Christians have more access to Scripture than ever before. At the same time, study after study reveals that our time actually reading the Bible is declining. If we’re honest, most of us have experienced difficulty with getting into the Word and really engaging with the text.
Why is this the case, and how can we overcome our tendency to leave our Bibles unread?
On this episode of the podcast I speak with Alex Goodwin, co-founder of the Institute for Bible Reading and the author of The Bible Reset: Simple Breakthroughs to Make Scripture Come Alive.
In this conversation Alex and I discuss:
- How some of the modern formatting in our Bibles creates friction that slows down our reading
- The benefits of reading large sections (or even entire books) of the Bible in one sitting
- Why we should read Scripture in community with other believers
- How understanding what he calls the ‘six act drama’ of Scripture can help us connect the Bible’s central themes and get more out of our study.
Listen to or watch the full conversation below and find some ways that you can reset your Bible reading habits.
Watch the Conversation
Listen to the Conversation
Meet Our Guest
Alex Goodwin got his Marketing degree from Virginia Tech in 2012 and promptly moved west to Colorado. Alex helped co-found the Institute for Bible Reading in 2016 and served as Senior Director, Marketing Communications before he was appointed Executive Director in 2021. He currently lives with his wife and two children in Colorado Springs, CO.
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- Institute for Bible Reading
- The Immerse Bible
- Pick up a copy of The Bible Reset | Read a Sample Chapter
- How Long it Takes to Read the Old Testament
- How Long it Takes to Read the New Testament
- How to Read the Bible Like George Whitefield
- Read The Whole New Testament In 40 Days In Your Spare Time
A Fresh Approach to Bible Engagement
Take your Bible reading from frustrating to fulfilling and connect with Scripture like you’ve always hoped.
Read the Transcript
Clay Kraby: Alex, thanks so much for joining me. Welcome to the podcast.
Alex Goodwin: Thanks so much for having me.
Clay Kraby: You bet. Now, can you share a little bit about yourself and your family and what your ministry looks like?
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, sure. So, I grew up on the East Coast, just outside of Washington DC. Went to a great little church in Northern Virginia. I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I went to college at Virginia Tech down in the Southwest Virginia area, in the Blue Ridge Mountains down there. I studied marketing. And that was really where I started kind of taking my faith a little bit more seriously. And so, after college, I moved west to Colorado, Colorado Springs, and wanted to try to blend business education with ministry. And lo and behold, there are plenty of options here in Colorado Springs for doing that. It’s kind of a hotspot of Christian ministry. I got involved with Bible ministry here, which has its own interesting backstory, but I have been involved with that for a number of years and am living here with my wife and two kids and, actually, one more on the way in January.
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Clay Kraby: Oh, hey, well, congratulations on that. Beautiful spot to be and, yeah, I’ve got a marketing background as well. So interesting connection there that you kind of seeking to put those two things together. And as you said, there’s lots of opportunity for doing that.
Alex Goodwin: Lots of great ministries here in the Springs.
Cofounder of Institute for Bible Reading focuses on Bible engagement and education
Clay Kraby: Now, you’re co-founder of Institute for Bible Reading. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is and how that came about?
Alex Goodwin: Sure. So it was actually me and three others from the Bible publishing industry. And it was me, I was 25 years old at the time with three kind of industry veterans, I would say, who had been in the industry for much longer. And we had all kind of come to this, I guess, crisis of conscience, you could call it, where we were involved every day with shipping out millions of Bibles with different themes and different focuses. Sometimes, it would be the teen’s Bible or the busy parent’s Bible or whatever. And we were shipping out all these Bibles, seeing the Bible as the best-selling book every single year and then simultaneously seeing reading trends just going in the opposite direction and seeing even last year 2022, I think, the State of the Bible report said that 26 m million people in America either completely or mostly stopped reading the Bible. And so we kind of came to this realization that, okay, simply having a Bible is not kind of the one-and-done key to success with a good kind of immersive Bible reading. And so we said, okay, there’s got to be some missing ingredients here. There’s got to be some things that are out of whack with kind of what happens when somebody receives a Bible that’s leading to failure. And so we founded the Institute for Bible Reading, just laser-focused on Bible engagement and on kind of educating people and giving them tools, to read the Bible well. And in a lot of cases, our tools and our solutions are based on things that aren’t, talked about very much and are kind of overlooked in the solutions space as far as it goes with Bible engagement.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, that’s great. And I’ll be sure to link to the Institute for Bible Reading any of the resources that we talk about during the episode. If you’re listening, you want to dig deeper into this conversation, you can find those resources at Reset.
The Bible Reset Book
Clay Kraby: And that’s the main thing that we’re going to be talking about. You’ve got a situation where the average Christian has three, four, five Bibles in the house, and yet they’re not picking up that Bible and reading it. And so you’re also the author of a book called The Bible Reset. And you’re trying to help people overcome and really correct that issue to where, yes, they have access to the Bible more than ever, and maybe aren’t engaging with it, aren’t reading it as much as they ought to be. So, can you talk a little bit about how the book itself came about and what you hope to really help people through with it?
Alex Goodwin: Sure. So, in many ways, the book is kind of written to myself ten years ago, I would say. Like I said, I grew up in the church. The Bible was always around. And I knew stories, I knew some of the key verses, the principles, the propositions, those sorts of things. But, I didn’t really have a relationship with the Bible, or I guess maybe I could say with God through the Bible. It just wasn’t a very useful conduit for me for connecting with God. And, every time I opened it up, I would just end up kind of confused or frustrated by it, or just bored. Like, what am I supposed to be doing with this very long passage in Deuteronomy that just doesn’t really seem to be for me in any way? And I think a lot of people are in that place. Like, they know the Bible is important. They know that they’re supposed to be reading it, but it’s kind of, eat your vegetables, sort of chore. It’s just not a pleasant experience. And so a lot of times they end up just drifting from the Bible and they end up kind of outsourcing the Bible to their pastor or to YouTube videos or to somebody else, to kind of, give them the Cliff Notes version so they can get the key takeaways and not really need to dive into it themselves. And so the main premise of the book is that, in a lot of ways, Christians have been set up to fail with the Bible. We’ve inherited a lot of obstacles and hurdles and bad habits around Scripture engagement that just make it more difficult to read than it needs to be. And so the Bible reset is really just aimed at uncovering what those things are, those things that are kind of built into our Bible engagement ecosystem that make it more difficult to read than it needs to be. And then it kind of charts a path forward that’s a little bit different from the things that they typically hear that are, hey, get a journal while you read, or find a consistent time of day. All those things are fine, but they’re not kind of the sort of systemic changes that I advocate for in the book. And so it’s really just one resource for those people, that consolidates the Institute for Bible Reading’s point of view into one kind of accessible resource for people to say, hey, what are some things that I can really overhaul with how I try to engage with Scripture and potentially get some very different results?
Clay Kraby: Yeah, and that’s one of the interesting things in going through the book very early on beginning pages, you realize that this isn’t a book filled with tips and tricks and hacks. It’s not a book that’s pushing some digital tool to help you go through those things. But it’s very back to the basics, looking at the structure and looking at some hurdles that, frankly, I think a lot of people probably don’t think of. I know I didn’t put a ton of thought into it.
How the formatting of our Bibles can hinder reading
Clay Kraby: And you make the argument that the formatting of our Bibles can really lead to some significant hurdles for actually reading and engaging with Scripture. Can you describe what the issue is and why that can be the case?
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, well, the short answer is that the format of our Bibles is not made for reading. We’ve kind of gotten used to it. As Christians, we open up the Bible and we’re like, yeah, this is what a Bible is supposed to look like. But if you kind of just look at it objectively, it’s not something that invites you to really sit down and enjoy the reading experience of putting your eyes on paper. It looks more like a textbook, looks more like a dictionary. Something that you just go into and reference and grab things out of it. And it really came when I started to understand the history of the Bible and its development as a book, where I had these mind-blowing moments where I considered where chapters and verses came from for the first time. Like, it had always just been something that I’d taken for granted. And when you learn that they’ve only been around for less than 500 years, and that they were put in there as tools to help scholars write commentaries and concordances, you’re like, oh, well, that’s interesting. Why do they need to be in every single edition of Scripture? And, they can, of course, be very useful for finding things and looking things up quickly and linking to other passages. But they kind of get in the way when you’re just trying to sit and read. You see a chapter break, and in any other book you ever read, a chapter means, okay, this is a good stopping point. This is a nice kind of clean break in the story or whatever, but it’s not that way in the Bible. Sometimes a chapter break can come right in the middle of what an author is trying to do, in the midst of a book. Genesis 2 comes before the end of the opening creation story. Like, the very first chapter break in the Bible is a few verses too early and so piggybacking on top of those things, we have all these different features in our Bibles that are, of course, put in there to help us read and engage it well. But when they pile up, it’s just a page full of distractions. We have section headings, we have cross-references, we have footnotes, we have call-out boxes in some of these more specialized Bibles. And all those things can be helpful for a certain set of things. But if you simply want to just sit down on the couch and get immersed in the text, they all kind of add up to a big TMI. Too much information, distraction-filled reading experience.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. And in case, just to reemphasize that point, some folks might not be familiar the chapter headings, the verse numbers, the chapter numbers, a lot of the indentation, the columns, these things weren’t original to Scripture. and so our guest here is not doing anything sacrilegious; he’s not finding fault with God’s word. These are helpful tools that have developed over time. But your point is they might not be the most helpful tools for reading a text. Great for Bible memory, great for looking up a passage, great for quickly getting your point across and referencing Psalm 23, and people know what we’re talking about. But as you said, if you want to sit down and read and really kind of lose yourself in the text and focus on it and not get distracted, there can be a lot of speed bumps along the way that slow us down. And it makes me think, too, in reading your book. No other book is written this way. So books that are written and published purely to be read, to understand what the author is saying, enjoy, the experience. You’re never going to pick up a book and find it looking like the inside of our Bibles do. And so your point is maybe some of those things aren’t helpful for actually, like you said, sitting on the couch and reading your Bible. Yes, they’re great tools, pick up another one and use those. But you’re saying that when it comes to reading it, those things might actually slow us down. Is that right?
Alex Goodwin: Absolutely, yeah. It’s whoever picked up their history, textbook or whatever, and just kind of curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and just read the format. A lot of people that are used to our Bibles will say, hey, the format doesn’t bug me, I don’t pay attention to the chapter numbers, I don’t read the footnotes, I can just ignore all that stuff. And then we give them an edition of the Bible without any of those things in there. And they say, wow, I had no idea how much those things impacted my reading experience. And again, like you were saying, I’m not saying, hey, get rid of all Bibles with chapters and verses and all the modern stuff. They can be useful for a certain set of things that we want to do with the Bible. But we also need an addition of the scriptures that’s simply made for sitting down and reading and seeing visually what kind of literature you’re engaging with. Another sort of side effect of our modern Bibles, most of them in two columns, is everything kind of looks the same, whether you’re reading a story or you’re reading prophecy or poetry. It kind of looks very similar. And so you don’t get those just subtle visual cues that you almost take in subconsciously about, okay, I’m switching from a narrative in the Gospels to poetry, in the Psalms or whatever.
Clay Kraby: Right.
Alex Goodwin: All those things can just help, like you said, eliminate some of the speed bumps and barriers and obstacles and friction when it comes to engaging Scripture.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. How can the modern reader overcome it? Is it as simple as, hey, you’ve got your Bible that you use for studying, and when you want to just read through, a portion or maybe even an entire book of the Bible in one sitting or whatever else, pick up this other copy of Scripture that maybe removes a lot of those things.
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. It doesn’t have to be an overcome sort of thing, like, hey, if you just have enough willpower, you can ignore all of the modern stuff in there. There’s new editions of the Scriptures called Readers Bibles that have come out just within the last decade or two. We created one at the Institute for Bible Reading called Immerse the Reading Bible that actually won the Bible at the Year Award in 2022. And we got rid of all the stuff. We got rid of all the numbers, all the notes, all the cross references. And we actually worked with a scholar to segment every book of the Bible based on its natural structure instead of sort of arbitrary chapter breaks. And so it just provides a more clean reading experience where you can just sit down and get immersed in the stories and the songs and the letters without any of the other stuff floating around. Yeah.
Clay Kraby: And so was that a little bit of your story also, where you picked up a copy of, like, a Reader’s Bible and you just had a moment of, like, wow, this was a very different experience for me.
Alex Goodwin: Yes, this is my story. So, like I said, the Bible was kind of this foreign thing to me. I didn’t get a whole lot out of it. And it was a friend of mine that had a very early edition of something called The Books of the Bible, which was an early Reader’s Bible edition. And she said, hey, you’ve got a marketing degree. You want to get into ministry? Figure out how to get this sort of Bible into as many hands as possible. And she gave it to me, and I had time on my hands. I didn’t have a job yet. And I started reading it, and it just flowed like I was able to read Genesis, and it didn’t feel like I was walking uphill and just kind of pushing myself to keep going. The stories just flowed together, and I was like, wow. This, in and of itself, is a whole new reading experience that’s making things easier for me. And so she my friend who had given me the Bible, introduced me to the guy at the Bible ministry who had kind of done the research and published this edition of the Scriptures. And that’s how I got involved with Bible ministry, was I just had this experience of, wow, there are some things that we can do to actually help people engage with this text. And it’s not necessarily effort-based. It’s not necessarily, hey, just try harder and grit your teeth and know that this is super important. Again, eat your vegetables sort of mentality. There are some things that we can do to help people.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. And there is a difference between studying a passage where you might spend an hour looking at a verse, you might spend an hour looking at, a phrase, a couple of words. There’s a difference between Bible study and Bible reading. And so there are advantages to reading large chunks of Scripture, maybe entire books of the Bible in one sitting.
Reading the Bible on its own terms
Clay Kraby: Can you speak to some of those advantages when you sit down and you say, hey, I’m not going to stop, at the end of this verse, I’m not going to stop at the end of this chapter, I’m going to read the whole thing, or I’m going to read this entire section that really kind of all goes together. How does that benefit our Bible reading?
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, well, I think the basis of a lot of these changes is just receiving the Bible on its own terms. And if you’re reading something like, let’s say Colossians, the Book of Colossians, I don’t think Paul sat down and said, boy, I hope the church that’s receiving this is going to take five or ten minutes a day and read a small portion of this. And over the course of three or four days, they’ll get through the whole thing. And maybe in the midst of that, they’ll jump back into the Old Testament or the Hebrew Scriptures and kind of read some parallel. I think he just wanted them to read it as a letter. And if you sit down and read all of Colossians, it takes what, 20 or 30 minutes? But people just aren’t used to doing that. They’re used to kind of piecemeal, very small, short, devotional kind of study type reading, which, like you said, certainly has its own place, but we’ve kind of forgotten, how to read larger chunks of Scripture. And I think you get a different feel for a book. You get a different level of context when you see how things line up sequentially in a narrative, for example. And it just provides kind of a broader view. There’s two ways to see the Grand Canyon, I guess maybe three. But if you’ve ever flown over the Grand Canyon, like I did just a couple of weeks ago, you kind of see the scope of it; you see the breadth and the overall shape of things. And I feel like people have been missing that with the Bible. They’re focused on the microscope, the hyper kind of, study-oriented, examination-oriented engagement with it, which is great, but I think you need to get the broader picture first before you get in and dig deep.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. And the Epistles are a great example of that for a number of reasons. As you said, it’s hard to imagine us receiving a letter from a loved one and then randomly reading, like, midway through and then reading a couple of lines here and calling, that good, and coming back to it again. If you’re studying the Bible and you want to get to the meaning, absolutely. That has its place. But there’s a lot to be said for taking the whole thing in. And you get to appreciate the arguments being made. You pick up on themes that are recurring. It’s very difficult to follow the flow of an argument in one of Paul’s letters, for example, in chunks. But if you read the whole letter and as you said, it doesn’t take long. I’ve got a chart on the website, I’ll put in the show notes, how long it takes to read different books of the New Testament, books of the Old Testament. And you can read a lot of these ten minutes, four minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. And really, it doesn’t take a lot to sit down and read through these. And when you do that, you’re going to get that 30,000 foot view, and that’ll help you know where to go in and dig deeper and spend some time studying. And maybe you do find, hey, I have no idea what this means, this verse here, and I’m going to spend an hour on it. Wonderful. Reading it all in one sitting can help you do that.
Alex Goodwin: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s not meant to say, hey, this is the only thing you can ever do with the Bible is read for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. And especially if we’re thinking about receiving the literature on its own terms, this is a sort of literature-based practice, too, right? So I wouldn’t say, hey, sit down and read 25 pages of Proverbs in one sitting. It’s not a type of literature that’s meant to do that. That’s a type of literature that’s meant to take a little bit more slowly, a little bit more meditatively. So it’s not kind of this blanket, hey, you can only ever read big. But I think we’ve lost that practice in a lot of ways in the modern church.
Clay Kraby: Yeah. And at the same time, you don’t want to say, hey, go read half a psalm. You don’t appreciate what the psalmist is doing, and maybe he’s resolving the conflict or the angst or whatever at the end, and you don’t even do that. And that might be a silly example, but you can see how that can really kind of interrupt the process of going deeper in Scripture when you’re trying to read it all at once. You can really gain a lot from that.
Alex Goodwin: Yes, absolutely. And again, using a reader’s Bible will help with that. Just kind of eliminating some of the friction in reading large chunks. And I will say, for some people who aren’t considering themselves readers, this might just require some effort from you. One of my colleagues says you might need to be slightly heroic in your kind of commitment to just spending 20 or 30 minutes and just sitting down and absorbing the text without an agenda, without saying, hey, I need to get this, this and this personal application out of this reading. But just kind of submitting yourself to the scriptures and seeing what they have for you that day.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, and if someone’s nervous about that, they’re saying, I don’t think I could read an entire book at once. I can’t read these large spans of Scripture at once. I think we can encourage them, find again, they’ll be on the show notes for this page. There’s lots out there you can find on other websites, that say how long it takes, maybe find the shortest one and just read it all in one sitting. And after you’ve done that tomorrow, grab the next shortest one and kind of maybe get in this habit. I’m guessing they’re going to see the benefits of that pretty quickly and, hopefully, develop a little bit more stamina with their Bible reading as well.
Biblical Literacy and Biblical Fluency
Clay Kraby: So you talk about a couple of concepts in the Bible reset, and one is biblical literacy and the other is biblical fluency. Can you help me understand what those categories are? How are they similar? How are they different?
Alex Goodwin: Yes, absolutely. So this is kind of something that I started differentiating once I got into the Bible world. And in the Bible world, you’re always kind of keeping an eye out for new research that’s coming out about how people are doing with the Bible. And in the Bible world, you see a lot of articles about declining Bible literacy. Bible literacy, is down, churches are struggling with a Bible illiteracy epidemic, all this different stuff. And when you actually look at the studies that measure Bible literacy, a lot of it is based on how many of the twelve disciples can you name or how many of the Ten Commandments can you recite? And based off of how well you do with some of those things, that’s how they measure your Bible literacy. And I’m like, okay, so that’s the bar is how good are you at, Bible trivia? I feel like we can do a little bit better than that in kind of what we’re striving towards. And so for me, Bible literacy relates to Bible fluency in that they’re both important, I would say. But I think Bible literacy is a prerequisite for Bible fluency. Which is really our true goal. Right. I liken it to learning a foreign language. So in high school, from eighth through twelfth grade, I took German and spent so many hours learning vocabulary and conjugating verbs and in the classroom trying to get a handle on this language. And I would say by the time I graduated, I kind of maybe knew a little bit of German, but I could maybe get through a few sentences around a pretty narrow but, like, what if I had moved to Germany for a couple of years and just immersed myself in the language and the culture and just, kind of passively absorbed German? I think I would have become a lot more fluent. And so I think as it relates to Bible reading, fluency is where you can say, sit down and speak off the cuff for five or ten minutes about the Sermon on the Mount. Or you can say if somebody said, hey, what happened during Jacob’s life? And you can just kind of sit down and just go through it, and the Bible’s just kind of in your bones and you know it well enough to where you can just speak off the cuff about things. I feel like that should be the true goal and not necessarily how many facts and figures do you remember? How well would you do at Bible Jeopardy? And so both are important, but I think literacy sets us up well for fluency.
Clay Kraby: Really helpful categories and to make those distinctions. And I appreciate the comparison to learning a language. And it’s one thing to be able to give some vocabulary words and conjugate some verbs. It’s quite a different, to get on the bus and get to the right town that you’re trying to get to and ordering lunch. I mean, there’s a real difference between those things, and people can appreciate that. So, in this book, you’re trying to give these breakthroughs to help people engage Scripture better. It’s not simply a recommendation for multiple chapters of, hey, go get a reader’s Bible.
The importance of reading Scripture in community with other believers
Clay Kraby: You have other things that you address, too. And one of those is the importance of reading Scripture in community with other believers. So, have you seen or where have you seen? I guess this practice really helps deepen somebody’s understanding and appreciation of either a passage or just Scripture as a whole.
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, this is a big one. Right. And it’s something I think that we’ve gotten away from in a lot of ways, especially in kind of modern, individualistic Western Christianity, is we’ve lost the Bible as a community formation book, which is what Scott McKnight likes to call it. We’ve kind of hyper-individualized. Our Bible reading really created a culture around personal devotions, quiet times, and private times with God, all of which are great. Like, I do it, I would encourage anyone to do it, but we lose something when we only ever do it by ourselves. And so I think we need to return to a model where we’re gathering around the Scriptures to, as one of my friends likes to say, feast on it together. Like the Bible is a meal. And sure, you can microwave a meal and eat it in front of the TV by yourself, but everybody loves meals where you get around a table and you’re kind of sharing together and you’re feasting on things, with family and friends. And so I think we need to return to that a little bit.
Reading the Bible Together
Alex Goodwin: And one of the things I talk about in the book is kind of treating the Bible like we would a novel or some other book that we read for a book club. So maybe you go throughout the week and you read a large chunk of it, maybe 40, 50 pages throughout the week by yourself. And then you gather to talk about it with your community group or a group of believers that you are trying to share life with. And you just kind of open up the conversation a little bit more than you typically would with maybe a Bible study where you just say hey, what’s? Something you noticed for the first time? Or was there anything in this chunk of text that we all spent time in this week where you were confused or you were kind of feeling like this is a really problematic passage and you don’t really know what to do with it and just kind of opening up the conversation around the Bible. Not necessarily pursuing right answers, but just trying to get people’s impressions and reactions to the text can really open up deep and rich conversations between people. and it kind of invites the Holy Spirit in to guide and direct your time together around the Scriptures. And so, there’s lots of different ways that it can bring insight when six or eight or ten people are all bringing their wisdom, their experiences into the group and sharing and saying, hey, well, this is actually how I read that passage. And it’s something that you would have never kind of come up with on your own, in your own private devotional time. And it’s even better when you can get kind of a relatively diverse group of people together. Like, read with people who aren’t necessarily like you. Maybe they live on the other side of town, or they have different backgrounds from you, and you just get this breadth of impressions, and takeaways from the text.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, absolutely. And I think one of the things that churches, unfortunately, sometimes do a poor job of is they kind of segregate people into it’s the college and the careers, and we got the youth over here, and we got the old people we kind of put in the corner over here. There’s a lot to be gained from reading Scripture with someone who’s been a Christian for 50 years. And they can make connections that you just wouldn’t have made because they’ve been in their Bible decades, longer than you’ve been alive, maybe. I think, that can be really helpful for us to be in these community, reading groups. And there’s a variety of ways and a variety of things that that might look like, but being able to read Scripture with others and combine it with these other things you’ve already talked about reading long, extended portions, of scripture reading without maybe some of those hurdles in there can just aid and make that even more enjoyable and more helpful.
Alex Goodwin: Yes, absolutely. Again, I keep using this word, eliminates some of the friction, like when I’ve done this, and it’s not all on my personal motivation to keep reading, but I think to myself, hey, I got to show up Monday morning. I did this with a group of friends, and we would all get together at 06:00 a.m. At the omelet parlor here in town, this kind of greasy spoon diner. And we’d eat eggs and pancakes and have coffee and just talk about whatever, 50 pages worth of the Gospels, Luke and Acts or something. And it was just a great conversation. And just knowing that that was coming up kind of put that positive peer pressure on me to have the reading done. Maybe the motivation wouldn’t have existed if it was just up to me to keep up with my reading schedule.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, another helpful element for sure.
The Six-Act Drama of Scripture
Clay Kraby: One of the things you cover in the book is the six-act drama of Scripture. Can you tell us what do you mean by that? And, how does that help us engage and connect the Bible’s main themes?
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, so just zooming out a little bit. My book is kind of built on three main parts, I guess you could say. So, the first part is all about the format of the Bible. The second part is all about kind of prevailing habits and practices and maybe where we’ve gone astray in some ways, and what we can get back to. And then the whole third part is all about the Bible’s story. And it was just a game changer for me when I understood that the Bible is more than just this assortment of stories, like isolated stories, principles and kind of Golden Verses and those sorts of things, and really came into the framework of it’s a unified story that’s centered on Jesus. And, that was just such a game changer for me to understand, how everything works together, how everything fits together, whether you’re in Leviticus or you’re in Amos or you’re in, 1st Corinthians or whatever. You kind of understand where you are in the grand narrative of Scripture. And the six-act drama is just kind of a framework for segmenting, the different parts of the Bible as they relate to the story. And so there’s a number of kind of frameworks out there. I found the six acts to be the most helpful for me. And so, in the book, I kind of self-titled each of the six Acts. So, act one is called God makes a temple. It’s all about the creation story and how God created it as a place for him to dwell with his image-bearers. Act Two is called Rebellion, which, of course, is how, the image bearers rebel against that vision and that plan and that idea that God had had. Act, Three is Israel’s calling, talking about God’s calling of Abraham and his family to be a set apart people that would, kind of start the redemption story back, and put everything back on track. And, of course, Act Three is pretty much all of the Old Testament. It’s a huge thing, and a lot of people kind of gloss over it, I would say, on their way to Jesus. A lot of kind of truncated versions of the story say, creation, fall, Jesus, heaven, and they skip over that huge kind of portion of Scripture, that Preludes Jesus, which is super important. Act Four is called the upside-down victory of an unexpected Messiah, which is kind of a mouthful, but there’s a lot in there, to unpack. Act five is called the already and the not yet. So Christ has had his victory on the cross, but kind of the full vision of completion and redemption, that we’re waiting for isn’t here yet. So it has already happened, but it’s not yet kind of fully complete. And then act six is God Comes Home, which is kind of previewed in Revelation, I would say. We’re not there yet in the story, but we have that hope to come.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, really helpful to see that again, taking a step back and seeing the larger narrative as a whole. And obviously, it’d be a pretty tall order to ask someone to sit and read the whole Bible in a sitting. but you can kind of formulate, as you have here, what is the sweep of the story, what are these central themes that come across throughout Scripture? And how can we understand it as a unified whole, rather than just two different testaments with many different books and types of literature and history and prophecy and all these things? How can we tie that all together? So that’s a really helpful way to do that.
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, so it’s been super helpful for me.
Reading the Bible well requires reading it with Jesus as the center
Alex Goodwin: And I think another element of reading the story well is reading it with Jesus as the center, as kind of the interpretive key for the entire story. And I think that having this six-act model helps you say, okay, I’m in Leviticus right now; this is in Act Three. We’re not at the full revelation of what God wants for his people yet. Right? Like, Jesus is where the light shines brightest. We see who God truly is. We see truly what he wants for his people. And so if something in Leviticus doesn’t line up with who Jesus is, Jesus trumps that, of course. And there’s things, of course, in the Old Testament that do line up with who Jesus is and what he taught. And so we just kind of need to read it in that light, and having this six-act sort of framework can help with that.
Alex Goodwin: And there’s a whole other thing to unpack with it being a six-act drama versus just a six-act story. But I don’t know if you want to get into that.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, I mean, give us what that looks like. You’re intentional with the language there. You’re talking about a sic drama of Scripture, not a story. Why is that?
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, so dramas are meant to be acted out, right. and so I think as it pertains to us today, we have a role to play in this story. Right. We’re here in act five of the drama on the other side of Jesus’s victory, but kind of in between the victory and kind of the final victory, I guess you would say, over the powers of sin and death and darkness. And so there’s this element of our lives that we sort of need to improvise, right? We’ve been given the story up to a certain point in history, and we get a preview of what’s to come. But we’re in this in-between time, this already, and not yet time. And so we get to be kind of consequential actors in the story, where, of course, God is going to be the one to move the story forward and bring the story to completion. But that doesn’t mean we just kind of sit around and wait for it. We’ve got improvisational roles in that drama. And, the whole last chapter of the book is kind of how to think about that well, and potentially how to approach that well.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, that’s really helpful.
What do you hope people take away from reading the Bible reset
Clay Kraby: So if someone picks up a copy of your book and they read through it, what is the thing that you really hope that they take away from reading the Bible reset?
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, I would say there’s a couple of things. The first is just a realization of the things that we’ve taken for granted and the things that we’ve assumed and normalized kind of in our modern Western culture about what’s normal to do with the Bible, what’s kind of the standard for Bible engagement and kind of just an understanding of where some of those things came from and the fact that they don’t have to be the norm. I think that would be a big thing. And just seeing, like, okay, this has its place in the Bible engagement ecosystem, but there are some other things that we’ve kind of forgotten or gotten away from a little bit that need to be reincorporated into how we read and engage Scripture. So that would be one thing. And kind of within that, the realization that, hey, it’s not all kind of your fault. It’s not because you’re not motivated enough or smart enough to do this. There are some barriers and some obstacles potentially in your way of engaging Scripture. And then the second thing I would say is have the courage to maybe go against the grain of what’s normal, I guess normalized these days with Bible engagement, and just say, hey, I’m going to try something different because the old way of doing things hasn’t been working for me for years or decades. I just want to try something new. And there’s some things in there about, how you can do that. And then the last thing would just be find yourself in the Bible’s story. Like the Bible is doing its work in you. If it’s becoming the kind of worldview-shaping framework, I guess, for how you understand where the world came from, where it’s headed, what your place is in that story, kind of how you relate to Jesus as Jesus is the main character of the story. And your role is to kind of faithfully play a supporting role in that story. All those different things can just profoundly shape you in how you go about your everyday life.
Clay Kraby: Yeah, this has been a really great conversation. Alex, where can folks go to learn more about the Institute for Bible Reading? Where can they learn more and pick up a copy of the Bible Reset?
Alex Goodwin: Yeah, you can check out the Institute for Bible Reading at, Instituteforbiblereading.org. And I also mentioned, Immerse the Reading Bible, which we created. You can, learn more about that at immersebible.com and then you can find out more about the Bible Reset at thebiblereset.com. There’s some more information there. There are links to order it. And, you can actually also read the first chapter for free on that website.
Clay Kraby: Wonderful. I’ll be sure to link to all those things. Again, the show notes for this episode at Reasonabletheology.org/Reset, and go and pick up a copy of the Bible Reset for yourself. Alex, thanks so much for joining me on the podcast.
Alex Goodwin: Thanks so much for having me.