Are we really to condemn the preaching of our Reformed fathers?
Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. - 1Corinthians 10:10, 11
Who needs warnings against the ancient Church Fathers' allegorical interpretation of Scripture when you have the Procrustean bed of this sort of Redemptive-Historical hermeneutic declared normative by some of the most respected Reformed men of our time? Pastor Tim Keller, for instance, writes...
For example, look at the story of David and Goliath. What is the meaning of that narrative for us?
(We must not preach the story this way) ...the story may be (usually is!) preached as: “The bigger they come, the harder they’ll fall, if you just go into your battles with faith in the Lord. You may not be real big and powerful in yourself, but with God on your side, you can overcome giants.”
(We must preach the story this way) The story is telling us that the Israelites can not go up against Goliath. They can’t do it. They need a substitute. ...David becomes Israel’s champion-redeemer, so that his victory will be imputed to them. They get all the fruit of having fought the battle themselves. - Tim Keller, "Moralism vs. Christ-Centered Exposition"
If this is what such men do with David and Goliath, imagine how simple Christian brothers would be left scratching their heads after these men gave a Redemptive-Historical sermon on Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. And how are they going to clean up the Hebrews command, "Remember Lot's wife?" In the end, their "Redemptive-Historical" rule doesn't seem particularly Redemptive, does it?
Pastor Keller sums up his rabbit-out-of-the-podium approach: "the Christocentric reading provides a fundamentally different application and meaning to the text."
Fundamentally different meaning to the text?
When I recall all the warnings against sensus plenior Pastor Keller and I received from our Gordon-Conwell profs—Gordon Fee and Doug Stuart, for instance—I wonder if perhaps Pastor Keller was asleep? If David and Goliath really may only be preached accurately when the point of the story is the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, what on earth would an inaccurate or distorted fuller sense be? Too, what are we to do with Elijah slaying the prophets of Baal?
The mind boggles.
Hawkers of this sort of scholasticism would be hard put to find our Reformed church fathers demanding their fellow preachers place Scripture in this straitjacket. Looking back, we find their sermons bear little resemblance to the sort of monotone Pastor Keller and his friends demand in the preaching of David and Goliath. In fact, it's comical to try to imagine any of them denouncing preachers who call their congregations to courage and faith out of the story of David and Goliath.
Yes, of course our Lord is the center of all Scripture. In the beginning was the Word. The question isn't whether it's right to preach Christ from the account of David and Goliath. The question is whether those who preach faith in the face of seemingly-insurmountable opposition should be condemned for doing so.
These Redemptive-Historical men have no qualms declaring such preaching to be contrary to the true meaning of Scripture. Read on and we see that, in this, they end up condemning all prior generations of faithful fathers in our Most Holy Faith. For myself, I hope and pray my preaching becomes more and more like the preaching of these dead fathers.
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Here's our Reformed father Matthew Henry doing with the text precisely what Pastor Keller declares must not be done—telling the faithful they are to "go forth to battle with the faith of David."