Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vacation Reading (2)

I dared to claim that while I was away on vacation I would power my way through a massive book on The History of Preaching. This was before I arrived at Sarasota (Florida gulf coast) and experienced the hospitality of our generous friend's condo! With temperatures in the 90's every day, the swimming pool and beaches are daily 'necessities'...and what beaches! The sands at Siesta Key are delicate white powder shelving gently away under translucent ocean swell. It is easy to wax eloquently and forget serious reading, though the beauty of sea and sky actually helps praying (as in my last post). (And I hope this description doesn't stir up too much jealousy!)

So, have I engaged with the history of preaching at all? Well, yes, I have read a few hundred pages in between applying sun-lotion and swimming. And the conviction has grown that this history project really matters. It is all too easy to discount history in favor of focusing entirely on the present. A chronological snobbery (I think CS Lewis called it) that assumes knowing the current situation is all that matters. (Actually there can be chronological snobbery that exalts some past period as all-important too!)

The Reformer Philip Melancthon wrote: “Human life without knowledge of history is nothing other than a perpetual childhood, nay a permanent obscurity and darkness.” Perpetual childhood is particularly troubling for preaching which should never be disconnected from its past. Today's preachers should know that they build upon the backs of giants who have not only preached effectively but also have contributed to our understanding of the preaching task.

Already, my reading has alerted me to much new material as well as recalling past connections. I am not sure how best to process the mass of material, nor how long the project will take (!) but I shall try and share some insights along the way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe that the struggle today is that many "teachers" in the pulpit put aside the experiences and expressions of the past. Thus we are left with a form of communication that is largely absent of the characteristics and qualities of "preaching." We have exegetical ramblings and content that lacks "punch", focusing mostly on verse by verse diatribes that often misses out on focused application and life changing relevancy. In fact, I sadly say, this is often the approach of some of America's "most admired" preachers.