In just a few weeks, Dr. Thomas Schreiner’s new book, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ, will hit bookstores and internet sellers’ ‘What’s New’ pages, and the Church will be better for it!
In the next day or two, I will be posting on the book itself. But today, I want to whet appetites by providing a brief interview with the author.
Dr. Tom Schreiner is the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean, Scripture and Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the preaching paster at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He is married to Diane and has four children.
I had the great privilege of having Dr. Schreiner as a professor at SBTS and was thrilled when he agreed to be interviewed for the DEAD THEOLOGIANS SOCIETY!
DTS: First off – thanks for setting aside the time to answer some questions about your new book, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ. It was very helpful to hear some of this material in your class on NT Theology at SBTS and I can’t wait to see what you’ve written!
In the preface, you write – “as I wrote, new vistas opened before me, and I saw truths that previously were hidden from me.” In what area(s) of New Testament theology have you changed your mind about in the few years?
I would not say that I have changed my mind on anything substantial in the last few years. I would say that my study has been enriched, deepened, and strengthened in my research. I learned more in terms of the Gospels and Revelation, for I had not done much research on them previously. So, the new vistas were especially in the Gospels and Revelation, not in the sense that I changed my mind on anything significant, but in the sense that my understanding was deepened.
DTS: Would readers of your New Testament theology find any substantial difference when the topics overlap with your previous works (for example, your excellent commentary on Romans, and your book on The Law and It’s Fulfillment)?
I think I have sharpened my understanding of the law by including all that the NT says on the issue. I suppose one theme that receives more emphasis is the fulfillment of the law in terms of the law of Christ. That theme is in my book on the law and in my Pauline theology, but it seems even clearer to me from the entirety of the New Testament. Furthermore, I explained in my Pauline theology why I now think that righteousness of God and the very “to justify” are forensic (over against what I wrote in my Romans commentary, but coming back to what I said in the book on the law!). I continue to argue in my New Testament theology that the language is forensic.
DTS: What do you see as being some of the most significant issues/areas of study for New Testament theology right now?
I think the new perspective continues to be significant, even though it is not as “new” anymore! One of the areas I focus on is Christology. Some very helpful work on Christology is being done by scholars like Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, and Simon Gathercole. I try to show in my New Testament theology that Christ (no big surprise!) is central to the New Testament witness. I also try to show how pervasive the themes of faith and obedience are.
DTS: As you studied in preparation for writing this book, did you come with any questions in your own mind that you wanted to answer?
No, I didn’t approach the book that way. I wanted to write a book that reflected the interests of the New Testament writers themselves. Naturally I have questions that I would like to have answered, but those questions did not drive me in this book. My goal was to try to represent by inductively studying the New Testament the themes and motifs found therein. No one, of course, can capture all that is present in the New Testament, but my goal was to help students and pastors especially to see the themes that concerned New Testament writers.
DTS: In the introduction of your book, you give a brief ‘Old Testament Backdrop.’ Just previous to this you write: “The thesis advanced in this book is that NT theology is God-focused, Christ-centered, and Spirit-saturated, but the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit must be understood along a salvation-historical timeline; that is, God’s promises are already fulfilled but not yet consummated in Christ Jesus. We will see that the ministry of Jesus Christ and the work of the Spirit are fundamental for the fulfilling of God’s promises. The coming of Jesus Christ and the work of the Spirit are the prime indications that God is beginning to fulfill the saving promises made to Abraham.” Even though you have written a New Testament theology, you indicate that what we see in the life and teaching of Jesus and his apostles is clearly rooted in God’s revelation of himself in the Old Testament. So, here’s the question: Are there any Old Testament theologies that you would recommend as a compl e ment to your own work on the New Testament? That is, are there any works that would show an understanding of the Old Testament that would be similar to your own?
Paul House’s OT Theology is very God-centered in its approach, so I would recommend it.
And the redemptive historical story line is nicely presented in Stephen Dempster’s From Dominion to Dynasty.
DTS: How is your New Testament theology different from other similar works?
My New Testament theology is similar to Ladd’s in that is thematic. The very fine works of Howard Marshall and Frank Thielman which were recently published on NT Theology examine the theology of the NT book by book. My goal was to try to weave together the central themes of the NT. What holds the entire NT together. Hence, I didn’t want to limit myself to a theology of Matthew, then Mark, etc. but to discern common themes among all the books.
DTS: In the book you write – “My hope is that this book will function as a useful text for pastors and students.” How do you think your work will be helpful to pastors or other teachers in the church?
Pastors need to see the whole of the NT, and not just the parts. It helps immensely in preaching and teaching to see not just the parts but also to see the whole. Sometimes evangelical preachers spend an enormous amount of time on interpreting paragraphs, and do not help their congregations see the whole counsel of God. So, I hope my book will help pastors and other teachers in the church to see the whole counsel of God.
DTS: As we end, do you have any plans for future books or maybe even some already in the works?
I am working on a commentary on Galatians, and after that am working on a more popular book on the law, and then a theology of James, 1-2 Peter, and Jude.
DTS: Thanks so much for your time! I’m eagerly looking forward to your new book and hope many others are as well.
Thank you, John!
* You can find an amazing list of Dr. Schreiner’s written works (some of which are available online) at his faculty page at SBTS.
* You can also listen to Dr. Schreiner’s sermons here.