9Marks says “biblical theology” is one of the marks of a healthy church. What’s meant by “biblical theology”?
The term “biblical theology” can be used in two ways:
- Sound doctrine. The term can mean what the average person would think it means: theology that is biblical, or theology that accurately reflects what God has revealed of himself in his Word. Church leaders are often tempted to teach what’s popular, what won’t offend, and what people’s “itching ears want to hear.” They’re tempted to do things for tradition’s sake. A healthy church, however, places a premium on sound doctrine.
- A way of interpreting the Bible. But the term “biblical theology” also has a second, more technical meaning. It describes a “hermeneutical discipline” (or way of interpreting the Bible). Specifically, it’s a discipline that attempts to trace the Bible’s one main storyline through all of the Bible’s different books and genres. Biblical theology in this sense looks at
- how certain themes develop throughout all of Scripture,
- how the Old and New Testaments relate to each other,
- and how all of Scripture, in one way or another, points to the saving work of Jesus Christ.
In this section of the 9Marks website (Answers for Pastors), we will use the term “biblical theology” to refer to the second definition above—biblical theology as a hermeneutical discipline that traces the development of the Bible’s single story. If we mean to use the term in the first sense (theology that’s biblical), we will use the term “sound doctrine.”