Pink Floyd, creators of acidy rock, created albums designed to be played in their entirety. The flow of music and thought was intended to be a continual stream from start to finish, often there is no break in between songs. They succeeded well in this: listening to a Pink Floyd song on the radio can be an experience in incompleteness as the song doesn’t seem to fully resolve. This was such a strong point for them that they sued their record label who had allowed their songs to be sold individually.
A recent discussion with a member at church drove this point home in a recent discussion about biblical interpretation. Often the Bible is mined for verses in order to support a topic, point, or doctrine. People go to the Bible with questions they want answered and texts are found that discuss that point. The text is viewed as one continuous story from start to end, therefore individual passages can and should be harmonized to support ideas.
I humbly suggest that this is not how the Bible should function. While there is certainly an over-arching theme of God’s work in the lives of his people and carries out his redemptive plan, there are also significant differences.
The most obvious example to me is the gospel accounts. As early as the second century, Tatian compiled the Diatessaron (through four in Greek), a harmony of the four canonical gospel accounts. The early church, however, dismissed Tatian’s noble efforts in their canonization process. It’s not that the work contained heretical or inappropriate since he merely complied and harmonized the existing stories. It’s that in combining the four, the story lines and emphases of the individual accounts was lost. Each gospel writer is intentionally painting a distinct picture of Jesus; their selection and arrangement of stories shapes their point and is lost otherwise.
Likewise, Paul’s Letters (the other bulk of the NT) are mostly written to confront and counter specific situations and events in the early church. Galatians, with it’s emphasis on freedom from the Law would not make sense to Corinth, where an excess of freedom was the issue. The concern over the second coming would be nice information to Philippi, but would not directly address the issue of the two disagreeing ladies.
Even Acts shapes the history of the early church around the distribution of the gospel foretold in 1:8.
One could collect phrases or lines from Shakespeare’s sonnets or plays, and while one would have a series of his thoughts, they would not make nearly as much sense as they did in context. Even those that explain principles or tautologies are enhanced by considering the broader themes of the texts.
God did not inspire chapters (added in 1220’s) or verses (1551), he inspired books. If we are to speak of a Pink Floyd approach to the text, it should be to individual books which deserve to be read, considered, understood, and then placed in a larger worldview and applied. Sit down and listen to a Floyd album in its entirety and enjoy the stream of thought. Do the same with a biblical book, and make the most of it.