Carson Quote on NT Theology

The following is one of my favorite quotes on NT Theology, but properly tweaked it would also apply to Biblical Theology:

Those who write NT theology should ideally become intimately acquainted with the text of the NT, develop a profound grasp of the historical (including social and cultural) frameworks in which the NT books were written, maintain and sharpen the horizon provided by the entire canon, foster literary skills that permit varied genres to speak for themselves, spot literary devices and correctly interpret them, learn to fire imagination and creativity in a disciplined way and acknowledge and seek to accommodate and correct their own cultural and theological biases. All of these elements must be maintained in appropriate balance, nurtured by love for God and fear of God and growing hunger to serve his people.”

D.A. Carson, “New Testament Theology,” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Development, 810.

Oh that God would raise a generation of pastors, missionaries, scholars and lay people who are able to handle God’s Word in such a manner!

6 thoughts on “Carson Quote on NT Theology”

  1. Matt,
    Given your position, do you suppose changes should be made to the way we teach seminary students how to handle the Word? Maybe there is a disconnect between the Bible classes and the preaching classes.

    G. Goldsworthy suggests there is a problem in how the Biblical Studies Departments treat each other. He says there is too much of a division in OT and NT studies and the result of that is a misunderstanding of the unity (and disunity) in Scripture.

    Further, I think pastors should seek ways to receive constructive criticism of how we handle a text. Most pastors attend at least a couple of large pastors’ conferences a year. These are very helpful but why not take some of that time and spend with a small group of like-minded preachers to offer mutual help in handling God’s Word?

    The Proclamation Trust in England has been arranging groups to do this for years. Now, her American sister, the Simeon Trust, is growing the number of conference offerings to do just this in the States. I’ve been to both PT and ST conferences and they are wonderful. There are small group break-out sessions that allow a person the opportunity to give a short sermon followed by comments and help from others in the group as well as from the leader.

    At the very least, we should be encouraging each other to continually read theology and Biblical studies books (instead of only leadership and growth books)
    beyond the seminary years. This would stimulate new ideas and keep the mind engaged with the text.

  2. In South Africa some branches of the Church of England in south Africa (CESA)are doing the same thing (obviously influenced by the PT). I joined one of these groups, where we met once a week over a period of two years from 2003 to 2004 and it helped my Bible teaching more than any seminary class I’ve ever been in.

  3. Marty,

    I can only speak to my experience at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School since I have been here at Grace all of two weeks. And since my time at TEDS they have restructured the curriculum to include a mandatory biblical theology course.

    Having said that, I think that in the Biblical studies courses much more can be done. In my OT classes, rarely was there mention of how the OT passage we were looking was picked up in the NT (or at least its theme). In my NT courses there was more mention of how the OT background was relevant to the NT passage. But I think much more can be done, and one of my central convictions as I teach NT is that we will not truly appreciate the fullness of any NT passage if we do not locate it within the biblical storyline and identify any pertinent OT backgrounds that reveal the author’s own view of how God’s actions in Christ relate to his OT revelation.

    With respect to the preaching, I too think this is hit and miss. I had an outstanding preaching prof at TEDS, and he made us read Goldsworthy. But I think he could have been more forceful in pushing us to weave in good biblical theology within our handling of the text. My own growth in these areas has been the result of being around like minded pastors and missionaries who do this kind of preaching well.

    Anything that can be done to help pastors meet together and encourage one another in their theological and homiletical development I’m all for. The closest thing to that I have been involved in has been meeting with my two pastors and some fellow grad students to read Greek together. As we did so we would discuss the theological issues raised by the text. It was some of the sweetest time of fellowship in the Word I’ve ever had.

  4. I think having good models is important as well. Even when I read Goldsworthy or Greidanus, I found myself asking “How is this done?”.

    One of the reasons I have been so influenced by Aussie and UK evangelicalism is their preaching. Many model the type of preaching we are discussing. And though we have many American pastors who preach expositionally, they all tend to resort back to a doctrinal style of preaching.

    My experience is that most established pastors do not see this nor their need to change. Thus, we have to start preachers from seminary years and even before.

    I think the Brits and Aussies have been somewhat successful in raising up some really good preaches is because of 1) Their seminaries – Oak Hill in London and Moore in Sydney 2) Their training in ministry programs – MTS in Sydney and St. Helen’s (for example) in London.

  5. That disctinction between the doctrinal way of preaching and a more redemptive historical way of preaching is so clear on South Africa when you match up the CESA preachers with the other conservative denominations in the country.

    I grew up in a Reformed Baptist with everything leaning towards the doctrinal style, but then I trained under CESA ministers for those 2 years and the disctinction just became so apparent to me – these guys taught Goldsworthy and they preached it too (quite a few of them did apprenticeships at St. Helen’s or at other churches linked to the Proc Trust).

  6. wow, it is great to see Goldsworthy having the influence that his works deserve!

    His own preaching is a very interesting affair. He once gave a remarkable sermon on ‘a biblical theology of trumpets’ in Moore College Chapel – he himself plays the trumpet. It was quite brilliant!

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