New PhD Emphasis in Biblical Theology
Biblical Theology is a burgeoning discipline with great promises for effective ministry, theologizing, and preaching. I am very excited to announce that I will have the privilege to head up a new PhD emphasis in Biblical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary starting this fall.
Launching the new emphasis will entail adding two new courses to the curriculum: Advanced Biblical Theology and Ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman Literature. The seminar in Advanced Biblical Theology will typically consist of a thorough study of the New Testament use of the Old Testament; the Ancient Literature seminar will mostly focus on Second Temple literature.
Contributions to Biblical Theology
I currently serve as editor or co-editor of two major series in Biblical Theology: The Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series, for which I wrote A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters; and the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation (BTCP) series, for which I wrote A Commentary on 1-2 Timothy and Titus.
In addition, I have contributed two volumes to the New Testament in Biblical Studies (NSBT) series edited by D. A. Carson, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission (2nd edition with T. D. Alexander forthcoming) and Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel (with Scott Swain).
Also, my wife and I co-authored a book on biblical manhood and womanhood, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey. A co-authored volume, The Holy Spirit (with Gregg Allison), is forthcoming in 2020 in a new series published by B&H Academic edited by David Dockery, Christopher Morgan, and Nathan Finn.
Different Conceptions of Biblical Theology
Not everyone means the same when talking about “Biblical Theology.” In an article published in the journal Themelios, I distinguish four distinct approaches: (1) classic book by book; (2) central themes. (3) single center; and (4) metanarrative. I also note that it is important to define Biblical Theology and to distinguish it from Systematic Theology.
There is at times a danger to presuppose one’s theological system as a grid when doing Biblical Theology (such as Reformed theology or dispensationalism) and nonetheless to call one’s work “Biblical Theology.” However, this attempt essentially to coopt the discipline of Biblical Theology in order to validate one’s theological system should be resisted.
For this reason it is vital to define Biblical Theology and to distinguish between Biblical and Systematic Theology, rather than to engage in a hybrid approach that claims to engage in Biblical Theology while imposing one’s theological grid onto the biblical material. Buyer, beware! Not everything that is sold under the rubric of Biblical Theology is Biblical Theology!
I fear that to some of those self-proclaimed practitioners of Biblical Theology, Jesus will say on the last day (the astute reader will easily recognize my slight alterations of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount to fit the topic at hand):
Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, I am engaging in Biblical Theology’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven and carefully discerns the theology of the biblical writers themselves.
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not engage in Biblical Theology in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and write many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of Systematic Theology in the guise of Biblical Theology.” (Matthew 7:20–23)
Be careful, therefore, practitioner of Biblical Theology, that you carefully define your terms and distinguish between Biblical and Systematic Theology. And be careful, buyer of books, to discern whether a work sold under the rubric of Biblical Theology does in fact engage in such! Not everything that glitters is gold, and not every such book delivers the goods!
Find Biblical Theology in the pages of the Bible; distinguish between interpretation and theological construction; and conceive of Biblical Theology as genuinely inductive, practiced in the spirit of a hermeneutic of perception and listening to the text, and focused on the apprehension of the convictions of the biblical writers themselves as revealed in the text.
Note: You can read the full press release here. This blog was written based on comments made on a panel for the 9Marks conference on Biblical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on February 12, 2019.
For a fuller discussion of Biblical Theology, see chapter 15 in Invitation to Biblical Interpretation. See also my 2018 Sizemore lectures on “The Promise and Practice of Biblical Theology” (Part 1 and Part 2).