Sunday, February 27, 2011

Biblical Theology, Introduction

In the "Introduction" to his Biblical Theology, Michael Lawrence tackles the foundational issue of what the Bible is, after all. Lawrence says that we need and understanding of the Bible that "doesn't reduce it to life's little answer book, but keeps the focus on God." Additionally our definition shouldn't "reduce it to the story of how we get saved and go to heaven."

According to Lawrence, biblical theology is the attempt to demonstrate what systematic theology assumes, that the Scriptures are a single, unified narrative of God's message.

Lawrence identifies four characteristics of divine revelation: it is 1) progressive -- revealing God's truth over time; 2) it is historical -- dealing with real events in history; 3) it is organic -- more like a growing plant than constructed building; 4) it is practical -- useful for pastoral counsel and believer-to-believer admonishing.

He also identifies five characteristics of the Bible, which task itself is a bit confusing and overlaps somewhat with his description of divine revelation: 1) historical/human; 2) divine; 3) narrative; 4) structured by covenants; 5) centered in judgment.

Lawrence gives a bit of insight to his description of Scriputre as "narrative" when he explains that this "story doesn't just interpret us, it exercises authority over us. ... The narrative of Scripture has a normative, or authoritative, function in our lives and over our churches.

This is the point at which Scriptural narrative looks much different from other historical accounts or stories (in the sense of true events, not "fairy tales"). Yet Lawrence perhaps confuses the issue when he contrasts a Christianity of "a limited set of doctrinal propositions" with one that "claims the totality of our lives."

He is not quite clear, here, of how the normative nature of the biblical narrative dispels dry orthodoxy with vibrant orthopraxy. Perhaps this will become clearer.

Lawrence does make a good point in re-emphasizing what he calls "salvation through judgment." This is an echo of Romans 3:26, in that we are not saved when God's just wrath is neutralized, but when it is cast on One able to endure it in righteousness, God's own Son. This makes God both just and justifier.

Lawrence's premise -- that proper theology is also imminently practical -- is correct. I look forward to discovering his demonstration of this truth in the remainder of the book.

No comments: