Bird, Evangelical Theology
Bird, Evangelical Theology

This week I will be participating in the Koinonia Blog’s Book Tour for Michael F. Bird’s Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction. My responsibility is to evaluate Part 6, The Promise and Power of the Gospel: The Holy Spirit. Tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday I will write posts on Bird’s Pneumatology. Today I want to share his summary of the Gospel and how the Gospel shapes his theologizing.

Bird’s definition of the Gospel:

“The gospel is the announcement that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel’s Scriptures. The gospel evokes faith, repentance, and discipleship; its accompanying effects include salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.” [1]

Bird’s theological prolegomena begins with the Gospel. In other words, when we think theologically we begin with what the Gospel tells us then move outward to see how the Gospel informs everything from our understanding of theology proper, to Christology and Pneumatology, to Ecclesiology, Eschatology, and every other -ology. As an Evangelical I am familiar with a few works of Systematic Theology from an Evangelical perspective. I’ve read all or most of Millard J. Erickson’s Christian Theology and G.R. Lewis’ and B.A. Demarest’s Integrative TheologyI know I posses a copy of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, but I haven’t read much of it. If I were to evaluate the approach of these other three works it might go like this:

Erickson: Philosophical/Systematic Categories evaluated by Canonical (Proof-)Texts = Doctrine

Demarest and Lewis: Biblical/Canonical Theology + Historical Theology + Systematic Theology + Practical Theology = Integrative Theology

Grudem: Canonical (Proof-)Texts aligned into Systematic Categories = Doctrine

On the other hand, Bird begins with the Gospel which establishes the regula fidei which is preserved in the Canonical Documents, expounded upon in the Creeds, and enacted in Tradition. We understand the Rule of Faith as a summary of the Gospel. We interpret the shape and content of the Canon by the Gospel. We acknowledge the authority of the Creeds as the Creeds summarize the Gospel. Finally, our Traditions are established, challenged, and reformed in line with their integrity to the Gospel.

Let me try to summarize how this might work when we evaluate Bird’s Pneumatology. The Spirit is understood first and foremost as the Gospel explains the identity and role of the Spirit. Second, we speak of the Spirit along the lines of the Rule of Faith (not our own proof-texting of Scripture). Then we evaluate and interpret the Canonical Documents through the lens of the Rule of Faith allowing this dialectic to inform our understanding of the Spirit. The Creed gives us established, catholic language to describe the Spirit. Our Traditions—whether this be how various theologians have explained the Spirit or various movements have testified to experiencing the Spirit—then is evaluated in light of these previous realities.

This is how I read Bird’s introductory discussion and how I understand the book to work. I welcome his response or that of others who are reading the book right now. This week won’t be the last time I talk about the book. I plan on giving it a full review at a later date, but in order to participate in the blog tour it seemed most pressing to understand Bird’s view of the Gospel, his Prolegomena, and then read the section that I am responsible for reviewing (Part 6 as noted above).

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[1] p. 52

This book was provided for free by Zondervan in exchanged for an unbiased review.

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