Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

We Become What We Worship: Review – I

Greg Beale‘s biblical-theological acumen is remarkable. Although a self-proclaimed maximalist (24), Beale leaves no stone unturned whether he is tracing an exegetical arguments or redemptive-historical themes. His latest book We Become What We Worship: a biblical theology of idolatry is no exception. The seeds of this book were sewn through several of his seminary courses, including his Use of the OT in the NT, which proved quite challenging my first year of seminary. It required a working knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, and I only had Greek at the time. I eventually dropped the 10 day course. However, I recall spending considerable time in Isaiah 6 tracing its influence on the NT and its description of “sensory organ malfunction,” the pattern of Gentiles and Jews being rendered spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb. Beale makes this text the seminal starting point for a biblical theology of idolatry in WBWWW.

In chapter one, Beale takes Martin Luther’s definition of idolatry and slightly tweaks it: “whatever your heart clings to or relies upon, that is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.” Beale adds “whatever your heart clings to or relies on for ultimate security.” (6) This is an excellent definition of idolatry, both heart-focused and God-centered, perceiving idolatry to be a matter of heart not just action. The rest of the chapter outlines Beale’s hermeneutic, which is a good, concise introduction on how to do biblical theology. WIthout wading into the frey of sensus plenior debate, Beale notes his hermeneutical preferences summarizing his position as canonical, gentic-progressive, and intertextual. Typical Bealian verbosity!

Chapter Two lay the biblical-theological groundwork for his thesis: “we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or for restoration.” Isaiah 6 portrays Israel as deaf and blind, like the idols they worship. Their idolatry has rendered them idol-like, a judgment for idolatry. We become like what we worship. Beale convincingly traces this dynamic throughout the rest of Isaiah. Chapter three extends this examination to the rest of the OT, overtuning a host of exgetical gems through rigorous biblical digging. In particular, Beale notes the prominence of the Golden Calf rebellion in Deuteronomy 29 as programmatic for idolatry themes and dynamics in the rest of Scripture. Chapter four continues tracing the become what you worship dynamic through Judaism, with chapter five turning the corner into the New Testament. It is in the Gospels that we begin to see the resemble what we revere for restoration more prominently. I will pick up with the review here in the next post.

For another review, see Josh Otte’s blog.


Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem

Desmond Alexander’s From Paradise to Promised land was a great biblical theology of the Pentateuch. He has followed that work up with his newest work, From Eden to the New Jerusalem. From the Table of Contents, it looks like a great introduction to Biblical theology.

Richard Lints and Theology

Dr. Richard Lints has assumed David Wells’ Andrew Mutch Chair of Theology at Gordon Conwell theological Seminary. Some may know of Lints’ impressive work The Fabric of Theology. In addition to being a fine theologian, Lints is a very winsome man. I recently learned of two new writing projects he is finishing up.

The first is provisionally called image and idol and deals with human identity and idolatry. The second is deals with religious pluralism and democracy. Keep your eyes out for those.

Lints has also announced a 2009 conference devoted to the life and legacy of David Wells. This will be held in October of 09 at Gordon Conwell. Seems like some great things are coming from Gordon Conwell in the months to come, including three new professors: Peter Anders, Patrick Smith, & Adonis Vidu.

Suggested Systematic & Biblical Theologies

Here are some recommendations on Systematic and Biblical Theologies:

Systematic Theologies

  • Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology – Berkhof offers a classic Reformed systematic. His older language is worth the wade, as he addresses the attributes of God with a sense of reverence that is often missing from contemporary systematics. His section on the immensity of God is especially good.
  • Lewis & Demarest, Integrative Theology– This theology integrates historical, systematic, biblical theologies and apologetics all in one volume. The strength is its well rounded approach; however, at times it is too scientific in methodology and explanation.
  • John Frame, Theology of Lordship series – Frame is among the most cogent and clear systematicians. His triperspectival lens offers a unique perspective on systematic theology.
  • Tim Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity– Tennent offers a global perspective on systematic theology, presenting various systematic doctrines from diverse cultural voices, i.e. Christology from an African perspective. Tennent is a consummate missionary-theologian.
  • Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology – lucid, readable, accessible, worshipful. Contains hymns and questions and a glossary at the end of each section. Contains a rare systematic treatment of Prayer, Spiritual Warfare.

Biblical Theology

  • N.T. Wright, History of Christian Origins Series, – an incomplete, multivolume work of remarkable scholarship, both in theological depth and historical breadth. Though demanding, these books are very rewarding.
  • Charles Scobie, The Ways of Our Goda massive treatment of major biblical themes gathered around four primary concepts (God’s Order, Servant, People, & Way) and one primary methodology (promise-fulfillment-consummation).
  • Hafemann & House, Central Themes in Biblical Theologyan oustanding collection of essays that offer various thematic studies as well as two excellent essays on overarching frameworks for BT by Hafemann and Ciampa.
  • Marvin Pate, The Story of Israel – traces the story and reconfiguration of Israel around Jesus throughout the whole Bible, paying particular attention to the role of covenant blessings and curses.

Moo’s New Colossians Commentary

I’ve been eagerly anticipating Moo’s new commentary on Colossians and Philemon. For my Th.M thesis I wrote about 150 pages on this letter, which has profoundly shaped my theology, ministry, and everyday life. I did email briefly with Moo about getting him to review my thesis for the commentary, but alas, the manuscript was already dedicated. I am moving towards publishing an article on my research, and will be eager to see how much I line up with Moo. His Romans commentary is among the best single volumes on that letter.

Anyway, I called Eerdmans yesterday and got a copy shipped within 24 hours of the book being published, fresh off the press. Amazon doesnt even have it yet! Excited to take and read; I’ll be preaching through Colossians this Fall.

Beale on Jesus and the Law

We could picture Christ as a hermeneutical filter through which the Law must pass in order to get to the new creation. Those parts of the Law which are nationalistic in nature or are overt nationalistic tags distinguishing Israelites ethnically form other people-groups are too large or misshapen to be able to pass through the filter. Those parts of the Law more moral and less ethnic in nature are able to pass through the filter.

In other words, Beale sees Jesus as the filter for discerning what parts of the OT law remain applicable and those parts that do not. It is worth noting that he is not taking Calvin’s approach on the three uses of the Law. Keep the Moral (Decalogue/Ten Commandments) and dispense with the Ceremonial and Civil parts of the Law, which in turn leads to sabbatarianism (which I do not know if Beale observes). Rather, Beale is advocating Christ as a certain type of filter, a typological filter:

This is why Paul quotes only form the moral law, or when he quotes from other facets of teh Old Testament law (such as the civil), he uses it in a typological or non-theocratic manner in employing it withing the covenant community of the church (e.g., see his use of Deuteronomy in 1 Cor 5:13). Consequently, understanding how Christ has instituted the new creation also gives insight into understanding what parts of the Old Testament Law relate to the new age and what parts do not.

Quotes taken from, Greg K. Beale, “Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology” in Eschatology in Bible and Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 1997), 38.

Theology: in a global perspective

Tim Tennent’s second major book, Theology in the Context of World Christianity explores Systematic Theology from a Global perspective. Tennent takes an interdisciplinary approach, relying on biblical exegesis and contextual theologies to present the various doctrines that comprise systematic theology in a global perspective. Here are the table of contents:

1. The Emergence of a Global Theological Discourse

2. Theology: Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?

3. Bibliology: Hindu Sacred Texts in Pre-Christian Past

4. Anthropology: Human Identity in Shame-Based Cultures of the Far East

5. Christology: Christ as Healer and Ancestor in Africa

6. Soteriology: Is “Salvation by Grace through Faith” Unique to Christianity?

7. Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Latin American Pentecostalism

8. Ecclesiology: Followers of Jesus in Islamic Mosques

9. Eschatology: Jonathan Edwards and the Chinese Back to Jerusalem Movement

10. The Emerging Contours of Global Theology

Beale’s Old in the New Categories

With the dawn of Beale and Carson’s New Testament Use of the Old Testament Commentary I thought I would post Greg Beale’s Old in the New hermeneutical categories for exegesis. These are taken from his Old in the New course taught variously at Gordon-Conwell and Wheaton College.

I. Proof-texting for fulfillment

A. Direct prophetical fulfillment – Basic understanding of Prophecy.

B. Indirect fulfillment/ Event prophecy – (Mt 2:15/Hs 1:10) This is first Exodus that Hosea is reflecting on as an anticipation of Christ’s exodus to Egypt. Jesus is central, fulfilling everything that Israel failed to do. Corporate solidarity in action.

II. Analogical/universalizing – this use may be conceptual or textual as will be seen below.

A. Rev 2:14,24 – Balaam’s prophecy indicative of a group of false teachers. Moabites and Israelites combine to produce harlotry which is spiritually pictured here. This is motivated by economic motive just as Balaam was.

B. I Cor 9:9/Deut 25:4 – “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely pantws he says this for us, doesn’t he?”

III. Symbolic Use – difference from analogical use is that there are not 2 things compared. The symbol may or may not describe an event. Could be a subset of II.

These symbolic uses denote continuity from the OT to the NT.

IV. Abiding Authority – Rm. 3:4/Ps God is trustworthy; 3:10 Man is sinful and fallen.

V. Stock-in-trade – something done often, repeated use of a word/phrase so much that it comes to have a common meaning without reference to the original context. Ex. That was her waterloo. Many would recognize that this has to do with a loss, fewer would know the original context. This occurs in the OT “Edom, Moab and the Sons of Ammon” is used to refer to the enemies of Israel even though the enemies are dead. Seen in II Macabees etc.

VI. Rhetorical Use – impressive language included for rapport and inauthentic, but not necessarily. Paul may have incorporated the OT texts for rapport, this would not disqualify the use.

VII. Midrashic Use – Scripture interpreting Scripture. “Literature about literature,” Prabhu, p. 117. There may be 4 or 5 uses…. 1QM the Q War Scroll, in the beginning of the scroll the author explains in apocalyptic language the last battle of time, drawing from Dan 11, Zech 14, Is 41, etc…there appears to be a main text. In this case it is Daniel 11, the hermeneutical magnet. Both outline and content follow Daniel, see handouts. Mt 24 synoptic eschatological discourse is dominated by Daniel.

VIII. Textual Use – Authors quote from various texts in order to bring out an intended theme more explicitly

IX. Assimilated Use – author expresses biblical language simply because it is a function of the way he thinks. Scripture becomes a way of speaking.

X. Ironic Use – saying of one thing to intend the opposite in order to ridicule, often to stress ironic judgment or redemption. Rev 5:6 the 7 horns of Christ contrasted/compared with the 7 horns of the beast/Satan in order to emphasize the superior power of Christ over and against Satan. This is an example of judicial irony.