Review a book, get a book! Have you read something that has nurtured your faith and scholarship? ESN welcomes reviews of books from various fields of study and various genres. Our article, A Call For Reviews, includes guidelines for submitting reviews. We thank Greg Rummo for this review that emphasizes the value of biblical theology for “ordinary believers.”
In According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy, the author adopts a four-part approach towards helping â€œordinary Christiansâ€ understand biblical theology. With a hermeneutic based in the full inspiration and authority of Godâ€™s word, he introduces what he terms an â€œintegrated theologyâ€ of both the Old and the New Testaments, explaining that the Bible is a unified story, despite having been written by a diverse group of authors. It holds together because the true author is God himself and the Bibleâ€™s authors wrote under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Goldsworthy’s key goal is to uncover â€œOld Testament expressions of salvation, which are tied to historical events in this life, towards the full New Testament understanding of eternal life,â€ (114).
Just as there is a reciprocal relationship between Scripture and doctrine, there is a reciprocal relationship between Jesus Christ and the Old Testament. â€œOur understanding of the gospel is enhanced by our understanding of its OT roots, and at the same time, the gospel shows us the true meaning of the OT,â€ (76). While the Bible is 66 books, written over a span of millennia by many different authors with different cultural, economic, social and geographical backgrounds, we accept the Bible as being a book with a â€œdiversity of expression that exists within an overall unity,â€ (76).
In Part One, Goldsworthy first asks why is biblical theology necessary? As Christians, we are all theologians to a lesser or greater extent, so it behooves us to know something of biblical theology. An important starting point for a sound hermeneutic is that the Bible holds together as one book with one message. This is the â€œkey to resolving differences in the interpretation of Scripture that often leads to different doctrines among denominations,â€ (20). A proper theology of the Bible then requires that the various Old Testament literary styles: prophecy, law, narrative, wisdom and apocalyptic vision â€œare all related to the coming of Jesus Christ, and can be understood as Christian Scripture,â€ (23).
In Part Two, Goldsworthy then asks how can we practice sound biblical theology? He characterizes the biblical theologian as a believer with the indwelling Holy Spirit, not simply a casual observer of the Scriptures, (47). â€œWe not only believe, but also understand and accept the word of God as self-attesting.â€ He spends several chapters outlining important concepts towards a correct understanding of the Bible: theological approaches, (biblical, systematic, historical, and pastoral), philosophies and epistemologies (secular humanism, theistic humanism, Christian theism) and methods of interpretation, (literal, literal-historical, allegorical, typological).
Other important considerations he mentions include:
- The Bibleâ€™s literature, (genre; narrative, poetry, wisdom, prophecy).
- The historical record (by both outside facts as wells as Godâ€™s record).
- The theology or revelation contained within scripture. (75)
He concludes this section of the book by defining a true Christian theology as one that utilizes typology with progressive revelation. This encompasses the step-by-step revelation of salvation history through Godâ€™s promises to Adam and Eve, the patriarchs, Moses, the various judges and kings of Israel and more specifically, Godâ€™s covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel at Sinai, and David, all of which had their culmination in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34) with the revelation of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
In Part Three, Goldsworthy asks what is biblical theology? He spends most of the remainder of the book answering this question in great detail. Beginning with a reminder that Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, he takes the reader on a journey from the Garden of Eden to the return of Jesus Christ in the Eschaton. Throughout this journey, he maintains that it is Jesus Christ and him only that is the story of each book of the Bible.
In Part Four, Goldsworthy asks how we apply biblical theology to two difficult questions: knowing Godâ€™s will and dealing with the difficult question of death. These are practical questions, especially helpful for pastors to consider and the author admits that the Bible doesnâ€™t always have black and white answers for these and other difficult questions that often arise in the Christian life. Nonetheless, he offers several pages of helpful guidelines by which the believer may obtain biblical guidance.
The Bible affirms again and again, â€œGod chooses absolutely without condition a people who deserve nothing,â€ (180). Moses was the original mouthpiece of God and God spoke to him â€œface to face.â€ God communicated to the oracles through dreams and visions to warn the people and to call them to repentance (181). The prophetic office from Moses to Elisha must be understood in terms of Godâ€™s unfolding revelation of salvation, (182). While they warned of unbelief, they also testified to the faithfulness of God to fulfill his promises, with the ultimate fulfilment in Jesus Christ, who said: â€œDo not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfill,â€ (Matt.5:17).
Goldsworthyâ€™s approach to theology is by no means without precedent. Luther said, â€œVirtually the whole of scripture and the understanding of theology depends upon a true understanding of the law and the gospel.â€ Augustine wrote, â€œThe usefulness of the law lies in convicting man of his infirmity and moving him to call upon the remedy of grace which is in Christ.â€ Calvin, believing that the intent of the law was to move man to the cross, wrote â€œMoses had no other intention than to invite all men to go straight to Christ.â€ And this centuryâ€™s pastor and preacher, the late Dr. Timothy Keller, was magnificent in his ability to organically point his listeners to Jesus Christ no matter from which book of the Old Testament he was preaching. His series, Discovering the Gospel in Every Book of the Bible, available on YouTube, is testimony to what is largely a lost art in the 21st century evangelical church.
Finally, Jesusâ€™ sermon on the road to Emmaus serves as the ultimate example to us all: â€œBeginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures,â€ (Luke24:27).
 R. J. Grunewald, The Bible in Two Words: Law and Gospel, The Bible in Two Words: Law and Gospel â€” rjgrune.com
 John Calvin, â€œThe Law Drives Us Into Despair and Moves Us to Seek Grace – First Use,â€ The Institutes of the Christian Religion, The Law Drives Us Into Despair and Moves Us to Seek Grace – First Use | Monergism
 John Calvin, Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John, in Calvinâ€™s Commentaries, Vol. XVII (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), 217. Calvin is commenting on John 5:38.
About the author:
Gregory J. Rummo, M.B.A., M.S. is a Lecturer of Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences at Palm Beach Atlantic University and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is currently a DMin student at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.