Thursday, 11 December 2008

Powerful preaching

After something of a hiatus (for a number of reasons - some ongoing), I came across and was struck by the following statement:

We must pose a question. Given the rejection of biblical inerrancy and the acceptance of historical-critical methods, what is the basis of the claim that something preachable is necessarily in the text? Why is a word of truth of God necessarily present in a passage of the Bible chosen by a lectionarist or by the preacher? [...] [W]hymeone who thinks that the Bible originated historically, contextually, and editorially, thus reflecting the human and even corrupted perspectives of its writers, think that any passage one happens to select must contain something in or about it that is proclaimable?
The quote is from Edward Parley (of the Divinity School of Vanderbuilt University) in an article entitled 'Preaching the Bible and Preaching the Gospel. (Theology Today, 51 (1994), p100). Clearly there are massive issues with it, and he implicitly draws lines which are incorrect (in the last sentence, for example, he posits a disjunction between divine inspiration and the reality of human authorship).

The issue to which I wish to draw attention, however, is in the first two sentences, where he asks the question about the 'rejection of inerrancy' and the presence of the 'word of truth or God' in the Scriptures. In the present climate where inerrancy is openly debated amongst bible-believing evangelicals, I wonder if Parley is actually making an insightful point. Al Mohler, in whose little pamphlet the above quote is found, states that Parley is 'taunt[ing] preachers who reject the inerrancy of the Scripture, but who continue to preach biblical texts.' (Preaching: The Centrality of Scripture, p.12). If we are to reject the inerrancy of Scripture, then isn't Parley, at one level, correct? Why preach from the Scriptures if they might contain error? It's a fair criticism.

Of course I realise that the inerrancy debate is a large and carefully nuanced one. But it's not one confined to the academy. For if the Bible is not inerrant, then surely our preaching would struggle to be declaratively powerful? If we're not certain that what the Bible says, God says, then what we say cannot honestly be held forth as divinely saving words to a suffering world.

Might God strengthen us this Christmas to hold to the unfailing infallible word, and to preach and proclaim it with all confidence and care.

No comments: