On searching for the perfect preacher

preacher parking‘Farel excelled in a certain sublimity of mind, so that nobody could either hear his thunders without trembling, or listen to his most fervent prayers without feeling almost as it were carried up into heaven. Viret possessed such winning eloquence, that his entranced audience hung upon his lips. Calvin never spoke without filling the mind of the hearer with the most weighty sentiments. I have often thought that a preacher compounded of the three would have been absolutely perfect’. (‘The Life of John Calvin’, in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Volume 1 (trans. H. Beveridge; Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1844), xxxix).

However, it was none of these things that impressed Uncle Karl who, when he came to recall Calvin’s preaching, wrote:

‘How this man is grasped and stilled and claimed – not too quickly must one suppose by his experience of conversion, or by the thought of predestination, or by Christ, or even, as is commonly said, by passion for God’s glory – no, but in the first instance simply by the authority of the biblical books, which year by year he never tired of expounding systematically down to the very last verse!’ (Karl Barth, The Göttingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion (trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; vol. 1; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991), 54).

One thought on “On searching for the perfect preacher

  1. Is attention to detail (‘to the very last verse’) a good sign of proper respect for authority? I know Karl doesn’t say its the only one… but I guess it reminds me of a certain kind of exegesis which whose strengths and weaknesses depend on what it is compared with.

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