Review of Paul’s Theology of Preaching

Paul’s Theology of Preaching by Duane Litfin is one of the most important works on the subject of preaching I have read in some time. This book in its current form really serves as the summation of much of Litfin’s life work on the issue of Paul’s self-understanding of the task of preaching.

Litfin warns the reader early on that there will be a temptation to skip the first section of the book, which addresses the background understanding of rhetoric which was enthroned in the Greco-Roman world, and proceed straight to parts two and three. This work indeed stands as a whole, and one cannot fully appreciate the thought of Paul and the allure of rhetoric if one bypasses the first section. This work in many way serves as an indictment of what passes as preaching in many evangelical circles.

This work demolishes the idea that Paul merely feigned a rejection of rhetoric, Paul was utterly convinced that any results he could manufacture through rhetoric would not be genuine. Building on the analysis of Paul’s understanding of preaching found in 1 Corinthians 1-4 which is found in the second section, Litfin draws out the implications for the church today in the third section. Litfin says concerning Paul’s paradigm, “This contrast represents a fundamental shift from a results-driven to an obedience-driven approach to ministry. For those who take Paul’s argument seriously, this insight requires a profound reorientation of one’s focus, not only in one’s approach to preaching, but in one’s approach to Christian ministry in general (321).”

This book will challenge much of what is being promoted in regards to models of preaching and ministry in evangelical circles. This book will lead the reader to Paul’s conclusion that we are utterly dependent upon the strength and power of God in proclaiming the unadorned message of the cross, and that any effort on our part to make it more palatable or attractive is in essence a denial of the message itself

Disclosure: I received this book free from InterVarsity Press for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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