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The New Sermoneutics

By Cornelius C. Abbott III

religion, articles, christianity

Not long ago I heard a "sermon" from Luke 15 where the "preacher" made the parable of Christ a story. He conjured up names for the prodigal son, his brother, his father and even his mother and sister (of whom Jesus had nothing to say). He told the conversation that went on in "family meetings" to discuss the youngest son's request for his portion of the inheritance. We even learned that the family was in the pottery retail business! We were given details of the life of the wasteful son in the far country. The name of the prostitute and the businessman that hired him were noted. I laughed; I cried; but I never turned one page of my Bible. I did not know if I was at Lake Wobegon or the assembly of the saints. Everyone stood and sang as storytime ended.

There is writing and preaching on this model regularly in journals and from pulpits among us. The industry of Max Lucado is an example of such "edification" occurring. His efforts are not isolated, and are rather common among those who do not love the truth (2 Thess. 2:10). This new style of preaching is called the "narrative inductive" form.

This highly questionable standard is made suspect for a few reasons. First, because it is an attempt to shift from what is the meaning of the text to what is meaningful from the text. These two are as opposite as the objective and the subjective. What is the meaning of the text is absolute and invariable. What is meaningful from the text fluctuates with as many people as are in the room. When asked, "What do you find meaningful from Luke 15?" One might say, "The folly of youth;" or another, "The value of worldly experience;" still another, "Parents should acquiesce to every request by their child." Those would all be acceptable answers to those of this theory. In reality, the meaning of the text is the worth of the human soul attributed to it by God, and how we should be joyous and not resentful at one's restoration.

Second, this model is faulty because it carries with it a poor view of the Scriptures. If Jesus wanted us to know the name of the father in Luke 15, He would have told us. If there was something we needed to know about the rich young ruler after he met Jesus, it would be in the Scriptures. If what Jesus wrote in the sand was part of the faith, it would have been listed in the words of faith. The fact is that these details are omitted. Not all the events in Jesus life are recorded, but only those sufficient to developing belief (John 20:30-31; 21:24-25). The same is true of the amount of details in the documented accounts. Not every detail is listed, but only those God considered relevant. For man to add to these details the fanciful product of his imagination intimates God was foolish in not providing such material. This is the sin of adding to the Scriptures (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19).

Third, it demonstrates a shift from rational thinking toward intuitive thinking. There can be heard today a strong cry about being too rational with the Scriptures. I guess the answer lies in being irrational' with the Scriptures. There are not degrees of rationality. Something is logical, or it is not. An argument is sound, or it is not. The way people can identify rationality and still have some response with the Scripture is to shift to intuition. Intuition deals with feelings. Often men try to feel within themselves for what is right. Not far down the street are those who try to feel from the Scriptures what might seem to be right. This is a dangerous pose (Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12). These efforts are designed to take us away from a proper response of what the Bible authorizes to attempting to come to an extra-biblical conclusion.

Fourth, this method cannot handle non-narrative books. Some push to preach Jesus when all they want is to abolish doctrine. They say, "Just read the red letters of your Bible," not knowing that Jesus, as the master teacher, taught keeping the words of God (Man. 7:21-29).

If one wants to hear only preaching about Jesus, then why can I not preach from the epistles that highlight and emphasize Christ, such as Colossians or Hebrews? There is much preaching about Jesus in the book of Acts. These digressives would not be satisfied with this either. If you preached from Colossians, you might speak against the instrument (Col. 3:16-17). If you go to Hebrews, you are bound to drift into "patternistic theology" (Heb. 8:5). And if you go to Acts, you are sure to preach about the church (Acts 8:12). The narrative inductive form denies the didactic nature of the Scriptures. To tell these folks their structure does not accommodate non-narrative literature, their response would be, So what?

Fifth, there would not be the new sermoneutics without the new hermeneutics. This denominational swill is a disgusting, blasphemous attempt to dent the authority of the Bible. The world has come into the church, and it is those who rest on this foundation that insist upon lying deceits (Isa. 30:10). What is the structure of this world's culture? It is a world of sensualism, moral relativism, subjectivism, universalism and spiritual mysticism. These are the forces that drive the hand that shapes our sin-filled world. From this mold comes the devilish cry for a new hermeneutic. You cannot change your understanding of the Bible without altering your telling of the Bible.

Our view of preaching should be that of preaching God's absolute truth (Jonah 3:2; 2 Tim 4:2). It should be plain and clear (Hab. 2:2; 2 Cor. 3:12; Neh. 8:7-8). We need men who stand in the pulpits of the church and give us the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20,27), and not some moralistic allegory. Not only this, but we need preachers who cry against those who pervert the pristine gospel with their trifling novelties.

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Published May 1996