Foundational Principles and Basic Frameworks for Redemptive History and Biblical Theology (LDBC Recap 2/7/16)

Explanation

logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:

Recap / review

This week we began closing up our survey of foundational matters by surveying foundational principles and key frameworks for understanding Biblical theology and piecing together redemptive history. These foundational matters are incredibly important because they have a direct effect on how we go about interpreting scripture (hermeneutics), doing Biblical theology, and piecing together redemptive history.

Foundational principles

We laid out 4 foundational principles for understanding redemptive history and doing Biblical theology.

1. Scripture’s unity. Amidst its diversity of human authors, themes, settings, occasions, purposes, etc., scripture is ultimately one book, with a unified author (God), about a unified subject.

2. Scripture’s theme. That one unified subject or theme we defined as “The outworking of God’s salvation accomplished through Jesus Christ in history on behalf of his people to the glory of God.”

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RECOMMENDED: “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New” by D.A. Carson

I just finished reading D.A. Carson’s chapter “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New” in Justification and Variegated Nomism, volume 2 subtitled “The Paradoxes of Paul.” These two volumes, the first of which deals with the variegated nature of 1st century/Second Temple Judaism while the second addresses the interpretation of Paul himself, are a collection of essays which seek to respond to the claims made by what has been called the New Perspective on Paul (or better: New Perspectives [plural] on Paul).

The following is my attempt to summarize the main argument of the chapter:

Carson presents the “coherent tension” between mystery (which entails some degree of discontinuity) and fulfillment (which entails some element of preceding anticipation and thus continuity) in Paul’s thought and applies to a response to the proposals of the New Perspective.

He argues that the New Perspective on Paul, which in many ways views Paul as not diverting from Judaism but, rather, in essence advancing what could be understood as a sect of Judaism in continuity with Judaism and as fitting the criteria of “covenantal nomism,” fails to grapple with the way in which Paul’s thought, although containing a strong sense of continuity with the Old Testament and its religion, which is evidenced by Paul’s pervasive “fulfillment”-framework, nonetheless has strong currents of discontinuity, which are evidenced by his inclusion of mystery concepts alongside his “fulfillment”-framework.

In other words, he argues that the New Perspective on Paul, which stresses significant continuity between Paul and  Judaism and/or “covenantal nomism,” fails to handle with integrity the continuity and discontinuity framework in Paul, a framework evidenced by the existence of “mystery” and “fulfillment” concepts in Paul.

Although I have significant interest in the conversations and debates inspired by the proposals of New Perspective, I actually set out to read this chapter because of its interaction with matters pertaining to redemptive history, issues continuity and discontinuity, typology, the role of the law, the relationship between the Testaments, the concept of mystery in Paul and the NT, etc. Carson provides some helpful insights into these matters as he “utilizes” them in his interaction with the New Perspective.

In other words, if either the New Perspective or any of the other topics interests you, I’d add this essay to your reading list.

Duane Garrett on the Nature of Biblical Prophecy

The following is from an excursus entitled “The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15” by Duane Garrett. He makes some helpful observations that are too often overlooked in much contemporary discussion regarding Biblical prophecy.

To put it more pointedly, did Hosea suppose that this verse looked ahead to the Messiah? It is, of course, difficult if not impossible to show that Hosea intended readers to discern from this passage that the Messiah would come out of Egypt. This question, however, is the wrong question to ask of Hos 11:1. The real issue is not, Did Hosea intend this verse to be read messianically? but What did Hosea understand to be the nature of prophecy? In answer to this question, we must assert that Hosea, like all biblical prophets, saw prophecy not so much as the making of specific, individual predictions (which are actually quite rare among the writing prophets), but as the application of the Word of God to historical situations. In doing this the prophets brought to light certain patterns that occur repeatedly in the relationship between God and his people [typologies]. These patterns or themes have repeated fulfillments or manifestations until the arrival of the final, absolute fulfillment. Thus, for example, the conquest of the land “fulfilled” the promises to the patriarchs but did not fulfill those promises finally or in their ultimate form. The inheritance of the “new earth” is the ultimate conclusion of this prophetic theme. All of the prophets were, to some degree, “like Moses” (Deut 18:5), but the ultimate prophet like Moses can only be the Messiah. Each of the kings of the line of David was a fulfillment of the promise that God would build him a “house” (2 Sam 7), but the Messiah is again the final fulfillment of this theme. Thus prophecy gives us not so much specific predictions but types or patterns by which God works in the world. We need look no further than Hosea 11 to understand that Hosea, too, believed that God followed patterns in working with his people. Here the slavery in Egypt is the pattern for a second period of enslavement in an alien land (v. 5), and the exodus from Egypt is the type for a new exodus (vv. 10–11).

Duane A. Garrett. Hosea, Joel. The New American Commentary. Vol. 19A. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997, 221-22.

We often think of Biblical prophecy as essentially predictions of the future. But is that accurate? It would be better to understand most of Biblical prophecy as actually the application of the past to the present and future. We might think of it like this–God’s past acts serve as models, paradigms, or types for His future dealings.

If I had to summarize typology…

Typology

If I had to summarize typology simply and briefly, this is how I’d do it.

  • Typology is not…
    • Allegory.
      • Allegory is not directly concerned with the meaning of the text. It’s interested in a spiritual or moral meaning that goes beyond the text.
      • Allegory is not directly concerned with the significance of the historical realities. It’s interested in ascribing spiritual meanings to these historical realities.
    • Making connections between obscure and insignificant details.
  • Typology is best understood as a “prophetic paradigm” – A type is a historical event, person, or institution in the storyline of scripture that serves as an anticipatory (“prophetic”) model/pattern (“paradigm”) for a greater reality (antitype) in God’s story of salvation.
  • Typology is rooted in…
    • The overarching storyline of scripture – These Biblical events, persons, and institutions occur within the storyline of scripture. This story takes place within the context of the covenants, is propelled forward by covenant promises, and therefore has a built in sense of anticipation as the story heads towards fulfillment. Therefore, these Biblical persons, events, and institutions have a special significance as they occur in God’s unfolding plan of salvation with the anticipation of its climax.
    • God’s nature (e.g., His sovereignty, omniscience, etc.) and a theological understanding of history – God’s providence over and guidance of history means that history is significant. These historical events, persons, and institutions should be understood as intentionally designed and revelatory.
    • God’s unchanging character – Since God is consistently true to His character, God’s previous actions, institutions, and appointed individuals/offices reveal something of His unchanging character as it relates to God’s future actions, institutions, and individuals/offices.

In Pursuit of Responsible Typology

As I mentioned yesterday, there has been some discussion within dispensational circles lately about typology and analogical interpretation. In my post yesterday I shared my dissatisfaction and qualms with that view which seeks to remove typology from its typical central role in “doing” Biblical theology in favor of “putting one’s Bible together” by means of analogy. So because I understand typology as fundamental to the unity and promise-fulfillment structure of the Old and New Testaments as well as a central way the New Testament writers use the Old Testament to show its continuity with their message and the work of Christ, I’m in pursuit of something more than an analogical interpretation, that being typology.

But yes, if lacking good definition and hermeneutical safety-rails, typology can easily become something other than typology–imaginative, fanciful, interpretations; finding typology where typology is not really present and connecting dots where no dots are to be found.[1] But, while recognizing the possible “slippery-slope,” I don’t want to be fallacious and equate typology with the slope itself, as many seem to do (e.g., Mark Snoeberger). Typology done legitimately is legitimate, despite hermeneutically unfortunate and irresponsibility decisions that find refuge under the umbrella of typology.

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