Jacob Aitken's Reviews > A Theology of the New Testament

A Theology of the New Testament by George Eldon Ladd
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Jun 18, 12

Read in June, 2012

It's the last of the "old school" evangelical biblical theologies written in the 20th century. Here's what that means. During the 20th century Evangelical and Reformed writers did biblical theology in a "systematic" fashion (e.g, picking out their favorite themes from each section of the Old and New Testament). That's certainly useful if one is preaching through a book of the New Testament, but it's a rather disorienting way to read Scripture (Vos is notorious for this; Ridderbos is also guilty, but less so).

Shortly after Ladd left the scene theologians from all traditions and perspectives, be they post-liberal or conservative, began to see the Bible in a more ancient fashion reminiscent of St Irenaeus and St Justin Martyr: They read the Bible as a story. And if it is a story, and we have a whole bible, then it necessarily follows that the themes in the Bible will play off one another, and shed light on each other.

Ladd is noted for two positions in this book: his claim that the Church and the Kingdom are not identical to each other (contra the Westminster Confession of Faith) and historic premillennialism.

As for the first point. He makes a good argument for the two being distinct, and I think I lean towards his position. But his argument isn't air-tight and one gets the impression that the biblical evidence is actually ambiguous. Maybe it is the Bible's way of telling us this is the wrong question to ask. Maybe the way we ask the question reveals an artificial outlook on Kingdom vs. Church. This is certainly damaging to the more gnostic versions of Reformedom (see Westminster West).

As to his second point, I must demur. I demur for two reasons. The Church as a whole has condemned chiliasm (yes, I know St Irenaeus held to it, but he didn't think it dogma). And his main argument from Revelation 20 works only if one already accepts his hermeneutical presuppositions, which I don't. I think any case made around a literal reading of Revelation 20 is built on shaky foundations. All of a sudden we are to take a highly symbolic books quite literally? And the multiple physical resurrections premillennialism implies are also quite difficult. Even when I wanted to be premillennial I couldn't square the resurrections.

This book is good, but is quite dated. On an intersting side note, Hagner and the other editors espouse the New Perspective reading on Paul. In a footnote they correct Ladd's view on the "Israelite trying to merit his salvation."



Edit: I now lean towards Ladd's historic premil view. Note: I say "lean towards." Not adopt.
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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Jacob wrote: "Shortly after Ladd left the scene theologians from all traditions and perspectives, be they post-liberal or conservative, began to see the Bible in a more ancient fashion reminiscent of St Irenaeus and St Justin Martyr: They read the Bible as a story. And if it is a story, and we have a whole bible, then it necessarily follows that the themes in the Bible will play off one another, and shed light on each other."

You might want to try this: The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story


Jacob Aitken I read about half of it some years ago. If I find it used I might try to get it.


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