Thursday, March 01, 2007

Preaching That Fails to Revere the Word of God

If you're a pastor or an aspiring pastor, and you've never read Charles Bridges' The Christian Ministry, you've missed a real treat and some wise advice. If you've suffered under preaching that conforms the text to the preacher's message, Bridges' comments below may be surprising. Though I'm glad to say I've never had a pastor who practiced this abuse of the text (my experience comes from other sources), I sense that many from my generation think this is a contemporary problem. The fact that Bridges was published in 1830 suggests that it is not.
The meaning and object of a text is a definite passage from the word of God, as the ground-work of some statement of truth, drawn from the word. This is natural and obvious. But we question the propriety of selecting texts merely as mottos for pulpit dissertations. Instead of the sermon being made from the text, the text is made from the sermon. It is read as a customary introduction. It furnishes the occasion of the discursive inquiry, but its component parts, or its connexion with the context, are left untouched. This method—besides that it loses the office of the expositor—seems scarcely to acknowledge due reverence to the word of God. And though it may sometimes afford opportunities for useful discussion, yet it tends to 'divert the mind from the inspection, meditation, and weighing of sacred scripture, which is the true food of the soul, and the treasury of Divine wisdom: and to which alone the converting grace of the Holy Spirit is annexed.' (197-198)
I can't help but give thanks for how this approach is being repudiated, with a sound text-driven approach advocated in its place, in so many college and seminary classrooms today.


Travis said...

"Selecting texts merely as mottos for pulpit dissertations" - that's a great quote. I've always called that picking a passage and pitching a fit, but Bridges' phrasing is much better.

Thanks for the tip on the book. I look forward to reading it.

Paul said...

Once a month does not cut it. You need to post a Bridges' quote weekly. Thanks.

Fundamentally Reformed said...

Great comment. Thanks for posting it.