Graeme Goldsworthy is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors when it comes to seeing the unity of the Bible, and he will release a new book in May called Christ-Centered Biblical Theology.
In case you missed it a couple weeks ago, I talked about what it means to be a biblical theologian. A biblical theologian is concerned with the grand narrative of the Bible, taking parts and relating them to the whole. Biblical theology, for the minister or the average saint in the seat on Sunday, is vital because it keeps each individual story in perspective and helps guard against taking passages out of context. Coffee mugs at Christian bookstores are notorious for this.
In an interview with Collin Hansen on the Gospel Coalition blog, Goldsworthy talked about biblical theology’s importance for pastoral ministry. I think laypeople can learn from this too:
A sound biblical theology should prevent the misuse of Scripture, such as when texts are relieved of their biblical context and allowed to mean something quite other from what they mean in that context. When Scripture is treated as a lucky-dip of texts that assumes Christians stand in one, flat, undifferentiated relationship to all biblical texts, it can be made to mean anything we like. This is no basis for a sound and faithful pastoral ministry. I understand pastoral ministry to be the valid application of biblical truth to the various situations that arise and affect individuals and whole congregations. Biblical theology provides the means for understanding every part of the Bible in its final canonical context. Biblical theology, then, is at the heart of the pastor’s correct understanding of how Scripture can be thus applied to people’s lives. I also believe that the main emphasis in preaching should be the regular exposition of Scripture. Expository preaching, as the norm, really requires biblical theology in the preparation of sermons. Ideally, everyone who has the task of teaching the Bible to others should understand something of biblical theology.
When I told a friend and co-pastor about Goldsworthy’s new book, he said, “Maybe eventually this kind of book will replace classic systematic theology books in Christian colleges.” There is nothing wrong with systematic theology, as far as it goes, but if the only way we think about the Bible is in compartments (creation, atonement, Holy Spirit, end times, the Church, etc.) we will always study doctrines in isolation from each other. The Bible will then become a book of doctrine, rather than God’s story of redemption in the world.
What is your experience with biblical theology? Do you find that is the heartbeat of your personal ministry, whether a pastor, teacher, or small group leader?