T.F. Torrance on Evangelistic Preaching
Thomas F. Torrance, When Christ Comes and Comes Again (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957): 8-9.
There are aspects of modern preaching which give rise to great anxiety, the temptation of the popular preacher to build the faith of the congregation on his own personality, to parade his knowledge of modern literature, to feed his people with constant diagnosis of the various maladies of our time instead of with the substance of the Gospel, to allow an existentialist decision to oust from their central place in the Gospel the mighty acts of God in Christ, and so to give the people anthropology instead of Christology, or to preach the Church instead of Christ in His Church and so to give the congregation the traditions of men instead of Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection, Ascension, and Advent. A sheep lost in a snowstorm may eke out its life a little longer by feeding upon its own wool, but the Church cannot live very long by feeding upon its own experience or conventions instead of the Body and Blood of Christ…Too often the Word of God is bound in the fetters and techniques of an “evangelical tradition” which is man-made and does not derive from the Gospel itself, and can only succeed in making important elements of the Word of none effect.Those of you who read this blog regularly, or had the good fortune to encounter the friendly disagreement between Ben Myers and myself over whether and to what extent T.F. Torrance can be considered a Barthian, know that I enjoy reading Torrance and think that his theology is a far sight better than some. Passages like this are part of the reason why. Here TF reveals himself to be a staunch advocate of preaching the gospel and a supporter of the church’s evangelistic mission, but also to be a critic of much that passes for this. His criticisms – as well as his positive counter-proposal – still apply.