Sunday, August 12, 2012

1 Intro to Biblical Theology

I'm committed to blog through Grudem, but I have at least toyed with writing a shadow biblical theology alongside my reviews of him. I'm doubtful I can keep it up because it's not a priority and I don't know if anyone would be interested in publishing it. But I was flowing this morning, so here is my shadow introduction:
Theology is the study of God. Anyone who has an opinion about God is a theologian, but some study God more extensively and can bring countless voices from the past to bear on the subject.  Systematic theology the organization of Christian belief into an overall system according to some organizing principle. You can also present theology from a historical perspective, how it has developed over time, historical theology.

Biblical theology focuses on the theology in the Bible. Most Christian traditions look to the Bible as the starting point for thinking about God and derive the key content of theology from the Bible. To be sure, they can process what they find there in different ways, but the Bible is still usually the starting point.  It is possible to have a philosophical theology that is so oriented around contemporary categories that the Bible is largely peripheral, but such an approach will surely tend to be rather nominally Christian from a historic standpoint.

At a point in history when we are more aware of how to read the biblical books in context than ever before, biblical theology has frequently become a collection of the individual theologies of the individual authors or bodies of literature in the Bible--Pauline theology, deuteronomistic theology, etc. Then perhaps some token collection of common denominators may appear at the end.

This situation, in effect, is a logical consequence of the Protestant drive not to let any vantage point beyond the books of the Bible themselves be the fulcrum from which the teaching of Scripture is integrated. This perspective can lead, on the one hand, to a denial that such extra-biblical mechanisms are actually in play.  On the other hand, it can lead to a purely philosophical basis for theology that is not concerned about historic Christian traditions.

However, it is my contention that if we are to consider historic Christian positions as valid, we will not only have to put our faith in a genuine progress of understanding within the pages of Scripture but also in the developing understanding of the New Testament within the first few centuries of the church. Whether we realize it or not, we integrate the parts of Scripture from certain fulcrum points in the Bible, understood in a certain way. Because we have to pinpoint these center points from the outside of the Bible looking in (after all, the New Testament books themselves largely don't reference each other), the identification of such fulcrum points is an extra-biblical task to a significant degree.

In the pages that follow, I want to sketch out a systematic biblical theology that listens to the individual theologies of individual authors and bodies of literature but that is organized from the standpoint of what we might call "consensus Christianity," the commonly agreed, orthodox perspectives of Christians throughout the centuries. Since I am in the end Protestant, I hope you will also allow me to do just a little constructive theology, critique and synthesis of traditional Christianity in the light of our contemporary situation.

Inevitably, the best way to apprehend what I am saying here is by observing individual examples. The result would be an orthodox organization of Christian understanding formulated out of the materials of Scripture, in dialog with contemporary concerns and issues. This is the task of this book.


Phil W said...

I appreciate the fulcrum illustrations in the last two posts. I've been asking myself the question of what progress or research in the field of biblical studies looks like (at least the kind that I'm interested in) and it seems that today one task of the Bible scholar is to discern and disseminate these fulcrum points to the Church.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Okay, I may be totally "off" in understanding what you are saying, but are you saying that irregardless of the personal differences among the authors of the books, there still is some "essence" that is to be applied to our culture. Culture then, is not neutral, but to be "transformed"???? Isn't this approach the exclusivist approach to religion?

What is the commonality of Christian consensus, other than the "eye witnesses" (which is questionable when it comes to Paul)?

Conservative Christianity follows Pauline teaching, as their focus is on the social structures of family and government.

The Liberal follows "Jesus Life", an historicizes it, meaning that those that are to be focused upon are those that are "outcasts" (however that is defined). This follows the economic philosophy of Obama's camp in re-distribution of wealth and civil rights for the "underdogs".

Both the stagnation of society via conservatism in correspondence to present day reality and the progressive move of liberalism in ignoring boundaries that are necessary for good government fall short to me. One on the basis of ignoring historical development (building defensiveness to change), and the other on the issue of maintaining certain values that support, reflect and maintain somethiing important to/for man; boundaries.

One side wants to go back to re-invent "biblical Christianity" without realizing what that really means, while the other wants to re-invent culture itself "under the guise of Jesus' mission".

Cultural change has happened and will continue to happen, but that does not mean that dissolution of boundaries around private property, individual liberty, the State and the nation is advisable. That is how I interpret what you've said.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Fundamentalism uses the Bible as a "proof text" upon culture, and others. And just as you said, humans without realizing it, use certain "framing" categories to interpret Scripture.

The Church Fathers didn't even agree about anything, the only thing that built consensus were the creeds, but even then, there were various forms of creedal affirmation and understandings of God, even within Christendom.

Since even the Catholic Church has different monastic "traditions" shouldn't we give up on thinking our way of understanding Christianity is the one and only and TRUE way???

Ken Schenck said...

Nope, I actually centered that out as a flaw in the usual biblical theology approach.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Oh, I see you use metaphor. I find it hard to think in metaphorical terms, as I don't read or think in metaphorical ways, usually. When one begins by believing certain things, then it is easy to project into the story. Isn't this the way that narrative works? But, doesn't this also mean that one is "within" a certain context? One "lives, and thinks" in "biblical ways, which is a fundamentalist approach, isn't it?

Ken Schenck said...

Nope, I'm speaking developmentally.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

How is the mind/brain understood in individual people as to differences? I understand that images that show on MRIs are hard to interpret. How does one separate those that think in concrete/pragmatic ways and idealistic/hopeful ways as a personality/character/interest trait versus within a developmental stage?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

So, even while scientists are questioning the basic interpretations of the MRI, there is the issue of consciousness, which has long been on the scope of interests to psychologists and neuroscientists.

John C. Gardner said...

The best Biblical theological work that I have seen is one rooted in the New Testament by Ben Witherington(2 volumes). It is well written and detailed. I would love to see a Biblical theological work by Tom Wright.

Angie Van De Merwe said...!/photo.php?fbid=10151097939619483&set=a.241865839482.134537.241756214482&type=1&theater

The wesites are from a neuroscience Ph.D. student. Genes express themselves differently even within identifical gene coding. So, where does this leave the "Biblical Lifestyle", as to "sin"? Nature does determine much. But, Christians want nurture to mean everything! Thus "spiritual formation" classes, and "discipline", "habit formation", etc.

While I have no doubt that good habits build "good character", I also think that social conditioning (one's culture) can be conducive (or not) to natural bents, natural tendencies. Why always work against the natural, as if Nature itself is sinful? Or everything that exists in this world, is "from God"?

Character that is "good" is a character of honest, and has integrity. "Sin" is not against natural personality characteristics, but relational problems. These become social problems in our society. If one insists on using "spiritual language", then social problems are those that exists in opposition to socal norms (which the Church is all too keen to label as "sin").

Robert said...

Hello Ken,

I have a bible institute at our church and we currently use Grudemn's book but I have been wanting to move to something else. I would like to use your material for our classes. Would you object to me formatting it in a more presentable format and distributing it to my class via PDF?

I would be willing to invest some money and have this self-published as well. We would give you full credit, and you would retain all copyrights to your works. Also we would give you whatever percentage profit you think is acceptable. We would have to cover publication cost, formatting, etc.

Let me know if you are interested.

Ken Schenck said...

You're welcome to use these materials for the time being. I will eventually either self publish them or get a publisher. But until then, you can use them freely. Thanks for the interest.