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The place of preaching.
Gerhard Forde on the room theology makes for proclamation.
I just started reading Gerhard Forde’s Theology Is for Proclamation, and it’s already proving to be a goldmine for homiletical insight. His basic premise is that “the proclamation,” which is the way Forde terms the present-tense announcement of Christ for you, is the natural and only end of systematic theology. As he explains in the excerpt below, when “systematic theology looks on itself,” it becomes something that it’s not. Forde writes:
If and when systematic theology looks on itself as the conclusion of the argument — the means by which ultimate persuasion is to take place so that there is no room or place for proclamation — it has overstepped its bounds and falsified itself. That is, the systematic reflection should not only leave room for the proclamation but must make the move inescapable. The argument must leave one in a position where proclamation is the only move left. If systematic theology does not leave such room and make such a move inescapable, it falsifies itself by denying its purpose. It then usurps the place of proclamation and retreats behind the ivied walls of academia, never to be heard from again except, perhaps, at professional societies where one has long since forgotten its purpose. Thus proclamation and systematic theology must be intimately correlated: Without systematic theology there will be no proclamation; but without proper understanding of proclamation, systematic theology will overstep its bounds and falsify itself. (5)
What Forde articulates, here, is that preaching necessarily be theological, systematically so, it would seem — but by the same token, preaching ought not ever end on theology. To do so would be to leave the congregants with nothing but an abstraction. Just as God the Father is made known to us through the Son (John 1:18), so, too, is goodness, glory, and grace of God proffered in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The aim of theology, then, is to serve as the substructure upon which proclamation is given. The offering of Christ for you, for sinners, for the wrecked and ruined and weary is the endgame to which good systematic theology will lead us. I’m looking forward to diving further into this one.
Grace and peace.
Gerhard Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990).