Friday, September 10, 2010

Reflections on Biblical Theology I and II (Part I)

roots2These are the modules that caught my eye right back before I started the HTC course: two consecutive Level 4 modules, taking you through the year, 26 weeks of Biblical Theology tuition.  This comes on the heels of the Old Testament Themes year 3 module, which is an excellent biblical theology primer, being a kind of introduction to Old Testament Theology.  If you’re thinking of studying theology in a genuinely Reformed setting, then these are two of the modules that should make you travel north to Scotland (if you’re not already here) to find the road to Dingwall.

Biblical Theology I is the theoretical module, Biblical Theology II the practical module.  So, in BT I you look at the history of BT, the issue of the canon, NT use of the OT, and a range of methodological approaches to  BT.  You study salvation-historical approaches (e.g. Vos, Goldsworthy), canonical approaches (e.g. Childs, Seitz, Watson), and the approaches of Barr and Brueggemann.  In BT II, you get to deploy what you’ve learnt.  So, you get four three-week blocks where you research and develop a biblical-theological question relating to four subject areas, and then answer it using your chosen methodology.  Our subjects (they are chosen by the seminar) were Marriage, the City, the Spirit, and the Nations.  This of course is all overseen by Dr Jamie Grant.

For now, some brief reflections follow:

  • The neglect of Biblical Theology.  BT is a closed book it seems in some circles where people who feel quite comfortable operating theologically within the categories of Systematic Theology talk about Biblical Theology in vague terms.  It soon often becomes apparent that they’re talking about theology that’s ‘biblical’ – usually that means plucking Systematic Theology from the Bible!
  • The relationship of BT to ST.  Systematics is very important (don’t try to cast me as a BT flag-waver in the BT-ST war!  I attend Dogs in Edinburgh every two years for Pete’s sake!).  However, an over-reliance on ST is not good.  The development of BT as a discipline has accompanied the Church’s developing appreciation of the historical nature of the Faith.  Although Gabler’s original proposals for BT were off-beam in some respects, at least he was right in this: that BT ought to form the foundation for ST.  It’s my humble opinion that both BT and ST flag-wavers need to recognise the inter-related nature of their disciplines in the service of the Church.  The Church needs ST.  The Church needs BT.  And successful ST needs BT.
  • BT, History and Categories.  The fact remains that ST presents theology within an artificially imposed framework.  The categories of ST are often not the categories of scripture.  The framework within which scripture is placed per se in the canon is an historical one (notwithstanding the presence of the wisdom literature, Von Rad’s infamous nemesis).  BT fundamentally operates within, and presents its results within, this framework, whereas ST does not.  There is a great need for the Christian in the pew to recover the historical and eschatological component to the Faith.  BT is assisting this in the Church.  It is of huge importance at this time.