Book Review: Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy (Part 3)

The fourth chapter discusses “Biblical Theology and the History of Redemption.” Goldsworthy reminds the reader that biblical theology is to be distinguished from Christian doctrine. “Christian doctrine (systematic or dogmatic theology) involves a systematic gathering of the doctrines of the Bible under various topics to form a body of definitive Christian teaching” (44-45). This approach is helpful in many ways, but has certain limitations. Since the Bible itself is not a systematized textbook, the discipline of systematic theology necessarily involves the transformation if truth revealed in the dynamic historically-grounded text of Scripture into static, timeless truth. Biblical theology, on the other hand, “follows the movement and process of God’s revelation in the Bible” (45). “Biblical theology is not concerned to state the final doctrines which go to make up the content of Christian belief, but rather to describe the process by which revelation unfolds and moves toward the goal of God’s final revelation of his purposes in Jesus Christ” (45). Whereas systematic theology is more concerned with the finished product – a summary of Christian belief – biblical theology seeks to understand the progressive unfolding of truth within the historical context of God’s revealed and redemptive word.

The Old Testament is to studied, in fact, as “a history of redemption” (46) which progressively moves forward to the goal of “the Kingdom of God” (47). The author then highlights several features of this history of redemption. First, it is progressive, unfolding in “a series of stages, each self-contained, each coming to a climax leading in turn to a new stage” (47). Further, “the history of redemption is incomplete without the New Testament” (47). The Old Testament must be understood in light of the New. Which leads to a third feature, “the history of redemption is to be interpreted” (48). When the biblical text has been understood in its original context (exegesis) and interpreted in light of God’s full revelation in Jesus Christ (hermeneutics), then (and only then) can it be rightly applied to the people of God today.

The next chapter is simply profound in its treatment of “The Covenant and the Kingdom of God.” In only seven pages, Goldsworthy provides an interpretive compass that will greatly aid any reader to navigate the Old Testament Scriptures. “The Kingdom of God involves: (a) God’s people (b) in God’s place (c) under God’s rule” (53-54). This basic concept is woven throughout Scripture and can be traced from Eden to God’s promise to Abraham through the redemptive experience of the Exodus to the Davidic monarchy in Israel to the eschatological hope of the Old Testament prophets, all of which are fulfilled with the inauguration of the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. The inter-canonical connections between Old and New Testaments begin to emerge here as the basic pattern of God’s kingdom comes into focus with each successive stage of redemptive history.

Chapters six through nine focus in turn on the revelation of the Kingdom of God in these successive stages of redemptive history. “The Kingdom Revealed in Eden” (chapter six) emphasizes the importance of the Creator-creature relationship between God and man in understanding the Kingdom of God, discusses the meaning of man being made in the image of God, focuses on the kingdom pattern revealed in creation – “God’s people (Adam and Eve) in God’s place (the Garden of Eden) under God’s rule (the word of God)” (60) – and contemplates man’s fall into sin and the resulting consequence of judgment as well as the intervention of God’s grace in early human history (Adam –Noah).

The next chapter takes up “The Kingdom Revealed in Israel’s History.” The author’s concern here is not to summarize all of the details or facts of Israel’s history but to “uncover the structure of the whole range of history” (67). This is the longest chapter in the book and covers the primary epochs of Israel’s history and the theological significance of each event. Goldsworthy begins with the calling of Abraham God’s covenant promises to him and his family. He explains the three elements of the Abrahamic Covenant – Abraham is promised descendants who would become a great nation, inherit the promised land, and become God’s own people. “God in fact promises Abraham that his descendants would be God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule, and all the Abraham stories must be seen in this light” (68). The next epoch is the Exodus, which becomes “the key model for the understanding of redemption in the life of Israel” (73). This section includes an extremely helpful discussion of the Sinai Covenant and the giving of the law (pages 73-78). The law can only be rightly understood when seen in relation to two major events which stand behind Sinai: the Exodus and God’s covenant with Abraham. “The law is given to the people of God after they become the people of God by grace. Sinai is dependant upon the covenant with Abraham and is an exposition of it” (75). “The Entry and Settlement” (78) then follows, covering the importance of Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, along with “The Progress Towards Monarchy” (81) on Judges. Then Goldsworthy takes up the stories of Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon with a focus on God’s covenant with David recorded in II Samuel 7. The chapter ends with Israel as a divided kingdom, as both Israel and Judah “move with gathering momentum towards a cataclysmic judgment of God upon their sinful rejection of the covenant” (90).

1 comment:

David said...

Hi Brian,

'Gospel and Kingdom' is a great book! Thanks for this very helpful review. Look forward to more reviews on other Goldsworthy titles.