I started reading Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy yesterday. Goldsworthy is one of the more quotable authors I’ve read, as of late. Here is one from chapter six of Gospel and Kingdom:
“The creatorship of God tells us that all reality is God’s reality; all truth is God’s truth. Nothing exists except by the will and word of God. One could write whole books on the implication of creation for a Christian approach to education, politics, economics, family life, moral values, or scientific research. if we believe in God as Creator, we may not divide the world into spiritual and secular The fact that all reality depends upon the creative word of God means that the word of God must judge the ideas of men about truth and error, not the other way round” (58-59, italics original).
I find it very strange that the pro-choice side of the abortion debate is often portrayed as advocating for social justice. I find it strange because it is the pro-choice side that would have it remain legal to destroy over 1 million pre-born human beings every year. If this is not unjust, I can’t imagine what is. It light of this, I take abortion to be the single greatest issue of social justice in the world today. No other cause involves speaking up for so many who are absolutely unable to speak up for themselves. No other cause involves defending those who are undeniably defenseless. The pre-born are not merely marginalized or oppressed. They are the object of mass slaughter, a new holocaust. Those who would have this holocaust remain legal are not fighting for rights or justice; they fight to destroy the voiceless and defenseless.
During Holy Week we are reminded that the grace we freely receive comes to us at the greatest cost on the part of Christ.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem and was publicly hailed as Son of David and Israel’s true king. The ensuing events of Holy Week are the result of the city’s response to that declaration. It remains the case today that one cannot hear the royal message of Palm Sunday and remain undecided with regard to King Christ.
Interest in narrative preaching has been on the rise as of late, and some leaders of emerging expressions of Christianity challenge the faithfulness of preaching propositionally from narratival texts. They argue that faithfulness to a narrative in preaching means drawing that genre into the sermon. This post aims to evaluate the strength of such a claim by looking at the question: Is propositional preaching faithful to narratival texts?
In seeking an answer to this question, we must ask how the authors of the biblical narratives (e.g., the cannonical gospels, Acts) intended them to be understood. Did the biblical authors intend their narratives to be bare narratives or did they also intended the narrative to carrry theological meaning and significance about God and his self-revelation in Christ and the Spirit? The obvious answer is that the biblical authors intended their narratives to bear meaning. The historical accounts of the life of Christ do not come to us without authorial interpretation of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The historical accounts bear theological significance, and the narratives are intended to lead the reader or hearer to draw conclusions about the events narrated. Certainly the conclusions can be stated in propositional form. Thus, the narratives imply propositional truth. Sometimes the narrators make the propositions explicit; other times they are implicit. For example, Matthew repeatedly explains events in the life of Christ in terms of Old Testament prophecy. The propositional implication that Matthew intends his story to make is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah king foretold by the prophets in former times.
The task of the preacher is to aid the church in understanding the significance of the narrative and to guide the church in living in accordance with the text. The most unambiguous way to do this is to elucidate the theological and propositional truths that flow out from the stories. The stories bear meaning. The question for us this: what do they mean? This question is legitimately answered in propositional form.
In light of these considerations, we need not think we are being unfaithful to the text or the genre of the biblical narratives by preaching propositional sermons from them. The narratives carry implicit (and sometimes explicit) propositions because history carries meaning. This is not to say that there is not a time or place for narratival preaching. The narratival genre can certainly be used faithfully in biblical preaching. It is to say that one can be both faithful to the narrative and preach the narrative propositionally at the same time.
Here are a couple more quotes on abortion from Di Mauro’s A Love for Life. These are from some well-known church reformers.
From his commentary on Genesis 25, this is Luther:
“He [God] is not hostile to children, as we are. But God emphsizes his word to such an extent that He sometimes gives offspring even to those who do not desire it, yes even hate it…How great, therefore, the wickedness of human nature is! How many girls there are who prevent conception and kill and expel tender fetuses, although procreation is the work of God” (italics Di Mauro’s, 25).
And Calvin, from his Commentaries on the Last Four Books of Moses:
[T]he foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being (homo), and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus in the womb before it has come to light…” (quoted in Di Mauro, 26).
I’m presently reading Dennis Di Mauro’s A Love for Life: Christianity’s Consistent Protection of the Unborn (Wipf and Stock, 2008), in which he argues that historic Christianity has always opposed abortion, and that pro-choice Christians have departed from the biblical and historic teaching of the church. In chapter 3, he makes the case from the early church fathers. Following are a few noteworthy quotes.
This is Clement, from The Tutor:
“Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, in order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the matter completely dead, abort at the same time their human feelings” (quoted in Di Mauro, 11-12).
Here is Tertullian, from his Apology:
“But for us [Christians], to whom homicide has been once for all fobidden, it is not permitted to break up even what has been conceived in the womb, while the blood is still being drwan from the mother’s body to make a new creature. Prevention of birth is premature murder; and it makes no difference whether it is a life already born that one snatches away or a life that is coming to birth that one destroys. The future man is a man already: the whole fruit is present in the seed” (quoted in Di Mauro, 13).
And Chrysostom, from his Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans:
“Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? where there are many efforts at abortion? where there is murder before the birth? for even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makes her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?” (quoted in Di Mauro, 16).