Joshua Clutterham’s article in this edition of the Journal of Biblical Soul Care develops a point which is crucial to any effective pastoral work (and by that, I limit pastoral work to work which takes Scripture seriously). The Bible is not merely a book of facts and propositions (although it does contain such). The words are there not merely be read and recognized. The information does not exist merely so we can pass some hypothetical Bible knowledge trivia test. The words of the Bible are given to do something to us; to change us.
The Bible must not be merely thought of as a basis for systematic theology. Even preaching must not terminate in what the Scripture means as a proposition, but what that proposition does. The Bible is given to not merely inform, but also to change people. This changing people is a matter of practical theology.
This matter of application is admitted by most preachers (indeed, many very bad sermons are merely a string of applications: Cheer – up! You’ll do great if you try!). There is another group who deliver an enormous volume of information, but with no point. Great, I can answer questions about the economy of Egypt, but I’m not sure why that matters.
The point of Bible’s information is to transform human beings in conduct, knowledge and affection: to make people different than they were before they read.
This matter of using the Bible to change people is also the purpose of counseling. And thus we should merely think of counseling as private exegetical practical theology. Preaching largely differs in the number of persons present.
What Joshua further proposes is that we take care to notice the rhetorical structure of the Scripture’s application: When we apply the text, we should note how the text functions and rely upon that rhetorical structure to help deliver the application. As Joshua writes, “We [must] consider the method of delivery of Scripture along with its meaning.”
The article itself is quite detailed. He develops and explains the rhetorical structure of the Scripture’s application — giving many examples and helps. The article contains a number of proposals for future development, and explains the relationship between preaching and counseling. This brief bit merely provides the slightest introduction to his work.
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