Volume 40 - Issue 1

Abraham, Our Father

By Brian J. Tabb

It is difficult to overstate Abraham’s importance in the biblical story and in Christian theology. The first verse of the New Testament identifies Jesus as “the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1). Paul explains to his predominantly Gentile readers, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29). The four gospels, Acts, three Pauline letters, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and James name Abraham a combined seventy-one times. The patriarch is at the center of New Testament teachings concerning God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises, the identity of God’s people, justification by faith apart from the law, and obedience that pleases God.

In this issue, pastor-theologians David Gibson and Martin Salter explore the place of Abraham in paedobaptist and credobaptist theology, building upon their earlier Themelios exchange on baptism.1 David Shaw reflects on the patriarch’s significance in Romans and Paul’s doctrine of justification. Shaw critically interacts with the influential interpretations by N.T. Wright and Douglas Campbell, among others. This essay, along with those by Gibson and Salter, was originally presented in September 2014 at the conference “Abraham in the Bible, the Church, and the World” held at the John Owen Centre for Theological Study in London. Finally, in the Pastoral Pensées column, Matthew Rowley addresses the problematic reception history of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and offers guidelines for interpreting and applying Gen 22.

In addition to these four articles dealing with Abraham, this issue features Nathan Finn’s “Evangelical History after George Marsden: A Review Essay.” Finn critically engages with three recent books by Steven Miller, Matthew Sutton, and Molly Worthen. He then invites Themelios readers to learn from this scholarship on the history of evangelical Protestantism in America and apply it to their various ministries in the church and academy.

[1] Martin C. Salter, “Does Baptism Replace Circumcision? An Examination of the Relationship between Circumcision and Baptism in Colossians 2:11-12,” Them 35.1 (2010): 15-29; David Gibson, “Sacramental Supersessionism Revisited: A Response to Martin Salter on the Relationship Between Circumcision and Baptism,” Them 37.2 (2012): 191-208; Martin C. Salter, “Response to David Gibson,” Them 37.2 (2012): 209-10.

Brian J. Tabb

Brian Tabb is academic dean and associate professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, an elder of Bethlehem Baptist Church, and general
editor of Themelios.

Other Articles in this Issue

The account of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac has been and will likely continue to be violently applied so long as the dominant misunderstanding of the text prevails...

In recent years, a growing cadre of younger historians has begun publishing significant books on the history of American evangelicalism...

Romans 4 remains a central text in the debate over the New Perspective on Paul...

Within the intra-Reformed debate over baptism, covenant theology is a crucial aspect in determining one's position...

The figure of Abraham creates a covenantal framework for biblical theology that allows baptism to be considered in relation to the Bible's developing story line...