Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Preaching and the History of Salvation: Continuing an unfinished discussion (C. Trimp translated by N.D. Kloosterman).

After outlining the proper view, understanding and use of biblical history (contra Platonism, Gnosticism, Docetism, Dualism and the allegorical method), and after introducing the terms "history of salvation" (or "redemption") and "history of revelation," Dr. Trimp gets to the meat of his book: a summary and evaluation of the Dutch 1940's-struggle about the preaching of historical narrative. Men such as K. Schilder, B. Holwerda and M.B. van't Veer fulminated against the subjective, man-centred preaching that prevailed in the churches—preaching which often used the narratives about the OT saints as not much more than illustrations to be emulated (or not) by God's people today.

Typically, the issue was over-corrected by those advocating "redemptive-historical" preaching and disdaining "emplaristic" preaching to the point where a sermon or preacher was quickly condemned if ever a saint was so much as held forth as an example for us. What do you do, asks Trimp, with James 5, Hebrews 11, 1 Corinthians 10? Although great gains were made for preaching in the 1940s against moralistic sermonizing and preaching that used the Bible simply as a book to illustrate "timeless truths" we already know from philosophy or ethics, there was a lack of appreciation for the use of "example" and "type" as found in the Bible itself.

Sadly, the discussion ended before it was concluded because of the national and ecclesiastical struggles in the Netherlands during the 1940s. Hence the subtitle of the book! Trimp wants to further the discussion. We should not canonize the gains made by Schilder, Holwerda, van't Veer and others but continue from where they brought us.

Trimp says that we would do well to increase attention to the matters related to the order of salvation (without decreasing attention to the history of salvation and revelation). We need to pay attention both to God's work in the (coming) Christ (history of salvation and of revelation) and to God's work in the Holy Spirit (order of salvation). In this we make distinctions while separations are unwarranted. Further, Dr. Trimp maintains that our preaching must be self-consciously theocentric. He puts it forward this way: "Redemptive-historical preaching is preaching about the living God according to His trinitarian-historical self-revelation."