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Hearing Is Believing

Sound Advice

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Throughout the book of Acts, the advance of Christ's kingdom is announced with the words, "And the word of God spread."

Preaching is too intellectual. It aims at the mind but doesn't really transform the whole person. Besides, we live in a culture that disdains authorities who tell us what to believe and what to do. It gives the pretense of someone having all the answers. What we need are more conversations. The truth emerges in dialogue, not from a monologue. Besides conversations, we need more practices in community gatherings that envelop all of the senses. Preaching is too static. We need more visual movement and imagery, dance and drama, video clips, and the like. More sounds besides words. Even smells, like incense.


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1 [ Back ] B. A. Gerrish, Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1993), 84-85.
2 [ Back ] Gerrish, 85. His references to Calvin are from the Institutes 4.14.4.
3 [ Back ] Gerrish, 84. His references to Calvin are from the Institutes 3.5.5.
4 [ Back ] Gerrish, 84. His references to Calvin are from the Institutes 3.5.5.
5 [ Back ] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church," in Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 1, ed. Joachim von Soosten; English edition ed. Clifford J. Green; trans. Reinhard Krauss and Nancy Lukens (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), 158. Emphasis added.
6 [ Back ] Bonhoeffer, 230.
7 [ Back ] See Willem Balke, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals, trans. William J. Heynen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981).
8 [ Back ] John H. Leith, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Proclamation of the Word," in John Calvin and the Church: A Prism of Reform, ed. Timothy George (Louisville: Westminster, 1990), 212.
9 [ Back ] Leith, 211.
10 [ Back ] Leith, 210-11.
11 [ Back ] Hans Blumenberg, "Light as a Metaphor for Truth," in Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, ed. David Michael Levin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 48.
12 [ Back ] Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 28.
13 [ Back ] Stephen H. Webb, The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the Theology of Sound (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), esp. chs. 4 and 5. This is a superb treatment of the principal issues addressed in this article. See also Theo Hobson, The Rhetorical Word: Protestant Theology and the Rhetoric of Authority (Hampshire, England: Ashgate, 2002).
14 [ Back ] Webb, 159
15 [ Back ] Webb, 106.
16 [ Back ] Bayer, 47.
17 [ Back ] See, for example, Martin Luther, Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1968) 35:117-24, 254, 359-60.
18 [ Back ] Bayer, 45.
19 [ Back ] Bayer, 48.
20 [ Back ] Webb, 131.
21 [ Back ] Second Helvetic Confession, chapter 1.4, "The Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God," in Creeds and Confessions of Faith in Christian Tradition, vol. 2, part 4: Creeds and Confessions of the Reformation Era, eds. Jaroslav Pelikan and Valerie Hotchkiss (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 460.


Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity, People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, The Christian Faith, and For Calvinism.

Issue: "Recovering Scripture" Jan./Feb. 2010 Vol. 19 No. 1 Page number(s): 27-30, 35

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