Thursday, 13 May 2010

Preaching is the Proclamation of the Word, Not Your Doubts, Preacher

'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]


Matthias said...

I blogged over at our mutual Catholic friend's site regarding a service i attneded in January at a local uniting Church. I was the youngets in the church- i'm 55-but the sermon was straight out of a trendy 1960's theologians job description. This one was deconstructing the Virgin Birth and the visit of the wise men. I went for communion being the first sunday of the year ,as my church closes over Christmas New year as we meet in a Community Centre. Never again will I darken the door of that church- i will go to the lutherans,they are closer to my house and the Word will be preached.something novel for the UCA in Nunawading

M.A. Henderson said...

In my experience this affliction has particularly hit the Uniting, Anglican, and surprisingly the Roman Catholic churches - but the last mentioned can tolerate a lot of heresy from the pulpit without effect on attendance because people will keep coming for the sacrament, although I note even RC Mass attendances are falling.

Matthias said...

One Presbyterian minister said that when he was about to preach,he would recite quietly "my sins are ever before me" so that he would remember in Who's House he was preaching and that he was His Servant and not to be puffed up with foolish pride.

L P said...

You cannot give what you do not have. If the preacher has no more faith, then he dishes out faithless platitudes.

I fully agree, I do not want to hear from the preacher about his humanity. I also do not want to hear how he is making it.

When I go to church, I want to hear what the Word says, what God is saying.

I joyfully saturate a church with my absence when I stop hearing Law and Gospel from her minister.


Friarpuk said...

Amen to this Mark! We don't have a right to don the stole if our sermons don't require that Christ was crucified and resurrected for sinners (you and me)!

M.A. Henderson said...

Amen, Heath!
Good to hear from you.
How's W.A.?
And yourv plane?