?He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World
by R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Chicago: Moody Press, 2008. Hardcover, 174 pp.
?Expressing his concern that “dangerous trends and many popular examples threaten to undermine the centrality of biblical exposition in evangelical pulpits around the world,” in this new book R. Albert Mohler, Jr. argues for a renewal of expository preaching that faithfully confronts congregations with the Word of God.
Mohler writes as a theologian and president of one of the nation’s largest seminaries but also as one who regularly preaches and has a significant interest in the subject. (He served as associate editor of this publication from its founding until assuming the presidency of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.) In He Is Not Silent, Mohler calls on preachers to avoid contemporary trends that would sidetrack them from their primary focus of reading and explaining the biblical text to their listeners.
The book grows out of a theological core, arguing that preaching is “an inescapably theological act.” Mohler begins by linking Christian theology with Christian worship and reviews the biblical view of worship in order to establish authentic preaching as the heart of worship. He proceeds to argue that preaching is also grounded in the nature of God and describes a theology of preaching that is Trinitarian in form.
The act of preaching is not based on human decision but on divine compulsion, Mohler asserts. He writes, “The church does not preach because preaching is thought to be a good idea or an effective technique. The sermon has not earned its place in Christian worship by proving its utility in comparison with other means of communication or aspects of worship. Rather, we preach because we have been commanded to preach.”
Having established his theological foundation, Mohler proceeds to argue for exposition as “the only form of authentic Christian preaching.” Lest he be misunderstood, he adds for the sake of clarity: “According to the Bible, exposition is preaching. And preaching is exposition.” Mohler rejects topical and narrative preaching models as not authentic preaching; for him, the definition of preaching is simple: “reading the text and explaining it-reproving, rebuking, exhorting, and patiently teaching directly from the text of Scripture. If you are not doing that, then you are not preaching.”
Describing the characteristics of expository preaching, Mohler indicates that it is authoritative, that it creates a sense of reverence for God’s Word among His people and it is the center of Christian worship. Addressing that final concern, he asserts, “Worship is not something we do before we settle down for the Word of God; it is the act through which the people of God direct all their attentiveness to hearing the one true and living God speak to His people and receive their praises. God is most beautifully praised when His people hear His Word, love His Word, and obey His Word.”
Mohler proceeds to discuss the preacher’s authority and purpose. He then moves to counter the postmodern rejection of meta-narrative, arguing that the Christian story itself is a meta-narrative-“a grand story that explains all other stories, and to which all other stories must answer.” As preachers, he insists that even as we preach from individual texts, we must do so in the context of the “grand story” of Scripture and its “four great movements”: creation, fall, redemption and consummation.
Mohler believes that “every pastor is called to be a theologian,” which involves “teaching, preaching, defending, and applying the great doctrines of the faith.” He also reminds us that it is not enough to set out an array of “theological options” before a congregation; rather, the pastor-preacher must speak out of his own set of deep convictions, “drawn from his careful study of God’s Word and his knowledge of the faithful teaching of the church.”
There is a helpful chapter on the challenge postmodern thought poses to the church and the role of the preacher in responding to it. He closes the volume with an exhortation on the urgency of preaching, an encouragement to preachers and a portrait of Charles Haddon Spurgeon as a model of one who had a passion for preaching. The irony of Mohler’s use of Spurgeon as a model is that the preaching ministry of that great Victorian pulpiteer differed significantly from the expository model Mohler argues as the only valid approach.
There is much of value in this book, which is clearly written out of a sense of urgency for the church and a love for the preaching of God’s Word. Legitimate objections may be made to Mohler’s more strident arguments for his own approach to exposition as the only valid one-indeed, we will have to eliminate most of Jesus’ teaching from the category of “preaching” if we discount narrative as a non-authentic approach.
Despite these concerns, He Is Not Silent is a powerful argument for the importance of biblical exposition in today’s pulpits. It will provide a nourishing and encouraging reminder of the glory of our call and the urgency of our task.