Saturday, November 3, 2007

A (Very) Brief Overview of Biblical Theology

While theology is an overarching term meaning "the study of God," and thus is understood rather singularly by most, it includes specific themes (doctrines), and of areas study. These studies include but are not limited to Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology and their subsets, Covenant Theology, Dispensational Theology, Process Theology, Feminist Theology, etc. Some of these subsets may be considered legitimate by evangelicals and some are beyond the pale. Also their are evangelicals that subscribe to different subsets according to tradition, experience, etc. As I am partial to Biblical Theology, the following is meant to show, in a most basic way, what I believe.

Biblical Theology should not be presented without mentioning Systematic Theology. Systematics studies specific doctrines within Theology such as the nature of the Trinity, the fallenness of man, etc. It also takes ongoing themes from Biblical Theology and examines aspects of them.

Biblical Theology (B.T.), on the other hand, views the revelation of God as a whole, ongoing, process. It looks back to the beginning with the end in mind and to the end with the beginning in mind. Geerhardus Vos is perhaps the most famous Biblical Theologian. He presented B.T. as a flower, with God's revelation growing from bud to blossom. "The blossom is retrospectively united to the bud; the bud is prospectively united to the blossom." I would like to expand this. When you are trimming a rose, and you come across a bud, you spare it because you know that you will get a beautiful flower out of it in time. You see the flower within the bud. Likewise, when you have your flower that has fully bloomed, you remember the bud that was spared. In the same way, Biblical Theology looks at the beginning, the end, and the process of the revelation of God as a single progressive unit that cannot be fully separated. Each "part" of the progression is still the rose flower. This sets B.T. distinctly apart from certain other theologies, like Dispensationalism, which sees distinct revelations of God that begin and end and are replaced by others.

Let us look at the doctrine of Redemption (Systematic). Biblical Theology would see in the creation of man as able to sin, and in the temptation of man causing him to sin, the plan of God to eventually redeem man through a savior. We then look at the Old Testament events; from Cain and Able ("Am I my brother's keeper?"), to the giving of the Law to Moses (a foreshadowing of the Law written not on stone, but on the flesh of our hearts), to the Prophets (showing how man cannot keep the Law on their own and their need for a savior); we see the growing of the bud and its preparation to bloom. We see the time coming to fullness. We are expecting the advent of the Messiah. Finally our hopes are realized (reified - made real) in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Yet this is only the start of the bloom period of the flower. Our lives today, with the Holy Spirit, and our eternal lives, are also part of the ever-unfolding process of Redemption.

This is only an appetizer of B.T.! For more, please visit monergism's homepage, or find books and articles by Geerhardus Vos, Graeme Goldsworthy, and Ardel Caneday.

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