Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thomas Shreiner's Magnifying God in Christ: The Introduction

i just purchased Thomas Shreiner's Magnifying God in Christ for my Nook. It's subtitle is, "A Summary of New Testament Theology," and it's the kind of book I've been hankering to read.

This is a thematic overview of the New Testament. In his introduction, Shreiner argues that this approach will lead to a better understanding of the message of the NT, helping us to see the forest as a whole and thereby to understand with more precision the individual trees. This seems right to me. I think our Bible reading suffers from too much scrutiny of tiny shards, and not enough "gazing upon" the whole object.

So what are the broad themes that Shreiner sees running through the whole of the NT? Shreiner says, first of all, that "God's purpose in all that he does is to bring honor to himself and to Jesus Christ. The NT is radically God-centered. We can say that the NT is about God magnifying himself in Christ through the Spirit." In fact, Shreiner suggests that this theme is pervasive, so woven into the language of the NT, that it is easily missed. It is "right before our eyes," but we fail to see it.

The second great theme of the NT, says Shreiner, is the history of salvation, or the unfolding in time of God's saving plan. Shreiner: "The centrality of God in Christ leads to abstraction if it is not closely related to the history of salvation." And the history of salvation, God's plan unfolding in time, bringing us up against the "already--not yet" conundrum. "God has inaugurated his kingdom, but has not consummated it. He has begun to fulfill his saving promises, but he has not yet completed what he has started." This is the key to understanding redemptive history, and "redemptive history is fundamental to grasping the message of the NT."

The book begins, in chapter 1, with an overview of the already--not yet theme. "Understanding the tension between the inauguration and consummation of God's promises is indispensable for grasping the message of the NT."

Chapter 2 focuses on God the Father, chapters 3 through 7 on Jesus Christ, and chapter 8 on the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 9 examines the question, why is this great saving work of God needed?

Chapter 10 looks at the closely intertwined themes of faith and obedience, which are pervasive throughout the NT. "Faith and obedience are distinguishable," writes Shreiner, "But they are inseparable. No one will enjoy final salvation without believing and obeying. A careful examination of the NT reveals that all obedience flows from faith, and that there is no salvation apart from a changed life."

Chapter 11 examines the place of the Law in the the believer's life, chapter 12 explores what the NT says about the church, and finally chapter 13 examines the consummation of God's promises in the fully-consummated Kingdom to come.

My plan is to blog the book. It helps me with books like these to take notes as I read and to write chapter summaries. What you have above is my summary of Shreiner's introduction. In future posts, I'll move through the book chapter by chapter. These posts will be heavy on the words of Shreiner, light on my own words. The goal is to engage the ideas in this book carefully and to let them percolate in my thinking.

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