He reflects on his time as a student, and I think, comes up with a helpful tool for all of us to incorporate into our study and preparation of God’s Word for God’s people. Here’s what he had to say (remembering what some of his professors taught):
Bob Godfrey also taught a homiletics course. He used a slightly different method, which also produced three-point outlines, which was designed to drive the student back to the text. Having done the same exegetical work required by Volbeda, Kuiper, and Bergsma, Godfrey’s method was to ask a logical question of the text and to answer it from the text. Of course, this method requires one to ask a proper question, but the churches don’t ordinarily license insane people to preach and thus it shouldn’t be too difficult to do. What did Jesus say? Why did he say it? What does it teach us about sin, salvation, and service?
He goes on to say something that may be controversial (at least in some circles). He says that the method of applying scripture through the lens of “biblical theology” – the narrative of scripture – can actually minimize the application of the scripture, leading to repeated reductionistic application (eg. “Don’t be a moralist”). Here’s how Clark said it:
Some of us were exposed informally to a view that was more concerned about the flow of redemptive history and the unfolding revelation of the biblical eschatology (view of ultimate reality and heaven) that has roots in some modern Dutch-Reformed circles) than about the direct moral application of a passage. This view was attractive to some, especially to those who came out of moralistic backgrounds because it seemed to focus so directly on Christ and God’s grace). In retrospect it’s clear now that this movement did believe in application but in a very limited number of applications. One of the chief applications was, “Don’t be a moralist.” Sometimes this approach, particularly in the hands of a young preacher, could yield arcane sermons or sermons that were more like bible studies than sermons.
My thoughts haven’t quite formed yet, but there is something about this that I want to affirm, as well as critique. In the meantime, you guys share your thoughts. Is Dr. Clark right, in that preaching the text in light of the narrative often (not necessarily) leads to reductionistic application?
Anyone out there share your thoughts. I would especially be interested in anyone out there who has been preaching in the pulpit for a few years to share with those of us who are less experienced.