The Ethics Of Persuasive Preaching -- By: Raymond W. McLaughlin

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 15:2 (Spring 1972)
Article: The Ethics Of Persuasive Preaching
Author: Raymond W. McLaughlin

The Ethics Of Persuasive Preaching

Raymond W. McLaughlin*

Preaching generally has been considered a noble task. Looking at the past one sees such glittering descriptions of preachers as the “Heralds of God,”1 or the “Royalty of the Pulpit.”2 In a similar vein proclamation of the gospel has been described as “the Divine Art of Preaching,”3 “the Integrity of Preaching,”4 and “the Romance of Preaching.”5

This does not mean that preaching has been without its critics. In ancient times enraged auditors stoned the prophets (Matt. 23:27); turned deaf ears to the words of Christ (Matt. 13:57, 58); and persecuted the apostles (Acts 4:6, 7; II Cor. 21–28; Rev. 1:9). In modern times preaching has been charged with lack of effectiveness. Critics urge that it be supplanted by, or at least supplemented with dialogue.6

But the effectiveness of preaching, focus of the above-memtioned criticisms, is only a part of the problem. In recent years, communication scholars have become concerned with the ethics of persuasion—preaching included.7 For example, existentialist theologians in general and Sören Kierkegaard in particular object to persuasion because it reveals disrespect for human personality.8 And Helmut Thielicke asks, “Does the preacher himself drink what he hands out in the pulpit?”9

These criticisms point up several vital questions for the conscientious preacher.

*Professor of Homiletics and Speech, Conservative Baptist Seminary, Denver, Colorado.

Does the minister have an ethical responsibility to preach at his best? Should one man try to persuade another? How does a Christian preacher know that his views are right and that the other man’s views may be wrong? Is the average man capable of deciding and determining his own future? What are the standards and methods of ethical persuasive preaching?

Obviously a paper of the limited dimensions of this one cannot develop a ...

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