By Timothy, the extra-deep-this-week contributor
In a lot of ways, this will be the hardest post in the introduction series for me to write. Biblical theology is the discipline I am least familiar with and it is also the most fluid and least defined of the main theological disciplines. You see, the approach to biblical theology really depends on how the specific author of a work decides to define the term and approach the discipline. I’ll try to cover the major ways I have seen the discipline approached, but this shouldn’t be considered an expert view or a comprehensive overview of biblical theology.
Whereas I have written my own academic works of systematic and historical theology, biblical theology is something I’m still trying to figure out so I’ll be making this educational journey with you.
One way to approach biblical theology is a theology of the whole Bible, a more narrative approach. One good example of this is Graeme Goldsworthy’s work According to Plan. This approach will trace the large movements of the story of God as told in scripture, attempting to show the unity (or disunity) of the story.
Another way to approach biblical theology is to trace the development of a certain theme throughout Scripture. A good example of this would be the series New Studies in Biblical Theology edited by D.A. Carson. Examples here would include a study of missions throughout all of Scripture, or an exploration of the theme of marriage or adultery. This is probably the most common approach to biblical theology in general I have seen, primarily because of the sheer amount of volumes in the series I mentioned above.
The final way that I have seen biblical theology done is essentially just an overview of the Bible. An example of this would be Tom Schreiner’s recent book, The King in His Beauty. Schreiner is supposedly tracing the theme of the kingdom of God throughout all of Scripture, but the book really doesn’t do this so much as it provides a book by book survey of the entirety of the Bible. There’s not much theology being done in these types of books— think of them more as a book report summarizing the entirety of the Bible.
There are so many more ways that scholars do biblical theology, but like I said in the introduction, these three are the only ones I am really familiar with.
It is a vitally important field, however, especially for church leaders.
Whereas much of systematic and historical theology is done primarily at the scholarly level, biblical theology is of great benefit to the preacher and pastor in being able to connect individual passages to the overarching story of scripture, leading to more biblical preaching. Books that are surveys of Scripture are helpful to leaders in being able to see the connections between the Testaments and between different genres and books of Scripture. If done well, biblical theology can be the most practical of the theological disciplines for the everyday church.