Preaching as Poetry in an Age of Math

Team Members/Contributors

Paul S. Wilson Emmanuel College, University of Toronto Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Preaching is vital to the church, yet it seems less than compelling for postmodern generations. Traditional doctrines have less appeal than they once did. Christian faith is grounded in history yet is arguably more poetry than math: it is invitational, fluid, open, dramatic, and transformative. Drawing on developments in aesthetic theology, hermeneutics, and discourse theory, this project maps fresh approaches to the place, purpose, and outcomes of preaching. The goal here is not to produce new doctrines that imply cognitive certainty, nor is it to throw out the wisdom of the old. Rather, it is to disrupt unexamined assumptions and to point to new and faithful values, outcomes, and fluid practices for proclaiming the gospel. The sermon needs to be reconceived in diverse ways beyond 'one size fits all'.

This project develops a theology of preaching using three classical values (as opposed to doctrines) that arguably have appeal in society at large: beauty, goodness (justice), and truth. Key chapters will present understandings of each of these ideas in Aristotle, scripture, theology, and contemporary scholarship. They will also develop practices preachers might use beyond current models, and a final chapter will consider civil discourse as a form of preaching evangelism.