Author Archive

Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology

August 26, 2008

For anyone wanting a heads up on what BT and ST are and what is the relationship between them, I recommend these articles by D.A. Carson and Richard Gaffin. (I should mention that both articles are hosted by BeginningwithMoses.org which is a great BT site).

Here is Carson’s conclusion:

The distinctions between systematic and biblical theology are perhaps more striking. Although both are text based, the ordering principles of the former are topical, logical, hierarchical, and as synchronic as possible; the ordering principles of the latter trace out the history of redemption, and are (ideally) profoundly inductive, comparative and as diachronic as possible. Systematic theology seeks to rearticulate what the Bible says in self-conscious engagement with (including confrontation with) the culture; biblical theology, though it cannot escape cultural influences, aims to be first and foremost inductive and descriptive, earning its normative power by the credibility of its results. Thus systematic theology tends to be a little further removed from the biblical text than does biblical theology, but a little closer to cultural engagement. Biblical theology tends to seek out the rationality and communicative genius of each literary genre; systematic theology tends to integrate the diverse rationalities in its pursuit of a large-scale, worldview-forming synthesis. In this sense, systematic theology tends to be a culminating discipline; biblical theology, though it is a worthy end in itself, tends to be a bridge discipline.

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New Testament Theology Re-Loaded!

August 23, 2008

In July of this year I was privileged to give the annual Tyndale House New Testament Lecture which was entitled: “New Testament Theology Re-Loaded: Integrating Biblical Theology and Christian Origins”. My aim was to set up a programme for NT Theology that does not shy away from the the act of theological interpretation but also takes into account the historical contingency of the New Testament writings. I tackled the subject by: (1) Detailing the pros and cons of Biblical Theology; (2) Detailing the pros and cons of Christian Origins; and (3) Proposing a separate programme called “New Covenant Theology” which explores the socio-historical context of the New Testament and the theological texture of its discourse. In the conclusion I wrote:

My own approach of pursuing a ‘Theology of the New Covenant’ recognizes the ecclesial context of Scripture and the sociological origins of the New Testament’s theological formulations.  New Covenant is the umbrella for the two entities of canon and community and theology emerges out of the relationship between them. This contention is validated by the observation that a biblical text is the testimony of a believing community to God’s act in Christ and its effect for his people. The Christian Bible only exists because certain faith communities wrote, received, and revered the Septuagint, the Gospels, Pauline letters, and the Apostolos as the Word of God. If we regard theology as emerging out of this interface between text and community then we are necessarily committed to a study of the history of the early church as the generative force behind Christian theology. We are equally committed to theology as the history of the effect of the text in the church. That will involve a socio-historical investigation of Christian Origins as the formative matrix for Christian theology.

My motivation for this approach is two-fold:

  • It is crucial to recognize the contingent circumstances and historical context in which the biblical authors wrote.
  • The necessity of moving beyond the descriptive model and beginning the task of theological synthesis by demonstrating the theological coherence of the New Testament.

So then, is it possible to reconcile Biblical Theology and Christian Origins in order to produce a New Testament Theology that is historically informed and theologically robust?

Biblical Theology – a Definition

August 23, 2008

What is “Biblical Theology”? Well, broadly put, it could be any theology that seeks to trace its origins from the Bible. It can also be used polemically: I do Biblical Theology but you do Dogmatic Theology, ergo, my Theology is more Biblical than yours! Probably the best definition I’ve found is that given by Brian Rosner (who is an Australian which ensures that all of his theological judgments are infallible when he speaks ex terra Australis). Rosner writes:

[T]heological interpretation of Scripture in and for the church. It proceeds with historical and literary sensitivity and seeks to analyse and synthesize the Bible’s teaching about God and his relations to the world on its own terms, maintaining sight of the Bible’s overarching narrative and Christocentric focus (Brian Rosner, ‘Biblical Theology,’ in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, eds. T.D. Alexander and B.S. Rosner [Leicester, England: IVP, 2000]: 10).

As I see it the constituent elements are:

  • Recognition of the ecclesial context of biblical intepretation
  • Attention to the Bible’s teaching on the Bible’s own terms and language
  • Placed in the context of the Bible’s redemptive-historical story-line
  • Emphasizes the christocentric centre of revelation

How does that sound for an operating definition for us to use here?