Saturday, April 9, 2011

Seven Cardinal Requisites of Preaching

Robert L Dabney's "Seven Cardinal Requisites of Preaching." This is taken from T. David Gordon's book, Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers.

1. Textual Fidelity
Here Dabney's Protestantism is visible. For Dabney, a minister is an ambassador, who represents another, declaring the will of that Other. Therefore, he is not entitled to preach his own insights, his own opinions, or even his own settled convictions; he is entitled only to declare the mind of God revealed in Holy Scripture. Since the mind of God is disclosed in Scripture, the sermon must be entirely faithful to the text - a genuine exposition of the particular thought of the particular text.

2. Unity
"Unity requires these two things. The speaker must, first, have one main subject of discourse, to which he adheres with supreme reference throughout. But this is not enough. He must, second, propose to himself one definite impression on the hearer's soul, to the making of which everything in the sermon is bent."

3. Evangelical Tone
"It is defined by Vinet as 'the general savour of Christianity, a gravity accompanied by tenderness, a severity tempered with sweetness, a majesty associated with intimacy.' Blair calls it 'gravity and warmth united'... an ardent zeal for God's glory and a tender compassion for those who are perishing."

4. Instructiveness
The instructive sermon is that which abounds in food for the understanding. It is full of thought, and richly informs the mind of the hearer. It is opposed, of course, to vapid and commonplace compositions; but it is opposed also to those which seek to reach the will through rhetorical ornament and passionate sentiment, without establishing rational conviction... Religion is an intelligent concern, and deals with man as a reasoning creature. Sanctification is by the truth. To move men we must instruct. No Christian can be stable and consistent save as he is intelligent... If you would not wear out after you have ceased to be a novelty, give the minds of your people food.

5. Movement
Movement is not a blow or shock, communicating only a single or instantaneous impulse, but a sustained progress. It is, in short, that force thrown from the soul of the orator into his discourse by which the soul of the hearer is urged, with a constant and accelerated progress, toward that practical impression which is designed for the result... The language of the orator must possess, in all its flow, a nervous brevity and a certain well-ordered haste, like that of the racer pressing to his goal.

6. Point
Dabney uses the word point to describe the overall intellectual and emotional impact of a sermon. Point is thus a result of unity, movement, and order, which put a convincing, compelling weight on the soul of the hearer. The hearer feels a certain point impressing itself on him, and feels that he must either agree or disagree, assent or deny.

7. Order
We would probably call this organization, but the idea is the same. A discourse (sacred or otherwise) cannot have unity, movement, or point without having order. Order is simply the proper arrangement of the parts, so that what is earlier prepares for what is later. A well-ordered sermon reveals a sermon's unity, makes the sermon memorable, and gives the sermon great point.

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