Many evangelicals today suspect that were they to imitate the New Testament's use of the Old Testament, they would be getting the right doctrine from the wrong texts. Is it possible for today's uninspired exegete to employ the christological hermeneutic of the apostles? Drawing on a lifetime of pastoral ministry and teaching as a professor of New Testament Interpretation and Homiletics, Dennis Johnson takes you in this volume from the problems to the principles and practice of preaching Christ from all the Scriptures. Seeking to "reunite Old Testament and New Testament, apostolic doctrine and apostolic hermeneutics, biblical interpretation and biblical proclamation" (4), Johnson shows that in fact we can interpret and preach the Bible like Peter and Paul-preaching that is "redemptive-historically structured, missiologically communicated, and grace-driven" (16).
The first half of the book makes "The Case for Apostolic, Christocentric Preaching." Following an introductory chapter, Johnson surveys contemporary "Priorities and Polarities in Preaching" in chapter 2, showing the inadequacy of preaching only to convert, only to experientially or transformationally edify, or only to doctrinally or redemptive-historically instruct. Preaching must aim at each of these priorities. Johnson sympathetically but critically examines the views of Bill Hybels, Jay Adams, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and the many proponents of the redemptive-historical method, asking searching questions that each method must answer, and which ultimately the whole book answers very well. Johnson approves most of Tim Keller's and Jack Miller's homiletic methods.
Chapter 3 outlines "Paul's Theology of Preaching" by analyzing Colossians 1:24-2:7. Chapter 4 surveys the history of the church's attempts to preach Christ, from its complication by the Fathers' and Medievals' allegorizing and fourfold sense, to its chastening by the Reformation's return to grammatical-historical interpretation, to its rejection by the Enlightenment and historical-critical method, to its recovery by Geerhardus Vos and Reformed biblical theology. Chapter 5 carefully details modern misgivings about apostolic preaching, biblical unity, and interpretive accountability and credibility-the challenges the second half of the book must surmount-and makes explicit the watershed issue in this book: "What constitutes the appropriate context or contexts for the interpretation of biblical texts?" (147). The text's immediate context, excluding later revelation, or the context of the canon as a whole? Affirming the latter through an appeal to the divine authorship supported by Kevin Vanhoozer, Johnson argues the grammatical-historical method must be challenged (152). In doing so, Johnson does not adequately answer Walter Kaiser's statement that "it is a mark of eisegesis, not exegesis, to borrow freight that appears chronologically later in the text and to...unload it on an earlier passage simply because both...share the same canon" (157), and does not affirm the full concursus of the divine and human authors.
However, Johnson goes on to affirm nearly every hermeneutical concern I have that motivates me to agree with Kaiser(!), and that is why you need to read this book. It will seriously consider your biblical concerns that have made you hesitate to engage in christological, biblical-theological interpretation of the Bible, and will challenge and help pastors to become far more biblical in their preaching. Him We Proclaim is so richly, broadly, and deeply biblical, overflowing with biblical-theological insight, and so committed to responsible, accountable interpretation of Scripture in its appropriate contexts, that there are few whose interpretation would not be significantly improved by listening to this book.
That improvement is the aim of the second half of the book. Chapter 6 analyzes "The Epistle to the Hebrews as an Apostolic Preaching Paradigm," showing Hebrews to be a sermon structured around the christological exposition and application of Old Testament texts to a specific audience, preaching Christ from the Old Testament's own proclamation of Christ. Chapter 7 traces the New Testament's typological interpretation of the Old Testament from the more obvious texts employing the Greek word typos, to passages stating Christ "fulfilled" an Old Testament text, to unmistakable allusions to Old Testament events, applied to Christ, to subtle and debatable allusions to the Old Testament, to general Old Testament patterns fulfilled by Christ. Johnson then explains the foundations the Old Testament provides for New Testament hermeneutics: God invested events and institutions with symbolic significance recognized by the Old Testament people, the Old Testament prophets drew on God's deeds in the past for imagery to describe the future, and through its own incompleteness directed the Old Testament people's longings toward a greater future salvation and Savior. For these reasons, Johnson writes, "we should not conclude that it would have been impossible for faithful Israelites in Old Testament times to have discovered in their Scriptures the implications that the apostles later drew out of them" (219). In a helpful diagram on page 231, Johnson explains that typology that ignores the meaning a text or event had in the Old Testament, or that ignores its fulfillment in Christ, fails to properly connect that Old Testament type with our New Testament audience, and amounts to allegory. Similarly, Old Testament truths applied to a New Testament audience apart from Christ's centrality amount to moralism. Scripture's own hermeneutical method is to trace a type's original meaning through its fulfillment in Christ to recognize its New Testament significance.
In chapter 8 Johnson provides two central motifs through which many typological connections flow-Christ as "Head of the New Creation and Mediator of the New Covenant," tracing man's progress as the image of God through creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, and Christ as the Lord and Servant in the covenant who fulfills the roles of Prophet, Priest, and King as fallen man cannot. It is by virtue of their union with Christ that hearers receive the blessings of salvation, so this union and these blessings provide the chief lines of connection that a sermon's application must follow. Chapter 9 gives examples of how to preach the promises of Christ from the Old Testament genres of historical narrative, law, wisdom, song, and prophecy, and chapter 10 gives examples of how to preach the promise keeper himself from the New Testament genres of the gospels, parables, epistles (doctrine and exhortation), wisdom, and prophetic vision. Two appendices follow; the first gives a step-by-step guide for moving "From Text to Sermon," the second a sermon that demonstrates the principles taught in the book.
The net effect is that this book provides a reliable guide to truly Christian and biblical preaching. Johnson ably addresses the real concerns of preachers in this decade, with rich biblical exposition and broad interaction with today's scholarship, humbly and faithfully exalting Christ in all the Scriptures. Whether or not one is convinced of christological preaching, Him We Proclaim will greatly improve every Bible student's interpretation and every pastor's preaching.
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Issue: "Using God" Nov./Dec. 2007 Vol. 16 No. 6 Page number(s): 44-46
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