Monday, November 28, 2011

The Old Testament is Christian Scripture

I've found myself in a few conversations recently about how to read the Old Testament. This is a passion of mine.In 2002 I became one of the founding editors of which is designed to equip people to get into the Old Testament as Christian Scripture.

Seems to me there are six common approaches to the Old Testament. Three mistaken approaches are surely...

1. The god of the OT is a primative brute.
2. The OT teaches children to be moral, or at least some of it does.
3. The OT teaches a Messiah who isn't Jesus of Nazareth. (like the Pharisees did)

Better are these three, and FWIW I don't think these are necessarily alternatives to one another.

1. The OT teaches a Messiah will come. Revealed through the story of God's people in God's place under God's rule (Graeme Goldworthy's approach), the end point of these lines is Jesus.
2. The OT gives some examples for believers to learn from.
3. The OT shows us the Triune God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit revealed personally - before the Son is incarnated. Some range of views as to how clearly the this God is revealed.

I hear the first two taught often and people seem to baulk at the third as if the OT god is something lesser than the God you know when you know Jesus... which could easily land you back at the top of the first list...
David Peterson's work 'Christ and his People' and Sidney Griedanus 'Preaching Christ from the Old Testament' are helpful for showing that there are many ways to see the gospel from the Old Testament, from allusions to quotations, from God himself seen on stage, to many types and models... some explicit, some more implicit. Peter Leithart's Deep Exegesis has been a great friend in seeing some of this - at risk of over-reading details, but perhaps we're prone to miss things that would have been obvious to a reader steeped in the Pentateuch.

The key it seems to me is like the stones in the jar - get the big stones in the jar first. Who is God? What are the big models in the Old Testament that point to Christ (Tabernacle, King, etc)... and then start to fit the rest together.  Feed from Tim Keller, Graeme Goldsworthy, Don Carson and the NSBT series he edits, Ed Clowney, Glen Scrivener, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, read old writers, read new writers. Enjoy the far fetched bits and hold onto the gold.
One of my favourite Old Testament books is Esther which isn't on the main storyline, more a spin-off series. It has no mention of God, happens in exile away from the Temple and land, which centres on a family from the tribe of Benjamin not Judah and isn't quoted in the New Testament still resounds with the gospel as its language and plotline allude to Genesis and Exodus and louder gospel themes. It takes a whole Bible to help make sense of Esther. And Esther will subsequently cast light back on the other 65 books...

I love the Old Testament for two reasons. Firstly, it's about The Christ. Secondly, it's stunning literature. It'd be a good book if it was either, but having both together is beautiful. How you handle it as having that ultimate theme expressed through such a range of literature is an art to learn, and like food to enjoy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The story that all humans know in their bones they want to hear

"Being a Christian means living from within a particular story,. It is the subversive story of God and the world, focussed on Israel and thence on the Messiah, and reaching its climax in the Messiah's death and resurrection.

No Christian can ever tell this story too frequently, or know it too well, because it is the story that has shaped him or her in baptism and that must continue to shape thought, life and prayer thereafter... the exodus sttory, which stands behind so much of [Romans 6] remains decisive... Just as Jewish people discovered in the exodus story the character of their rescuing God, so the covenant faithfulness of this same God has been fully unveiled in the paschal events of Golgotha and Easter.

Learning about the Christian life and learning about the God revealed in Jesus Christ are two sides of the coin... the exodus story offers itself as the true story of the human race, and the Christian retelling of this story in terms of the death and resurrection of Jesus Chirst must do so as well. This story, if true cannot siply be one little story among others, as tohugh it could take its place happily on the cultural smorgasbord, offering a certain kind of religious experience, alongside other stories that effectively enslaved humans and led them off to die.

Even the postmodern critique that insists that all large metanarratives are instruments of slavery appeals to, and gets its power from, one story that, it assumes, is not and that story is precisely is own version, filtered through many layers of cultural accretions, of the exodus narrative, the freeing of slaves from Pharaoh's yoke. The Christian gospel is, at this level, telling the story that all humans know n their bones they want to hear."

NT Wright, The Bible Interpreter's Commentary on Romans, p547-8

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MP3: Noteless Preaching

Since August I've been trying to preach without notes, although I've bottled it a couple of times and reverted to a short outline that I've reached to from my back pocket.

On Sunday morning and evening I held my nerve as I preached from Acts 2:33 on Jesus Ascended for my good friends at Reading Family Church. You can listen to the morning mp3 here: RFC Resources. I think the evening one was slightly better and a few minutes longer than the 30min first run.

The whole experience of going noteless has huge advantages - no lectern, no notes to look at, no need to break your eye-contact with people, no formality of words... and everything seems to flow better. The cost is sometimes a little lack of precision in language, though not much if you work at it and continue to love language and reading as I do, because really the cost is in much more preparation time, internalising the message and believing it... which is no bad thing! It means that what I preach isn't the transfer of my notes to the congregations notes, but rather a message that has affected my heart, held out to their hearts. The downside is it might be an excuse to prepare less and wing it, but if we take preaching seriously it'll require more preparation not less to go without notes.

Might not be the best way for everyone but I'm enjoying it.

Noteless preaching means you can't be complex (though that doesn't mean you can't have depth), you need a coherent argument - a story even - and you're going to benefit from really letting the text shape your message...

I'm still learning. How do you do it?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

He Loves Us (Hosea 2:14-20)

I had the privilege of preaching for Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union tonight from Hosea 2:14-20. Here's the recording and my notes:
Download mp3: He Loves Us: Hosea 2:14-20 (31mins)
Download pdf notes: He Loves Us: Hosea 2:14-20 (31mins)

He Loves Us.
1. He Woos.
2. He Betroths.

By his wounds we are healed

Last Tuesday Anna Mason preached at Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union from Isaiah 53. She showed this video before helping us to see the new life and sonship we have because of the cross: