What Is Preaching According To The New Testament? -- By: Klaas Runia

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 29:1 (NA 1978)
Article: What Is Preaching According To The New Testament?
Author: Klaas Runia


What Is Preaching According To The New Testament?

Klaas Runia

The Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture, 1976*

* Delivered at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, on 4th January, 1977.

H. H. Farmer begins his book The Servant of the Word, first published in 1941, with the following statement: “If one were asked to indicate in the briefest possible way the most central and distinctive trends in contemporary Christian theology, one would be tempted to answer ‘the rediscovery of the significance of preaching’”.1 I suppose that in 1941 such a statement indeed could be made. Not only was Britain engaged in the Second World War, a situation which prompted many people to go to church again, but on the theological scene the impact of the theology of Karl Barth, which is often called a ‘theology of the Word of God’, was increasingly felt. In addition, Farmer was still rather optimistic in his view of the Western world in general and of the church in particular. As to the former he wrote “that this country of ours still has in large measure among the main springs of its life a Christian way of looking at things, despite all the evil that is in it”.2 As to the latter he wrote: “Today, as the ecumenical conferences, especially the Madras Conference, brought home to us with irresistible force, the Christian Church stands as the only truly international and dynamically alive society in the midst of a humanity falling to pieces around us”.3

Today we ourselves in a totally different situation.’ If any part of the church’s life and activities is under strong criticism, it is the sermon. Again and again the question is asked whether preaching has any meaning at all in our day and age. Many people, and among them

there are quite a few theologians, believe that the sermon, as we still know it, is a relic of the past. They usually point to the changed position of the church in the whole fabric of society. In the past the church had a central position, and consequently the sermon too was quite important. But since the process of secularisation started in our western world the church has increasingly lost its influential place. Large sections of society, such as the intellectuals and the common labourers, have left the church. To many others, who still attend occasionally or even fairly regularly, the sermon does not mean much. It has become or is becoming an antiquated means of communication. Especially since the mass media (first the daily papers,...

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