Monday, April 6, 2009

Preaching the Bible


The narrative of the Bible preaches the saving events of the living God. There is no need to go over and beyond the text to a mystical or hidden knowledge like the Gnostics. The very text of the Holy Scriptures preaches the raw facts of promise, an invitation to life and salvation. The text itself is kerygma and is publicly spoken and proclaimed by Pastors and in fact all Christians. Therefore preaching is not a human production of the preacher, even when he employs the loveliest expressions of sublime literary output. Gustav Wingren in The Living Word writes, “Preaching binds together what God did in the past and what is yet to be…In this way the Bible finds it unity when it preaches and is preached.” Therefore preaching may be seen as simply a handing over of the acts of God to the poor beggar in the pew, that he may be assured that these acts are “for you.” The “unity” found in preaching ought not be seen as a divine revelation to be vividly apprehended in its totality through a contemplation of historical world happenings. Rather, a “unity” is only found in preaching which creates faith. Needless to say, mere historian and scholar apart from the place of preaching and the advent of faith will find no “unity” in God’s narrative, only disjecta membra and fragments of acts.



Preaching the gospel is to preach to men who cannot free themselves from the enemy, the ancient serpent. Wherever the Word is spoken the devil is present to interfere, to twist and contort the gospel message in the human ear into something that it is not. In the conflict between God and the devil, it is the raising up of the suffering Servant Jesus Christ out of the grave that marks the greatest and final act. As Christ was raised from the dead so is the whole race of men who were buried with him. In the time between the ascension and the parousia, the time of expectant hope and sure promise, preaching is sent to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Holy Gospel and shatter all the devil’s plans. Wingren describes the preaching task as “taking one’s place in the midst of the mighty series of events that binds the beginning of creation in prehistory with the resurrection of the dead in eternity…as present event.”[1] That preaching is an “event” of course implies that preaching actually does something. The action is that preaching actually creates faith and hands over all the work of Christ to those lost under the dominion of sin, death, and the devil.



The Bible, these Holy Scriptures are not an antiquated text of a history long since past. There is no such thing as the “Bible times.” The Lord of the Bible is Christ, in which the whole history of redemption is revealed which shows God to be constantly at work, creating, redeeming, and sanctifying. The conflict with the devil in the Bible is the same conflict that is carried out in each human heart, as God incarnates into flesh to retrieve each wayfaring creature. The Scriptures bear witness to the historical truth of humanities liberation – from God’s promise in creation, to the bondage of sin, and to the long awaited victory in Christ’s death and resurrection. The preaching task carries out the history of redemption in the life of the Christian, who has the same fall into sin, the same bondage in Egypt, the same deliverance through the red sea of Christ’s blood and holy waters. The Scriptures interpret and define us, our past, future, and present situation. Modern man of course, views the Bible as an archaic text, an archeological exhibit. He thinks he may interpret it, put God on the operating table, and define God. Yet, God’s living word addresses and speaks to us - diagnoses our situation - interprets and defines us. The theme of God’s conflict with the devil is the conflict taking place in humanity. The message of course is that Christ has surely won and that he freely gifts the victory to us.


[1] Wingren, Gustaf. The Living Word; A Theological Study of Preaching and the Church. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1960, 46.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Michael,

    How you have me like a teller of good and bad news: no hidden knowledge beyond the text [hurray], but there are raw facts [boo], however, the text itself is preaching [hurray]. But is this preaching - No human production only handing over the acts/facts of God? And how -A beggar who is objectively assured these acts/facts are for him?

    O let there be a Bartimmaeus. Hear him cry out above this preaching. Hear him cry out all the more when rebuked. And when asked, let him hear Jesus Christ’s personal question, not the handing out of acts/facts but “What do you desire I should do to you? “. And if, as you say, the mere historian and scholar only has fragments of acts why cannot he give them to the beggar in the pew? Is he not handing over the acts/facts of your preaching?

    Although I am unfamiliar with Wingren, I hear him in your words that there is “no such thing as the ‘Bible times’…[only] God…constantly at work, creating, redeeming and sanctifying”. But does he make ‘Bible Times’ nothing but mythical events devoid of God’s faithfulness to those historical people with “creating, redeeming and sanctifying”? Are these historical people not real? If God cannot create, redeem and sanctify yesterday, why should be able to do it today or tomorrow? However, I read later that “The Scriptures bear witness to the historical truth of humanities [sic] liberation”. So there is, then, ‘historical truth’ of real people and events and their liberation.

    And as much as I am excited that “God incarnates into flesh to retrieve each wayfaring creature”, leaving aside its impossible literalness, I cannot relate it to a preaching which is ‘only handing over the acts/facts of God’ so a beggar is objectively assured these acts/facts are for him. The latter is held up when you continue with “Modern man of course, views the Bible as an archaic text, an archeological exhibit. He thinks he may interpret it, put God on the operating table, and define God. Yet, God’s living word addresses and speaks to us - diagnoses our situation - interprets and defines us”. So did not Jesus Christ allow Himself to be interpreted when he asked the beggar Bartimaeus “What do you desire I should do to you? “? To use a colloquium of Jesus Christ, ‘He is big enough to look after Himself’ when inviting interpretation. As so are the Holy Scriptures. Who is Voltaire ?

    Christ Has Died,

    Peter

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