The danger of preaching biblical truth, yet missing Christ

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TylerR's picture

Editor

The author seems to be advocating a Christocentric approach to preaching; the need to preach imperatives that are connected to right motivation - love for God because of His gift of salvation through Christ = right actions. I agree with that, but I wonder if he's going further than this? I'm not sure. 

I AM pretty sure Kaiser doesn't advocate a self-righteous moralism. I don't like the way the author framed this issue. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting here that what Kaiser is being criticized for is--at least in the minds of his detractors--downplaying the metanarratives which are derived in the proper derivation of Old Testament, New Testament, Biblical, and Systematic theology.   I don't know Kaiser well, but assuming Tyler's right, one synthesis could be that (a) he doesn't intend for it to happen but (b) it is entirely logical that those who read him would.  Can't say that that is "definitely" the case, either, though. 

An example where the proprietors fessed up about these very tendencies is Phil Vischer, who famously noted that Veggie Tales often veered into this kind of thing and forgot the bigger narrative of Christ.  You'll also see some of the same tendencies in groups like Focus on the Family, and  a wonderful exception from this pattern--perhaps going too far on the metanarrative side--would be Answers in Genesis.  

The question, really, is whether we would call this technique sound exegesis without a metanarrative, or if we rather would say "the person didn't see something that is completely obvious."   I am leaning towards the latter, as I've seen hints of Christology in the craziest places.  

Either way, this is a nice companion to GN's column about exegetical preaching.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Kaiser’s book on the New Testament use of the old is good. He explains his position well in it. It’s really a hermeneutical debate.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Yes, Kaiser's contribution to the Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is good.

Kaiser's position on antecedent theology is too easily dismissed. It is essentially that the OT had meaning before the NT was written. And that meaning was real and it was in the text and the OT people were held responsible to understand it and obey it without any NT revelation. If you must have the NT to interpret the OT properly, then the OT had no real meaning at all. See particularly Kaiser's response to Enns. 

Any sort of canonical interpretation has to come well after the OT meaning is established. 

josh p's picture

I was referring to his complete book “The Uses of the Old Testament in the New.” I do have the one you mentioned but I have only read the first few pages. I need to go back and read Robert L. Thomas’ chapter on Sensus Plenior in his “Evangelical Hermeneutics” and contrast their views. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Some of the hermeneutical discussions are abstract to me, and sound silly. I know Thomas was quite gung-ho about single meaning. I'm not totally sold on this, but I'm generally on the same page. There are some things the original audience could not ever understand at the time, that we only see now, after the fact. For example:

  • I doubt Israelites understood Psalm 16 to be a prophesy of the Messiah's resurrection.
  • I also doubt Zechariah 3 and 6 were as clear to the original audience as they are to us, now. I also know the application is different. Zechariah gave these prophesies to spur the returned exiles to finish building the temple, after Darius agreed the work could continue. For Christians today, this is merely a prophesy about Christ as the coming High Priest. 

I could go on. The main point is what the author intended for the original audience. There may well be room for a fuller meaning or application in a contemporary context, as long as we always keep the authorial intent in mind. As Larry mentioned:

Any sort of canonical interpretation has to come well after the OT meaning is established. 

Hermeneutics isn't an exact science; it's more of an art - a series of principles more than a rote, mechanical process. 

I think we agree moralism without a context is useless. But, I'm not sure that's really a problem worth writing an article about in a SBTS publication! This is why I wonder if the article is really about Christocentric preaching, or more a shot at Kaiser and those who advocate single-meaning. In other words, I suspect this is really about an in-house, hermeneutical divide in academia.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

You’re right Tyler it is basically an academic discussion but pastors are reading it and it is making its way into the congregation through their preaching. I’m not suggesting it is a pernicious evil or anything but it’s important. I am often accused by covenantal friends of interpreting the OT like the NT never happened. I reject that and say that the reverse is true of them. There are many places where the OT hearer could have never arrived at the meaning that the Christocentric interpretation imputes there. This to me is interesting enough to study some. It’s not just covenantal folks either. Dispensationalists are often equally guilty. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Context is key in all interpretation, but the context includes the whole of Scripture. Interpret all of it in light of all of it. 

Still a mystery to me why this isn't obvious to all.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Context is key in all interpretation, but the context includes the whole of Scripture. Interpret all of it in light of all of it. 

Still a mystery to me why this isn't obvious to all.

Because the OT had meaning without the "whole of Scripture." The OT reader was expected to understand something and do or believe something long before the NT was written. That understanding and response was not based on the later revelation but only on antecedent revelation.

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

I think there are a few things to keep in mind. The purpose of Old Covenant Revelation, Apostolic interpretation of this Old Covenant Revelation and illumination.

I know we all agree that the Law (specifically Deuteronomy and Leviticus) was given for one ultimate redemptive purpose, to condemn. Could we not also extrapolate that out to include all Revelation given by God in the Old Covenant.... that hearing, they would not hear and seeing, they would not see. Now for God’s chosen redeemed within the Old Covenant, there was, at least at some level, a special illumination of the Spirit to understand the redemptive purposes of God in passages that otherwise would not have been viewed that way (Psalm 16, Isaiah 9, Zechariah 3 & 6, etc.). There was an effectual calling of the OT saint through the scriptures that lifted the veil on the OT. So, yes, I believe the OT believer was required to understand the NT understanding of a passage without the benefit of the NT writings. While it was not necessarily based on NT writings, the same Spirit that inspired the NT writers’ exegesis of these various passages also illuminated that same understanding to the true OT saint. 

Now some would object and say this makes OT revelation useless because, making normal sense of these various passages, an OT individual would never come to understand them as the NT writers do. And I say that is precisely correct, apart from illumination, for the contemporary OT reader, it was impossible to discern the redemptive message that the apostles later revealed in their preaching, teachings, and writings. Isn’t that the whole point of I Cor. 1 & 2? But that is still the ultimate Author’s intent, as revealed in the inspired interpretation of the apostles. 

So the Old Covenant writings had the same two-fold affect that they have always had. They either continued to harden an unbeliever in their rebellion or, by God’s sheer grace through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, they led to faith in the Son of God. 

Ultimately, there is only one Author and his authorial intent does not change depending on the economy of the covenant in which one lives.

Phil Golden

G. N. Barkman's picture

Bingo!

G. N. Barkman

Bert Perry's picture

Agreed fully that many prophetic passages were of course understood in an older context, but it strikes me that a lot of the time, they had a strong hint that something stupendous would be revealed.  For example, if we look at Psalm 110, we hear David saying "The Lord says to my Lord....."  Now given that David is King of Israel and really master of all he sees until he crosses into Egypt, who is David's Lord except for The Lord?  

David most likely didn't understand it quite in a formulated Trinitarian manner, but I can imagine him having a sense of wonder at who would be his Lord but God, and what the Holy Spirit's "infused word" given to him meant.  There are a bunch of places in the OT like this, hinting at salvation by grace through faith and other doctrines we treasure today.  We might say that what is given to us in the Gospels is essentially the names.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Kaiser’s position has some similarities to what you are describing. The important thing from his perspective is to do justice to the original meaning.