Preachers Dare: Excerpt V

In October, I published Preachers Dare: Speaking for God, my theology of preaching. Preaching is brave speech drawn out of us because, Deus Dixit, God speaks, as Barth reminds us in the Göttingen Dogmatics, and God is determined to remain in conversation with us through us. For this launch webinar, I will be joined by Old Testament professors and preachers Brent Strawn and Stephen Chapman for conversation. Drs. Strawn and Chapman both generously helped me during the book’s editing process. Time will be allotted for participant questions at the end.

Join us tomorrow January 26 at 7p EST on Zoom:

In anticipation of this webinar, here’s the fifth in the series of excerpts selected by my minion Carsten Bryant, a recent Duke Divinity grad and Methodist preacher.

Patristic formulations like the Definition of Chalcedon keep notions of Christ as complex and dynamic as the Scriptures present Christ to be. Chalcedon rebukes preachers who think our task is to simplify and reduce the gospel, adjusting to the limits of human comprehension unaided by the Holy Spirit. Chalcedon encourages our thought about God to be as imaginative as it must be to talk accurately about its divine/human subject. Furthermore, the Chalcedonian imagination protects our congregations from preacherly attempts to abridge the Trinity to the point where we are not talking about the fully human/fully divine Christ but rather an idol cut down to our size.

Revelation is the action of God in history, that is, the story of the God/ human Jesus Christ. We wouldn’t need to be so imaginative and dialectical in our talk of God if God had not come to us as the eternal Logos, Son of God and human being, in our space and time. The Incarnation tests our claims about God by the person and work of Jesus, the God/human. A sermon’s lack of ethical substance is exposed by how often the preacher refers generically to “God” and how seldom the preacher names “Christ.” At the same time, a sermon’s want of theological substance is unmasked by its depictions of Jesus as human exemplar rather than Christ, Judge of and Atonement for humanity. Rigorous adherence to Christology preserves our preaching from rendering God as a merely spiritual something or as the ideal human somebody—God delivered into our hands to use as we please. When human speaking in preaching becomes God’s speaking, it’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Mary being most godly—that is, God refusing to be God without initiating and sustaining divine/human conversation. God speaks in human speech in order to instigate meeting, to call humanity into fellowship, subsuming us into Christ’s history. Christ is not God’s Plan B after Plan A fails. Christ is God’s eternal self-determination not to be God without us. Humanity’s interactions with God are determined by the mystery of the Incarnation, God’s binding of God’s self to humanity in a way that, though asymmetrical, is thoroughly intimate, without  any diminution of God or any merging with humanity.

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