'Preaching is not the proclamation of a theory, or the discussion of doubt. A man has a perfect right to proclaim a theory of a sort, or to discuss his doubts. But that is not preaching. 'Give me the benefit of your convictions, if you have any. Keep your doubts to yourself; I have enough of my own', said Goethe. We are never preaching when we are hazarding speculations. Of course we do so. We are bound to speculate sometimes. I sometimes say, 'I am speculating; stop taking notes.' Speculation is not preaching. Neither is the declaration of negations preaching. Preaching is the proclamation of the Word, the truth as the truth has been revealed.'
G. Campbell Morgan, once preacher at Westminster Chapel, London, from Preaching (1937), quoted in John Stott, Between Two Worlds , Eerdmans (1982), p.85, in a section on the modern church's loss of confidence in the Gospel.
It's a sad thing to have to say, but I have heard more than my share of negations from the pulpit. That is one reason why I left the Anglican Church. In the last sermon I heard as an Anglican, on Trinity Sunday 1993 if memory serves correct, the Holy Trinity was de-constructed in the manner of Ritschl, and at the conclusion of the sermon the congregation was invited to confess the Nicene Creed! I walked out of that church having lost confidence in a church body that seemed to regard the subversion of the fundamental articles of faith by its clergy as a benign eccentricity. No wonder the Anglican Church is dying in these parts...does it deserve to live?
Campbell Morgan is right, speculation may sometimes be unavoidable in the sermon, although it should be kept to a minimum, but there is no place for negations in the pulpit, and preachers who indulge in them should really just go and do something else.
[Pic: Pulpit Rock, Stavengar region, Norway]