Monday, June 21, 2010

'Scientism' and Preaching


In those who have adopted a 'scientistic' way of preaching, every point in the sermon must be established in an objective, 'scientific' way. Thus quotations of Scripture as proof texts abound as he goes along. At the end of it all there is an almost audible 'Q.E.D.' Non-scientistic preaching still establishes the truth of statements made and that objectively, but there are gaps. Aspects of the teaching will not be established by direct Scriptural proof. These aspects will be suggested by what has been proven, but they will be arrived at through the practical wisdom of the preacher. His experiences of God will lead him to certain thoughts about the text and how it speaks - or better, how the Spirit speaks through it - to life. The validity of these thoughts might not be 'proven' by the text. They should be related to the text at hand and not contradicted by the rest of Scripture, but there needs to be some room for the preacher to speak based on God's natural revelation, his experiences of God and of life. There are things that the preacher has learned simply by watching life around him. He needs to be able to include input from this as well.

It is the subjective element of this that proves difficult. There comes a point when a preacher might go too far. There are times when it is fine for a preacher to say, 'In situations like what we see in our text, most people will respond by thinking ...' even though the text doesn't say how people will respond. But of course, there are times when a preacher saying such a thing as gone too far and is dealing with the text in an invalid manner. What makes the difference is the preachers own experience first, of God and then, of people. There are those who can take that extra step and still speak truth and there are those who will mislead their hearers in so doing.

So, there is a risk here in preaching in this way. But it is a risk that needs to be taken because it affects how the people of God are addressed. Jesus was not a 'scientistic' preacher, but the scribes were. And the crowds could tell the difference. Today, the people can sense the difference between a sermon that proves some 'truth' so that they can lodge it away in a brain cell,  ready for some future debate, and a sermon that speaks to life, real life, in all its messiness, but giving hope.

One need of our day is for preachers who not only know their Bibles, but also know God's other [natural] revelation. They understand life and its difficulties and are able to bring the Gospel to bear in a way that grabs a hold of people and changes their lives. 'Scientistic' preaching will produce knowledgeable saints, but not joyous saints, confident in Jesus and ready to do battle in His name.

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