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Preachers and Preaching, Chapter 1a

Lloyd-Jones begins by noting the various strands of history, both inside and outside the church, which gave rise to a decline in the perception of the value of preaching. First he notes “Baldwinism”. He takes the name from an English politician who could not speak well. This politician made deficiency a virtue and aligned his “plain spoken” manner with “truth”. Thus, the eloquent were false and deceitful. Moreover Baldwinims equated speaking ability with an inability to act, and thus a good speaker was a man without action.

Looking within the church, Lloyd-Jones noted the decline of holding the Scripture as true. Where the Scripture cannot be true — without question and beyond dispute true – then preaching can hold no true force. Without the truth of the Scripture, the preacher must resort to some other source of truth to proclaim – a modest moralism, an encouragement, an pep talk or – as is the go at this time, — politics.

One must add, that if Lloyd-Jones’ concern was true in 1969, it has only become more so now. Nothing may be held as true except perhaps the rightness of one’s political convictions (to the extent all opponents can be brow-beaten into silence) or even more, the goodness of one’s sexual desire.

In addition to a truthless Scripture, there was the ongoing problem of the show in the pulpit. Such “pulpiteers” were full of style and devoid of substance. By appeal to pathos they avoided logos and ethos.  Everything was a matter of style. James Joyce in Ulysses shows the genius and the poverty of this point: The novel demonstrates the most extraordinary range of style without the most pedestrian of stories. While Joyce does something above that contained his work (displaying the utter herolessness of the world), he demonstrates were such thing goes. The pulpit becomes junk food – it looked like it might be of us, and in the end, it contained nothing.

Next Lloyd-Jones notes those who made sermons essays, fit to be read but not heard. Understanding the difference in rhetorical demands between writing and speaking marks the education of many – even those working their way through college. As for their professors, the bulk of academic prose is barely fit to be called English, much less readable.

In short, Lloyd-Jones lays out troubles in the culture which then made preaching sound and seem obsolete. If anything, the assault upon preaching is worse now than then. The loss of truth, the poison of no eloquence coupled to style without substance, the inability to understand the nature of sermon have only become more engrained. Certainly the attacks have different elements and come from different venues, but in the end, the foolishness of preaching has not abated.

Here is some helpful corrective by Steve Lawson: