Thursday, February 23, 2012

A False Antithesis

Sound biblical exegesis and systematic theology are not enemies. Indeed, they are friends.

From Kevin DeYoung:

Systematic theology looks at the whole Bible and tries to understand all that God says on a given subject (e.g., sin, heaven, angels, justification). Exegesis is what you do when you look at a single text of Scripture and try to understand what the author–speaking in a specific culture, addressing to a specific audience, writing for a specific purpose–intended to communicate.

Good systematic theology will be anchored in good exegesis. The sum of the whole is only as true as the individual parts. No Christian should be interested in constructing a big theological system that grows out of a shallow and misinformed understanding of the smaller individual passages. I don’t know of any evangelical pastor or scholar who disagrees with these sentiments.

But what about the reverse? We all know exegesis should inform systematic theology, but should our theological systems also inform our exegesis?Some Christians, especially biblical scholars, have argued that the best exegesis is completely theologically unprejudiced. We can’t bring our theological concerns to the Bible, lest we gerrymander the Scriptures and impose anachronistic categories on the text. The unspoken (or spoken) assumption is that the traffic between exegesis and theology is one way. Biblical scholars do their work, and as long as theologians pay attention to professional exegesis they can go on and do their own work. But the task of exegesis, it is often implied and sometimes explicitly said, has little to gain from listening to the theologians.

This insistence on making the path between exegesis and theology a one way street is untenable and unwise. Pastors, scholars, and lay interpreters would do well to heed the counsel of Moises Silva:

In contrast [to this one way street], I want to argue not only that the exegete may address theological issues and suggest what bearing the text may have on theological reflection–I go a daring step further: my systematic theology should actually inform my exegesis. To put it in the most shocking way possible, my theological system should tell me how to exegete. (Interpreting Galatians, 207)

Read the entire article HERE.

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