Monday, November 25, 2013

A Pastoral Introduction to Biblical Theology

What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James M Hamilton  Jr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment is a book I have wanted to read for a long time.  Actually, it is a book I have wanted to and attempted to read multiple times.  It has just been a bit overwhelming.  It is long and it covers a topic, biblical theology, that is a bit foreign to me.  I have been intrigued by the topic and especially his premise of the unifying theme of Scripture.  But it has just been a mountain of a book that I have not been willing/able to ascend.

Boy was I excited when I heard about Hamilton’s new book, What is Biblical Theology.  I was excited to see a short book written as an introduction to Biblical Theology from Hamilton’s perspective.  This was a book that I had high expectations of and I was not disappointed.
As in his extensive biblical theology, Hamilton argues that the theme of the entire Bible is the glory of god on salvation through judgement.  Bur before we understand this, it would be good to know just what Hamilton means when he says “biblical theology”.

To summarize, by the phrase biblical theology I mean the interpretive perspective reflected in the way the biblical authors have  presented  their  understanding  of  earlier  Scripture,  redemptive history, and the events they are describing, recounting, celebrating, or addressing in narratives, poems, proverbs, letters, and apocalypses.

This is not some abstract theological study for seminarians and book reviewers who read just because.  Biblical theology is the study of how the Bible authors interpret the Bible and, thus, how all Christians should interpret the Bible.

What  I’m  suggesting  is  that  the  Bible  teaches  Christians how  the  Bible  should  be  read.  Studying biblical theology is the best way to learn how to read the Bible as a Christian should. By the same token, studying the Bible is the best way to learn biblical theology.

Hamilton divides his book up into three parts: the Bible’s big story, the Bible’s symbolic universe, and the Bible’s love story—story, symbol, and church.  Not only does Hamilton cover the narratives of Scripture, he shows how the Bible’s stories and our stories fit within God’s story.  The narratives in the Bible are placed within the narrative of the Bible to help show the unity and purpose of all that is and to help remind us that all creation is the theatre of God, created to display His glory.  Hamilton shows the setting, characters, and plot of God’s great story and how this relates to us and our life.

This might be a good place to emphasize how pastoral this book is.  Is this book written by an academic?  Certainly.  Dr. Hamilton is a top-notch theologian and you can tell in this work and others.  But this work is also written by a pastor and his pastor’s heart shows up throughout.  This is not a book that deals solely in speculation and theory, What is Biblical Theology is academically stimulating, but it is immensely practical and pastoral.  There are numerous occasions where Dr. Hamilton will be covering an aspect of typology or imagery or expounding on a certain plotline of Scripture and the pastor in him bursts through the academia and his desire to exhort the reader to greater faith, love, obedience, confidence, etc. is expressed with clear passion and concern.  In this way it reminds me of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence but with Hamilton’s emphasis on the theme of God’s glory in salvation through judgment as central to interpretation.

As I emphasize the academic nature of the work I definitely have to clarify.  Hamilton has written this for the Christian, not the academic.  He does not bog the reader down with jargon and debate and he does not dive into complexities and nuance.  This work is not exhaustive so it is not exhausting.  If you want to dive into the deep end of Biblical theology, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment is what you want.  If you, like most of us, feel the need to wade in and test the waters, What is Biblical Theology will definitely give you a taste for biblical theology and whet your appetite for more of this discipline and this author.

I received a copy of this book to review.
View all my reviews

I just saw this interview posted about the book so it might be of use as to read at least!!