Presuppositions for Preaching

On this episode of Proclaiming Christ we talk about presuppositions that underlie the sermon preparation process. In particular, we deal with presuppositions which govern the proper reading and interpretation of Scripture while preparing to preach. We welcome your feedback!


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Proclaiming Christ is an audio program focused upon biblical preaching. In each episode we will discuss the process, method, and goals of preaching biblical texts from a uniquely Reformed perspective. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

14 Responses

  1. Mark G

    I understand that you guys are promoting a redemptive-historical hermeteutic but what qualifies this in such a way that it doesn’t become fanciful; i.e., Jesus under every rock so to speak? Also, how does this relate to a hermeneutic concerned with how the original audience may have understood the message?

    I heard someone in a presbytery meeting say that the Bible tells us EVERYTHING we need to know about covenants and there is no need to consider external sources, e.g., ancient near eastern treaties. Should ancient near eastern literature play a role in how we understand scripture?

    Even in reformed circles there is a breadth of understanding of covenant theology. Some people smooth out the distinction between the Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace for example. Now we have “new covenant theology” being promoted as an intermediate way between covenant theology and dispensationalism. ….actually a view of covenants truer to Scripture.

    The following programs on covenant theology and the atonement my be of interest to some readers:



    They present covenant theology as framed by Paul’s theology of the two-Adams and the Covenant of Redemption in Romans 5, John 5 and others.

    I’m looking forward to your programs on Genesis.

    1. Adam York

      Hi Mark,

      You raise a really great question. A Christ centered approach to reading Scripture (particularly the OT) which does not have a proper appreciation for the nature of biblical typology can easily degenerate toward allegory. I don’t think I can fully address the question in this reply, but I have a few thoughts on the matter. First, apprehending the typology found in any OT text can never be divorced from an appreciation of the historical context in which that type is located. In other words, although OT revelation has a Christ-centered character to it and Christ is presented in a typological manner, that typological revelation can never be abstracted from the historical situation in which it is presented and the historical progression of which it is a part. I think this was an Achilles heel for some in the early church whose typological approach degenerated into allegory and the Reformers were correct to reject that approach. Secondly, the historical situation which provides the context for interpreting revelation which is typological in character is itself controlled by an overarching covenantal context. The point I’m making here is that the sovereign, personal God of scripture is himself shaping the historical situation of any passage of scripture based upon the covenant (or covenants) in effect during that period of historical revelation. In this sense it is not just history, but covenant history which should condition our interpretation not only of types, but also the broader contexts in which they are found. Third, before someone says, “this is a type of Christ” I think they need to be able to show that that alleged type somehow fits within a typological framework which is found at the beginning and end of God’s revelation. What I mean is that the “typological” isn’t something which is completely outside the matrix of the structures which are established in protology and eschatology. Those big picture structures found in the protological garden and are reaffirmed and interpreted in the the eschatological revelation of Jesus and his apostles (temple, garden, image, son, king/priest, cosmic imagery like the luminaries, mountain, tree, rivers, gold and precious stones etc). Of course, these protological/eschatological images are themselves conditioned by the covenantal framework in which they are found. A true “type” should not just be some OT item which the reader/preacher can connect to Jesus through his imagination, but it must have a legitimate place within those large structures which have a protological introduction and and eschatological consummation. Finally, I really appreciate the contribution of Geerhardus Vos in chapter three of his Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “The Epistle’s Philosophy of Revelation and Redemption.” In this chapter Vos shows how the nature of revelation is such that the development we see from Genesis to Revelation is not just development along the historical line, but it is a development where the heavenly is projected into the earthly scene in a typological form prior to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. When Christ comes, this development of the heavenly penetrating into the earthly sphere continues on, but no longer in a provisional, typological form. Understanding the relationship between the various points and lines on Vos’ “triangle” is a tremendous help to not only further understanding some of the things I’ve said, but preventing typological interpretation from degenerating into eisegetical, imaginative, allegory. Those things help? We will be talking about these kind of considerations more and more as time goes on.

  2. Thanks again, for the show!

    I have a shameless, self-promotion alert:

    The Tale of Two Adams would make a great introduction to covenant theololgy and biblical theology for lay listeners. It even carries the endorsement of one of the panel memebers!

    You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Tale-Of-Two-Adams/dp/0615241409/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1361296873&sr=8-3&keywords=the+tale+of+two+adams

    I am also glad to send a Kindle version to anyone on the panel.

    I know it was already mentioned, but Clowney’s Unfolding Mystery is also a great lay level introduction to these matters.

    Thank you and keep up the good work!

    1. Mark G

      You can find “Tale of Two Adams” in *.pdf online. I’m not providing the link because I know it is available on Amazon and I’m not sure about copyright issues.

    2. Adam York

      Hi Chris,

      I did not make the connection that you are THAT Chris when I replied to your previous comment. Long time no talk brother! Hope you are doing well, and yes that is a wonderful resource that I’m sure all of the panel members would commend. Thanks for listening! We will have to catch up sometime.



  3. Hello Mark,

    I would like to echo and give a hearty “amen” to what Adam had to say in response to your excellent questions. Let me also add just a couple of things. First, the approach that is predominant on the program will certainly be redemptive historical (RH). But I would like to emphasize that it is not the goal of the program to promote a particular style of hermeneutic (within the Reformed tradition) to the exclusion of others. Our intention is to make this a program from which many hermeneutical viewpoints can benefit. What I do hope we employ with faithfulness is the only infallible rule of the interpretation of Scripture – Scripture itself. We hope listeners of all persuasions – from RH even to a dispensationalist and everything in between will benefit from some exegetical insight, and will test our attempts at exposition against that only infallible rule. I do believe that when tested against this rule, the RH perspective will predominate.

    One of the first things we will discuss when we get to Genesis in a couple of episodes is the matter of context. We are intensely concerned with the historical situation of the Israelites as they hear this message from Genesis. It is necessary for us to understand where they fall in the flow of redemptive history and how they understood what they were hearing. At the same time, we recognize that this historical context is not the end. From our perspective we see what revelation through the lenses of the life and work of Christ, and through the exegetical treasure of the epistles. I believe the whole of Scripture can be divided into three overall sections: the anticipation of Christ (the Old Testament), the incarnation of Christ (the Gospels, including Acts), and the explanation of Christ (the epistles). I do not believe that the first section – the Old Testament – can properly be understood without the next two, but must be understood in light of its own context as well.

    Adam provided some excellent guidelines for how we understand Christ in the Old Testament. Let me also add that one helpful resource in this is Sidney Greidanus’ “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.” While I must say that there are certain aspects of his approach that I find inadequate, he lays out a method for understanding an Old Testament passage in a Christo centric way, beginning with the original context and then moving on to the goal of Old Testament revelation. In terms of “finding Christ,” he lays out several paths: the way of redemptive historical progression; the way of promise fulfillment; the way of typology; the way of analogy; the way of longitudinal themes; the way of new testament references; the way of contrast. Again, I don’t track with him at every point, but if you have this volume I have found this helpful in avoiding certain extremes.

    When it comes to Ancient near Eastern (ANE) treaties, I find a study of them to be very useful. In the same way that we would not ignore the historical literary context of the Proverbs, for example, so also we should not ignore the predominant covenantal structure of Mesopotamian society when interpreting covenant Revelation. I think many of the books of the Bible carry a closest similarity to the structure of ANE treaties. To understand these structures, I believe it is essential to understanding the original context and the way in which the Israelites were likely to have understood the content of revelation. This is not because the Bible copies common culture, but because these cultures copy the natural structure of Scripture – in much the same way as the Mesopotamian flood myths copy Scripture’s flood account. There are many helpful resources, but perhaps the best is Meredith Kline, particularly his “Treaty of the Great King.” George Mendenhall’s “Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient near East” is also available online at http://home.earthlink.net/~cadman777/Law_Cov_Mendenhall_TITLE.htm.

    Thanks for listening to the program, and I hope you will find our studies in Genesis to be beneficial.

  4. Mark G

    Thanks Adam & Mark,

    I’ve read the Mendenhall work and also found other more recent related scholarship on the web for anyone interested in this sort of stuff; e.g.,


    That paper argues that Neo-Assyrian empire treaties resemble Israelite covenants more closely than do Hittite treaties. I’m not sure what impact recent scholarship would have on Kline’s views of ANE, if any, especially if one holds your position that these documents external to Scripture, although useful, do not reinterpret Scripture. I do wonder though if someone has or needs to follow up on Kline’s work to account for recent scholarship.

    I am looking forward to the PC programs. It should be very interesting to work through Genesis.

    1. Adam York

      You’re very welcome Kevin and thanks for listening. We’re going to try and continue to make resources an important part of the discussion. Blessings!

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