According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible Paperback – 18 Oct 1991
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About the Author
Lecturer in Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Moore Theological College, Sydney
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The only difficulty is that Vos's Biblical Theology is thick reading. It is certainly not something you just toss at someone and say, "Enjoy!" There should be a warning on the inside cover that reads, "Read only under the supervision of someone trained in Theology." Thus my dilemma, I wanted those under my pastoral care to understand Biblical theology but I did not have a helpful, lay-level teaching tool.
That is why I am so grateful for Goldsworthy's work. I have heard for a few years now that Goldsworthy had taken up Vos's mantle, publishing a number of very helpful books written around the theme of the Kingdom of God, found together under the title Goldswothy Trilogy: (Gospel and Kingdom, Gospel and Wisdom, Gospel and Revelation). I just had yet to read any of them. This book, According to Plan, by Goldsworthy's own admission, is intended to be a primer for his other works.
Goldsworthy accomplishes two goals in this book. First, he presents an overview of the study of Biblical Theology with special emphasis on Scripture's central theme: the person and work of Jesus Christ. Second, he takes a tour de force through Scripture tracing the movement of God's covenant founded Kingdom from Creation through Abraham and David, culminating in Jesus Christ and the New Testament church.
You might think after considering the depth and breadth of these two goals that this book would read like a masters level dissertation. But therein lies the genius of this book: deep, solid theology packaged to be understood and digested easily by those without a seminary education. Each chapter is short enough to read in short stints. Not only are there summaries at the end of each chapter but there are also short summary sentences after each subpoint in each chapter. Goldsworthy adds numerous diagrams to help illustrate his points and spends the last two chapters giving examples of how one might do Biblical theology. Someone went to a great deal of trouble to make this book incredibly easy to read. That work does not go unrewarded given that Biblical Theology is such an important but often confusing topic.
Someone with previous theological education will find this book to be a great refresher course on the basics of redemptive history. But it does not just rehash Vos's Biblical Theology. Goldsworthy has done some excellent scholarly work in the area of Biblical Theology. Much of this new work comes into the book with a greater emphasis on covenant, kingdom, and especially Christ.
I especially appreciated Goldsworthy's overt focus on Jesus Christ as the culmination of history, the centerpiece of the Bible. The complexities of Biblical Theology can often lead the unsuspecting student away from the cross and into interesting but periphery rabbit trails. Goldsworthy masterfully calls the reader back to Christ again and again. I cannot recommend this book enough to pastors and laymen alike. It will serve the church and seminaries for years to come as the definitive primer for Biblical Theology.
Goldsworthy's stated aim is to (1) introduce his readers to an integrated theology of the Bible (2) written with a full acceptance of the full inspiration and authority of Scripture as God's Word, (3) for ordinary Christians. His work is a success.
The book is divided into four parts, answering the questions "why?", "how?", "what?" and "where?" about biblical theology. Part one is a single chapter which answers the "why?" question by raising several questions (about interpretation of problem passages, the relevance of the Old Testament to today, and whether there is a unifying theme to the Bible)which make biblical theology so necessary for believers.
Part two, the most academic part of the book (and the part most likely to intimidate Goldsworthy's intended audience of lay-people), answers the "what?" question in six chapters which introduce the foundational presuppositions which form the basis for the author's biblical-theological method. Biblical theology is compared to other forms of theology (systematic, historical, exegetical, pastoral) (chapter two), Christian theism is contrasted with secular humanism and theistic humanism (chapter three), and the nature of Scripture as God's divine-human word of revelation to man, which is focused on Christ as redeemer, is thoroughly addressed (chapters four - seven). Chapter five is especially helpful in fleshing out a distinctively Christian (Christ-centered) approach to Scripture, understanding that the Bible contains "progressive, redemptive revelation." "It is revelation because in it God makes himself known. It is redemptive because God reveals himself in the act of redeeming us. It is progressive because God makes himself and his purposes known by stages until the full light is revealed in Jesus Christ" (p. 57). This portion of the book should be read at some point, although some readers may prefer to skip ahead to part three and revisit part two later.
Part three is much more accessible as the author now answers the "what?" question in eighteen short chapters. These chapters cover the entire sweep of Scripture by highlighting the key epochs and events in the biblical story-line (e.g. creation, the fall, first promises of redemption (with Noah), the call of Abraham, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the law, the wilderness temptation, the conquest of Canaan, the beginning of the monarcy, the exile of Israel into Babylon, the prophetic promises, the coming of Christ, the out-pouring of the Spirit, and the future consummation), all the while connecting the dots with biblical-theological themes of creation/new-creation, covenant/promise, kingdom, and regeneration. This portion of the book is invaluable and will forever change the way you read Scripture (if you have not already been exposed to biblical theology). These chapters make this book well-worth reading!
Part four addresses the application question of "where?" - that is, where do we apply biblical theology? Only two topics are covered (guidance and life after death), and those only briefly, but the aim is to show us how to apply the methodology of biblical-theological study to other areas. Both subject and Scripture indices are included and there are numerous helpful charts and diagrams scattered throughout the book, along with study questions, and suggestions for further reading. This is an excellent book and I highly recommend it!
The book is the sequel of the author's two former published works. "In Gospel Kingdom," his first volume; Goldsworthy's aim was to help Christians understanding the OT Scripture through the use of biblical theology method. His subsequent works entitled "THe Gospel in Revelation and Gospel and Wisdom give a full treatment to the topic. Both books supplement his former work by showing the relationship of the OT wisdom literature and the book of Revelation. "According to Plan" completes the author's work as he demonstrates the integration of both New and Old Testament Scriptures.
To answer the first question, what is biblical theology?
It is, in effect, the study of the message of the Bible, said the author (20). Biblical theology aims the reader solves problematic passages in the Bible "by relating them to the one message of the Bible (21). Moreover, Goldsworthy believes that every part of the Bible ultimately points to the person and saving work of Christ. The overall grasp of the biblical message is essential to comprehend each text individually. He writes, "Behind this endeavor is the conviction that learning to grasp the unity of the Bible, of its one overall message from Genesis to Revelation, is necessary for a right understanding of the meaning of any individual text" (7).
Goldsworthy is correct when he writes, "Every Christian is a theologian" (30).Hence, Christians are theologians because they know God and think about Him and make statements that relate to Him in direct and intimate ways. More importantly, Christians are theologians because of their relationships with God through His Son Jesus Christ.
How can we know anything? Or how can we know anything about God? According to the author, the question of epistemology is one of the most contentious issues in philosophy and theology. For the Christian theist, knowledge is dependent on God. Christian scholars often contend that God is the source of all knowledge and all understanding. What is knowable is, therefore disclosed by God. Man is dependent on God for his continuous existence and for anything that he comes to know and identify as "knowledge and truth." Goldsworthy notes that, in secular humanism; knowledge is independent from God. Humanists tenaciously argue that we can only know certain things through our senses. In other words, we use our entire faculty to come to the understanding of the world, ourselves, and everything around us. This position promotes human's strengths and rests solely on human's ability. This view, in particular, denies anything supernatural or transcendent. It is also the belief that rejects anything that cannot be comprehended by the human's reason and our natural mind.
"According to Plan" is both an introduction to integrated biblical theology and an attempt to present the whole message of God's revelation
Goldsworthy walks you through the storyline of the bible (God's plan of Redemption) interpreting it through the lens of the gospel. He argues that since Christ is the fullest and final revelation of God, if we want to fully know the OT we have to understand that it was all leading, pointing to and finding it's fullfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel.
The book is set up in short chapters with a brief summary, charts, discussin questions and suggested resources for further reading at the end of each chapter. After an explanation of the discipline of biblical theology and its importance the book walks through the bible in chronological order so it begins in Genesis and ends in revelation.
One of the instant benefits for teachers will be the typology and illustrations for teaching the OT. You will be able to teach the OT and show where it fits in to God's plan of redemption and then incorporate Christ into your sermons.
I agree, along with many others including D.A. Carson, that biblical theology is such an important discipline. Its not at odds with systematic theology, rather they complement each other. Biblical theology is the foundation for systematic theology.
This book will help you learn your OT, not as jewish scriptures, but Christian scriptures. When someone says to you "God has changed, he's not like he was in the OT" or "people were saved differently in the OT" you will now be able to walk them through the storyline of the bible in 10 minutes showing how it all points to and finds its fulfillment in Christ.
This book may not be the best for the "heavyweights" out there who have been through this stuff before. They may seek a book that delves a little deeper and is a little more exegetical. But it is one of the best introductions to the subject of Biblical Theology that there is and I highly recommend it.