Interpretation and Application
Edited by Craig Brian Larson
Published by: Hendrickson
This book seeks to answer the question, ‘how does one best make ancient biblical texts pertinent to the 21st century listener while still maintaining the Scriptures’ integrity?’
In a series of interviews, essays and, indeed, sermons, it stresses the importance of approaching Scripture from the position of having an accurate understanding of the words’ historical context, as well as finding new and powerful ways to communicate this in a contemporary setting. It begins by examining ‘Biblical interpretation’ before, in the second part of this 160-page book, exploring sermon application.
The book begins with eminent preachers analysing the components involved in Biblical interpretation. Starting with the preacher – acknowledging that it’s impossible to approach any Biblical text with a completely open and uninfluenced mind – the section goes on to make observations on ‘preaching the melodic line’ (or overarching theme) of a Biblical book or passage. There are also examples from the Pentateuch (of when Moses got his preaching right (Exodus 17) and wrong (Numbers 20)); a discussion on ‘preaching parables’ and making them applicable to a contemporary audience, as well as making preaching from the psalms relevant.
The second part of the book begins by recalling Haddon Robinson’s view that ‘sermon application is like peeling an onion. At first it seems easy but, as you go through layer after layer, all you have is tears.’ Theology, hermeneutics and exegesis are all part of this difficult art which involves bringing the ‘theory’ of the Word into contact with the listeners’ hearts to produce behaviour change. Maybe the only consolation any preacher has is that application is a skill – which means that, with practice, we can get better at it.
This book offers a veritable cornucopia of thoughts and ideas on sermon application. For those who’re keen on a contemporary perspective, there’s even a discussion on sermon application in a post-Christian culture. Much of this book’s contents will not be new to the qualified and practised preacher but the value of this slim volume lies in its ability to be a concise, accessible aide memoire which will challenge and provoke thought every time it’s read.
There’s no doubt that this book would grace any preacher’s bookshelves. It might even become a valuable volume if it was read – at least occasionally.
By Bob Little
[This review was first published in The Baptist Ministers’ Journal, October 2013]