Borrowed Light

Thielicke, speak to us about Spurgeon . . .

For Spurgeon the really determinative foundation of the education of preachers was naturally this work on the spiritual man.  The education of preachers must not be directly pragmatic; it must not be immediately directed to preaching as its goal.  Otherwise the process of education becomes an act of mere training, the teaching of technical skills.  The preacher must read the Bible without asking in the back of his mind how he can capitalize homiletically upon the text he studies.  He must first read it as nourishment for his own soul.

This is vitally important, but easily neglected or misunderstood.  Too often homiletics is treated as a subject that fits only in some sort of pragmatic department of training institutions, somehow distinct from Bible, Theology, Spirituality, Divinity.  How wrong to view homiletics as the mere teaching of teachnique – tips for public speaking.  While there is real value in training in the skills of passage study, sermon formation and delivery, homiletics is so much more.  Ultimately the educator is not to teach a man to preach, but to teach a man, and to teach him to preach. (Adapt that sentence as you prefer for gender neutrality, but it simply doesn’t work to make that gender neutral by pluralising the terms.)  True biblical preaching is born out of the spiritual reality in the preacher, not just some assemblage of tips and techniques.  Let’s go back to Thielicke, this next part is priceless:

For the light which we are to let shine before men is borrowed light, a mere reflection.  He who will not go out in the sun in order to play the humble role of a mirror, reflecting the sun’s light, has to try to produce his own light, and thus gives the lie to his message by his vanity and egocentric presumption.  Besides becoming unworthy of being believed, he is condemned to consume his own substance and expend his capital to the point of bankruptcy.  Because he is not a recipient, he must himself produce and seek to overcome the empty silence within him by means of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.  Thus he ends in the paralysis of emptiness, and his empty, droning rhetoric merely covers up the burned-out slag underneath. (p10)


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