KERUX: A JOURNAL
Editor: James T. Dennison, Jr.
Assistant Editors: Steven M. Baugh and Jack L Smith
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................................... 2
KERUX is a publication of Kerux, Inc. and appears three times each year. Editorial offices are located at 1131 Whispering Highlands Dr., Escondido, CA 92027. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $15.00 (U.S. and Canada); $20.00 (elsewhere). Costs per issue are: $5.00 (U.S. and Canada); $7.50 (elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U.S. funds.
ISSN 0888-8513 Vol. 4, No. 3
As you glance at the table of contents for this issue, you may have a sense of deja vu. Yes, the sermon by Herman Ridderbos is a repeat from our September number. With the coming of the computer generation comes the management of disc files, floppy discs and a myriad of other computer distinctives. We did not keep our floppy discs straight in the case of the Ridderbos sermon. David Schuringa had made further changes in his translation of the Ridderbos sermon in order to improve its readability and faithfulness to the original. These changes were never incorporated into the version printed in September. Hence we are reprinting the entire sermon again with the final revisions so that our readers will have the version which our translator intended. Our apologies to Professors Ridderbos and Schuringa.
The essay by Dr. Gaffin on the Holy Spirit is a handy summary of current discussion of the issue. Dr. Gaffin has made the Holy Spirit a particular focus in his book Perspectives on Pentecost: Studies in New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The essay in this issue was contributed to a festschrift honoring Professor Johan Heyns of South Africa. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of the publisher NG Kerkboekhandel, Mrs. Isabel Hicky, General Manager.
For a number of years, our readers have been urging us to provide guidance in constructing the biblical-theological sermon. With this issue, the editor begins a series addressing this request. These articles are the published form of a series of semi-popular lectures delivered several months ago. As such, they have been revised and slightly rewritten for publication.
Finally, we include a review of a book destined to be an important resource in the on-going biblical-theological discussion. While significantly advancing our exposure to tools in the contemporary discussion, our reviewer has his doubts about whether the author advances the cause of distinctively Reformed biblical-theological preaching.
As we approach the fifth year of publication, we want to
acknowledge our gratitude to the Lord of the church. He has graciously provided material, finances and persons committed to the biblical-theological method. A special note of thanks is due to Steve Baugh who has encouraged this work long before its inception in 1986. Steve leaves the Board in January in order to devote time to his Ph.D. dissertation. Thank you to all who have subscribed, donated and contributed their time to KERUX. We are grateful for every remembrance of each of you.
Soli Deo Gloria
The New Point of View
by H. N. Ridderbos
Translated by H. David Schuringa
For the love of Christ constrains us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NKJV)
Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ:
Even if this word of the apostle Paul, upon first hearing, is not in every respect clear to us, it nevertheless is clear that it contains one especially great thought, namely, the new point of view of the congregation of the Lord Jesus. In general, it is of course an important matter from what perspective we view things and in what light we see life. When the sun shines, like today, it is as if everything is different. It is the same world as yesterday but it is another world than the one
we have seen for so long and have had to endure. This is also so in the life of man in general. When you are under the pressure of life's disappointments you see things differently, in another light. You feel your world closing in around you and everything is gloomy. On the contrary, when you are living in joyful expectation, when you have the feeling that you can cope with life, things are also different–those same things. You then go about things in another manner; you view life in another way and you become another person. We could go round and round on whether it is a question of optimism or pessimism, but we would not get very far. Naturally it is more pleasant to be an optimist, or to have an optimistic wife, than to be a pessimist, but it finally boils down to what reality most closely approximates. You can also be too optimistic.
The church, the congregation of Christ, also has her point of view, her faith point of view. She received it from Christ and from the Bible. If she lives according to the Bible, she views things in a particular light, from the particular viewpoint of faith. That is why the congregation in her confession and the believer in his confessing usually speak a different language and characterize things in a different way than people who do not stand in that faith. That is why the confessions and declarations of the church are sometimes so difficult for the unchurched to understand. They are annoyed by what the church says. They say, "it is nothing but idle chatter. It does not harmonize with the experience of life. The church is out of touch with the real world! She uses a lot of fancy words! She speaks with an impressive style, but there is nothing to it."
Who would not object, congregation, to a cheap use of language? Nevertheless, there is the viewpoint of faith. And this is what our text is talking about. Here in the second letter to the Corinthians, Paul is waging a war against those who are criticizing the way he views and characterizes things. He is waging war against the Jews and the Judaizers, as well as the Greek philosophers, who all were viewing and characterizing life in their way, and instructing the people in their perspective. The Jews kept busy with the law, busy teaching people
morals, busy bringing life to a higher plane with good works. The Greek philosophers had another point of view. They saw things in terms of the apparent irrationality of life. They kept busy trying as much as possible to make yet a little sense out of the riddle and tragedy of life, in order to somehow rise above it all.
When Paul comes and speaks his word as an apostle of Jesus Christ, he goes against what the Jews were saying and what the Greeks were teaching, the apostle himself even calling it foolishness. Then come the attacks against this Paul who, as they maintain, makes things much nicer than they are in reality and who speaks with arrogance–Paul himself calls it boldness, but they call it arrogance–as if he has a corner on wisdom and as if he is able to understand the world better than they. Paul answers these attacks in this second letter to the Corinthians. He is making room for that new point of view and does so in a variety of ways in this deep and beautiful letter.
He also speaks of this in our text and he holds up what inspires and moves him as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He says, "the love of Jesus Christ constrains us." That means, the love of Christ overwhelms us, has overpowered us. What inspires Paul is that he has learned to know the love of Christ. He has come so much under the power of Christ's love that he is viewing life in another way and, therefore, also the congregations–and those congregations did not really amount to much in those days. Those little, weak, unsightly congregations that he organized, he nevertheless dares to characterize in terms of that which is from all appearances far from reality. This is all due to the fact that he has come under the influence of love, Christ's work of love. He says we are convinced that One has died for all. That is how he sees Christ's death. Earlier he had thought quite differently about it, and he will also mention that, but now he has been brought under the conviction that the death of Christ was an act of his complete and all-embracing love.
Paul sees the Lord Jesus Christ as the center of a new humanity. He sees him as One who has come in order to bring an end to the old existence of man and to make a new existence possible. Paul sees that
in a unique, all-embracing way, the great event for all mankind has taken place in that One man. Congregation, that is how it is in the world and in life. We often think that we stand all alone and that life is a matter of every man for himself. That is not how things are in reality because our lot and life are in so many ways bound up and interwoven with those of others. There are in history, for example, various great figures who dominate and who must make important decisions for the rest. In the history of one's country and of the world it is not difficult to point to such figures to whom we refer, for example, as "the father of our country," a figure with whom the destiny of an entire nation is decided. Similarly, Paul sees Christ not merely as One who has fallen prey to destiny or as One who did not stand up for himself, but he sees Christ as One who embraces all in his love, and as One who, when he died, died for all. How mysterious and unfathomable this may sound to us. Paul describes this in a unique way with the following words: "Then all died." That is to say, when Christ died, he died not for himself, he did not die alone, but they all were with him then. At that moment he embraced them all in his love and he carried them with him into death. For, congregation, Christ has united his destiny to ours. Christ died for all because he came to be like us and he took upon himself our existence, our existence which is tempted by sin, suffering and death. So that when he died, he bore all that. Or it could be put this way: he came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. That is why you can say he died for all; he died on behalf of all. But you can say that even more strongly: "Then all died." They were all with him when he underwent that existence of the old man, when he submitted himself to that sin-and-death-ravaged life, when in great love he gave himself over to the cross of Golgotha.
Now that, says Paul, changes my perspective on life. This has happened so "that those who live, should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again." In other words, so that they should no longer exist in themselves and no longer exist for themselves. For that, congregation, is really the curse of our life: that we are alone, that we must carry our own weight, that we
must keep plodding along, that we must stand up for ourselves. There are indeed people who contend that the real meaning of human existence is, after all, every man for himself. When push comes to shove, no one is going to do it for you. It does often appear to be this way and this is at any rate often how life is when we are not taken up into the new fellowship of Christ. The Heidelberg Catechism says that our only comfort in life and death is that we are no longer our own but that we belong to him. That is what Paul means when he says that they "should no longer live for themselves." They should realize that their life stands no longer on its own and that they no longer live for their own account, but that they have been taken up into the great salvation deed of Christ, when he died. For he who died, congregation, is also the One who has risen. He not only suffered with our life and suffered for us to the death, he also arose with our life. He had us, if I may put it this way, constantly in his hand and in his heart, when he rose from the dead.
That is why, says Paul, that is why life is no longer "every man for himself" and that is why he is no longer alone, responsible to no one but himself. He is united with Christ, living for him who died and rose again. Bound to Christ, in union with him, he has become a new creature in Christ who is risen. That is why Paul says, "from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh." That is to say, now we regard no one as he is in himself. I have received another perspective. I look at them with another point of view. He says that if earlier we have done that, we do it no more. If before I viewed Christ according to the flesh, I do so no longer. With this he wants to say that there was also a time when he still looked at people according to the old point of view and that he was also not able to see Christ except as One who became a victim of destiny or, perhaps even worse, as One who received his just reward for going against the law of the Jews. In any case, he earlier viewed Christ as One who also could not stand up to death.
This is also how Christ was viewed by the women who went to the grave. They came there also according to the old pattern of life and
with the old point of view. They could believe nothing else than that Christ had died and would not rise again. That is to view Christ according to the flesh, to view him as he was before he arose. That is also why you see a short-circuiting at the resurrection. Precisely there the two points of view meet head on. There come the people, those who still view Christ according to the flesh; they come to the grave with spices. They have everything which death proclaims. They are pallbearers for the dead. Oh, they do it with love. They had expected so much from Christ. But they come to the grave under the old point of view. "It began to dawn," it says, but they do not see the sun. They see only the darkness of the grave and that their hope had vanished. But then, congregation, come the questions of the resurrection from the other side. Then come the questions to the women: Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? You might say that those are questions with quite obvious answers! After all, who else would the women be seeking than Jesus who was crucified? And for what other reason would they be crying than that their Lord has been taken away? But that voice that is ringing from the other side sees things from another point of view. It sees things from the viewpoint of the resurrection and says to them, "Why are you weeping?" That is the short-circuiting. Two points of view are colliding with each other.
On the evening of that same day, you see the same thing with the men on the road to Emmaus. They are absorbed with their gloomy thoughts as they talk about what had happened. They see everything according to the viewpoint of death. They cannot see even a tiny ray of light any more. When Jesus comes, it says, "their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him." That is to say that they still see everything according to the old point of view. Then Jesus starts to ask questions from the new point of view. "Why are you so sad?" He is looking at it from the side of the resurrection. The men respond, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have you not known the things which happened there in these days?" Are you out of touch with reality? You cannot understand what is bothering us and why we are so upset and grieving? Then Jesus again asks, "What things?" It is as if he is astonished–just like the angel that morning! Jesus then explains
it all and shares with them the new point of view. It is with this new point of view that the disciples go back to Jerusalem and their way must have seemed much shorter than when they were going to Emmaus. It had become evening but for them the lights had come on. They say to each other, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road?" Did we not have a feeling that there was nevertheless something more and that something had happened! They no longer see Jesus "according to the flesh."
In this way, says Paul, I see things. I see people and I see congregations no longer according to the flesh. I view them with the view-point of life and not with that of death.
For us as people of the here and now, as we like to refer to ourselves, this is now the question of faith and conversion. If we do not see things in terms of the reality of Christ, then we can never speak the language of faith. It is a difficult matter for us because it does indeed appear as if nothing really changes. Paul says otherwise. He says, "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." He who is in Christ is a new creation. With this he is saying that he who is in Christ, he who belongs to Jesus, belongs to the new order of things. He does not say that the person becomes new in every respect all at once, but that he belongs to the new creation. He is taken up into the new life-context. He may also have that new perspective on things. "The old things have passed away." What has passed away? Yes, that death has the last word, that has passed away. That death is stronger than life, that has, as the final and supreme wisdom, passed away.
Oh congregation, we are so often seized by the old point of view. We often live, in our personal lives and in our view of the world, people and the church, merely "according to the flesh." We do not take into account the resurrection of Jesus even though we perhaps still confess that resurrection so frequently. We are more under the impression of the flesh than of the Spirit. We are more often under the impression of death than of life. This is the question with which we are confronted whenever the gospel of the resurrection, of which
we are especially reminded in these weeks, is again proclaimed to us: with which point of view now do we really view things? Is the confession that Jesus is risen a piece of dogmatics or orthodoxy about which you must say, "Yes, that is what the church has always confessed"? Or has the new point of view made its striking impact upon us so that we can say, "therefore, from now on, we regard nothing and no one according to the flesh"? That is the theology of hope. More: it is living out of the hope.
Oh, when in our lives we come into contact with the reality of death, sin and disappointment–all those things with which the wisdom of the world is also kept busy, the Jews, the Greeks and the wisdom of modern man–we have a tendency to dismiss Paul's words as grandiose language. We do not understand his words because we so easily walk along in the funeral procession of death There are indeed reasons for this. Today, here in the congregation of Kampen, only an hour or so ago, a sister died who just this morning was in church with her husband. We then say, "Death is so dreadfully powerful!" There seems to be nothing else we can do than go along as pallbearers for the dead, wailing and lamenting the power of death. Indeed, in the life of every man, even when that last enemy has not yet taken its toll, there is so much that tunes us to despair. What a tremendous struggle there is against sin and against all sorts of brokenness. You feel compelled to ask, "What's the use?" When you look at society around you, is there not too much about which you must say that it is the kingdom of evil, and not the good, that is victorious time and again? It is no wonder that people who think deeply about life are pessimistic. It is no wonder that optimism is not taken seriously. It is no wonder that in our day, if it matters, in spite of all the prosperity and all the apparent cheerfulness, there are nevertheless more pessimists than optimists.
But congregation, Christ is risen from the dead. That is the new point of view. And it is with that point of view that the apostle Paul wants us to look at life, our own life and the life of the world. Indeed, also the latter. For if we can only see the world, as many Christians do, from the viewpoint of evil, then we are acting as if the devil is the boss
in this world and as if Christ is not risen.
It is Christian, congregation, to go into the world as people of hope and to expect something from the world. Not because the world is something in itself but because Christ died for the world. Perhaps you would say, "People of hope even in the midst of all the harsh realities of this world? Doesn't the apostle see these things?" Then I would tell you that Paul has a much better understanding of these things than any of us: that paradox, that tension, that intense struggle. Paul says, "we have this treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power," the power which rises above all, that new point of view with which we view things, "may be of God and not from us." Paul says, "we are hard pressed on every side;" but, he adds, "yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed–always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." That is the tension and the paradox: the old order still makes its power felt, but the new has come. When we say that the old has passed away, that means that as the controlling point of view it has passed away and that a new point of view has come. That is why we live differently, that is why we go about things differently in the world, and that is also why we cannot abandon the world. That is why this is not only a text for the congregation and her personal living, but it is also a text that, in spite of everything, can see past the power of death and sin. For we say, "Christ is risen."
You may finally ask, "But how can you be so sure and know this with such certainty? How can the church remain in the confession of the resurrection of Christ? How can she believe it and keep believing it?" The answer is that with which our text begins: "For the love of Christ constrains us." That is to say, we can believe that Christ has risen from the dead because the love of Christ was so great. He has embraced everything with his love. In his love God has come to us. We cannot by ourselves believe that he is risen. With the Lord Jesus Christ we can believe that he is risen because his love constrains us, overwhelms us and gives us that point of view on things. When we see
that love we must say that God himself has come to us. He has not abandoned us. He has taken our misery upon himself. There is something other than the power of death.
It is certainly not as if the resurrection of Christ is a product of our faith. We do not say that Christ is risen because his death makes such an impression upon us! No, there were also many witnesses of the resurrection, and the testimony of the resurrection constitutes the heart of the whole gospel. It is the only ground of existence and the only possible explanation for the Christian church. Therefore, we can only believe this in its full meaning because he is risen. For we know him whom we have believed, and we confess that God, who has revealed himself in Christ, is not the God of death, but is the God of the living. He did not bring his love from heaven to earth in order with that love to let us go to ruin. He brought that love so we could live.
For this reason, congregation, let us not be faithless, but faithful, in spite of everything. Let us keep before our eyes the love of Christ, so that we may keep and preserve that point of view for the church, for our personal lives, for that brother who now is so alone, for all those people about whom you say, "It is hopeless for them." Let us see these with the viewpoint of the new and not of the old. Let us have hope for the world. Let us, in the midst of the world, not be as those who only judge the world, but those who direct the hungry eyes of mankind to the love of Christ, so that we will live up to what we confess and what we also now with each other will sing:
You shall in the whole world wide
Evil's kingdom rack and ruin
And its darkness nullify!
Original Title: "Het Nieuwe Gezichtspunt," in God is Liefde by H. N. Ridderbos. Comp. G. Vander Veere. Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1979, pp. 17-26. Translated with the kind permission of J. H. Kok Publishers.
The Holy Spirit and Eschatology
Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.
No development in biblical studies within the past century has had a greater impact than the recovery of the eschatological character of the New Testament message. To speak of an "assured result" of biblical scholarship is always risky but at least in this case appears to be warranted.
1. The story of this development is well known:1 The theological liberalism of the 19th century had tried to distance eschatology as far as possible from the core of the New Testament, in the interests of showing that Jesus especially was at heart a kind of neo-Kantian moralist. But subsequent scholarship, beginning right at the end of the last century with a reassessment of the kingdom-proclamation of Jesus in the synoptic gospels, has reached a quite different conclusion. Through an ongoing process of scholarly correction and supplementation of viewpoints there has been a spreading recognition eventually resulting around 1965 in a virtual consensus, firmly
established, across a broad spectrum of scholarship–that eschatology is central not only to the proclamation of Jesus but also to the teaching of Paul and most, if not all, of the other New Testament writers. A controlling viewpoint of the New Testament as a whole is an eschatology, rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus, of both future, even imminent consummation and already realized fulfillment.
2. This consensus not only represents an exegetical repudiation of the older theological liberalism. It is also in tension with classical Christian theology where there is an unmistakable tendency to "de-eschatologise" the present identity and life of the church. That tendency is reflected, for instance, in the traditional loci (topical) structure of dogmatics, where "eschatology" eventually comes up for attention as the final topic and is concerned with the "last things", defined in terms of Christ's return and the ensuing eternal state, perhaps also with the inclusion of what happens to the individual at death.2 Eschatology–and this is still the popular mind-set found among most Christians today–tends to be kept at arm's length, at a more or less remote, spectator distance, without any real, integral tie to the present experience of the believer.
These opening remarks set the stage to observe further that the "turn to eschatology" in this century has not left untouched NT Testament teaching on the Holy Spirit and his work; in fact it has brought to light the fundamentally eschatological aspect of that teaching.3 In what follows I want (A) to provide a selective survey of relevant New Testament data on the work of the Holy Spirit, trying to do little more than identify the most important givens. Then will follow (B) some reflections pertinent to several issues of contemporary concern regarding the Spirit's work.
In the New Testament the eschatological dimension of the Spirit's work emerges from several angles. 1. The synoptic gospels have relatively few references to the Spirit, but their eschatological significance can be seen once we recognize that the kingdom
proclaimed by Jesus is an eschatological entity, already present (as well as still in the future) in his person and work.
In the healing incident recorded in Mt. 12:22ff (par. Lk. 11:14ff.), Jesus' decisive pronouncement is that "if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt. 12:28; par. Lk. 11:20). Here, plainly, the activity of God's Spirit ("finger"–Lk.) is a present manifestation of the eschatological rule of God. The Spirit is the dynamic of the kingdom, that is, eschatological power; the presence of the Spirit is an eschatological presence.
Lk. 11:13 and 12:32 are linked as the only two places in Luke where Jesus speaks of the Father's purpose to give to the disciples, of his will to meet their needs. In 11:13 the incomparable gift that the Father will give to them is the Holy Spirit, while in 12:31-32 the greatest blessing they are to seek, and the Father wills to give, is the kingdom. Thus a certain equation exists between the Holy Spirit and the kingdom in the sense that they are alternative or correlative ways of specifying the ultimate and highest blessing of the Father, that is, eschatological blessing. Further, this equation looks forward to Pentecost–in its primary significance as an epochal, once for all event in the coming of the kingdom (cf. Acts 1:3, 2:32-33)–where the coming of the Spirit is the fulfillment of "the promise of my/the Father" (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4; cf. 2:33: "the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father").
2. Intimations of the eschatological Spirit are also found in John. The presence of the Spirit in believers is a function of the glorification of Jesus (7:38-39); the Spirit's epochal coming to be with the disciples (the church) is contingent upon the culmination of the glorification process in Jesus' going to be with the Father (14:12ff.). In his identity as the paraklêtos the Spirit provides essential counsel and definitive assistance in the great end-time adjudication between the church and the world (16:7-11; cf. 14:16,26; 15:26). And in the eschatological vision of Revelation the sevenfold Spirit before God's throne is associated with exalted Christ (1:4-5; cf. vs. 16) such that the words of the exalted Christ specifically are "what the Spirit says to the
churches" (e.g., 2:1 and 7; 2:8 and 11; 2:12 and 17).
3. It is Paul, however, that the eschatological aspect of the Spirit's work is most pronounced and unmistakable. His descriptions of the Spirit as "deposit" and "firstfruits", apparently coined by him, are especially calculated, in context, to express the provisional, yet truly eschatological nature of the church's present possession of the Spirit. These single terms, arrabôn and aparchê, focus the Spirit's work within the already-not yet structure of his eschatology as a whole. In Ephesians 1:14 the Spirit is the "deposit" on the church's "inheritance", an unambiguously eschatological category (cf. esp. 1:13 with 4:30; 5:5). And in Romans 8:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:5 the Spirit is "firstfruits" and "deposit" with a view towards the future resurrection body of the believer, that is, bodily eschatological existence.
The point of this usage is that the Spirit present in the Church (indwelling all believers and in the full diversity of his working) is the down payment on the eschaton, which down payment is itself a realization of the eschaton; he is the first installment of eschatological existence. In that actual sense the Spirit is the guarantee that what has already been received initially will be received in its fullness at Christ's return. His work provides the provisional, anticipatory experience of the eschatological transformation to be accomplished completely in the resurrection of the body.
Further, these two terms show that the line of Paul's thinking concerning the Spirit moves out of the future into the present, rather than the reverse. That is, the future is not so much an extension of the present (although it can be put that way) as the present is an anticipation of the (eschatological) future. Paul is fully in accord with the writer of Hebrews, who, in terms of the historical-eschatological schema taken over from intertestamental Judaism, says that the powers associated with the Holy Spirit are "the powers of the age to come" (6:4-5).
Paul's eschatological conception of the Spirit's work also comes out clearly in the great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. In the
unit, verses 42-49, the one word used to describe the future resurrection (that is, eschatological) body of the believer is "spiritual" (pneumatikon, vs. 44). The reference of this adjective is neither anthropological (to the body adapted to the human spirit or in which that spirit has gained ascendance or dominance) nor substantial (to the presumably immaterial pneumatic substance of the resurrection body) but to the activity of the Holy Spirit.4 Paul's point is that the resurrection body is what it is, with its eschatological qualities, because it has been so thoroughly transformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit that the single term that best describes it concretely is "spiritual".
This passage also brings to light the cosmic dimensions of the Spirit's eschatological activity. Paul is concerned with the resurrection body not simply in the abstract but in terms of the context or environment that is appropriate to it. That concern appears from the fact that the contrast between the preresurrection and resurrection bodies (vss. 42-44) is anchored in the sweeping, comprehensive contrast between Adam and Christ, the last Adam and second man, in their representative and determinative roles (vss. 45, 47-49). Accordingly, the Spirit, associated with the last Adam, is the source and principle of nothing less than a new, eschatological creation order; his work of eschatological transformation is on a cosmic scale, affecting every aspect of creaturely existence (cf. Rom. 8:19-23).
This is the place to caution that these Pauline materials must not be treated as abstract, self-contained eschatological principles, as more or less isolated pneumatological givens. Rather, they are to be related to the redemptive-historical focus that controls Paul's entire teaching. To that end a brief reference to 1 Corinthians 15:45c should suffice. Paul says there: "the last Adam became the life-giving Spirit".
In my judgment careful exegesis5 shows that in this statement (a) pneuma refers to the person of the Holy Spirit and (b) the "becoming" in view took place at Christ's resurrection or, more broadly, his exaltation.6 What Paul asserts, then, is a certain equation between the exalted Christ and the Holy Spirit–a unity or oneness–dating from the resurrection.
This is a consideration of cardinal importance, one that certainly controls both the christology and pneumatology of Paul, but of much of the rest of the New Testament as well. All reflection on the Spirit and his eschatological work must remain tethered to this equation.
In passing, it is perhaps worth observing that it burdens this statement unwarrantable to discover in it trinitarian confusion or a denial or blurring of the personal distinction between Christ and the Spirit. Essential, inner trinitarian relationships are not foreign to Paul (cf., e.g., Rom. 1:3, 8:3, 32; 9:5; Phil. 2:6), but they are outside his purview here. He is not thinking in terms of Christ's essential deity, but of what he experiences in his genuine humanity, in his identity as "last Adam" or "second man" (vs. 47). His perspective is historical, concerned with what Christ "became". The oneness or equation in view is "economic" (not ontological), functional "eschatological".7
Paul's point is that by virtue of resurrection (glorification), Christ as the last Adam has come into such complete and permanent possession of the Holy Spirit, as he himself has been so thoroughly and climactically transformed by the Spirit, that consequently the two are equated in their working. They are to be seen as one as they have been made one specifically in the activity of "giving life", eschatological, resurrection life.
In the context of chapter 15 this life-giving activity of Christ, "the firstfruits" (vs. 20), has in view the still future resurrection-harvest of the body. But it would certainly be difficult to deny that there is also at least an intimation of what Christ is presently doing (giving eschatological life), because of who he now is or has become (the life-giving Spirit).
For an overall program of New Testament theology, I Corinthians 15:45c is, in effect, Paul's one-sentence commentary on Pentecost, clustered together in its once-for-all significance, with Christ's death but especially his resurrection and ascension (as Peter indicates in Acts 2:32-33). From this perspective the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is not merely an addendum to the work of Christ, not a
more or less independent sphere of activity in the church that goes beyond or supplements Christ's work.
Rather, Pentecost brings to light not only that Christ has lived and has done something but that he lives now and is now at work in the church. Pentecost is not only when Christ poured out on the church the gift of the Spirit; it is also the coming to the church of Christ himself, as the life-giving Spirit. On Pentecost, when Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, we may say, he baptizes with himself, his own presence. The gift of the Spirit is the gift of Christ himself, the glorified Christ.
Briefly, a similar pattern of thought is present in John 14-16. In particular, at 14:12ff. the giving of the Spirit, conditional on Jesus' own going to the Father, is at the same time the coming of Jesus himself (vs. 18: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you"; cf. 16:16ff). The coming of the Spirit, following on Jesus' glorification (cf. 7:39), is the coming of Jesus. And when at the close of Matthew's gospel the exalted Jesus promises the disciples, "I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (28:20), that promise is to be understood not only in terms of his divine omnipresence but also, and primarily, with reference to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
4. To sum up this New Testament survey and bring it to its controlling focus: the eschatological Spirit is the exalted Christ. It is important to appreciate how, in the light of the New Testament, this is a permissible generalization. But by itself it is easily subject to misunderstanding; it is too terse and needs qualification. To expand, we may say that eschatological life in the Spirit is the shared life of the glorified Christ. When the New Testament speaks of the work of the Spirit in the church, in view is the resurrection, eschatological life of Christ; conversely, when the New Testament speaks of resurrection, whether present or future, in view is the eschatological work of the Spirit.
Paul's own distillation of this principle is found in Romans 8:9-11 concerning those who are "not in the flesh but in the Spirit" (9a), he
says also that "the Spirit of God dwells in you" (9b), by implication, that they "belong to Christ" (that is, are "in Christ", [9d], and that "Christ is in you" [10a]. Within the span of three short sentences, all the possible combinations–you in the Spirit, the Christ in you, you in Christ, Christ in you–are used interchangeably and as virtually synonymous to describe the church's experience. This pattern of usage, it should be remembered, can occur because of what is true in back of and antecedent to all Christian experience, because of who Christ is, "the life-giving Spirit" and who the Spirit is, "the Spirit of Christ" (9c). And verse 11 adds that through the Spirit, presently indwelling believers, God will eventually raise up their mortal bodies (as he has already done for Christ). The Spirit is eschatological, resurrection power; he is the eschatological Spirit because his power is resurrection power.
New Testament teaching on the eschatological Spirit has an important bearing on at least three concerns of contemporary spirituality. These concerns have a pastoral focus; they have been chosen primarily with the life of the congregation in view.
1. At the outset we noted the tendency in much historic Christian thinking to de-eschatologise the gospel and its implication. Nowhere is that more true than in the attitude taken toward the work of the Holy Spirit. There has been a persistent tendency to isolate the Spirit's activity from eschatology, to view his present work in the believer in the inner life of the Christian, without any particular reference or connection to God's broader eschatological purposes for the entire creation. The result, too often, has been largely privatized, self-centered understandings of the Spirit's activity.
In the New Testament, however, while the work of the Holy Spirit concerns the individual, it is not individualistic; that work is certainly intimate and personal, but it is not private. There is no more important or more basic New Testament perspective on Christian existence than this: in its entirety Christian life, life in the Spirit, is to
be subsumed under the category of resurrection. Pointedly, the Christian life is resurrection-life. It is part of the resurrection-harvest that begins with Christ's own resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20); the believer's place or share in the harvest is now, not only in the future but already in the present. Christian existence is a manifestation and outworking of the resurrection life and power of Christ, the life-giving Spirit (cf. Rom. 6:2ff; Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 2:12-13; 3:1-4). Paul's assertion in Galatians 2:20 ("I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me") is neither enthusiastic overstatement nor unique to his own experience–the way it is popularly read. To be sure, it is doxological, but it is a "measured" doxology that realistically assesses the situation of every believer.
In this connection the various instructional efforts of the church will constantly have to make clear that it is in this sense, namely eschatological, resurrection life, that the New Testament offers "eternal life" to believers. It is "eternal", not because it is above or beyond history, "timeless" in some a-historical sense, but because it has been revealed, in Christ, at the end of history and, by the power of the Spirit, comes to us out of that consummation.
It is perhaps useful, if not pretentious, to state the issue here in terms of a still to be completed side of the Reformation. The Reformation, we should not forget, was a (re)discovery, at least implicitly, of the eschatological heart of the gospel; the sola gratia principle is eschatological in essence. Justification by faith, as the Reformers came to understand and experience it, is an anticipation of final judgment. It means that a favorable verdict at the last judgment is not an anxious, uncertain hope (where they felt themselves abandoned by Rome), but a present possession, the confident and stable basis of the Christian life. Romans 8:1 ("there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus"), which they clung to, is a decidedly eschatological pronouncement.
But while the Reformation and its children have grasped, at least intuitively, the eschatological thrust of the gospel for justification, that is not nearly the case for sanctification and the work of the Spirit.
Undeniably there is a tendency, at least in practice, to separate or even polarize justification and sanctification. Justification on the one hand, is seen as what God does, once for all and perfectly; sanctification on the other hand, is what the believer does, imperfectly. Sanctification is viewed as the response of the believer, an expression of gratitude from our side for salvation defined in terms of justification and the forgiveness of sins–usually with an emphasis on the inadequate and even impoverished quality of the gratitude expressed.
The intention of such an emphasis is not doubt to safeguard the totally gratuitous character of justification. But church history has made all too evident that the apparently inevitable outcome is the rise of moralism, the reintroduction into Christian experience of a refined work-principle, more or less divorced from the faith that justifies and eventually leaving no room for that faith. What is resolutely rejected at the front door of justification comes in through the back door of sanctification and takes over the whole house.
Certainly we must be on guard against all notions of sinless perfection. Forms of "entire" sanctification or "higher" "victorious" life, supposedly achieved by a distinct act of faith subsequent to justification, invariably de-eschatologise the gospel by operating with domesticated, voluntaristic notions of sin and in their own way result in moralism. Certainly we must not forget that "in this life even the holiest have only a small beginning" (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 44).
But–and this is the point–that beginning, however small, is an eschatological beginning. It stands under the apostolic promise that "he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). In the New Testament there is no more basic perspective on sanctification and renewal than that expressed in Romans 6: it is a continual "living to God" (vs. 11) of those who are "alive from the dead" (vs. 13). It is a matter of the "good works" of the eschatological new creation, for which the church has been "created in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:10). In their sanctification believers begin at the "top", because they begin with Christ; in him they are
those who are "perfect" (1 Cor.2:6) and "spiritual" (vs. 15), even when they have to be admonished as "carnal" (3:1, 3).
An important and fruitful challenge for the teaching ministry of the church is to clarify further the nature of justification within the already not-yet structure of New Testament eschatology, at the same time ensuring that commensurate attention is given to the eschatological nature of sanctification and the present work of the Holy Spirit.
2. But the question might now be raised: does not the intense, world-wide preoccupation with the work of the Spirit in recent decades compensate for the traditional neglect and shortcomings just noted? To be more specific, have Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement not seen and, in large measure, recaptured the eschatological nature of the Spirit's working?
These questions obviously open up a large area of discussion, one that can only be touched on briefly here to make just one point, a point on which I hope charismatics and noncharismatics might be able to agree without having to settle other differences.
Within the overall working of the Holy Spirit, it is important to see that the New Testament distinguishes between the gift and the gifts of the Spirit. All believers, without exception, share in the gift of the Spirit by virtue of their union with Christ the life-giving Spirit, and their incorporation into his Spirit-baptized body, the church (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:13). The gift (singular) of the Spirit is present in the church on the principle of "universal donation".
On the other hand, the gifts (plural) of the Spirit are variously distributed in the church; no one gift, in this sense, is intended for every believer. The gifts are given on the principle of "differential distribution." This seems reasonably clear, for example, from the point of the rhetorical questions posed at the close of 1 Corinthians 12 (vss. 29 and 30): all are not apostles, all are not prophets...all do not speak in tongues. And this is so, ultimately, by divine design: the one body with diverse parts–not because of lack of faith or failure to seek a particular gift.
The significance of this distinction for the question asked above is this: the gift (singular) of the Spirit, in which all believers share, is an essential aspect of the salvation revealed in Christ and is as such an eschatological gift. It is as noted earlier, the firstfruits-experience of resurrection, the actual down payment on the church's final inheritance.
In contrast, the gifts (plural) of the Spirit, variously distributed in the church, are provisional and subeschatological, workings of the Spirit projected on to the plane of the present order of things and inseparable from "the form of this world [that] is passing away" (1 Cor. 7:31). This seems clearly to be one of Paul's points in 1 Corinthians 13:3ff.: prophecy and tongues among other gifts have a provisional, limited function and so are temporary, designed to pass away (vss. 8 and 9), while those works of the Spirit, like faith, hope and love, endure (vs. 13).
The point to ponder is this: it is not in the distinctives of contemporary charismatic experience, however else we may evaluate them, that we find the eschatological substance of the Spirit's present activity. Rather, it is the "fruit" of the Spirit, pre-eminently love, that has an eschatological "reach" and effects eschatological "breakthroughs". It is faith in its modes of hoping and loving that grasps and anticipates the perfection of the order to be introduced at Christ's return.
3. But a question may come from another quarter. Will not stressing the eschatological character of the Spirit's work engender a false sense of attainment and of having "arrived"? Will that emphasis not minister an easy triumphalism?
The New Testament is sensitive to this danger and addresses it head-on. In the interim between Christ's resurrection and return, believers are "alive from the dead", but only "in the mortal body" (Rom. 6:12-13); Christians experience "the power of the age to come" (Heb. 6:5), but only as "the present evil age" (Gal. 1:4) is prolonged, only within the transient "form of this world" (1 Cor. 7:31).
Elsewhere, in 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul says, "we have this treasure in clay jars". This statement is autobiographical but certainly intends to provide a paradigm for all believers. From the context, "this treasure" is the content of the gospel, and its possession, the experiential knowledge of the eschatological glory God in Christ (vs. 6). The "clay jars" are believers in the mortality and fragility of their existence. The verses that immediately follow (8-9) expand on this situation by four pairs of contrasting participles: as a function of their identity as "clay jars", believers are "hard pressed on every side", "perplexed", "persecuted", and "struck down"; but, in possessing "this treasure", they are "not crushed", "not in despair", "not abandoned", and "not destroyed".
Verses 10 and 11 sum up this state of affairs and bring it to a focus: "always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our body...always being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh."
It is important to grasp that "the dying of Jesus" and "the life of Jesus" highlighted here do not refer to separate sectors or more or less compartmentalized dimensions of the believer's experience. Rather, the life of Jesus, Paul is saying, is revealed in our mortal flesh and nowhere else; the (mortal) body is the locus of the life of Jesus. "The dying of Jesus" is the existence-form that shapes the manifestation of his life in believers.
Philippians 3:10 is another compelling expression of the same thought: Paul's deepest, heartfelt aspiration in union with Christ (vs. 8-9a) is in part "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death". The full impact of this clause turns on recognizing that in it the uses of the conjunction "and" (kai) are not coordinating but explicating: to know Christ is to know the power of his resurrection, and to know the power of his resurrection is to know the fellowship of his sufferings. The experiential knowledge of the power of Christ's resurrection is realized just as fellowship in his sufferings and conformity to his death.
Christ's resurrection-power is a conforming energy, an energy that produces conformity to his death. The impress, the imprint of the resurrection in Paul's experience is the cross.
Paul's experience provides a pattern for the whole church. Until Jesus comes, resurrection-eschatology is eschatology of the cross. The form of Christ's resurrection-power in this world-age is the fellowship of his sufferings as the cross-conformed suffering of the church. The sign of inaugurated eschatology is the cross. Believers suffer, not in spite of or even alongside of the fact that they share in Christ's resurrection, but just because they are raised up and seated with him in heaven. According to Peter, it is just as Christians suffer for Christ that God's Spirit of (eschatological) glory rests on them (1 Pet. 4:14). For the present, until he returns, suffering with Christ remains the primary discriminant of the eschatological Spirit.
All this raises large questions that need careful and probing reflection, especially where the church is in situations of relative freedom and affluence and suffering with Christ can seem remote and confined to the church elsewhere. Instructive at this point is what Paul has to say in Romans 8:18ff. about "the sufferings of the present time", particularly the present subjection of the entire creation, including the church, to "frustration" (mataiotes, vs. 20) and "the bondage of decay" (vs. 21). This suggests that Christian suffering is much broader than we usually think of it. It concerns the mundane and unspectacular of everyday living as well as what is monumental, heroic or traumatic. Christian suffering, we may say, is everything in the lives of believers, as they continue to be subjected to the enervating futility and decay that presently permeates the creation, everything about this present existence that is borne for Christ and done in his service.
Paul's word to the church in Philippians 1:29 remains a perennial challenge: "It has been granted to you for Christ's sake not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him." Here Paul speaks of the "giveness" of Christian suffering, for the church as church. The Christian life, Paul says, is a "not only...but also" proposition, not only
believing but also suffering; suffering is not simply for some believers but for all.
Where the church grasps this correlativity of faith and suffering, there it will have come a long way toward not only comprehending but also experiencing the eschatological quality of life in the Spirit, there in all aspects of its existence it will increasingly validate the eschatological power of the Holy Spirit.
1. See e.g. the lengthy survey of N. Perrin, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1963) and more recently I. H. Marshall, "The hope of a new age: the kingdom of God in the New Testament," Themelios, 11, 1(Sept. 1985: 5-15, esp. p. 5 and the literature cited there, notes 1 and 6.
2. But note the instructive comments of Prof. Heyns in his Dogmatiek(Pretoria: NG Kerkboekhandel, 1978) pp. 390f.
3. This insight has resulted largely from investigating the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit, especially in Paul; out of a great volume of literature see, e.g., J. C. Coetzee in A. B. du Toit (red.), Die Pauliniese briewe: Inleiding en teologie (Handleiding by die Nuwe Testament, 5) (Pretoria: NG Kerkboekhandel, 1984), 236-253; J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975), esp. pp. 308-326; J. J. Engelbrecht, Jr. "Pneuma en Eskatologie by Paulus", Neotestamentica, 3 (1969): 61-75; J. P. Versteeg, Christus en de Geest (Kampen: Kok, 1971). Still stimulating and valuable is the ground-breaking work of G. Vos, "The eschatological aspect of the Pauline conception of Spirit," Biblical and Theological Studies (New York: Scribners, 1912), pp. 209-259 and The Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979/1930), pp. 159-171.
4. This conclusion follows from Paul's only other use of the psychikon-pneumatikon contrast earlier in 2:14-15 as well as the fact that, apart from the (unrelated) exception in Eph. 6:12, Paul always uses the adjective pneumatikon to refer to the activity of the Holy
Spirit; cf. R. B. Gaffin, Jr., The Centrality of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), pp. 85f.
5. See e.g., Versteeg, Christus en de Geest, pp. 43-96 and Gaffin, Centrality, pp. 78-92.
6. Despite the divergence of opinion among commentators and the ambivalence of some, the reference of "heaven" and "heavenly" on the one side of the contrast in verses 47-49, is almost certainly to the exaltation (not, say, to Christ's pre-existence or his incarnation).
7. So Versteeg, Christus en de Geest, p. 91.
From C. J.Wethmar and C. J. A. Vos (Ed.), 'N WOORD OP SY TYD (a festschrift for Professor Johan Heyns) reprinted by permission of NG Kerkboekhandel, 1988 (Edms) Bpk, Pretoria, 1988, pp. 45-52.
Building the Biblical Theological Sermon
Part I: Perspective
James T. Dennison, Jr.
What is biblical-theological preaching? Let me provide an overview of the biblical-theological approach. By biblical theology, I do not mean a theology based on the Bible. In Reformed circles all theology should be based on the Bible. Thus when I am talking about the biblical-theological style, I am assuming that we are going to use the Scriptures as the basis for the theological enterprise. Biblical theology is a particular part of the theological encyclopedia. In his Sacred Theology, Abraham Kuyper has divided the theological encyclopedia into four parts. By theological encyclopedia, Kuyper meant the whole scope of the theological endeavor. There are four divisions within the science of theology and they are: (1) exegetical theology, (2) historical theology, (3) systematic theology, (4) practical theology. Under the heading historical theology, Kuyper subsumes
what we would call church history, history of doctrine or history of dogma (as van Harnack would have called it); under systematic theology he puts dogmatic theology or catechetical theology, i.e., what we tend to think of in terms of the dogmatic system of the church; under practical theology is the applied discipline of theology to the life of the church
Biblical Theology and the Theological Encyclopedia
Now where does biblical theology fit into the encyclopedia? It is a subdivision under exegetical theology. Why? Because biblical theology, as its parent, exegetical theology, deals with the datum of revelation. Datum comes from the Latin word dare meaning "to give"–a given, like a piece of data. I emphasize the fact that it is a datum because revelation is a given; it is given because man is passive before revelation. The Bible is not a religious text, for by religion we usually mean man's subjective appropriation and witness to some kind of spiritual exercise. Christianity is a revelation given from without man, from outside of the creature. Thus exegetical theology which studies this deposit in the Scriptures, emphasizes to the recipient (to you, the pastor; to you, the student of the Scriptures) that you are passive–you stand before the ipsissima verba Dei ("the very words of God"). God speaks and you listen. He is active and distributive; you are passive and receptive. Biblical theology emphasizes this datum, this character of exegetical theology as it is a given part of God's revelation
But biblical theology wants to concentrate on that datum, wants to concentrate on that revelation as it occurs historically and progressively. It is not that biblical theologians are merely interested in the Scriptures as a deposit of revelation; they are, but they are interested in that revelation as it is historically and progressively unfolded, interrelated and interconnected. The divine self-disclosure, the divine self-revelation, the datum of revelation occurs in time and space, it happens in a continuum and therefore it has a progressive historic or organic interconnectedness about it. When we begin to work on the
Scriptures, we must remember that we are working with a revelation which has occurred in history. It is organically connected with all of that redemptive history. Thus the biblical theologian emphasizes (even as the dogmatic or systematic theologian does) the fact that this datum of revelation is preeminently supernatural; it is a divine self-disclosure. Yet more than that, this divine self-disclosure occurs in an historical sequence. It occurs in Adam, before Noah, before Abraham, before Moses, before David, before Christ, before the eschaton. Therefore when we come to Adam or to Noah or to Abraham or to Moses or to David or to Christ at the eschaton, we cannot forget the rest of that progressive history.
This divine self-disclosure, this divine revelation is both word and deed revelation; it is both speech and act revelation. God not only delivers his word, he also reveals his mighty arm, he displays his actions, he displays the Magnalia Dei. Latin phrases often say things very crisply. Magnalia Dei–"the mighty acts of God." Not only does God reveal by his word, but he reveals by his mighty acts, his mighty deeds. Read the Psalms and begin to search them for references to God's mighty acts. It is not only that the psalmist gives us God's word; the psalmist also looks back to the mighty deeds of God. Biblical theology traces this continuity–this continuity through the history of word and deed revelation–this continuity of the nature of the historic aspect of revelation.
The biblical theologian asks himself, "What is the connection between the self-disclosure of God to Adam as that is related to the self-disclosure of God to Noah, to Abraham, to Christ, to the New Testament church, to us–where do we fit in the continuum?" And it is the study of these relationships which reveals what I have already mentioned as the organic character of revelation.
The revelation of the mind of God is like an organism. You are an organism; you are composed of various parts, but all of your parts are interrelated and so it is with the datum of revelation. It is historical,
organically interrelated and interconnected. All the parts fit together. So it is with the revelation of God in history. Revelation from God in Adam is interrelated with the revelation of God in the new Adam. There is a connection between the divine self-disclosure to the first Adam and the divine self-disclosure to the second Adam. The revelation of God to the first Adam has a prospective dimension and the revelation of God to the second Adam has a retrospective dimension. By these two terms, we draw together this organic or progressive character of redemptive history.
While I emphasize that the first Adam is prospective of the second Adam (i.e., the first Adam points beyond himself) and while I emphasize that the second Adam is retrospective to the first Adam (i.e., he points behind himself), I don't want to minimize the fact that there is in a real sense a retrospective dimension in the case of the first Adam. He points back to the creation–he comes out of the created order. There is also a prospective dimension to the ministry of the second Adam. He points beyond himself to the eschaton. In the structure of the history of redemption it is the first Adam anticipatory of the second and the second Adam (to use Irenaeus' term) "recapitulatory" of the first that is the emphasis in the history of redemption.
Therefore, the biblical-theological method attempts to ascertain this organic relationship. It attempts to uncover this retrospective and prospective dimension. The first Adam is not abstracted nor isolated from the second Adam and the second Adam is not abstracted or isolated from the first Adam. Biblical theology does not allow one to look at Adam without also looking to Christ. You simply cannot do it if you are a biblical theologian. Nor does it allow one to look at Christ without looking at our first father. The church cannot learn her identity by isolating texts or by abstracting topics. The church's identity is (in our example) in the first man of the earth, earthy and the second man, the man from heaven. I will state this forcefully (I will even state it dogmatically} any preaching which proclaims Adam in the garden without also proclaiming the second Adam in the
resurrection garden is unbiblical! And I call the apostle Paul as witness on my behalf for that statement (cf. Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15). I care not what explicit verbal allegiance you may give to the doctrine of inerrancy and I care not what confessional allegiance you may give to orthodoxy. Any preaching that isolates Adam in the garden from Christ in the new garden of the resurrection is simply unbiblical and has been constructed on the basis of a private ecclesiastical agenda.
On the contrary, the church must find her life in her two covenant heads–preaching on either the one or the other must display the misery and the glory which the bride of the second Adam finds in the one and in the other. Let me put this another way. In the case of Adam, first and last, protology is related to eschatology. I trust that you understand that eschatology is not, biblically speaking, merely a matter delayed until the eschaton–the last day. There will be a last day, we heartily affirm that, but that is not all of the eschatological drama or the eschatological dimension to the Scriptures. Eschatology (and especially eschatology in the New Testament) is a matter inaugurally or provisionally fulfilled while at the same time something not yet consummated. To use Geerhardus Vos's term, eschatology in the New Testament is conceived ''semi-eschatologically". It is conceived in terms of the "now" and "not yet". It is conceived in terms of the overlap of the two ages–the present age and the age to come. It is here; the eschaton, the eschatological, is here in measure, provisionally, now! It will yet be perfected consummately at the end of history.
From the stand point of the Old Testament, this eschatological dimension is typically displayed. I trust you are familiar with that term "typology". It is a very useful way of describing a method of looking at the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. I would like to suggest, however, that typology is only half of the story. I hope to make it clear
that as biblical theologians we must take a step beyond mere typological exegesis. The Old Testament does have this topological dimension. The tabernacle, for example, is the house of God. It is a miniature heaven on earth. Hence entrance into the life of the tabernacle (this also applies to the temple–by atonement, by fellowship (you ate a meal) and by cleansing–is in fact an earthly realization of heavenly realities by means of symbolic ritual. Now it was the error of Israel, particularly at the time of Christ, to immanentize these eschatological symbols–the immanentization of the eschaton. What do I mean by that? Israel at the time of Christ absolutized the tabernacle, they absolutized the theocracy, they absolutized the nation of Judea as if the eschaton were contained in them! And therefore any announcement of the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven in the preaching of Jesus was automatically rejected because the eschaton was contained in the immanent aspects of Jewish religious life. Israel failed to comprehend what even the law and especially the Old Testament prophets had disclosed so clearly–the prospective nature of that entire Old Testament dispensation. It was provisional; it was never final. It was only typical in the sense that it pointed beyond itself. It was never to be the immanentization of the final dimension of history.
The Eschatological Perspective
The prophets continually project the eschatological dimension. And so for example, the projection of a millennial temple by Ezekiel was not an absolutization of the second temple (that post-exilic structure of Zerubbabel). No, Ezekiel projects an anti-typical temple not as an absolutization of the building on Mount Zion–for Ezekiel's temple was far too perfect to have been an absolutization of what was on Mount Zion. Rather Ezekiel projects his temple as a realization of the eschatological dwelling of God with man. A heavenly temple–an eternal temple–a final temple–a temple beyond which there will be no replacement. Jesus comes claiming to be the embodiment of that temple structure in the second chapter of John's gospel. We do not say to Jesus, "You don't know what you are talking about Jesus of
Nazareth! There is yet to be a post-tribulation, dispensational temple in the kingdom age!" In John 2 Jesus says, "I am the temple." We fall down at his feet and we humbly say, "Yes, Lord Jesus you are the final temple; you are the dwelling of God with man. Yes, Lord Jesus you are the locus where God and man meet–Lord Jesus you are priest and victim once and for all." Why would the church even want another temple beyond the Lord Christ? Are you not content with Jesus? Do you hanker after some block of stone on Mount Zion? I ask–is Jesus not enough for you? Be content with the temple who has come in all of his glory–for with the apostles we have "beheld his glory." And therefore when that temple ascends to heaven, we are not surprised to read that there is no temple in that eternal city for the lamb is the life thereof (Rev. 22).
It is this eschatological perspective which is so peculiar to Reformed biblical theology. We want to ask the question about the eschatological dynamic. We are not merely devoted students of redemptive-historical relationships, these retrospective and prospective connections (what John Murray calls the historico-genetic progression of the history of redemption). We are not merely interested in parallels typologically conceived. Adam parallels Christ. Moses parallels Christ. David parallels Christ. We are not merely interested in linear comparisons. We want to know what has come down from above. We want to know what has come out of the heavenlies. We want to know the eschatological dimension of Adam and Moses and David.
Hence my criticism of typology is that it does not go far enough. Patrick Fairbairn, that great Scottish Presbyterian, writes his Typology of Scripture. In many ways, it is a ground-breaking book well worth having, but it is not Vos. And so from Fairbairn, you must graduate to Vos. From Matthew Henry you must graduate to Ridderbos. Typology yes, but more than typology. The error of our fundamentalist and dispensational brethren is they are content with wooden and sterile parallels. They tend to have no understanding of the eschatological dynamic which is breathing and seething within those parallels. We
must go beyond typos We must go into the heavenlies. And so, we are those who look for the "end of the ages." We are those who taste the powers of the world to come. We are those who with both Peter and Paul realize that whatever was written aforetime was written for "our instruction." The Old Testament is not a dead letter! It has passion and power for us. And we–yes we!–we see mysteries which the angels have tried to peer into and to comprehend.
Eschatology More Than Typology
The eschatological perspective then is not only viewed typologically, that is in terms of this historical or linear progression. But the eschatological perspective is also related vertically and transcendentally. We have two dimensions of every text in the history of redemption. We have its linear or historical axis. What is its connection with the rest of historical time and space? But we have more than that. We are asking ourselves the question, "What is the relationship of this text to its vertical or transcendent dimension?" Or perhaps we should reverse the direction of the arrow, "What is the relationship of the heavens come down to earth?" There is eschatological progress in time historical and linear. What else is it for the second Adam to be described in terms of the first Adam? That is a horizontal or linear eschatological progress, organically related to God's self-disclosure as Creator and Redeemer. Is this progress through time? No one will deny that. We join with the apostle Paul in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 when we view Adam eschatologically in this sense. And indeed evangelical fundamentalism has gotten that point very well and reduced it to a topological correspondence. But the linear-eschatological second Adam is also vertically and transcendentally the Lord from heaven. And we, in seeing the first Adam, see something of the second because he is displayed from heaven in the first. Now it is dim, I confess that. It is seen from a dark glass, I confess that. The angels try to pull back the veil and inquire, and even the prophets didn't understand completely, I confess that. But that's the reason you and I, brothers and sisters, have the advantage over them and the least of us is greater than John the Baptist. We see what
they could not see clearly.
It is not only that linear and historical aspect, but it is that vertical and transcendent dimension where the Lord of heaven, the Lord from heaven touches the history of redemption. It is the resurrection of Christ which justifies him as such in time and space. You perhaps have never really thought about that. But ponder it for a moment. The apostle tells us Jesus was declared to be the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead (1 Tim. 3:15,16). Jesus was justified. You say, "Almighty God, I need to be justified! I need to be right with you!" Yet Jesus too needed to be justified because vicariously he took sin upon himself. If the grave holds him he is a condemned sinner. But he is declared right, he is justified by resurrection. So that the resurrection of Jesus is the cosmic justification of the Son of God!
Jesus of Nazareth is the razors edge. If, as the apostle Paul realized on that road to Damascus, resurrection is the common history of the world, then men and women, brothers and sisters, we are at the parting of the ages. A man would live again? If a man die, shall he live again? Jesus of Nazareth says, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Yes, Jesus is justified. But from the very beginning, the Adamic covenant is vertically related to that transcendent Son of God, son of Adam, who is before the face of the Father forever and ever. Thus we have anticipation all through the history of redemption of the justification of the Son of God. Like good Sherlock Holmes detectives, you've got to start looking for clues. Hence, we have two dimensions of eschatologica1 moment: we have that linear or historical dimension, and we have the vertical or transcendent dimension.
The Two Ages
Geerhardus Vos has given us a famous diagram of the overlap of the two ages. If you haven't read that chapter in the Pauline Eschatology you might take it down. In that book, you will remember that Vos talks about the age to come and he talks about the present evil age–the two ages. You will also notice that he describes the relationship from the stand point of Paul's eschatology. In fact for the
whole of the New Testament, he describes the relationship between those two ages as one of an overlap. The age to come moves forward to invade or overlap this present age. I would like to take Vos a step further. I would like to suggest to you that the age to come, eschatologically, overlaps even the whole Old Testament period. And that what we are observing, both in the New Testament era and in the Old, is the penetration or the intrusion or the vertical arrival of eschatological realities. The marvelously gracious thing which God has done is to penetrate or to intrude these eschatological realities into the Old and New Testament history of redemption. We seek the eternal in the temporal as it progresses historically and as it displays the abiding and final character of the acts and works of God.
The Biblical-Theological Difference
Well Mr. Dennison this is all very good theory, but what difference does it make in preaching? I believe it is the cure for the topical drivel that flows from more and more Reformed pulpits. It is the remedy for the increasing misapplication of Scripture in so called "practical" Christian sermons. And it is the solution to dull, boring and trivial doctrinal or catechetical preaching. In sum, if biblical-theological preaching is the method of correctly exegeting the plan of God, both historically and eschatologically conceived, than biblical-theological preaching is the most biblical, the most theological and the most exciting preaching of all.
The biblical-theological preacher is like the scribe in the kingdom of heaven who brings forth things old and new from the "thesaurus"–from the treasures hidden in Christ, in God. The pulpits of the modern church are full of those who have read The Lazy Man's Way to Preaching. What is heard from many modern pulpits is the pop-theology of the day. That was once the cornerstone of liberal pulpits. Harry Emerson Fosdick packed them in at Riverside Baptist church in New York City because he knew what sells, he new what tickled the fancy of upwardly mobile New York socialites from the 20's to the 50's. With the coming of age of American Evangelicalism, you
can't tell the conservatives from the liberals, methodologically speaking anymore. If its upbeat, positive, brimming with gush about human love and mush about raising social consciousness, it is as likely to becoming from a Baptist pulpit as from a new wave Reformed pulpit as it is to be emanating from a modernist or Barthian pulpit. I admit the sarcasm, but I predict my sarcasm will be justified. I simply point out that the verdict of history will be very much in accord with the verdict of James Davison Hunter's book American Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation.
Preaching is work, hard work. It takes real work with the text, real work with the context and real work with the redemptive-historical context. Preaching is not the calling for the man who spends the bulk of his weekday afternoons at Kiwanis, Rotary or Chamber of Commerce luncheons. Nor is preaching the calling for public relations types who are advancing their images with promotional campaigns which look like Madison Avenue or worse. What a pity that the Lord Jesus did not have a New York executive managing his "style". And oh, the poor apostle Paul–he was born too early for the Church Growth Movement.
The Modern Preaching Crisis
This is a throw away generation and preaching has been infected by the contagion. Most of what Christian America hears on a given Sunday morning has little to do with the Bible, much to do with the personal agenda of ecclesiastical moguls parading in black robes, three-piece suits and make-up. Preaching is so much glitter and glitz or else it is trivial and banal. But biblical preaching requires work with the sources; hard work with the text, commentaries, journal articles, lexicons and a host of other resources. I had a friend who has been in the ministry for twenty-five years and liked to brag that he hadn't read a theological book since he graduated from seminary. What a tragedy! If you are not now purchasing and learning to use the basic tools for working with a biblical text, then you are not learning what to preach. If you have no commitment to working at your preaching and working
20 hours per week in your study, then you are not working hard at mastering the content of the text of Scripture. If you believe that you are proclaiming the word of life and it is the difference between heaven and hell and that it is the building of the congregation in the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ, then you will have 20 hours because that's what it is going to take. You are going to have to work with books. You are going to have to work with the gold of God's word. Like the Marine's, the church needs a few good men–and your study is boot camp. You are on a battle field. So get yourself in shape now and start to begin to pay the price to be a herald of the word of life. It simply can't be done with 2-5 hours of preparation a week
First and Last
I mentioned above that protology is related to eschatology. I explained that protology is related to that which stands in the beginning and eschatology is related to that which stands at the end and I used the first and second Adam motif to illustrate that relationship specifically. There is in fact a complete display of the history of redemption in the protological aspect of Genesis 2 and 3. Think about it–covenant; covenant mediator; victim and victor; justification; faith; vicarious death; excommunication; consuming fire; probation; inability; works vs. grace–it's all there. And that is the reason the fathers called Genesis 3:15 the protevangelium–the first gospel. As the history of redemption advances from Genesis 3, the protological elements make prospective contact with developments in the law and the prophets and the apostles. The relationship of subsequent events in the history of redemption (i.e., the incarnation of the second Adam bruising the head of the serpent while receiving a lesser wound) is retrospective. Therefore we are reminded once again of the organic or the innate relationship between the moments of redemptive history. Biblical-theological preaching attempts to describe this organic relationship as it unfolds in a particular text or pericope. That is your goal–to understand the redemptive-historical relationship. The biblical-theological preacher is seeking the prospective, retrospective relationship and the vital union of the people of God
with that motif.
I mentioned above that the preaching on Adam which does not bring one's audience into the sense of union with our first parent is abstract, mere symbolism and irrelevant to the biblical history of redemption. Furthermore, preaching on the first Adam which does not open up the drama of union with the second Adam is moralism, historicism and also irrelevant. Our life is in that first man and, by the grace of God poured out on his elect, our life is gloriously hidden in that last man. In the preaching moment then, we are asking ourselves, "What is the connection of this revelation of God with what goes before it and what comes after it?" "What is the relationship of this pericope to what is around it?" And what is the nature of life for the people of God revealed in that organic connection? How is the life of the church (i.e., the people of God of the former covenant and the people of God in the new covenants)–how is the life of the church revealed by this passage?
I trust you begin to understand what we are doing. We are reversing the way in which a modern congregation listens to a sermon. We are not asking the man in the pew to "get something out" of the sermon, whether we have given him an outline in the bulletin or whatever. We are proclaiming to the man and the woman and the child in the pew that his or her life is found in the text of the Scripture and in that text-word there is a self-disclosure of the life of God himself, the life of Jesus Christ, the life of the Holy Spirit. And what's more God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost invite that man, woman and child in the pew to participate in their life! To come into that heavenly life! To move into the age to come–into the life from above–to experience what it means to live in the not yet now! We are not imposing upon the pew so that the pew sits to extract something from our message. We are saying to the pew, "Come up to the heavenlies in Christ Jesus; come and find your life hidden with Christ in God in this text." Here is your life. We do not ask you to derive lessons from the life of Adam. We proclaim that your life is in Adam–miserable, sinful, rebellious, selfish, autonomous, hellish–
but we plead with men, women and children everywhere to find their life in that second Adam, to find themselves in Christ Jesus a new creation clothed upon with the righteousness of the Lamb of God, ushered into the paradise of God by the one who has tasted the flame and felt the edge of the sword of divine justice. We preach to you life in Christ Jesus–your life hidden with Christ in God–from first Adam to second Adam–from Adam protological to Adam eschatological–that is our method, that is our message. And now the work begins! Now, you must learn to build a biblical-theological sermon.
Preaching and Application: A Review
Charles G. Dennison
Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989. ISBN: 0-8028-0360-1.$19.95 (paper).
In 1970, when Sidney Greidanus's Sola Scriptura appeared, an electric shock went through a number of us at Westminster Seminary. Here, at last, was support for what we had concluded: Preaching lies at the heart of the church's ministry; preaching must awake to redemptive-history; preaching must not descend to the level of moralism, psychologism–the mere exemplary approach. Truly, "our hearts burned within us" as Greidanus pressed a theocentric and christocentric hermeneutic and reviewed the current situation against the background of the debate in pre-WWII Holland that involved, among others, the figure of Klaas Schilder.
We grabbed hold of this book as the prosecuted grab hold of evidence proving their credibility and the plausibility of their case. We felt ourselves surrounded by the devotees of an ahistorical approach to theology, the worshipful disciples of instant cultural relevance and a rising corps of religious technicians aspiring to be masters of the practicum. Greidanus arrived as genuine medicine for the soul. In
some ways he seemed more valuable than others close at hand for whom the high claims of biblical theology were finally relativized in the name of theological "balance" and in whose hands the discipline had become more like an appendage, a hobby, or a personal exercise in aesthetics.
But, of course, we were students looking for a cause, damning the world around us and over-estimating ourselves and our position. Gradually, we saw clearly enough, despite the beam in our own eye, to work on whatever was in Greidanus's. We began to admit to one another the book disappointed us. We blamed its wordiness at first; it was pretty tough going in the later sections. In the end we concluded the book was seriously flawed, although we could not put our finger on the precise reason. The present review offers an opportunity to look at Greidanus in light of the progress we all have made since 1970.
Without doubt Greidanus has produced a standard work that will be set before a generation of seminary students. He has obviously mastered the art of easy communication and produced an exceptionally clear view of the homiletical and hermeneutical landscape. Complications are deftly treated; the oblique level of theological discussion is often penetrated carefully. Truly, a student's manual in the best sense of that term.
Greidanus is up-to-date. He carries through with his arguments from Sola Scriptura. Moralism and the exemplar approach are not alternatives among homiletical possibilities; rather they are unacceptable (cf. pp. 116ff., 161ff.). Also, the historical-critical method has failed as a system unsuited to its subject. The time has come to recognize this fact as fundamental to responsible exegesis (cf. pp. 25ff.).
At the same time, Greidanus carries us beyond his position of twenty years ago. We have moved "into a new world: [Biblical studies] has undergone a paradigm shift from historical to literary studies so
that scholarly interest today is focused not so much on history as on genres of biblical literature–with the concomitant shift in homiletics to forms of sermons" (p. xi). Needed is analysis that helps us appropriate the significance of this shift while avoiding the pitfalls.
Greidanus steers us almost effortlessly through the last 100 years of biblical literary criticism: Source®form®redaction®rhetorical®[biblical theology]®canon (chapter 3). He reviews for us the historical (chapter 4) and theological (chapter 5) analysis of the text. His goal is the "holistic" method that stands against atomism (p. 48) and a monodimensional assessment of Scripture. He agrees with Leander Keck that preaching biblically is to impart "a Bible-shaped word in a Bible-like way" (p. 10).
Greidanus does not attempt to be original. He collects, sorts and synthesizes. The application of his method to four biblical genre (Old Testament narrative and prophecy/New Testament gospel and epistle) in chapters nine through twelve draws together the efforts of many. He places before us a wealth of information on the structure and setting of the text. For instance, the work done over the last generation on each of the four gospels is briefly but nicely summarized (pp. 278-84).
By the book's end we may feel we have been "chiasmed" to death. Greidanus's repetitive style and system of analysis may find us scanning instead of reading. Still, much helpful information provokes us to further and deeper study. In a day when an unconfessed and even piously defended mental indolence dominates the pulpit, Greidanus will have none of it and neither should we.
As helpful as it is, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text leaves us more than uneasy. In it, to be sure, Greidanus shows himself a master of homiletical science and most likely the homiletitian to be reckoned with for some time to come. However, his strengths, the very points at which we might boast about him, expose what may prove to be his most damaging weaknesses. We have organized our reflections
on the critical areas under three headings: Church and Theology, The Exile and the Kingdom; Preaching and Application.
1. Church and Theology. Someone has observed that theology is dead; but science in theological dress is very much alive. What they meant was that theology is no longer viewed as normative, while the technical craft employed by theologians is. Method has ascended and become the meaning of the theological enterprise.
Greidanus overwhelms us with method, something many will not find bothersome given the manual nature of the book. However, he also may be a participant in the demise of a normative theology, leaving us with his "holistic" method but not much more.
We might well ask how evident Greidanus's confessional Reformed background is from a reading of this book. Here, he seems to have moved beyond the parameters of his earlier work to become well-situated in our age of ecclesial and theological anonymity. Scholarship and truth live at a level above the particulars of the community of faith in which we are raised and live.
We do think this strange in a day in which presuppositions and subjectivity are no longer supposedly the enemies they once were. We are merely asking those who know, those maybe who have pressed most for consideration of the subjectivity of, say, the biblical writers themselves, is not our ecclesiastic identity an important ingredient in the theological and hermeneutical task? Moreover, we find especially odd those who accept (as Greidanus in measure seems to do) the claims of redaction criticism with all its deference to the community that shaped the text but ignore or refuse to acknowledge the community that shapes them.
Then, again, what redaction critic has scrutinized the first century Christian communities for a normative theology? More likely, he simply sought to establish the diverse and therefore broad possibilities for what might pass for Christianity at that time. He approaches the modern situation similarly. He relativizes the many theologies and ecclesiastical contexts, while the method itself becomes common
ground beneath his clairvoyant eye.
Is Greidanus totally immune to the virus? Not only is his own background camouflaged, but he quotes in common context a wide range of theologians, many of whom disagree violently about the essentials of the faith. It is as if the radical divergence between them were deliberately ignored. Are Karl Barth and Edmund Clowney keeping company these days? How about Donald Miller and Jay Adams? Maybe the unlikely pair of Borakamm and Bettler? Cullmann and Dooyeweerd?
A case in point, Greidanus quotes David Buttrick to the effect that miracle stories are to produce a "wow" (p. 19). That's nice! Yet, there is no hint of the disparity that exists between Buttrick's understanding of miracle and hopefully Greidanus's.
What is going on here? Orthodoxy and neo-orthodoxy blend, confessional Reformed theology and radicalism, the Reformed and Lutheran, the covenantal and the Baptist. All apparently meet on a common platform that seems to be constructed upon supposed neutrality and agreement, by and large, about methodology. As one person said while reading this book, "It will be hard for anyone to take exception to it since, if they are not favorably quoted, they are a disciple of somebody who is."
2. The Exile and the Kingdom. We do have exceptions, however. Excluded are Rudolf Bultmann, Norman Perrin, James Barr and the structuralists. Bultmann's exile interests us. Safe to say, he is no longer "in." No one wishes to be identified with his radical kerygmatic Christianity (p. 35), his agnostic view of history (p. 53), or his "nature and history" dualism (p. 99).
Nevertheless, Greidanus is knee-deep in the issue that preoccupied Bultmann. No, not the historical Jesus, but application. In fact, many may find themselves in bed with the exile, embracing as axiomatic the principle he so relentlessly and consistently pursued; namely, the profound distance between the biblical world and our own.
Without question this principle is the backbone of Greidanus's approach. It is assumed and regularly mentioned in chapters one through seven, argued in chapter eight and applied in chapters nine through twelve. And seemingly many, if not all, agree with him. Take John Stott, for instance; Greidanus quotes him on the preacher's task: It is to throw bridges "...across this broad and deep divide of two thousand years....[It is] to enable God's revealed truth to flow out of the Scripture into the lives of the men and women of today" (p. 159).
Do these words not have serious implications for the doctrine of Scripture? Are we not hearing the suggestion of an inherent deficiency in the word, a deficiency rendering it bound and mute until the preacher "enables" it to be effective? Somehow such language sounds disturbingly familiar.
Unleashing the word is something about which Greidanus has much to say. Evidently, it is properly accomplished when we do full justice to the historical-cultural setting of the biblical world and of our own (p. 183). The word is released from one world by application in another. The objective is modern and relevant communication.
But was that not Bultmann's objective? Did he not build his program of demythologizing to span the chasm between then and now, believing he found a link in the common humanness of biblical and modern man?
For Greidanus, the chasm is also formidably wide. His program of application sends him in search of a link between biblical times and our own, landing him in what he calls our common "struggle for the coming of God's kingdom" (p. 100f.). Regardless of the content of that phrase, certainly a severe problem in its own right, we are left wondering what the practical difference is between him and Bultmann.
The matter, however, is not closed. Bultmann maybe smiles knowingly, confident we have capitulated and are in his corner. At the same time he proves himself our better, since he sees clearly what we are having trouble admitting. On the religious level he champions a faith that is so absolute that it refuses to accommodate itself to
historical probability. We, over against him, march with Greidanus so evenly, so reasonably, as if our commitments to historical and logical probability have no impact on our faith.
Our problem, says Bultmann, is our failure to face up to the crisis of modern man who must decide for faith against all supposed guarantees and certitudes. We espouse a faith that, on the one hand, merely trails behind logical and historical constraint while, on the other, asserts its freedom from all such constraints. To the extent we are distant from the biblical world, but dependent upon its historical particulars, to that extent our faith rests only on probability, with us apparently oblivious to the inherent contradiction in our position.
This is, in fact, where Greidanus finds himself (cf. pp. 34,35). He favors a "holistic" historical-criticism and faults the traditional historical-critical method (pp. 36 47). The latter fails because it does not take into consideration all possibilities, specifically excluding the possibility of God's action in history (pp. 35f.). Such a possibility, of course, Greidanus accepts. But that is exactly what it remains, a possibility. Now Greidanus has separated faith and history, since biblical history is only probably true, while faith must be absolutely true.
3. Preaching and Application. Our review has reached a critical point. We have to back-up since earlier we criticized Greidanus for lumping together the widest range of theological opinion. However, if theology in its wide expression is uniformly committed to the program of application, then there is great unanimity in the theological enterprise. What most did not count on, however, was keeping company with Bultmann.
More pointedly, Greidanus's and Bultmann's positions are structurally the same. For both, the ancient text must be "delivered" in the interests of relevance. For both, the machinery of modern criticism is indispensable. For both, faith is an irrational factor (at least in part for Greidanus) that must assert itself against the uncertainties of logical and historical probability.
The process of "deliverance" begins in the text itself. In Bultmann's case the writings of John and Paul are especially effective in this regard. We find in them a pattern at work to demythologize the mythological construction of the biblical world. What they began, the modern theologian and preacher pursue. Put negatively, we must do for the Bible what the Bible was not able to do completely for itself. Positively, we do to the Bible what it began to do to its own mythology. In diagram form we have:
Previous Myth ® New Testament
New Testament Myth ® Modern Criticism
In other words, previous myth is to the New Testament as New Testament myth is to the modern critical program. In effect, a whole new redemptive-historical setting has been created.
Although couched in much more agreeable language, Greidanus's program of application has followed the same course. According to him, the modern preacher lives in a qualitatively different age than the biblical figures. The modern preacher finds himself in a new redemptive-historical setting beyond that of the ancient text. He begins with his unique modern setting and turns to the "then" world of the text in order to deliver it from its ancient setting for application here and now.
Another way of viewing things, however, is open to us. Over against the seeming monolithic consensus about the program of application stands Geerhardus Vos. He has told us, "...we know full well that we ourselves live just as much in the New Testament as did Peter and Paul and John" (Biblical Theology, p.303).
Unfortunately, this fact does not appear to be known "full well." Few, if any, seem to work out of a hermeneutic that gives any evidence
of having grasped it. And what a shame, since the Bible's point of view is so magnificently sublime. The only real "then and now" is the "then" of the old and the "now" of the new. We live now in the glorious day of salvation that spans the time from our Savior's first advent to his second, or more specifically from his resurrection to ours (cf. Vos's, The Pauline Eschatology, p. 38). There are no "modern" preachers; there are only preachers.
Grace Orthodox Presbyterian