Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice

51DWmOW5TGL._SS500_Edward Klink & Darian Lockett, Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, November, 2012. 192 pp. Paperback, $17.99.

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After I posted the list of upcoming books to review, the first vote I got was for a review of Edward Klink and Darian Lockett’s Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice. After requesting a digital copy from Zondervan Academic, I was able to get started reading my way through the book. Though I’m not still not fond of the formatting in most NetGalley titles, I was able to make my way through this one reasonably well. To just cut to the chase, if you’re remotely interest in the concept of biblical theology, this is a book you need to have on your shelf.

Overview

The main reason this is a great book is that it takes a term (“biblical theology”) that is used by many different people to mean many different things, and maps out the landscape of the field of study. In this since, the overall thrust of the book is descriptive (“this is the different ways biblical theology is done”) rather than prescriptive (“here’s how biblical theology ought to be done”). In contrast, Graeme Goldsworthy’s book I reviewed a while back was both descriptive and prescriptive and the bulk of the book was devoted to Goldsworthy’s explanation of his method of biblical theology.

In Understanding Biblical Theology, Lockett and Klink map out 5 different kinds of biblical theology. They first offer a chapter describing each different kind of biblical theology, and then a chapter on a major scholar representative of that method. The resulting map looks like this:

  • Biblical Theology as Historical Description (a la James Barr)
  • Biblical Theology as History of Redemption (a la D. A. Carson)
  • Biblical Theology as Worldview Story (a la N. T. Wright)
  • Biblical Theology as Canonical Approach (a la Brevard Childs)
  • Biblical Theology as Theological Construction (a la Francis Watson)

As I mentioned in my initial assessment of this book, there is within the second model listed above, three related but slightly different “schools” of biblical theology:

  • The Dallas School (named for DTS, and represented by Roy Zuck and Darrell Bock)
  • The Chicago School (named for TEDS and of course represented by Carson)
  • The Philadelphia School (named for Westminster style biblical theology a la Vos, Clowney, and Gaffin)

If you’re curious, Goldsworthy falls within BT2, but it offering an approach to biblical theology that is different from either Dallas, Chicago, or Philadelphia style biblical theology. Perhaps there should be an “Australia” school (or a Moore school, but Goldsworthy denies there is such a thing in his book).

Strengths/Weaknesses

As you might imagine, I find this book a very strong resource on the subject it tackles. I almost always enjoy works like this that take a field of study of organize what looks like a mess at first glance. The book is scholarly in subject matter, but it seems very much designed for the undergraduate bible school student. This puts the prose within the average theology reader’s grasp, and makes a very enjoyable read. The chapters themselves are fairly short, and it is very helpful to have a description of the different approaches to biblical theology followed by a specific scholar’s key works on the topic. Lockett and Klink are mostly just describing the terrain, but they do offer their assessment of the individual scholars at the end of those specific chapters. Additionally, there is a summary chart of sorts (it’s hard to tell in NetGalley) that is very useful, especially from a classroom perspective.

Conclusion

For what this book is aiming to accomplish, I think it is complete success. One might want more assessment of the field and an answer to the question “How should we do biblical theology?” However, I think the style of this book leaves it up to the reader to assess for themselves. In Understanding Biblical Theology, the goal is just that: to understand biblical theology. We are given several styles of theory underlying the use of the term, and then a description of the practice as employed by a key scholar. Looking through the different approaches, readers will be able to think for themselves which method is most appropriate, or even take one method and modify in light of their theological background.

Author: Nate

I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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