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Preaching and Biblical Theology Paperback – Jun 1956

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
With new eyes 22 May 2005
By The Covenanter - Published on
Format: Paperback
In lieu of recent liberal scholarship on biblical theology, Clowney does the necessary groundwork in providing the pastor with a working definition of biblical theology. Recent works had defined biblical theology along the lines of the "History of Religions" school of thinking. Or, the scholar might look at the text along evolutionary lines, thus negating the aspects of redemption and revelation. To have a working definition of biblical theology, Clowney notes, biblical presuppositions are necessary. Following Vos Clowney defines biblical theology as "that branch of exegetical theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible" (15). This definition opposes any form of liberalism or neo-orthodoxy that denies prepositional truth. It also presupposes, against evolutionary views of revelation, a unity and objectivity in the Bible.

On the conservative side, some will object that such a definition will bring biblical theology into opposition with time-honored disciplines like systematic theology. Not so, Clowney argues, if the pastor recognizes the tension between the two disciplines as necessary. The tension can be properly understood when the pastor recognizes the distinct nature of both disciplines. Systematic theology approaches the text in a linear fashion, while biblical theology traces out the historical developments within God's redemptive history. The tension can be eased, although never done away with, if the pastor sees the "sensitivity to the distinctiveness of both the form and the content of revelation in each particular epoch [in biblical theology]" (16).

If one is to write on preaching in the modern age, he must justify the authority of preaching over against the autonomy of the post-Christian West. Clowney then does a brief survey of New Testament scholarship with respect to the proclamation of the text. In each setting Clowney notes the challenges to biblical theology that current fads in New Testament studies would pose. Many liberal scholars saw their hope in the "kerygma" of the early church. The scholars sought to emancipate the kerygma of the New Testament form the myth the Church had placed on the gospels. Such thinking immediately led to the "Quest for the Historical Jesus," which was more indicative of liberal presuppositions than it was of concern for the truth. Regardless of what shape the challenge might take, all presupposed an impossibility of prepositional revelation. God's message to man was personal, not prepositional. Clowney refutes: "Personal communion with communication is impossible between human subjects, and it is a strange conception of revelation in Christ which denies to him revelatory communication in making known the Father" (27).

Having a covenantal groundwork in the Old Testament, Clowney applies this to the New Testament to establish authority for biblical theology and preaching. Christ is prophet, priest, and king in the New Testament-the self-interpreted Word of John 1 (51). Besides being the Son of God, his authority is first seen as that of an Old Testament prophet proclaiming the message of God. But not only is he a prophet, he is the fulfillment of prophecy. Furthermore, the apostles are endowed with authority as they, being witnesses of Christ's resurrection, proclaim the whole counsel of God, which has been fulfilled in Christ. "Their apostolic ministry," says Clowney, "is the foundation of authority in the New Testament church, for by their witness the word of Christ is given to the church" (59).

The character of preaching, if it is to be driven by biblical theology, must enrich the listeners with the full scope of God's redemptive work. Such preaching is driven by biblical eschatology. The preacher thus realizes that he is living in the last days, knows Christ's kingdom has been established, and is driven with an urgent message of the grace of God in the person of Christ. Clowney exults, "The evangel of the prophet Isaiah is that which is fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. The year of Jubilee has come, therefore we must proclaim liberty to the captive...the latter days have come, the days in which the Lord is glorified, and he has poured out his Spirit upon men" (67-68).

The only flaw in the book comes in the middle of this otherwise edifying chapter. Clowney notes the mission-orientation of the Church was lost upon the establishment of Constantine. He writes how the church has lost much of her vigor in missions. Clowney: "No doubt this came about through the confusion of church and state which began in the age of Constantine" (69). Now, one can legitimately roast Constantine on a number of issues, but this overlooks the gospel's explosion on the island of Britain, for example. Granted, much of the Roman and Grecian church lost their power due to state control, but he tries to put too much historical commentary in one paragraph. Clowney ends his chapter on the character of preaching with a challenge to the pastor to balance the ethical and the redemptive element in his preaching.

What does a sermon driven by biblical theology look like? The pastor has two tasks before him. He recognizes the unity of God's salvation throughout biblical history. He proclaims to his flock that Abraham rejoiced to see Messiah's day and we too long to feast with the prophets when the kingdom of God is consummated at the end of the ages. He also notes the "epochal structure" of redemptive history. This prevents him from arbitrarily chopping unity of God's revelation and redemption, as the early dispensationalists did (88). However, the pastor does pay attention to the historical nature of the God's acts in history. The preacher who would preach along the lines of biblical theology takes note of symbolism and typology in the scriptures. God's revelation is laden with types and shadows that point to the future redemption accomplished by Christ. "Until the heavenly reality is manifested, the covenant fellowship is mediated through earthly symbols, `like in pattern' to the heavenly archetype (Heb. 9:24, 25)" (100). Clowney guides the bible student in interpreting symbols and types: 1) They symbol is distinct from that which it represents; 2) There is a relation between the symbol and the reality symbolized; 3) The reference of the symbols is divinely established in revelation; 4) The symbols may be classified in various groups (103-108).


Clowney's book is written along the lines of heroic disorder. His thoughts and guidance to the reader are superb and Clowney himself appears to soar at times. His passion for his subject is not lost on the reader. Nevertheless, there were times where one wondered where he was going with an idea. He did repeat a number of times several of his best ideas and phrases throughout the book, although to the delight of the reader. Writing from what appears to be an amillennialist interpretation of scripture, it is curious as to why he did not address dispensational challenges more often than he did. The book is extremely edifying and relevant to the church at large. It is a book that will stay on the pastor's desk as he searches the scriptures. Clowney achieves his goal in exciting students to take up the task of biblical theology.


Clowney's work is utterly relevant to the church and those who long for their sermons to be clothed with the Spirit's power. What else could enflame preaching but the glorious proclamation of what God has done in Christ in history? Whether he goes into the pulpit or the lectern, Clowney provides both a tonic to the tired preacher and a caution to the theologian who might divorce systematic theology from biblical theology. It provides the bible student with a hermeneutic that sees Christ, properly interpreted, in all scripture, thus avoiding trite moralizing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Classic. 9 July 2007
By A. Blake White - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ed Clowney's book 'Preaching and Biblical Theology' is a classic. It was first published in 1961. Clowney recently passed away (2005) and was Professor Emeritus of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he served for 30 years, 16 of them having been as president. Clowney unashamedly stands on the shoulders of Geerhardus Vos, writing, "The preacher who takes up Vos's Biblical Theology for the first time enters a rich new world, a world which lifts up his heart because he is a preacher. Biblical Theology, truly conceived, is a labor of worship" (18-19). Here is the Table of Contents:
I. What is Biblical Theology?
II. Biblical Theology and the Authority of Preaching
III. Biblical Theology and the Character of Preaching
IV. Biblical Theology and the Content of Preaching
Chapter 1 lays out what Biblical Theology is, isn't and what it involves. Chapter 2 interacts with Dodd, Bultmann, and Barth, and sets forth a brief theology of Scripture. Chapter 3 is about the importance of Biblical Theology, and noting the time and place in which we preach. This section has some good insights on preaching to edify and evangelize.
Clowney has a high view of Scripture, and a high view of preaching, writing, "It is an act of worship. Our preaching often lacks the punctuation of the exclamation point of praise. Unlike the Scriptures, our sermons are so centered on men that they neglect to bless God. The doxologies that burst from Paul in the midst o his expositions never trouble our placid pools of prose (73). . . . Most important of all, biblical theology serves to center preaching on its essential message: Jesus Christ. . . . He who would preach the Word must preach Christ" (74). He also has some helpful exhortations on the usefulness of preaching moralistically from the OT (cf. James 5.11, 5.17, 1 Cor 10.11). He closes the chapter with some examples from OT biblical texts.
He finishes the book focusing on the text in its historical period and broader biblical-theological context, the text in God's total revelation, and some points about symbolism, typology, and several examples.
Overall this is a good book for preachers, although it is a bit outdated. Dennis Johnson's new one, may serve the same end, but may be a better resource. Also see Clowney's 'Preaching Christ in All of Scripture' which is a book of redemptive-historical sermons.
"On all sides it is recognized that any who would take the New Testament seriously must be confronted by eschatology. . . . Preaching that has lost urgency and passion reveals a loss of the eschatological perspective of the New Testament. . . . He is not aware that he ministers in the time of the ascended Christ, the time of the fulfillment of all the prophets in his saving rule" (67).
"Once the necessity and the fruitfulness of the method is recognized, however, no worthy workman in the Word can refuse the effort it requires. He is called as a scribe of the kingdom to bring forth treasures new and old, and any labor that issues in a fuller preaching of Christ has its reward" (112)
"Yes, to Jesus we come, for with richness of figurative language, wealth of ethical insight, and depth of redemptive-historical grasp we are brought by the Scriptures to Jesus. God spoke in diverse manners has spoken in a Son. What focus in brought to our preaching in this approach" (121).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A new look at preaching 19 Feb. 2014
By Dargo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Clowney does justice to the relationship between preaching and biblical theology, there maybe some difficulties in the application part, but as a general rule this book shows the 'better' way to preach using biblical theology as a overarching theme. I think systematic theology gets to grips with the application part better, and if used in conjunction should aid the preacher well. Many preachers may find they have being 'doing' biblical theology preaching without knowing it, and so might find this book useful to structure their thinking.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Good but complicated 1 Jun. 2014
By Doraly Pantaleon - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The language is very old. It's written for scholars and the language is difficult to understand. Its not a quick read but it does make you think. I would recommend this for research purposes not as a personal casual read.
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