Mark #2 Biblical Theology

 We are currently in the process of posting the notes from our teaching series on the 9 Marks of a Healthy Church. You will eventually find them all at our church website. Here are my notes from mark #2.

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Biblical Theology – Mark #2

I.      Definition of “Biblical Theology”: As Scott Oliphant remarks, because “there are various forms (and contents) of biblical theology, we should be clear here as to how we are using the phrase.” [1]

 We are using the term with a broad meaning so that it encompasses two things:

  1. A method of doing theology.
  2. A reference to the content of theology.

 BT as Method [emphasis on historical development] of Theology:

  • “Biblical Theology…deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible.” [2]
  • “Biblical theology recognizes that special revelation did not come from God in one mass at one particular time…It came progressively in history throughout ages and generations.”[3] 

 BT as Content [emphasis on continuity within biblical context] of Theology:

  • This is the primary emphasis Dever gives in using the term: “One of the chief marks of a healthy church is a biblical understanding of God in His character and His ways with us.” p. 60.
  • Biblical theology will pick up on dominant threads of biblical teaching about God and his works:
    • regarding God (creating, holy, faithful, loving, sovereign, triune, etc.)
    • regarding God’s relationship to humans (created, in God’s image, fallen, responsible, etc.)
    • regarding God’s action of redemption (atonement, election, covenant, etc.)
  • Biblical theology will understand how these dominant threads fit within the story-line (“meta-narrative”; “macro-story”) of the Bible. The Bible doesn’t give us disembodied doctrine of abstract ideas. It gives us a coherent picture where these various threads are woven into a tapestry of truth about God and his ways.

 Summary: “Biblical theology as a distinct and fruitful study must take seriously both historical progression and theological unity in the Bible.”[4] In this way, Biblical Theology enables the Christian to see both (1) the way the Bible unfolds and also (2) the real similarities that exist in every era of revelation.

 II.      Benefits of Biblical Theology:

  • Avoids a “custom-fitted deity”[5] and it protects us from wrong ideas about God.
  • We are moved toward a faith that is both informed and strengthened when we see that he is the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow.
  • Appreciates that the flow of biblical history helps us to understand God is a covenant keeping God who works all things for good toward his people.
  • Insulates/protects the church from doctrinal controversies. Prevents us from focusing too much on “favorite passages” in isolation of others.
  • Is necessary to fulfill the great commission (Matt. 28:19-20). We must teach “all things” Jesus commanded rather than merely cycle through a series of familiar or popular topics.

 Summary: Biblical Theology helps keep the main thing the main thing while, at the same time, acknowledging that we are called to be faithful with everything. This biblical balance is crucial. As D. A. Carson says, a misplaced emphasis in the thinking of the church “tends to divert people from things that are forever basic: the truth of the gospel, a living walk with the living God, love for men and women, an eternal perspective, hatred and fear of sin, a passion for holiness, a profound desire to see Christ exalted… I worry when these things are not front and center.”[6]

 III.      Questions To Ask Yourself:

  • How well do I know biblical theology? Do I have a satisfactory grasp of major themes and developments in the Bible?
  • Could I explain the Bible’s storyline to a new Christian or a non-Christian? Could I tell them how the Bible fits together as a single book?
  • How often do I read through the Bible in its entirety? What specific plans could I make to strengthen my knowledge of biblical theology?

 


[1] K. Scott Oliphant, Reasons For Faith: Philosophy In The Service of Theology, p. 230-31, note 41.

[2] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old And New Testaments, p. 5.

[3] John Murray, “Systematic Theology,” Collected Writings of John Murray: Studies in Theology, vol. 4, p. 17.

[4] Edmond Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology, p. 17; quoted in Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, p. 69, note 82.

[5] Thabiti Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, p. 28

[6] D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, p.474.

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