Jul 19, 2008

Bible Teaching or Preaching Christ?


Michael Jensen has broached the topic of biblical teaching versus Christ preaching. On his
blog he writes,

I was speaking with a prominent English conservative evangelical not so long ago, and we were talking about preaching. He had a gripe: the phrase 'bible teaching' (and the idea of 'bible churches', too). It has crept into the evangelical vocabulary to describe what used to be called 'preaching'. A church is great, we will say, because 'the bible teaching is excellent'. But, he said, the vocab change is significant: it represents a shift to a more cognitive, flat and explanatory style of discourse. The hearers will not be exhorted or edified so much as 'taught'. What's more, and perhaps more seriously, we talk less of preaching Christ, but of teaching the Bible. A subtle but significant difference perhaps?

While I can certainly appreciate the distinction being offered here, I am not sure that the distinctions are as sharp as some see it. Biblical teaching and preaching Christ are friends not adversaries. Good preaching has an element of teaching and good teaching will have some elements of exhortation which epitomizes of good preaching. Furthermore, I would posit that the assertion above that "it represents a shift to a more cognitive, flat and explanatory style of discourse. The hearers will not be exhorted or edified so much as 'taught'. What's more, and perhaps more seriously, we talk less of preaching Christ, but of teaching the Bible," is simply incorrect. First, if hearers are neither ehorted nor edified than you can call it someting, but you simply cannot call it Bible teaching. This appears to me to be a strawman. Second, there is nothing wrong with "cognitive" or "explanatory." Concerning the former, did not the Lord teach that we are to Love God with our mind (Matt 22:37). Concerning the latter, the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles as recorded in Scripture was often explanatory. Indeed there are more recorded occasions of Jesus teaching than preaching in the Gospels. Even when Jesus is in the synagogue he is more often described as teaching than preaching. Third, I think that it also a bit of a strawman to draw a distinction between "preaching Christ" and "teaching the Bible." Although it is possible to preach the Bible as if Christ were not present, most Christian preachers and teachers worth their salt do not do so. To properly teach the Bible is to teach Christ and to preach Christ is to teach the Scriptures of which he is the cen
ter, focus, and end.

2 comments:

michael jensen said...

Charles - thanks for the link, and your comment here. I think you may have misunderstood me here: I am pointing to a preference in evangelical culture to refer to 'bible teaching' and not 'preaching Christ', and the subtle effect such a preference in language implies. Of course, I agree that, theologically speaking, the two are overlapping or even synonomours categories. It is a false distinction: but the preference for one langauge over the other may imply an in practice difference.

Charles said...

Michael,

Thanks for the clarification. I am still not sure I see much of a difference. Perhaps you could be more specific. What do you think preaching at a "Bible teaching" church would look like as opposed to a "Christ preaching" church?