In certain spots around the Christian corner of the internet, Biblical Theology has become somewhat of a buzzword. If you’ve heard of it, and certainly if you haven’t, you might be wondering what it is! Isn’t all good theology Biblical Theology?
Well, yes and no!
If your theology (what you believe about God and the things of God) comes from the Bible, it is indeed biblical! BUT what is meant by “Biblical Theology” is a little different.
Most people who use the term “Biblical Theology” mean that they are looking at one theme and tracing it through the redemptive history of the Bible. Maybe you’ve heard of the “meta-narrative” or the big story of Scripture, commonly summarized: creation, fall, redemption, restoration. So, the question of Biblical Theology is, what does the Bible say about marriage or missions or light as it is traced through this storyline?
Biblical Theology or something else?
It is called “Biblical Theology” in part to distinguish it from “Systematic Theology” which takes all of the passages from Scripture concerning a topic and summarizes them. Systematic Theology asks, what does the whole Bible have to say about a certain doctrine? It’s a small but important difference. While Biblical and Systematic Theology work together, Biblical Theology is more tracing a theme through history.
One other thing you’ll notice is that this is similar to a word study. In a word study, you pick a word and see how it is used in Scripture. We will use some of these tools in Biblical Theology, but it’s a little more. A theme will use more than one word that we’ll want to trace and may include passages that don’t use one of our key words even though it applies to our theme.
This is also similar to studying by topic and we will use some of these tools, like using cross references. But Biblical Theology is intentionally tracing one topic or theme through the big story of Scripture.
Clear? Maybe not yet… Let’s do some work together!
First, understand the story of Scripture.
For many of us, we grew up learning stories from the Bible. What we need to do now is understand how all of those stories work together to tell one BIG story, God’s story. One of my favorite resources for this is actually The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Loyd-Jones. Don’t believe it’s just for kids, this little book beautifully, and quickly, gives the whole storyline of Scripture. You might also enjoy The Garden, The Curtain and the Cross or The Biggest Story. Yes, they’re all picture books! Read them anyway!
This story begins in Genesis 1 with creation. “God saw all that he had made and it was very good indeed.” (Gen 1:31 CSB) But soon after the creation of the world, sin entered the world in what we call the Fall in Genesis 3. Because of their sin, the serpent, the woman, the man, and the ground were all cursed, and death entered the world. Today, we live in the fallen world.
Many refer to Genesis 3 as “the fall,” but Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie says that this sounds like it was an accident. Instead, she chooses to use the word “rebellion.” I like this distinction because Adam and Eve did not stumble and find themselves outside of the garden. They chose to rebel against God and eat the fruit he commanded them not to eat. Either way, our world is in a fallen state.
But despite of the curses, God gives a glimpse that redemption is coming. (Gen. 3:15) And throughout the Old Testament, God continues pointing toward the coming Redeemer! Until inally, the wait is over and He comes!! Jesus is born! This is the climax of the whole story!! Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, came to earth, lived a sinless life, was crucified for our sin, died, was raised to life, ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father! Friends, we could NOT make this up! Because of Christ, we can have redemption! We can repent of our sins and be united with Christ in God.
The world God created was very good, the world we now live in has been cursed as a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Though we have been redeemed, we look forward to full restoration. One day, Jesus will return and all mankind will be judged. Those who are in Christ will reign with him over the new creation. What was begun at redemption will be completed when the world is restored.
There are theologians who want to argue against the word “restoration” here as well. It is good for what it is, but the truth is that the new heavens and the new earth will be so much greater than the Garden of Eden. Our final home will not simply be a restoration, it will be glorification. We will no longer have these earthly bodies, we will have new, glorified bodies. The new creation will be better than the first because God will have this throne in our midst.
To say this storyline simply one more time: creation, rebellion, restoration, and glorification. This is the glorious story of Scripture. Not one part of this story was an accident. We can trust that God had a purpose in every twist and turn.
Wait… but I said this post was about Biblical Theology! So far, it’s been all Bible but light on the theology, right? Well, this is just “step one” but it’s a VERY important step! If we do not know the story of the whole Bible, we can’t begin to trace a theme through its pages.
I’ll be back in a couple weeks to tackle step 2 with you, but for now I have some homework to give: go learn the story of the Bible. Pick up one of the picture Bibles I suggest earlier. Or get a head start and pick your favorite story from the Bible and see where you can find how it fits within the BIG story.
Megan Dickerson wants to share the truths of God’s Word with winsome clarity. She blogs at TheWinsomeHome.com where she shares about everyday theology and Bible study. Megan is married to Drew and they are both graduates of Southern Seminary and students at Southeastern Seminary. Together, they have 2 sons and 2 daughters.