| The nature of this particular essay question, not only as an integrative question, but also as it regards
the Church, necessitates that this be a PERSONAL essay, rather than an academically neutral one, as the
whole process of integrating studies between the church's four academic disciplines is necessarily
personal. Integration cannot be done apart from the individual who is existentially bringing the various
foci together in his/her teaching of those who will lead the churches.
This conviction about the nature of theological study and teaching was particularly honed by arguments
we as a teaching faculty had about the distribution of teaching load at a pastoral training Bible institute at
which I taught in Africa for most of a decade. While one Ph.D. holder insisted that he should teach all
the NT courses, for example, because of his alleged expertise in that field, the rest of us were convinced
that teaching this level of preparation, young men and women who had no previous training in how to
pastor churches, study the Bible, - anything at all in the way of theological training - should be done with
as much cross-over as possible between the various aspects of theological education, because that is the
way pastoring is done. The pastor integrates all the various theological disciplines. So we felt the
teachers would do better at explaining the material's relevance to other subjects, and to pastoral work, if
we were all teaching in several different subjects.
My own reasons for selecting the New Testament discipline for my doctorate, among the four
traditional THS disciplines offered at TEDS, and among the other possible Ph.D. study programs which
were before me (communications, inter-cultural studies, education, etc.) came out of an awareness of the
unique place of the New Testament in relation to all the other theologically-related disciplines.
The New Testament is, until the consummation of the ages, God's final revelation of Himself and of
His plan for the redemption of His elect from among the human race, and of the renewal and new
creation of heavens and earth. It would therefore seem obvious to be the preferable choice of the
subject on which to focus one's time and energy for two to four years if one must choose to select one
from among several disciplines offered at TEDS or elsewhere.
The Old Testament is preparation of the whole cognitive terrain upon which the New Testament is
founded. Ignoring the Old Testament leads to utter chaos in interpreting the New, as heretics from
Marcion to contemporary charismatic "Word of Knowledge" devotÃ©s manifest. Paul's revelation was
self-understood to be the newly-revealed sense of the true meaning given and now made known "through
the prophetic Scriptures" (Rom 16:25-26, cf. 1:2). Not only he but nearly all of the NT writers
demonstrate this understanding of their own relationship to the OT, which by volume of citations and
allusions comprises nearly 1 out of 20 verses of the New Testament!
The error of medieval anti-semitic christendom, and of more recent dispensationalism, is to bifurcate
the church from Israel in such a radical fashion as to have two peoples of God, rather than following the
New Testament's hermeneutic of the Hebrew Scriptures which indicate that there is ONE people of
God, rooted in God's choice of Abram, Isaac, and Jacob but, with grafted-in gentiles from every tribe
and tongue and nation, one plan and plant, in continuity between the people of God in the Old Testament
and the people of God in the New Testament--in which age we ourselves now live [a theology reflected
in Colossians 1; Ephesians 2-4; Romans 11; 1 Peter 2; Revelation 7].
Studying the Old Testament in continuous relationship to the New Testament not only enlightens our
understanding of the New Testament, but necessarily clarifies our understanding of the Old Testament, an
understanding which, apart from the NT light shed upon it, can drift and stray like a ship without a rudder
(a metaphor which, admittedly, is as mixed as the biblical theologies to which it alludes !)
Systematic theology is secondary in nature to New Testament studies because it must be based upon
a thorough knowledge of the New Testament (and the Old, understood through the New, as affirmed in
the previous paragraph). Systematic theology is a therefore a derivative art (or science, if one wishes to
characterize it as such). It affords the creative mind the exercise of gleaning truths from the whole range
of Scripture and then compiling and sculpting a comprehensive and global model from the varying aspects
of the many-faceted revelation that has come through so many individuals at so many different points in
"The history of theology," my mentor at Princeton, Karlfried Froehlich, used to say, "is the history of
the interpretation of the Bible." It would be good if something like the 3 volume Cambridge History of
the Bible (by Akroyd, Smalley, et al) could be expanded into a full treatment of this matter.
Contemporary hermeneutics manuals invariably only devote a half a page or so each to "the Alexandrian
method" and "the Antiochian method" of exegesis, treat 800 years of Augustinian-based medieval
exegesis at a 4-level sweep, and move quickly to the Enlightenment and its heirs for the remainder of the
In sum, if the church is to learn theology, and to itself be the guarantor and bulwark of truth,
it will have to cultivate theologians: biblically literate, biblically subservient, doctors of the church, who
can devote their lives to both theology and to the church.
And then it will have to listen to them, and go out into the world to proclaim the truth of who God is
and what He intends and will do in the world. Remember, our principal text 1 Peter 2:9 says
EX-angelÃ©te, ("announce outwards"), an overtranslation, to be sure, but completely congruous with
Peter's emphasis throughout the rest of his letter on the responsibility of the people of God to live lives
before the ungodly
that reflect the truth of the gospel (= theology!) and to be ready to give account for the hope within them,
to those who ask.
|Theology and the Church: Page 3, Conclusion
|An essay dashed off in three hours, as part of the Comprehensive Exams
for the Ph.D. in Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, August 1997