Monday, October 27, 2008

Are We Asking All The Questions?

At first glance of the title you might think I am writing about the upcoming elections. Well, actually I am not so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Instead I intend to share some insight I gleaned from a thick volume I am reading for my biblical theology class aptly titled New Dicitionary of Biblical Theology. This is one of those behemoth texts that have two columns per page, meaning it takes about 20 minutes to experience the ecstasy of turning the page. I joyfully get to read at least 300 of them.

I am honestly not complaining, particularly because there is so much good stuff I am learning for the first time. This past weekend I read a section called “Preaching and Biblical Theology,” which is the most practical section in the first part of the book. As I read I noticed how the advice given not only applies to preaching, but to devotional life and teaching in general.

Before delving into that it would be best to define biblical theology. The book states that, ”Biblical theology is principally concerned with the overall theological message of the whole bible. It seeks to understand the parts in relation to the whole and, to achieve this, it must work with the mutual interaction of the literary, historical, and theological dimensions of the various corpora, and with the inter-relationships of these within the whole canon of Scripture. Only in this way do we take proper account of the fact that God has spoken to us in Scripture.”

With that I mind I now share with you some very keen insight by Dr. P. J. H. Adam as to how biblical theology can affect not only our preaching, but our devotional life and teaching (discipleship, small groups, evangelism, apologetics, etc.):
Most preachers have been trained to read a text in its literary context, a verse in the context of a paragraph, a paragraph in the context of a chapter, a chapter in the context of a book, a book in the context of the thought of the author [all of which are good]. However not every preacher has been trained to read a text in the context of theology, much less biblical theology. To do so is to ask the following questions: How does this text fit into the progressive revelation that God gives in the bible? Is it related to any major biblical themes? Is its theme one in which there is significant development between the OT and NT? What relationship does it have to the gospel? How does the gospel form a context for it? How does it relate to the revelation of Jesus Christ, to the promise or the fufilment? Is it used or interpreted elsewhere in the Bible? In which major theological category does it occur, e.g. promise, law, prophecy, wisdom, instruction, blessing, curse, people of God, gospel?

This is a more difficult exercise than studying the literary genre and context. But to attempt it will make it less likely that a stirring call to build the temple will be applied to the church building programme, that a call to discipleship will become a proclamation of justification by works, or that adulterers will be stoned. Only biblical theology can save us from misusing the Bible, as we read each text in the context of the progressive revelation of God’s saving work in Christ.

These words are powerful reminders that we as a Christian people—regardless of vocation—need to know God’s Word and one of the great key’s to that is asking the right questions. I hope this helps you in your walk as much as I trust it will help me.

By His Grace.

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