When I arrived on the campus of Boyce College in the Fall of 2008 it had yet to occur to me how much I did not know. Perhaps that is why I remember so well the first time I encountered the name Graeme Goldsworthy. It was day one of my Hermeneutics class and Dr. Barry Joslin was reviewing the course syllabus which of course included required textbooks. I was completely unaware of the state of the church in Australia and even less familiar with the nation’s theological education (typical of young, naieve Americans). What took place as I opened Goldsworthy’s According to Plan changed me forever. From that moment on I would never view Scripture the same. I would later go on to read his Gospel and Kingdom, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, and Christ-Centered Biblical Theology. So, as I begin at a new place, at a new Seminary, it seems fitting to reflect on when my theological education began and the one scholar who introduced me to the incredible grand story of the Bible.
Graeme Goldsworthy was lecturer of Old Testament, biblical theology, and hermeneutics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia before his retirement. For many years he has been a leading contributor to the discipline known as biblical theology. This term was completely foreign to me during my Freshman year at Boyce College. Goldsworthy would not only go on to teach me what biblical theology is, but to love and see it as vital for the life of biblical scholarship and pastoral ministry. It is difficult to include everything that needs to be said about such a faithful teaching and publishing ministry. Thus, I have decided to include the contributions of Goldsworthy’s work that have impacted me the most. Hopefully this will inspire readers who have not encountered Goldsworthy to take a look at his work.
I. Biblical Theology: Learning that the Bible was not 66 fragmented books with no connection changed me forever. Goldsworthy defines Biblical Theology this way in According to Plan: “Biblical theology is a way of understanding the Bible as a whole, so that we can see the plan of salvation as it unfolds step by step. It is concerned with God’s message to us in the form it actually takes in Scripture.” pg. 29
Goldsworthy offers these definitions in his other works:
“Biblical theology seeks to understand the relationship between the various eras in God’s revealing activity recorded in the Bible.” (Gospel and Kingdom, pg. 47)
“Biblical theology is nothing more nor less than allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: as the one word of the one God about the one way of Salvation.” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, pg.7)
II. Evangelical Presuppositions: Goldsworthy reminds us that everyone brings presuppostions to the text. However, some presuppositions are necessary to produce a true Biblical theology. Due to the different natures of his Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics and Christ-Centered Biblical Theology, the sections on presuppostions look a bit different. I will mention the set found primarily in Christ-Centered Biblical Theology.
The Doctrine of God
“We would not be interested in the theology of the Bible if we did not have some previously formed notion that the Bible can deliver a theology.” pg. 42
The Doctrine of the word of God
“His word is thus a sovereign word, self-interpreting, self-authenticating, infallible, and all-powerful. It is the foundation of a hermeneutic of authorial intent. It is also the fountain of our understanding of the Bible as coherent, understandable and containing the truth about the real world.” Pg. 43
“Historical criticism in its extreme form rejected the dogma that God both set in train the events of history and also acted within them. It rejected the notion of divine revelation within space and time, and this ultimately made biblical theology impossible.” Pg. 43
The canon as the limit of inspired Scripture-Here Goldsworthy leans on his mentor Donald Robinson, you can find Robinson’s comments concerning the canon on pg. 46.
The unity of canon of Scripture
“Their unity lies in both the historical and theological dimensions. The message of the books belongs together in that they concern God, his people, and the historical process.” Pg. 47
“The unity of the Bible is such a kind that every text bears some discoverable relationship to every other text, We should be able to leave from anywhere and arrive at our destination . Our destination, however, is not a matter of chance since Jesus has already shown us that he is not only to be our goal but that he started out with us on our journey.” Pg. 195
“An evangelical biblical theology, however, recognizes the cannon of Scripture as the unified work of God through the Spirit-inspired human authors. The ultimate literary context of any given text is the whole canon of Scripture.” (Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Pg. 200)
The human problem and God’s response
“This fact is integral to the biblical story. Our rejection of God’s word has left us under the judgment of God so that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. Our receptivity to the message of the Bible is so badly damaged that none of us human beings can by nature read, understand and submit to God’s word as we should.” Pg. 48
“As Jesus opened the minds of his disciples to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45), so also must we open our minds to the relationship between all Scripture and his person and ministry.” Pg. 48
III. The Kingdom of God: Many reply with a blank stare of panic when asked to define the kingdom. Goldsworthy helpfully removed my panic stare by defining the Kingdom this way,
“…the Kingdom of God involves (a) God’s people (b) God’s place (c) God’s reign” (Gospel and Kingdom, Pg. 54)
Goldsworthy then finds as his “center” of the Bible to be the Kingdom as revealed in three major epochs:
“First, God’s Kingdom is revealed in Israel’s history up to David and Solomon. Second, God’s kingdom is revealed in prophetic eschatology. This recapitulate the first stage as that which shapes the future. Third, God’s kingdom is revealed in the fulfillment of the Old Testament expectations in Christ.” (Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Pg. 247-248)
IV. Goldsworthy’s love for Christ and His Church: Those who are familiar with Goldsworthy know he hates exegesis for exegesis sake. One need only to read his Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture to learn he desires to equip ministers of the gospel to be more faithful exegetes so they may preach more faithfully and advance the kingdom of God. Furthermore, Goldsworthy took the time to develop a helpful guide for pastors to teach biblical theology in their local churches. This was his intent in writing According to Plan. In the introduction, Goldsworthy writes, “This guide is written for those who have not had any formal theological education. Provided you have desire to know the Scriptures, even if you have only achieved a very basic knowledge so far, this book is designed for you.” Pg. 9 Goldsworthy has also written a book on Prayer, although I have yet to read it. We need more scholars who are willing to take time to write for the local church. Goldsworthy is one example of how to do exactly that.
There is no way that I could be faithful to the theology of Graeme Goldsworthy in a mere blog post. I hope to have captured enough to show that reading him for the first time was eye opening. Furthermore, that he is most certainly worth reading! I do not agree with everything he says, but few agree with everything anyone says. Those who digest books wholly without critical prayer and thinking need to make an adjustment.
I am sure I will have more developments in my Scriptural understanding as my time at SEBTS progresses; however, this is I know to be true- I will forever be grateful to Graeme Goldsworthy for his faithful biblical scholarship and passion for the local church. May more people read, learn, and yes, even disagree with him.
From a nobody, from nowhere- Thanks Goldsworthy, for teaching me to love the Word of God deeper still.