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Review Essay, Keeping the Balance

Perspectives on Preaching, Martin Downes (39pgs) Outline provided by the author:

God and preaching 180
   The doctrine of God and preaching 183
   The message and the method must correlate 185
   True knowledge 187
   Holiness and the preacher 193
   Why preaching matters 196
Theology and preaching 198
   What is theology? 199
   The primacy of systematic theology 201
   How theology can mar preaching 203
   How theology helps preaching 207
   Biblical and systematic theology 209
   Why preaching must draw on systematic theology 210
God and preaching revisited 214

The sixth essay in this collection considers the importance of sound theology in preaching. Martin Downes (a Religious Studies and English graduate, now working as a UCCF Team Leader in Wales) makes a plea for “a more doctrinal form of preaching” to revive the Church’s high image of God and bring spiritual power back into the lives of Christians.

God and preaching Downes begins his essay by examining what preaching, at its heart, is all about. Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he explains that the “chief end of preaching …is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence”. Of course, preachers should talk about things like television and sex and divorce, but, as John Piper put it, “every one of those things should be swept into the holy presence of God and laid bare to the roots of its Godwardness or godlessness”. Christianity puts God at the centre of the universe (not man), and God has spoken and revealed Himself, making Christian preaching an authority about God and His ways and not a piece of human speculation. What God says and thinks is important. And according to God’s revelation, “the chief need of human beings is to ‘know God'”. “Preaching …must be God-centred precisely because it is [our] estrangement from God that lies at the heart” of all the problems in the world. It is in the gospel alone that God shows men, who are ultimately all rebels deserving His judgement, how to know him and be accepted by him—a knowledge that transcends the mere mechanics of the problem and “is made a reality on a personal level by the working of the Holy Spirit” who enables us to understand and receive these things, instilling within us a desire to know God and be like him. Knowing God, then, and knowing Him “better and better”, is what the Christian life is all about, and the object of preaching is “to bring men and women to a right knowledge of God, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is unfolded to them”. Preaching deals with what is of ultimate importance—our relationship to the ultimate reality and our ultimate destination.

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2006

About the Author: W. Simpson, PhD (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), is a physicist and writer with an interest in theology, currently engaged in scientific research in the middle-east.

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