“The Preacher Who Takes Up Vos’ Biblical Theology…” (Clowney)

Preaching and Biblical Theology Over the past 15+ years I’ve come to a pretty strong conviction that an understanding of redemptive history is of utmost importance in the pulpit ministry.  Preaching that has no understanding of redemptive history is preaching that lacks.  There are nuances to this discussion of course.  I’m not an advocate of hyper redemptive-historical preaching.  And I believe there is a time and place in the pulpit for topical and doctrinal sermons as well as solid application.  Basically, my view is that the pulpit ministry should have a firm and balanced grasp of systematic theology and biblical theology, both of which should be generally evident in the preaching.  I like how Edmund Clowney spoke about this in his very good book, Preaching and Biblical Theology.

“There is…no opposition between biblical theology and systematic or dogmatic theology, though the two are distinct.  Systematic theology must draw from the results of biblical theology, and biblical theology must be aware of the broad perspectives of systematics. …The development of systematics is strictly thematic or topical.  …The development of biblical theology is redemptive-historical.”

Later Clowney mentioned Geerhardus Vos; I’ve always liked these paragraphs:

“The preacher who takes up Vos’ ‘Biblical Theology’ for the first time enters a rich new world, a world which lifts up his heart because he is a preacher.  Biblical theology, truly conceived, is a labor of worship.  Beside Vos’ ‘Biblical Theology’ should be set his little book of sermons, ‘Grace and Glory.’  There we hear a scholar preaching to theological students (the sermons were delivered in Princeton Seminary), but with a burning tenderness and awesome realism that springs from the grace and glory of God’s revelation, the historical actualization of his eternal counsel of redemption.”

Clowney then talked about the text and the pulpit.

“An old Dutch preacher has sagely observed that the pulpit must not drive us to the text, but rather the text must drive us to the pulpit.  In biblical theology that scriptural dynamic impels the preacher’s heart with unimagined strength.”

Edmund Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology, p. 18-19.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015


The Lion and Lamb

These are great words from a great book: The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney.  This is a short commentary on Genesis 49:9-10.

“The ancient prophecy is recalled again in the last book of the Bible.  John weeps because there is no one who can open the book of God’s decrees.  One of the elders in the heavenly throne room responds, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.  He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals’ (Rev. 5:5).”

“Jesus, the Lion of Judah, is also the Lamb that was slain.  He who is the Lord came as the Servant.  There is more than a chance similarity between the sign of Joseph and the fulfillment in Jesus.  Deep in the structure of God’s redemptive plan is the principle that His power is made perfect in weakness.  Not by human might, but by the power of God’s Spirit, the promises of His word are fulfilled.  God’s chosen Ruler is His Suffering Servant, betrayed by His brethren but raised up to fulfill God’s promise.”

Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1988), 84.

shane lems

Westminster Seminary California and the Confessions

Product DetailsI’ve been enjoying this new book which summarizes the history of Westminster Seminary California: A New Old School, edited by W. Robert Godfrey and D. G. Hart.  Since Andrew and I graduated from WSC over five years ago, both of us have a vested interest in this book.  One emphasis of this book is a big reason why I studied at WSC: its commitment to Reformed/Presbyterian theology and confessions.  As the book notes, all Christians have some form of confession; every Christian believes at least some doctrine.

“No Christian who reads the Bible can escape some kind of creedal conclusions in the sense that he makes some decision about the meaning of the Bible.  To speak of the Bible’s meaning, as Westminster’s faculty always understood, was to talk in terms of doctrinal affirmations and denials.  Being a Christian without doctrine was impossible.  The best approach, as the importance of the creeds at Westminster demonstrated, was for Christians communally to summarize those doctrines into a coherent whole that would inform the life and ministry of Christ’s church.”

“Still the anti-confessional bias of many American evangelicals challenged Westminster California to ask again and again whether the teachings and practices of Reformed confessionalism were still necessary or worthwhile in the contemporary church.  But through these reflections Westminster California forged an increasingly self-conscious confessional identity as the years went by.  It became even more confident of the truths of the Reformed confessions.”

WSC started out by upholding, affirming, and teaching the Westminster Standards.  In 1993 they added the Three Forms of Unity to further bolster their Reformed confessional identity.

“Far from watering down its confessional identity, this action actually underscored the importance of confessional Reformed Christianity for its education.  This decision also helped assure that students would be well versed not only in Reformed theology generally, but also in the church’s confessional expressions of the truth.  Adding to the confessional identity of Westminster California is the reality that the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity are essentially agreed at almost every point, showing the unity of Reformed Christianity.”

If you have any interest in Westminster Seminary California – whether a former or current student, former or current parent(s) of a student, or if you are curious what WSC is all about, I highly recommend this book: A New Old School.  Also worth noting is that the Kindle version is currently at the special introductory price of $4.99 (here on Amazon).

shane lems

sunnyside, wa