Biblical Studies vs. Theology. This was the conflict I was introduced to in seminary. I’m not certain how my professors got along in the faculty lounge, but there was always a subtle rivalry between the departments. My Old and New Testament professors suggested—albeit subtly—that theology, as a discipline (if there even was such a thing), was bogged down by centuries of dogma and disputes that obscured the "true" meaning of the Scriptures. All one really needed was the simple biblical text and nothing else. On the other hand, my theology professors insinuated that spending all one’s time in the Greek and Hebrew with concentration on syntax, textual criticism, and the like was woefully inadequate for understanding the biblical message. Honestly, I can't remember any attempt to bridge this gap in approaches to understanding the Bible.
In those formative years, my biblical profs held sway over me, and I developed a distrust for theology in comparison with biblical studies. I admit that I am sometimes still skeptical of systematic theology in particular, but I have grown to appreciate theology in general, especially when presented from a historical perspective.
This division in the disciplines was part of the prompting for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, which we are releasing today for the Accordance Bible Software Library. This recent series, still in process, seeks to recapture the role of dogma in understanding the Bible. In the series preface the writers draw upon the writings of the Early Church in their defense: “Irenaeus assumes that there is a body of apostolic doctrine sustained by a tradition of teaching in the church. This doctrine provides the clarifying principles that guide exegetical judgment toward a coherent overall reading of Scripture as a unified witness.” Further, writes series editor, R. R. Reno, “This series of biblical commentaries was born out of the conviction that dogma clarifies rather than obscures.”
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Robert W. Jensen's Ezekiel volume of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. NIV text available separately.
Unlike many commentary series, the Brazos Theological Commentary is written by theologians rather than biblical scholars in the traditional sense. The guiding theological framework for the perspective of the series is the Nicene Creed, which is arguably the most important doctrinal statement in the history of the church. Individual writers are not held to any particular translation to use as the base for the commentary, and they are not even restricted to format. Some commentators may write verse by verse, while others focus more on a passage at a time. The outlook of the series is purposefully ecumenical in scope. Thus, the Brazos series results in a very eclectic, but extremely readable exposition of the Scriptures.
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Jaroslav Pelikan's introduction to Acts in the Brazos Theological Commentary.
Consider this excerpt on Matthew 4 from well-known theologian Stanley Hauerwas. Note his use of biblical content, theology, and historical insight—all intertwined into a cohesive explorationof the temptation of Jesus:
The devil, therefore, thinking that Jesus’s fast might have weakened him, approaches Jesus just as he had approached Eve. Eating may be the devil’s first line of attack because eating gets to the heart of our dependency—a dependency we try to deny. He initiates a conversation with Jesus, as he had Eve, with what seems to be an innocent remark, but a remark designed to create doubt: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Gen. 3:1). “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4:3). The trick, of course, that Eve did not recognize is to try to answer the devil on the devil’s own terms. Bonhoeffer observes that Eve’s disobedience began as soon as she assumed that she could answer the serpent’s question on God’s behalf, for the question was designed to suggest that she and Adam could go behind the word of God and establish for themselves what the word entailed. In short, the devil’s question invited them to assume that they were equal with God. Bonhoeffer notes, therefore, that the serpent is a representative of religion because his question is “religious,” assuming that the questioner knows more about God than can be known by a creature (1962, 66–69).
The devil exists as rage, but his rage does not cloud his cleverness. He is crafty. He therefore suggests to Jesus that, if he is the savior of Israel, he should then do what God had done for Israel in the wilderness, that is, provide food. Jesus, who will feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a small number of fish, could turn the stones into bread. But Jesus refuses, quoting Deut. 8:3, which tells the story of how God had humbled Israel by letting her go hungry before sending manna. God says, I fed “you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by the very word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” God is indeed in the business of providing food, but Jesus rejects Satan’s proposal because Satan would have us believe that food and the word of God can be separated.
Christians believe that Jesus is the word that we now eat in his very body and blood in the Eucharist. But that gift, like the gift of manna to Israel, makes us vulnerable to the same temptations that the devil used to encourage Israel to abandon God’s law, to tempt Jesus, and to make the church unfaithful. The very people whom God has gifted with his body to be his witness for all people are constantly tempted to betray that which has been given them. We become, like the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees, leaders who assume that our task is to protect “the people” from the demands of the gospel. We simply do not believe that God’s word, God’s love, can sustain us.
Slowly over the years, I’ve been able to conclude that biblical studies should not and cannot be divorced from theology. The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible should not be seen as a replacement to more traditional biblical commentaries, but I would recommend this series as a necessary addition to them.
Brazos Theological Commentary (22 Volumes)
Regular Price $715
Roger E. Olson, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, is here to remind us that there is more to Evangelicalism than a Calvinist interpretation of theology. Olson is known for his even-handed treatment of theological issues, earning the respect of even those whose convictions differ from his. Regardless of whether you claim the title of Arminian or Calvinist—or perhaps neither or something else—you will want to read Olson’s take on some of the most important theological issues in history.
Arminian Theology: Myths & Realities
In his introduction, Olson states that he writes this book for “two kinds of people: (1) those who do not know Arminian theology but want to, and (2) those who think they know about Arminianism but really don’t.” There’s something to be gained in Olson’s work by everyone, regardless of one’s stance on this classic debate.
This work sets forth classical Arminian theology and addresses the myriad misunderstandings and misrepresentations of it through the ages. Olson argues that classical Arminian theology shares deep roots with Reformation theology, even though it maintains important differences from Calvinism.
List Price $30; Regular Price $23.90; Sale Price $17.90
If your historical theology classes in seminary were like mine, you spent a good deal of time with the Early Church, the Middle Ages, and the Reformation, but modern theology got short shrift. Fortunately, Roger Olson is here to bring us up to date to the reality that theology never grows stagnant, but constantly keeps moving forward.
In this major revision and expansion of the classic 20th Century Theology (1992), co-authored with Stanley J. Grenz, Roger Olson widens the scope to include a fuller account of modernity, more material on the nineteenth century and an engagement with postmodernity.
The Journey of Modern Theology
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Roger Olson has never been accused of writing “yet another dry theology.” After spending years teaching Christian history and theology using other people’s textbooks, Olson decided that none of them were completely satisfactory and decided to write one himself. This volume is the result of that labor.
Writing with non-specialists in mind, Olson has masterfully sketched out the contours of the Great Tradition of the Christian faith with simplicity while avoiding oversimplification. This work thematically traces the contours of Christian belief down through the ages, revealing a pattern of both unity and diversity.
The Mosaic of Christian Belief
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As diverse as Christian history and theology might seem at first glance, there are common threads that run through it. And when told correctly, these threads make for riveting storytelling. But history and theology are rarely presented as such, which explains why at times it can be difficult to see how one idea directly connects to another.
Roger Olson believes that the history of Christian theology should be told as a story, one replete with thick plots, exciting twists, interesting people, and fascinating ideas. His overview of historical theology covers the story from the cultists and apostolic fathers of the second century up to the twentieth century. Through it all Olson traces a common thread: a concern for salvation – God's redemptive activity in forgiving and transforming sinful human beings.
The Story of Christian Theology
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These four titles from Roger Olson can be purchased individually or as a bundle. Through April 25, Accordance users can get them at a 25% off introductory discount.
The Introductory pricing listed above is good through April 25, 2016 (11:59pm EDT) and cannot be combined with any other discounts.
Many Accordance users are already well acquainted with the resources for spiritual growth at BiblicalTraining.org. However, if you’re not, you will discover a wealth of material at the BiblicalTraining website. As described at the site,
BiblicalTraining.org is a complete resource of free Bible classes along with a library of over 14,000 articles on biblical topics. All Bible classes are taught by world-class Bible instructors. Whether it’s a single Bible class or a curriculum of Bible classes that interest you, our online Bible classes are free of charge and at your fingertips.
Now, BiblicalTraining and Accordance Bible Software are partnering together to integrate some of the best of BiblicalTraining content directly into Accordance. All who have upgraded to Accordance 11 now have the new BiblicalTraining.org Biblical Studies Collection in their Accordance Library (check the Biblical Studies section).
In keeping with the vision of Dr. Bill Mounce to bring quality Christian education to all believers, the Biblical Studies Collection in Accordance is divided into two primary sections: Foundations and Institute.
Foundations is designed as a 12-week curriculum for a new believer, but even longtime Christians will find content that is of benefit to their spiritual growth. The Institute section will take you to a much deeper level of biblical understanding by offering surveys of both the Old and New Testaments, explorations into the principles of sound hermeneutics, as well as going deep into systematic theology. There are also sections on worship and leadership to round out one’s course of study.
The purpose of BiblicalTraining.org is to equip believers by creating and distributing world-class educational resources for discipleship.
This title contains a number of biblical training courses complete with class outlines and hyperlinks to the BiblicalTraining.org audio and video recordings of the actual training sessions taught by some of the best academics in the world.
The module also contains the course outlines and hyperlinks for the following courses:
- Life is a Journey (Dr. Bill Mounce) - This 12-week curriculum provides the foundational truths for all disciples of Jesus, and it encourages mature believers to mentor younger ones (6 hours)
- Bible Survey: A Big Screen Perspective (Dr. Bert Downs) - For some of us our knowledge of the Bible is like a refrigerator door covered with unrelated post-it notes. For some it’s like reading a dictionary; important pieces of information but no thread to the story. This course will help you make sense of all those pieces (5 hours)
- Understanding the Old Testament (Dr. Paul House) - An overview of the content and themes in the Old Testament (12 hours)
- Understanding the New Testament (Dr. Craig Blomberg) - An overview of the content and themes of the New Testament (10 hours)
- Bible Study Methods (Dr. Mark Stauss) - This course will introduce you to the basics questions of how to study your Bible. (6 hours)
- What Every Christian Should Believe (Dr. Gerry Breshears) - This class was designed specifically for church leadership, what they should understand theologically and practically about their faith system (15 hours)
- Dynamics of Christian Spirituality (Dr. Glen Scorgie) - This class will help those who are at the beginning stages of the spiritual journey. It talks about the dynamics of spiritual growth, how to become more like Christ (11 hours)
- Essentials of World Missions (Dr. Timothy Tennent) - The "others" that we are to love are not only those around us — our family, neighborhood, and church.
- Essentials of Worship (Dr. Gary Parrett) - This class will help you understand not only Sunday morning but how you should be responding to God on a constant basis (3 hours)
- Old Testament Survey (Dr. Douglas Stuart) - This course is an overview of the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi.
- New Testament Survey - Gospels (Dr. Robert Stein) - This is the first part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (21 hours)
- New Testament Survey - Acts to Revelation (Dr. Robert Stein) - This is the second part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books from Acts to Revelation.
- Biblical Hermeneutics (Dr. Robert Stein) - This course is an introduction to the principles and practice of biblical interpretation.
- Systematic Theology I (Dr. Bruce Ware) - The main subjects covered are an explanation of and rationalization for systematic theology, description of some of the major protestant theological systems, and the doctrines of scripture, God, humanity and sin.
- Systematic Theology II (Dr. Bruce Ware) - The second of a two semester class on Systematic Theology.
- Worship (Dr. Gary Parrett) - This course is an introductory level course in worship.
- Principles of Effective Leadership (Dr. John Johnson) - This is a core leadership course designed for those who intend to be future leaders in ministry.
Coming Soon: An upcoming update to the BiblicalTraining.org Biblical Studies Collection in Accordance will add complete transcripts of the included audio and video lectures. With the ability to take notes on any title, added in Accordance 11, users will be able to incorporate their own personal reflections, insights and applications to the lectures by the world-renown scholars listed above.
Years ago, I can remember my teachers quoting 2 Timothy 2:15 in the classic King James Version: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Their emphasis was on the word study, but they were actually misinterpreting the meaning of the word.
The New Oxford American Dictionary on my computer offers three different definitions for study. When most of us use this word today, we think of the first use listed: “devote time and attention to acquiring knowledge on (an academic subject), especially by means of books: she studied biology and botany.” Certainly, this is what my teachers meant, but this meaning is not what the word study means in 2 Timothy 2:15 as rendered by the King James Version.
As anyone with a keyed version of the KJV in Accordance can determine, the English word study translates the Greek word σπουδάζω/spoudazo, which means “to use speed, i.e. to make an effort, be prompt or earnest:--do (give) diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavor, labour, study” (Greek Strong’s). This fits the third definition for study in The New Oxford American Dictionary: “archaic: make an effort to achieve (a result) or take into account (a person or their wishes).
And it just so happens that if you’re the kind of person who wants to “make an effort” to gain a better foundation in apologetics or theology, this week’s new titles are for you. Six new titles are now available allowing you to “study to shew thyself approved.”
Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists
Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens—these are the “new atheists.” Atheism has always been with us, but it has taken on a new flavor in recent years. In this volume, Al Mohler examines the thought of the new atheists and equips Christians to effectively interact with those who follow them.
Renowned apologist Norman L. Geisler traces the history of creation vs. evolution battles in the courts since the famous Scopes Trial of 1925. Examining a total of six significant trials in the last eight decades, Geisler not only makes observations about the declining state of Christian influence in education and civil discussion, he also helps the believer understand which issues are truly worth fighting for in this debate.
Nothing But the Truth: Upholding the Gospel in a Doubting Age
1 Peter 3:15 states, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (NASB). In Nothing but the Truth, John MacArthur examines what it means to put this verse into regular practice. To equip the believer to interact with a secular culture, John MacArthur focuses on four specific elements of evangelism in today’s world: your attitude, your preparedness, the content of your answers, and your priority in witnessing.
Used by many as an introductory text for philosophy courses, R. C. Sproul takes the reader on a historical journey in The Consequences of Ideas from classical Greek philosophy to the influence of Darwin and Freud in our world today. Whether we realize it or not, the ideas of Plato, Augustine, Locke, Hume, and many others still influence us in significant ways in the modern world. Sproul suggests that ideas are never neutral; but rather, they always have impact and consequences.
Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America
Many considered Liberation Theology to be an increasingly forgotten school of thought until the teachings of President Obama’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, brought them back into discussion at a national level during the presidential campaign of 2008. In Liberating Black Theology, Anthony B. Bradley (professor of theology at the King’s College in New York City) addresses the often controversial and sensitive issues of the black experience in America and its continued influence from Liberation Theology. From the publisher: “...Liberating Black Theology does more than consider the ramifications of this belief system; it suggests an alternate experience that can truly liberate all Christ-followers.”
Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African American Church
Centered around the themes of theology, preaching, worship, spirituality, and the doctrines of grace, Anthony J. Carter, Ken Jones, and Michael Leach communicate the importance of Reformed Christianity to the African American Church. In an attempt to counter the all-too-common practice of choosing a church based on felt needs, this book is an attempt to refocus this very important choice of community and fellowship upon finding a church where biblical truth and sound Christian doctrine is proclaimed.
My seminary professor had a penchant for shocking his students and challenging their assumptions with outrageous statements. One of the most shocking was this one:
"It is more important to know theology than the Bible."
Now, this was a seminary that stressed the authority of the Bible and the importance of teaching the Bible, so the idea that knowing a particular system of theology was more important than knowing one's Bible seemed absolutely blasphemous. Even more peculiar was the fact that this particular professor taught Biblical studies rather than theology, so why would he, of all people, say such a thing?
Of course, by this time we were familiar with his methods. He would say something shocking like this, let us go through a discussion fueled by outrage and protest, and then explain what he meant in a way that did not seem quite so blasphemous. In this case, he explained that it is more important to know theology than the Bible, because even if you misinterpret or misapply a particular passage of the Bible, you'll still be teaching sound Biblical doctrine.
Over the years I have thought often about my professor's dictum, and I've begun to see the importance of the point he was trying to make.
First, he was cautioning us not to be arrogant in our teaching of the Bible—not to fall into the trap of looking at a particular passage in isolation, coming up with some innovative interpretation, and then throwing out or modifying historic Christian teaching in the light of our new "Biblical" insight. He was reminding us not to despise centuries of work by careful theologians who sought to understand what the entire Bible teaches.
Second, he was reminding his class of mostly future pastors that their congregations need sound doctrine. The temptation of more academically-oriented preachers is to delve into all kinds of obscure and fascinating elements of the Biblical text. Yet their congregations are not seeking advanced degrees in Biblical studies; they're seeking to understand and apply the teaching of the Bible to their lives. My professor wasn't urging pastors to preach through a systematic theology, but to be reminded by the theologians how to communicate the great truths of the Bible.
In his new book, Everyone's a Theologian, R.C. Sproul explains that everyone engages in systematic theology—whether we realize it or not.
Many people believe that theological study holds little value. They say, “I don’t need theology; I just need to know Jesus.” Yet theology is unavoidable for every Christian. It is our attempt to understand the truth that God has revealed to us—something every Christian does. So it is not a question of whether we are going to engage in theology; it is a question of whether our theology is sound or unsound. It is important to study and learn because God has taken great pains to reveal Himself to His people. He gave us a book, one that is not meant to sit on a shelf pressing dried flowers, but to be read, searched, digested, studied, and chiefly to be understood.
Sproul goes on to present a brief overview of systematic theology from a broadly Reformed, evangelical perspective. His summary of each doctrine is quite brief, but it's enough for the busy pastor to brush up on a given theological subject. It's also a great primer for anyone who has never studied theology in a systematic way. Everyone's a Theologian is only $14.99.
While I still don't entirely agree with my professor's dictum that it is more important to know theology than the Bible, I certainly recognize the importance of studying theology. What about you? How has studying theology helped you better understand what the Bible teaches?
It's been a busy weekend at Accordance, but unless you watch our news announcements carefully, you might have missed these items:
Pick A Product Coupon: 25% off any one item. The PICKAP coupon code lets our sales staff know that you want to take 25% off the highest priced item in the order. The coupon is good throughout May and can be used twice. This is your best opportunity to get that commentary set or other major item on your wish list. (Temporary sale prices and other discounts cannot be combined with this offer.)
Chafer-Theology: the entire original 8 volume set by Louis Sperry Chafer was just released for download for only $139.
Dr. Lewis S. Chafer (1871-1952) was the founding president of Dallas Theological Seminary and its first professor of Systematic Theology. When he completed his massive eight volume Systematic Theology after more than ten years of labor, he produced the first Calvinist, dispensational, pre-millennial and pre-tribulational theology. Chafer’s warm spirituality, his love of the Bible and his devotion to a simple Christian life permeate its pages. The strength of the work lies not in its interaction with scholarly sources, but in its many citations of Scripture and its organization of it into classic theological categories.
Göttingen Septuagint: It's taken a little longer than we hoped, but the first volume of the series is now available for download. This is the definitive critical edition of the LXX. We plan to release further volumes until we catch up with the ongoing publication of the print edition.
Our modules of the Göttingen LXX include the fully tagged Greek text together with the complete apparatus, available nowhere else in convenient electronic form, a must for every Old Testament scholar.
Please see the Latest News page for full announcements of these items and any others you may have missed.