Friday, July 13, 2007

Book Review: According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (by Graeme Goldsworthy)


Graeme Goldsworthy’s “According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible” was published in 1991 and has sat on my “to read” pile since 2003. Boy, am I regretting having not picked up this book earlier!

In the introduction to the final section of the book, Goldsworthy states: “Once we have grasped some kind of biblical theological overview, it will permanently change our understanding of the Bible in general” (235).This is not overstatement.

I found myself feeling like the two on the road to Emmaus: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Which is quite ironic since one of the foundational texts to Biblical Theology is found in this very context. “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Biblical Theology, as Goldsworthy presents it, is essentially finding Christ in all the Scriptures – something akin to Spurgeon’s famous quote:

“A Welsh minister who was preaching last Sabbath at the chapel of my dear brother, Jonathan George, was saying, that Christ was the sum and substance of the gospel, and he broke out into this story:—A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, "What do you think of my sermon?" "A very poor sermon indeed," said he. "A poor sermon?" said the young man, "it took me a long time to study it." "Ay, no doubt of it." "Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?" "Oh, yes," said the old preacher, "very good indeed." "Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn't you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?" "Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon." "Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?" "Because," said he, "there was no Christ in it." "Well," said the young man, "Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text." So the old man said, "Don't you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?" "Yes," said the young man. "Ah!" said the old divine "and so form every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business in when you get to a text, to say, 'Now what is the road to Christ?' and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ. And," said he, "I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it." Now since you say amen to that, and declare that what you want to hear is Jesus Christ, the text is proved—"Unto you therefore which believe he is precious." (From “Christ Precious to Believers” - a Sermon

(No. 242) Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 13th, 1859, by the REV. C. H. Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.)

I know that is a long quote, but it makes the point that Goldsworthy teaches in this book – Christ is the object of the Word of God.

Now I realize there is some dispute over the place of Biblical Theology, with a few heavyweights like Carl Trueman suggesting that too much emphasis on Biblical Theology at the expense of Systematic and Historical Theologies has swung the pendulum too far. But that debate is for another place.

What many Christians lack is a sense of the overall plan of God – not just a fitting together of the Bible. Biblical Theology helps immensely in this and this introductory volume is just what is needed to get one thinking from “the bird’s-eye view.”

Those who love Jesus and love to “find the road in every text to Him” will love this book. I highly commend it with this caveat – you will need to read it more than once!