*This post is part of a series on challenges I’ve faced while in seminary.
START AT THE BEGINNING.
In my previous post, I talked about how we can trust the Bible not just in spite of but because of textual variants. But the other challenge I faced regarding the trustworthiness of the Bible had to do with its theological consistency.
What I mean is: Does God contradict Himself? Does the Bible at any point present two versions of God that are incompatible? Or…does it ever make contradictory claims about what is real and true?
These questions ultimately led me to a field of study known as biblical theology, which has been my most enjoyable area of study in seminary.
To do biblical theology is to track a theme or topic as it progresses through the Bible. There’s actually been a resurgence of interest in this subject in recent years through the search for Jesus in the Old Testament. There are even children’s books getting in on the action (The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Biggest Story), but my ah-ha moment came when I heard this sermon by Tim Keller.
And while the question of theological consistency is even more complex than that of textual variants, time and time again I’ve discovered gifted preachers and writers who’ve helped me see that God never contradicts Himself, even when it might look like it at first.
Let me give just one example.
Some claim that God basically doesn’t give a hoot about the Gentiles in the OT but then suddenly loves all people in the New.
Sure…God did work almost exclusively through one nation (Israel) in the OT to advance His plan of redemption; but if this leads us to conclude that He only cared about Israel, we’ve missed one of the most amazing themes in the Bible.
Israel’s charter began with, “I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3), and God doubles down on this promise many times in the OT. He exalted Himself over Pharaoh and Sihon and Og “that (his) name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Ex. 9:16); and it was (Josh. 2:10-11)! Israel was called to be “a light to the nations” (Isa. 49:5-6), reflecting God’s goodness and glory to them. It has always been God’s plan to “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psa. 67:4). And how was this to be accomplished? The psalmist prays, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us [Israel], that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among the nations” (Ps. 67:1-2). God didn’t change. He has always desired to bless His people that they might bless the world!
When we arrive in the New Testament, it becomes clear that Jesus is the true and better Israelite who will finally fulfill God’s desire to bless the nations: “God so loved the world that He sent His Son” (John 3:16). And now, He sends His New Covenant people (composed of Jews and Gentiles!) to preach the gospel to the whole world (Matt. 24:14) making new disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). And what is the result of this? “A great multitude…from every nation…crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10).
Yes, the Bible is consistent theologically.
I don’t yet see all of the connections and ways in which God’s plan develops from Genesis to Revelation, but that’s the fun of it! I get to spend the rest of my life discovering the vastness of God’s wisdom in piecing together a beautiful theological tapestry over time.
If you’d like to delve a little more into biblical theology, I highly recommend the Bible Project. Here’s where you can find them on YouTube. And here’s my favorite video (so far!) that they’ve produced:
Also, here’s a sermon I preached on Psalm 67, trying to tie as many theological pieces together as I could:
Finally, here are some books to check out if you are interested in the subject.