Is Biblical Theology Dangerous?

Biblical Theology is the practice of developing one’s theology by studying the Bible’s progressive revelation, and seeing how truths were revealed chronologically, throughout redemptive history. It means more than deriving theology from a certain book of the Bible, but rather stresses the importance of reading the Bible in chronological order, and seeing how God’s revelation progresses through time. This approach to theology is different from systematic theology, which develops theology by building principals across scripture, without regard to what revelation was in existence at the time.

In Biblical Theology, one starts reading at the book of Genesis and traces the story of God’s revelation until Revelation. This means that the Bible points forward in history, usually finding its fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. In this sense, often Biblical Theologians follow the line of thinking that all Scripture points to and is fulfilled in Christ. In the past, the concept of Biblical Theology was an approach reserved for the halls of academia. But more recently it has made the map (often pushed by D. A. Carson) into the mainstream of American churches. Continue reading

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How to Understand the Old Testament

Christian books fly off the press a mile a minute. Bloggers inform the believing world the moment some “Christian” event happens. Commentaries inform every passage in the Bible and are legion in number. Pastors have advanced degrees and spend their lives studying and delivering the word to the flock.

But you are neither a pastor nor a son of pastor. You are not a Christian writer, blogger or commentator. You and simply a Christian, and you feel like you cannot understand the Bible. And who could blame you with so many skilled writers and pastors digitalized across the globe. Compounding your distress, the Scriptures seem weird, odd even. In fact, why does the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) mention that one should never boil a young goat with its mother’s milk (Ex 23:19; 34:26; Deut 14:21)? This seeming oddballness makes understanding the Old Testament, especially, seem like a near impossible task for believers.

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The NT’s Storyline

Further Reflections on the Nature of the Eschatological New Testament Storyline

As a continuing series, G. K’s Book New Testament Biblical Theology is being analyzed and explained. Think of it as sort of an extended book review but without much critique. In fact, the express aim is to understand Beale by his own words.

Beale opens up this chapter by basically summarizing his Already-Not-Yet (ANY( reading of Scripture. He states, “in the NT the end days predicated by the OT are seen as beginning fulfillment with Christ’s first coming and will culminate in a final consummated fulfillment at the very end of history. All that the OT foresaw would occur in the end times has begun already in the first century and continues on until the final coming of Christ” (161).

Beale provides this chart on page 162 to illustrate his view of the Bible’s ANY storyline pictorially:

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Beale – Part 6

This is the sixth installment of  a series that is reading G. K. Beale’s New Testament Theology. The point of these posts is simply to outline his beliefs and highlight some of his key arguments.  

The Eschatological Storyline of the Old Testament in Relation to the New Testament: The New Testament Focus on the Latter Days

Beale continues to argue that eschatology is a key to understanding Scripture, and that eschatology does not speak of the end but the present also. He understands Eschatology as being already fulfilled but without all being fulfilled. One could term this an Already-Not-Yet view of Scripture.

Beale believes that “eschatology is a dominant theme in the NT” (129). The phrase “the latter days” and similar terms in the NT “often dos not refer exclusively to the very end of history, as we typically think of it” (130). In fact, argues Beale, studying the latter days will “demand that the popular and even often-held scholarly view be reassessed.” This  view is that eschatology or the latter days refers to the end of history alone. For Beale, we are in the latter days. Continue reading

Dangers of Moralism

Thomas Schreiner identifies two problems that will wreck havoc on future generations in this article. First, he says that while we believe the Scripture is inspired, we betray a feeling that is not sufficient by skirting over controversial issues. Second, and most relevant here, he argues that solely horizontal preaching will lead to weakness in discernment and liberal theology.

Horizontal preaching is simply preaching on marriage, conquering fear and the like. These aren’t bad in themselves and must be preached. “But,” Schreiner says, “what is troubling is that these sort of sermons become the staple week in and week out, and the theological worldview that permeates God’s word and is the foundation for all of life is passed over in silence. Our pastors turn into moralists rather like Dear Abby who give advice on how to live a happy life week after week” (20). Continue reading

Early Judaism and Eschatology

Having testified of the rampancy of Already-Not-Yet readings of the Bible and displayed Beale’s eschatological approach to Scripture, this post displays how Jews between the Old and New Testament understood history—at least according to Beale.

While writing on “The Eschatological Storyline of the Old Testament in Relation to Judaism,” Beale covers the range of Jewish Literature ranging from The Twelve Patriarchs to Tobit. He covers various themes relating to eschatological language and judgment, the destruction of the heaven and earth with a new creation, the resurrection, the glorious inheritance, the fulfillment of the patriarchal promises, the restoration of Israel, the restoration of the temple, eschatological lawlessness, eschatological wisdom, the coming of the Messiah, end-time suffering and tribulation, an absolute end of sin and evil, and other ideas related to end times.

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The Meaning of Psalms

It’s old hat to observe five divisions in the book of Psalms. A rather shabby assessment is that these five books in Psalms match the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Makes sense. Five books in Psalms and Five Books in Moses. But what does it mean? Does it simply mean that the Psalms look back to the Torah? They do. Psalm 1 extols the virtue of a believer mediating on it. But is this really what’s going on?

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The Old Testament Story – Part 3

Beale nominates Genesis 1–3 for the honor of defining and establishing the whole Old Testament story. He pencils, “My thesis in this respect is that Gen. 1–3 lays out the basic themes for the rest of the OT, which, as we will see, are essentially eschatological themes” (29).

In order to verify that Gen 3 forecasts the OT the Story, Beale proffers four items to the jury:

1. a sketch of the thought in Gen. 1–3;

2. allusions o Gen. 1–3 elsewhere in the OT and how they develop that initial narrative;

3. observation of the themes from Gen. 1–3 elsewhere in the OT and how they develop that initial narrative;

4. the relation of the Adamic storyline derived from the above analysis to past proposals of the “center” of the OT. (30) Continue reading

Already And Not Yet

If the title of this post means nothing to you, that’s ok. But I want you to know that you should know what this means. Why? Because like the explosive force of a ball rocketing off a bat, already and not yet theology has launched across evangelical churches.

In short, already-not-yet (ANY) claims that biblical promises are fulfilled in the present age yet are consummated (finally fulfilled) in a future age. For example, the kingdom is present today in our heart (or in the church, etc) but will have a super fulfillment when Jesus returns. Continue reading

Bible and Image

 Understanding the importance of the image God and its progression through redemptive history is not only helpful but a necessary venture to bring the Bible’s teaching to bear on modern humanity. However, just like the topic of work, leisure and rest, so also biblical theologies on the image of God are weak and sparse.[1] The following will briefly show how the Bible relates the image of God in redemptive history.

God’s image transfers to children. Genesis 1:26–27 state that God made both male and female in his image. To be made in God’s image means to image God in the world as his physical representatives who participate in a plethora of differing relationships. Genesis 5:1–3 shows that the image of God passes from father to son. Adam fathered a son in his likeness named Seth (Gen 5:3).

This implies that God’s creating people in his image bestows sonship. This is precisely the connection Luke makes in his Gospel. In Luke 3:38, we learn Adam was “the son of God.” Thus, the transfer of God’s image implies sonship.

God’s image remains after the fall of mankind. In Genesis 9:6, the reason murder requires the death penalty is because “God made man in his own image.” Thus, the fall of man did not destroy or damage the image of God. The sanctity of life is guaranteed because people still possess God’s image. Later Old Testament writers speak of the special glory humanity received from God, which hints that God’s image abides in people (Ps 8:5). In the New Testament, persons must not curse each other because humans are made in the likeness of God (James 3:9). Therefore, the image of God remains after the fall.

However, a persistent problem exists. Individuals cannot image God properly because of the pollution of sin. The history of the Old Testament is a history of moral failure, failure to spread God’s name and fame across the globe . The first Adam failed to image God through his life, and no other king, prophet or priest imaged God perfectly. A need for a coming one to redeem humanity existed.

Adam was a type of Christ. According to Paul, Adam “was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14). Adam typified, that is, related to another Adam-like person, Jesus Christ. Adam failed to manifest the righteousness that images God’s righteousness, but Jesus succeeded, even sharing that righteousness with “many” (5:19). Paul concludes, “so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As Adam represented the race and led it into sin, so Jesus leads the human race into righteousness.

Jesus fully imaged God in earth. According to Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” He reflects God’s glory as humanity in God’s image was meant to do. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15).

When believers trust in Jesus Christ, they become “in Christ.” Jesus prays in John 17:21–23:

that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Notice the discussion of being in Jesus and in God and how this relates to receiving God’s glory. When one is in Christ, one is in God and manifests God’s glory. The purpose of redemption is to forgive the sins of mankind through Christ, so that humanity can be in Christ and so manifest God’s glory to the world. Believers become one with Jesus in their redemption.

Believers are so identified with Jesus that they die with him and rise with him (cf. Rom 6:1–11). Paul can say in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” To be saved is to be in Christ. To be in Christ means one is identified with God and share in glory. In fact, Romans 8:30 explains the end goal of salvation is to be glorified.

The goal of believers today is to image Christ because he imaged God perfectly. So Romans 8:29 says the purpose of God’s predestination is for believers “to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Paul exhorts believers who “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:10). Similarly, Paul can say in Ephesians 4:24 “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” The reason believers are transformed into the image of Christ is because he images God perfectly (cf. 2 Cor 4:4). Jesus is the full manifestation of God and perfectly images him on earth, being God himself (cf. John 1:1, 14, 18).

Believers image God through imaging Christ to spread God’s glory across the world. So Paul can say in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” In the future, believeres will share in God’s divine nature (2 Pet 1:4) ruling over all the earth in his kingdom (Rev 20). In this kingdom, saints will perfectly image God in bodies that Jesus provides through his resurrection.

Before concluding this discussion, the follow chart will help illustrate the historical progression of God’s image from Adam, to Jesus, and then to Christians.

First Adam

Second Adam

Believers

Adam is God’s image Jesus is unique image of God Christians become like unique image of God, Jesus not Adam
Adam receives sonship (Gen 5:1, 3; Luke 3:38) Jesus is unique son of God Christians become like unique son of God
Adam receives glory (Ps 8 ) Jesus uniquely is God’s glory Christians destined to same glory as son of God

Some basic conclusions follow: The concepts of image, sonship, and glory are connected. This connection exists in the New Testament for believers. However, distinctions exist since the Old Testament’s sources these three concepts in Adam, while the New Testament sources these in Jesus.

For our purposes, believers now image Jesus Christ, since he redeems humanity and brings believers into him. As the perfect image of God, believers must image Jesus to image God. So an exploration into how Jesus worked, enjoyed leisure, and played is the most important way believers to balance their lives today.

***And this is precisely what we will explore later this week, as we see how Jesus images God.


            [1] The sparse treatment by G. L. Bray [“Image of God,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D. A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy, 575–6 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000)] helps as much as a two-page article can help. For some reason, this biblical-theological theme is largely ignored in studies of progressive revelation, whereas every systematic theology will give large discussions on the image of God.