Wisdom from D. A. Carson, “Current Issues in Biblical Theology: A New Testament Perspective,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995): 38-39.
The quotations below fall within the context of a published address to the IBR, addressing issues in biblical theology (BT). With reference to “popular concerns” (e.g., people asking, “What does the Bible say about X?”), Carson suggests that BT is helpful for three reasons:
- “Negatively, it will tame the subject, that is, it will help us see the topic in its proper proportion. One of the troubling features about contemporary Christianity is the large number of single-issue types who assume the gospel but rarely articulate it or think about it, while investing extraordinary passion and energy in relatively peripheral subjects–peripheral, that is, from the perspective of Scripture, if not from the current mood.”
- BT “will enable us to answer questions about popular concerns with more than proof-texting. It is both amusing and painful to read most contemporary books on, say, worship. Those written by musicians tend to make much of David and his choirs. Charismatics dwell on 1 Corinthians 14. Those in sacramental traditions begin with the eucharist. New Testament specialists tend to extrapolate on what are probably early Christian hymns embedded in the New Testament. Another heritage elevates the ministry of the Word. What almost none of the books in the area has done is trace out the language and themes of worship across the Bible’s story line, dwelling at length on the nature of worship under the old covenant and under the new, and the ties, and differences, between the two and why they are that way. Only then, surely, is it possible to fit the various passages that speak to the question into a coherent framework from which many useful and practical conclusions may be drawn. A remarkable exception to this lack is the recent book by David Peterson.” [fn. 74: “David G. Peterson, Engaging with God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992). Cf. also some of the essays in Worship: Adoration and Action (ed. D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993).”]
- “For some of these ‘hot’ topics, especially those where the Bible does not directly address them at length, biblical theology may help us establish a nonnegotiable framework before we integrate other useful material and venture value judgments.”