God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by James Hamilton is a theological tour de force. The author rightly maintains that many evangelicals have lost the “theological center.” And where there is no center, everything collapses.
Hamilton seeks to remedy this loss of a theological center by making a bold claim, namely – that there is unity in the Bible’s diversity. His thesis is set forth at the beginning of the book and is defended for nearly 600 pages: “The glory of God in salvation through judgment is the center of biblical theology.”
The author makes it clear from the outset that he is engaged in the needed work of biblical theology: “The purpose of biblical theology is to sharpen our understanding of the theology contained in the Bible itself through an inductive, salvation-historical examination of the Bible’s themes and the relationships between those themes in their canonical context and literary form.” The book sets out to accomplish this very task.
Prior to defending his thesis, Hamilton defines his terms: “The glory of God is the weight of the majestic goodness of who God is, and the resulting name, or reputation, that he gains from his revelation of himself as Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and Redeemer, perfect in justice and mercy, loving-kindness and truth.” As such, the glory of God in salvation through judgment is:
- God’s way of showing his glory and defining his own name.
- the goal of God in redemptive history.
- the pattern of the Bible’s metanarrative – creation, sin, exile, restoration.
- the pattern of each major redemptive event in the Bible – fall, flood, exodus, exile from the land, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the return of Christ.
- the existential experience of individuals who are convinced of their sin, feel condemnation, trust God for mercy, and join him in seeking the glory of his great name.
- the ground of the Bible’s ethical appeals – fear of judgment curbs behavior and keeps people on the path that leads to salvation.
- the content of the praises of the redeemed.
With the foundation sufficiently in place, the author defends his thesis with a vengeance. His typical pattern is to overview a book of the Bible and show how the theme of the book is consistent with his thesis. Then, he painstakingly walks through each biblical book, linking the important themes that help shape his thesis.
I read God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment from cover to cover and was greatly encouraged with Hamilton’s effort. I intend to return to this book, each time I set out to preach or teach through a biblical book.
Hamilton concludes with a helpful application section:
“The center of biblical theology has application in the church, in Bible study, and in the prayer closet. More significantly, it has application on the great day. When God arises to judge the earth, he will display the glory of his justice and his mercy. Those who have trusted in Jesus will be astonished at the mercy shown to them, and that mercy will be all the more precious in view of the everlasting display of justice God will visit on the objects of his wrath.”