The Quest!

I remember Haddon Robinson telling us in class that he wouldn’t give anything for simplicity on this side of complexity, but simplicity on the far side of complexity?  That was worth so much.  What does this mean?

Cheap Simplicity – It is easy to look at a text and say disconnected truths. Keywords in each verse can nudge us into theological explanations and hobby-horse parading with the text as our justification.  To tell the truth, while we may make true theological statements by this kind of preaching, the chances are that we will make both exegetical and theological errors in the process.

Complexity – What does the passage really mean?  I am not asking what preachable words or thoughts are present in the text.  I am asking how the words and sentences fit together?  If you assume that the writer was neither drunk nor wasteful, what is the coherent flow of the section?  This is complex work.  This will take some prayerful wrestling and dialogue with an expert or two (good commentaries help, but won’t give you instant understanding of the flow of thought).

Golden Simplicity – Once you have prayed, wrestled, tried, failed, corrected and tried again, you may eventually arrive at a golden destination: an understanding of the text’s details in context, grasping the flow of thought and unity of the passage . all in a relatively glorious simplicity.  Aim for this when you prepare to preach.

4 thoughts on “The Quest!

  1. I always wonder if the wrestling, the trying and failing is the bane of only those without seminary preparation. Do the Peter Meads of this world also get challenged to hopelessness by the text? Do they also reach a stage in struggling with a text where they say, ‘Hell, there is no sermon here’, only to ultimately preach a well-received sermon?

    • Maybe not those exact words, but I suspect all of us are challenged by at least some texts. The only people not challenged by the “preach-ability” of a passage would be people without a commitment to say what the text is saying. I.e. non-expository preaching is probably a far lower tension approach (but also lower in other measures too!)

  2. You gave us a similar version of this great and simple thought a few years ago, and I share it with others. Thank you again for this valuable and disturbingly challenging insight.

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