The Ontological and Systematic Roots of Biblical Theology

March 9, 2009 — Leave a comment

As our small group has been studying through Systematic Theology together (this is round 3 of me teaching), some new thoughts have arisen as I consider doctrines.  One that was particularly interesting was the result of teaching revelation, and having a very significant thought that related to this quote, which captures the challenging portion of the doctrine of revelation very succinctly.

The biblical theologian who accepts the canonical coherence of the source documents has already made a dogmatic assumption, or a whole series of them, about the nature of the biblical canon. This is only to say that our doctrine of Scripture is itself drawn from Scripture. If we then recognise that the Bible causes us to reckon with its testimony to the ontological Trinity as the ultimate source of all reality, including the canon, we might feel justified in an arrangement that starts with dogma concerning God (the objective). Yet it is we (the subjective element) who are contemplating this objective. In the final analysis, whether we view this from the perspective of biblical theology or the perspective of dogmatics, we find that the relationship of the subjective and objective is always before us.

via The Ontological and Systematic Roots of Biblical Theology – Graeme Goldsworthy.

When you return to the ultimate question about revelation, and the fact that it is a question of the relation of a subjective experience of the believer to an objective truth, we seem to forget that God is both objective AND subjective.  This is the result of both the perfection of His being and His personhood.

God’s ontological perfection is indeed His objective nature, but He is not merely a concept to be objectified; He is a personal being who relates to us, and therefore transcends the objective/subjective divide through reaching down, not us reaching up.

Perhaps this is an oversimplification of a very deep philosophical problem, but I think far too often in our philosophical challenges with our doctrines we forget the fundamentally relational nature of our God.

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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