By Dr. Eric Hankins, pastor
First Baptist Church, Oxford, Miss.
As I said in my previous post, I appreciate greatly Jon’s desire to make a friendly reply to my blog post that also deals honestly with the places where we differ. In this post and the next, I will address the content of his critique. Let me begin by saying that I am absolutely in favor of Christ-centered homiletics when it is done with a desire to preserve authorial intent. There are places in Jon’s critique where it seems that he thinks I believe that the interpretation of OT texts shouldn’t take into account their relationship to the grand redemptive story of the gospel:
However, while I appreciate him raising the discussion, I would differ with his conclusions. Eric states that Christ-centered exposition is all the “rage” among reformed preachers. Actually, it should be the rage among all Christian preachers. After all, Paul said that it is “Him we proclaim” (Col 1:28).
A number of respondents to my post have commented on my statement that Christ-centered homiletics is “all the rage among Reformed preachers.” Upon reflection, I could have communicated my point better. The context of the sentence was Jason Allen’s distinction between the Christ-centered homiletics of Clowney and the author-centered homiletics of Kaiser. The point I was trying to make is that, while Clowney’s approach to Christ-centered homiletics is very popular, it is an approach that Allen critiques as opening up the possibility of two meanings in a text that are not essentially related to one another. The evidence I give of such an outcome is that of Hershael York. Using Christ-typology, he finds limited atonement in the text of Leviticus 16 where it is not present in the original intent of the author and does not fit the trajectory of the overarching narrative of the Christ-event. In commenting on my post, Dr. York’s own testimony is that he affirms Kaiser’s commitment to authorial intent, and I have no reason to doubt this. Unfortunately, Dr. York fails to apply such an approach in his treatment of Leviticus 16, drifting into the kind of allegorical interpretation that is the Achilles heel of typological readings of OT narratives. His failure here, even though he affirms author-centered hermeneutics, actually strengthens my criticism (and Jason Allen’s) that typology must be employed carefully, sparingly, and with great humility. Moreover, the more challenging issue is how to determine precisely what are the essential features of the grand redemptive story of Christ. If particular redemption is hardwired to the meaning of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, then, of course, it would be in play in any text of Scripture because all Scripture testifies to Christ and, therefore, His payment only for the sins of the elect. This is where the appropriate spiraling together of the OT and NT around Christ can become viciously circular when it comes to theological exegesis.
I certainly did not intend to communicate that seeking to demonstrate how every text of Scripture points, ultimately, to Christ should not be “all the rage” of every preacher. It should be! As I state:
Certainly, Kaiser’s hermeneutics take into account the necessity of speaking of how any text, whether OT or NT, points to the grand redemptive history sealed in the pre-existence, incarnation, life, death, resurrection, reign, and return of Christ.
[Of the David-Goliath narrative] Now, there is nothing inappropriate about seeing in this story an analogy to the Christ-event.
In doing this, Chandler abandons the sound hermeneutics of, for instance, Fee and Stuart, who teach that every OT narrative has three interpretational levels: a “bottom level” which deals with the meaning of individual narratives, the “middle level,” which deals with the story of what God is doing in Israel, and the “top level,” which is God’s great plan of redemption, ultimately revealed in the story of Christ.
I certainly appreciate the reminder from the Reformed guys that biblical preaching must be more than moral pep-talks and chicken-soup-for-the-soul because the Bible is much, much more than that.
The good news of God’s grace to sinners is the referent of every page of Scripture and should be proclaimed in every sermon.
The impression I gave that I am against all Christ-centered homiletics is likely due to my use of scare-quotes around the term Christ-centered when I was referring to Clowney’s approach. This, admittedly, is about as clear as mud, and I am glad for the opportunity to clarify it. Also, the criticism that too much preaching is merely pragmatic moralizing is well-founded and must be heard by preachers of every theological persuasion. Tom Ascol and I had the opportunity to spend some time conversing at the most recent Calvinism Advisory Team meeting (Several other members of the team had a good time making fun of us. They wanted to tweet pictures of us having coffee together and enjoying one another’s company because they were sure no one would believe it without photographic evidence). While Tom and I disagree on a number of matters, he said something that I think is quite salient about Southern Baptist preaching (he said a lot of other things I agree with as well): all too often, the gospel is assumed. We figure that since most people in our congregations grasp the theology of, for instance, the first three chapters of Ephesians, we can jump straight to the fourth chapter and start exhorting people on how they should behave. Or, we get to chapters four through six and fail to show people how Paul constantly loops his parenesis back to the person and work of Christ. While there is no question that the Bible affirms that right belief should always show up in right behavior, it also constantly affirms that right behavior is absolutely impossible without right belief that is rooted in what Christ as done for us and what He is doing in us.
My final post will deal with where I would disagree with Jon about how the human-divine authorship of the Scripture should play itself out in our exegesis.