Monday, July 27, 2009

Three Stages of Preaching

R.L Dabney writes in his book, Evangelical Eloquence, "And it is exceedingly instructive to note that there are three stages through which preaching has repeatedly passed with the same results. The first is that in which scriptural truth is faithfully presented in scriptural garb. That is to say that not only are all the doctrines asserted which truly belong to the revealed system of redemption, but they are presented in that dress and connection in which the Holy Spirit has presented them without seeking any other from human science. This state of the pulpit marks the golden age of the church.

The second is the transition stage. In this the doctrines taught are still those of the scriptures, but their relations are molded into conformity with the prevalent human dialectics. God's truth is now shorn of a part of its power over the soul.

A third stage is then near in which not only are the methods and explanations conformed to the philosophy of the day but the doctrines themselves contradict the truth of the Word.

Again and again have the clergy traveled this descending scale and always with the same disastrous result, May we ever be content to exhibit Bible doctrine in its own Bible dress."

Gee, I guess that guy called it just about right, huh? And Dabney wrote that book over 100 years ago. Wow.


Caleb B said...

You really think Dabney had it right in thinking that contextualization is merely a stepping stone to heresy?!?

That’s what I understand him to be saying, perhaps he meant something different than what I think he means by the doctrines’ “relations are molded into conformity with the prevalent human dialectics.” What I think he means by ‘relations’ is the way that doctrines are expressed and explained. So I think he’s saying that step two is using culture (language, clothes, etc.) of one’s day to explain doctrine. If this is what he means then he contradicts every person I’ve ever heard teaching homiletics.

I don’t understand what he means when he says “methods and explanations [being] conformed to the philosophy of the day.”

Joe Blackmon said...

Hey Caleb,

I took him to mean that instead of teaching Biblical doctrines using the Bible people would use other methods that were more appealing or relevant (i.e. Andy Griffith Bible studies) to teach those truths or to illustrate those truths. When you decide the Bible isn't relevant or useful enough to disciple people and teach them the truth, you've begun the process of devaluing it. I mean, I love Andy Griffith. That was some funny stuff. There were many episodes that had great life morals in them. They are not, in my opinion, a good way to teach Scripture.

We go from the Andy Griffith, Superman, and Beverly Hillbillys Bible studies about 10 years ago to The Shack about 2 years ago. I think that shows to go you that ol' Dabney was right. However, others may have a different opinion.

Thanks for the comment, Caleb.