Editorial: Reflections On The Significance Of Biblical Theology -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 20:1 (Spring 2016)
Article: Editorial: Reflections On The Significance Of Biblical Theology
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Editorial: Reflections On The Significance Of Biblical Theology

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He received his Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he is the author of numerous essays and articles and the co-author of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012) and God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2015), and the co-editor of Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Crossway, 2015 with Gregg Allison), and Progressive Covenantalism (B&H, 2016 with Brent Parker).

In recent years, “biblical theology” as a discipline has grown in evangelical theology which has resulted in positive results. However, there are still differences in regard to its definition and why it is important. Since this issue of SBJT is devoted to the larger topic of biblical theology and various themes within it, it may be helpful first to explain what I think biblical theology is and its significance for our doing theology.

At the popular level, when most Christians think of “biblical theology” they understand it to be “true to the Bible” in our teaching and theology. To be “biblical” in this sense is certainly what all Christians desire, but this is not how I am using the term. To be more precise, let me contrast how “biblical theology” has been understood since the Reformation, especially contrasting a major non-evangelical use of the term from an evangelical, orthodox use.

In and after the Reformation, biblical theology was often identified more or less with systematic theology as the church sought to understand the entirety of Scripture and to grasp how the whole canon is put together in light of Christ. However, there was a tendency to read Scripture in more

logical and atemporal categories rather than to think carefully through the Bible’s developing storyline. With the rise of the Enlightenment though, biblical theology began to emerge as a distinct discipline. But it is crucial to distinguish the emergence of biblical theology in the Enlightenment along two different paths: one, an illegitimate path tied to Enlightenment presuppositions, and the other, a legitimate path tied to the Bible’s own self-attestation and presentation of itself.

In regard to the illegitimate Enlightenment path, there was a growing tendency to read Scripture critically and thus uncoupled from historic Christianity. This resulted in approaching the Bible “as any other book,” rooted in history bu...

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