The Anatomy of Preaching / A Primer for Preachers / the Dynamics of Preaching

By Gibson, Scott M. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2002 | Go to article overview

The Anatomy of Preaching / A Primer for Preachers / the Dynamics of Preaching


Gibson, Scott M., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The Anatomy of Preaching. By David L. Larsen. Grand Rapids: Kregel, [1989] rev. ed. 1999, 193 pp., $11.99 paper. A Primer for Preachers. By Ian Pitt-Watson. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986, 112 pp., $8.99 paper. The Dynamics of Preaching. By Warren W. Wiersbe. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999, 173 pp., $10.99 paper.

Three books on preaching from three master preachers make up this review. The books span the last decade of the twentieth century and in some way chronicle the development of preaching during this period.

David Larsen's The Anatomy of Preaching is an analysis of the role and rise of preaching and its practice in the history of the Church and today. The book was originally published in 1989 by Baker. In this revised edition, Larsen builds on his earlier work. His crisp and well-researched chapters raise questions for the reader. The titles serve as prompters for his thoughtful queries. Some of these include "Does Preaching Have a Future?" and "What is Biblical Preaching?" where he explores the past and present of preaching, stating, "where preaching thrives, the church thrives" (p. 20).

Larsen understands the nuances in preaching scholarship and deals thoughtfully with the new homiletic, tracing its influence upon modern-day preaching. Chapters addressing "Where Are We Going with Structure?," "What Makes a Sermon Flow?," and "When Shall We Preach Christ?" demonstrate Larsen's grasp of the influence of the new hermeneutic on the new homiletic. As a result, what takes place in preaching, observes Larsen, is that "Christology seems to flatten out. There is an oppressive horizontalization in the preaching" (p. 168).

Not only does Larsen tackle the intellectual issues associated with preaching, he also deals comfortably with preaching's practical aspects. Chapters on escaping predictability, the difficulty of application, developing imagination, the challenges of conclusions, honing a personal style, and enhancing presentation balance out the book.

The late Ian Pitt-Watson's brief, helpful publication, A Primer for Preachers, was intended by Watson "to remind the theological student of the shattering power of the Word of God, of the destructive consequences of its misuse, but above all of the revolutionary potential of that Word to change lives and to change our world" (p. 10).

Pitt-Watson's theology of preaching seems to dominate throughout: "The Word of God comes to us in three ways: first in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh; second, in the written Word of Scripture as contained in the Old and New Testaments; but third (and this is the divine-crazy absurdity), in the Word preached" (p. 14). He maintains "it is God speaking through us who preach" (p. 14). Preaching, says Pitt-Watson "is about what `God has done: by sending his own Son in a form like that of our own sinful nature' (Rom. 8:3). That is the gospel" (p. 21).

The book builds upon Pitt-Watson's theological presupposition. In chapters one and two he argues that the terms "biblical preaching" and "exegetical preaching" are synonymous. …

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