Edmund Clowney, Sidney Greidanus, Graeme Goldsworthy, Bryan Chappell, Christopher Wright, David Murray, Christopher Ash and others have done the church a great service by their advocacy, in various ways, of a Christ-centred approach to preaching from the Old Testament.
What’s not to like?
Amid all the enthusiasm, Daniel Block sounds a note or two of caution.
Block agrees that Christ-centred preaching
- ‘has a long history, beginning with the apostles, the church fathers, the reformers (especially Luther), and extending to more a recent revival [of] Christ-centered preaching in some circles.
- preserves focus and unity in our preaching.
- satisfies our pietistic impulses to highlight personal spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
- fulfills what many consider to be the Pauline mandate of preaching—to preach nothing but Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
- seeks to find and highlight the unity of the biblical message and to focus on the redemptive historical and theological theme of the Bible. The Scriptures describe the grand mission of God which finds its climax and fulfillment in Christ.’
So, asks Block ‘why would one not desire Christ-centered preaching?’
- ‘Christo-centric preaching often morphs into a Christo-centric hermeneutic, which demands that we find Christ in every text.’ Not every OT text speaks of Christ, although every leads leads to Christ. We should interpret the OT ‘Christotelically rather than Christocentrically’. This means, among other things, that we begin by interpreting the text in the sense that its original hearers and readers should have got.
- ‘Christ-centered preaching may obscure the intent of the original author and in so doing may actually reflect a low view of Scripture.’ Our Lord did indeed teach “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). But this does not mean that he found himself in every verse, but rather that he opened up for his two companions those Scriptures which did speak of him. ‘Few proverbs in the book of Proverbs speak of Jesus; the author’s intent in gathering these collections was to help a righteous person may make his way through life’.
- ‘Rather than clarifying many First Testament texts, Christ-centered preaching may rob them of both their literary quality and their spiritual force.’ An insistence that every OT text speaks of Christ may lead to many of those texts being buried under lays of fanciful and allegorical interpretations, which lead us far away from the divinely intended message of the Spirit-inspired original authors.