Monthly Archives: June 2013

disadvantages and dangers in typical preaching

There are also disadvantages and dangers in typical preaching:

1. There is danger of a fanciful style of pulpit discourse.

2. There is risk of giving undue prominence to the poetic, or imaginative element, degenerating into superficial and unpractical forms of discourse.

3. Risk of ingenuity displacing ingenuousness, elaborating of fancy rather than exalting of truth.

4. Liability of treating a figure or simile as though it were an analogy, insisting that it shall fit the truth at all points, thus pressing what is designed as a resemblance into a minute correspondence in detail.

5. Risk of appealing to mere curiosity and love of novelty rather than to the conviction, the conscience, and the will of the hearer.

6. The loss of oratorical power in excessive poetical and imaginative elaboration.

7. Uncertainty as to discerning the mind of the Spirit, substituting one’s own thoughts for God’s thoughts.

8. The consequent risk of sacrificing the unique authority of God’s ambassador; for in proportion as we fail to impress others as speaking authoritatively, we are unable to disarm criticism, which, on the contrary, we rather challenge.

9. The risk of exhausting an effective illustration at the outset; for instance, suppose Jonah and the gourd be taken as the theme of a typical sermon, on murmuring in affliction, and idolizing good gifts of God. How much better to take some such text as “Love not the world,” or “The fashion of this world passeth away,” using Jonah with the gourd as an illustration of the subject.

10. What may be accepted without question when used as an illustration, may be very questionable as a source from which to derive a doctrine, or statement of truth. There is a difference between interpretation and application of a text.

11. There is consequent risk of inversion of the laws of discourse. The foundation of all true sermons must be doctrinal and exegetical. The pinnacle may represent the imaginative, the illustrative and the typical; we want rough blocks at the foundations, huge square stones at the basis, and the chiseled lance-like spires at the summit. These two cannot exchange places without an inversion and a subversion of the true laws of preaching.

12. Finally, typical preaching is apt to lead to the use of motto texts, which disregard textual connection and the real meaning of Holy Scripture, and separate the words of God from their obvious, literal, and even spiritual meaning. We have known Philemon 15 to be used as the basis of a funeral discourse: “A beloved member of a family removed for a season that he should be received back again forever,” etc. Such applications of texts, as mere mottoes, are always of questionable propriety, and sometimes decidedly irreverent.

Pierson, A. T. (1892). The Divine Art of Preaching (52–54). New York: Baker & Taylor Co.