Sunday, October 31, 2010

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The problem with blogging . . .

 . . . is that it is sometimes impossible to tell if people are joking. Surely Jim is not as offended as he makes out, by two such gentle jabs, but how would we know?  Well perhaps if he hit them the only place bloggers really hurt, by removing them from his blogroll, but surely he wouldn't do that over one tinsy winsy post?  Really?

Here's my prescription for such a sense of humour shortage:

Jim West can say what he likes about NZ,

but what do they give the USA judges to smoke that they should cite Star Trek in deciding cases?  On the other hand, James McGrath will be having difficulty containing his jubilance at such a victory for sci-fi! (Thanks David)

1 Day left for Carnival Nominations!

Remember, here in the land of the long white cloud, those who stand on Maui's fish or ride Maui's waka, we get everything sooner that the rest of you, even Christmas, so if you want to be included or have found something that should be don't delay. (If you are confused by time zones, see countdown)   me before it is too late.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Here's one for the Calvinists

Lest I be accused of allowing Xenos to be a little one sided,


Christian Preaching from the Old Testament #8

[This is the eighth in 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)]

The issue of relevance

Mathewson provides a sample sermon on Genesis 22:1-19.[1]  The message of his sermon is that ‘the greatest thing you can do for your kids is worship God, not your kids.’[2]  In his exegesis he is looking for a principle that can be applied to his church congregation and he certainly finds one.  In his reading of Genesis 22:1-19 Abraham is a father who has to choose between God and his son, he chooses God and God blesses him and his son for it.  The pursuit of relevance has provided a principle but the bridge paradigm itself has not done this.  To derive this principle from the text we would have to believe that the writer of Genesis was concerned with family values, a significant western evangelical obsession.  However, two significant OT obsessions should surely take interpretive priority: Israel’s national identity and God’s promises to Abraham.  The original author and readers of this text were not asking how to be better parents.  Rather, as Greidanus rightly observes, in Isaac is the whole future Israel; if he dies so does all of Israel, and so do the promises of God.[3]

Greidanus on the other hand does not exegete this passage looking for contemporary relevance but Christ.  The message of his sermon on the same passage is ‘to teach God’s people that they live only by the grace of the Lords covenant faithfulness.’[4]  Now it must be noted that, contrary to the objections of Kaiser and Mathewson to Christocentric OT interpretation,[5] Greidanus has not shoe-horned Jesus Christ into an OT text but has still produced a sermon message than cannot possibly be preached without reference to Jesus Christ.  Why?  Because Christians are only God’s people by virtue of the new covenant established in Jesus. 

Despite Mathewson’s initial impressive exegesis of Genesis 22:1-19 he produces a message that is more shaped by the felt needs of the western church that by the actual text of scripture.  At the very least this shows a deficiency in his hermeneutic.  All exegesis must have a goal whether it is for scholarly literature, personal study or preaching.  The question is not if that goal influences your hermeneutic, it does, but whether that goal is the correct one.  In a post-Christian west, where Christianity is often portrayed as out of touch and stuffy, the desire to find relevance is a defence against a world that dismisses the church for not having any.  The Bible becomes a handbook with a relevant principle for any life situation we might come across.  However, as John Wright emphaticly asserts, ‘We must not reduce our understanding of application to strategies of making the Scripture relevant for the contemporary listener’s consumption.’[6]   The Principlizing Bridge turns the OT God into a slot machine where if we can just discover the right principle and apply it our lives will improve.   One beauty of the Gospel is that in many ways it is not only irrelevant to but also uninterested in our felt needs.  Job security, family values, prosperity and respectability are manifestly not the primary concerns of the Christ who tells us to take up our cross and follow him.

The ‘whole counsel of God,’ a favourite term of Kaiser’s,[7] should not be understood, as Peterson rightly argues, as God’s advice on any given detail of our lives but the plan and purpose of God relating to the ‘big picture’ of salvation.[8]  Christian preaching’s goal must therefore be, not the relevance of the sermon to the listener, but the transformation of the listener so they become relevant to God’s purposes in Christ.

[1] Mathewson, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative,  162-170
[2] Mathewson, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative,  171
[3] Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, 302
[4] Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, 315
[5] Mathewson, The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative,  175, Kaiser, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, 51
[6] John W. Wright, Telling God’s Story, 32
[7] e.g. Kaiser, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, 51
[8] Peterson, Christ and His People in the Book of Isaiah, 25

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Michael Coogan on Biblical Interpetation and Why He's Wrong

Individual biblical texts should not be appealed to selectively: Such cherry-picking is all too easy because of the nature of the Bible as a multi-authored book. Rather, as with another formative text, the Constitution, one needs first to understand it historically -- what did its words mean when they were written -- and then attempt to determine what its underlying values are, not just what it says in a specific passage. Only in this sense can the Bible be considered to have timeless relevance that transcends the historical particularities of its authors.
From CNN, HT 

It sounds so good, and he starts well, but he is wrong, the timeless relevance is not despite the historical particularity of the Bible but because of it.  According to Coogan's hermeneutic we could just dispense with the Bible altogether because all we really need is a one sentence principle that tells us to be nice to each other. 

Does Predestination Make Sense?

Where we run into difficulties is when we try to reconcile Biblical statements about God’s love with theological systems attempting to comprehend predestination. It’s an old problem that has vexed people from Erasmus to the present day (and one I feel no desire to rehearse here). The problem is, the Bible everywhere assumes that human action and decisions are free, that is, unconstrained by a prior divine decision, and thus humans can and should be held responsible for their behavior. Even so, most reformed theological systems find a way to make room for human freedom and responsibility under an overarching if mysterious divine predestination. This of course makes no sense.

RECAP Newsletter Oct 2010

is now out, including

Highlights from the Prison Fellowship Conference
We got so much out of this year's conference that we thought we would share some of our favourite presentations with you. Some of the highlights included:
  • Judge David Carruthers on how halfway houses could improve recidivism rates in New Zealand
  • Professor Alison Liebling on the moral performance of public and private prisons, and
  • MP Chester Burrows on the fine line between victim and offender

The Long March: the Sallies, the Mob and the fight against P

In collaboration with the Mongrel Mob, the Salvation Army has designed the 'Hauora' treatment programme to help gang members and their families overcome their addictions to P. It is showing real signs of success. We bring you an update on the programme and with a little help from Dennis O'Reilly, call for more agencies to engage with gangs.

New Youth Justice Legislation: the most significant amendment since 1989

October's edition of "Court in the Act" looks at the changes to the Youth Justice Legislation. According to Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft, “these amendments are the most significant in the history of the Youth Court since its inception in 1989.” Although these amendments are "an opportunity for real progress", Judge Becroft highlights a number of issues that need to be properly thought through.

New Police Statistics released: Family Violence rates are up
and it's a good thing

October marked the release of the latest Police statistics, which showed a significant rise in the rate of Family Violence - from 48,389 recorded offences in 2008/2009 to 54,104 recorded offences in the 2009/10 fiscal year. Although an 11.8 per cent increase in family violence offences in the last year looks like bad news for New Zealand, it could actually be a positive result.

New NZ research: Not in My Backyard? Crime in the

Contrary to much political and media discourse, the results of a recent New Zealand study suggest that the New Zealand public does not regard crime and disorder as escalating or serious problems in local neighbourhoods.

New US research: Effect of Mental Health Courts on Arrests and Jail Days

A new multisite study from the US has found that those going through Mental Health Courts have better outcomes across five key public safety measures than matched offenders who don't.

New UK research: The Reality of Short Term Prison Sentences

The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Imperial College, London have released some preliminary findings from a large qualitative study into the views of Prison Governors on the use of short term sentences.

For full articles and more go here

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blog Plug: William Birch

Happy to have found a new-to-me blog where a learned Southern Baptist Arminian takes to task such luminaries as Albert Mohler and Michael Patton with great aplomb.  I dropped a cheeky remark on Patton's post on prevenient grace myself and really need to do a proper response to the reply I got, sadly I think the carnival is going to be taking up any blog time for the rest of the week.  Do check him out if that is your cupatea.

Christian Preaching on the Old Testament #7

[This is the seventh in 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. Funnily enough this section was judged by its one time marker as being totally pointless, but although perhaps it could use a rewrite I think the basic point it makes is hugely important. (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)]

The issue of authority

Kasier argues forcefully that Christians need the OT for ‘doctrine, ethics, practical living, and preaching.’[1]  Because the NT presupposes the OT many important subjects that the OT covers are not dealt with by the NT.  Both Bright and Goldingay suggest that the NT focus on explaining Christ from the OT was a response to 1st C. Jews struggling to understand the Christ who had come, rather than an exposition of the OT as a whole.[2]  But even if this is the case the NT does not provide us with a clear method for appropriating the OT for Christian interpretation.  The NT, with the gospels presenting Jesus as teacher and exemplar and the epistles giving pastoral and theological instruction to the early church, is the sort of literature that lends itself well to being authoritative.  With regard to authorial intent, it is clearly written with its own authority in mind.  But the literary forms of the OT cannot carry authority in the same way.  In what way are we to understand that aphoristic wisdom literature, strange narratives of incest or rape, erotic poetry, or ancient sacrificial rites, have authority over Christians?[3]  Even the legal passages are written to religious and national circumstances which no longer exist.

Peterson suggests that ‘The inspiration, unity and authority of Scripture are practically demonstrated and pastorally experienced as these ancient texts are expounded in the light of God’s ultimate purpose for us in Christ.’[4]  If this is true then authority is not a static characteristic of the text so much as the result of an experience with that text.  Not only so but Schleiermacher’s approach to texts that divides understanding from application is no longer useful, instead an approach like Hans-Georg Gadamer’s makes sense:

In both legal and theological hermeneutics there is an essential tension between the fixed text - the law or the gospel - on the one hand and, on the other, the sense arrived at by applying it at the concrete moment of interpretation, either in judgement or in preaching.  A Law does not exist in order to be understood historically, but to be concretized in its legal validity by being interpreted.  Similarly, the gospel does not exist in order to be understood as a merely historical document, but to be taken in such a way that it exercises its saving effect…  Understanding here is always application.[5] 

For a text to have authority over us it must also apply to us.   Although Kaiser and Mathewson intend to save the OT from being flattened out to only say what the NT says their approach using the bridge paradigm instead flattens out the OT into being an analogical vehicle carrying abstract theological principles.  The  inherent probloem with this is that by not relating the text first to Jesus Christ, they negate any connection the text has with the Christian audience.  The contradiction arises because their theology of scripture as divinely inspired is divorced from their hermeneutic which exegetes the OT as a purely human creation, only attributing authority to the principles discovered therein.

The Principlizing Bridge, while providing a method for relating the OT to Christians does not provide the authority for doing so.  We could equally well use it to relate Gilgamesh, Beowulf or any other ancient text to our congregations.  The contemporary Christian is most likely not a Jew, the OT is not their history.  Their commitment is to Christ, who we worship, not a collection of old books gathered by men.  Only if Christ is to be found in those books can those books claim authority over the Christian.[6]  The only way the OT can have authority over Christians is if it is a source of truth about Christ.  In this sense we can also argue that the only way the OT can be found to be relevant to modern life is through Christ.  Kaiser and Mathewson are rightly concerned to let each text speak with its own voice rather than allowing all texts to be seen purely as illustrations of the interpreter’s own theology.  But is their expectation that the voice of each text will speak, in principle, to today’s Christians valid?

[1] Kaiser, Preaching and teaching from the Old Testament, 40
[2] Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament,  204; Goldingay, Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation, 113
[3] Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament,  18
[4] Peterson, Christ and His People in the Book of Isaiah,  25
[5] Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans Garrett Barden and John Cumming (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 309-10.  Cited in John W. Wright, Telling God’s Story, 28-29.
[6] In this way we do not worship Christ because we find him in the Bible but we read the Bible because in it we find Christ.  To not make this distinction is idolatry.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Provocative 11th Hour Sermon

James kindly points out this fascinating sermon on Matt 20:1-15.  I think it is probably stronger on the deconstruction than it is on the reconstruction and I'm not convinced on either yet by any means, but it is always good to get that feeling when a treasured interpretation is being challenged and to test yourself, "am I more committed to the truth or to having been right all along?" 

Final Call For Posts, Oktoberfest Biblical Studies Carnival!

Thanks to all those who have already submitted.  I will be assembling the carnival over the next week in time for the deadline of Nov 1 (NZ time).  There is still room for more posts in every category but especially in the OT category.  And please remember you can nominate other people's posts as well your own, especially if you have been roving further afield than the usual biblioblogging suspects, it would be fun to make some new discoveries this month, afterall many of the old pillars have been conspicuous by their absence recently.

  me or comment on the original call post to nominate.

Kia ora kouto!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kittel on the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith

Back in the day, when asked as an undergrad to write an essay on that dichotomy I refused, and wrote one called the Jesus of History, the Christ of Faith and the Risen Lord instead. But if I were to write one, I would start with this quote:
The Jesus of History is valueless and unintelligible unless He be experienced and confessed by faith as the living Christ. But, if we would be true to the New Testament, we must at once reverse this judgment. The Christ of faith has no existence, is mere noise and smoke, apart from the reality of Jesus of History. These two are utterly inseparable in the New Testament. They cannot even be thought of apart … Anyone who attempts first to separate the two and then to describe only one of them, has nothing in common with the New Testament.

Gerhard Kittel, G. K. A. Bell and A. Deissman (eds), Mysterium Christi (London, 1930), 49.  HT

brick-a-brack 24/10/10

Chris Wright on the Greatest Obstacle to God's Mission

Chris Wright (UK) spoke on the issues of personal humility, integrity and simplicity. He said, “The greatest obstacle to the mission of God is his own people.” The modern day idols that entice us away from God are pride and power, popularity and success as well as wealth and greed. These things can be seen in church leaders pursuing status and titles and the prosperity teaching that is popular in much of the world. These teachers are ignoring the teachings on suffering and taking up our cross. On success, he spoke of the manipulation of statistics to make a ministry look bigger than it is or to try and get funding for projects. “We have become a stumbling block to the mission of God and need to be called back to repentance and simplicity.”
From this blogger's report from Laussanne Congress, Cape Town.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Challenge from David Black

Just came across NT scholar David Black's website, it is kind of a funny not-quite-a-blog-blog-imitation, not really sure whether I'll be coming back much, but this article caught my eye.

I’m still waiting for it – the church marquee that says:

Senior Pastor: Jesus Christ

I could not think of anything greater than to be part of a fellowship of believers where Jesus Himself is intentionally given charge to lead His church, where all bow before Him whether pastor or deacon or so-called layperson. Paul insists that Christ must receive the preeminence in all things (Col. 1:18). Toward Him all must move.

Last week in our theology class I surveyed the main Scriptures having to do with authority in the church. I feel there are so many things in our churches that are inconsistent with Paul’s pronouncement that Christ is first and that everything must enhance His preeminence. How is it, I asked, that no one can name the “pastor” of any New Testament church? The answer is precisely because their first priority was Christ. The leadership they had was a “fellowship of leadership” (Michael Green) – a group of  co-equal, non-hierarchical leaders who sought to steer their flocks’ energies into loving God, loving others, and loving the world.

It is essential that Jesus Christ be dynamically first in the life of our churches. When He is at the center – leading, empowering, directing, rearranging – our churches will no longer be pastor- or program-centered. To let a man or a method become too important is not only carnal, it’s idolatrous. It is an affront to Jesus Christ, who is the church’s only Senior Pastor.

Read the rest here
But comment beneath, because there is no where to comment on Black's website :-(

Language Aquisition Through Nursery Rhymes

Well today is Saturday and yesterday's blogging was all pretty text heavy, so here is the fruit of my searching for a Baa Baa Black Sheep video for my daughters this morning.  Interestingly the top search results were all Indian education videos, all different yet wierdly the same.  This one features a "cutie pie blah shee," whatever that is.

This one has a very wierd sheep smoking hard on a pipe and walking on two legs.  We have a lot of sheep in NZ but I've never seen one do that.

But this is probably the trippiest one.

The Germans, on the other hand, still promote their own nursery ryhmes, no Indian versions of this, this one might be useful for those learning German for theological or biblical study

And this one will give you a unique insight into American English, where you may not mention anything below the waist by its real name.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Christian Preaching on the Old Testament #6

[This is the sixth in 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]

The issue of exegesis

Beale and Carson write that the NT authors make use of the OT in an ‘astonishing variety of ways.’[1]  They also suggest a key difference between 1st century Jewish and 1st century Christian exegesis is the use of a ‘salvation-historical grid’ which gives interpretive significance to chronology.[2]   From all four authors under consideration in this series there is a fierce desire to root interpretation in exegesis that is historical and grammatical, true to the original linguistic sense in the relevant historical context.  But mirroring the 1st C. situation one group see Jesus Christ clearly portrayed in the OT scripture and the other do not. 

Common sense dictates that neither perfect objectivity nor presupposition-less exegesis is possible.[3] Knowing this I would suggest that the homiletician’s role is not to attempt an objective OT reading but a Christian one.  Greidanus argues that the early Christians ‘read [the OT] from the perspective of their risen Lord and found it filled with promises of Christ, types of Christ, references and allusions to Jesus Christ.’[4]  However, this is not to advocate a descent into subjectivism.  The science of exegesis, using historical grammatical tools can never be wholly objective because the significance and meaning of each historical context and each grammatical, semantic or syntactical feature must be interpreted by the exegete.  Given the same historical and grammatical information two different exegetes can still arrive at different interpretations of the same passage.[5]  Value judgements must be made time and again, each one is a risk which could take the exegete closer to or farther from the author’s intention.  However, as Bright argues, ‘one can very well see retrospectively in past events a deeper significance than was apparent at the time, and that without in the least attributing to the actors in those events insights that they did not have.’[6]  But are we moving here beyond exegesis into interpretation?  Fitzmyer provides a clue, ‘A Christian interpreter of the Old Testament should be able to agree with a Jewish interpreter of the Hebrew Scripture on the literal meaning of a given passage, even one mentioning [messiah], or one related to such a concept, before the Christian invokes his or her canonical meaning.’[7]  The key question here is what exactly are we exegeting?  Are we exegeting a discrete text authored by a discreet individual, or the Old Testament – a collection of scriptures gathered by the post-exile Jewish community, or the Christian Bible – a canon of scripture including both the Old and New Testaments?   This also impacts upon a desire to respect authorial intent as we may have to take into account not only the intent of the actual writer but also of those who compiled the canon.

Exegesis depends on the question you ask the text.  Arguably the most important question is that of context.  For Kasier and Mathewson the context of any OT scripture is the OT, for Goldsworthy and Greidanus it is the whole Canon, OT and NT.  Ideas of Canon are inextricably bound up with concepts of authority, for Canon simply means ‘rule.’[8]  The way in which we understand a text to be authoritative determines what we expect to find in it, and therefore the sort of questions we will ask the text in our exegesis.  Mathewson explains, ‘preachers need to begin with the end in mind when they set out to study an Old Testament narrative text… the basic goal of studying the text is to determine the author’s intent and to describe this intent in a single sentence.’[9]  Mathewson expects to find some principle that can then be applied to the modern world.  Goldsworthy sets a different goal, ‘whether the sermon was a faithful exposition of the way the text testifies to Christ.’[10]  He expects to find that the text is about Jesus Christ.

[1] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old testament, xxvi
[2] Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old testament, xxvi (They give examples of Galatians 3, Romans 4 and Hebrews 4:1-13 and 7.)
[3] Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament,  45-6
[4] Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament 184-185
[5] Thiselton, Thiselton on hermeneutics, 379
[6] Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament,  203
[7] Fitzmyer, The One Who is to Come, ix
[8] Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, 17-18
[9] Mathewson, The art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative,  34
[10] Goldsworthy, Preaching The Whole Bible as Christian Scripture,  21