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Theology "Already" and "Not Yet"
on July 10, 2004
Ladd's New Testament Theology is a helpful introduction to the Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Ladd's primary contribution to the field of Biblical Theology is the incorporation of the "already" "not yet" eschatological dimension into New Testament theology. In his work he argues that there is a tension between realized and future eschatology throughout the entire New Testament. The future Kingdom of God has broken into the present and has radically shifted the entire redemptive history of the New Testament. While this Kingdom of God has become a present reality the entirety of its reign remains a future hope. This tension exists throughout the entire New Testament.
Ladd treats the Synoptic Gospels together and focuses primarily in arguing his case that the future coming age has broken in to the present age. R. T. France adds a helpful chapter where he looks at the unique contribution of each of the synoptics to theology. Much of the material on the Synoptics seemed a bit redundant and could have been shortened. However, when Ladd proceeds to discuss the Gospel of John he is at his best. The chapter where he discusses the Johannine Dualism is extremely helpful. Also the chapter on John's view of eternal life is very instructive.
In my opinion the best chapter in the book is on the resurrection of Christ. If Christ be not raised from the dead then our faith is useless - Ladd showed the importance and necessity of the resurrection throughout this chapter. He argued persuasively for the undeniable historical fact of the resurrection. Also in his dealing with the relationship of the church and Israel I believe he is dead on. He argues correctly that the church is the new spiritual Israel.
I must confess that his section on Paul was slightly disappointing. I believe that Ridderbos' Paul: An Outline is the best on Pauline Theology and most other works pale in comparison. With that said, the section was still helpful. Much of the section on Paul seems dated as it was written before the "Sanders Revolution." However, his section on Paul and the Law proves refreshing compared to the material written today although I disagree with his interpretation of Romans 7.
The chapter on the work of Christ, which detailed the atonement, was helpful. Ladd treats various biblical aspects of the atonement such as its relation to the love of God, its sacrificial and substitutionary nature along with propitiation and redemption. In his chapter on justification he highlights that justification is eschatological. While I believe this is true I remain nervous at the possible outcome for holding such a view. One potential danger is to say that the ground of realized justification is the work of Christ while the ground of future justification is the resultant good works. I believe he is correct to write, "Justification, which primarily means acquittal at the final judgment, has already taken place in the present. The eschatological judgment is no longer alone future; it has become a verdict in history" (483). Although I hesitate to use the word "primarily" for justification also seems to be rooted in eternity while worked out in present time and consummated in the future. Ladd uses the language of imputation and argues that the ground of our justification is the work of Christ and his righteousness imputed to our account (489, 491).
The rest of Ladd's work is most disappointing. He spends a mere 70 pages in dealing with the rest of the New Testament. His treatment of Hebrews - a theologically rich book - barely skims the surface while his treatment of the rest of the Catholic Epistles is hardly worth reading. Also it is surprising for someone who has done so much work on eschatology to only spend 15 pages on the book of Revelation. David Wenham's essay on the "Unity and Diversity of the New Testament" is a helpful introduction to a difficult subject.
Overall I believe that Ladd's work is a helpful contribution to the field of New Testament Theology although I believe it is sadly lacking in some places. Some of the additional essays (Hagner, France, and Wenham) have sought to fill the void, but there remains a large gap in the Catholic Epistles. Nonetheless, it is a volume worth working through and should remain a valuable repository for years to come.