Lauren Winner on Fleming Rutledge and Preaching the Old Testament

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For Christians, says [Fleming] Rutledge, there can be no speaking of "the God of the Old Testament" as though that God is somehow different from "the God of the New Testament." In a sermon on Isaiah 28, she reminds us that "There is just as much good news in the Old Testament as in the New Testament, and a lot of it has the additional advantage of being written in poetry." In another sermon on the same text, (Rutledge admits to "being fascinated" by the prophet's words about evil and suffering), she insists that "a wrathful Old Testament God has not been replaced by a loving New Testament God." Jesus, after all, was known to strike the occasional note of judgment—and God is seen doing much loving in the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament, Rutledge makes plain, is not the God of caricatures of the Old Testament. Rather, it is precisely "the Old Testament God" who has "come down from his throne on high into the world of sinful human flesh and of his own free will and decision has come under his own judgment in order to deliver us from everlasting condemnation and bring us into eternal life." Since the God of Abraham is the Father of Jesus Christ, "the witness of the entire Scripture is a seamless garment. No change within God occurred in the intertestamental period; there is no break in the revelation of God's self, as though there had been an alteration in God."

At the same time, "there are intrinsic, inalienable features of God in the Old Testament which we would not be able to extract from the New Testament taken by itself." Without Old Testament preaching, how will we know about the election of Israel, "the righteousness of God as both noun and verb," God's jealousy, and God's "aseity (being-from himself)"?

If you, like me, have a nagging feeling that you are not paying enough attention to the Old Testament—if you, like me, feel inadequately acquainted with the biblical testimony to God's jealousy; God's righteousness; God's freedom, testified to in election; or indeed God's love—consider taking up Rutledge's sermons. (They are not an endpoint; as Rutledge surely hopes they will do, these sermons will likely inspire you to further reading—including, I dare suggest, reading more of the Old Testament itself.)

--Books and Culture, May/June 2012, page 12

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchBooks* TheologyTheology: Scripture

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