Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On Eloquence

Eloquence from preachers has long been suspect among evangelicals. Beautiful words are assumed to draw attention away from God, and on to the speaker. Focused on gospel content, we want crisp outlines, nuts and bolts descriptions, and practical forceful 4x4 applications. Who could justify spending time on vivid, expressive, beautiful language?

John Wilson commented recently (Books and Culture Jan/Feb 2008) about today's general indifference to eloquence. Indeed, we need "to recognize a pervasive tendency in evangelicalism: an overweening earnestness. There is, of course, a time to be earnest, and much that is good in the evangelical tradition reflects this imperative. But how dreary, how deadly, when earnestness loses all sense of proportion."

There are obvious dangers in seeking eloquence for its own sake but, in the face of much dreary deadliness, how vitally preachers need to dwell in and express God's grace, with the wonder and beauty He deserves. "Shining like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life" Phil 2:15. Hands up those who would welcome a little more eloquence!


Anonymous said...

I understand that humility is needed; while striving for glory for yourself should not be your goal, striving for excellence in all you do to the honor and glory of God is always to be encouraged, isn't it? I think you should seek to use the most excellent language, in prose or poetry, when you seek to inspire others to grasp the glory, the majesty, the wonder of our Lord and all he has done on our behalf and to encourage us in our relationship and walk with our risen Lord. Beautiful language is inspirational just as other forms of creativity are. Hymns, songs of adoration and worship, religious artwork, creativity in all its forms should be used to bring glory to God, the ultimate Creator who displayed his wonder when he created our bodies, our world and the universe. We should never be afraid to do our best! To God be the glory! It's too bad that eloquence has been discouraged.

Anonymous said...

There is a correlation between the language one uses and the ideas one conveys. The lofty idea of God sometimes can best be conveyed with lofty words.