Does the Center of Biblical Theology Matter? Guest Article from Jim Hamilton
Today’s article is from Jim Hamilton, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Hamilton has studied and written extensively on the subject of biblical theology. At first glance, “biblical theology” may seem like a topic that is so lofty and abstruse that it’s probably not all that important for the average pastor. Think again. Hamilton’s aim in the article that follows is to show how massively important the topic really is. At the end of the article, Sharefaith has provided Hamilton’s free chapter from a new book, Text-Driven Preaching, thanks to Dr. Hamilton and the book’s publisher, Broadman & Holman. You may also wish to consider purchasing the book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, for a complete discussion of this crucial topic.
Does the search for the center of biblical theology have any impact on society at large, or is it merely an arcane, esoteric, academic dispute among scholars? The impact of this topic on society may not seem immediately apparent, but I would argue that it is nevertheless massive. There is in our culture a widespread skepticism about unified meaning and holistic understanding. Our knowledge is increasingly compartmentalized and fragmented. The recent emphasis on diversity in the theology of the biblical authors is but a symptom of this broader intellectual atmosphere.
But what if it could be demonstrated that all the biblical authors were in agreement with one another on God’s ultimate purpose? What if God’s ultimate purpose was also the main theme of the whole Bible? What if God himself declared that this was what he was trying to reveal about himself and seeking to accomplish in the world? What if the biblical authors then taught this main theme in the major redemptive events across the Bible (Fall, Flood, Exodus, Exile, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, Return of Jesus)? What if God’s self-declared purpose, the main theme of the whole Bible, could then be seen to be the macro-structure of the ramshackle narrative of the Bible’s big story—Creation, Fall, Exile, Restoration? What if this then proved to be the very thing that the biblical authors expressed in the doxologies they wrote in praise of God?
Would the knowledge of the center of biblical theology not unify and focus our understanding of the Bible? Would understanding the Bible not give insight into the meaning and significance of the world? Would this not renew in Christians an understanding of who they are, what they’re to be about, and what everything means?
I think it would, and I think it could have massive impact on the wider culture. Can you imagine Christians living like they understood the main point of the Bible’s big story? Spurgeon said that a holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God. The same is true of Christians who are mighty in the Scriptures.
Do I think there is a center of biblical theology? Yes: The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment. I’d love to exposit that phrase for you, but it’s too long for a blog post. You can find a full explanation here.
Jim Hamilton is blessed to be married to the woman of his dreams, could never have imagined the joys of fatherhood, and feels absolutely drenched in God’s mercy. He is privileged to teach at Southern Seminary, as Associate Professor of Biblical Theology, and to preach at Kenwood Baptist Church, proclaiming Christ and him crucified. He blogs at “For His Renown.”