IVP - Online Pulpit - August 2011 Archives

August 16, 2011

Building Bridges

In honor of Dr. Stott’s recent passing, here is an excerpt from his book The Living Church. May his words continue to inspire and engage.

“Authentic Christian preaching is both biblical and contemporary. It is an exposition of Scripture which is related to the world in which we live.

“I like to imagine this as a picture of a flat territory deeply cut by a canyon or ravine. On one side is the biblical world, on the other side the modern world, while between the two there is a deep gulf, two thousand years of changing culture.

“Evangelical believers live in the biblical world. That is where we feel comfortable. We believe, love and read the Bible. We are essentially biblical people. But we are not so comfortable in the modern world. We feel threatened by it. So how should I draw our preaching on this picture? It all comes out of the Bible. We would not dream of preaching from anywhere else. But then it goes up in the air and never quite lands on the other side. We are biblical, but not contemporary.

“Liberal preachers, on the other hand, make the opposite mistake. They live in the modern world and do not feel threatened by it. They read modern poetry, philosophy, psychology, science and novels. They are moving with the moving times. But their situation is that they have largely jettisoned the biblical revelation. So when I draw their preaching on the picture, it all lands in contemporary reality. But where it comes from, heaven alone knows; it does not come out of the Bible. They are contemporary but not biblical.

“This simple picture illustrates one of the major tragedies in the church today. Evangelicals are biblical but not contemporary, while liberals are contemporary but not biblical. Comparatively few are building bridges. But authentic Christian preaching is a bridge building operation. It relates the text to the context in such a way as to be both faithful to the biblical text and sensitive to the modern context. We must not sacrifice either to the other.

“In order to build bridges that are solid, we have to study on both sides of the canyon. It goes without saying that we must study Scripture until we are really familiar with it. But we must also study the world in which we live. Nothing has helped me do this more than belonging to a reading group which began in 1972. We met every few weeks, having read an agreed non-Christian book, to discuss its challenge to our Christian worldview. I call this ‘double listening,’ listening to the word of God and listening to the voices of the modern world, its cries of anger, pain and despair.”

For more on Dr. Stott, visit our tribute page here.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 8:51 AM