Good advice or Good News?

In his essay, ‘Beware Tuneless Preaching‘ , Michael J. Quicke writes: ‘Inevitably, if there is no conviction that God enables worship to happen through participation in relationships between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, preachers are likely to opt out of trinitarian language and exhort hearers “to do their thing.” In some contemporary churches preaching does seem to offer moralizing sermons that concentrate on individual needs – giving good advice instead of Good News. “Evangelical preaching is so obsessed with the need to apply everything that we are shifting into just another moral religion”’.

[The final sentence is a citation from Kevin Navarro, The Complete Worship Service – Creating a Taste of Heaven on Earth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 144.]

It all reminds me of two words that Forsyth offered concerning pragmatism. The first, from The Soul of Prayer, is that at the end of the day that which is truly the most practical is that which contributes to the end for which creation and humanity were made. (p. 33) The second thought, from The Principle of Authority is where Forsyth speaks of ‘the appetite for success, for numbers, for effect, grows as it feeds upon the democratic philosophy of Pragmatism, with its note of American business and efficient bustle. A harder time than ever would seem to be awaiting the conscientious preacher in a popular body as the Pragmatist definition of truth comes to prevail, that it is what “works.” Our truth does work, no doubt, but in very large orbits; and not always in time, within one life, to let us make up our minds about its results with that certainty which alone enables it to “work.” The vice of Pragmatism, so understood, is that, where absolute truth, or any faith, is concerned, we must begin with a belief in the absoluteness of it before we can set it to work with its native might. We must begin working with that conviction of its absoluteness which its working is supposed to provide. We must begin producing with the product in our hands. We cannot make an absolute truth work in which we do not yet believe. The world can only be converted by a Church which believes that in Christ the world has already been won’. (pp. 341-2)

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