Discourse: The Danger of Spiritualization

We’ve noted that there are discourse passages in almost every section of Scripture – history, wisdom, prophet, gospel, etc.  Awareness of the broader plot within which discourse is placed is helpful both in understanding the passage meaning and purpose, and also for preaching the passage with contextual understanding and tension.

So if we decide to preach a discourse in a typical analytical manner – for instance a deductive sermon – what should we be wary of?  Be wary of direct transference of relevance to a different audience.  Joshua 1 does not give direct promises to contemporary readers that wherever we place our feet, we can claim for God.  Equally it does not mandate military action on our part.  Yet the passage yields much that can be so relevant to us.

Be careful to work through the process of exegetical analysis (in that context), drawing out the abiding theological implications (in any context), and recontextualizing the principles (in this context).  Be careful not to then re-attach original phrasing in a careless manner that might imply direct transference of details by a spiritualization process (i.e. let it show that you are not simply reading the text and then telling people to “claim land” as God instructs us to “march” over what we should “conquer”).  By showing some process in our preaching, we can protect our people from bad practice in their own Bible study.  By showing awareness of audience (original and contemporary) and passage purpose (original and preached), we guard our people from inappropriate application.

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