Nancy Guthrie and Courtney Doctor share their thoughts on why it is important for women to care about biblical theology as it relates to their reading and understanding of God’s Word as a whole.
Guthrie defines biblical theology as a way of approaching and understanding the Bible as one cohesive story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Guthrie suggests that biblical theology differs from its companion, systematic theology, which gathers what the entire Bible says about a certain topic like sin or humanity. Guthrie says that as we look at the Bible’s themes, the themes we encounter actually develop throughout the Scriptures.
Doctor agrees and highlights that biblical theology is progressive revelation in narrative form—we know more about God at the end of the story than we did in the beginning.
Guthrie says her love of biblical theology began when she started to hear preachers and teachers teach the grander narrative of the Bible, centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. For Doctor, her love for biblical theology started in her class called “Covenant Theology” at Covenant Seminary—a class that dedicated five professors to teach the Bible as one story. Doctor says that parts of the Bible started to make sense to her that were harder for her to understand before. She says it helped her love God more and love his Word more, too.
Guthrie is passionate about helping other women pull together what they know about the Bible through an understanding of biblical theology.
In this episode, Doctor mentions Nancy Guthrie’s book Even Better Than Eden.
To hear more from Guthrie, you can listen to her podcast, “Help Me Teach the Bible.”
Thanks to the The Gospel Project who sponsored this episode. To learn more about The Gospel Project, visit gospelproject.com
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Today’s episode was produced by Heather Calvillo and Steven Morales.
Courtney Doctor: Nancy, we’re both women who love biblical theology and we love to talk about biblical theology. So I am excited to be here with you and talk about biblical theology. But would you start us off by giving us a good definition? Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what we’re talking about.
Nancy Guthrie: I don’t know if I can give a good one, but I will try. I do think it’s important to talk about what we mean, because I think a lot of times when people hear this term “biblical theology,” they think we’re talking about theology that is biblical as opposed to being unbiblical. Or just, you know, theology that is about the Bible, and, of course, the Bible is revelation of who God is if we’re going to study him.
But really when we…at least when I use the term, because it can be used in many different ways, but when I use the term, I’m talking about a way of approaching and understanding the Bible. Understanding that in this book, has one divine author, has all of these, you know, so many human authors, all different kinds of literature, but biblical theology says it is telling one coherent and cohesive story about what God is doing in the world through Christ.
I think sometimes it also helps people if you contrast it to its companion, systematic theology, which would be where we are gathering all of what the Bible says about a specific topic or doctrine or issue, like maybe about sin, or what does the Bible say about humanity, or those kinds of things. Whereas, biblical theology is more like, what is the Bible revealing? We could even look at it through a number of different themes that run from Genesis to Revelation in the Bible, but what is it revealing about what God is doing in the world through Christ? But how about you? How do you define it?
Courtney Doctor: Well, in your book, The Epic of Eden, traces the theme so beautifully. But I would agree with everything you just said and I would just highlight that it is this ongoing progressive revelation. So it’s God’s revelation of Himself in narrative form. And because it’s a narrative form, it’s progressive. We know more about God at the end of the story than we did at the beginning of the story. And so that is part of understanding what biblical theology actually is.
Nancy Guthrie: That makes me want to add one more word to my definition, and that is that, especially as we look at it through different themes that run from beginning to end, the theme develops. Wouldn’t that be essential to biblical theology? That it develops, and it begins at creation, and it works its way all the way through the Bible into consummation.
Courtney Doctor: Like any good story. The theme develops as the narrative progresses.
Well, okay, using the word develops, how did you develop a love of biblical theology?
Nancy Guthrie: I think it was because I began to hear preachers and teachers teach with a sense of no matter what passage they went to, it was in context of this larger story of the Bible and centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. And I would just think to myself, “I’ve never heard the Bible talk this way,” even though I grew up, you know, learning the Bible and teaching it myself. And so as I heard people teach the Bible that way, it melted my heart as they presented Christ through all of these different parts of the Bible as I saw him at the center, and it just made me kind of want to go back to the basics and learn the Bible all over again, to see it through this lens. How about you?
Courtney Doctor: For me, the example is huge, but it was sitting in a seminary class. It was a year-long class at Covenant Seminary called Covenant Theology, and it was a class that they dedicated five professors to teach, and so they obviously invested heavily in this class. And it just… to see the Bible revealed in such a beautiful way, like you’ve used the words cohesive and coherent, it started making sense. The pieces started falling into place. And so, pieces that had been hard for me to understand, they became more clear because of where they were in the story. And it just gave me a great love for it. And then as I see other women catch a vision for biblical theology and I see it ignite this fire because it gave me… It not only helped me love God more, it helped me love His word more. And so I’m passionate, I know you’re passionate about helping equip and train women.
Nancy Guthrie: Well, I hear women, when I teach with biblical theology, what I hear women say over and over again is, “I knew all those little bits of the Bible, but I didn’t know how to put them together.” And they’re like, they say something like, “You pulled a thread,” you know, “that show, whatever the thread was through a particular lens or theme, and showed how all of the Bible fits together around that theme.” And that’s thrilling for people who love God’s word. I think some women don’t read their Bibles because they’re bored by them, or they’re intimidated by them, or they think there’s something in there that I’m not understanding, and they feel a bit frustrated that they can’t get to the deeper meaning, and I believe biblical theology can help us with that.
Courtney Doctor: Oh, I do too, Nancy. Thank you.