First Person Life

2006-06-30

"The Myth of Expository Preaching" ??

David Fitch, author of the Great Giveaway and a voice in the emergent church has a post on his blog (also entitled: The Great Giveaway) about The Myth of Expository Preaching and the Comoditization of the Word.

The post brings up numerous issues, and I'm tempted to run a series on the post over on Learning Greek since it's my site dedicated to such things and I have some spare time now that intensives are over.

But to whet your whistle a little, here's a couple of quotes worth considering and some brief comments/questions. Discuss among yourselves, I think I'll be posting more in the days (hours?) ahead.

His definition of Expository Preaching:
Implied is, if the preacher but applies the exegetical historical-critical skills (s)he learned in seminary and studies the text in its original language, aided by the Spirit, (s)he can arrive at the meaning of the text all by him/herself. Expository preaching, done right (with good exegesis), sticks to the already existing stable perspicuous meaning in the text. Interpretation therefore comes second and can only follow the text. In this way, expository preaching allows God’s Word to drive the message and any interpretation is automatically subordinated to it.


The danger he sees:
The reality therefore is that what guides interpretation is not scientific individual interpretation of the text. It is the broad consensus interpretation for the Biblical texts found in the ongoing history of church doctrine.


I have to say, I generally concur with his assessment. Take a look at commentaries and the tools we have available to us. How are our lexicons, for example, created? How does our preconceived notions of what grammatical structures "mean" inform our exegesis? If we "see" something that those around us, or previous commentators didn't, how do we evaluate who is right? It seems to me, most often, it's by saying, "They're right... 'cause they wrote the book." This is really no different than defering to the papacy or to the "tradition" of the church -- so to some extent, we all often march back to Rome in some ways.

A good example: Is John 6 "Sacramental"? The Lutheran "tradition" says it's not. Scripture doesn't say one way or the other. There are many who say it is, many who say it's not. Surely, God knows whether or not He intended it to be so... so there IS an answer to the question... but what is the answer? (More importantly -- how do you know?)

Another problem he sees:
Secondly, even if we could agree that each individual mind under the Holy Spirit can come to the one propositional meaning of the text using exegesis, we cannot assume then that these truths as communicated by the preacher will necessarily be heard as the same thing to the isolated hearer in the pew when (s)he hears them.


Definitely an issue. How often has this happened to you? You preach a sermon on topic A, and the people leaving your church said, "I loved your sermon about topic XYZ today." How often does something similar happen even in just common every day conversation? This is definitely a problem - but what's the solution?

Fitch is talking about "Expository Preaching" as it's found primarily among Evangelicals... so his comments regarding "three points and an application" that people then take home to try to live out "the Christian life" (i.e. sanctification) may not be entirely true in a proper Lutheran context (at least hopefully). But there's still some sense where many sermons are "three points and an application." Even if the application is, appropriately, "Jesus."

I found what he said about "comoditization" of the Word provocative... and something I'll have to think further about. I have some thinking to do, anyway, about how we define, "the Word" both in our confession, practice and Lutheran understanding.

As usual, I agree with about 70-85% of Fitch's description of the problem, a possible 50% of his diagnosis and approaching 0% of his remedy (more on that later). Of course, he's very much an "anti-Lutheran" (For example, in his article: Theological Issues Confronting the Emergent Church he calls an emphasis on Pauline justification as Justification by grace through Faith, "Over Lutheranized") -- Although, interestingly, I think the Lutheran Church is probably best positioned to answer the problems he sees in modern Evangelicalism -- an interesting paradox.

He references Chapter 5 of his book... I don't recall if I read that far. I read almost exactly half of the book then things turned from problem description and diagnosis to remedy -- where he was too far off for my taste.

Well, how about it? What is the proper preaching "Methodology"? My answer will be forthcoming... Do his descriptions of the problems ring true?

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