Systematic and Biblical Theology, some deeply personal reflections

Both my broadcasts and my blogs of late have been late in being posted, or Friday is the new Wednesday. I’ve been taking more time with the broadcasts lately as there have been some great questions which are being asked online during the broadcast. In fact, you are welcome to join in and join us for an incredible time of study of the Bible in relationship to apologetics on YouTube or our Facebook page Facebook/zionsbanner.

I was having a discussion with the dear fellow apologist and brother this morning. We got on the subject of the misuse of systematic theology. Before I go any further, let me state clearly that I am extremely sympathetic to several points under Calvinism. In fact I’ve been asked and teased about being less than the strict five-point Calvinist. I thought to be interesting this blog to discuss systematic theology and biblical theology and their relationship, however briefly. While I love the organization and structure that comes with systematic theology, both as an individual and as a Jew I have a great love for the story of Scripture and biblical theology resonates with my heart. I grew up with the context of the big story of the Old Testament, the story of my people Israel, being front and center. The receiving of God’s covenant of under Moses was replayed in synagogue every Shabbat morning as the Torah scroll was taken down and opened. I remember going out by a tree in our front yard and asking why God did not speak to people today because throughout the story that I knew God was always active in communicating with people his will and desire.

So, one might ask how does love of the great story of Scripture keep me from being a Calvinist, I mean an official card-carrying five-point Calvinist. Well let’s look at a verse that used a lot for proof texting briefly and examine this verse as an example as to why I have trouble with letting a mere system overshadow the rich story of Scripture. The background of Romans 9 is not about individuals and their position before God in isolation. The background is Paul demonstrating the position of the believer is not affected by Israel’s corporate rejection of the gospel even though Israel is elect of God. This is the passages place in the big story. However, we read in Romans 9:13, “As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”” Often this is used by those dear brothers in the Calvinistic camp as a proof of the unconditional election of the individual. While I agree with the doctrine of unconditional election. Is that the purpose that the author intends within the big story? Let us go back to the original intent of the passage where it is first stated, ““I have loved you,” says the LORD. “Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the LORD. “Yet Jacob I have loved;” (Malachi 1:2, NKJV) the you in this passage is in the plural and refers to corporate Israel, and the term Jacob refers to corporate Israel as a people. The original text is not about individuals and where this falls in Romans 9 is not simply about individuals but the relationship between God’s unconditional love and election and corporate Israel. Do I believe in unconditional election? Yes, however, am I willing to sacrifice the authorial intent of passages in order to prove a point. My answer has to be no. My love of the big story will not permit me to use passages in order to make a point if the point is not the authorial intent of the passage. Are there other places where I can find unconditional election without Romans 9? Ephesians 1 and other passages point to the election of believers. I am not required to proof text in order to prove a doctrine in a way that the author was not originally using the text to begin with. Can I say that Romans 9:13 can be applied to the individual believer? Certainly, I believe that. But I do not believe that this is a proper proof text to use. Buying into a strict five-point Calvinistic system might cause me to read the Scriptures through the system instead of through the authorial intent, this is a danger I simply do not want to face. For those dear brothers and sisters to feel that they can face this danger and avoid its pitfalls I welcome them to try.