30 Jul An Overview of my Sabbatical
by Gary Hendrix
– Before you take time reading this, I will give you a head’s up: it will be rather boring. You may want to find something more interesting. However, because I do greatly appreciate the privilege of spending time in this way, I want whoever is interested to have idea of what I was doing.
The period of sabbatical commenced on Tuesday, June 9. My goal was to read four fairly weighty books on the subject of Biblical Theology. Perhaps no area of theological study has received as much attention over recent years as has the discipline of Biblical Theology. Ordinary work responsibilities, however, have not permitted me to keep abreast of new literature on the subject. Even though my major was theology, it did not involve a close consideration of this aspect of theological writing. Since so much interest is being devoted to it, it struck me as important that I become much better acquainted with it. Thus, I requested this time.
What is Biblical Theology? How does it differ from Systematic Theology? Systematic Theology (ST) is essentially the distillation of all that the Bible teaches on various subjects or doctrines. Even though ST grants consideration to genres of Biblical literature and the historical context in which various matters are discussed, the primary concern of systematics is the whole of Biblical thought on common themes. Biblical Theology (BT) focuses on the theology or teaching of individual writers and of specific genres of Biblical literature and how those writers and genres contribute to the message (or story) of the whole Bible. For example: how did Moses speak about God and His purpose in comparison with what Nehemiah contains on the same matters a thousand or so years later? And how does this relate to what Paul wrote? BT Is devoted to the careful investigation of each author and book in its canonical place. Then BT is concerned with the metanarrative of the whole canon. It’s a somewhat tedious but intriguing study. The four books I read surveyed the entire Bible a total of three times together and did so with a good degree of detail.
It is faith building and affirming to examine the harmony in Bible. That is true especially in the Old Testament which was written over a period of ten centuries or more(?) in contrast with the New Testament which was written well within a single century. Who can account for the commonality of doctrine and emphases on the part of authors who could not have consulted with one another? There was a common Source or Author for the Bible and ultimately a common Subject.
The first week of the sabbatical was devoted to the standard work on BT written by Gerardus Vos in the late 1940s and titled simply Biblical Theology.
At the end of this first week, Sherry and I traveled to Columbus, Ohio where I acted as an official ” messenger” at the SBC annual meeting or convention on Tuesday and Wednesday of the next week. The convention was remarkable in several respects. I hope to report on it later. This trip also provided an opportunity to visit with Zane and his family who live in Powell and to attend church with them. After the convention, we drove to Louisville to have dinner with Grant and his family. We returned home on Friday.
The next week was given to the study of Magnifying God in Christ (A summary of New Testiment Theology) by Thomas Schreiner. The following week was devoted to the study of Dominion and Dynasty (A theology of the Hebrew Bible) by Stephen G. Dempster. The last week, actually slightly more, was focused on God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by James M. Hamilton. The first and last books each surveyed the entire Bible. The second and third books concerned the NT (Schreiner) and the OT (Dempster).
Again, I am thankful for the opportunity to close myself off from ordinary burdens and responsibilities (apart from a day or so to prepare for the young people’s Bible Study) in order to concentrate on this excellent theological material. Thank you.
I also appreciate the opportunity to attend the SBC Convention. In this present time of societal upheaval it was encouraging to hear the robust, bold affirmations of Divine truth resounding throughout that convention. But that must wait for another time.