Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Preaching Is Believing: The Sermon as Theological Reflection

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Preaching Is Believing: The Sermon as Theological Reflection

Article excerpt

Preaching Is Believing: The Sermon as Theological Reflection. By Ronald J. Allen. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. 162pp. $14.95 (paper).

Persuaded that theological convictions and methods should be more explicit in preaching, Ronald Allen urges preachers to bring the concepts, explanation, and propositions of systematic theology into greater prominence in sermons. Allen claims that though formulated in second-order language, "systematic theology can generate primary [first-order] experience. Furthermore . . . what passes for first-order language in sermons is sometimes emotionally evocative but intellectually empty" (p. 3).

Rather than developing a theology of preaching or reflecting on the nature and purpose of preaching, Allen focuses on preaching theological content. Such focus necessarily leads to topical preaching because, as Allen readily admits, "theology's affirmations are typically broader than any single biblical passage, or even the sum of passages" (p. 8). Systematic theology in preaching is a lens, a hermeneutic that seeks to help the church understand the world from a transcendent perspective.

Allen sets out, and then elaborates on, six reasons why systematic theology should be prominent in sermons. He also posits five kinds of difficulties with attempting to preach systematic theology: (a) disregarding the theological pluralism of the Bible; (b) projecting one's own theology directly into the text without regard for the theology of the text itself; (c) using Scripture to support a theological point without reference to the historical, literary, or theological contexts of the passage; (d) using a particular text as a launching pad for a discussion of a theological concept without making clear that the sermon follows this path; and (e) failing to reflect theologically on the biblical passage. …

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