Book Review: Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy (Part 4)

Chapter eight continues with “The Kingdom Revealed in Prophecy.” The chapter begins with a brief overview of prophecy in the Old Testament, which distinguishes between two “orders” of prophets and places the various prophets of Israel (from Moses to Malachi) in their historical contexts. Several features of the prophetic ministry are highlighted, such as transgression of the law, judgment, and salvation. Then Goldsworthy focuses on “The Kingdom Pattern in Prophecy.” “All the hope for the future is expressed in terms of a return to the Kingdom structures revealed in the history of Israel from the Exodus to Solomon” (99). But this future hope will be significantly different, in that “sin and its effects will be eradicated” with the restored Kingdom “in the context of a new heaven and a new earth” (99). Goldsworthy is at his best in fleshing this out. He first draws out the features of Israel’s history which make up the Kingdom pattern – namely: “i. Captivity as a contradiction to the Kingdom. ii. The Exodus events as God’s mighty act of salvation on the basis of the Abrahamic covenant. Iii. The Sinai covenant binding Israel to God as his people. iv. The entry and possession of Canaan. [and] v. The focusing of God’s rule through the Temple, the Davidic king, and the city of Jerusalem” (99). Then Goldsworthy show how “each of the features of the historic kingdom revelation will be renewed in the last days when God acts finally for salvation” on the basis of his covenant love. These features are outlined as the new captivity, the new exodus, the new covenant, the new nation, and the new creation (100-102) – this outline laced with pervasive references to key passages in the Old Testament prophetic books. A brief postscript summarizes the high points of Israel’s history from the reconstruction under Ezra/Nehemiah through the interval between the Old and New Testaments.

Chapter nine turns the corner from old to new in consideration of “The Kingdom Revealed in Jesus Christ.” Since Christ is the goal of all redemptive history, “the whole Bible must be understood in light of the gospel” (105). Jesus is the key to interpreting the whole of Scripture and our task is learn how this works. Central to this task is clarity in defining the gospel. “It is not sufficient to stress the ethics of the man Jesus of Nazareth out of the context of the saving acts of God (as many liberals do), nor to stress the supernatural presence of the Christ with the believer out of the context of the meaning of the historical humanity of God come in the flesh (as many evangelicals do)” (105). So what is the gospel? Christians answer in many different ways and usually with some truth to their answers. Yet clarity on exactly what the good news is seems to be lacking. Goldsworthy contends that “the gospel is a declaration of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, rather than (as is often implied) what God does in the believer, although we may not separate the two” (106). But the subjective experience of the gospel flows from the objective historical facts of the incarnation, perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the gospel; this is the good news. Our new birth, faith, sanctification and perseverance result from, but are not themselves, the gospel, and Goldsworthy contends that this distinction has a bearing on our overall interpretation of Scripture.

This gospel is called “the gospel of the kingdom,” which leads to the “unavoidable conclusion . . . that the gospel fulfills the Old Testament hope of the coming of the Kingdom of God” (108). The revelation of the kingdom in Jesus Christ is related to, yet different from, the earlier kingdom expressions in Eden, the history of Israel, and the prophetic hope of Israel. The reality of the kingdom in Jesus Christ fulfills all of the “terms, images, promises and foreshadowings in the Old Testament” (109). “That is to say that the coming of the Christ transforms all the Kingdom terms of the Old Testament into gospel reality” (109-110). The Kingdom of God involves God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and the coming of Christ gives new and final definition to each of those three elements. Goldsworthy takes each in turn. “The People of the Kingdom” (God’s People) in the Old Testament were Adam and Eve, then the descendants of Abraham, the people of Israel, the Davidic dynasty, and the faithful remnant. And in the New Testament, Christ is depicted as the last Adam, the seed of Abraham, the true Israel, and the Son of David. “These various identities of Jesus establish one clear point. Jesus Christ is the head of the new race” (112). “The Location of the Kingdom” (God’s place) in the Old Testament revelation was first Eden, then Canaan, and in the prophetic hope, a glorified Canaan. The Old Testament also focuses on “Jerusalem (or Zion) as the centre of God’s land” (113) and the Temple as the place which represented the dwelling-place of God among His people. In the New Testament, Jesus Himself is the locality of the Kingdom. God “tabernacles” among us in the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus is the Temple and Zion is where Jesus now reigns at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:22). “The Rule of the Kingdom” (God’s rule) is testified in the Old Testament with the themes of covenant and kingdom. The great covenant summary was “I will be your God, you shall be my people.” This goal was implicit in Eden, and progressively explicit in God’s covenants with Abraham, Israel, and David, finally culminating in the prophetic hope of a “new covenant” – which would be written in the hearts of God’s people. The New Testament shows that the gospel fulfills the hope of the new covenant by perfectly achieving what could only be foreshadowed in the old (cf. Hebrews 8-9). The New Testament also takes up the theme of kingdom by showing how Jesus, the Son of David, fulfilled the prophecies concerning David’s restored rule in his resurrection (cf. Acts 2:30-31, 36). But the kingdom is both “now and not yet” (118) and Christians live in the tension between what the inauguration and the consummation of the kingdom. This chapter concludes with Goldsworthy’s assertion that “to see the kingdom of God we must look at Jesus Christ” (120).

In chapter ten, Goldsworthy begins to pull all the pieces together, discussing again “Principles of Interpretation.” He first summarizes the main points already covered (with a helpful diagram – the last of eight which are spread throughout the book), then discusses “The Method in Practice.” According to Goldsworthy, the process of interpretation involves three basic steps. “1. Identify the way the text functions in the wider context of the kingdom stratum in which it occurs. 2. Proceed to the same point in each succeeding stratum until the final reality in the gospel is reached. 3. Show how the gospel reality interprets the meaning of the text, at the same time as showing how the gospel is reality is illumined by the text” (126). But with these steps, he also warns readers not to overlook the complexity of the Old Testament and to remember that “no text stands alone . . . the whole of Scripture is its ultimate context” (127). Therefore, readers should “beware of taking every portion of a size [of text] convenient for daily reading (whatever that may be) and forcing it to yield some self-contained Christian truth” (127).

Chapter eleven (“It’s That Giant Again!”) considers “the application of Christological interpretation methods” (128). This is a fascinating and helpful chapter which takes up David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17), Rahab’s Scarlet Cord (Joshua 2:15-21; 6:22-25), The Polluted Spring (II Kings 2:19-22), Blessing the Child-Killers (Psalm 137), and Nehemiah Rebuilding Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:17-4:23) as examples for how apply Christ-centered hermeneutics. Goldsworthy avoids simplistic and forced explanations of the text, while faithfully applying the principles developed throughout the book. The Conclusion then discusses Goldsworthy's conviction that “twentieth century evangelical Christians have experienced a radical loss of direction in handling the Old Testament” (136) and discusses how both “allegorical interpretation” and “prophetic literalism” have both caused some evangelicals to throw away “the hermeneutical gains of the Reformers in favour of a mediaeval approach to the Bible” (136). He also challenges “a generation of bad habits in Bible reading” which contributes to the modern misuse of the Old Testament and discusses the shift in evangelical thinking from “the Protestant emphasis upon the objective facts of the gospel in history to the mediaeval emphasis on the inner life” (137). Goldsworthy believes that “the evangelical who sees the inward transforming work of the Spirit as the key element of Christianity will soon lose contact with the historic faith and the historic gospel” and that “inner-directed Christianity . . . reduces the gospel to the level of every other religion of the inner man” (137).

Finally, the book ends with three appendices, which include suggested Old Testament readings which will introduce readers to some primary Old Testament themes (Appendix A), a list of group study questions for each chapter (Appendix B), and a list of ten Old Testament passages on which the reader can practice the hermeneutical skills learned in this book. A subject index is also included.

1 comment:

mwh said...

What are the "two 'orders'" of prophets according to Goldsworthy?