Monday, June 24, 2013

The Method of Biblical Theology

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings books are one grand story. The entire work, not including The Hobbit, contains three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) . Each volume really is comprised of two books. For instance, the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, contains 1) a prologue that introduces the entire series of books; 2) Book 1, called The Ring Sets Out (or The First Journey); and 3) Book 2, called The Ring Goes South (or The Journey of the Nine Companions). Each of these books is split into about 10-12 chapters with such names as “A Long-expected Party,” “The Shadow of the Past,” and “Three is Company.” Each of these chapters tell a main story that somehow fits into the entire storyline of The Lord of the Rings. Additionally, they contain sub-plots, background anecdotes, and digressions (seeming rabbit-trails), all for the purpose of making the grand story complete.

Now try to remember the first time you read the books (or, regrettably, only watched the movies). You didn’t know exactly how the story would progress. You didn’t know the ending because you hadn’t read it before. Incidentally, however, we all really did know how the story would end. From the very beginning, we knew that the impossible task that had to be done would be done. Can you imaging Frodo failing his quest? So in the minds of us readers, the most pressing issue was not what would happen but how it would happen. And the reason that Tolkien is so successful in making his readers continue reading is that fantastic events happen, tension builds, and everything happens so miraculously yet so plausibly.

But think again back to the first time you read the story. At each point in the story, you didn’t know exactly what would happen next. You were given hints and clues. Events were foreshadowed and prophesied. Yet you were left to your own perceptiveness in reading the details to anticipate future events. Both we readers and the characters in the story knew only what had been revealed up to that point in the history of Middle Earth and in their own part of it. None of us knew the future. To make things more difficult, the first time you read these books, undoubtedly you missed a lot of the details. Some of the themes, symbols, and patterns evaded your notice. You understanding was cloudy and incomplete.

But image something impossible for a moment. Imagine yourself rereading all preceding chapters one or twice or five times before you moved on to the next chapter. And before moving on to book two, you reread all the previous books 3-4 times.

Of course, you have better things to do with your time, but if you had done such a thing, you would have become an expert of each book, and the subsequent books would have made much more sense as their events unfolded. Indeed, you would eventually have large portions of it memorized. You would recognize how each smaller portion, every tiny detail fits into the entirety of the story. You would understand more about why Tolkien told the story exactly the way he did. You would learn to think like Tolkien, and you would understand the world he created in the way that he, as the creative author of Middle Earth and its history, wants you to understand it.

Biblical Theology is a method of interpreting the Bible. The type of reading I have just described largely describes the method of Biblical Theology. History is the story that God creates and tells. Thus, history has a purpose and is moving toward a specific goal. The Bible is the literary masterpiece that God wrote to tell that story. God is the author of this multi-volume epic, which tells one grand story with many sub-plots. Like The Lord of the Rings, the Bible also contains background anecdotes and seeming digressions. Throughout the work, the divine Author recounts fantastic events and builds tension in ways that are both miraculous and plausible. And so we should read it in a way similar to how we read The Lord of the Rings. Yet, as an author, God is even more successful than Tolkien. No time is wasted when we read each portion over and over in order to understand how they fit into the grand story, to come to know the mind of the divine Author, and to learn to think like Him. As we read, we told a certain amount about what history look like in the end, but the exciting project is discovering how God brings history to that end.


  1. Our family is reading through the Bible in 90 days right now, and this particularly resonates.


    Is praying to God a form of worship? Yes, without a doubt. Is praying to men or women who are dead or alive worship? Yes, without a doubt.

    Who should men worship? Luke 4:7-8 "Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours." 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve."(NKJV)


    Worship Defined: 1. (Ecclesiastical terms) to show profound religious devotion and respect to; adore or venerate (God or any person or thing considered divine) 2. to be devoted to and full of admiration for. 3. to have or express feelings of profound adoration......7. (Ecclesiastical) the formal expression of religious adoration; rites, prayers, etc. [REF. The Free Dictionary.]

    Praying to God is worship and men are to only worship God.

    A Costa Rican woman has told how she recovered from a brain aneurysm after praying to Blessed Pope John Paul ll ---the second miracle attributed to the pontiff, who died in 2005. [REF: catholicherald.]

    Praying to any man dead or alive is worship and to worship anyone but God is sin.

    Through the selfless "yes" of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, our Savior, was brought into the world. It is appropriate, therefore , that we offer prayers of petition and praise to the Mother of God.


    Praying to anyone is worship and to worship anyone but God is sin.



    Posted by Steve Finnell at 3:52 PM No comments:
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