Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Him We Proclaim

I have been working on completing Him We Proclaim by Dennis Johnson for some time now. I put it down for awhile and almost did not return to it. However, I am glad now that I did. It may seem strange that a layperson would read a book about homiletics, but Johnson's text is not just a how too book on preaching. Rather, it is mainly a hermeneutic, a way of viewing scripture. To that end, it has been very helpful in my understanding of the Bible.

Johnson speaks of two early camps on biblical interpretation. First, the Alexandrian school that erred by overemphasis on allegorism. By cutting the "text's spiritual significance loose from the constraints of the original context and demonstrable apostolic warrant in the New Testament. . .the . . .preacher is no longer the servant of the Word, subject to Scripture, but a master and manipulator of biblical words and images for his own theological purposes. . ."[p. 106] Conversely, the "[p]reachers of the School of Antioch therefore sought to limit their symbolic interpretation of Scripture to meaning for which they could demonstrate clear warrant in the text read in its original historical context, and to trace a historically oriented line of continuity between the promise implicit in the text's original sense and the fulfillment in Christ in the fullness of time." p. 107. Unfortunately, the medieval exegesis was strongly influenced by the Alexandrians, and this type of preaching would dominate for roughly a millennium." p. 108.

The following are some other notable quotes from Johnson's book:

"Pietists give priority to salvation from the control of sin by focusing their preaching on spiritual experience." p. 26

"Preaching Christ is preaching grace. This may seem obvious, but it is not obvious to all. . .Many preachers have thought they were preaching Christ when. . .they pointed to him as a stellar example to be followed. It is possible to preach about Jesus, even mention grace in the process, and yet be preaching law, calling people to reform themselves with a little help from their heavenly Friend. Such a message breeds either self-deluded complacency or self-contemptuous despair." p.81

"To focus on Jesus as example is to reduce him from sovereign Savior to ethical coach, and to transform his gospel into law". p. 15

"Sanctification can be viewed as a progressive weaning of the heart from its idols, those hollow 'authorities' whose approval we crave and from whom we seek security. Often, perhaps always, Christians' behavioral failures can be traced to misplaced trust and worship, to misgivings about the mercy and power of the triune God that tempt us to look elsewhere for acceptance and safety." p. 43

"Redemptive-historical preachers oppose the moralistic, particularly the exemplaristic, preaching of biblical historical narratives. They find it a serious misunderstanding of the purpose of biblical history to focus on the human participants in the narrative either as positive moral examples to be emulated, or as negative examples whose experiences warn against unbelief and evil." p. 50

"We need to repent not only of our sins but also our righteousness -- our efforts at self-atonement in lieu of surrender to the all-sufficient grace of Christ." p. 56

"Our idols are whatever (other than the triune God) we trust to gain "salvation," however we define it -- whatever we believe that we cannot live without." p. 57

"Apostolic preaching addresses human needs in all their diversity and depth. It does not just apply bandages to 'felt needs,' which are symptoms of secret infection. When God does the diagnosis through his whole Word, he pierces through the surface symptoms all the way to the heart, with the radical cure of God's holy truth exposing our infection in all its ugliness and applying Christ's amazing grace in all its sweetness and strength." p. 71

"Apostolic preaching is profoundly practical because it is profoundly theological. Transformed convictions transform attitudes and behavior." p. 177

"The allegorical interpreter prematurely draws too direct a line between the ancient text and his Christian hearers, without first asking the question of spiritual and covenantal significance to its ancient participants and original recipients. . .As a result, the meaning (or layers of meaning) that he symbolically derives from the text, even when it articulates doctrines related to Christ and his saving work, fails to disclose how Christ fulfills the redemptive significance of the original Old Testament event, replacing the imperfect with perfection and historial foreshadowings with reality. . ." p. 232

"The great weakness of moralistic, exemplaristic preaching is it tendency to enlist Old Testament examples in order to lay ethical obligations on hearers without showing how Christ kept covenant faithfullness where the negative examples failed, and how Christ's perfect righteousness fulfills eve the best obedience offered by the Old Testament's most positive examples" p. 234

"We are following the hermeneutic path that the apostles learned from Jesus, neither bypassing the meaning of the event in its own historical context nor ignoring the fact that the event and its immediate historical context are threads woven into a larger tapestry, the pattern of which is seen finally and fully in Jesus." p. 236-37

"Instead of motivating obedience by offering God's favor as contingent on human performance, the apostles spoke for a God who had begun the process of new creation by extending unmerited mercy and who thereby evokes from renewed people a grateful love and eager desire to obey" p. 265

"Israelite children must hear repeatedly the logic of grace-evoked obedience, which comes to its fullest fruition in the gospel of Christ. The typical structure of several Pauline epistles makes this clear: the indicative of the glorious redemptive work of Jesus. . .precedes, motivates, and empowers the imperatives that define the response of the redeemed." p. 299

"Scripture repeatedly identifies forgetfulness as a lethal spiritual danger." p. 357

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