Book Notes: Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

Michael Lawrence supplies a number of illuminating thoughts as he introduces the idea of exegesis in his book, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church.

Describing the role of the interpreter or biblical reader, Lawrence quotes Jerome saying,

The office of a commentator is to set forth not what he himself would prefer, but what his author says (41, Jerome’s letter “to Pammachius, 17).

Then discussing the task of exegesis, Lawrence cites John Owen,

There is no other sense in it than what is contained in the words whereof materially it doth consist . . . In the interpretation of the mind of anyone, it is necessary that the words he speaks or writes be rightly understood, and this we cannot do immediately unless we understand the language wherein he speaks . . . the [idiom] of that language, with the common use of and intention of its expressions (41, John Owen, Works, IV: 215, quoted in J. I. Packer, Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, 101)

Finally, Lawrence supplies his own helpful axioms that the parts of Scripture (words and phrases) must be related to the whole.

So the basic unit of meaning is not the word, but the sentence.  And the unit that determines what sentences mean, and therefore the words in them, is the paragraph (42).

Interpretation actually begins with the whole, not the part. Then, in the context of the whole, we work backwards through the parts, back to sentences, back all the way down to individual words.  What we learn and discover there then takes us back to the whole with a more accurate and perhaps nuanced understanding of meaning (42).

Today, ponder these thoughts and put them into practice.  Much interpretive error stems from microscopic reading of Scripture and trying to interpret the Bible in light of our personal opinions and experiences.  Rightly, Lawrence’s observations, if taken to heart and applied, will help correct much improper Bible reading.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: An Interview with Michael Lawrence

John Starke interviews Michael Lawrence at TGC Reviews, senior pastor (to-be) of Hinson Church (Portland, OR) about his newly published book, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide to Ministry.

In the interview, Michael helpfully defines biblical theology as a mediating discipline, which helps properly interpret and apply the Bible.  Thus, he sees biblical theology as a necessary step between understanding what the Bible meant and what it means today, and as the subtitle suggests, this is an essential part of the minister’s task.

I encourage you to check out the interview, and pick up the book.  I just got my copy and look forward to reading it and helping our church see the value of biblical theology.

John’s interview with Michael is one of many resources on TGC Reviews.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

The ‘Second Mark’  of a “Healthy Church” is Biblical Theology (see Nine Marks of Healthy Church), but because of its sweeping synthesis of the Bible, Biblical Theology is also one of the most confusing disciplines to church members.  At least, this has been my experience introducing the ‘Big Picture’ of the Bible to the churches I have served.

Enter Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church.  In April, Michael Lawrence’s new book will come out, and hopefully serve as a tool introduce and clarify this critically-important discipline.  Here is Crossway‘s description:

Capitol Hill Baptist Church associate pastor Michael Lawrence contributes to the IXMarks series as he centers on the practical importance of biblical theology to ministry. He begins with an examination of a pastor’s tools of the trade: exegesis and biblical and systematic theology. The book distinguishes between the power of narrative in biblical theology and the power of application in systematic theology, but also emphasizes the importance of their collaboration in ministry.

Having laid the foundation for pastoral ministry, Lawrence uses the three tools to build a biblical theology, telling the entire story of the Bible from five different angles. He puts biblical theology to work in four areas: counseling, missions, caring for the poor, and church/state relations. Rich in application and practical insight, this book will equip pastors and church leaders to think, preach, and do ministry through the framework of biblical theology.

This forthcoming book looks like an excellent tool for introducing biblical theology to church members who have questions on why Biblical Theology is important and how to put the Bible together.  It goes beyond just the basics too, relating the big picture of the Bible to everyday life– ‘counseling, missions, caring for the poor, and church/state relations.’  Since biblical illiteracy is one of the church’s greatest obstacles for making mature disciples, encouraging biblical theology (read: a comprehensive understanding of the Bible) should be a priority of every pastor, church leader, and church member.

April 30, 2010 is its anticipated release date.  Mark it down!  

Soli Deo Gloria, dss