Sorry about the long break in this series . . . I have been busy preparing for four classes in the Fall. What brings me back to the topic is a series of sermons I have heard about the attributes of God. Given the topic, many of the sermons were based upon OT texts. I have appreciated their attempt to explain God’s attributes as revealed in a specific text, but needless to say, some have renewed my concern with how the OT is preached.
I stated in the first post on this subject that the one best equipped to preach OT narrative is one versed in OT/biblical theology. Achieving this, however, is a difficult task, because learning OT theology is more than coming to terms with “big” questions such as the role of the law, literal creation, etc. Moreover, preaching OT narrative is more than trying to emulate the hermeneutics of the apostles. The preaching that I have in mind begins less with antecedent theology (a term I have recently seen in an article by Schreiner) or canonical theology than with a proper appreciation of the narrative as a text.
The biblical preaching I have in mind is not an attempt to take all of the Bible’s theology and cram it into every narrative passage that we preach or teach. Rather, the written text, which we evangelicals believe is inspired graphe, dictates its theology. This “textual theology” is the theology I have in mind. That is to say, a question that is often overlooked even by well-meaning preachers and teachers is, “What are the theological ramifications of the text as it has been set before me?”
For example, I could imagine many preachers using the events surrounding Samuel’s birth (1Sa 1-2:10) as an opportunity to show how Hannah models proper endurance of trials. However, such a treatment of this text (while perhaps encouraging to a congregation and maybe legitimate) would fail to take into account the use of the story within the context of the book of Samuel, which really brought out in Hannah’s prayer (specifically 2:10).
Such indications of an author’s greater theological purpose would enliven our sermons and educate our congregation in the “whole counsel of God.”