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Mark Driscoll and Narrative Preaching

May 2, 2007

The 9marks Newsletter just recently came out with some great articles in it. Mark Driscoll’s A Narrative Approach: Will it Preach? was a great article on the pros and cons of narrative preaching. Here are some excerpts of those pros and cons:

Cons:

The trend today is away from propositional truth: “We don’t need propositional truth. We need narrative truth and embodied truth.” Actually, if we’re going to be multi-perspectival, we need all of it. Propositional truth tells me who God is, who I am, why I’m here, how I’ve fallen short, who Jesus is, and what he has done. I can’t have a good Christology with a finger painting.

Third, one of the essences of postmodernism is that there is no overarching story that rules over all times, cultures, histories, and people. Everything is contingent on culture and perspective. So in narrative preaching the Bible can become just another series of stories. It’s somewhere in between Aesop’s fables and Joseph Campbell’s myths. But Christians don’t believe that. We believe the Bible is the metanarrative. It is the overarching story under which all of history is to be understood and interpreted. We reject reducing the Bible to yet another good story. It’s the story of who God is, what God has done, what we have done, and what God has done to save us. The rejection of any authoritative narrative we reject.

Pros:

Narrative preaching can also mean that the sermon is not so predictable. The hearer is not given the thesis up front followed by its defense. Rather the listener is taken on a journey through the story of the text through conflict, tension, and eventual resolution. This is often more gripping and memorable. It its best sense, narrative preaching means that it’s following the tradition of good Reformed biblical theology. I know that biblical theology, like narrative preaching, comes out of more liberal quarters that I would not want to endorse in any way. But there is a stream of biblical theology that is high on inerrancy and is strongly Reformed. Good examples of this would include Geerhardus Vos, Graeme Goldsworthy, Edmund Clowney, and Bryan Chapell. A preacher wants to inform his people of how the Bible is put together and to do it in a way that is Christ-centered.

Let me submit this to you, preacher: your sermons are supposed to be about Jesus. When you preach about victory, do you preach about Jesus’ victory or the congregation’s? One of our Acts 29 church planters recently visited a very large church and sat through the sermon. He wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. But in a 25-minute sermon, the preacher never once said the name of Jesus, and never once gave anything that was close to the gospel. And at the end, the preacher said, “If you would like to go to heaven and have a better life, come forward now.” He didn’t tell them about sin, Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection. He just asked them to come forward and then told them that they are all Christians. That is not biblical preaching.

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