How not to preach at Christmas part one

Preachers face temptations to go anthropocentric at Christmas. There are lots of angles you can take with the Christmas story, but there are also lots of ways to be a little to creative. That can get us into trouble.I'm thinking of a Christmas message on marriage. The sermon went something like this: Mary and Joseph faced marriage stress due to an unplanned pregnancy; our marriages face stress too. Mary and Joseph could have blamed each other in lots of different ways; so could we. Mary and Joseph instead responded in faith and trust, and so can we when our marriages run into problems.The big question, I guess, is this: Is the story of Mary and Joseph in the Bible there to teach us about marriage? The minute we depart from the author's purpose (and, by extension, the Spirit's purpose) for the text, we're missing the point. We are also forced to be selective with the text and skip parts like the angelic visitation and the virgin birth.Two of the most important questions we can ask in keeping sermons theocentric are, "What is the purpose of the text?" And, "How can I preach a sermon consistent with that purpose?"Coming up: one more way not to preach at Christmas, and some excerpts from Kevin Vanhoozer's excellent book The Drama of Doctrine.

The Bible is a book about God

Haddon Robinson's book Biblical Preaching is a classic text on homiletics. It's one of those books that seems fresh and relevant every time I read it. This summer, I was surprised to rediscover a section in which Haddon talks about God-centered preaching:
God reveals Himself in the Scriptures. The Bible, therefore, isn't a textbook about ethics or a manual on how to solve personal problems. The Bible is a book about God. When you study a biblical text, therefore, you should ask, "What is the vision of God in this passage?" God is always there. Look for Him...
To apply a passage, "you need to see what your passage reveals about God and the way people responded and lived before God. Look for the same factors in contemporary life."

Coming posts

It's been too long since I posted here. Blame a busy schedule and a focus on other projects. But I'm back with some ideas.Over the past year or so, I've invested a lot of hours reading everything I could find related to the topic of theocentric preaching. I wasn't sure how much I would find, but there's tons out there. For the next little while, I plan on highlighting some of the best books on the topic with brief posts and what you can expect to find if you read the book. You'll get a taste for what's out there and benefit from some of the best ideas of key thinkers in this area.So, stay tuned! I'll be back with the first book by the end of the week.

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics

I'm looking forward to reading Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, due out next March.

"The focus of Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics is not word studies but 'Word study': a sustained reflection on the priority and centrality of the good news concerning Jesus Christ as the distinct way that Scripture interprets Scripture and, indeed, all of reality. Goldsworthy's attention to the role of biblical theology in biblical interpretation is particularly welcome, providing a refreshing contrast to what often gets produced by the contemporary hermeneutics industry. And by highlighting the gospel of Jesus Christ, he puts the evangel back into evangelical hermeneutics." —Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

While there are many books on hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy's perception is that evangelical contributions often do not give sufficient attention to the vital relationship between hermeneutics and theology, both systematic and biblical.

In Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Goldsworthy moves beyond a reiteration of the usual arguments to concentrate on the theological questions of presuppositions, and the implications of the Christian gospel for hermeneutics. In doing so, he brings fresh perspectives on some well-worn pathways.

Part I examines the foundations and presuppositions of evangelical belief, particularly with regard to biblical interpretation.

Part II offers a selective overview of important hermeneutical developments from the sub-apostolic age to the present, as a means of identifying some significant influences that have been alien to the gospel.

Part III evaluates ways and means of reconstructing truly gospel-centered hermeneutics.

Goldsworthy's aim throughout is to commend the much-neglected role of biblical theology in hermeneutical practice, with pastoral concern for the people of God as they read, interpret and seek to live by his written Word.

I've found Goldsworthy's previous book, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, to be valuable.