Review of "Seeing Christ in All of Scripture" ed. Peter A. Lillback

Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary ed. Peter A. Lillback, Philadelphia: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016, 86 pp.
Before reaching the main content, the reader is presented with thirty-five (!) endorsements of the book by prominent Christian theologians. In these endorsements one learns that Seeing Christ in All of Scripture was written following some controversy at Westminster Theological Seminary between two competing views of Biblical interpretation called, respectively, “christocentric” and a “christotelic.” The large number of endorsements appears to be an effort to persuade (or overwhelm) the reader to believe that the christocentric view (whatever this is) is correct.
The introduction to the volume by Peter Lillback adds to the show of force of the endorsers in noting that the four essay contributors to the volume are “a witness to the hermeneutical unity at Westminster [Theological Seminary].” (p. 1) With additional descriptive (but essentially empty) terms for their view like “profound,” “organic,” and “radical,” the casual reader might be apt to agree with the view presented in the book without yet having any idea of what it actually is.
The first essay, “Biblical Hermeneutics,” by Vern Poythress is quite short. There are some scattered points on hermeneutics but little or no overall theme.
The second essay, “Old Testament Hermeneutics,” by Iain M. Duguid gives “four basic principles for interpreting the Old Testament that can be grasped and applied thoughtfully by almost anyone.” (p. 17) Unlike Poythress’ essay then, which would be marked “re-do” in an undergraduate class, Duguid’s essay has a structure. His first point is that the Old Testament is a “book about the promise of a coming Messiah through whose sufferings God will establish his glorious, eternal kingdom.” (p. 17) Duguid clarifies that this “does not mean that every verse taken by itself contains a hidden allusion to Christ, but that the central thrust of every passage leads us in some way to the central message of the gospel.” (p. 19) I’m very glad to see Duguid note this, as it was my main concern from the title “Seeing Christ in All of Scripture” that some overdone verse-by-verse allusion was going to be argued for. Moving on, his other points are “the Old Testament had a message for its original hearers, not just us”, “the Old Testament writers do not fully understand everything about which they were wrote,” and “the Old Testament writers truly understood some things they described.” This is a well-written essay with clear and important points.
The third essay, “New Testament Hermeneutics,” by G. K. Beale gives “an overview of the most essential guiding truths for biblical interpretation” (p. 25) with a focus on the New Testament. It is a decent essay, but not particularly notable.
The fourth essay, “Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics” is by the notorious Richard B. Gaffin Jr. Again here, there is nothing particularly notable.
Finally in Appendix C, written by Richard B. Gaffin, one finds comments on the recent controversy. It surrounds the “retirement” of Professor Douglas J. Green. Gaffin is responding to the former long-term WTS Professor D. Clair Davis who has written in Green’s defense. Davis, says Gaffin, sees there being a line of “christotelic” hermeneutics at WTS from Geerhardus Vos to Edmund Clowney and up to Green. Gaffin argues that the “christotelic” view goes beyond Vos and is not his actual view.
But coming to the end of the book, the reader still hasn’t been told what the christotelic view is or how it differs from the christocentric one. This seems like it should have been the top priority of this volume. The best I can figure is that the christotelic view seeks not only to interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament but to also ask what the Old Testament might have been understood to mean at the time of its own writing. This doesn’t mean that there are two competing interpretations. Reading in light of the New Testament is the correct interpretation. This controversy, from what little I know, seems unnecessary.

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