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Preaching and Preachers

By Dr. Jason K. Allen

Preaching and Preachers is the official podcast of Dr. Jason Allen, the president of Midwestern Seminary.

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“Best of 2019” Episode 131: The Preacher and Cultural Christianity

This week on Preaching and Preachers, Dean Inserra joins me in a discussion on the preacher and cultural Christianity. Dean Inserra is the founding and lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, FL, where he leads the vision and preaching. He is also an advisory member of the ERLC. Read more

Guest(s): Dean Inserra

Resources:

Some of the topics discussed in today’s episode are:

  • A brief discussion about Dean’s ministry at City Church
  • Why Dean wrote The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel
  • A definition of cultural Christianity
  • The current state of cultural Christianity
  • The thesis of The Unsaved Christian: Reaching Cultural Christianity with the Gospel
  • How to spot and engage with cultural Christians
  • How cultural Christianity affects the local church
  • What a cultural Christian looks like
  • The role of affluence in cultural Christianity
  • How pastors can best reach cultural Christians

 

“Preaching and Preachers” Episode 154: Evangelistic Preaching and the Exclusivity of the Gospel

This week I welcome Dr. Owen Strachan to the podcast. Dr. Strachan is associate professor of Christian Theology, director of the Center for Public Theology, and director of the Residency PhD Program at Midwestern Seminary.

Guest(s): Dr. Owen Strachan

“Preaching and Preachers” Episode 152: Tips for Preaching the Old Testament

This week I welcome Dr. Jason DeRouchie to the podcast. Dr. DeRouchie serves as research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This week, Dr. DeRouchie and I discuss tips for preaching the Old Testament.

Guest(s): Dr. Jason DeRouchie

Resources:

Transcript:

Dr. Allen: Welcome to Preaching and Preachers, a weekly podcast devoted to those who preach and to the task of preaching itself. I’m your host, Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Today I want to welcome Dr. Jason DeRouchie to the podcast. Dr. DeRouchie serves as research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology here at Midwestern Seminary. He’s also a new colleague here and a new friend, Dr. DeRouchie, welcome to preaching and preachers.

Dr. DeRouchie: Thanks, it’s a delight to be here.

Dr. Allen: Hey, it’s great to have you in the studio today and to get to catch up and talk about life and ministry a touch and then to get to talk about in particular our topic for today, tips for preaching the Old Testament. And you very capably pulled together seven tips or as you said, six plus one. And we’ll look forward to doing that and talking through it. But we’re here in the studio on Reformation Day and a snow was on the ground in Kansas City. We had a late summer and then we had an abrupt winter and we kinda are here now and had a chill. And I’m from the Gulf Coast. So the first winter blast always hits me hard. Now you spent the past 10 years in Minneapolis, so this is like sunbathing weather for you, I assume.

Dr. DeRouchie: That’s right. I’ve been out jogging in my shorts and long sleeve tee shirt watching people in their scarves and winter hats and chuckling a little.

Dr. Allen: The 10 day forecast looks promising for me. There’s a lot of sunshine and warmer days. But something about that first jolt always hits me particularly hard. But here we are and we’re in the studio and delighted to be having a conversation. So before we get into that though, a word of update, obviously you’re here in Kansas City, the Lord has called you and your family to Midwestern Seminary. But for our listeners who broadly know of your ministry and broadly know you, hear a word about that transition, about how your family’s doing, about what you guys are experiencing and discovering in Kansas City and at Midwestern Seminary.

Dr. DeRouchie: For sure. These three months have been just delightful for our family. We’ve felt so welcomed. We have delighted in the climate, both the climate of the churches and the climate in the air. We’ve enjoyed the topography of Kansas City. Beautiful rolling hills, fall colors are abounding and it’s just delightful for us to be here and now the Lord is providing us a home we believe and gearing up to move out of a campus apartment. It’s been a sweet season, but it’s a season that needs to pass. So we’re looking forward to getting into a home.

Dr. Allen: We’re looking forward to that for you guys. We like you lived in student housing for a period of months when we moved and we loved it. There was a sweetness to being so close to students and families and bumping into them by the hour, but with the large family and a small apartment as the months begin to accrue, you’re ready to get settled. And so we know that and we feel that for you guys and that you got really to find your your place.

Dr. DeRouchie: Thank you.

Dr. Allen: And listen, you mentioned the seasons. I love the four seasons I mentioned being from the Gulf coast where you had summer and then you had summer, then you had summer and then you had something a little less than summer. But to actually enjoy four seasons in the Midwest is a particular delight.

Dr. DeRouchie: For sure. We always love fall. We love breezes and cold is still cold, but we know how to layer up and we’re looking forward to a Kansas City winter.

Dr. Allen: Tremendous. Well listen, let’s talk today about tips for preaching the Old Testament. And again, you serve here as research professor for old Testament and biblical theology. You’ve written extensively on the old Testament. So today’s a bit of a challenge because I know there’s so much that you would want to say and so much you have said and have written, but we’re trying to kind of condense this down to a few takeaways for our listeners. Our listeners primarily are pastors and ministers and seminary students and so you provided for me something that I don’t think any other guests ever has. You provided extensive crib notes for me and so this was a kinda your topic by way of idea and the way you distill this into seven points. And man, this is just so well done even as I’ve glanced this over before the podcast and so thank you for doing this. So I’m just going to kind of walk through these and really leads you to comment, Dr DeRouchie.

Dr. DeRouchie: great.

Dr. Allen: And we trust this will be helpful. Seven tips for preaching the old Testament. Tip number one: approach the Old Testament as Christian scripture written for our instruction.

Dr. DeRouchie: Yeah, here what I’m talking about is that Jesus and the apostles explicitly say the Old Testament was written for our instruction. It’s easy to think that the initial three fourths of our Bible is distant because it’s old and yet it was the only Bible Jesus ever had and he never read Romans. He never read Revelation. He came as an Old Testament preacher proclaiming himself and all that God was declaring would come about. When Paul says, Timothy, you grew up learning the sacred writings that are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ, Timothy’s grandmother and grandmother were Jewish. The sacred writings were what we call the Old Testament. So when the very next verse, when Paul says, all scripture is God breathed and profitable, he’s referring principally to the Old Testament text. And then when he says just a few verses later preach the word Christian pastor, on his mind is principally the Old Testament yet read and proclaimed through the light and lens of Jesus.

Dr. Allen: And Paul speaks that prescriptively. But we see that taking place descriptively in the book of Acts. I mean, you look at the sermons in the book of Acts and again and again, we see just what you suggested. The Old Testament passage or passages typically taken with apostolic insight and interpretation and really application impressed or expressed from it.

Dr. DeRouchie: That’s right, drawing on their Bible, but now read through the light and lens of Jesus, which I’ll talk about more in point 7.

Dr. Allen: Okay, point number two: interpret the Old Testament with the same care you would the new.

Dr. DeRouchie: This was Jesus’ Bible and my point is simply to stress that theologically we need to think about the Old Testament like we do the new. It is the very word of God which Jesus considered authoritative, which he believed could not be broken. He called people to know and trust what this word, this Old Testament word was saying so that they could guard themselves against doctrinal error and hell. Methodologically, what I’m saying is that when we approach the Old Testament, we want to approach it with the same care, with the same methodological consideration that we do in the new. I’ve known of many Old Testament preachers who are willing to give years to the book of Romans and yet they only give 12 weeks to the minor prophets. And I’m just calling us to when we’re approaching the Old Testament to be thinking about things like genre, literary boundaries, grammar, translation, structure, argument, flow, key words and concepts, historical and literary context, biblical, systematic, practical theology, all the things that are on our mind when we’re preaching expositionally from the New Testament. I’m urging us to approach our Old Testaments with the same exegetical rigor and theological care.

Dr. Allen: And when the old Testament is handled, shall we say, sloppy compared to how it’s handled by the New Testament from some preachers. In your observation and your experience, do you think that’s because often just the pastor, the preacher, is a little intimidated by the Old Testament text? You know, their Hebrew never was as good as their Greek. It’s a more distant past. And what’s going on here with these prophecies and the historical background is a touch more textured, I mean, what do you see?

Dr. DeRouchie: Well, I totally think that’s a big part of it. It’s a massive part of our scripture. 75.6% of our Bible is Old Testament. And then it takes, it does take much more work because it’s dealing with a covenant, an era that we’re not a part of and so we’ve got to build more bridges. My urging though is that it’s worth it. It’s worth the task to give special theological and methodological rigor when it comes to preaching the Old Testament. Jesus said it was pointing to him, it concerned him, it was about him. To properly understand the Old Testament is to understand the life, resurrection, life, death and resurrection of the Christ and the mission that he would ignite. That’s what Jesus saw when he read his Bible and I think we can arrive there if we approach it with the same conviction and care that Jesus and the apostles did.

Dr. Allen: Amen. Third tip: treat properly the testamental nature of the old Testament. So what do you mean by that?

Dr. DeRouchie: We call it old Testament, new Testament. Those phrases derive from the early church fathers who rightly saw that the initial three fourths of our Bible were controlled by an old covenant. That’s what the Latin is Testamentum and the last fourth of our Bible, the new covenant, and to talk about covenant, all of a sudden we’re dealing with something that has historical particularity. It’s about a specific relationship that God had with his people at a particular time. And with respect to the Old Testament, we’re dealing with the era before Christ. So what I’m saying is that when we approach the Old Testament, we need to be thinking about its historical specifics about its context. The fact that it was written in Hebrew to Hebrews, it’s filled with peoples and places and powers that are indeed so foreign to us. And so we’ve got to to approach it thoughtfully, carefully. We need to observe with care. We need to understand rightly, evaluate fairly. And we need to ever be mindful of the fact that it’s dealing with material that antedates, precedes the coming of Christ. And we can not automatically apply it today without considering how Jesus fulfills the stories and the laws and the promises to just take the laws of Moses and to apply them to the church to take the promises without considering how it is that Jesus makes everyone yes, could lead us to apply, misapply the old Testament. And we don’t want to do that. So being mindful of the testamental nature of the Old Testament, what I’m saying is be mindful of the fact that it’s covenantal material originally given at a specific time within redemptive history.

Dr. Allen: So for our listeners, they might be asking themselves, how do I know if I’m thinking in that way appropriately, what would you say?

Dr. DeRouchie: That’s a, that’s a great question. And the more we read how the New Testament authors and Jesus himself approached that Old Testament, the more we’ll have good guards in place to read our Old Testament rightly, but again, I’ll get there in point 7.

Dr. Allen: Okay, let’s inch our way there to point number four: remember that the old Testament is old.

Dr. DeRouchie: I used to be willing to call the Old Testament just the Hebrew Scriptures but I stopped doing that because the more I recognize the initial three fourths of the Bible, Jesus’ Bible as Christian scripture, I’m compelled to recognize that it’s tag of old is very intentional because it’s now been superseded by a new. It’s focused on the old covenant, principally a covenant that you and I are not a part of, that the Christian Church is no longer a part of and that covenant has been superseded by another, what the book of Hebrews would call a better covenant with better promises. So we have to be very mindful of the fact that the Old Testament is old. If we want to faithfully handle it as Christian scripture, we need to keep Jesus at the center. There has been a massive salvation historical shift. The two areas of history are before Jesus and after Jesus and the Old Testament addresses this era before Christ in Jesus. Every promise becomes yes, he is the substance of all Old Testament shadows. He’s the embodiment of every ethical ideal filled up in the law and in the wisdom. Paul said the law was our guardian until Christ came in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we’re no longer under the guardian. An Old Testament preacher, a Christian Old Testament preacher needs to have a framework for the Old Testament being old.

Dr. Allen: Well-stated fifth, read the Old Testament through the light and lens of Christ.

Dr. DeRouchie: By light I’m simply saying that regeneration, I believe is necessary to properly understand the Old Testament. That it takes an encounter with the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Abraham saw Christ. He rejoiced that he would see Christ’s day and he was glad he had light, but he didn’t have lens. What I mean by lens is that the coming of Christ, according to the new Testament and the Old, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ actually provides a grid for reading what is actually there in the Old Testament, but what Paul calls a mystery that’s now been revealed. So there are continuities and discontinuities when it comes to the relationship of the testaments. In continuities I’m referring to the fact that the prophets did see something about who Jesus was. They saw him, they rejoiced. They were glad. Many prophets and righteous people, Kings, longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. Peter says, the prophets who spoke of the grace that is ours, searched and inquired carefully to know what person and time the spirit of Christ in them was for telling the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. They saw something, but there were some things they couldn’t see. We know that the rebel didn’t have eyes to see or ears to hear the message of the prophets. Not only that, even the remnant people like Moses, people like Jeremiah, Daniel, they were not privy to everything that would be now disclosed to us. The apostle Paul said to him, who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known. Those prophetic writings are the Old Testament Scriptures. In Jesus we gain a lens for rightly reading the scripture. When Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, he never read his Old Testament in the same way and we shouldn’t read as if Jesus hasn’t come. That’s my point for preachers. The New Testament provides both an answer key and an algorithm for rightly reading the full message of the Old Testament text. And answer key meaning it tells us where we should arrive, but by algorithm I’m saying that the Old Testament sets up patterns like two and four but it’s the new Testament that tells us whether the next number is six or eight. It not only tells us the answer, it tells us whether we’re to read this pattern as addition or multiplication. That’s how the types in the Old Testament work. They set patterns that help clarify and anticipate the coming of Christ, but it’s only once he comes that we can fully see all that the Old Testament was referring to and pointing to. We want to read our Old testaments through the light and lens of Jesus.

Dr. Allen: Sixth tip: consider how to faithfully see and celebrate Christ in the Old Testament. And here you have a brief list of different specific ways and let’s make sure we enumerate those carefully because I want our listeners to get all of those and we can kind of cram those in here.

Dr. DeRouchie: I believe Jesus saw himself in his Bible. And as preachers of Jesus’s Bible, we want to make much of the one to whom that scripture points. So here’s my, here’s my brief summary. Number one, we can identify how Christ fulfills messianic prophecies, direct predictions about him. So we should look for him through those predictions. Number two, we can consider how Christ stands as the goal and climax of the redemptive story in all the salvation historical trajectories. There’s all these tendons that are reaching backward and reaching forward in every text and we want to trace those tendons and see how ultimately faithfully with biblical warrant, we arrive at Jesus as the culmination of all God’s purposes. Ultimately, scripture is his story and we want to identify him as the climax of that story. Number three, we can recognize how Christ coming creates numerous similarities and contrast between the old and new ages, creations and covenants, and when we recognize how Jesus is the one that shifts us from shadow to substance, that he’s the one who moves us from Passover lamb to human substitutionary sacrifice, that he’s the one who moves us from a presence of God in a building to the presence of God disclosed in the great I Am. In the God with us. When we identify the similarities and contrast, we recognize Jesus is right at the center of that, of those shifts and we’ll make much of him. Number four, we can determine how Old Testament characters, events, and institutions or objects clarify and anticipate Christ’s person and work. Now here I’m, I’m referring to how characters like Adam or Melchizedek, the prophet Moses anticipating a prophet like him, David and the ultimate son of David. How certain characters, persons foreshadow the coming of the Christ or how about events like the flood portraying baptism, the Exodus as the great deliverance, the return to the land is restoration and renewal. All of these Old Testament events are patterns set by the living God to help us anticipate and celebrate the work of Christ. And finally, institutions like the Passover lamb or the temple and the priesthood; when we see those, we are given as Old Testament preachers ample fodder for making much of Christ. So we can use the old Testament to make much of Christ through these what’s often called types number five we can reflect on how who Yahweh is and what Yahweh does reveals the identity and activity of the divine son. Jesus is God with us. Jesus said, no one has seen the Father except the Son. So when we see Yahweh showing up in human form, it suggests to me that in the Old Testament we’re seeing a pre incarnate disclosure of the divine Son, the second person in the Trinity. But not only that, all of God’s saving acts, all of his acts of judgment are ultimately pointers to what is embodied in Christ himself as savior. And as judge. Next, we can contemplate how Christ embodies every ethic, every ethical ideal through the law and wisdom. And then celebrate his justifying work with every law that we ultimately are unable to perfectly keep in surrender to God. We’re able to celebrate who Jesus is as the great justifier of humanity, his perfect obedience, perfect righteousness being imputed to us. So as a preacher, I’m given an opportunity with every single ethical ideal to make much of Christ and to celebrate what he’s done for us through justification. And finally, we can use the Old Testament to instruct or guide others. The New Testament authors do that all the time, but they only do so in light of Christ. In light of the pardon that he has secured. Because without pardon, there’s no reason to attempt to obey the law. We are condemned as imperfect followers, but through Christ’s pardon now we are put in a new position to just celebrate who God is for us. In Christ, our righteousness and his pardon secures for us now pardon and promise that enable us to live in ways we could have never lived before. Not perfectly overnight, but truly progressively over a lifetime. And his life sets a pattern that Moses never had. So every ethical ideal we can, we can use the old Testament to instruct or guide through Christ’s mediation. Seven different points in how we can see and celebrate Jesus.

Dr. Allen: So you rolled this up and you said you have seven tips, but it’s really six plus one and the seventh tip or the first of the second category is when preaching from the New Testament, take the time to consider how the authors are using their Bibles. Why six plus one and what do you mean by that point?

Dr. DeRouchie: Well, you asked me to give tips on preaching the Old Testament and here’s a tip for preaching the New. But what we’re actually seeing is how the new Testament authors preach their Old Testament. Keep an eye on the fact one– that the foundation of the new Testament church is the preaching of the apostles. It’s Moses. The foundation of the church is the proclamation of the apostles and the prophets with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. But then when we step back and we say, okay, John, Peter, Paul, it’s their words that I am going to build my ministry around. Then we say, well, what were they saying? And they had their Bibles open all the time. And we will help our people in their devotional life. We will help our people in their daily pursuit of Jesus if we can show them how to use their whole Bible. We’ll open up three fourths of the Bible to them that so many of our people don’t even know how to use because we’re going to show them how did the New Testament authors, how did Jesus think about his scripture? And how did they see it as pointing to the son of God?

Dr. Allen: Well, and if you were to ask the question, why does the average evangelical pastor, so avoid or ignore three fourths of the Bible and their preaching I think if you were to pour truth serum down their throats, the answer that would most often be given the word intimidation. They’re intimidated because they don’t, again, they don’t quite know how. They don’t quite know what; it’s hermeneutically difficult, exegetically difficult and their Hebrew was always rusty anyway and they’re intimidated by it all. But a part of this conversation today is you’ve reminded us that the Old Testament is actually accessible and for the health of the church, it needs to be accessed both from the pew and from the pulpit. Now to further that, and we’ll button up the conversation here. You have provided a number of resources here and look, I’m gonna, I’m gonna boast where you wouldn’t boast. I’m going to point out who you wouldn’t point out. And that is yourself. A couple of books you’ve written here recently contributed to. What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus, His Bible by Kregel. And then more recently, How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: 12 Steps from Exegesis to Theology by PNR. Dr DeRouchie, these are helpful resources. This conversation today has been helpful as well. Thank you for your service and for the time today on Preaching and Preachers.

Dr. DeRouchie: My delight. Thank you.

Dr. Allen: Thank you for being with us today and for listening to Preaching and Preachers. For more information, go to my website, jasonkallen.com. That’s jasonkallen.com.

“Preaching and Preachers” Episode 151: Preaching Narrative Texts

This week I welcome Dr. D.A. Carson to the podcast. Dr. Carson is emeritus professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and president of The Gospel Coalition.

Guest(s): D.A. Carson

Resources:

Transcript:

Dr. Allen:          Welcome to Preaching and Preachers, a weekly podcast devoted to those who preach into the task of preaching itself. I’m your host, Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Today I want to welcome Dr D.A. Carson to the podcast. Dr. Carson serves as emeritus professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois and is president of the Gospel Coalition. He’s authored many books and recently edited the “Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures.” He and his wife, Joy have two children. Dr. Carson, welcome to Preaching and Preachers.

Dr. Carson:       It’s my privilege to be here.

Dr. Allen:          It’s a delight to have you on the campus this week and in the studio today. You are here delivering the 2019 Spurgeon Lectures on campus and you know, it’s a personal joy to have you here.

Dr. Carson:       It’s been my privilege to get to know you and your children, let alone the school a little better.

Dr. Allen:          Well, I’ll tell you, you have spoken in numerous settings, PhD students, faculty gatherings, just fellowship settings across the dinner and lunch tables and so forth. And you really have shown up and created a tsunami of energy. And a just a sense of a keen sense of touching on different live nerves here, preaching to the Spurgeon Lectures scholarship. Great Commission passion, love for the local church, pastoral sensitivities. And a very few individuals can show up in a place and in an institutional setting and really touch all those different aspects and different dynamics of the community.

Dr. Carson:       Well, thank you. You’re very encouraging.

Dr. Allen:          And so you’re here with us. You had been preaching in chapel yesterday and today and preaching basically on how to preach narrative texts. You preached yesterday from Genesis 39. You preached today from the gospel of John chapter 20 and trying to both model that from these two texts old and new, and then also giving towards the end of the sermons some just basic pointers on preaching narrative texts.

Dr. Allen:          So we’re gonna be talking about that today. And before we get into that, I’m curious what prompted you to pick that topic itself as the topic for this year’s Spurgeon Lectures?

Dr. Carson:       Well, the Spurgeon lectures are lectures on preaching. So that means I wasn’t going to give you a couple of hours on the use of the old Testament in the new, or this is something of that order. It had to, is something to do with preaching. And in recent years, I’ve devoted quite a bit of time to preaching from different biblical genres, different forms. The Bible is not like, let’s say the Q’uran, which, which has one or two the genres that are repeated again and again and again. The Bible has narrative, proverb, apocalyptic, parable, lament, genealogies, oracles and on and on and on and on. And each of those forms, each of those genres has its own way of appealing to our hearts, to our emotions, to our thoughts, to our morals, to our wills.

Dr. Carson:       And, and so it’s part of a preacher’s responsibility to understand how those kinds of literature work. And my choice was to give a survey of the whole, which would mean that everything was treated rare, shallowness or do, um, to, to, to, to pick on one of them and offer a few observations and, and then handle a couple of biblical texts in some depth so that you could see what I mean by being sensitive to the literary form. And I chose narrative in that regard.

Dr. Allen:          So both your sermons, Genesis 39 and then John 20, today, you were very intentional to connect those narrative texts to the broader contours of biblical theology. And now we’re going to unpack that a little bit in the conversation. As long as I have been reading behind you and listening to you, you have been intentional about that biblical theology. And I’m curious for you, when did you develop your awareness of and your appreciation of, especially as it relates to the hermeneutical and the homiletical task of preaching and teaching with biblical theology in mind?

Dr. Carson:       There was no epiphany, some moment when I thought, aha, that’s what I should be doing. But because I, since my youth, because I have been committed first to exegesis and second to preaching, then inevitably the handling of biblical texts led me to asking questions about how this biblical text relates to that biblical text. And then so on. And I kept reading in the area of what systematic theology is, what biblical theology is. Gradually it became a little more a sophisticated and then also at the same time I really became interested in the use of the Old Testament and the New, if there’s one area where I’ve devoted a disproportionate amount of my study time across several decades, it’s been that topic, the use of the Old Testament and the New, and that is bound up with a lot of biblical theology. That is to say, how do themes and types and patterns and so on, repeat and grow and develop trajectories that run right through the Bible? So that became one of the inspirations to keep me working in biblical theology. And and then by temperament, I’m an integrator rather than a divider. I don’t like to see, for example, systematic theology pit against biblical theology. They are distinguishable disciplines, but I want to explore the way they ought to work together and build each other up and be grateful for each other rather than simply tear each other down and one claiming to be superior to the other. So my trajectory in this regard has been slow and, and developmental, I’m sure.

Dr. Allen:          So preaching narrative texts. Now we get into these seven reflections on preaching narrative texts. Can you say a word just broadly about narrative texts in general and what you’re looking for as you seek to interpret those?

Dr. Carson:       It’s easiest to think about what narrative texts are if you pause and think about what they’re not. If you’re working through Proverbs for example, there’s no storyline, there’s no plot development. If you’re working through lament or an oracle from God and so on. Again, it’s not a storyline and plot whereas, some of the characteristics that common characteristics of all narrative is that there is a story that’s told with a plotline that develops. And usually with, this is some sort of characterization that is the people or figures or characters develop with time, with certain attributes and characteristics and so on. And often the plotline has a challenge or a threat. It has to be resolved in some way so that you can speak of the rising challenge of the threat and the denouement that the climax and then cleaning up the loose ends and so on. That’s just common stuff that everybody [inaudible] knows about intuitively just because we still read stories. You read the newspaper, you’re reading stories half the time. So there, there are common things that are part of virtually all narrative that whether you’re reading Screwtape Letters, or C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or you’re reading Tolkien or something of that order, or you’re reading story books for little kids or you’re reading a novel and so on. Or are you reading a biblical story? All of these things have common literary features that we have absorbed almost intuitively from just being readers and those sorts of things. I presuppose when we talk about narrative leaving concrete formulations for the step just beyond that set of assumptions.

Dr. Allen:          So you unpacked for us over the course of two days, the seven reflections on preaching narrative by way of observation, the seven principles or seven reflections were transferable.

Dr. Allen:          Old Testament, narrative, gospel narrative and both days you, you walked through now only the seven reflections but, but specifically from those texts, how they applied or how they prompted you to flesh out that passage. Reflection number one, which ought to go without saying, but nonetheless needs to be said. Make sure you tell the story.

Dr. Carson:       Yes, that’s addressed to preachers. You’re going to preach from a narrative text–first instruction–make sure you tell the story. That is to say it is possible for a preacher to read the story, to know the story and then be so focused on deriving moral lessons or theological lessons that the story itself is not told. Forgetting that there are people in the congregation who really won’t know the story and won’t have picked up on much of it even if you’ve read it in the congregation as part of your Bible reading. So sermons ought to reflect the literary genre that you’re preaching from. If you’re preaching from a passage with apocalyptic, make sure you use apocalyptic terminology and the wild hyperbole and colorful imagination. And so that’s, that’s, that’s important if you’re working through a passage like Romans 9 to 11 just to follow the texts, you’ve got to follow the logic.So, so logic and reason and induction deduction and so on are these are all really important tools for understanding the flow of the passage. And in the case of the narrative, you’ve got to tell the story. It’s got to be integrated into the sermon in some fashion or another or you’re not really doing narrative preaching.

Dr. Allen:          One often way, I see this principle broken as we’re preachers we’ll try to apply an outlined structure that that may be suitable for a Pauline epistle on a narrative, on a parable, on a story, and they will so overlayn that narrative with point and subpoints and occasionally sub sub points that they’re just mining out a bunch of little nuggets to share. But, but we are totally missing the actual storyline of the narrative.

Dr. Carson:       And thus losing the power of narrative to compel attention and evoke emotion and draw you to an alternative picture of life and health and so on. Narrative has its own ways of making its appeal and God has chosen to give us a lot of scripture in narrative form.

Dr. Allen:          Reflection number one: make sure you tell the story. Reflection. Number two: make sure you do more than tell the story.

Dr. Carson:       That’s because the preacher’s job is more than simply reading the text and doing nothing more than expanding on it. The preacher’s job is, is to produce a final sermon, however shaped it is by narrative or apocalyptic or whatever the genre is. It has a burden. It’s going somewhere. It’s not vague comments on a text. So you’re making choices of what you include, what you emphasize, what you deemphasize and so on. So there’s a burden as a clarity. There’s a focus. Snd moreover, as we’ll see in our ongoing discussion if part of the job is to relate this particular narrative text to other parts of the biblical book you’re dealing with, that’s more than just telling the story too. I’ve heard preachers who preach narrative texts and they actually do tell the story. That’s the first point. But they don’t do anything more than tell the story. They tell the story and add a few more adjectives. And anybody can do that. It’s, it doesn’t reflect profound meditation or thought or what this is contributing to the book as a whole or how this is part of the revelation of God. There’s no burden to it. It’s just storytelling. And it might be godly storytelling, might even be faithful story telling. But a sermon is more than just repeating the narrative in the text that’s at hand.

Dr. Allen:          When you were unpacking the second point, you used words like, and, and you encouraged us in ways like you recognize the focus of the narrative. Be mindful of the point or points of the narrative. Sense the direction of the narrative. Notice the shape of the narrative. See the burden of the narrative.

Dr. Carson:       Well, you’ve summarized things better than I have, well done.

Dr. Allen:          Trying to listen well. Point number three, principle number three: make sure and anchor in biblical theology.

Dr. Carson:       Yes. An aside–I take it that systematic theology is theology that is largely ordered atemporally that is, it asks and answers largely atemporal questions. Who is God? What is sin? What does the cross achieve and so on. And it answers the questions that are atemporal with atemporal answers drawn from the whole of scripture. Biblical theology injects the element of time. That is, what does Isaiah here contribute to the doctrine of God? Or how does the, what the Bible says about the temple develop and get reshaped across the whole plot line of scripture? Or how do we move from bloody atonement under the Mosaic Covenant to the sacrifice of Christ? What are the developing lines? So it’s constantly asking developmental questions and narrative in particular needs to be anchored in the book at hand. What is it doing in the book? In the case of Genesis 39, what does Genesis 39 doing in the book of Genesis? But with it then not only what is it doing there in plot terms or something like that, but what is it contributing to the biblical theological themes that are in Genesis and then ultimately to the canonical structure? What does it contribute to the whole of the Bible? And that’s, that’s part of making sure that the text is not ripped out of its context so that it just becomes an independent story. I remember reading a few years ago, someone expounding Genesis 3 and he so insisted that Genesis 3 be treated as if Genesis 1 and 2 and 4 following were not there. That he could create a meaning for Genesis 3 that not only ignored the context, the contextual chapters, but actually flew in their face. He wanted Genesis three to become a narrative in which human beings come into their fullness because they’re rebellious and therefore therefore autonomous and this was an heroic step. Well, if you read Genesis 3 in the context of 1 and 2 and 4 and following, there’s no way you can do that. This is a catastrophic fall. It’s destruction. But once you once you abstract Genesis 3 and just tell that story abstracted from everything else, you can turn it in all kinds of directions. Well, the same is true with a lot of biblical stories, a lot of biblical narrative texts, in order to handle them faithfully, they have to be anchored in their literary context.

Dr. Allen:          So I want to press you a little bit there to unpack that a touch more. So as you preached both days, there was a sequence to what you were doing and I assume that was intentional, but I want to make sure that in the course of this conversation and packet a touch for our listeners and with that, a word of elaboration. I see two main errors in this regard. One error is to never get to the biblical theology and it’s just that isolated Genesis chapter, chapter 3 sermon. The other error is to rush so quickly to it that you really neglect unpacking the text in its more immediate context. Now as you worked both passages you developed a biblical theology in the second half of the sermon and after framing it up and it’s more immediate context. That was intentional, I presume.

Dr. Carson:       Yes. Partly because although it’s true that the biblical theology of the book shapes the interpretation of the sermon of the text at hand, yet you’ve got to spend some time on the text at hand in its own terms to develop the categories that are being developed in the texts before you show how that narrative text relates to the larger themes. So by and large, that’s the direction in which I’d go: begin with the text at hand and work outward rather than begin with the larger text and work inward. There are times and places where that might the salutary way to begin. But in both of the texts that I dealt with today and yesterday, Genesis 39 and there’s the doubting Thomas passage, John 20, 24 to the end of the chapter. I worked from the text itself and then outward to the biblical theology in which these texts are embedded.

Dr. Allen:          The fourth principle you mentioned, and you encouraged us as to make sure people see what would be lost if that text was not in the Scriptures.

Dr. Carson:       Yeah. And it’s easiest to give a couple of illustrations. Let’s take Genesis 39. It’s the temptation of Joseph and the attempted seduction by Potiphar’s wife, and so on. Well, you can just handle the passage as a text with a moral Maxim, you know, be careful, don’t get seduced by sex and, and, and so on. But when you ask what is in Genesis 38th or preceding chapter and what is in Genesis 40, the succeeding chapter, then immediately you, you see what would be left out if you lost chapter 39. Genesis 39 is a foil for Genesis 38 and 38 Judah sleeps with his step with his daughter in law. He’s in freedom. He’s wealthy, he’s well-off, but his moral life collapses. Whereas by contrast, Joseph is a slave and ultimately a prisoner slave and he’s still retaining his integrity. So each chapter contrasts the other with the other chapter and, and bring certain lessons to the fore. But 39 also sets the stage for his interpretation of dreams of the Butler and the Baker in prison in chapter 40, and that ultimately leads to Joseph interpreting the dream of Pharaoh, which leads to his becoming prime minister of Egypt, which leads to preserving many people alive because of the preparations that are made for the coming famine and that leads to the preservation of his own family and thus to the messianic line. So what starts off as a moral tale in chapter 39 suddenly becomes a way of preserving the whole messianic line, which is building then not only to the end of the book of Genesis, but to the Pentateuch and ultimately to the rest of the Bible. That’s a huge biblical theological line, the ceilings of which are all in chapter 39. And that’s a really a way of saying, a complicated way of saying that you’re reading Genesis 39 in the context of the book of Genesis and in the context of the Canon. And that enables you to see what would be left out, what would be lost irreparably if you lost the chapter.

Dr. Allen:          Fifth reflection. The sermon outline does not have to follow the narrative of the text. You said it may, but it does not have to follow the narrative of the text.

Dr. Carson:       Yes. You want to make sure that the narrative itself comes across. It does not necessarily have to come across in the outline. That’s the point I’m making. Now in the second sermon I’m on Genesis on John 20:24 and following the outline followed the development of the text itself. The skeptic, Thomas in all of his misery, what causes his doubt and so on. A portrait of a discouraged skeptic and then the portrait of an adoring skeptic when he really sees who Jesus is. And then finally, the portrait of the service of a skeptic when, when he’s converted and, and his, his job is to make Christ known to many people who will believe through his name and his writings and his, his concerns and on. So the outline followed the flow of the narrative and, and that makes perfect sense. But in the case of the Genesis 39 sermon, I began with the center of the story that is the attempted seduction. And in Joseph’s beating it off before I dealt with the structure of the chapter that has a beginning and an end, both of which are similar to each other form a literary inclusion that draws attention to itself in certain ways. And I would say that both approaches are acceptable, provided if people can see what the storyline is all about. And yet, in terms of what you’re emphasizing in a sermon outline, you may have slightly different priorities decide what things will lend best towards integrating the story to the rest of the and to the theology of scripture and so on. There’s some flexibility there. You don’t have to follow the storyline in your outline.

Dr. Allen:          Reflection number six: the sermon introduction may begin by just plunging into the narrative as opposed to some additional word of introduction.

Dr. Carson:       Yes, that’s partly because narratives are intrinsically interesting. There’s some topics that you really need a deduction to grab people’s interest, but you start telling a story and people are interested in. You have to be really boring to turn people off a story, a story starts and you want to find out what happens next. So that means that it’s quite possible in narrative preaching, preaching from narrative just to plunge into the story and start going from there. On the other hand, that does not rule out the possibility of introducing the story by unpacking some of the elements that go into it. In the second case, the case of, of Thomas, doubting Thomas, we call him, it was worth taking five minutes to unpack different kinds of doubt and recognize that he’s different kinds of doubt, most of them occur within the Bible itself. And the kinds of answers that the Bible gives for these different kinds of doubt are different. And so one must ask what kind of doubt Thomas is experiencing and he’s experiencing, as it turns out, the kind of doubt that is afraid of confusing faith and gullibility and so the passage answers that kind of doubt really well. It does not necessarily answer the doubt of the philosophical materialist or a person who was doubting because he’s busy he sleeping with his secretary or something. These things are all addressed somewhere in principle in Scripture. But one, one I cannot rightly suppose that every time a generic sin is mentioned, it’s being addressed exhaustedly by the one text. So in this case, an introduction to outline some of those things and make a setup for understanding the story a little more sharply using a scalpel with a story instead of a sledgehammer is in my view called for and really helpful for understanding the text more closely.

Dr. Allen:          And your seventh and final reflection is this: never forget you’re preaching a sermon, not an art form.

Dr. Carson:       That could be teased out it a lot of ways. I did a little with it in the chapel addresses for want of time. But it’s possible so to focus on the constraints of homiletics that your goal is to preach a perfect sermon and that is judged by the outline and the introduction and how gripping it is and the vocabulary and the tone and the presentation and so on and so on, in which case you start thinking more about the art form nature of the sermon, the art and, and science of preaching. And you are about the people to whom you are speaking. And you always have to remember that as a preacher in the household of God, your concern is to convey God’s message to God’s people. And care in homiletics should be part of the discipline of doing that better. But if the discipline itself becomes the focus, there’s a danger of it becoming idolatrous. You don’t want people at the door to say something like, “That was a brilliant sermon this morning, pastor.” Or you don’t want them to say, “Boy, that was really impressive. I never could have gotten all that stuff out of the text.” You never want them to say, “Boy, you sure turned up the vocabulary this week, pastor.” You want them to say something like, “God really spoke to me today. Thank you.” Or, “Everything you said about the text was really right there. I should’ve seen it myself, shouldn’t I?” That’s what you want. So that the sermon is a vehicle for the communication of God Almighty, by his word, to speak to his people. That’s your job as a pastor. And to transmute that into building an art form that people can admire is a form of idolatry.

Dr. Allen:          Well, Dr. Carson, we will end on that note, but I want to wrap this up by thanking you for your ministry here in Kansas City. Your ministry more broadly to the Church at large and for the gift of your time even for this podcast. Thank you for joining me on preaching and preachers.

Dr. Carson:       My privilege. Thank you so much.

Dr. Allen:          Thank you for being with us today and for listening to Preaching and Preachers. For more information, go to my website, jasonkallen.com.