Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Theology of Preaching: Reformation History

A theology of preaching can help one to preach better.  During the Protestant Reformation the emphasis moved from the sacraments to the Word preached.  If you go into a medieval cathedral the architect placed the alter front and central in order to emphasize the mass.  During the Reformation the eye was drawn to the pulpit; (which is the throne of God's Word).  The design of a church sanctuary (past and present) reflects our theological convictions (good and bad).

The priority of preaching is not first and foremost a technical issue.  We preach because it is the God-ordained way of communicating the gospel and building up the saints (2 Timothy 4:1-5; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; Col. 1:26-28).  God is pleased to use the foolishness of preaching in order to accomplish His purposes on earth.

Martin Luther helped establish the centrality of the Word preached.  In part, because Luther was committed to "nominalism" (as opposed to realism).  This philosophical matter answers the following question, "Do words reflect reality or do they create reality?"   Luther came to understand that justification is the declaration of God that a sinner is righteous having received the imputed righteousness of Christ (see 2 Cor. 5:21).  The Latin expression of this is, “Simul Justus et Peccator” (simultaneously righteous and sinner).

As one considers history, as recounted in Scripture, the LORD is described as a speaking God who speaks creatively; ("God said ____," "God said ___," note Genesis 1-2).  Many things characterize man as being uniquely created in the image of God, including, but not limited to, the ability to communicate (speech communication).  As a vice-regent man names the animals (Gen. 2-3).   Throughout the Old Testament God often communicated Divine revelation through the word of the man of God (thought prophets; see 2 Kings 4:8-37; 1 Pet. 4:10-11; Heb. 1:1-3).  When God stopped "speaking" it was often understood to be a sign of judgment (Amos 8) related to the presence and blessing of God.  All of this underscores a theology of preaching.

"One of the purposes of preaching is the proclamation of real reality as we tear down false words with true words" (Carl Trueman).  The world is constantly presenting to people a false sense of reality (often through sitcoms and commercials).  Into this context stands the biblical expositor who with an open Bible declares, "Hear now a Word from the Lord!"  The true Word remains the true Word.  One does not have to change their message if they proclaim the never changing Word of God; ("God-speech").

P.S. Many of these thoughts were developed during a TMS D. Min lecture by Dr. Carl Trueman.