Category Archives: Biblical Theology

Drama of Scripture: Act 2 – Rebellion in the Kingdom

This morning I read Act 2 – Rebellion in the Kingdom in Drama of Scripture. Given the title of the chapter I expected to find rebellion against God as the central motif in the chapter, but was surprised that the word rebellion did not occur anywhere in the chapter. To be sure, the term mutiny is used. But the central term that emerges is autonomy, defined as “choosing oneself as the source for determining what is right and wrong, rather than relying on God’s word for direction” (43).

While not in any way denying that autonomy is an excellent way of expressing Adam and Eve’s sin, I guess I was anticipating more discussion of the fall in terms of God’s vice-regents / stewards rebelling against their commission from Gen 1:26-31 and instead asserting their own authority to rule as they saw fit (which is certainly an expression of autonomy.

This relates to a second observation. Great emphasis is placed on the horizontal dimensions of sin, and although the vertical dimensions of sin are mentioned (and even described as fundamental), the amount of discussion of the horizontal effects of sin has the subtle of effect of making them seem more important. Related to this is the very brief and almost in passing reference to God’s judgment on Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the ground, something I would have liked to see more discussion of. One of the things that Gen 3 clearly highlights is that as his creation we are responsible / accountable to God, and I think establishing that fact as early in the story as possible is very important.

Final observation – given the importance of this act for the entire storyline I was a little surprised that it only received four pages; I would have expected and hoped for more.

Of course, I should mark these comments as provisional, subject to revision as I continue through the book. Perhaps these are lines developed as the book progresses, and I am aware that one cannot do everything in a book this size. But I wanted to get some initial thoughts out there. So what think you, esteemed readers?

Recommended Resource: New Dictionary of Biblical Theology

This dictionary was published by IVP back in 2000, edited by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy. The subtitle is “Exploring the Unity & Diversity of Scripture” and it does just that. With approximately 125 contributors that span the spectrum theologically and internationally, this dictionary is a helpful resource that is divided into three parts.
Part One: Introduction contains articles on foundational issues in biblical theology such as exegesis and hermeneutics, NT use of OT, relationship of OT to NT, canon, systematic theology & biblical theology, and even preaching and biblical theology. These articles provide a substantive but generally accessible entry point into biblical theology and its relationship to other aspects of theology.
Part Two: Biblical Corpa and Books has articles on major sections of the canon such as Genesis to Kings, the prophetic books, etc., followed by entries on each individual Biblical book. In these articles the contributors attempt to identify key themes within the specific biblical book itself as well as indicate how the specific themes of a book contribute to the larger canonical presentation of that theme.
Part Three: Themes contains articles that trace key themes throughout Scripture (e.g. Adam, exile, Jerusalem, Law, sin, suffering, wilderness).

Every entry concludes with a very short bibliography for further reading (at times I wish these were longer).

As with any dictionary, the quality of individual entries can vary, but by and large the articles are well-written and helpful starting points. Consequently this is an excellent resource for any who are actively engaged in the study and teaching of Scripture and want to understand how the parts relate to the whole.

Recommended Resource: Beginning with Moses

I am pleased to recommend the website Beginning with Moses as an excellent resource for Biblical Theology. There are a number of helpful articles, sermons, and yes, a blog. There are some heavy hitters who are involved with this site (e.g. Graeme Goldsworthy, Simon Gathercole), and the folks who have put it together are doing some fine thinking and writing. I look forward to further exploring the site myself in the coming weeks, but from what I have already seen this site should be bookmarked and visited regularly.

Vos on Biblical Theology

One of the classic works on Biblical Theology is a book entitled Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos. He defined biblical theology as follows:

“Biblical Theology is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self revelation of God deposited in the Bible” (p. 13)

He then notes four main features of God’s self-revelation in Scripture:

1. The historic progressiveness of the revelation-process. Revelation does not stand alone, but is inseperably attached to God’s redemptive actions.

2. The actual embodiment of revelation in history. Revelation is incarnate in history, not merely incidental to it.

3. The organic nature of the historic process observable in revalation. Revelation and redemption move forward progressively not in a uniform sense, but often in bursts.

4. The fourth aspect of revelation determinative of the study of Biblical Theology consists in its practical adaptability. God’s self-revelation is not exclusively or primarily for our intellectual advancement, but for the living out of God’s purposes in the world.

Although originally written in 1948, Vos’s work remains a must-read for those interested in biblical theology.

Recommended Resource: God’s Big Picture

For those interested in getting started in understanding the storyline of the Bible, I can think of no better resource than God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-line of the Bible by Vaughn Roberts. He organizes the biblical storyline around the theme of kingdom, which he defines as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing” (p. 21). He then organizes the biblical story around the development of this theme throughout Scripture:

1. The pattern of the kingdom
2. The perished kingdom
3. The promised kingdom
4. The partial kingdom
5. The prophesied kingdom
6. The present kingdom
7. The proclaimed kingdom
8. The perfected kingdom

This is an excellent place to begin for a basic understanding of the biblical storyline. This book is about as basic as it gets while remaining responsible in its handling of Scripture, and is only about 150 pages. For those wanting a more substantive version, check out Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy. Roberts acknowledges that his work is merely a less technical version of Goldsworthy, but this makes it more accessible than Goldsworthy.

So what do you think? For those who have read the book, what are your impressions?

What is Biblical Theology?

Such a question at first might seem obvious – theology derived from, or based on, the Bible. But unfortunately it’s not that simple, because the term “Biblical Theology” has come to take on a specialized meaning. Perhaps the best way to explain what is meant by biblical theology is to define it along with other “types” of theology:

Systematic Theology – the attempt to organize the teaching of the Bible under various headings such as theology proper (what the Bible teaches about God and his character), anthropology (what the Bible teaches about human beings), soteriology (what the Bible teaches about salvation), Christology (what the Bible teaches about Christ), etc. Examples of this approach would include: The Institutes by John Calvin; Systematic Theology (3 vols.) by Charles Hodge; Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. In the past this was sometimes also referred to as Dogmatic Theology.

Historical Theology – the attempt to trace the development of specific doctrines (e.g., the Trinity) throughout the history of the church. Attention is paid to heretical views that forced the church to sharpen and refine her formulation of doctrine. An example of this approach would be Historical Theology (2 vols.) by William Cunningham.

Pastoral Theology – the attempt to relate Christian doctrine to specific life situations in the church (e.g., sickness, suffering, interaction with the culture). Attention is paid to how Christian doctrine is to be lived out within the church and the culture.

Biblical Theology – the attempt “to explore the unity of the Bible, delving into the contents of the books, showing the links between them, and pointing up the ongoing flow of the revelatory and redemptive process that reached its climax in Jesus Christ” (J.I. Packer, “Foreword” in The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney, p. 8). Attention is paid to the “storyline” of Scripture and prominent themes across the Bible usually with an attempt to relate them to gospel and/or Christ.

While I certainly believe all of these approaches are important, it is my conviction that biblical theology provides the basis for systematic, historical, and pastoral theology. So on this blog the focus will be on biblical theology, but given the interlocking nature of biblical theology with the other disciplines we will often delve into these other areas as well.