The Center of Biblical Thoelogy

When I was doing my Ph.D. at SBTS I took a seminar on New Testament Theology with Mark Seifrid. As we read surveys of the issues and discussions, I was surprised by what I thought was missing from one aspect of the scholarly dialogue. One of the things that gets bantered about in these discussions is whether there is a central theme or controlling ideal in Biblical Theology. What surprised me was that no one had suggested that the glory of God might be the center of Biblical Theology. The glory of God has received ample treatment from the likes of Jonathan Edwards (see especially his Treatise concerning the End for which God Created the World), Dan Fuller, John Piper, and my own supervisor, Tom Schreiner (who argues for its centrality in Paul’s thought in his Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ), but it doesn’t seem to have received serious consideration as a possible center of Biblical Theology.

As I thought about these things, I was translating my way through Isaiah. Over and over in Isaiah we read that God shows his power and righteousness by judging the wicked while putting on display his sweet mercies in the salvation of those who trust him. This matched Piper’s explanation of Romans 9:22–23 and Edwards’ argument concerning God’s ultimate purpose.

So in the providence of God I proposed to present a paper on this issue at a meeting of the Tyndale Fellowship. Howard Marshall responded to the paper on that occasion, and Greg Beale was there to give the Biblical Theology lecture for that year. Afterwards Beale remarked that Marshall’s response was what one might expect from a Wesleyan Methodist (emphasizing God’s love).

After some revisions, and having been shepherded through by Bruce Winter, the essay will appear in the next issue of Tyndale Bulletin. You can read the abstract here. I think the glory of God in salvation through judgment is the center of Biblical Theology. Soli Deo Gloria.

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  1. Good stuff, I am unclear about your center view of the biblical theology. “the glory of God in Salvation through Judgement.” Obviously the the glory of God is the central theme in the bible, but how does the part “through judgement” fit in?

  2. Jim,

    When I was 18 years old, I was preparing a message to bring to a youth group and came to the conclusion that God’s glory was the center of biblical theology. I would never have been able to phrase it that way but it’s what I believed to be the core of the purpose of the universe. John Piper later helped me understand the magnitude of such a conclusion. My point is that I don’t understand why this is even debated. Am I looking too much on the surface?

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