lips move, but no sound emerges. He has no answer to give you! He has sat faithfully in church, Sunday after Sunday, listening to sermons that have explained a great many theological parts, but he has no idea how these parts fit together into a unified whole.