The new book The Folly of Preaching (Wm. B. Eerdmans) contains a selection of lectures and sermons that have been presented at the Gladstone Festival of Preaching at Canada’s McMaster Divinity College since 1992. Among the contributors are William Willimon, Tom Long, Elizabeth Achtemeier, and Haddon Robinson.
John R.W. Stott was a 1996 participant, and his “Biblical Preaching in the Modern World” is included in the collection. Talking about the challenge of being an expositor of the biblical text in a contemporary culture, Stott points out that the task of the Christian communicator “is not, of course, to make Jesus Christ and the gospel relevant but rather to demonstrate their relevance to the modern world.”
Stott further observes: “We must not resent the cultural gap between the ancient word and the modern world simply because it causes us problems. It is one of the glories of divine revelation that when God decided to speak to human beings, he did not speak in his own language, if he has one, because the people of the ancient world wouldn’t have understood it if he had. Instead, God condescended to speak in their languages, especially in classical Hebrew and Koine Greek.
“Moreover, in speaking their languages he reflected their cultures: the Ancient Near East in the case of the Old Testament, Palestinian Judaism in the case of the Gospels, and the Greco-Roman world in the case of the Epistles. No word of God was spoken in a cultural vacuum; every word of God was spoken in a cultural context. It is this cultural chasm between the biblical world and the modern world which determines the task of the biblical expositor . . .”
“It is important to establish that our study must be on both sides of the cultural chasm. It is not enough to study the Bible and Christian theology and ethics and church history and so on. We also have to study the modern world. . . . Otherwise we can never relate the word to the world in a way that is equally faithful and sensitive.”
(Click here to learn more about the book The Folly of Preaching)