Book Review: Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture

Book Review: Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture

*This review was written for my Hermeneutics class. I am using this book for lesson in my Hermeneutics class this summer.*

The book Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture is written by Graeme Goldsworthy. He is a retired Australian Anglican lecturer of Old Testament, Biblical theology and hermeneutics as well as author of multiple books on Biblical theology and the application of Christ-centered hermeneutics.

The principal purpose of the book is to bring Biblical theology back into the church through effectual preaching. Far from being solely academic, the science of Biblical theology as presented by Goldsworthy works in every genre, book and passage in Scripture to bring the message of the text in line with the foremost message of the Bible, Jesus Christ. Pastors who struggle to harmonize the Old and New Testament and their distinctions (pg. XII-XII) are the intended beneficiaries of this book and instruction. The result should be the removal of the “preacher’s dilemma” to connect a passage to the person of Jesus Christ (pg. 2).

Goldsworthy sets out to prove and apply this truth in two parts. In part one he demonstrates the foundation of unity throughout Scripture and in part two he works to provide a look at this in practice. This unity of the Bible with respect to every element of content, message and purpose is what Goldsworthy calls Biblical theology or “theology that is Biblical” (pg 25). For Goldsworthy, this unity presents itself in overarching themes and the presupposition of a redemptive-historical hermeneutic. Jesus Christ as the ultimate point of emphasis for the whole of Scripture and is referred to by Goldsworthy as “salvation history” (pg. 27). This paradigm stands in contrast to conservative use of the historical-grammatical method. The weakness of this approach becomes evident in part two.

The strength of Goldsworthy’s defense of Biblical Theology is Jesus’ proclamation of Biblical theology. The highlight of this defense is Jesus’ appropriation of Prophetic term “Son of Man” and the clear continuation of this theme throughout the teachings of the apostles. In addition to this technical example, Goldsworthy is able to make strong practical arguments by exposing command deficiencies in Biblical perspective. The church’s confusion over the eschatological nature of Christ’s first advent (pg. 56), the centrality of the resurrection (pg. 57) and the distinction between justification and sanctification (pg. 59) validates Goldsworthy’s claim.

The foundation of Goldsworthy’s argument for the necessity of Biblical theology resides in his evaluation of the different stages of redemptive history and their subsequent harmony.  This harmony is presented as “progressive revelation” and brings to life every peculiarity of the Old Testament Scriptures. Through the lenses of “Type-Antitype” (pg. 76), “Promise-Fulfilment” (pg. 78) and “Eschatological Goal” (pg. 79), Goldsworthy demonstrates how different stages of redemptive history can be refined to proclaim a shared focus. The graphs and diagrams relating redemptive history to the cross are resoundingly helpful to pastors. This is particularly beneficial when Goldsworthy argues for the centrality of Christ in any application to the modern church.

In part two of the book, Goldsworthy applies this foundation of Biblical theology to the genres of Scripture and the preaching of pastors. Goldsworthy’s reliance on a redemptive-historical model within this section provides the only major weaknesses of the book. Among the practical advice on preaching the psalms, there are unneeded conflicts on “where” in the salvation storyline these psalms take place (pg. 205). This reliance on the redemptive-historical perspective makes suspect the security of application from the psalms despite Goldworthy’s hope for the opposite (pg. 211). In an almost historically negligent way, application of a particular Psalm to Christ as the fulfilled King or Israel is seen as methodologically satisfying but ultimately impotent in edification for the church.

In a similar fashion, Goldsworthy encounters this situation in the apocalyptic elements of the Scripture: over emphasizing Christ’s first advent against His final advent (pg. 215). Instead of permitting apocalyptic passages to build off historical Scriptural imagery into definitive historical fulfillments, the symbolic language is disconnected from Scripture to direct exclusively at Christ’s Passion (pg. 216-217). In addition to removing practical application, this approach also seems to establish a new type of allegory by seeking to force a spiritual Calvary-only fulfillment with no concern for other historical fulfillment. This severance of genuine history from Christ is a dangerous ramification of an over extended paradigm.

Despite these weaknesses, it is evident these deficiencies lie not in the Biblical theology Goldwsworthy defends but instead in his confined redemptive-historical application. The book as an introduction to Biblical theology is an outstanding effort. Pastors should be encouraged and educated to faithfully preach God’s word to His people through the medium of His Son, Jesus Christ, by Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture.

Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.