Quote of the Week – Thomas Schreiner on the Christian Presupposition of Canon in Biblical Theology

This past week, a dear brother of mine blessed me with Thomas R. Schreiner’s New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008 ) as a birthday present. Even though my German homework has piled to the ceiling, I could not resist giving the book a quick overview throughout the weekend. I am very appreciative of many aspects in and the main aim of the book already, and look forward at a more in depth look at a later time! 

From what I have read, I am thrilled to find a fellow Southern Baptist brother and scholar committed to careful exegesis, sound theology, a Trinitarian emphasis, the canonical witness, and (from the testimony of my brother who is one of his students) the obedience of faith. These commitments lead him to this thesis concerning the New Testament’s testimony: “The NT is about God magnifying himself in Christ through the Spirit” (13); or from his introduction, “…NT theology is God-focused, Christ-centered, and Spirit-saturated, but the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit must be understood along a salvation-historical timeline; that is, God’s promises are already fulfilled but not yet consummated in Christ Jesus” (23). (Without question, the third section of Schreiner’s book, “Experiencing the Promise: Believing and Obeying”, addresses how the Gospel demands the people it births live under this authoritative reality revealed from the text of the Bible.)

His conclusions stem from his own assiduous reading of the text as he himself testifies: “I wrote the first three drafts [of New Testament Theology] without consulting any secondary resources. Before I wrote, I carefully took notes on the entire NT, noting what NT authors discussed, so that my theology would be anchored by the text” (9). (Excluding bibliographies, the book is nearly 900 pages in length!)

The reason for this post, however, was to provide you with this quote from his work, which shows us the necessary Christian presupposition (no doubt birthed and generated by the work of the Holy Spirit himself) when assessing the testimony of the New Testament and putting together the theology it teaches for the sake of the church (and thus good of the world):

One must also presuppose that the canon is the limit for biblical theology because it is the word of God. This is not to say that one arbitrarily presupposes the truth of God’s word, for no other worldview makes sense of all reality as the biblical worldview does, and all other worldviews can survive only by borrowing from the biblical worldview at some point. Still, the divine character and authority of the Scriptures cannot be proved definitively; it is not as if we can demonstrate conclusively to others that the Scriptures are true. The starting point for grasping all of reality must be presupposed in any philosophical worldview, though it can be demonstrated that no other worldview makes sense of the world except the worldview generated by the canon of the entire Bible (885).

For conclusions in a similar vain of the previous quote, see my paragraph “What do we mean by ‘New Testament Theology’?“, Billy Marsh’s conclusions in his paper “A Christocentric Theological Method“, Ched Spellman’s post on K. Vanhoozer’s First Theology: God, Scripture, and Hermeneutics.

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5 Responses to “Quote of the Week – Thomas Schreiner on the Christian Presupposition of Canon in Biblical Theology”

  1. Brandon Says:

    I just got mine in the mail the other day. I know I need to read through it again…this time more slowly. Schreiner has so much to offer. As a sidenote, I’ll add that I want to read his stuff (any of it) even more knowing that he writes with a view to helping the church. He was very pastoral in class, even when discussing some of the more difficult concepts. We need more like him.

    Now, I can’t resist pointing this out: I think it is hilariously ironic that you called Schreiner’s reading “asiduous”…with only one “s”. If you would have been more “assiduous” in reading your own post, you would have noticed that you needed to add another one.

    I knew you would enjoy that.

    Can’t wait to be an uncle…love you man,
    Brandon

  2. Ched Says:

    Mmmmm, I like.

    I wish I could pause time for a week to read through this book, but alas, the sun stands still for no man (except maybe Joshua and Hezekiah, though they didn’t make their request for leisure reading either).

    Question though,

    You mentioned your German homework piling up, and then you provide us a quotation from page 885. That’s some pretty serious speed reading.

    I knew you were a word-gobbling whizzbang.

  3. Bret Rogers Says:

    Brandon, thank you for the correction. That is an ironic occasion of a spelling error.

    Ched, I am glad to see your “Mmmmm”. Also, know there was a lot of skimming in this overview. I do not have the gift of word-gobbling like some of our other brothers. Although, perhaps I could steal third base on them.

    Bret

  4. Billy Marsh Says:

    I think it is interesting and unique for a NT Theology textbook to address the issue of worldview which is usually left reserved for a different area of study. Though I have an idea, I’m not sure what Schriener means by the statement that opposing worldviews only can survive by”borrowing” from the biblical one. In my view, I’m not sure I agree with him there. Yet, his involvement with this topic goes to show that he has grasped the fact that “doing” NT Theology has massive implications beyond the world of biblical studies. I appreciate his approach inasmuch as his method reveals that he has noted the demands that God makes through the Bible in Christ and by the Holy Spirit that we are to do more with his Word than simply read it; we are to live it.

  5. Bret & Rachel Says:

    Billy, I think that perhaps Schreiner might have stated it a little differently (perhaps “sharing”?), but I think his point is clear in the context of his entire Appendix.

    Also, I think you will find more NT scholars dealing with these issues of philosophical presuppositions in their work. Another NT Theology that addresses these issues is Frank Thielman’s. Reading D. A. Carson’s works has been most helpful in gaining a better understanding of the distinct disciplines of and interconnected reltationships between philosophy, systematic theology, and biblical theology.

    You also mentioned, “In my view…”, but never articulated that view. Perhaps a brief sentence would do in clarifying it for us? 🙂

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