Going to School on Sidney Greidanus

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.06.40 AMYesterday I wrote this paragraph as part of chapter one of a book I’m writing on preaching ‘two-book’ sermons;

“Several years ago I gave a talk at Calvin College, about the two-book preaching method that was evolving in my mind and at our church. After I presented, someone came up to me and told me that Calvin Seminary’s Old Testament and Preaching professor, Sidney Greidanus, had been sitting in the back row. I swallowed hard when I heard that news. Dr. Greidanus was my pastor when I was a boy and I knew he held the bar very high when it came to orthodox preaching. That night I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought. The next day, I bumped into him and his wife. I remember thinking, “Well at least his wife is here, he can’t be too mean!” After smiling and greeting me with his deeply resonant voice he said, “I think I see what you are doing. I’ve spent my entire life connecting the Jesus of the New Testament to the Jesus of the Old Testament. You are connecting the Jesus of the New Testament to the resurrected Jesus today.”

Today I woke up with a single thought that bloomed into an outline for chapter two. The bulk of this chapter is going to take what Dr. Greidanus spent his life thinking about (captured in his seminal book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament ) and reapply it to the context of two-book preaching.

There’s an axiom that theologians and preachers are familiar with, ‘The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed’ (Augustine).  Christ, the gospel and the message of grace are already there, in the Old Testament, in a veiled, foreshadowing kind of way. All of the promises, covenants and the laws of the Old Testament find their fulfillment in the Christ of the New Testament.

Can the ways Christ in concealed in the Old Testament illumine a path to seeing the resurrected Christ in his world more?

How to preach from both of God’s books

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I’m in the middle of writing Chapter One of a new book on how (and why we need) to preach from both of God’s books (the bible and creation).  As I placed the following quotes alongside each other I thought, ‘How can we not?’

“Every good and true Christian should understand that wherever he may find truth, it is his Lord’s.” Augustine, (2.18) De Doctrina Christiana

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” Martin Luther, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

“Whenever we come upon these matters [truth] in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we contemn [show contempt toward] and reproach the Spirit himself.John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster Press) 2.2.15, pp. 273-274

“The whole creation is nothing but the visible curtain behind which radiates the exalted working of [God’s] divine thinking.” Abraham Kuyper, (p39) Wisdom and Wonder

“General revelation leads to special, special revelation points back to general. The one calls for the other, and without it remains imperfect and unintelligible. Together they proclaim the manifold wisdom which God has displayed in creation and redemption (italics mine).” Herman Bavinck, The Philosophy of Revelation (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1909), pp.27ff, in Revelation and Grace in Herman Bavinck, Jan Veenhof, in The Kuyper Center Review, Volume Two: Revelation and Common Grace, John Bowlin, Editor, (Eerdmans, 2011, Grand Rapids, MI)



The Unguarded Gaze

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This is paragraph describes the stance I try to take when listening for God’s word in creation;

“In his book Real Presences, George Steiner discusses at length the concept of intellectual hospitality and the need for the reader to freshly submit to the “presence” communicated in a given text or work of art—to achieve an unguarded gaze and receptivity that allows the work to do its work. Steiner goes on to say, “It takes uncanny strength and abstention from re-cognition, from implicit reference, to read the world and not the text of the world as it has been previously encoded for us”—in other words, to submit to the thing seen, not to its culturally conditioned simulacrum.” (Bruce Herman in The Unguarded Gaze, Books and Culture)

The biggest impediment to discerning God’s word in the world is what we already think we know about the world.

Turning Water into Wine


“He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew…” John 2:9, NIV (in reference to the master of the banquet who was about to taste water that Jesus had turned into wine).

As I read these words this morning I thought, ‘That’s who we are trying to be as a church… like those servants who knew the back story… who know that all good things come from God!’

God has been turning water into wine on thousands of hillsides, via countless vineyards, for millennia! (I first got this idea from Neal Plantinga in Engaging God’s World). In making fruit the way the did – with this amazing capacity to ferment and enter into greater glory – God has given us the good gift of wine (and all other forms of alcohol).  As people of faith we can know the back story; that the entire process of wine ‘coming to be’ is a gift from God; the innate varieties and natures of fruit, the art and science of winemaking, the good gifts of entrepreneurship that bring the product to market and the ever-wise discernment in behind the best of pairings – all come from God… and all, in their own way, according to their kind, image God.

At New Hope Church we believe that we can get a taste of that image, in behind, before, through and with every glass.

image credit – wikipedia, port wine

Saving Mountain Light

This morning I read a bible verse and was inspired by the Apostle Paul’s juxtaposition of God’s saving light and God’s creating light.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:16, NIV

Then I headed out to the mountains and let both lights preach (and there was so much co-illumination; it was blinding!) Surely this is how God means for us to know and experience him – through a knowledge of his saving light and through the experience of his created light (both mediated through Christ).

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NHC Science Sermon Stats

Five years ago, Christian Reformed Home Missions regional director Martin Contant passed my name onto a group from Regent College who’d just received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to help church pastors explore the links between faith and science. Of course, I decided that the only way to explore the links was to preach on the topic. ;- ) An hour ago our church website guy sent me this summary of sermon views and listens to date… thanks Martin!

science sermon stats

Preaching Sherlock

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On January 4th I’m going be preaching on the BBC’s Sherlock. If you’re a fan (and I know you are) I’d love to hear your response to the following questions;

1. What do you love most about the show?

2. What is it about Benedict Cumberbatch’s embodiment of Sherlock Holmes that you find most compelling?

3. What do you think God is saying about who he is through the co-creation of this little mystery parable (and all detective mysteries in general)?