Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nothing New Under The Sun

In just a few lines I'll give you a quote. No, you won't have to guess who it is - I'll tell you. But, do read it before you observe who it is. Why?

Because I suspect you should realize what is being said before you look at who is saying it, and then the significance will be quite obvious.

My comment first: this quote is not trendy, new, different, postmodern, emergent, emerging, relevant, and so on; rather it is quite "modern", liberal, establishment, just plain "old-fashioned", traditional, theistic evolution.

Are you ready? Here it is. Discussing the mess the systems of the world are in (what some of us would call systemic sin), this author says, the mess can "destroy good and living things, devalue what is precious, overvalue what is worthless, foul up the results of millions of years of evolution, and so desecrate and frustrate what I believe is a sacred and ongoing work of the Creator, in us, among us, and through us." There you have it! He said that sin is essentially messing up what evolution has accomplished, albeit through "God".

Who said this? Brian D. McLaren in "Everything Must Change", Nelson, 2007, p. 53.

How irrelevant!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Biblical Pattern For Expository Preaching

There is a powerful and exquisite pattern (not prescription) for the exposition of the Word of God seen in Nehemiah 8:1-18. Nehemiah records a preaching event that marked the temporary end of the "famine...for the hearing of the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11), bringing revival in Jerusalem. Stephen F. Olford suggested in his booklet "Preaching the Word of God" (Encounter, 1984; p.36) that Jesus Himself would have been familiar with this preaching pattern, and followed it in His preaching - the Master modeling the method! Olford shows these same points from Jesus' Emmaus Road conversation in Luke 24:25-35.

Without giving the entire exposition here (but let me assure you, this will preach!!), let's observe some high points from the chapter to help us think about biblical expository preaching. I've organized these high points into three - (1) The People's Motivation, (2) The Preachers' Method, and (3) The Power Manifested.

(1) The People's Motivation (v.1-6)

  • (a) desire - v.1
    -the people gathered of their own desire "as one man...and they asked bring the book". Wouldn't you love to have that happen when you preach?
    We're all here! We're ready! Bring us the Book!

  • (b) attentiveness - v.3
    - "all the people were attentive to the book"

  • (c) honor - v.5
    - "all the people stood up" when Ezra opened the book to read it

  • (d) praise - v.6
    - agreement with the Word, "Amen, Amen!" with lifting of hands (at the Scripture reading, without music!)

  • (e) worship - v.6
    -humility in worship

(2) The Preachers' Method (v.2-10); the whole method can be taught from just v.8!

  • (a) Read the Text!
    - he "brought the law before the assembly" (v.2) Use a Bible!
    -he read it standing "at a wooden podium/pulpit" (v.4)
    - he "opened the book in the sight of all the people" (v.5) Let them see it!
    - he "read from it" (v.3,8)
    - he read it with praise and prayer (v.6 "Ezra blessed the Lord the great God")
    - cp. First Timothy 4:13

  • (b) Restate the Truth!
    - they "explained the law to the people" (v.7)
    - they "translated to give the sense" (v.8)
    - this is the exposition

  • (c) Relate the Thrust!
    - "so that they understood the reading" (v.8)
    - "This day is holy" (v.9). Now is the time for response!
    - "do not . . ." (v.9,10) - direct application

(3) The Power Manifested (v.9-18)

  • (a) repentance (v.9)

  • (b) joy (v.10)

  • (c) celebration (v.12)

  • (d) continuation (v.13-18)

  • (e) rejoicing (v.17)

  • (f) daily obedience (v.18)

We will look at some other examples in the Bible itself in future articles, but I hope you will consider this one along with my prayer for you as a preacher of the Word of God.

A Question on the way to Exposition

A responder to this blog raised an excellent question about diagramming the text in preparation for making an expository outline. I would like to make sure that this question does get answered, because it is both helpful and important.

The essence of the question came from my recommendation of Lee Kantenwein's "Diagrammatical Analysis" approach presented in his booklet by that title. The question concerned the applicability of Kantenwein's approach to various literary genres of the biblical text. The responder felt that this approach to diagramming would work best for the epistles or other shorter, fairly direct kinds of passages, but questioned its helpfulness for diagramming other genres.

I do want to point out that Kantenwein has some good examples of using his approach with poetic material, and I have found it personally helpful with that genre. A superb example of this can be seen in George J. Zemek's "The Word of God in The Child of God" (a commentary on Psalm 119 - self published). From page 388 ff. Zemek provides his diagrams for the entire psalm with notes that relate to his expository outlines in the text of the commentary.

But mainly I want to say that I agree with the essence of the question. This form of diagramming is not best used with narrative, apocalyptic, and longer portions of text. It can take way too long to do and yields relatively fewer results than it does with other genres, especially the epistles. So what else should we do?

I probably should have mentioned this previously, so I am glad the question came up so I can mention it now. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. has some great sections in his book "Toward an Exegetical Theology" (Baker, 1981) on what he calls "block diagramming". He gives both explanation and examples of what this is and how to do it in his book. This works well with longer and especially narrative portions of Scripture. It would be well worth your time if you've never seen it.

The point I really want to make is that we need some approach or tool that forces us to consider every word of the text in relation to its context. There is not a prize for getting your diagram correct, but there is great reward in seeing the importance and connection of every word to what is going on in the text itself. Whatever form you come up with to force you to do that work is good.