The Bible tells the story about a garden that was lost and restored. The Garden of Eden not only bookends the entire story of Scripture but the theme of the garden is found throughout all the biblical narrative. This is the conviction of G.K Beale and Mitchell Kim in their book God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth.
This book seeks to draw together the themes of Eden, the Temple, God’s glorious presence, New Creation, and the mission of the Church as multiple facets of the same reality (7). Some readers of this book will notice its similarity to Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission; however, the authors are clear that while the thesis of both books are the same, the aim of God Dwells Among Us is to bridge the world of biblical theology to the needs of the church. The authors overall purpose is to highlight the ultimate picture of God’s presence filling the whole world and how that drives the mission of the church (17).
Eden as the Theological Motif
The book is broken down into eleven chapters with nine of them tracing the theme of Eden throughout Scripture.
Chapter one seeks to show that Eden was the first temple and the place of God’s presence. Adam and Eve are pictured as priests serving the first temple but forfeited their priestly role as they sinned. In chapter two the authors argue that our mission grows out of Adam and Eve’s commission to multiply image bearers in the world. Chapter three surveys the Adamic commission to multiply and fill the earth through the Patriarchs.
Chapter four evaluates the tripartite structure of the Tabernacle in relation to God, His people, and the world. The Tabernacle patterns the original temple of Eden. Chapter five reflects upon the prophets of Israel and their proclamations of a restored Temple after exile.
Chapter six explores the significance the New Temple in the person of Jesus. It is through Jesus who inaugurated the new order – with Jesus as the New Temple – that the restoration process of Eden begins. Chapter seven expands the motif of the New Temple to the Church. The Church is the continuation of the true temple of God in the Old Testament. Chapter eight argues that the Church functions in a priestly role in the world as the inaugurated temple of God. In chapter nine the authors pull together the themes of Eden by looking at the culmination of God’s redemptive purposes in Revelation 21-22.
Chapters 10 and 11 provide a biblical theological approach to this reading of Scripture and practical reflections of the sacrificial mission of the temple of God.
Practical Biblical Theology
Having read The Temple and the Church’s Mission and A New Testament Biblical Theology by Beale, I was eager to read God Dwells Among Us. The authors take the complexities of the academic world and bring them into the life of the average church member. This of course is not without difficulty. I could see where many would pick up a book like this and immediately put it down in frustration. This is due to the fact that the book proposes new categories and a way of reading Scripture covenantally. Those not familiar with the use of Old Testament typology in the New Testament could be a bit overwhelmed. Also those within a dispensational framework might have their some of their theological and exegetical feathers ruffled.
This is why I would encourage potential readers of the book to read chapter 10 first. I was surprised that the book lacked a prolegomena or an introduction to the theological agenda of the book. In chapter 10 the authors set forth their theological proposal of reading Scripture by discussing cosmology, biblical unity, history/typology, and understanding “literal” fulfillment. I’m convinced this chapter would serve the readers better if read first.
I would put this book in the same category as Goldsworthy’s According to Plan and Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem. It is small, concise, and informative. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore a creative biblical-theological approach. This book would serve as a good introduction to a seminary student and is a must read for pastors.
I received this book free from IVP Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”