Dennis E. Johnson
Reviewed by: Eric B. Watkins
Date posted: 08/03/2008
Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, by Dennis E. Johnson. Published by P&R, 2007. Paperback, 493 pages, list price $24.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Eric B. Watkins.
Good preaching can be hard to find; good books on preaching even harder. Him We Proclaim should add to the former by providing the latter. It is a thorough book, displaying years of reflection by the author, both as a pastor and as a seminary professor. His New Testament background is evident throughout the book, as his suggested paradigm of preaching flows from a careful study of New Testament texts, especially Colossians 1 (from which the title is taken).
This book is designed for seminary students and pastors. It is full of in-depth exegesis and interacts with the current debates surrounding redemptive-historical preaching in a way that will certainly engender deeper thinking by those who are alert to the issues at hand. It is replete with helpful definitions and careful distinctions that will aid those who are new to the subject. A strenuous attempt is made to give a fair, balanced assessment of the exegetical issues and historical debates surrounding redemptive-historical preaching, such as man centered moralism and unwarranted allegory. It does so while attempting to avoid what the author perceives as extremes in the debates. The tone, while revealing the author’s responses to some of the issues, is consistently irenic. The book does not avoid the hard challenges of preaching Christ from all of Scripture. For instance, Him We Proclaim suggests ways of dealing with Proverbs that may alert preachers to natural, exegetical ways to move from the word of God to the Word who is God— Jesus Christ.
The most significant quality of the book is its desire to follow an apostolic paradigm of hermeneutics and homiletics. The book assumes that the apostles left preachers an example to follow in their work of interpreting and applying all of Scripture. Him We Proclaim is committed to unfolding both the indicative of God’s saving work in Christ and the imperative of God’s covenantal commands to his people, and doing so from all of Scripture. Helpful appendixes suggest how to build a sermon from beginning to end and provide sample sermons by the author.
The shortcomings of this book are far fewer than its achievements. At times it may appear overly technical (i.e., the treatment of complicated chiasms). The method of unfolding Christ in the appendix entitled “From Text to Sermon” is surprisingly abbreviated, given the amount of space devoted to the matter in the rest of the book. The reader should be discouraged from jumping straight to the appendix read the book first! The book does not deal much with rhetoric, but it does not intend to. However, no single homiletics text can teach everything. Him We Proclaim not only encourages preachers to wrestle with the question of how to preach Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is faithful to the text and edifying to the church, but also offers answers that cannot help but improve the present state of preaching.