Q&A: Redemptive-Historical Preaching

Redemptive-Historical Preaching

Question

Just over a year ago our church suffered a terrible split over the issues surrounding redemptive-historical preaching.

Since then, I have read everything I can get my hands on regarding these issues. I have gained great help from much of your "Doctrine of the Knowledge of God" along with some articles in the WTJ by Vern Poythress on matters of interpretation. Do you have any suggestions as to further reading?

Answer

As a student of Edmund Clowney and Meredith Kline, I have long been impressed with the importance of a redemptive-historical understanding of Scripture. Geerhardus Vos's books are the best source for this, as well as Herman Ridderbos's Coming of the Kingdom and Paul. Richard Geffin's writings are also very helpful and balanced, in general, though I disagree with his contention that systematic theology must be "controlled by" biblical theology. Clowney's Preaching and Biblical Theology is pretty good, but I wish he or somebody would write companion volumes titled Preaching and Systematic Theology, Preaching and Exegetical Theology, and Preaching and Moral Theology.

You really can't understand any biblical passage unless you understand its place in redemptive history. The obvious example: God commands Israel to slaughter the Canaanites. If someone takes this text and says that we should go out and slaughter unbelievers, we should reply that (1) this suggestion is crazy, and (2) that it ignores the redemptive-historical context of Israel's conquest.

However, among those who appreciate redemptive history there has also developed a rather sectarian, even fanatical group, namely those associated with the publication Kerux. These folks have developed rather fanciful ways of "finding Christ" in OT texts, and they oppose any attempt to "apply" Scripture or to use biblical characters as moral examples. Their sermons are often jargon-laden. Worse, they accuse anyone who disagrees with them of "moralism," "legalism," etc. Yours is not the first church that has suffered division over this issue, and I consider it shameful people have made a test of orthodoxy over such a half-baked theory.

Take a look at a paper I've written on the subject, available at www.thirdmill.org or by clicking here.


Answer by Dr. John M. Frame

Dr. John M. Frame is Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.