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Christian Preaching of the Old Testament #9

[This is the ninth post of a serialisation and slight revision of an old essay of mine, in the hope of getting some interaction from others and also making it more accessible. (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10,]

The Bridge Paradigm and Salvation-History

It will be obvious by now that I have found Goldsworthy and Greidanus’ approach to the OT a more convincing method of obtaining a Christian reading of the OT than Kaiser and Mathewson’s.  While all authors are without doubt sincere Christians committed to preaching the gospel I would argue that it is the way they treat the assumptions of the Bridge Paradigm that creates the distinction.  Both Kaiser and Mathewson follow a particular school of Bridge Paradigm thought following the popular evangelical homiletician Haddon Robinson.[1]  Robinson’s homiletic is centred on the need to discover a ‘big idea.’[2]  The need to objectively extract a ‘big idea’ from the passage requires the assumption that what we are to read out of any scripture is an idea.  It is useful to contrast this Bridge Paradigm as found in Kaiser and Mathewson with the Salvation-History approach advocated by Goldsworthy and Greidanus.

The Principlizing Bridge assumes that we preach texts, rather than preach the gospel.  The Salvation-History approach, while absolutely committed to grammatico-historical exegesis, assumes that we are to preach Christ from the text.  For Kaiser and Mathewson it is the message of individual texts and the theological and ethical ideas therein that Christians need to hear interpreted.  For Goldsworthy and Greidanus Christians need to hear the history of redemption to challenge them with God’s saving work in Christ.[3]  In the Bridge Paradigm we exegete a text only according to its original meaning, in the Salvation-History approach we first exegete a text in its original meaning but then in its canonical meaning.[4]

The Principlizing Bridge assumes the way to bridge the gap between the OT and modern Christians is timeless abstract principles.  The salvation-history approach argues that there is no gap to be bridged because God’s work in Christ creates continuity between the OT people of God and the present day church.  In the Bridge Paradigm we search the text to see analogies with our own lives, we are the antitype.  In the Salvation-History approach we search the text to relate it to Christ, he is the antitype.[5]

The Principlizing Bridge assumes the goal of preaching is to create a message relevant to its listeners.  The Salvation-History approach argues the goal of preaching is to hear about what God has done for his people, the application comes when we allow that truth to change our lives.

Goldsworthy and Greidanus’s use of a Salvation-History approach obviates the Bridge Paradigm.  As a result they are able to create a distinctly Christian hermeneutic.  Kaiser and Mathewson do recognise the potential validity of a Salvation-Historical approach but it is not the dominant feature of their hermeneutic, but only one possible option after the demands of their prior hermeneutic have been satisfied.

[1] cf, Mathewson, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative,  14, 20, 21, 26, 32, 40, 83, 85-86, 97, 99, 101, 104, 106, 113, 118, 122, 125, 131, 147, 149, 150, 151, 154, 156, 173, 189, 201, 204-14, 216, 224!; Kaiser, Preaching and teaching from the Old Testament, 55; Haddon Robinson is, by the by, no relation.
[2] Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 33-50
[3] Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, 235-6
[4] Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, 231
[5] Goldsworthy, Preaching The Whole Bible as Christian Scripture,  113, 141


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