Matthew R. Perry

“Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture” by Graeme Goldsworthy (A Review)

In Book Review, Preaching on February 13, 2007 at 9:30 am

goldsworthy.jpgGraeme Goldsworhy serves as lecturer in Old Testament, biblical theology, and hermeneutics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. He has authored numerous works, including Gospel and Kingdom, The Gospel in Revelation, Gospel and Wisdom, and According to Plan.

The purpose of this work “is to provide a handbook for preachers that will help them apply a consistently Christ-centered approach to their sermons” (ix). He also acknowledges the use for lay-leaders who have “had little or no formal training” (ix), thus he aims to keep technical language to a minimum. Goldsworthy understands the need to display “the function of biblical theology” (ix) in moving the listener from the text to the hearer. With this conviction, he seeks to bridge the gap between biblical studies and biblical theology.

Summary

Goldsworthy divides this work into two parts: Part I is entitled “Basic Questions We Ask About Preaching and the Bible” and contains chapters 1-9. Part 2 deals with “The Practical Application of Biblical Theology to Preaching” and contains chapters ten through eighteen.

In Chapter 1, entitled “Nothing but Christ and Him Crucified,” Goldsworthy notes how central the gospel is theologically and experientially in the person of Jesus Christ in both the Old and New Testaments. Chapter 2 seeks to answer the question, “What is the Bible?” Goldsworthy contends that an evangelical is “one who maintains adherence to the conviction of the final authority of the Bible as God’s word written” (11). The Bible is the one Word of the one and true God — a conviction which Goldsworthy believes must be proclaimed in light of both the Enlightenment and postmodern mindsets which both denounce the authority of Scripture.
Chapter 3 seeks to answer the question, “What is Biblical Theology?” “Biblical theology,” writes Goldsworthy, “involves the quest for the big picture . . . of biblical revelation” (22). Through this quest, principles arise out of the Bible’s unity revealing God’s progressive plan and purpose amongst the redeemed. Chapter 4 seeks to answer yet another question: “What is Preaching?” Goldsworthy believes that evangelicals must ask the hard questions about preaching. He believes by looking into the New Testament in a “holistic way” (32), the interpreter sees what prominent doctrine comes to the fore concerning the various events as well as those issues concerning Christ, the focal point of biblical theology.

Chapter 5 asks, “Was Jesus a Biblical Theologian?” Goldsworthy notes, “The unity of the Bible is a matter of theological conviction and faith because of the testimony of Jesus and the nature of the gospel” (51). Chapter 6 deals with the type of unity the Bible possesses. Goldsworthy does not believe this is merely an “academic question” (63). He disavows any need for theologies dealing with only the Old Testament or only the New Testament. He examines how the gospel provides in the Scriptures “both unity and diversity” (64). Chapter 7 addresses the gospel’s function in the Bible. He advocates the gospel being not only the interpretive key to the entire Scripture but that the Gospel is “the theological center of the whole Bible” (86) as well as the structure of all history and the end times.

Chapter 8 addresses the nature of the structure of biblical revelation. Goldsworthy notes, “Expository preaching can only proceed if it places the text into the salvation-historical context so that its inter-textual relationships can be seen” (99). Through understanding that history’s structure has its “high points in Abraham, David, and Christ” (100), the structures comes into shape as the interpreter sees Christ’s person and work fulfilling every piece of God’s progressive revelation. Chapter 9 concludes the first part of this book by asking, “Can I Preach a Christian Sermon without Mentioning Jesus?” Goldsworthy answers in the negative. He puts the question in another way that crystallizes his point: “Why would you even want to try and preach a Christian sermon without mentioning Jesus” (115)? Goldsworthy notes that “the evangelical preacher needs to resist the modern hijacking of hermeneutics by purely literary and linguistic interests that ignore the ultimate purpose of God’s word, which is to proclaim Christ to a lost world” (122).

In addressing the practical application of biblical theology to preaching in Part II of this work, Goldsworthy contends that two primary epochs span salvation history: creation to the first portion of Solomon’s reign, then the second part of Solomon’s reign until the exile and return. Having this paradigm in place will assist the preacher greatly as he preaches redemptive history to his people.

Chapter Eleven addresses preaching from Old Testament Law. Goldsworthy recommends preaching this portion “with Christian eyes,” not only starting from Sinai and working toward the New Testament, but also starting from the Gospel and working backwards. Chapter 12 deals with preaching from the Old Testament prophets, Goldsworthy notes that “all prophecy after Moses reinforces and reapplies this definitive Mosaic Ministry” (170). These prophets span the entire Old Testament History. Chapter 13 addresses how to preach from the wisdom literature. Goldsworthy notes how Solomon in relation to the Temple is key to understanding this genre. Yet, “wisdom points to our responsibility to try to understand life and reality in the light of Christ so that we might make wise decisions” (188).

In Chapter 14, Goldsworthy details how to preach from the Psalms. “The Psalms, then, reflect upon the saving deeds of God and upon human failings. They, like the narrative history and the prophets, describe the disintegration of the kingdom and the longing for the day when God will act to save his people” (197). In Chapter 15, Goldsworthy outlines how to preach from the apocalyptic texts. In Chapters 16-17, Goldsworthy helps the preacher in preaching through the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles. In Chapter 18, he concludes this book by helping the preacher preach biblical theology as a whole from all of Scripture.

Critical Analysis

Goldsworthy desired to bring a Christ-centered approach to the preaching of the entirety of Scripture and succeeded admirably. His strong convictions of the authority and primacy of Scripture stem from his position, which “is one of reformed and evangelical theology” (xv). He continues, “On this basis I seek to establish my biblical theology as a primary hermeneutic tool for understanding the significance of the biblical text and as a vital expository tool for preaching” (xv). His conviction of the Scriptures being the Word of God, of Jesus being central to every theme in Scripture, and of history reflecting the saving purposes of God are expounded through this work.

Goldsworthy rightly promotes understanding the Scriptures as the one true Word of God.

I am simply saying that the way the Bible presents its message, a message that reaches the climax in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, provides us with the principles we need. Biblical theology is nothing more nor less than allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: as the one word of the one God about the way of salvation (7).

Goldsworthy diligently presents the case to the expositor and interpreter to let the Bible speak on its own terms. This mindset is especially needful in a Western culture heavily influenced by the Enlightenment that questions the authority of biblical texts and its meaning therein, as well as postmodern thought that questions the nature of absolute truth. Goldsworthy advocates a confidence found in God’s Word and its historical perspective. “Secular history presupposes human observers of events and evidences; biblical history presupposes the revelation of the divine ordering of events” (27).

In dealing with the role of history, Goldsworthy continually outlines how history reflects the saving purposes of God.

Once the historical framework is recognized, the task is to try to understand how the biblical writers present the account as one that reveals God’s purposes and acts. The unity of the biblical history lies in the selective way in which the story is pursued in certain directions and not by other possible routes (69).

Later in this work, he makes a statement which would startle most secular (and even evangelical) thinkers:

History happens because of God and his purposes. … Salvation history refers to that aspect of universal history in which God is specifically active both to reveal and to effect the salvation of his people. . . . God is working to redeem a great multitude from every nation, tribe, and language group” (88).

These quotes serve as a powerful reminder for both expositor and layperson alike. Every event that happens in our world happens with an end goal in God’s eye. Goldsworthy reminds the expositor of the Bible’s unity and how God revealed his word and work progressively through history. Thus effectively demolishing the notion that the Bible is simply a collection of random writings and that history is a progression of random events.

Goldsworthy also displays a pastoral heart. In Chapter 1, Goldsworthy notes that evangelical preachers stand in the tradition of the apostles, yet preachers often relegate the gospel to simply the events surrounding the initial decision. As a result, these preachers display a “failure to think through how the link between the people and events of the Old Testament are to be made with … New Testament people” (3). He notes in Chapter 9 how the preacher should install a Christian Education program to help the congregation understand the unity of the Scriptures. He notes this again in Chapter 11 in helping Sunday School teachers avoid teaching the historical narratives in isolated segments. He notes, “A comprehensive Christian education program … will be designed with an eye to the need for every Christian to be nurtured in the four areas of Bible knowledge, theology or Christian doctrine, practical issues of Christian living, and skills for particular ministries” (130). He also advises drawing up a preaching program “that includes one or more series based on historical narrative texts” (151), providing a wider look at the theological thrust of the entire Scriptures. This mindset gives the expositor a much needed glimpse into the necessity of having his congregants in mind not only as their preacher but as their shepherd. Preachers are tempted to simply believe that their work is done when they preach their sermons, but they must also take their parishioner

The only weakness in this volume was the Bible version Goldsworthy used to bolster his case. As mentioned earlier, he comes from a reformed and evangelical background through which he sought to “establish my biblical theology as my primary hermeneutic tool for understanding the significance of the biblical text and as a vital tool for expository preaching” (xv). Why then would Goldsworthy use the New Revised Standard Version of the Scriptures in a book with this particular aim? When discussing Jesus’ title of Son of Man, he noted how the NRSV translates the phrase in Daniel 7:14 as “one like a human being” and acknowledges that “it obscures the link with Jesus’ technical use of it.” First of all, the verse to which he refers is Daniel 7:13, not 7:14. Secondly, the phrase in the Hebrew literally reads vn”ßa/ rb:ï (bar enesh) which translates “Son of man.” He uses a faulty mistranslation as a basis for his argument.

Conclusion

This book serves as one of the finest works dealing with preaching from the Old Testament as Christian Scripture. Though this work may be too technical for many novices to this area, Preaching The Whole Bible as Christian Scripture is a work well worth undertaking.

Goldsworthy, Graeme. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000. 272 pp. $25.00.

Advertisements
  1. […] Goldsworthy and his book “Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture” (see my review of this book) and his most recent work, Gospel-Centered […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: