More on preaching a God who believes in us

Image by Derek the Cleric

I sometimes drop by blogs outside my tradition like those of Newfrontiers and I have read the blog of Adrian Warnock in the past, some of it helpful, some of it less so - but hey, that's okay. I also blogged my way through Wendy Virgo's book. Whilst their teaching on gender and service in the church might differ to that of the tradition to which I belong: Anglicanism, there is a lot to be gleaned from Newfrontiers. Their encouragement of the Holy Spirit in all his aspects is liberating and their rejection of cessationism is surely right. They are often very studious in their reading and surmising about theology and value teaching from Scripture very highly.

As I develop as a preacher, I am becoming more aware of my own theological bents, one of which is to concentrate maximally on God's initiation, condescension and grace. The other is to be careful that I preach with an emphasis on Him rather than us - theocentric preaching seems to be more powerful. I do not want to preach some kind of accidental moral code which we must impossibly try to live up to. I am hyper-aware of preaching that somehow asks us to emulate the disciples. Rob Wilkerson's blog references the Torrence brothers A Passion for Christ.

Alongside my last blogpost on preaching about those left in the boat as Peter walks and how this story might be more about Christ condescending to reach us than our faith helping us make our way to him, I add this (below) from the Torrence brothers. (I am starting to realise that preaching a sermon doesn't mean it is left there. It will morph, change and be added to, it will be perhaps spoken again 'in front' but more than that, with each of these experiences of preaching, my relationship with Jesus changes and the way I see the world transforms.

"It is not easy to preach the truth that we are saved by the Grace of Christ alone ... I know that I cannot rely on my own faith but only on the vicarious faith of the Lord Jesus... Salvation and justification are by the grace of God alone. Faith, as John Calvin taught, is an empty vessel ... it is not upon your faith that you rely, but upon Christ and his Cross alone. That is what the Covenant in his body and blood which the Saviour has forged for us actually, practically, and really means. It is of the very essence of the Gospel that salvation and justification are by the grace of Christ alone, in which he takes your place, that you may have his place.

"I believe this emphasis in the mission of the Church may well be more important than anything else today. There is a kind of subtle Pelagianism in preaching and teaching that has the effect of throwing people back in the last resort on their own act of faith..."


Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

This blog you mention is appalling. How anyone can equate a still born experience with a load of nonsense about being 'born again' beats me. Perhaps that shows the terror of religious dogma. And this material you quote here isn't exactly radical hermeneutics, is it?

Rach said...

This stuff is very conservative evo, I recognise that but it can also be a starting point for picking up this idea of Christ's condescension that is biblical and Barthian - it enables me to root the position that I was attempting to communicate in the preach about the boat with some of the faith language that is spoken by parishioners in some of your Church of England churches, particularly those folk steeped in the BCP.

As regards the blog, I selectively pick about, graze is you like... - there is always the wheat and the weeds as I suppose there is here too...discernment is all that is required, re the specific article you mention, I have not read it.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

So with Lesley's use of Brian McLaren's Stages of Faith, are you Stage 2 while still sourcing stage 1 (being somewhat mischievous)?

Rach said...

Ah yes, nothing new here - Fowler's faith stages and all that... rebranded. Can not bear this type of thing tbh. It makes me wonder about all the relationships we are in - are there stages in terms of marriage - probably - yes and in terms of how we relate to our children - I guess so but it doesn't mean we believe in them less or love them any less, it's all just the anthropology and psychologists thinking that they can explain faith as they like to explain every thing about human being - the thing with faith is that it is not about linear time and should not be judged on how we feel. It is all more complicated and yet perhaps also somehow simpler.

Michael Leyden... said...

Great quote, Rach. I love that book. I was also pleased (it even raised a smile) to see Barth mentioned in your reflections. He was also very concerned to be Christocentric in his sermons. I wonder if you've read his stuff on homiletics? Well worth it if you ask me...which you didn't I know, but hey...

I hope all is well with you.

Rach said...

Hey Mike - my fellow Barthian with a serious capital B. All is good and hoping so with you as well. Have you come across Rod yet the theologian in your parts - fab, bearded, genius of a man who led us at Indaba in NY. We have the next leg of the tour coming up and I am aiming to get Barth in to a sentence or two. Good to hear from you.


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