Wednesday, November 07, 2007

On Keller, Proverbs, and Preaching from the OT

Someone recently commented on my blogpost where I noted that Tim Keller had preached a message on social justice almost entirely from Proverbs. This comment questioned, at least to some degree, my view of and commitment to the OT as God's word for people today, and commented on the "jaw dropping" response that "many" have to fundamentalists dispensationalists.

It leads me to make a couple of comments.

1. I like Tim Keller for the most part. I have listened to him preach a number of times and I enjoyed it, was challenged by it, and learned from it. He has a great way of putting things in memorable fashion. The best part is that these are things that should be remembered.

2. I like the OT and think we should preach more from it without moralizing or spiritualizing. Too much preaching from the OT becomes "Hans Christian Anderson of old," rather than an authoritative message about who God is, what he is like, and what he was doing in the lives of ancient people to bring about his eternal plan.

3. My point in that particular comment (which was merely illustrative rather than foundational) is that I don't think that Proverbs was intended to teach a theology of social justice for the church. I have preached from Proverbs, and some still tell me that was the best preaching I have ever done. My point was that authorial intent is important, and the nature of Proverbs also plays a role (general, pithy truths rather than pronouncements of inviolable truths).

In sum, I think the text should be preached for what it was intended to communicate. There may be a primary intention as well as secondary intentions, but only the intent of the passage should be preached.

In other words, we should say only from a text what God would say from a text.

And I am not convinced that God would comment on social justice in the church from the book of Proverbs.


Keith said...

The jaw dropping comment was in reference to a very specific experience/interaction with fundametalist dispensationalists -- the emphasis on the inerrancy of Scripture combined with "rightly dividing" it up to the point where the only thing that really applies to the church are Paul's letters.

There are, of course, varying degrees of this dividing, and from your clarification here, I see that you are not on the extreme end.

I don't have any major disagreement with you here. However, I would add that Proverbs is a book of proverbs, not absolute prophetic utterances, that's true. However, it is a book of wise proverbs and wisdom is applicable for God's people at all times.

Larry said...

I certainly would reject that kind of division that you speak of. And as you note, not all fundamentalist dispensationalists are "way out there."

Thanks again