Systematic Theology And The Apostle To The Gentiles -- By: Moisés Silva

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 15:1 (Spring 1994)
Article: Systematic Theology And The Apostle To The Gentiles
Author: Moisés Silva

Systematic Theology
The Apostle To The Gentiles

Moises Silva

It was with both pleasure and trepidation that I accepted the invitation to offer these lectures in honor of Professor Kantzer.1 Having made no prior contributions to the field of systematic theology, I naturally felt some misgivings about accepting the invitation to present the Kantzer Lectures. On the other hand, the subject is one that has held my interest throughout my career. A few years ago I wrote a commentary on Philippians in which, among other things, I made a special effort to deal with the theological significance of the letter. One passage where this task was particularly easy was 3:7–11. Echoing some oral comments made by my teacher and colleague Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., I decided to entitle that section “The Essence of Pauline Theology,” then went so far as to expound the material using the categories of justification, sanctification, and glorification. Recently, a reviewer took exception to my approach, questioning

the appropriateness of this explanation since Paul himself does not use these categories in this context. Silva anticipates criticism on this point and attempts to argue that these classical (Reformed) soteriological formulations are derived directly from Paul’s teaching. This is irrelevant to the issue. Silva’s concern should be exclusively directed toward explaining Paul’s thought in terms of what the text itself has to say (given Paul’s theological inheritance and the polemical context). Resorting to these later formulations is not only anachronistic but obscures the impact of the specific words Paul chose to use on the occasion. In short, such an approach is methodologically indefensible.2

* Moisés Silva is Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary and editor of Westminster Theological Journal.

I can hardly think of a statement that would better illustrate a point of view that has become increasingly common in the past several decades. Of course, it is not a new perspective at all. Three centuries ago scholars were already arguing, with great vigor, that systematic theology—especially in its classical form—must be kept quite separate from biblical exegesis. Their concern was understandable. It would not have been difficult to show that theological biases had frequently hampered the work of exegetes, even to the point of distorting the meaning of the text. True “historical” exegesis was therefore being understood, more and more, as theologically unprejudiced interpretation. Le...

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