Carson on Biblical Theology

Personally, I don’t recommend reading all of Gagging of God, The by D. A. Carson. In many ways it’s too long and yet not comprehensive enough. It should have been distilled into about 250 pages, or a 10 volume series. As it stands, it’s the worst of both worlds.

But I do highly recommend reading the last chapter: “This is my Father’s World.” Contextualization and Globalization. In it, he provides a very powerful charge for Christians to focus on Biblical Theology when doing Systematics in a pluralistic world.

This suggests, I think, that systematic theology must increasingly seek to build on biblical theology. Instead of trawling through the Scriptures in order to adduce support for a position (regardless of how faithful the position), systematic theologians must increasingly build outward from the work of biblical theologians—from their inductive syntheses of biblical corpora, including what Vanhoozer calls “genre analysis” and from their tracing of the Bible’s story-line. This does not mean that systematicians must abandon their interest in atemporal questions and answers or throw over their commitment to interact with historical theology and to engage the present. It means, rather, that their own worldviews will be so wonderfully steeped in biblical theology that they will be much less likely to put a foot wrong.

One of the distinctions between “trawling through the Bible” and building on the basis provided by biblical theology is this: the structure of systematic thought, however expressed, must reflect the Bible’s story-line. Each major strand must be woven into the fabric that finds its climax and ultimate significance in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The failure to keep this in mind vitiates some otherwise useful theological work. Let us consider some examples of quite varying importance. Someone in the West may ask the question, “What does the Bible say about keeping fit?” The expected answers will be trotted out: our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit; bodily exercise may not profit eternally but does profit somewhat in this life; and in any case we are not dualists or gnostics: all of life, including physical life, is to he lived under Christ’s lordship. And at the consummation we will receive resurrection bodies. None of the answers is false. Our trawling has not been entirely without profit. But all the answers are skewed, in that the Bible does not set out to answer questions about keeping leaders within the church that should not he enforced on leaders outside? Why or why not? How can one possibly decide on the basis of looking at the leadership passages alone? Is it not the case that responsible interpretive answers can be offered to such questions only by considering the Bible’s plot-line, and the priorities and scales of that plot-line? (pages 454-455)


About adoption through propitiation

I like theology. And I love my wife Katie. Enjoy my blog. View all posts by adoption through propitiation

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