Reformation Preaching and the Modern Mind

This week I am giving the Moore College Lectures in Sydney.  The title of the series (with due homage to the great Peter Taylor Forsyth) is Reformation Preaching and the Modern Mind.  My hope is to use the Reformers, especially Luther, as a source for building a theological understanding of what preaching actually is.


In my first lecture, I concluded by offering the following seven theses which I will be defending (sometimes indirectly) in the remaining five:


Seven Theses on God and Preaching


The Reformation offers the following vital insights into preaching which helps us to understand it (both message and medium) as a theological act:


1. God is a God for whom speech is the primary vehicle of creation, presence, power, authority and new creation.


2. Those made in God’s image use speech in an analogous way to God himself.


3. God exerts his authority through the speech of those made in his image.


4. God builds his kingdom by the speech of preachers.   Preaching offers an alternative and "real" reality to those false realities created by the world, the flesh and the Devil.


5. Speech is axiomatic for both the content of salvation and the means by which salvation is applied.


6. The cross of Christ is axiomatic for both the content of gospel preaching and the shape of gospel ministry.


7. The existential engagement of preacher and congregation with the message is vital, given that such engagement is by its very nature engagement with God himself and with the tragedy of this fallen world.


And I left the final words of the lecture to Peter Taylor Forsyth himself:


“The Christian preacher is not the successor of the Greek orator, but of the Hebrew prophet. The orator comes with but an inspiration, the prophet comes with a revelation. In so far as the preacher and prophet had an analogue in Greece it was the dramatist, with his urgent sense of life’s guilty tragedy, its inevitable ethic, its unseen moral powers, and their atoning purifying note.”[1]

[1] Positive Preaching and Modern Mind (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1907), 3-4.