The Fruit of Biblical Theology

Based on my previous post concerning the linkage between biblical and systematic theologies, this post will center around biblical theology as both a movement and a methodology.  While it is true that biblical theology played a key role in church history and continues to drive proper hermeneutics, the movement and methodology aspects of biblical theology warrant a more honest discussion.  Below I will offer my viewpoints on the subject, as well as an application to the modern church.

As stated by Paul Enns, biblical theology as a movement was “a reaction to liberalism and sought a return to exegetical study of Scriptures.”[1]  From my church history classes in the past, I was familiar with the variety of liberal and modernistic movements throughout the history of the church, and knew the many schisms produced by these movements.  The biblical theology response was a call for the return to theology based solely on the various contexts of Scripture, such as historical and literary.

Enns also addresses this term as a methodology, in that it “takes its material in a historically oriented manner from the Old and New Testaments and arrives at a theology.”[2]  Coupled with a basic knowledge of hermeneutics, it is easy to more fully understand this term as a methodology, and the roles that exegesis and interpretation play within this methodology.

When compared to other disciplines, such as systematic theology, biblical theology “restricts its study to the Scripture,” whereas other disciplines may include external sources.[3]  While other disciplines have their own merits and differences, they all rely on principles founded in biblical theology.  However, other disciplines explore external sources for evidence or material that further aids in the interpretation and understanding of Scripture.

When applied to the modern church, many would ask the question of what would happen if a church or denomination fails to actively learn or apply these theological disciplines?  At this point in church history, this question is null and void, given that this has already transpired in the modern church.  The lack of any disciplined interpretation of Scripture is rampant in every denomination today, and continues to fracture the body of Christ.  A good example of this is the denominations that I grew up in and still share some of their beliefs—the Pentecostal Holiness-based denominations.

In this case, the overall lack of a theological discipline, such as biblical or systematic, has produced a denomination too focused on one aspect of the Christian life, while outright neglecting others.  Many of these churches become too focused on the spiritual edification of its members on a personal level through certain gifts of the Spirit while ignoring Jesus’ commands of loving your Christian brethren or caring for the poor and needy in their communities.  A more extreme product of this neglect is the un-Scriptural belief held by some within these denominations that one must exercise the gift of tongues to be saved.  For most Pentecostals, the root cause of these errors may stem from a general lack of biblical education, and most of these theological beliefs are communicated orally over time.  Furthermore, the overall lack of disciplined study of Scripture from passive parishioners further exasperates this problem.

By adopting a disciplined theology, such as biblical or systematic, any Christian could modify preunderstandings to more biblically-aligned understandings of God’s Word, thus preparing one’s spirit for alignment with the Spirit of God.  I would dare say that, if this were to truly happen, denominations as we know today would disappear and the body of Christ would once again be in one accord.

________________________

[1] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 21.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 25.

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