Defining 'preaching of the Word'?
March 28, 2012
Updated March 11, 2014
43 comments 94 views
Lately, doing some appreciative inquiry interviews in the congregation I'm serving, when it came to the question of what makes worship valuable and what is important in it, I heard people instintictively and happily respond with the Reformed shibboleth-cliché answer "of course, the Preaching of the Word is very important." I encountered this years ago at a Classis round table in Canada as well. When I appreciatively inquire about how they know when the preaching of the Word has happened, I very often get a look of deer caught in the headlights, or an answer like "Well, I know it when I hear it."
The few conversations around this that get to substantives will still often focus on peripheral simplistics like "as long as the preacher deals with the text it is the Word" or "if there is something I can take into life-change the Word had been proclaimed" or "It is the Word if there is a clear application from scripture that guides me in what I must do." But the text can be dealt with yet the message not be gospel. And people being moved simply makes it a good motivational talk. And "all men must not trim their beards" is an application that texts could support, but it is not good Preaching of the Word. And so on.
I suspect that few of us really have a clear definition that is both biblical and Reformed and that is neither shibboleth nor cliché. I write this realizing it would probably take me an afternoon to come up with a good definition myself, even though I am one who has the responsibiltiy of "preaching the Word" each Sunday. I know my definition would slant towards the power of narative being greater than the power of propostional statement, for instance. So, my impression is that we are all over the map in our undertanding what that five word essence really is, and we are scattering further as we wander around without clear definitions and are influenced by diverse imputs.
Anyone care to attempt a definition, or point to an existing one that helps?
Personally, I'd like to see a webinar on this topic by one of our Seminary Professors...
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Well, a comprehensive definition could take awhile. this isn't so much a definition as a bit of raw material...
...True preaching happens when Jesus Christ looks beautiful -- such that God's people desire to live in obedience and worship.
I Cor. 2:4-5... so how do you recognize the Spirit's power present in a worship service? I know when I do, and there are times He's pretty powerfully present because He ministers to me with numerous scriptures/statements that are made during the service, insights given during that time, that make total sense for where I'm at, but they might not make sense to anyone else in the same way, because they are at a different place in their walk. Some services there can be a dozen or more such "insights and coincidences"... So it's the Spirit's anointing on the planning, and on the speaking, and on the hearts of those listening... because sometimes it's words in a song, sometimes it's a scripture used somewhere else in the service, and often it will be several statements made in the main message. There are other indicators as well, but that's one of the main ones. Tears are generally a good indicator for me, that the Spirit is doing some deep ministering in my heart as well, and He can do this instantly, it's not through manipulation, or emotionalism. So it's a dynamic combination of what's going on in the service, as well as where each person is at, that only the Holy Spirit can orchestrate. So, each person's job is to be obedient with the role they have, and to listen and obey to what the Spirit is putting on their heart to share, choose, read, sing, play, whatever their involvement might be, and give Him the glory!
An example would be as I'm planning an extended worship time for Good Friday, I was working on arranging songs for several 30-60 minute sets, and then for one of the sets, started incorporating a devotional, a Messianic antiphonal reading based on Psalm 22 that I put together over last Lent. The 2 dovetailed together in a way I could not have orchestrated without pulling my hair out. I was stunned at how beautifully they flowed together with very little effort, the order of songs (each set has a key theme, and there were about 15 songs in this set). After I originally selected the songs for the set and put them in an intellectual order, I later re-arranged them somewhat by what key we'd be using, and by how they flowed together as I actually played them. So, last night as I pulled up the devotional from last year, and realized it was 5 pages long, my original plan to read it straight through at the beginning of the set changed. As I worked on integrating it into the songs, it was amazing to see how the 2 flowed together. I would say that was the power of the Spirit helping me, since I hadn't looked at the Psalm 22 devotional in almost a year. The next thing He helped me with was incorporating the full Isaiah 53 chapter into the devotional and therefore into the worship service as well. So I'm just amazed, now I have a devotional and a worship set that integrates Ps. 22/Christ's statements He made on the cross/Isaiah 53 and about a dozen worship songs focused on Jesus and His amazing love as we experience it through His sacrifice on the cross. That wasn't my amazing abilites as writing was not my forte =), so I'm thanking the Spirit for His help.
Now, I have no clue how He'll use this time of worsip next Friday (we're focusing on ministering to the lost and broken over Passover weekend), but I've been encouraged already through planning it and seeing His leading in that. One testimony we received a few months back when we did a similar extended time of worship, was from a woman in her 40's that had grown up in a very conservative church, and had since shifted to a much more charismatic stream, that the hymns/music we shared brought healing to her because they ministered to her, and reminded her in a positive way of the church she had grown up in, even though there had been lots of struggles and pain related to that. So, we just be obedient, and trust He is directing our thoughts and choices in ways that only He can do =) to bring Him glory, and through that He often ministers in ways that we have no clue about, and brings healing and through it.
Hope that makes sense in a I Cor. 2 way =)
hmmm.. somehow my post showed up twice... so i hopefully am only deleting one!
Preaching the Word, means preaching Christ, since Christ is the Word. The Word made flesh. When Christ is missing from the message, then it seems the word has not really been preached. But preaching the Word in spirit and in truth is not dependant upon the reception of it. Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me. The Word is True, the Truth, and Life, whether the listener crucifies Jesus again, or whether he comes on his knees with tears in his eyes. The Word is the Good News, the gospel to those who believe and accept, but it is a warning to those who do not.
I am rethinking this a bit.... while I think that the preaching of the word is not dependant on the reception of it, I am now remembering also that scripture says that God's Word will not return empty. And so perhaps the response of the youth in particular says something about whether the word is really being preached or not. Or whether our lives contradict the preaching. Whether as people we are more concerned about wealth, careers, social and political policy, retirement, social approval, "getting with the times", or are we more concerned about following Christ? If we are more concerned with "getting with the times", or being acceptable to our non-christian neighbors, then perhaps the word has not really been preached. Jesus is the Word. Jesus said we must be born again. That doesn't mean making some intellectual assent to some theoretical doctrines. It means living for Christ as if your life depended on it. Which it does. It means that your standard will be different than worldly standards. It means you will die for your faith. It means you will be renewed for Christ, and because of Christ.
Pete, good to hear from you. How about this one from the Institutes?
"It now remains to pour into the heart itself what the mind has received. For the Word of God is not received in faith if it flits about at the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart that it might be an invincible defense to withstand and drive off all the strategems of temptation..."
It's my thought that while our tradition is great at Orthodoxy, and pretty good at Orthopraxis, the area where we really lag is the mediating one of Orthopathy...right emotion, right affection, right passion. By this I mean not passing feelings so much as stable defining affections and passions, modelled after Gods own heart, defined by the gospel, which motivate us into orthopraxis. (Orthopathy, I would further say, is the domain of spiritual formation) This issue of Orthopathy is one which our denomination has often struggled with, often minimizing the role of affectivity in the Christian life. I also think it was a tangential but unspoken element in our recent debates concerning third wave pentecostalism.
"when it takes root in the depth of the heart."...A key goal in preaching is changed affections...which also means that the preacher's own affections must be deeply engaged. I don't mean simple bombast, but a heart that is touched and moved by the beauty of Christ. Pathos matters. The puritan William Ames said "Next to the Scriptures, nothing makes a sermon more to pierce, then when it comes out of the inward affection of the heart without any affectation." In other words, if our preaching is not pathetic in one sense, it will be pathetic in another sense.
Jeff... I would be interested in a further elaboration on this point if you would be willing =)
BOQ...the area where we really lag is the mediating one of Orthopathy...right emotion, right affection, right passion. By this I mean not passing feelings so much as stable defining affections and passions, modelled after Gods own heart, defined by the gospel, which motivate us into orthopraxis. (Orthopathy, I would further say, is the domain of spiritual formation) This issue of Orthopathy is one which our denomination has often struggled with, often minimizing the role of affectivity in the Christian life. I also think it was a tangential but unspoken element in our recent debates concerning third wave pentecostalism EOQ. EOQEOQ
I think one of the things we have to keep in mind is Hebr. 4:12... the Word is living and active... there is a dynamic reaction via the Holy Spirit that is going on between what is shared and what is received that is just beyond explanation.
Can you tell me what part of the Institutes you quoted from? Great reminder!
I first ran across it in a book called "Coffee with Calvin: Daily Devotions" by Donald McKim. It's in Institutes III.ii.36.
Thanks Rob, Bev, John and Jeff for your thoughts so far.
In some ways, the variety of responses prove the validity of the point that we do not have a common clear understanding of what the Preaching of the Word is. I smirkingly enjoy that validation of my concern!
Rob starts things off by saying true preaching presents Christ in such a way that worship and obedience results in the recipients.
Bev cites a scripture which says human wisdom and persuasiveness in preaching is not the main thing. Demonstrations of the Spirit's power is, so that the result is faith in God's power not the human element. The evidence of this would be, for her, that individuals have a sense of individualized non-coincidental messages from God for them in the many things they experience in worship times. This is facilitated by some part of the preparation of the preacher/leaders, she implies, which includes a trusting that God is leading the shaping of the worship event/message so that those non-coincidences can occur, sometimes without the leader having any idea they are.
John also points to presenting Christ, and if Christ is absent it is not Word. Preaching that Word in Spirit and truth is more important than the response of the hearers. Some soak it up, some reject it. He then comes back and says you can tell some things from the results, implying that compliance with what the Word proclaimed calls for would be a valid sign.
Jeff then shares a great (and to me surprising) quote from the Insitutes. The surprise is that Calvin knows there is a connection between the head and the heart and makes very clear that the message needs to take root in the heart -- having it bouncing around the brain only does not good. How could we have developed such a cerebral set of denominations with foundational teaching like that from him? So Jeff then suggests that Orthopathy "right affect/passion" is the weak spot. He says the preacher's Orthopathy must be right to start with, and the messages should shape the spiritual affect of the hearers. Touched, moved and then changed hearts is the hoped for outcome. I loved the Ames quote and your restatement of it.
So where does that put us so far in trying to define the true Preaching of the Word?
It is interesting to me that so far we have put a lot of pixels into words about the results or outcome. We have not talked much about handling and presenting the Word itself. Again, I take that as proof I ponder a valid question.
Next, clearly, we say Christ is the main ingredient of the Word (though that bears further elaboration, one could preach a graceless Christ, for instance).
And then there is the layer of the Spirit's role.
To close, we still really have not clearly and specifically spoken to the question: "How do I know I've heard the Word?" or "What is the true preaching of the Word?" Why is bombast not appropriate?
Is a graceless Christ still Christ? Christ is full-bodied, perfectly obedient, complete sacrifice, true God and true man. Preaching grace without obedience is not preaching Christ. Preaching obedience without grace is not preaching Christ.
Different methods of preaching (the "how") are appropriate for different audiences, different circumstances, different times. And they are effective in appropriate circumstances. We may say sometimes, "well, I heard the word.. but I didn't like it... he made it sound pretty unattractive..." or, we may say sometimes the converse, "what a speaker! what stories! what alliteration and humor!... but I had a hard time seeing Jesus in the message..." or, "What a gospel! What a Christ! What a life to live! and what a believer who presented it!! I pray God I would die for it!"
Bombast (Depending on how you define "bombast".) may have been appropriate for some of the prophets, ie. Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul, at some times. But underneath it, if you look for it, is the grace to accept the repentance which is called for. We live in an age of "process" and method (the how instead of the what), and often content and substance suffers as a result.
Paul said he tried to be all things to all men, in order to bring them to Christ. Some people find a circuitous subtle approach more appealing, and others find a straight-up blunt approach more appealing. And sometimes we don't know which will be more effective, since the Lord works in mysterious ways. In any case, the essential content and substance of the Word should not suffer, because otherwise the method won't matter. And it all needs to be undergirded with faith and trust in God and his ways.
John asks: "Is a graceless Christ still Christ?"
I would say, obviously not for you going by your definitions. Yet I have heard preaching (years ago) where Christ was the one who died for me so I owed Christ my good behaviour.
Again, in trying to find out what people mean by "The preaching of the Word" your comments make clear that we cannot just say "Preach Christ" because a manipulative, coercive, pharisaical message might be touted as doing exactly that. And of course a moral example Christ fits as well. So, in the 'good' answer to my original question to start this conversation, we would need to include an explanation of the 'kind' of Christ we would need to hear about.
Because He is worthy! Worthy is the Lamb!
per Pete VB: Yet I have heard preaching (years ago) where Christ was the one who died for me so I owed Christ my good behaviour. eoq
isn't that the 3rd part of the HC... our service is a response of thanksgiving for what Jesus did? Or is thanksgiving different than we "owe" Him? That's another part of the HC I struggle with, yes, thanksgiving should/does prompt service/obedience/praise but what about because He is worthy? It's not only about what He has done or can do for us, but primarily because of Who He is! This is why the angels praise Him, they aren't praising out of a response of thanksgiving for their salvation.
I will say, in some of the messages I've heard/read where Christ was preached and the power of the Spirit was evident (at least for me), there was a focus on Rev. 5, Worthy is the Lamb... I've seen this focus with the Moravians and Count Zinzendorf, I see it as the fuel for night and day worship and prayer, Dan Henderson (Worship Encounters) shared that is the main reason we worship/pray, because He alone is worthy to receive all the glory! Because He deserves the reward of His suffering, our souls!
I'll jump ahead to reply to this Bev (I was planning to systematically respond to postings from the last few days, and I'll get back to that later d.v. Easter week being a busy one notwithstanding)
Service done to retroactively 'earn' the salvation that was a gift is misguided service to me. The Orthopathy of it is not right, even though the practise looks good. It is an easy way out for a preacher to use this kind of negative motivational technique. As soon as we 'owe' it, we are wandering. When we 'give' service we are closer to how I understand the HC.
In my always shifting Theology right now, part of our Kingdom citizen purpose is to echo and particpate in the "always on" wholebeing heavenly worship that we are given a glimpse of in John's vision. When we worship in resonance with that heavenly worship the Kingdom of God has come in us, and, guess what, service is given as a gift, not a duty.
Shucks, I forgot about Jonah. I bet he was bombastic. Didn't even want to preach to the people of Nineveh. Hoped they wouldn't listen. Can you imagine??? but God worked his miracle, and they repented. Probably a subtle, friendly, apologetic preacher would not have worked; it was not what God wanted. We need to over methodolize less, and trust God more.
I just love this kind of discussion/sharpening =)... thx. Pete for getting it started... hope you are gaining insight, as I know I am =)... taste and see that the LORD is good...
so did some research on "orthopathy", and what is fascinating to me is how "experience" is a key part. (emphasis mine in following quote).. I know i have heard experience slammed by preachers in our reformed tradtion. That could be part of the problem...
BOQ...T.H. Runyon first coined the term "orthopathy" in an article in 1987.He identified orthopathy as a concept originated by Wesley that stood as "a necessary but currently missing complement to orthodoxy and orthopraxy." Runyon described orthopathy in epistemological terms as an event that occurs "between the Divine Source and human participant." As he explicated it, there are four factors involved in this epistemological event: (1) the divine source of experience, which makes impressions on the spiritual senses of the human beings; (2) the telos of experience: the intention of the source, the purpose and goal for the human being; (3) the transformation brought about through experience; and (4) the feelings that accompany the experience.EOQ[4
above quote is from the following link:
and I would love a better definition to explain the difference between "emotion" "feeling" and "affection"... just so we are on the same page there.
also, I think this line is what I mean when i say there is a dynamic reaction going on that the Holy Spirit orchestrates...
boq.. as an event that occurs "between the Divine Source and human participant".eoq e
(sorry, if i get extra letters, when I copy and paste for some reason what I type at the end doesn't show up on my screen, until I post, and then there they are : /)
Yummy food for thought!! (I know that is such an intellectual term =)
Ortho (right) pathy (suffering) affections, sickness. But in this context, we might call it a right attitude of the heart. In a sense though, what we really mean is being born again.... which means having a new heart, a heart which belongs to God, a heart which desires to do God's will, to follow Him, to love Him, to love our neighbor.
Orthodoxy - right beliefs ... reformers often seem to indicate this comes first.
Orthopraxis - right living .... George Macdonald the author and CS Lewis hero hinted that sometimes this comes first.
Orthopathy - right attitude. .... born again?
I appreciate your enthusiasm! Orthopathy as a theological concept (and as a lived reality) is something that I've been interested in for a while. Runyon is one who has talked about it, as has Richard Mouw. Another who has done a great deal of work on the concept (which he terms orthokardia=right heart) is Gregory Clapper, a Methodist theologian. Steven J. Land also investigates the concept well in his book Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom. Dont get me started!
Prior to the term, but looking at it as a concept, historical figures abound. Abraham Joshua Heschel speaks in his book on the prophets about how prophets "participate in the pathos of God", and says that this "sympathetic union" is perhaps more biblical than an ahistorical mystical union. And of course there is Jonathan Edwards with such quotes as this "as on the one hand there must be light in the understanding, as well as an affected fervent heart, wehre there is heat with out light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart, so on the other hand, where tehre is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notion and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual kknowledge of divine things."
I prefer to use the terms of affections, passions or sentiments to that of emotions, because there is a deeper grounding in the Christian tradition for these terms. Thomas Dixon in his book "From Passions to Emotions: The Creation of a Secular Psychological Category", shows how these earlier theologically based terms lost ground in the 1800s to the more secular category of emotion. This tended to divide thought/reason and emotion and make their relationship antithetical, a contrast to the more integrated Biblical vision of the heart as the seat of both thought and emotion. In some ways when we use the term "emotions" we have already let the other side define the terms of the debate...
The relationship between feelings and emotions, thats a good one. Transience would be one difference. Feelings are passing sensations, while affections are emotional dispositions that continue over time and are a core part of Christian character/the fruits of the spirit. Maybe feelings are a function of the affections, and as such are affected by the state of the heart. For instance, two people can see someone suffering, the one will "feel" nothing, the other will feel compassion and pain. This would reflect the state of their heart?
John, I would agree that orthopathy would have connections with being born again. I guess I am of the mind that conversion happens in two ways, either like the sting of a bee or the unfolding of a flower. In either case, it is a continuing process through all of life...the catechism says that it is a dying away of the old self and the coming to life of the new...which would also have an affective component. I would put it in the area of sanctification, as the spirit works on our naturally hard hearts and gives us new kingdom desires and affections. The Spirit uses scripture, community, the spiritual disciplines to accomplish this "affective conversion" which is why I would also put orthopathy in connection with "spiritual formation"...what exactly is being formed? I would say a key part of what is being formed is godly affections. We dont want to just be "Christians from the neck up".
thanks Jeff... our inner man =) our inner being =), the eyes of our hearts...the spiritual senses, good stuff... hmmm... i'm going to keep reflecting on the nuances between emotions, passions, feelings and affections... as there tends to be disdain for these types of sentiments, and the intellect aka the cerebral per Pete, is instead highly regarded, and almost idolized... so, theoretically, should there be a balance?
very confirming as John mentioned our new heart, and I've been wrestling w. our (reformed tradition) over emphasis of Jer. 17:9 (wicked heart) and Is. 64:6 (deeds are filthy rags), instead of emphasizing that we are new creations in Christ, and we have been given a new, good heart. That Jesus purifies our acts and makes them beautiful, clean, fine bright linen worthy of the wedding garment for His Bride. and as I'm re-reading Richard Foster's book "Celebration of Discipline"..
But, Jeff, I would be interested in further explanation of why you think orthopathy was a tangential, yet unspoken element regarding the 3rd wave pentecostal discussion/report... what do you mean by that?
again, thx. for taking the time and sharing your perspectives on this =)
Jeff, the language... is it conversion, or sanctification?... I've thought that conversion is rather quick, although it may be the result of lots of conversation, experience, bible reading, witnessing. Sanctification, on the other hand is a lifelong process which is the result of the conversion; yet, we are saints already, sanctified completely by Jesus Christ. But even sanctified, our desire is to fight against the sinful desires within us. So we are a bit of a walking contradiction; thanks be to God, that Christ already has the victory!!
Then our desire is that our orthodoxy confirms and guides our understanding of our Lord and Saviour, and guides our orthopraxy, and is in sync with our orthopathy.
A mere orthopraxis is not the same as the orthopathy, the real heart desire to follow the Lord's will rather than our own. Without orthopathy (a true heart), the fruits of the spirit will be lacking. True obedience is really an obedience of the heart, not just of the outward appearance. Several times God said to the Israelites that He didn't want their sacrifices (we might say their orthodoxy), since their hearts (orthopathy) were not right. On the other hand, if our hearts are right, won't we then seek to do what is pleasing to God, and for the benefit of his people, his body, his gospel?
We may get into depth about what orthopathy is. Affections, emotions, feelings, attitude. I personally think it is attitude, since our affections and emotions might mislead us, and we might even misuse them, unless they are guided by a reborn attitude, fruits of the Spirit, and tested by scripture.
Last night we were at an event which celebrated "friends" who are people with special needs, four in wheel chairs, and others with severe communication problems, cerebral palsy, brain damage, etc. They all participated in putting on a Palm Sunday program, along with their mentors, who are their friends. At the beginning, one individual not necessarily special needs, indicated he had been born again 15 years ago, but had been walking with one foot in Christ's will and one foot in the "world". Six months ago, he had a renewal, which I would call a sanctification awakening. And he was pretty happy! It changed his perspective! He now believed in healing. In the overwhelming work of the Spirit!
I pray that "renewal" be multiplied many times over in the Church... wake us up LORD!.
Bev, What I meant by that was just that the CRC, at least historically, has been not just a theological community or an ethnic community, but also what I guess you could call an "emotional community". We have a particular emotional stamp, and Pentecostalism tends to have a much different emotional stamp. I think that we have struggled with the movement not only because of specific theological issues but more generally on this basic emotional/emotive level, as it plays itself out in worship, etc...that's all.
John, praise God for what he's doing in your friend!
Pete,To bring the conversation back around to preaching, I think that our own responses kind of reflect the "appreciative inquiry" mode of reflection. There's really two questions...what true preaching of the word is, and what it does, or should do. In one sense pure preaching of the word would probably be defined by the confessions as emphasizing the doctrines of grace, and we could simply add to that careful exegesis, understanding of where it falls in redemptive history, etc...and yet I've sometimes preached sermons like that and they seem to have "fallen from the pulpit like a wingless duck" as one person puts it...so on the other hand preaching is an event that involves speakers and listeners and the whole spiritual circuit board has to be considered. Is your question what it is in itself, or what its desired outcome is?
thanks for elaborating Jeff... I find that interesting for a number of reasons...
also, back to the original question... if we are looking for a formula that works every time, ie. pray A, do B, say C, and then D happens, that's man's way... I think the part that is hard to grasp, is that it cannot be humanly manipulated or orchestrated. The Spirit is always in us, but His anointing upon us ebbs and flows at His will, that cannot be humanly orchestrated, only asked for and sought after through obedience and our relationship with God. ABC&D are key elements, but there is so much more. (it's kind of like my struggle with HC Q&A #83... what are the keys of the Kingdom... the HC gives 2- preaching and discipline, but I think there are many more that it doesn't mention).
as for the appreciative inquiry, Pete, I'm curious why you use this technique?
Jeff wrote: "We have a particular emotional stamp" which had me chuckling and thinking "our stamp is missing, i.e. it is a lack of emotional expression." There seems, in my experience, to be a direct corelation to suspicion of emotion/feelings and level of theological and practical conservatism. My theory is that this is partially because in the previous centuries our main church leaders and especially theologians 'bought' rationalism as the one pure and unfallen part of humanity, and that had a "no-trickle" effect. Add to that two World wars and tough living that resulted, where having time and energy to have feelings was a luxury, and a culture where pain was not acknowlegable (no trickle) and using the language of psychology, a generation of emotionally stunted people emigrated to Canada in the 40's and 50's and to the US before that. The lack of means and permission to express any bit of this deeper trauma has had interesting effects on the church.
So that is part of how I respond to Jeff writing: "I think that we have struggled with the movement not only because of specific theological issues but more generally on this basic emotional/emotive level, as it plays itself out in worship, etc...that's all."
All that said, emotions and feelings are tricky. They can be false, or misguided. But I believe they need spiritual discernment just as much as any rationalization of the need for "going Spock" does.
The addiction treatment facility I worked at for 9 months was one place were I saw how forcefully or negligently supresed emotions in childhood are one key step toward addiction, and thus the value of the opposite: learning to identify and name and validate emotions validates the person. But now I'm the one bringing in topics not directly related to my own main question.
amen! it is a delight, not a duty!...
look forward to the rest of your "systematic" responses ; )... and pray God's blessing and anointing on you (and all the other pastors) as you prepare and preach His Word this week... we are praying for many to come to Christ (or experience that renewal John's friend testified of, through this Passion week!
Dovetailing on what you've posted, the fact that emotions and feelings can be false or misguided is one basic reason why people say "see, we can't trust them", neglecting the fact that thinking processes can also be false or misguided.
Part of it, I think goes back to the question if emotions and feelings are cognitive or non-cognitive, if they are just nonrational biochemical firings that happen to us, or if they are actually a form of thought. Matthew Elliot has a great book called "Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotion in the New Testament" where he analyzes the state of the debate and shows that the older view, that emotions are contrary to thought, does not hold up all that well and that many emotion theorists see emotion as cognitive. W Jay Wood who has taught at Calvin, says it this way "emotions and moral virtues are to our cognitive life what rudders are to an airplane...they are part of the thinking apparatus itself. if they don't function properly, our cognitive life doesn't function properly. So whether or not we function intellectually in as complete a way as we generally think desirable hinges on whether our emotional and moral natures are mature."
Rather than putting emotions and feelings above questioning, a cognitive view of emotion does the very opposite. Emotions and feelings can and should be "quizzed", just like any other idea that pops into our heads, to see if they are valid or not. On the flip side, though, they can also be valued and not simply discounted.
per PVB: But now I'm the one bringing in topics not directly related to my own main question.
yeah, that's what a good question/discussion does... It's much broader than a simple answer =) and appreciate the insight you shared on the emotional aspect. I too think there is much more related to our "particular emotional stamp" or seeming lack thereof, and I believe this is part of the key to renewal in our denomination.
and Jeff''s comment (that both the emotions and intellect can be misleading, and maybe both should be valued to some extent) brings me back to my question from a previous comment:
...as there tends to be disdain for these types of sentiments, and instead the intellect aka the cerebral per Pete, is highly regarded, and almost idolized... so, theoretically, should there be a balance?
and if so, then I would also ask, how close are we to being in balance? and if we are not in balance, then why not?
then couple of other thoughts... this question is from David Bryant's book Christ is all! Is Jesus our mascot or our monarch? This has to do w. Pete's question: boq So, in the 'good' answer to my original question to start this conversation, we would need to include an explanation of the 'kind' of Christ we would need to hear about.eoq.
and as I'm reading Celebration of Discipline: The path to Spiritual Growth (Jeff's earlier comment on the spiritual disciplines was a good confirmation of this book)... here is a sentence from the worship chapter (p158)... "We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshipped the LORD until Spirit touches spirit."
So this goes back to the inner man, our spiritual senses, and being sensitive to what God is doing at that level, not just cognitively/intellectually.
It is a question of what "kind" of Christ we are presenting, but do you think that it's equally about the *kind of knowledge* of this Christ that we are after? What, after all, is a Biblical view of knowing? It isn't just an abstract knowledge, but a wholistic knowing that engages the whole person. James 2...James writes "you believe that there is one God...Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder".
I think of two sermons of Jonathan Edwards where he talks about the distinction between types of knowing. In the one "True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils", on this verse, he notes that the devil has a very extensive knowledge of the subject of theology, becuase he was educated in the best theological seminary in the universe, the seventh heaven. As one writer puts it "he is well aware of Jesus in his capacity as the savior of humankind and thus aqauinted with the whole plan of redemption. He is well informed of the affairs of the world beyond and a remarkable exegete of the Holy Scriptures" Edwards is riffing here, but he makes his point. "the devil is orthodox, he belives in the true scheme of doctrine, he is no Deist, Socinian, Arian, Pelagian or Antinomian, the articles of his faith are all sound, and in them he is throughly established." But this knowledge burns him, he hates it and is opposed to it.
Contrast this with the other type of knowing that Edwards talks about in "A Divine and Supernatural Light" and a few other places. He says "there is a difference between having an opinion that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loviness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgement that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former that knows not how honey tastes, but a man can't have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind...there are two kinds of knowledge of the things of divinity, speculative and practical, or in other terms, natural and spiritual. The former remains only in the head. No other facutly but the understanding is concerned in it. It consists in having a rational knowledge of the things of religion, without any special illumination of the Spirit of God. The latter rests not entirely in the head, or in the speculative ideas of things, but the heart is concerned in it, and it principally consists in the "sense of the heart". The mere intellect, without the heart, the will or the inclination is not the seat of it. And it may be called not only seeing, but feeling or tasting."
Dane Ortlund, commenting on Edwards sermon says "HIs point is that objective, factual, informattion based head knowledge is to be sure vitally necessary for true Christian living and experience. It cannot be ignored. Yet it is inadequate of itself. Christian faith that consists only of facts and not of enjoyment of those facts is not Christian faith. The divine light is an utterly new pleasure in God. It is a matter of the affections, which today we would probably call the emotions, though we must be discerning as we do so." Perhaps this connects to what you say about the "spiritual senses", which Edwards would call "the sense of the heart".
Here's my question...can we just teach orthodoxy and assume that orthopathy (or orthopraxis) will happen (which has been our default mode), or do we have to go beyond that and specifically talk about orthopathy? How do we do this without alienating people or reducing the concept to mere "warm fuzzies"?
I think what you are saying is we also need to "experience" God. I'm totally with you on that Brother! It's just in my experience, experience gets slammed (sometimes I wonder if it's almost considered the equivalent of entertainment and the 2 are being seen as synonymous), and is seen as a far lesser "knowledge" than the intellectual/cerebral. God is an experience, the Holy Spirit is an experience. There is no other way I can describe the encounters I have had, where I know that I know that I know, not in an intellectual way, but in a much deeper way in my inner being. The kind of knowing and experiencing God, that you would be willing to die for Him. It's not warm fuzzies... It's powerful!
When I raise the question is Jesus our monarch, or our mascot, the difference is, you would die for your monarch, but not for a mascot, the monarch is in charge of leading his troops, the mascot just comes out when the troops are a bit down, and helps get them cheered up but is not part of the real "game" going on, if Jesus is our monarch, our lives will be changed, if He is our mascot, we will still do what we want to do. hope that makes sense.
the verse that challenges me, is we have a form of godliness, but deny its power... which makes me think we cannot assume the orthopathy will happen, however only God can change hearts, so our role is prayer, praise, sharing as the Spirit leads (God can give us prophetic insight to help change hearts), being obedient to His promptings (which is an entire discussion in itself) and ??? I'm sure there are more...
Prayer is a key... I believe a key prayer is Eph. 1:17-18... open the eyes of our hearts LORD, and give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know You more. I will share that the LORD gave me this prayer 5 times over the weekend He re-opened the eyes and ears of my heart. It was probably a bit like the renewal John's friend experienced. I'd been a believer all my life, grew up crc (and still am) but there was a significant change in my inner being that weekend which included a hunger to be in His Word like I had never experienced before. and yes, I too now believe much more fully in the supernatural gifts of the Spirit such as miraculous healing, tongues, prophecy (listening prayer), dreams, visions, etc. it was profound, powerful, and life changing. and I'm desperate for that "experience" for everyone, whether they all want it is another question and discussion.
Jeff, when i share on something that is in the orthopathy realm ie the emotions, spiritual gifts of prophecy, visions, dreams, praying in tongues, high praise, in the conservative tradtion, I get slammed, the responses often astound me (just letting you know, it doesn't go over very well) . It is resisted, it is viewed as pagan, from the enemy, it is viewed with disdain, scoffed at, terms such as "scary" "dangerous" "weird" are used, and it's almost considered heresy. I wish I could say I was joking, but I'm not. I am thankful that there are several of you more open to this, because I have found significant resistance, and I believe it is an intellectual stronghold we are up against. I could and would love to discuss this with you guys face to face, because then I could explain what I mean more clearly, because you might be thinking what in the world does she talk about, so there would be no misunderstandings as this topic can cause lots of them.
Again, I believe getting a biblical understanding of our inner man (orthopathy is part of that) is a key to renewal in our denomination. The concept of (spiritual) intimacy with Christ aka loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength makes some of us uncomfortable. We are in danger of flipping the priority of this command with loving our neighbor aka doing justice aka doing what's right, orthopraxy (and it's so subtle because justice is biblical, but not if it is out of order with loving God - I will say this is debatable, as I've heard arguments that say the orthopathy will come out of our orthodoxy and our orthopraxy - however, from my experience, when the orthodoxy and orthopraxy flow out of the orthopathy, there is night and day difference in the results, the results are things I could not have orchestrated if I tried, or would have resulted in significant frustration and effort on my part, and instead I see God move in ways beyond imagination, and it's easy for HIm. Instead of burnout being a problem, it is now warfare -(just saying that's my experience).
I believe we (conservative traditions) are missing something in our understanding/experience, and believe it has to do with spiritual formation, the orthopathy, the emotions, the Holy Spirit and His supernatural gifts. That's why I'm curious as to why pvb is using appreciative inquiry.
One specific way to possibly address this is to teach on the difference between being emotional and emotionalism, recognizing again, that only God can change the heart. Testimonies are another powerful tool God uses to help open up people's hearts.
I hope that makes sense, because there is so much here, and I cannot share all the details in what started out intending to be a brief =) comment, and so I pray that there is no misunderstanding in what I've shared. I could discuss this for hours... so if anyone is going to be at the crc prayer summit in a couple weeks, DV I would love to meet you there =)
I Know I am late to this discussion but when I read Bev's comment
" when i share on something that is in the orthopathy realm ie the emotions, spiritual gifts of prophecy, visions, dreams, praying in tongues, high praise, in the conservative tradtion, I get slammed, the responses often astound me (just letting you know, it doesn't go over very well) . It is resisted, it is viewed as pagan, from the enemy, it is viewed with disdain, scoffed at, terms such as "scary" "dangerous" "weird" are used, and it's almost considered heresy. I wish I could say I was joking, but I'm not."
I thought how true. we have cut ourselves off from so much of the work of the Spirit.
Several years ago I met a young man who told me he was a prophet. At the time my silent response was "no you are not, God does not do that anymore" Now there was true arrogance on my part, as though I could tell God what he does and does not do. The young man told me he does not tell very many people that he is a prophet because of the response he gets. He also said it is a gift that must be handled carefully because the Devil will try to emulate the Spirit and give false messages.
In the next few months I felt God calling me to write a sermon on Jonah. I looked at my calendar and saw no need to write that message. I did not need it. I planned to write it sometime I just pushed it off. Later I had what could best be called an interesting week where a number of very strange things had happened in my life. That Sunday I met that young man again. He looked at me and smiled, then asked "is God doing anything in your life lately?" OK he had my attention I had just come through one of the strangest weeks in my life. Being the sceptic my answer was "define lately."
He said, " In the last few days." I answered "maybe."
"I have a message from God for you" he said, "You need to be a minister"
At this point I need to explain that I have a liscense to exhort, but am a far cry from a pastor. I said to him "No, God does not want me to be a minister every time I have moved in that direction the door has been firmly slammed shut."
He tilted his head to one side and I could see he was upset that I did not think he had a message for me from God. Then he said "It has something to do with Jonah."
Ah, Jonah, the unwritten sermon. That was an eye opening experience. I had not listened to God telling me he wanted a message written and God actually sent a prophet to tell me you have your priorities wrong here and when I want a message written, write it.
The young man made one more statement that puzzled me for the next five years. I will not quote it in an open forum, but just the other day it came to me in a flash. He told me the congregation the message on Jonah was for but I never was called to preach there. God found someone else to do what I did not do.
This forum is on preaching and I tell this story because true preaching is bringing the message that God gives in the place where God calls it to be given. As a denomination we have become too cerebral and are missing the empowering work of the Spirit.
Wow!... bless your heart.... that's what it seems to take to convince (conservative) believers of an expanded view of what the Holy Spirit will do, their own personal, powerful experience/encounter that they can't deny... thanks for sharing your testimony, believe you me... i have many questions I would love to ask you...
and great conclusion... it takes sensitivity and obedience to His promptings... preaching what He wants, where He wants, and when He wants... He will take care of the hearts of the listeners!
I wonder if there is a different word that might fit better than "conservative". What I see is that the "Spock syndrome" manifests itself all over the theological spectrum, from progressive to conservative.
It's possible there's a better term, and when people read "conservative" they might tend to think more of a political type... when I say conservative I think as opposed to a more charismatic type. So if you (or anyone else) have a better term for that type of believer/denomination, would love to hear it. I have found progressive types to still be conservative about the Holy Spirit. Now, I don't know if that's always the case, or even mostly the case, but I have found it to be the case in my experience. In fact, I have found believers with more conservative positions on certain theological issues, to be much more open to the Spirit, than the progressives I know. So I think we're using the "conservative" description for several categories. It's always good to get on the same page with our understanding of what we mean!
haha... we can maybe use "cerebral vs charismatic" =)...
I agree with Jeff on the use of 'conservative" vs whatever. It is overused in so many contexts that it is virtually meaningless unless specifically defined, in which case it is better just to not use the term. Scriptural vs unscriptural is generally a better context. Some conservatives are very scriptural, while other conservatives are very unscriptural - so it is not helpful to use the term 'conservative', since the issue is not about being traditional, nor conservative, but rather about honoring God and responding to God completely, whether in a traditional or charismatic fashion, or in some blend of the two.
The working of the spirit does not respond to labels, and is not limited to certain personality types. Obedience to Christ is primarily a matter of the heart first, and outward results second. One man's quiet tears of joy may be as heartfelt and responsive and spirit filled than another man's jumping and shouting in praise, and God knows the truth of both of them.
There is a time for each... both are scriptural... praise would more likely include the dancing and shouting, while deeper worship would be more subdued... Ezra 3:10-13 is an amazing example where both are happening at the same time! but it seems like we are mostly on the quiet (reserved?) side... and an attitude i run into about shouting for the LORD is that it is irreverent. WWWhen I've brought it up, that maybe we should shout to the LORD and make a joyful noise, like the Psalms say, these are several responses: I hope not, or why would we want to do that, that's not me - I'm not like that, I just don't get excited, or again, we were taught that's not reverent (maybe dignified?). I hear criticism for people raising their hands in church, that it is distracting... these types of praise are biblical concepts and i have heard lots of justifications for why we (crc) don't need to do the more outwardly expressive ones. We can shout in our hearts?!?!? I watch people spontaneously shout and jump when their team scores or something happens in their favor!.. it is an immediate reaction! and there is outward expression and it can be pretty intense! Why, oh why, can we not do that for the Lord (when appropriate of course)?
I know the Holy Spirit is way beyond labels, but for practical purposes, we definitely have those that are comfortable with their and other's emotions, and those that are not (think David dancing with all his might and his wife's embarrassment and which one did God honor =/). I have heard the reasoning before that we can't judge someone's joy just because they aren't always "jumping" around and shouting because they could be celebrating internally, but unfortunately, we are (almost) never jumping around (well at least in praise & worship, again, we don't seem to have the same problem at sporting events)...
When is the last time you heard someone (including yourself) in the reformed tradition shouting for the LORD? Really shouting, all out victory yell? I don't need to know, but I simply ask the question, because in our reformed tradition of worship I have never heard it happen. So as John Z says, it is about responding to God completely... and so I ask are we doing this? The next question is do people even want to be doing this if it might include some forms of expression (dancing/shouting) that they are not comfortable with (yet)?
Worthy is the Lamb! He deserves our highest praise! We want people to fully respond to God in praise and worship, but it seems there are some hindrances - I apologize if I seem critical, but I believe God wants us (reserved types as well less reserved types) to more fully experience Him in worship, He's got so much more for us... do we want it? will we want it if it includes dancing and shouting? It's not that we've been worshipping wrong, but I believe God wants to expand our worship experience, it is for His glory, and the more we glory in Him - enjoy Him, the more glory He receives (what is the chief end of man?)... I've heard pastors in the charismatic stream, say they wish there was more reverence in their worship... so it goes both ways!
I have my own testimony as well as reading/hearing others as the LORD has released them more fully into praise and worship... but I will confess, when I read Ruth Heflin's Glory, it is like a foreign language... I can agree with the comment... BOQ "when I was first given your book, I didn't understand a word of it... " and i have only experienced the second half of the comment in a limited way, but enought that my life has been radically changed - BOQ "... but now that I've been touched by revival, the understanding has come to my by revelation, and my life has been totally changed" eoq
God has to change hearts, but we need to be at least aware of some of these concepts, and we need to know that these concepts of praise are biblical instead of being critical and closing the door on them and ????. We need a frame of reference for what God is working on in us.
I apologize for my long posts... these are topics and concerns that I read and study about almost every day (reading Intercessory Worship by Dick Eastman, and Glory by Ruth Heflin, Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, as well as a number of other books on worship, prayer), so I really could discuss this for days, as it ties in with the worship and prayer we have at the prayer center as well... I love your responses, your sharpening...
BOQ..When is the last time you heard someone (including yourself) in the reformed tradition shouting for the LORD? Really shouting, all out victory yell? I don't need to know, but I simply ask the question, because in our reformed tradition of worship I have never heard it happen. eoq
Ok, I can't say this anymore =)... as a result of the prayer summit earlier this week, I have now been in a crc gathering where shouting in worship happened! Praise God! He is expanding our worship and prayer in ways we have not traditionally used much (if at all)!
Communal worship is different than individual.... I like almost everything, in its context, and in a good proportion. I like clapping with some songs, although I tend not to do it myself-I don't mind if others do it, but clapping would often be better if people learned to clap on the off-beat so that we can still hear the words of the songs. I don't mind people raising their hands, and I don't mind people assenting to certain statements and prayers with an "Amen" or clapping of praise agreement, but I have also sometimes found it distracting, and sometimes disturbing or removing the train of thought. When you get more used to it, it is less distracting. I love the various instruments, but sometimes the brass drowns out the words too much, and even sometimes drums and electric guitars are too loud, and thus destroy the worship and the message of the song. These are mere outward things, and sometimes the Spirit simply moves people in ways they cannot really control, but in other situations these outward vibrant actions and sounds simply become part of the cultural norm of a church worship, at times better, and at times worse than a more reserved quiet intense participation.
When clapping, and dancing, and bands, and "Amens" become part of the normal church culture, will they retain the joy and purpose they originally had?
As you hinted, reverence is also important... how we maintain a joyful, exhuberant, vibrant reverence.... witness to God, not first of all to ourselves.... God gave us His Spirit, and our emotional capacity... which should witness to God, to his grace, to his commands, to his awesomeness. Sometimes that means to let go, other times to hold back.
We should not limit what God does not limit.
One person's joy is sometimes another person's sorrow.... One person rejoices in a new birth, which reminds the next person of a recent death and loss....
Consider also family worship time as a time to "let go"! A time when there will be less conflict of emotions, and more control of distractions... more opportunity to demonstrate joy and sorrow.
Is there a place in worship for destroying the "four hundred prophets of Baal"? (as elijah did?)
We tend to sit in the balcony, toward the back, so I can worship fairly freely with out getting the "look", and there's a little alcove that my daughter will dance in, where no one can see her unless they are right there... so that's how we try to limit the criticism of being a distraction. You are right, as we get more used to it, we will find it less distracting... we also have freedom at the prayer center to worship with dance, flags, etc... and at home of course =)...
That's an interesting question on Elijah and prophets of Baal... the story I think of is 2 Chron 20 - that while we worship, God can turn the enemy on each other (Ie story of 3 armies that were going to come against Jehoshaphat and ended up ambushing each other instead while Judah praised) and then Psalm 149:6-end... warfare can be a result of worship, (but it's not the primary reason), interestingly, Elijah did take the prophets down to the river to execute them. So not sure if that was to respect and honor the holy places of worship...
I just read this statment this morning in Dick E's book on Intercessory worship....BOQ "Reform" simply means "to change for the better" or "improve". It's not that all worship (and I would add prayer) in the Church today is deficient, but perhaps God wants to take us to higher heights and deeper depths of His glory. eoq p116
This resonates with what God is putting on my heart and what I'm seeing going on in our area. I believe God is calling us to dimensions of worship and prayer that we have not traditionally used much (if at all =) ie 24/7/continual worship and prayer as the Levites did in the days of King David... So being reformed, I think it helps to be aware that God wants to grow us in our worship and prayer to experience more of His glory for His glory. Personally for me, as i also read the book "Glory" by Ruth Heflin, i only have 2 worship experiences where I was undone in a profound way, and that gave me just a glimpse of what this "Glory" might be, otherwise it is foreign to me (so far). I know there is so much more of His glory that we can experience (on earth), and when we experience His glory, He gets the glory (just in case someone's thinking it's all about our experience - we experience His glory because He is God and He is a generous God, when we enjoy Him and delight in Him, He is glorified). I believe God is pointing me in that direction and giving me an awareness to search and ask for His glory (the song on the radio when I woke up this morning was "Show me Your Glory" by 3rd day). Other than those 2 experiences, my realm of experience doesn't have a clue what it's like, but I am now open and searching and have a frame of reference for what He is stirring up in my inner being - or "opening horizons of my soul". instead of wondering if I'm going off the deep end =)... not saying I get it yet -but He's got me digging into what it looks like to "enjoy" Him (Westminster), to delight in Him (Ps. 37:4), what (spiritual) intimacy with Christ looks like (yes, reading the Song of Songs even though the experts in the last 100 years or so are saying they no longer think it's an allegory of Christ and the Church or God and Israel - which was the common belief for centuries before that though) - concepts I would say the spock syndrom side of us has kind of stayed away from teaching on, at least not in-depth anyway since it seems to make us uncomfortable, but I firmly believe God's opening up new realms of worship and prayer for His Bride... so we can glory in His Holy Name for His Glory, more completely. What that looks like, well, it will probably be a life (eternal life?) long journey, but I'm on it!
So again, His glory is an entire discussion... in a nutshell... it's His Presence, which we can always experience at some level, you have the knowledge level that He is omnipresent, we have His presence in us as believers, and then you have His manifest presence aka revival type shekinah glory, and probably infinite levels in between and beyond.
sorry, Pete, you can jump in anytime and get us back to "preaching", but it is all related =)... at least to your original question on what makes worship valuable!!
Back to preaching the word. There seems to be a formal aspect to it, and an informal aspect. We think of preaching the word formally on sundays in a church group setting. But we can also think of the preaching that goes on between members of the body of christ, the preaching of the gospel by missionaries wherever they might be, or the preaching of parents to their children, (and occassionally of children to their parents...).
I think of this: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.
Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
Those are in fact Jesus’ words to all of us: “Take care how you listen” (Luke 8:18). We take care because how we listen to the sermon today reveals a lot about the condition of our own hearts, making Sunday a good day to evaluate our own posture of intake.
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