Goldsworthy, Graeme. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. 272 pp, $25.
Preaching is one of my greatest passions, and as such, reading on the subject is of great importance to me. In Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Graeme Goldsworthy has proven himself an apt writer and theologian. The book is an attempt to show that, on the basis of careful biblical theology, the entire Bible is effective and necessary as a medium through which God speaks to his people. Goldsworthy shows the absolute importance of preaching the whole Bible through the cross and conversely preaching Christ from the whole Bible. Through this book, Goldsworthy not only argues for the magnitude of preaching Christ-centered sermons, he also gives concrete examples and references to how that task can and should be accomplished. Goldsworthy’s commitment to redemptive-historical preaching is a wonderful reminder that the Bible is one Book about one God with one major purpose of redemption in history that is realized in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
Following his introduction, Goldsworthy opens his book with a chapter titled Nothing but Christ and Him Crucified that sets the theme for the entire volume. Goldsworthy shows a serious commitment to the task and science of biblical theology, but that theology and subsequent preaching with biblical theology as its basis must begin, not in the Garden of Eden, but with Christ. Goldsworthy gives a reminder that the preacher has the task of communicating the whole counsel of God in light of the gospel, but not in a way that takes away from the historical-redemptive perspective of either the text in hand or the gospel itself. Goldsworthy notes, “The gospel is central to our thinking in an experiential sense” (5), but that does not mean that the gospel is the only thing we preach.
Goldsworthy contends that biblical preaching is doing nothing more nor less than “allowing the Bible to speak as a whole: the one word of the one God about the one way of salvation” (7). So, preaching the whole Bible as Christian literature, according to Goldsworthy, means remembering that all of Scripture, in one way or another, either points forward or backward to Christ, his death, and resurrection. After presenting a clear picture of biblical theology, the author moves to discuss the very act of preaching. Preaching is the primary means by which the gospel was spread and the church grew in the New Testament (32). As such, it is central to the task of communicating the Word of God. Goldsworthy defines true preaching as God-centered, not man-centered. The preaching event begins and ends with God and his revelation.
God’s revelation in the Bible, according to the text, is unified into one ultimate message. The Bible is God’s salvation history and salvation history is “the process of eschatology being worked out in the history of our world” (79). For that reason, all preaching should take into account the entire message of the Bible, and not merely isolated passages removed from their context. Goldsworthy then turns his attention to typology and the structure of biblical revelation and finally to the art of preparing a sermon. The second half of the book is a reference resource that deals with preparing sermons from specific genres of Scripture. For the sake of summary, it is sufficient to say that the reference section is all-encompassing and very beneficial.
It is somewhat difficult to perform a critical analysis of a book that has as much strength as is found in this volume by Graeme Goldsworthy. Its primary strength is found in the author’s commitment to and knowledge of Christ-centered biblical theology. Goldsworthy, if he does one thing very well, communicates the message that the Bible is a book about one thing. Goldsworthy’s central argument is that evangelicals have the responsibility of preaching the whole Bible and preaching it correctly. In chapter one he states, “If we evangelicals are Bible people, then we have to be diligent in working out our understanding of the message of the Bible and of its effects in the way we perceive the world and seek to live in it as God’s people” (12). If his intention is to equip preachers with the necessary tools to preach the Bible with this understanding, he has done an effective job of accomplishing his task.
Because of his aptitude in the area of Biblical Theology and his open dedication to Christ-Centered preaching, Goldsworthy makes a concerted effort to show that the preacher can get to Jesus in a number of ways through various texts. The preacher can go from promise to fulfillment, through salvation history, or type-antitype. His primary method is to see Jesus as the ultimate antitype to the entire Old Testament. Goldsworthy refers to this as “Macro-Typology,” and explains it in detail on pages 112-113
The epoch of Israel’s history from Abraham to David is, as a whole, a type of the
fulfillment it finds in Christ. Between that historic epoch (type) and Christ (antitype)
comes the whole prophetic recapitulation that confirms this typological structure. All
texts in the whole Bible bear a discernible relationship to Christ and are primarily
intended as a testimony to Christ…the whole of Scripture testifies to Christ.
Another strength of this volume is found in the second part of the book. There, Goldsworthy deals exhaustively with eight distinct forms of biblical genre and the ways in which they can and should be preached. The author insightfully writes, “It is less important for the preacher to be able to pin down the definition of genre, or to tabulate all the genres of the Bible, than it is to be aware that literature is used in different ways for different functions” (135). He fittingly explains the necessity of preaching each genre according to its type and shows the dangers with preaching one genre with another in mind. To preach the whole Bible effectively is to preach the whole Bible properly and Goldsworthy shows not only the distinctions of genre, but gives concrete examples of how to teach and preach each one successfully.
Lastly, Goldsworthy adds incredible value to his work with the addition of charts and diagrams that concretely illustrate his concepts. Rather than merely asserting that the Old Testament is a type of the Kingdom of God under Jesus, Goldsworthy goes one step further to illustrate his point with a diagram of salvation history that climaxes with David and Solomon in the Old Testament and with Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The examples and diagrams in this work help it to be a volume to be understood in by the trained and untrained alike.
Of course, no volume is perfect all authors could improve upon their work. The primary weakness of Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture is the nature in which the individual genres are represented and discussed in Part 2 of the book. Goldsworthy’s attempt to cover so much in the second half of the book brought about the unfortunate result of very brief discussions on each genre. Of course, the brief discussions are not the fault of the author, but merely the result of his attempt to compile such a comprehensive work. It was probably necessary to cover so much material to support his thesis that all of the Bible can and should be preached as Christian Scripture.
Goldsworthy does write with the presupposition that biblical theology is in some sense superior to systematic theology (and possibly other disciplines) in the act of preaching. It is difficult to determine whether this presupposition leads to the development of the “macro-typology” concept or if the reverse is true. Regardless of which came first, it is impossible to read this book without quickly realizing that Goldsworthy is committed first and foremost to understanding the Bible as one unified book focused on God’s redemption through salvation history. Though his strong biblical theology has led to a great preaching text, the premise that biblical theology is somehow superior to systematic theology or other disciplines of theological study could lead to preaching that ignores many of the great tenets of the Christian faith that have been established within other disciplines such as the doctrine of the Trinity.
Of course, no book is perfect and this one has flaws (one that was not mentioned above was the incredible number of typographical errors in the text), but it is still a preaching text that should be found on the shelf of every preacher who truly desires to be faithful to preaching from the whole Bible. His concept of macro-typology is one that I have never encountered anywhere else, but that has left an indelible mark on my preaching now and into the future. The back cover says “This book is a masterful look at the relationship between biblical theology and preaching, and it offers preachers valuable insights into preaching Christ-centered sermons from all of God’s Word, including the Old Testament.” Goldsworthy has written a book that is worthy of the classroom and, maybe more importantly, of the pastor’s study where it can become a well-worn resource for years to come.