First Person Life


"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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PSA: Copyright and Digital Rights Management

Beware the Corruptables.

Perhaps you've heard about technologies such as the "audio flag," "digital rights management," etc. You may even have heard about Sony/BMG music installing trojan software on people's personal computers when they play their Audio CD's on their PC... (yes, they did it, without the PC owner's permission. Yes, it IS a federal crime to tamper with another person's computer without permission. No, they didn't get prosecuted for it).

I came across this short video produced by the Electronic Frontier Foundation - A group dedicated to "defending freedom in a digital world" - which can serve as an introduction to this issue.

Copyright law has something called "fair use" (Section 107 - quoted below) embeded in it. Under Fair use, reproduction, "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." (emphasis added) This right has already been significantly curtailed by various court decisions.

Many of the initiatives by the entertainment lobby, book publishers, and others aim to limit fair use by "Digital Rights Management". In many cases, it is a back door way of abridging the right of fair use.

It's important to defend fair use - a right which we as scholars and the public in general have as a right guaranteed under copyright law. Without it, quoting the work of another for any reason -- including for purposes of comment or critique would be illegal as well as many other uses.

Abuse of fair use is theft - and can be a problem. However, initiatives which curtail legally defined rights through back doors is oppression. I don't deny that the publishing industry should be able to protect their rights in a work. However, those rights were established for a purpose and are not "inalienable." The express constitutional purpose was "to promote science and the useful arts." I wouldn't call most of the trash talk in the music world nor the garbage on TV and in the movies "useful arts" -- neither would I call it "science" (I guess some case could be made for biology and psychology -- especially on the soap operas and reality TV).

As a side note, plagarism on the web is one of the biggest forms of copyright infringement there is - even in the Lutheran blogosphere. Including large portions of newswire stories, other web sites, etc. without the express permission of the owner of the material is also theft. That means if you extensively quote from the AP, Reuters, CNN, etc. or even another blogger's website without their permission and aren't providing significant commentary, YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW!

For this reason, I recommend all bloggers examine creative commons licenses to apply to their websites. This gives others permissions (which you can define) to use your material, at the same time, allows a free exchange of ideas to occur.

Anyway, enough comments about that. Here's the "fair use" section of Copyright law. I also recommend reading the copyright law regarding non-infringing uses. Note especially section 110 (3).

Title 17, Section 107

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

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Life must have been simpler before the Tower of Babel

I tend not to take the word of others very easily-- especially when it comes to hearing second hand what someone else thinks or said. I'll often take the "evidence" or report of a second hand source under advisement, but I will often not readily "accept" it without additional corroboration - preferably from primary sources.

Such has been the case in Luther's "break" with Augustine over the nature of grace.

I had taken a seminar on Augusine in the mid 90's when I was at Concordia College, Ann Arbor. Since then, I have rather liked his writings and found a lot of "good stuff" in them (and on this, I haven't really changed my mind).

When I took a seminar on Luther, there was mention of a 'break' between Augustine and Luther on the nature of grace. Aside from the assertion that such a break occurred, there was no real evidence of it. And even though I had read a fair amount of Augustine's writings, I just couldn't "see" (or rather believe) it.

In reading Augustine, I had often come across the word "grace." Sometimes it seemed to refer to how Lutherans would understand the grace of God in relation to justification (imputed righteousness). Other times, it seemed to refer to the gifts of God which effect our sanctification. Therefore, as I read Augustine, I simply interpreted the word, "grace," in the appropriate way based on the context and my own ("Lutheran") understanding -- figuring he just hadn't been careful about separating the two, but assuming he meant what I thought he meant.

This, of course, meant that I didn't see the gulf that exists between the Lutheran understanding of "grace" in terms of justification (imputation), and Augustine's understanding of "grace" (infusion). It also explained my perplexity with those who saw this gulf. I, therefore, assumed that other people had misread Augustine, seeking to be critical of him where no such criticism was necessary.

Well, I found it today. For anyone else out there who may believe that Augustine's conceptualization of grace was misunderstood and that there is no difference between Augustine and Luther... I recommend that you read the following quotation:

As therefore in Abraham the justification of faith came first, and circumcision was added afterwards as the seal of faith; so in Cornelius the spiritual sanctification came first in the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the sacrament of regeneration was added afterwards in the laver of baptism. And as in Isaac, who was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, the seal of this righteousness of faith was given first, and afterwards, as he imitated the faith of his father, the righteousness itself followed as he grew up, of which the seal had been given before when he was an infant; so in infants, who are baptized, the sacrament of regeneration is given first, and if they maintain a Christian piety, conversion also in the heart will follow, of which the mysterious sign had gone before in the outward body. And as in the thief the gracious goodness of the Almighty supplied what had been wanting in the sacrament of baptism, because it had been missing not from pride or contempt, but from want of opportunity; so in infants who die baptized, we must believe that the same grace of the Almighty supplies the want, that, not from perversity of will, but from insufficiency of age, they can neither believe with the heart unto righteousness, nor make confession with the mouth unto salvation. - Augustine, On Baptism, Book IV - Chapter 24

It's clear that Augustine viewed grace as an infused substance which must be acted upon in order to effect our justification. Oddly enough, this treatise was against the Pelagians... So, sadly, Augustine has been taken down a notch in my eyes. It's sad... but I probably idolized him too much anyway. I think I'll probably continue to reinterpret Augustine as I read him... but at least now I know I'm doing it.

As I've mused many times, life must have been so much easier before the Tower of Babel. Then, at least, we knew what each other was saying.

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Simply horrifying

Medical tourism to the U.S. for designer babies....

I must admit... In general, I'm a capitalist because I find that capitalist competition tends to be the best way to balance competing interests in a secular society. But this is a case of capitalism run amok.... I'm repulsed and embarassed enough to almost turn red!


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