Friday, September 26, 2014

"From Eden to the New Jerusalem" by T. Desmond Alexander: A Review

The Bible is not a collection of unrelated stories, but a unified story. Perhaps no other theological presupposition has affected me more in recent years than that often overlooked point. When Scripture is relegated to isolated tales of dead spiritual heroes, the dual dangers of moralism and antinomianism are not far away. But when we step back and see the Bible as a whole, it greatly shapes orthodoxy.

The beauty that is Scripture was made apparent when I sat down to read T. Desmond Alexander's helpful book From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. As the subtitle suggests, the book serves as an introductory textbook to the study of biblical theology. Each chapter walks the reader through main themes of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The book is short and (numbering just over 200 pages) and reads quickly.

My take is that of Dr. Jim Hamilton (a well-respected biblical theologian in his own right) who wrote that this book is "the best brief survey of biblical theology to be found anywhere."

The riches chapter, for me at least, is the first where Alexander suggests that the earth serves as God's temple-city. Originally, the first priest-king (Adam) was to work the Garden of Eden (the first temple-city) and throughout the generations establish the temple-city throughout the world. The Fall, of course, changed this plan. He goes on to suggest that the tabernacle, the temple, and then later, Jesus and the church fulfill that part of God's plan.

Alexander does the same in the other chapters as well. Two other chapters worth noting regard his treatment of the devil (chapter 3) and the Kingship of God (chapter 2). Regarding this latter chapter, one red flag was raised. Though the author later clarified himself, the language early in the chapter is problematic. He writes:
References to the throne of God draw attention to his kingship, one of the major themes in Revelation. By highlighting the divine throne, John's final vision reveals that the creation of the New Jerusalem consolidates God's absolute authority over everything that exists upon the earth.

At first sight this claim may not seem especially noteworthy. is God not already sovereign over everything? Surely, by his very nature God is King of kings and Lord of lords. However, the biblical meta-story indicates that God's sovereignty does not extend unchallenged over the present earth. To appreciate why this is so, we need to return to the opening chapters of Genesis. (75)
He later suggests, "By betraying God and obeying the serpent, the royal couple dethrone God" (78). Perhaps I am need of greater study and to a certain extend I understand and am sympathetic to his argument (most of this chapter is well-received), but such language is problematic to me. There is no hint that God has been dethroned by the Fall or by the repetitive failings of Israel.

Nevertheless, this is an excellent resource for pastors and Christians. It ultimately teaches us how to read the Bible. I encourage the reader to pick it up and read.

This book was given to me courtesy of Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review

For more:
"What is Biblical Theology?" by James Hamilton: A Review
The World is a Cosmic Temple
The Garden of Eden as a Proto-Temple
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