Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A review of The Whole Counsel of God by Patrick and Reid

The Whole Counsel of God: Why and how to preach the entire Bible by Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid is a solid sensible book that needed to be way more cheeky and detailed to live up to its central purpose. Their big idea is non-controversial for people who think exegetical preaching (when you preach through the Bible sequentially big idea by big idea) is a good idea. In a nutshell Patrick and Reid are arguing that "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20) should be taught (2 Tim 3) to God's people (Joshua 8). They start the book with a surveying how Scripture describes itself; 'trustworthy revelation from God via human authors'. 

There is a wonderful nugget at pages 44 to 49 where they indirectly rebut John's Dickson's thesis about preaching. John Dickson argues that because preaching and teaching have highly technically meanings, they should be treated as seperate activities both in Scripture and practice. Patrick and Reid demonstrate that there is considerable overlap within Scripture between the concepts of preaching, proclaiming, prophesying and teaching. 

Then there is a long section about the canon of Scripture and the dangers of non-exegetical preaching. That's followed by a solid section demonstrating the complementary nature of biblical, systematic and gospel-centred theology. I could imagine photo-copying one these sections for a young Christian or someone not convinced by one of these categories. Finally the meat of the book starts on page 119 with an introduction of how plan a preaching calendar.  As someone who loves planning and was enticed by the second half of the subtitle "how to preach the entire Bible" this section felt long overdue. 

They correctly suggest preachers should plan out in advance how to preach from several genres across each given calendar year. Patrick and Reid are both Anglicans so it was really interesting to note that they favoured sticking the series rather than a special thematic sermon at Easter or Christmas. (Not that they're opposed to occasional topical sermons.) They wisely observe that since Scripture contains multiple genres our preaching calendar should reflect that diversity. The also wisely note "we think that a good rule of thumb is to finish preaching through each book that we start before we begin another in the same subcategory" (141). This is where the book needed to be cheekier and more detailed. It'd be controversial but they should've included a mega-digram of how each book of the Bible could be preached over say twenty years. They should've also suggested ways of balancing out the genres over the years. And ideally, going back to Christmas and Easter they should've suggested several suggested paradigms for presenting those essential truths in a fresh way.

The final chapters contain wise advice for the preacher and the congregation about how "maximise the impact" of exegetical preaching, especially with a focus on preaching the entire Bible. Both Patrick and Reid have had a positive and personal impact on me so feel a bit mean saying they needed to be cheekier and more detailed. But they're also tough enough to cope. Perhaps my concerns could be remeded with a study-guide containing the various diagrams and explanations I was hoping for?