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The Preaching of the Scriptures

The Christ the Center panel, ably augmented by Glen Clary, pastor of Immanuel Orthodox Presbyterian Church of West Collingswood, NJ, had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, the John H. Leith Professor of Reformed Theology and Worship at Erskine Theological Seminary and dean of its Institute for Reformed Worship, about his latest book, volume seven in the profoundly learned and helpful series The Reading and the Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. While the conversation included discussion of various types of preaching and the oral (versus written) form of preaching, the focus of the conversation was on the importance of lectio continua or the consecutive exposition of Scripture, book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. Christ the Center is pleased to offer this episode as a reminder to us all of the centrality of preaching, especially preaching as worship.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Mark Denning

9 years ago

You guys get the best interviews! Thanks so much for making such quality content so easily accessible. The audio for this one did seemed a little off. Were there too many people on the phones or something? Dr. Old’s voice seems to fade in and out at times.

Camden Bucey

9 years ago

Thanks Mark. Dr. Old has trouble hearing, and in addition, Glen and Dr. Old were both using a built-in laptop mic. The setup was not ideal. We did the best with what we had.

G. Kyle Essary

9 years ago

Where does Dr. Old stand confessionally? Did he say at one point that he finds Keller to be theologically “behind the times?” Did I hear that wrong?

Camden Bucey

9 years ago

I believe Dr. Old may be in a PCUSA church. I’m not certain, though.

Glen Clary

9 years ago

Dr. Old is in the PCUSA, but he has been worshiping at 10th Pres. (PCA) Philadelphia for about 20 years. When he is in Columbia, SC, he worships at 1st Pres. (ARP – where Sinclair Ferguson pastors). Confessionally, he firmly holds to the Westminster Standards (no exceptions). Kyle, I don’t recall Dr. Old saying that about Keller, and knowing Dr. Old, I don’t think he would have said that.

Camden Bucey

9 years ago

I appreciate Dr. Old very much. His series is incredibly useful, but there are a few troubling things in the latest volume. I’ve debated for a few weeks about posting this, but given the comment thread, I think it’s necessary. The following excerpt is found in the entry on John MacArthur. How do we call this the theology of the Standards?

As I have mentioned, these sermons on Matthew 8 and 9 have a particular interest for me because I once tried to preach through these chapters and was very unhappy with how I did it. Where MacArthur succeeded and I did not may well be in his complete clarity on just how he stood on some of these issues. While I would insist that Jesus did perform miracles, I have to admit that the caveats of the Enlightenment still obscure my thoughts from time to time. I suppose I am troubled by a shadow of doubt, but then the same would be true of many in my congregation.

The place where I have always had the greatest trouble is the whole matter of exorcism. I really do not believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession. Maybe I ought to, but I don’t. I am willing to agree that I may have been too strongly influenced by the intellectual world in which I was brought up to fully grasp the full teaching of Scripture, but that is the way it is. What is more than clear to me after listening to these sermons is that those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second-guess it. Surely one of the greatest strengths of MacArthur’s preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text . . . .

Nicholas T. Batzig

9 years ago

Wow. I need to read it in context, but that is extremely troubling. He seems to be both questioning the validity of miracles and Satan. How is this not classical liberalism? Does he then have problems with the virgin birth, the incarnation and the resurrection?

Jim Cassidy

9 years ago

Hi Nick,

I appreciate your concern, I too am somewhat trouble by the statement as it stands. However, the denial of the one need not necessarily lead to the denial of the other. I am assured of the fact of Dr. Oliphant affirms the real, true, and historical events of the incarnation and resurrection.

Now, why or how someone can affirm those things, and the full and verbal inspiration of Scripture, and yet deny the existence of Satan, I am frankly clueless. I suppose this is a parallel situation to John Stott denying the existence of hell.

Glen Clary

9 years ago

Brothers,

I’ve talked to Dr. Old about that comment at length, and it doesn’t accurately represent his view. First, it is something he wrote about 10 years ago (despite the recent publishing date). He has increasingly become more conservative over the years. When he graduated from PTS in 58, he was a liberal. When he took his first church in 59, he started preaching through the gospel of John. By the time he got to chapter 5, he was convinced of the miracles of Scripture (actually, it is an exhilerating story the way he tells it). When he returned to America after receiving his doctorate, he wanted to worship at the most conservative Presbyterian church around, so he started going to 10th Presbyterian. At the time, inerrancy was the big issue, and Dr. Boice was a leading figure among those defending it.

In an unpublished manuscript that will soon be published as The Ministry of Praise and Prayer, Dr. Old firmly defends the doctrine of innerancy and says something to the effect that over the years, he has struggled with whether or not he is a fundy or a lib, but at the end of the day, he is an old school presbyterian fundy.

The piece in volume 7 (if one reads it closely) is actually a confession of the failure of liberalism to do justice to the text of Scripture. What Dr. Old is saying is that he had a very difficult time preaching Matthew 8 because he was always trying to demythologize the text. He is commending the practice of John MacArthur who had no difficulty preaching that text because he took it at face value. So, Dr. Old is saying to the reader, “Don’t follow my example; follow the example of MacArthur.” That’s the point that Dr. Old is making. It is unfortunate that the comment about the existence of Satan was not removed from the manuscript before publication because it doesn’t accurately describe the view that he now holds.

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