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Lectures in Biblical Theology
of The New Testament
by C. D. Cole
Lecture 1 of 23
What is Biblical Theology?
Our question concerns what we will be studying in this course of study in the New Testament. Biblical Theology must be distinguished from Systematic Theology, from Exegesis and Exposition from Apologetics, and from Biblical Introduction, although it is closely related to all these subjects. Biblical Theology is a combination of these. Biblical Theology concerns itself with why something was written as well as with the content of revelation.
Biblical Theology views revelation as progressively given, while Systematic Theology views the Bible as a whole and divides it into topics or doctrines: the doctrine of God—Christ—sin—salvation, etc. To use a crude illustration, Systematic Theology compares the Bible to a large cake cut into various and many pieces while Biblical Theology may be likened to several small cakes baked at different times. In Biblical Theology we study revelation at its historical source and according to the time and the writer. And so we have doctrine according to Paul and John and James and Peter and the Synoptics. In this way we are occupied with the creed of early Christianity and contrast with the later development of doctrine in the history of the church.
Biblical Theology recognizes that revelation was not completed in one act, but was unfolded in a long series of successive acts and through the minds of men of different culture and background.
I. METHOD OF STUDY
Biblical Theology is, therefore, a method of study. Bernard has emphasized the importance of this approach to the Scriptures. He said: “Into all our parishes and all our missions thousands of evangelists, pastors, and teachers are sent forth with the Bible placed in their hands and with solemn charges to draw from its pages the gospel which they preach. But when these pages are opened, they present not the exposition of a revelation in progress. Its parts and features are seen not as arranged after their development, but as arranging themselves in the course of their development, and growing through stages which can be marked, and by accessions which can be managed, into the perfect form which they attain at last.”
Inspiration is vital to this method of Bible study. We need to know that we have in the Bible the verbally inspired Word of God, inerrant, authoritative, and adequate with the correct answer to every question vital to the welfare of the human soul. Professor Gaussen, many years ago, gave a definition of inspiration that has hardly been improved upon and is easily understood. According to him, “Inspiration is the inexplicable power which the Divine Spirit put forth of old on the authors of Holy Scriptures, in order to their guidance even in the employment of the words they used, and to preserve them alike from all error and from all omission.” As we analyze this definition, we shall notice.
Inspiration is really inexplicable. It is power over men by the Holy Spirit, but we cannot explain how that power operated. Peter says the holy men of God spake as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit, (2 Pet. 1:21).
Inspiration is limited to the authors of the Bible. Nobody else has ever been so inspired, neither before nor since the Bible was written. This sets aside all other so-called sacred books as uninspired and rejects all the claims of Councils, Creeds and Ecclesiastical dogmas as having no authority equal to the Bible.
Inspiration means that the human writers were guided by the Holy Spirit in the choice of words. This is plenary and verbal inspiration.
This definition of inspiration also means that the writers were kept from all error and from all omission. The original documents were not only accurate but also complete. They contained all that God wants men to know concerning Him and His will. The Bible is “the faith once for all delivered to the saints. “No room or need for any additions or revisions. The Bible is adequate as a revelation from God,” (Isa. 8:20).
There is a presumption in favor of the Bible. The argument is simple: man needs a written revelation in human language, and God is able to give such a revelation. The revelation of God in nature is inadequate. Heaven and earth and the human conscience all testify to the fact there is a God, but they give us nothing as to His moral character, they do not give any revelation of His grace, love, mercy, and holiness. Wherever the Bible has not gone, there is no conception of a God of love.
II. THREE GENERAL VIEWS
It has been pointed out that there are today three general views of the Bible in Protestant Theology: the orthodox, the neo-orthodox, and the liberal. Orthodoxy takes the Bible as the infallible Word of God; liberalism denies this and brings the Bible to the bar of human reason, while neo-orthodoxy is “an attempt to pass between the traditional and the liberal view.” Neo-orthodoxy claims to be a new reformation theology. It denies the Bible as an objective revelation apart from the one who receives it. It makes revelation to be an event, a personal encounter between God and man. It attempts to distinguish between the Bible as a revelation of information and the revelation of a person. But the Bible is both—it is the revelation of information about a person, Jesus Christ. How could it be a revelation of Jesus Christ if it did not give information about Him? We are being told by neo-orthodox scholars that the Bible is a book to look through to the revelation of God. But if the Bible does not give a true view of God we worship a caricature and not the true God. We are told that the miracle in revelation is not in the Bible as the objective revelation, but in a miraculous subjective revelation—the ability to arrive at the truth by means of a lie. The issue between orthodoxy and the so-called new orthodoxy is as sharp as between orthodoxy and liberalism. Neo-orthodoxy is more subtle than outright modernism, and is more infectious.
Those who contend that the Bible is full of errors and untrustworthy delight to call Bible believers bibliolaters—worshippers of a book. Of course this is not true. We worship God—the God Who is revealed in the Bible. Again we ask, “How can we worship the true God if we do not have the truth about God? And where will we get the truth about God except in the Bible? Nature is a revelation of God, but not a full revelation. And the world by its own wisdom cannot know the true God.”
The Bible as an objective revelation is a blessing only to those who receive it and feed their souls upon it. But it is the Word of God whether received or not. “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven,” (Ps. 119:89). The Bible needs no defense for its own sake. Spurgeon said that he had as soon defend a lion as the Bible. The Bible will take care of itself, for it is the living, indestructible word of God. But for the sake of the faith of others we must contend earnestly for the faith once delivered. Paul wrote “Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some,” (2 Tim. 2:18).
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