Editorial: Preaching and Teaching the Whole Counsel of God -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 10:2 (Summer 2006)
Article: Editorial: Preaching and Teaching the Whole Counsel of God
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Editorial: Preaching and Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.

What does it mean to be biblical in our preaching and teaching—indeed our entire lives? How do we remain faithful to Scripture and accurately “think God’s thoughts after him” and “correctly handle the word of truth”? Most evangelicals would answer: preach and teach the Bible, and they would be right in that answer. Our foundation for all of life is God’s Word (see 2 Tim 3:16–17). Our glorious task as God’s people is to read Scripture in such a way that we accurately understand and apply what it says and not merely give our own ideas, feelings, and thoughts. But here is the problem: we are all keenly aware that many people (including ourselves!) can quote and refer to Scripture without actually being “biblical.” In fact, we all know that the mere quotation of Scripture is not enough. In the end, in order to be “biblical” in our preaching and teaching we must read biblical texts within their immediate context and, ultimately, in light of the entire canon of Scripture, otherwise our reading and application of Scripture will be a misreading, and we will fail to interpret and apply the whole counsel of God properly.

Obviously, this is not a new problem; it is the age-old issue of hermeneutics. But even though it is not a new problem, it is an important one to think through carefully. As evangelicals we must never forget that it is not enough merely to affirm a correct doctrine of Scripture (even though this is the right place to begin!), but we must also learn afresh to read, understand, and apply Scripture according to what it is and claims to be. Because the Bible is nothing less than God’s authoritative self-revelation through human authors progressively given over time, it must be approached and read as a unified text, amongst all its diversity—a canon which declares God’s unfailing purposes and plan. Furthermore, since Scripture as God’s word-act revelation involves historical progression along a redemptive-historical storyline ultimately centered in Jesus Christ (see Heb 1:1–2), our reading and application of Scripture must take this fact seriously. In contemporary idiom, the theological discipline that attempts to trace out t...

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