The Indispensableness of Systematic Theology to the Preacher -- By: Benjamin B. Warfield
MSJ 7:2 (Fall 96) p. 241
The Indispensableness of Systematic Theology to the Preacher1
A growing misconception in training preachers has been the idea that appearance is a substitute for substance, that methodology is more important than content. On the contrary, the preacher’s main responsibility to his listeners is to present the truth as expounded in Systematic Theology. To do this, he must himself have a firm grasp on Christian doctrine. This is not to say his preaching must manifest a chilly intellectualism, but that his knowledge of doctrine must combine with a warmly evangelistic spirit. The universally acknowledged principle that what a person believes will determine how he behaves underscores the importance of preaching correct doctrine. Whether he admits it or not, every preacher communicates a set of beliefs, so it is urgent that he know correct Systematic Theology. Theology is the best cultivation of the devotional life of both the preacher and his hearers.
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Professor Flint, of Edinburgh, in closing his opening lecture to his class a few years ago, took occasion to warn his students of what he spoke of as an imminent danger. This was a growing tendency to “deem it of prime importance that they should enter upon their ministry accomplished preachers, and of only secondary importance that they should be scholars, thinkers, theologians.” “It is not so,” he is reported
MSJ 7:2 (Fall 96) p. 242
as saying, “that great or even good preachers are formed. They form themselves before they form their style of preaching. Substance with them precedes appearance, instead of appearance being a substitute for substance. They learn to know truth before they think of presenting it….They acquire a solid basis for the manifestation of their love of souls through a loving, comprehensive, absorbing study of the truth which saves souls.”2 In these winged words is outlined the case for the indispensableness of Systematic Theology for the preacher. It is summed up in the propositions that it is through the truth that souls are saved, that it is accordingly the prime business of the preacher to present this truth to men, and that it is consequently his fundamental duty to become himself possessed of this truth, that he may present it to men and so save their souls. It would not be easy to overstate, of course, the importance to a preacher of those gifts and graces which qualify him to present this truth to men in a winning way—of all, in a word, that goest to make him an “accomplished preacher.” But it is obviously even more important to him that he should have a clear apprehension and firm g...
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