Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Nothing such as 'Biblical' theology, I think...

A few weeks back I had a chat with a seminarian friend. He said that he is into 'Biblical' theology. That simple remark got me thinking what does it really mean when we use the term 'Biblical' theology?

Christians like to peg the word 'Biblical' on everything, as if those things being named 'Biblical' would sound more Christian. Hence we have 'Biblical' preaching, 'Biblical' science, 'Biblical' education, 'Biblical' sex, and so on. It is as if a sort of name-baptism that elevates a certain practice as more conforming to the Bible than others. So we always hear, "That is not Biblical... this is more Biblical..."

So many Christians who study theology are tempted to do the same to theology. They attached the word to their preferred theology, as if legitimize that particular theology for them to follow.

But in a more serious discourse, the term 'Biblical' theology is not as clearly defined or understood.

It has 2 very different meanings:

1) The theology of the Biblical authors which represents the real knowledge of God.
2) The theology of the Biblical authors which are not necessary real knowledge of God. Their theology are their own reflection or guesswork of God.

Those, like my friend, who think that 'Biblical' theology means (1), then usually their understanding of 'Biblical' theology consist some form of historical-redemptive or salvation-history reading of the Bible. That means they read the Bible as having a whole with the Old and New Testament connected and expounding on many same themes; providing data of how God dealt with the world particularly through Israel. This approach are seen in works of Gerhard Von Rad, Geerhardus Vos, G.E. Ladd, Bruce Waltke, etc.

Stance (2) is very different from (1). This approach doesn't assume continuity or connection between the books canonized in the Bible. In other words, this approach does not recognize the canonical status of the Bible. Hence what we find in the Bible are various reflections of individuals with their encounter with God.

Neither of these approaches are less 'Biblical' because both their investigations are based on the Bible. So I think the problem is that we don't have a 'Biblical' theology. What we have is theology, simply. And by definition, Christian theology has to take the Bible as its source and foundation. So to say that a theology is 'Biblical' is performing a redundancy. But if you seriously dying for an adjective, just add 'Christian' at the front: Christian theology.


davinci said...

I believe, beginning from the start of higher criticism, there already developed a clear line of demarcation between "theology" contrast to Biblical studies.

and the later, consist of "biblical theology; OT theology, NT theology, Mark's theology, Luke's theology, Pauline Theology... and etc.."

I think your friend meant, he studies the later in general speaking...

Maybe, Dr Tony Siew could explain this? I think he is of the "biblical theology" and not theology, hehe....since he major in Revelation.

And szezeng is of the 'theology' since you engross in Barth, Torrance, Davin Tracy,,etc...hehe..

maybe szezeng got somewhat irritated because "biblical theology" would imply that ppl of "theology" alone, maybe not so biblical????...hehe

thinker said...

Ya (referring to what has been shared in the blog)... some Christians have such a fetish for being biblical.

Being biblical does not necessarily mean being godly :)

There can be times when being biblical is morally wrong.