The Kingdom of God and a Biblical Theology
The leadership of the Crossing has labored for some time now to try and convince the body of the legitimacy and need of a good biblical theology. You may not realize this. They do it very shrewdly. Well, they used to anyway. Up until now, Aaron and Gary have preached (and preached well) using a biblical theology framework. They usually don’t mention biblical theology by name when they do it, but if you’ve ever wondered why Aaron and Gary (especially) tend to take us through the entire story of the bible in so many of their sermons, this is what they are doing. They’re teaching us to be whole bible Christians.
It makes sense; the whole bible was meant for Christians (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I say that it used to be a shrewd approach because if you didn’t have a biblical theology framework, you might just think that our pastors were continually just trying to fill up time in their 45 minute sermons with lengthy explanations of the history behind almost anything. However, as of last Sunday, we introduced our first of five biblical theology seminars. It’s in the light now. I took the helm in order to teach through the basics of biblical theology by giving some of the technical terms as well as providing background information on the Old Testament and introducing the story of God and His Kingdom by doing a survey of Genesis 1-11 (which is in a different post).
We covered a lot of ground, perhaps too much. By the end I felt like a loosed fire hydrant bidding the neighborhood to take a quick sip before heading on with their day. In case you weren’t there, and you don’t want to listen to the audio here’s what you missed.
Biblical theology is distinct from the other theologies (which we won’t go into here) because it handles the bible on its own terms. That is to say, the bible progresses throughout its own story line to reveal to us more and more of God’s character and plans for humanity.
Because of this, we need a handful of new terms to understand what in the world is going on.
Progressive revelation is a helpful term that identifies the aforementioned fact that the bible is (in large parts) a historical narrative that tells a story as it progresses throughout time. A lot is revealed about God in Genesis 1:1, but this is not the end of the story. It doesn’t end until the close of the age and the return of the King, so we must realize that there is more to be learned as we progress through the book, and that the latter revelation (NT, particularly) very helpfully interprets former revelation (OT, particularly).
Exegesis is a concept that is sensitive to the fact that there are some 3500 years between us and the writing of the earliest books of the bible (and a mere 1900 years from the end of the NT). Because the bible was written by men (inspired by the Spirit of God, 2 Peter 1:20-21) from a completely different era, it seeks to understand what the original author’s intent was. It requires discipline and thinking, but the bible (and the Holy Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:13) are very helpful in informing us about these things. Exegesis bridges the gap between us and the original authors to get to the truth of what the author was trying to convey to his original audience. This helpfully informs how the various portions of Scripture are applied to us.
Exegesis is sensitive not only to the history of the bible, but also to its literature. Whether it’s narrative, poetic, prophetic, a parable, wisdom literature, an epistle, or apocalyptic, exegesis weighs the significance of the nuances between these types of literature and seeks a correct interpretation of them.
These tools will help us refine our hermeneutic. A hermeneutic can be thought of as the lens through which you view scripture. It is a starting point that ends up driving all subsequent interpretations of a text. Therefore, the more scripturally informed hermeneutic you have, the better you will be able to interpret the various texts of the bible.
A few important notes on this, when reading the bible, one must be humble enough to let the bible interpret itself at many points. The bible is a highly self-conscious book in the sense that the various authors oftentimes are familiar with the other texts contained within the bible. This is highly true of the New Testament, but true of much of the Old Testament as well. Therefore, we must allow the New Testament to be the glasses through which we read the Old Testament. The New Testament refines our Old Testament hermeneutic.
Dual authorship is the term that refers to the very nature of how we received the bible. The bible was indeed a book written by the finger of God. But as we noted earlier, it is also a book that finds its feet very much in the happenings of human history. This establishes for us the inexorable link between God’s word and His sovereignty over human history.
The concept of dual authorship can be found in 2 Peter 1:20-21 and just establishes the fact that though it is a book written by the hands of men, it was born out of the mind of God. The human authorship of the bible does not detract from the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s word, but neither does the divine nature of the revelation negate the fact that this book was written by real individuals with a real audience dealing with real problems confined to a specific time frame and location. Both of these truths inform our exegesis and establishes that though the bible was not written to us it was in fact written for us. Incidentally, the fully human and fully divine nature of the written word makes more sense when we consider the fully divine and fully human nature of the Word made flesh (John 1:14).
That is a drastically simplified view of the tools that are needed for proper biblical interpretation, but I hope it is helpful for the faithful bible reader. Much of it is actually quite self-evident, but oftentimes these principles go unapplied to the study of the bible. These ideas will be refined and built upon throughout the rest of the courses.
The Old Testament is Very Big and Very Old
In order to help participants in this class with how to view the Old Testament, I provided a few materials that give biblical timelines and helpful charts and spreadsheets for understanding the Old Testament’s breakdown. If you request in the comments, I’ll be happy to provide those texts for you. If you came to the seminars, I hope you have taped these charts to the inside of your bible. If you haven’t, then do it. Now.
All this was to say that if we can get the general ideas of what’s going on in the Old Testament, it will help immensely when we get down to the individual verses that can sometimes seem very strange and very far removed from ourselves.
It’s important to note here that the Old Testament is very important to us as Christians. The New Testament itself stands upon what was laid down by the prophets. Jesus commended it and fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17-20). I hope this becomes clearer and more potent as we continue, but our God has seen fit to give us a very large book, and so we ought to be familiar with all of it (Deuteronomy 8:3). Breaking up the magnitude of it in understandable sections is very helpful, and so I would encourage you to either seek out or think through ways you can do this.
In the Next Post
I urge you to read the story of God’s Kingdom from the beginning. For the purpose of keeping this post shorter, I’ve posted in separately. Read your bible before reading it and see if these things are true.
If you have any questions, please write them in the comments and we’ll discuss them. Next week we’ll talk about the various covenants of scripture that are monumentally important for understanding God’s unfolding plan.