You may have read my previous post entitled, Are “Authorial Intent” and “Christ-Centered” Mutually Exclusive? (if not, you may want to do so before continuing, although it’s not necessary).
But this post prompts the question, if we are to preach Christ in all of Scripture (that is, preach Christotelically; see my previous post Christ in the Old Testament: Christocentric or Christotelic Hermeneutic?), are we allegorizing? If Christ is not at all present in a text, then are we spiritualizing the text by preaching Christ?
I have had enough experience with a certain school of interpretation to realize that many people answer this question in the affirmative–unfortunately. It has appeared to me, however, that part of their reason for doing so was a fundamental misunderstanding, a confusion of typology and allegory. So, let me try to spell out some of the basic, introductory differences between typology and allegory.
As interpreters, teachers, and preachers of God’s word we desire to be faithful to the Biblical text. We know that this entails interpreting Scripture according to the Biblical authors’ original intent, historical context, and literary context, among other things. We don’t want to be guilty of eisegesis–reading our own thoughts and ideas into the text rather than getting our conclusions from out of the text (exegesis).
But at the same time, we know that Christ said the entirety of Scripture speaks of Him (Luke 24:25-27; cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12; Rom 1:2). And so as Paul, we would love to say that even in our expositional preaching “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
But what about the majority of texts where Christ is not mentioned? How do we preach Christ then? Do we preach the authorial intent and then sort of arbitrarily jump to Christ at the end, tack on an altar call or two with some repeated “Just as I am” choruses?
We want to avoid moralism; so we want to preach Christ. We don’t simply want to draw conclusions like, “don’t be like Saul,” “don’t be like the Israelites,” or “be more like David,” as if this alternative is somehow more honest to the authorial intent. But how do we preach Christ-centered in passages that have seemingly little to do with Christ at all?
I think you get my drift.