The Voice of the Good Shepherd: God’s Method: Proclamation, Chapter 6[1]

Gregory Edward Reynolds

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.

—1 Thessalonians 2:3–4

In the world of advertising there’s no such thing as a lie. There’s only expedient exaggeration.

—Roger Thornhill[2]

The bias of each medium of communication is far more distorting than the deliberate lie.

—Marshall McLuhan[3]

In my effort to defend the superiority of preaching as the most essential medium for communicating the gospel, in my 2001 book The Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures,[4] I insisted that preaching as a medium of communication is not foolish; rather, it is the message of the gospel that is foolish to the unbeliever. I knew that in Paul’s world public oratory was held in high regard. But in my effort to set forth the four excellences of preaching as God’s chosen medium[5] I missed a very important dimension of Paul’s concerns in 1 Corinthians 1–4.

Persuasion or Proclamation?

It was David Wells’s two-part article titled “The Theology of Preaching: The Biblical Word in the Contemporary World”[6] that helped me rethink my understanding of Paul’s concerns in 1 Corinthians 1–4. I was brought face to face with the idea that the means of presenting the foolish message was also foolish in the eyes of the world according to the Apostle Paul. Wells’s insight into the nature of Paul’s conception of preaching is based in part on the exegetical and historical work of Duane Litfin, who has done extensive research on the nature of first-century Greco-Roman rhetoric and the homiletics of Paul.[7]

The preaching of the gospel is a unique kind of public rhetoric formed by the message of the gospel. The word that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 1:21 to describe his preaching, κηρύγματος (kērygmatos), refers to both the content and the form of the communication—to both the message and the nature of the preaching itself as an act of public communication. For Paul, the danger faced by the Corinthian congregation was not simply in elevating rhetoric to too high a position but in being impressed by a type of rhetoric which Paul rejected as unsuitable to preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. But why the confusion over this word “preaching”?

The KJV, following the Geneva Bible (1599) verbatim,[8] appears to equate “foolishness” with the act of preaching, whereas it is actually ambiguous and leaves the interpretation to the reader: “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” But that, unfortunately, is not the focus of most commentators.

As far back as Calvin, the “foolishness” in this verse is attributed to the message of the gospel, not the form of its presentation.[9] There are exceptions. A century after Calvin, commentator Matthew Poole (1624–1679) seems to affirm the ambiguity of the KJV translation,

It pleased God to institute the great ordinance of preaching the gospel, (which they count foolishness) as the sacred means by which he would bring all those that give credit to the revelation of it, and receive Christ held forth in it, to eternal life and salvation.[10]

But nineteenth-century commentator Charles Hodge (1797–1878) asserted, “The ‘foolishness of preaching’ means the preaching of foolishness, that is, the cross.”[11] In the twentieth-century, Leon Morris (1914–2006) commented, “The word rendered preaching, kērugmatos, does not mean, as the English might suggest, the act of preaching. It directs attention rather to the content of the message.”[12] After citing an impressive consensus among twentieth-century New Testament scholars, he concludes by citing William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther in their commentary on 1 Corinthians as they assess the King James translation of “preaching” in 1 Corinthians 1:21 to be “superseded in almost all modern versions to indicate the content of the message.”[13]

Thus, the modern trend in translation has been to clarify the ambiguity of the KJV by making the interpretive decision that the message is where the folly lies:

“God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” (NIV)

“it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (NKJV)

“it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (ESV)

Wells’s article illuminates the distinction between the rhetoric of proclamation and persuasion in Paul’s thought and practice and hence in the Greco-Roman world in which he ministered. This is not to say that the church has never recognized this distinction, but simply that exegetically the distinction Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 1:17–2:16 has not been as sharply focused as it needs to be in the present climate of thought. So, I have concluded that the ambiguity of the KJV translation, intended or not, best captures the range of the meaning of Paul’s phrase “the folly of preaching” (μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος mōrias tou kērugmatos).

The importance of appreciating the proper semantic range of the κηρύξ word group should not be underestimated. Gordon Fee asserts that 1 Corinthians 1:17–2:16 is “the key theological passage to the whole Corinthian correspondence,” and perhaps “the whole Pauline corpus.”[14] Duane Litfin warns, “It is not too much to say that an entire philosophy of ministry is at stake here. Seeker strategies and church growth theories come into question.”[15]

Paul begins his homiletical polemic in 1 Corinthians 1:17–2:16 referring to the apostolic message with the common word εὐαγγελίζω (1:17 εὐαγγελίζεσθαι eὐangelizesthai to announce good news). This word, in both its verb and noun forms, shares an important element with the other prominent word, in both its verb and noun forms, that Paul uses to describe his preaching—κηρύσσω (1:21 κηρύγματος kērugmatos, 1:23 κηρύσσομεν kērussomen)—it is the public declaration of information that does not originate with the one doing the announcing. The same is true of a less common word used by Paul in 2:1 to describe his preaching, καταγγέλλω (καταγγέλλων katangellōn). Litfin explains,

If we are careful to maintain the balance between the meaning of the verb (“to proclaim as a herald”) and the significance of the ­-ma suffix (“result”), we discover that the “result” of this particular verb is not merely content, but content in a particular form, namely, “proclamation” or “heralding.” This is why a lexicographer such as Gerhard Friedrich in his article on kerygma in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT 1965, p. 714), concludes that the word “has a twofold sense . . . , signifying both the result of proclamation (what is proclaimed) and the actual proclaiming. In other words, it denotes both the act and the content.” [16]

Having discerned the focus of Paul’s concept of the apostolic preaching as a herald, it remains to distinguish this from the persuader, a distinction that has been almost completely ignored by recent New Testament scholars and interpreters.[17] In Greco-Roman rhetoric the message of the orator was designed by him to persuade the audience based on his analysis of the audience. It was an audience-driven profession.[18] It was thus a very important skill for the statesman and the legal advocate, and so considered “the most characteristic feature of civilized life.”[19]

The herald, on the other hand, was “an executive instrument. Being only the mouth of his master . . .”[20] Unlike the orator, who is responsible to persuade the audience, the herald is only responsible to deliver the message of his master faithfully. “Unlike the orator, the herald was not results-driven; he was obedience-driven.”[21] So when Paul came to Corinth, the congregation expected an orator not a herald. They held the art of public persuasion in very high esteem. This led to their contempt when assessing Paul’s preaching: “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account’” (2 Cor. 10:10). Paul is evidently well aware of the nature of their expectations as he consistently uses the language of the herald, and not the orator or persuader, to describe his own preaching.[22] He accounts for the negative evaluation of his preaching by a significant segment of the congregation as a problem with “worldly standards of judgment.”[23] Paul is frank in reporting the nature of the criticisms: “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (2 Cor. 11:6). It is largely the form or manner of Paul’s preaching that is under attack.[24] His lack of eloquence was an embarrassment. Thus, Paul is forced to explain his modus operandi as a preacher.[25]

A prominent place in Paul’s corpus that he appears to use the language of persuasion is 2 Corinthians 5:11, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” This is Paul’s only use of this term to describe his preaching (πείθω, peithō); it “simply refers to the agency of the preachers, not their rhetorical strategies.”[26] It is a term used infrequently in ancient rhetorical texts and describes “non-rhetorical behavior.”

In fact, the entire section (2 Cor. 4–5) is one of the locations in the Corinthian epistles which most strongly echoes the anti-rhetorical concerns of 1 Cor. 1–4. Paul was careful to portray his ministry as that of a herald rather than a persuader, and his single use of the elastic term peitho in 2 Cor. 5:11 constitutes no exception.[27]

In Acts 17:2–4; 28:23–24, we observe that 

Paul’s rhetorical approach drew not on the orator’s repertoire of persuasive strategies designed to engender πίστις, but on authoritative, Scripture-backed witness to the crucified Christ.[28]

Paul understood that his task was to proclaim a God-given message whose power and effectiveness was in the hands of the sovereign giver (Rom. 1:16). His task was to be faithful in proclaiming that message—period (1 Cor. 4:1). But the message of his Lord was full of imperatives to repent and believe, turning from the idols and sins of this world (1 Thess. 1:9). So it is not a question of application or motivation, but rather whose application and motivation. Paul stuck steadfastly to the applications and motivations of his Lord.

Litfin rejects the idea that the rhetoric which Paul opposes is the deceitful and self-aggrandizing sort.[29] Rather, Paul was concerned that the persuasive techniques of good rhetoric, fine for natural purposes of the state and court, would produce merely natural rather than spiritual results in preaching.[30] Paul’s alternative is the proclaimer or witness, rather than “the results-driven dynamic of Greco-Roman persuasion itself.” “The Corinthians were for the most part little people with mere pretensions of culture and status.”[31] “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Cor. 1:26).

“Paul argues that he could not pour the gospel into the mold of Greco-Roman eloquence without thereby emptying the cross of its power (1 Cor. 1:17)” (159). The results of his preaching were dependent not on his persuasive powers but the “power of God” (dunamei theou δυνάμει θεοῦ, 1 Cor. 2:5). The Corinthians had not abandoned the message of the cross, they only failed to grasp its implications for preaching. The centrality of Christ stands in sharp contrast with the Corinthians’ personality and persuasion centered approach. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17). “It is precisely this human dynamic . . . that Paul is here disavowing.”[32] The weight of the orators’ ability was for Paul shifted to the message and its application by the Holy Spirit. The theocentric nature of the gospel has “a persuasive dynamic of its own.”[33] “Paul seemed to conceive of these two persuasive dynamics—that of the rhetor and that of the cross—as mutually exclusive.”[34] Faith is not a human possibility open to the influence of the orator but a divinely given ability dispensed by the Spirit through the hearing of the word of the cross.[35]

Paul’s task was not to create a message to persuade but to deliver a message already given—a decidedly humbler task.[36] The Roman praeco or herald was an oral proclaimer who did not enjoy a high social standing.[37] But the audience was “dethroned from its proud role as judge.”[38] The root of the problem in Corinth was the pride of which Corinthian factionalism and the criticism of Paul’s preaching were merely symptoms.[39] They were mistakenly judging Paul by the world’s public speaking standards. Christ and him crucified is the point of preaching, not the preacher.

Recently R. Larry Overstreet has challenged Litfin’s assertion of the distinction between persuasion and proclamation.[40] Overstreet offers a nice survey of New Testament uses of the peithō (πείθω) word group as well as many other Hebrew and Greek words that describe the ministries of prophets and preachers. However, it seems that he has misunderstood Litfin’s basic point. When, as Overstreet quotes, Litfin states that the preacher “is not called upon to persuade the hearers to respond,”[41] he is not saying there is no need to apply the truth of the proclamation to the lives of the hearers. Litfin insists:

We need not refrain from urging, entreating, exhorting or beseeching our listeners to follow Christ. The essence of the gospel is invitation, and some of the terms used in Scripture—for example παρακαλέω (Acts 2:40) and δέομαι (2 Cor. 5:20)—clearly portray this aspect of the preacher’s ministry. Nothing we have said is meant to deny the validity of straight forward encouragement or exhortation to receive the gospel. After all, invitation in and of itself can scarcely be viewed as a persuasive technique designed to induce, rather than simply be the agent of, yielding.[42]

Litfin is using persuasion in a technical way to describe the ancient audience-driven mode of rhetoric, which he sees appearing in modern form in the preaching of, among other things, the Church Growth movement. He would also see it in Overstreet’s own advocacy of the invitation system. Litfin distinguishes between two types of audience adaptation:

Training in ancient rhetoric was designed to help the speaker mold his efforts to the needs and values of the audience so as to produce the desired response. The Christian preacher, on the other hand, molds his efforts to his audience for a different reason: to ensure that they comprehend the King’s message. The preacher should use all the techniques at his disposal to put the message in terms his audience can understand, to break through the hearer’s defenses so as to confront him or her with the truth.[43]

Litfin attributes persuasion to the Holy Spirit, which is clearly the biblical emphasis.[44] But in Overstreet’s discussion of persuasion in Paul’s epistles he quotes Litfin’s identification of the force of the persuasion verb in 2 Timothy 1:5: “Because Paul was persuaded that Timothy possessed true faith (v.5), . . . he urged the young minister to fan into flame (or perhaps, “keep at full flame”) his God-given ability for ministry.”[45] His footnote indicates that Overstreet thinks this shows Litfin’s inconsistency. Again, however, I think Overstreet misunderstands Litfin’s more precise use of “persuasion.”

Litfin gives a very helpful list of practices he believes Paul’s theology of preaching would have us avoid:

  • Gatherings centered on a charismatic, pseudo-celebrity communicator who revels in the spotlight.
  • Styles of preaching or music that tend to rev up the emotions but short-circuit the listener’s engagement with the gospel.
  • Sentimental story-laden messages that captivate the audience but fail to direct them to Christ.
  • Empty, anthropocentric pulpit therapy that draws the listener in by purporting to deal with life’s issues while lacking the gospel’s biblical and theological substance.
  • Interminable invitations designed to wear down resistance until someone, anyone, responds.
  • Such techniques as asking people to raise their hands to be prayed for and then urging all who raised their hands to come forward.[46]

Proclamation and the Plausibility Structures of the Ancient World

In his concentration on Paul’s homiletical vocabulary in the early chapters of 1 Corinthians, Litfin identifies the main target of Paul’s polemic, concentrating on the Pauline distinction between persuasion and proclamation.

It is our thesis that perceived deficiencies in Paul’s preaching, when measured against Greco-Roman eloquence, precipitated many of Paul’s difficulties in Corinth. These were the deficiencies that prompted a section of the Corinthian congregation to complain about Paul’s preaching and declare independence from him.[47]

Paul recognized that the rhetorical form that so enchanted some in the Corinthian congregation was a poor medium for the gospel, because it catered to the secular assumptions of the first century Greco-Roman world.

The critically useful concept of plausibility structures is used extensively by sociologist Peter Berger in explaining the sociology of knowledge. In A Rumor of Angels[48] he describes the church in the context of modern secularization as a “cognitive minority.”[49] Such a minority experiences “cognitive dissonance,” as it encounters a general culture which does not share its assumptions about reality—its “plausibility structures.” The church either adjusts to the cognitive majority by revising its ideas or it defends itself against the general assumptions of the culture. Plausibility structures are the “social networks and conversational fabrics”[50] which reinforce ideas of what is credible in a given culture and thereby legitimize these assumptions.

A good example of the Apostolic encounter with the plausibility structures in Paul’s day is Porcius Festus, who was largely ignorant of Judaism and emerging Christianity. The account in Acts describes the controversy between the Jews and Paul’s belief in the resurrection of Christ as “certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive” (Acts 25:19). The idea of resurrection appears to be entirely outside of Festus’s universe of discourse, which are part of the plausibility structures of the Greco-Roman world.

Paul’s encounter with the Athenians is one of the more dramatic examples of the cognitive dissonance that results from encountering the prevailing viewpoint. “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked” (Acts 17:32). The concept of resurrection was not part of the plausibility structure of the Athenian thinkers. Wells sums this up nicely, “The wisdom of the cross and the wisdom of the world are, in fact, two competing, mutually exclusive frameworks for understanding reality.”[51] Wells suggests that when Paul says, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4), he is using “god” to refer to “the culture which functions as a substitute for God. . . . In other words, ‘this age’ offers a set of alternative loyalties which in combination are a substitute for the true and saving knowledge of God.”[52]

In Corinth the fabric of assumptions that made up the thinking of their Hellenistic culture still had deeps roots in the thinking of the newly formed congregation. In the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul identifies the plausibility structures of the Greco-Roman world out of which the Corinthian church had been called. He focuses his insight on his preaching because it had been criticized and judged inferior by the Corinthians according to the exacting and high standards of the best of ancient rhetoric. Their expectations of Paul’s preaching revealed a deep seated commitment to the Greco-Roman canons of persuasion.

The Medium of Proclamation Is Suitable to the Message of the Cross

Gospel rhetoric, or the method and medium of preaching, must be suited to the message of the crucified Savior. Because the medium is the message—or is inextricably connected with the message—then the method of proclamation must suit the message of the crucified and risen Lord. This appropriateness is two-fold.

First, Paul’s own rhetorical weakness (“I am unskilled in speaking,” 2 Cor. 11:6) is appropriate to the humiliation required to gain entrance to heavenly glory.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Cor. 2:1–5)

Added to his weakness is the self-conscious choice Paul has made not to use the tools of the persuader,[53] but rather of the herald of another world—a world at sharp odds with the present world and the plausibility structures of this present evil age. It is precisely because Paul does not want them to be impressed by human oratorical ability that he amplifies his own weakness and the form of delivery as that which by its very nature calls attention to the author of the message, rather than the messenger. The form of heralding is well-suited to a message that is intended to humble the pride of sinners to bow before the crucified Lord. “[W]e have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Litfin concludes by contrasting the art of persuasion with Paul as a herald:

These are high demands indeed. They are in fact demands the itinerant Apostle could not meet. Nor did he aspire to. As we shall see, Paul’s goals as a missionary preacher were not those of the Greco-Roman persuader. They were the goals of a simple herald, goals that were dramatically different from those of the polished orators of the Greco-Roman world of the first century.[54]

Second, the task of proclamation as a herald is itself appropriate to the nature of the gospel message. The preacher is an announcer of the message of the one who has conquered sin and death. So here what is humiliating for the messenger, as Paul learned in the face of the mockery of Athenian intellectuals (Acts 17:32), is also suited to the exaltation of Christ. He possesses the royal authority to send messengers throughout the world with a declaration of amnesty for sinners and liberation from slavery to the First Adam—a message incomprehensible to proud sinners.

One thing the gospel herald did not have in common with his secular counterpart was immunity. His proclamation was not protected by the state.[55] The Greco-Roman world was not hospitable to Paul’s medium or his message.

This unique form of public communication, while using common grace elements of classical rhetoric, established a new genre of rhetoric—a gospel rhetoric suited to the new age of the Spirit of the crucified and resurrected Christ, an age anticipated by the prophets of old, in which the medium of the herald perfectly suits the message.

The Power of Proclamation in the Modern World

Today’s gospel herald must neither embrace nor ignore the plausibility structures of modernity. The ESV translates 1 Corinthians 2:4 “plausible (πειθός, “persuasive” NKJV and NIV, “enticing” KJV) words of wisdom.” This is what was driving and shaping the preaching of Paul’s opponents in Corinth. Our culture has its own set of assumptions. For example, people often assume that it is intolerant for a person to believe that his religion is true as opposed to all other religions. Or they assume that moral principles are cultural constructs which are binding only in the culture that constructed them. Resurrection and even non-material life is inconceivable to many.

The plausibility structures of modernity have a new medium of discipleship—electricity and the communication media it animates. Electronic, especially visual, media are more suited to persuasion than proclamation. The royal announcement of kerygmatic preaching is more suited to the proclamation of the gospel, in which the messenger comes as a humble servant of the King, who is now temporarily invisible to mortals. The herald depends for persuasion, not on his oratory, but on the Spirit, who is the agent of this heavenly sovereign. Because we are in the same world in which Paul preached, the persuaders’ tendency to favor form over substance has simply marshaled a host of new tools for their purposes. We now live in a highly mediated culture, as Wells observes,

Style often trumps substance and appearance threatens to substitute for reality. These substitutes dominate modern consciousness, given the electronically mediated nature of much of our reality. So complete is the triumph which television, the internet, and movies have achieved that moderns now often find reality itself rather boring in comparison to its imaginary or virtual substitute.[56]

Wells is especially helpful in articulating the church’s compromise with our culture, especially in its concept and expectations of preaching.[57] The church is preoccupied with technological methods to meet what are perceived to be the “real needs” of modern people. Hence the preacher is expected to be the successful business man and wise psychologist presenting techniques to “manage the outer world . . . and get control over the inner world. . . . the common human preoccupations with health, wealth, safety, psychological well-being, and protection.”[58] Paul, on the other hand, was occupied with another world and the age to come. Such a message “required a different kind of presentation from the one that was from ‘below’ and was expressing a purely human perspective.”[59]

Messages designed to attract the world dilute the strong note of authority that comes with a message from the heavenly realm. “The orator was concerned with the management of life’s crises, with the affairs of this life, but the preacher comes to frame those issues in the light of eternity.”[60] The preaching of the orator “gives knowledge neither of God nor of ourselves. It produces no awe in his presence and no wisdom in ourselves.”[61] Evangelical preachers have given in to triviality, uncertainty, and complacency—so much a part of the air we breathe.[62] The only antidote to the Zeitgeist is the proclamation of the theology of the Bible as God’s challenge to man, modern or otherwise.

It is of particular interest at this point that in 1995 Duane Litfin addressed The American Society for Church Growth.[63] After describing the differences between Greco-Roman orators and heralds in the context of 1 Corinthians 1–4, Litfin summarizes the core criticism of the critics,

. . . your critics intuitively perceive the Church Growth Movement to have lost sight of the contrast which so alarmed the Apostle Paul. They perceive you often to be operating out of the very Persuader’s Stance Paul disavowed.[64]

Can we let Paul’s warnings register with us here for a moment? The issue in these passages was not the content of the Gospel, which Paul affirms the Corinthians held fast; the issue was one of methods, methods which held the potential of either displaying or displacing, the power of the cross. Can there be any higher stakes?[65]

Indeed, not. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17).

So, as a preacher, I should be happy to be found foolish, not in understanding Paul, but in the gospel task. Thus, the foolishness of the message of the good news of heavenly amnesty, as well as the foolishness of the act of proclaiming the word of our heavenly Victor, are appropriate to the sui generis act of God in Christ on the cross.

Preaching (whose form and substance is thought to be foolishness to this present evil age) challenges the plausibility structures of this world and is perfectly suited to the history and experience of the Reformed church.


[1] Adapted from Gregory Edward Reynolds, “A Medium for the Message: The Form of the Message Is Foolish, Too,” in Confident of Better Things: Essays Commemorating Seventy-five Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, eds. John R. Muether and Danny E. Olinger (Willow Grove, PA: The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church), 311–34.

[2] Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1959.

[3] Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast (London: Rapp & Whiting, 1969), 119.

[4] Gregory E. Reynolds, The Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures: Preaching in the Electronic Age (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2001).

[5] Reynolds, The Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures, 333–45. 1. Preaching is God’s Choice; 2. Preaching is an authoritative monologue; 3. Preaching is the Voice and Presence of the Great Shepherd; 4. Preaching is the unique power of a living voice.

[6] David Wells, “The Theology of Preaching: The Biblical Word in the Contemporary World—Part One: The Biblical Word, —Part Two: The Contemporary World,” The Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society 9, no. 1 (2009): 4–52.

[7] Duane Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride: An Essay on the Foolishness of Preaching,” in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes, eds. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 106–26; “Understanding Your Critics: An Outsider’s Analysis,” Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, vol. 6 (1995): 85–99; Saint Paul’s Theology of Proclamation: 1 Corinthians 1–4 and Greco-Roman Rhetoric (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); “The Perils of Persuasive Preaching,” Christianity Today (Feb. 4, 1977): 14–17.

[8] The Geneva Bible 1 Cor. 1:21, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

[9] John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, vol. 20, trans. John Pringle (1546, repr. 1847, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969), 84–5.

[10] Matthew Poole, Annotations upon the Holy Bible, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: Thomas and John Turnbull, 1801), 418.

[11] Charles Hodge, An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1860), 21.

[12] Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1958), 45.

[13] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 108–10. Litfin cites C. H. Dodd (1936), J. B. Lightfoot (1895), Archibald Robinson and Alfred Plummer (1911), James Moffat (1947), G. G. Findlay (1983), A. M. Hunter (1944), F. W. Grosheide (1953), C. K. Barrett (1968), Hans Conzelman (1969), and Gordon Fee (1987).

[14] Gordon D. Fee, “‘Another Gospel Which You Did Not Embrace’: 2 Corinthians 11:4 and the Theology of 1 and 2 Corinthians,” in Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1994), 122, cited in Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 14.

[15] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 111.

[16] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 113, citing “κήρυγμα,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel (Grand Rapids: 1965), 3:714. See also Duane Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching: The Apostle's Challenge to the Art of Persuasion in Ancient Corinth (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015), 200. Here he corrects the name of the scholar he is quoting. It should be Gerhard, not Gustav, Friedrich. I have changed this in the quote and added the Kittel reference. See Litfin’s expanded discussion, 195–213.

[17] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 113–15.

[18] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 117.

[19] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 16, quoting George Kennedy, Greek Rhetoric under the Christian Emperors (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 3.

[20] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 118n27 “κήρυγμα,” 687–88.

[21] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 119.

[22] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 122n30.

[23] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 134.

[24] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 137.

[25] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 141.

[26] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 189.

[27] Litfin, “Swallowing Our Pride,” 122n30.

[28] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 190.

[29] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching. There are three excursuses on this topic: “Good Rhetoric Versus Bad Rhetoric,” on pages 150, 260, 294.

[30] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 152.

[31] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 153.

[32] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 177.

[33] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 178.

[34] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 179.

[35] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 181.

[36] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 185.

[37] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 206–7.

[38] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 212.

[39] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 219.

[40] R. Larry Overstreet, Persuasive Preaching: A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion (Wooster, OH: Weaver, 2014).

[41] Overstreet, Persuasive Preaching, 30.

[42] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 348.

[43] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 347–48, cf. 279.

[44] Overstreet, Persuasive Preaching, 30

[45] Overstreet, Persuasive Preaching, 45.

[46] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 349.

[47] Duane Litfin, Saint Paul’s Theology of Proclamation, 187, quoted in David Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 31n12.

[48] Peter L. Berger, A Rumor of Angels (Garden City, NY: Doubleday-Anchor, 1969), 42–4. For a more recent explanation of Berger’s cognitive terminology see Peter Berger and Anton Zidjderveld, In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions without Becoming a Fanatic (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), 31–36.

[49] Berger, A Rumor of Angels, 7.

[50] Berger, A Rumor of Angels, 43.

[51] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 14.

[52] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 35–6.

[53] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 15.

[54] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 116.

[55] Litfin, Paul's Theology of Preaching, 23.

[56] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 1.

[57] Reynolds, The Word Is Worth a Thousand Pictures, chapter 8, “The Fourth Temptation: The Compromise of the Church,” 278–310.

[58] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 20–21.

[59] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 22.

[60] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 24.

[61] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 27.

[62] Wells, “The Theology of Preaching,” 41.

[63] Duane Litfin, “Understanding Your Critics: An Outsider’s Analysis of a Core Criticism of the Church Growth Movement,” The Journal of the American Society for Church Growth, vol. 6 (1995): 85–99.

[64] Litfin, “Understanding Your Critics,” 92.

[65] Litfin, “Understanding Your Critics,” 97.

Gregory E. Reynolds is pastor emeritus of Amoskeag Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Manchester, New Hampshire, and is the editor of Ordained Servant. Ordained Servant Online, August/September, 2023.

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Ordained Servant: August–September 2023

The Second Century Church

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