Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment takes a canonical and systematic look at how the bible develops the center of its theology. Stated succinctly, Hamilton’s thesis is that the center of biblical theology is the glory of God seen in salvation that comes through judgment. According to Hamilton, for his thesis to stand concerning the center of biblical theology it must (1) be the theme that is “prevalent” and “pervasive” in all the parts if the bible and (2) it must be the theme that “the biblical authors resort to when they give ultimate explanations for why things are the way they are at any point in the Bible’s story” (49).
Each one of chapters two through seven consists of an overview of the biblical storyline represented in a particular canonical division that highlights Hamilton’s thesis, a summary of the relevant material from each book found in a canonical division as it supports the thesis—God’s glory in salvation through judgment—not only as the center of biblical theology, but also as the center of every book in the biblical canon, and each chapter ends with a succinct summary of the theology of that canonical division. Hamilton’s conclusion is that every book from Genesis to Song of Songs to Philemon to Revelation has the same theological center, namely, the glory of God in salvation through judgment.
God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment concludes with two small chapters answering possible objections to Hamilton’s thesis and embryonic suggestions toward applying biblical theology to a practical theology of life and ministry. The objections dealt with in chapter eight are almost exclusively those of I. Howard Marshall given not in response to the book but to the initial presentation of Hamilton’s thesis in the summer of 2004 at the Biblical Theology Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship, latter published as “The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology” in the Tyndale Bulletin. Marshall’s objections deal with Hamilton’s method, his interpretation of particular texts, and issues concerning theology proper. In the final chapter, Hamilton offers specific applications of the glory of God in salvation through judgment in the ministerial areas of evangelism, discipleship, and church discipline and in the personal areas of bible reading and prayer. This is a unique and welcome section to a biblical theology which highlights in a tangible way what has been Hamilton’s concern from the outset of the book, namely, “The transformation the church needs is the kind that results from beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3:18-4:6). This glory of God is a saving and judging glory...” (39).
The field of biblical theology does not suffer from a dearth of proposals for its theological center or lack thereof; however, few attempt to demonstrate their proposal throughout the entirety of the biblical canon. Hamilton’s volume is to be commended for its fresh perspective and principal focus upon the scriptures as the primary subject matter of biblical theology and not the scholarly tomes and disputes on and within the field of study. His volume is eminently readable beyond the academy supporting his concern that biblical theology is for the church. His tone throughout the book is gracious yet firm with those whom he is in disagreement.
By way of critique, Hamilton at times seems to force his thesis upon certain sections of the canon through an over extension of his typological or figural interpretation, such as, his treatment of the Song of Songs. Which if it is the case, then Hamilton’s thesis fails his on established criteria for the center of biblical theology. This draws Hamilton’s criteria for the center of biblical theology into question. In addition, Hamilton’s book lacks any discussion of his typological method of interpretation which is employed as the determining factor in many of the biblical books where his thesis would raise the most objections. Lastly, Hamilton repeats his thesis (the glory of God in salvation through judgment) as fact far more than is healthy for his argument; in fact, it draws his thesis into question if he feels it necessary to bolster it with such redundancy.
In the end, Hamilton has written a well-crafted study putting forth a model of whole-bible thematic biblical theology that will carry forward the work of biblical theology in evangelical circles. This volume’s concern for the church is to be emulated as a significant example of bridging the gap between academia and the pew. Evangelical biblical theologians will rightly turn to Hamilton for wisdom and guidance in the future progress of the biblical theological enterprise.