Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review: According to Plan

According to Plan: The unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. By Graeme Goldsworthy Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1991. 251 pp


The bible is a collection of books with a variety of characters that existed over a long period of time. Some times we might think of the bible as simply Gods instruction manual for our life, but with so much diversity in the historical-chronological placement of the characters and the multiform locations how do we find any coherence and unity to apply the text of scripture to our lives. It is common place for many Christians to be confused on how the Old Testament relates to their lives. For instance, one might wonder how the story of the exodus relates to a non-Jewish Christian in 2008. Graeme Goldsworthy takes up the task of Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology in the technical or academic sense is the study of the bibles unity. In According to Plan he sets out to find the unifying elements between the Old Testament and the New Testament.


The book is split into four parts. The first part is entitle “Biblical Theology- Why?” In this section he sets out to inform us as to why Biblical Theology is necessary. He argues that Biblical Theology as a methodological approach helps us deal with a number of theological problems that occur as we read the text of scripture. Also, he argues that Biblical Theology helps us interpret the Old Testament properly. Moreover, biblical theology helps us interpret problematic passages. By understanding the grand narrative of scripture we can interpret the problematic particular parts.

The second part is entitled “Biblical Theology- How?” This part really deals with the epistemological basis for our ability to do Biblical Theology. In this section he explains the various theological disciplines that we use to know scripture. Then he looks at how the Christian world view informs our presuppositional basis for interpreting scripture. He also looks at the implications of Christ interpreting the Old Testament and how that informs out understanding of the grand theme that runs from genesis to revelation.

The third part is entitled “Biblical Theology- What?” This section is the largest of the four. In this section he goes through the main sections of the bible and shows how they relate individually to the flow of redemptive history. For instance, how does the covenant made with King David build upon the covenants of Sinai and with Abraham? Another way of looking at the question is: How does the history of the bible relate to the overall theme of the bible?

The fourth section is entitled “Biblical Theology- Where?” In this section Goldsworthy shows the reader how to do biblical theology. He lets the reader see how to take a topic and then look at that topic through the lenses of the redemptive history of the bible.


The book was very helpful in many was. His discussion of the exodus account was particularly interesting. He helped me meditate about how God, in his sovereignty, often will set up the redemptive context in ways that man can only credit God for the accomplishment of redemption. Abraham had to trust that God would provide an heir even when physically it looked impossible. So also, Israel in its captivity had no way to save themselves. The promises given to Abraham looked empty. God said that he would make them a great nation but instead they are slaves in Egypt. Yet God chose them as his people not because they were better than Egypt or any other people group on the earth, but so that God would glorify himself through the coming messiah. The people of Israel simply had to trust the promises of God on Gods intrinsic authority. Not only do Gods promises look hopeless because they are slaves, but also God hardened pharaoh’s heart. God sets up the hopeless situation so that the redemption could only be traced back to the handiwork of God.

This is particularly what he has does even with us. We are children of Abraham (Gal 3:7) but, like the nation of Israel was not chosen because of its wealth or the greatness of its numbers so also we as individuals were not chosen because of our inherent goodness or decision making abilities (Rom 9:11-18). Just like Israel was subject to the Egyptians so also we (Christians), albeit willingly, were subject to our lord: the world, the flesh and the devil (Eph 2:1-3). Just as God redeemed his people with his mighty hand, plaguing and destroying the Egyptians so also God redeemed us by sending his son to die for our sins and giving us faith to believe (Eph 2:4-8). The point is that it is God alone who gets the credit for the work of redemption. God saves us in such a way that it is God dishonoring to see man as anything else but as completely needy upon his grace and authoritative sovereignty.

Use for Ministry

I think that this book will be very useful for anyone who seeks to understand the scriptures in their entirety. This book will be particularly helpful for those who want to see the deep significance of the Old Testament narratives. As for those, like myself, who desire to preach and teach Gods word. It will be particularly helpful as I seek to prepare sermons on the Old Testament. Moreover, it will be helpful for me as I prepare sermons so that I can relate the Old Testament narrative to its ultimate telos, the Gospel.

Written by Stephen Stanford


Anonymous said...

Hurray for clearly demarcated paragraphs!

Anonymous said...

Good review the book sounds interesting. What does it say about some of the other books, like kings, chronicles. And what does he say about the prophetic works?

Samuel Gantt