Christian Preaching as a Theological Practice

In the second chapter of Christian Preaching: A Trinitarian Theology of Proclamation Pasquarello speaks of preaching as a practice (in the McIntyrian sense) that is theological. He borrows heavily from Augustine’s De doctrina christiana and suggests that preaching is a theological and spiritual journey for the preacher. Preaching is therefore an act that begins in prayer and ends in praise (p. 39). In spite of modernity’s push to seperate the two, Pasquarello sees preaching being a central point where the theological disciplines can be reconnected with the study of doctrine and Scripture all in the ecclesial setting from which they should naturally arise.

Pasquarello exhorts the preacher to reject forms of preaching and teaching that reduce the message of Scripture to rules, ideals, and points. Instead, he argues for a very Barthian reclamation of a full-bodied expression of the mystery of Christ narrated from the overarching story of Scripture. “Christian speech must resist the urge to close and finish what is said (p. 47).” This makes me think of a post by Beth Quick, a MethoBlogger, some time ago. She said she often failed to follow Adam Hamilton’s advice on giving concrete actions during the sermon. Perhaps Beth is more faithful to the theological vision of Scripture that Pasquarello offers and is more responsive to God’s ongoing narrative of grace in the world. Then again, I struggle too with appealing to popular sensibilities and would prefer giving more pragmatic sermons. Yet, Pasquarello goes on to quote Willimon who wrote, “To use the church’s worship for any purpose other than the glorification of God is to abuse worship…Utilitarianism remains the greatest temptation in American Christian worship… (p. 48).” Preaching as a theological practice means moving away from human-centered activity to preaching as a God-centered activity.

This is a challenging vision and gives us much to think about prayerfully.

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