Quick Questions For/About Helm
I just expressed appreciation in my last post for what I felt was a very helpful point on Paul Helm’s blog, Helm’s Deep.
I confess I don’t get one thing, however: why does Helm dismiss BT (replacing it with ET!)?
I’d go so far as to maintain that the systematic theological task does not need biblical theology or any of its friends. What we do need is exegetical theology. I gain some encouragement to assert this from something that John Piper says. ‘Behind each of those actions is the assumption that there is something about God’s righteousness that explains why he acts as he does. What is that? I do not ask it for speculative reasons but exegetical ones.’ (63) Exegesis shows (Piper believes) that ‘What we find therefore in the Old Testament and in Paul is that God defines ‘right’ in terms of himself. There is no other standard to consult than his own infinitely worthy being’. (64, Piper’s emphasis).
But Piper doesn’t dismiss BT. In his helpful introduction to The Future of Justification, he observes some problems with BT (namely, that we should not import categories from the historical milieu into our exegesis, thereby distorting it). But he calls BT “an essential part of responsible exegesis and theology” (34). I agree. I think it is helpful to understand Paul and James, for example, on their own terms before trying to fit them together. They must be fit together—and they do fit! But BT is how I get to that fit.
Someone enlighten me as to what Helm is saying!