Sunday, April 29, 2012

What is Preaching?



          All kinds of “preaching” takes place from pulpits everywhere.  But do we know what we are doing when we preach?

          Are we “teaching the Bible”? 

          Are we “saving souls”?

          Are we “imparting life skills”?

          Are we “preaching the right way/ethical way to live”?

          Are we “proclaiming justice and peacemaking”?

          These (and doubtless other things as well) are what happens in various traditions and from different theological perspectives all around the world.  But is this preaching?

          I don’t for a moment doubt that in all these efforts at preaching God is active, using them to establish and nurture people in faith.  Yet are all these things actually “preaching”?  How should we understand the act of proclamation?

          I offer for reflection a description of preaching from the Dutch Old Testament scholar Kornelis H. Miskotte from his wonderful book When the Gods are Silent.  This is essentially an Old Testament theology written from the 1950’s and translated into English a decade or so later.  Gods richly repays a careful reading even today.  Miskotte provides the best brief description of preaching I am aware of.

“. . . preaching is neither rationalistic, nor ethical, nor mystical in orientation; it is prophecy, that is, an envisaging, a making–present of the holy events, repetition of the great narrative which never passes away, application of the history, the story of God, which has gathered up into itself the history of men, and for their good assures its days and its meaning.” (304)

What think ye?

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