Monday, December 16, 2013

Lutheran Antinomian Debate - Taking Our Cues from the Text

I don't get as bent out of shape about the vigorous debates amongst some in our circles, but actual enjoy following from the sidelines.  I particularly appreciated Pastor Paul Beisel's recent summary piece here.

But I thought I'd throw my own two cents into the mix, too, finally.  One aspect of this question I haven't often seen emphasized is how we take our cues from the text in question:

I believe this has been mostly a debate about preaching.  How does a preacher best set forth God's Law and Gospel in the course of his sermon, and over the course of many sermons?  Is the old "three point" model still the standard, or should it be used at all?  Can you end a sermon on a "law" note?  And which use of the law and how, or do we "preach a use of the law at all"? I don't have comprehensive answers to these sticky questions, but I do think it helpful to take some cues from the text when considering it all.

For instance, this past Sunday's Gospel reading ended on a "Gospel" note.  There wasn't a lot of (or any, really) paranaesis.  The whole reading was about John's seeming doubts and Christ's merciful action, culminating in the preaching of the good news.  Jesus says, "He who has ears, let him hear".  This is faith talk.  So with a text like this, is it wrong to let the text "lead the way", and if there isn't an emphasis on sanctified living, why shoe-horn it into your sermon?

Likewise, when preaching texts that do emphasize what the Christian life looks like, don't we do better to address those texts fully?  In a careful, Lutheran, Gospel-motivated way, of course.  I suppose those who preach on the Epistles more often would get more practice at this sort of thing.  But even some Gospel readings beg us to address the question, "how then shall we live?"

I suppose it does happen from time to time that the "Gospel" in a text is scant, and the preacher must mine for it or even "import" it.  I appreciate the "Gospel Handles" approach of Rossow on this.  But I don't think we are as compelled to "import" paranaesis into a text.  I'm thinking this has to do with Walther's "letting the Gospel predominate".

Preaching is hard.  I claim no expertise.  In fact I am amazed that God does anything good through me at all.  I appreciate the careful study and intensive discussion of these issues, as I continually seek to get a better "handle" on the task before me each week.

1 comment:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Spot on observation!

The text, the text, the text! It's just as bad to say, "I can't deal with this exhortation here in the text so I will ignore it" as it is to say, "I need to exhort, even though this text doesn't lend itself to it." Both end up placing your own thoughts, hopes, and fears above the text. Spot on observation.