Is theology important for preaching? If you read many preaching books, you may be tempted to answer “no,” since most focus on methodology. They tend to provide clear instructions for studying a text and preparing a sermon, but few address the theology of preaching. Those that do address theological issues related to preaching only do so incidentally. Given these facts, one might reasonably conclude theology is not important for preaching. Yet this would be a mistake. As Chase Kuhn and Paul Grimmond argue in their new book, Theology Is for Preaching, “preaching and theology are mutually informed” (xx). Theology undergirds the task of preaching, and preaching communicates sound doctrine (theology). Preaching is unavoidably theological!
Kuhn and Grimmond have assembled a team of respected scholars to address various theological issues and their relationship to preaching. Preachers who desire to gain a better appreciation for the theological nature of preaching will benefit from reading their work for three reasons: (1) the book covers a broad range of theological issues as they relate to preaching, (2) the authors demonstrate the connection between the theology of preaching and the practice of preaching, and (3) the book provides models of theological preaching for those who aspire to deliver theologically sound sermons.
Deep and Wide
Theology Is for Preaching is an edited volume, which means various scholars contributed to the work. As you would suspect, some chapters are better written than others, and some chapters are more relevant than others. I will leave it to you to decide which is which! Nevertheless, most chapters are solid and well-written, and most of them address theology and preaching in some shape, form, or fashion. The use of a wide range of scholars allows the book to cover a wide range of topics, which is one of the primary strengths of the book.
Theology Is for Preaching includes chapters on the theological nature of preaching (see Mark Thompson’s chapter “The Declarative God: A Theological Description of Preaching”), a biblical-theological description of preaching (see Claire Smith’s “‘Preaching’: Toward Lexical Clarity for Better Practice”), the Christological nature of preaching (see Daniel Wu’s “Old Testament Challenges: Christocentric or Christotelic Sermons?”), and the theological content of preaching (see Simon Gillham’s “Theological Formation through the Preached Word: a Biblical-Theological Account”). The broad focus allows the reader to familiarize himself with various theological aspects of preaching by reading a single volume, which is helpful for beginning preachers or those who have not devoted time to reflecting on the theological nature of preaching. The downside, however, is that contributors are not always able to go as deep as they might have gone if they were writing a complete volume on the subject. This does not take away from the usefulness of the book, but it is a reminder of the limits of edited works and the introductory nature of the present volume.
Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy
From the outset, Kuhn and Grimmond emphasized the “practical” nature of theology. Theology is practical because it shapes the method of preaching. Our theological convictions about God, revelation, and Scripture (among other things) should lead us to preach expositionally. Our theological convictions about Christ and salvation should lead us to preach Christocentrically. Our theological convictions about the power of the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit should lead us to preach confidently. The bottom line: our approach to preaching should be shaped by our theology.
Theology is also practical because it shapes the content of preaching. Our sermons should contain sound doctrine that lead to godly living. In their preface, Kuhn and Grimmond argued, “The intention of preaching is a clearer and more faithful theology” (xx). This theology “is not merely cerebral or esoteric, but also ethical” (xx). In short, “faithful living requires sound doctrine” (xx). Preachers should strive to deliver sermons containing sound doctrine and practical instruction based on that doctrine, sermons aimed at producing orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
Watch and Learn
Theology Is for Preaching does not contain instruction alone. The book also includes two sermons meant to model theological preaching. The first sermon, entitled “Listening Before Speaking” and delivered by Simon Manchester, expounds Jeremiah 23:16-32. The main point of the exposition was preachers should “hear” God’s Word clearly and personally before attempting to communicate it, or speak it, to others. The second sermon, entitled “Meeting Jesus” and delivered by Phillip Jensen, expounds Luke 5:1-11. The message was evangelistic, as the main point of the exposition was the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation. These “model” sermons are helpful for readers. They provide tangible examples of what the various contributors have been saying about theological preaching. Plus, each preacher included an “evaluation” of the sermon and how it contributes to a study of the theological foundations of preaching. Preachers should be inspired to preach theological sermons by the content of the book and the examples of the expositors included in the book.
Kuhn and Grimmond have done preachers a great service by producing a book exclusively devoted to the theology of preaching. Those who read their work will walk away from it with a greater appreciation for the theological foundations of preaching, the biblical-theological framework of preaching, and the theological content of preaching. They will also be encouraged and equipped to preach theologically sound messages. Preachers, take up and read!