Pragmatics and Preaching—A Dialogue

September 11th, 2017| Topic: aBeLOG | 32

Pragmatics and Preaching—A Dialogue

Please consider this an invitation to peruse and respond to:

1) Article by Abraham Kuruvilla, “‘What is the Author Doing with What He is Saying?’ Pragmatics and Preaching—An Appeal!” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 60 (2017): 557–80;

2) Response to my article by Buist Fanning, Senior Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary; and

3) Rejoinder to Buist Fanning’s response by me (Abe Kuruvilla).

Article, response, and rejoinder are/will be downloadable in PDF format.

Feel free to comment below in the box, adding your thoughts and ideas to the discussion. Of necessity, this will be a moderated conversation; remarks will show up in the comments section with some delay.

Thank you, in advance, for you participation and prayerful consideration of these issues at hand.

I nurture the hope that such discussions will further preaching, the heart of pastoral ministry, in Christendom.

32 Comments

  1. Chad A. Edgington November 8, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I saw you give a presentation at Southwestern earlier this year. Loved it. I am the guy you are talking about in the rejoinder. I pastor a rural church. I preach, about 130 times a year between Sunday morning, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. I also teach a Sunday School class. Now, combine the teaching work with all of the other pastoral ministry and administration of the church.

    There seems to be an ideal talked about in preaching texts and classes that is just not realistic. Most churches are small and we don’t have more than about 6–8 hours (if that much time) to devote to developing a sermon. Much of my sermon prep seems like a mess to me. I find myself listening to sermons in my truck on the way to the hospital, reading commentaries at the Chicken Express in the next town over while waiting for my daughter to get out of dance.

    My goal is not to preach a sermon worth recording or publishing, but I try as hard as I can to give these people I know and love the meaning of the text and the application. I don’t try to be creative or clever. I’m not going to preach this sermon again, nobody is going to go back and listen to it. I know they can find better preaching on the internet, but most of them won’t. So, I appreciate all the help you offer moving from meaning to application.

    Reply
    • Abe Kuruvilla November 9, 2017 at 4:15 am

      Chad,

      Thanks for writing.

      You are one of the reasons I plug along. My admiration for your perseverance and faithfulness is unbounded!

      Hang in there! Our God is good and our God is faithful!

      Abe

      Reply
  2. Jim Reitman October 31, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Hi Abe,

    To expand on “thrust of the text” or Vanhoozer’s more technical “illocutionary force,” I would say it is “embedded” in the text mainly to ensure that application is “aligned” with the author’s purpose. Applications are nonetheless implied by the original “occasions” of many of these texts. Even more tangibly, however, Scriptural narrative typically contains textually embedded applications (or “perlocutions”) by projecting prototypical “pictures” of how the illocutionary force and response (or lack thereof) portrayed in the original text is meant to result in the “same kind of actions” in the lives of contemporary readers.

    You said in your rejoinder to Fanning:

    “I’d even argue further that what those frazzled pastors really need are pragmatics commentaries that point out the textual clues to what the author is doing in each pericope and discern the theology of individual pericopes.”

    In my own work, I have used a three-part “summary statements” to frame the textually embedded “locution,” “illocution,” and intended “perlocutionary response” for each portion of text. The illocution in particular is highlighted in each of these summary statements to project how the author’s “doing” should result in a certain “kind” of (transhistorical) response.

    From a methodological pov, the summary statement should be seen as the last step of exegesis, in that it is subject over time to mutually informing inductive-deductive interchange and “iterative adjustment” of our exegetical conclusions for each portion of text—the “hermeneutical spiral.” In order to validate the proposed illocution and intended response for each text, the associated commentary traces how locution, illocution, and intended response are logically related, with supportive footnotes to detail “the textual clues to what the author is doing.”

    Thanks for the opportunity to engage,

    Jim

    Reply
    • Abe Kuruvilla October 31, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Jim,

      Thanks for the contribution.

      Sure, the general applications I was talking about—Don’t steal. Do pray. Etc.—are embedded (better “supervenient upon”) the text and may be “transhistorical,” pertinent to a wide variety of humans scattered across a wide variety of times and spaces. But I was focusing on specific application that is one more step removed from the general item. In any case, my primary concern is not with application issues, as much as it is with the failure to catch the authorial doings.

      To be honest, I don’t particularly care for “illocutionary force” since quite a bit of what I’m talking about is what Searle once called “secondary illocution,” though he and others never developed it much. For large chunks of text as we handle in biblical studies, it is this element that is critical to catch before one can arrive at application. I think the newer fields of pragmatics and relevance theory are more attuned to what biblical scholars are trying to do.

      But all of these terms can get dense and confusing. IMHO, “what the author is doing” is quite sufficient for our purposes. This authorial doing encompasses the general application, eliminating some of the multiplication of terms and notions. And it leaves the preacher to derive specific application for that particular group of humans that comprise the congregation.

      My commentaries—or the free chapters thereof on this website— have examples of what I’m talking about, at least with regard to authorial doings in pericopes.

      Keep at it!

      Abe

      Reply
      • Jim Reitman November 9, 2017 at 11:54 am

        Abe,

        I appreciate the attempt to simplify with your emphasis on “identifying authorial doings.” My affinity for the term “illocutionary force” in thinking about the dynamics of application is rooted in my curiosity about the interface between these “doings” and reader response. If there are to be any textually based controls against postmodern freewheeling in the area of reader response, I think this “interface” is where the money is, and that our notions of the dynamics of illumination in supervening on this response have been inadequately explored thus far.

        Therefore, to parallel your figure, I guess my emphasis would be to ask “what the reader is FEELING by what s/he is READING.” If Vanhoozer has anything to add here, it would be the notion of having sufficient “respect” for the author to “obey” the text. And if a suitable “obedient” response involves our heart inclination in response to the Spirit’s lead, then a more complete process of “illumination” entails iteratively obeying the text within a specific context. So, I see “secondary” levels of obedience in the process of contextualization as responding to an unchanging “doing” or “prompting” that is textually fixed. It is thus our variable daily sensitivity to the Spirit’s lead that determines “success” in the “doing” achieving its desired result and thereby contributing further to our understanding.

        Jim

        Reply
        • Abe Kuruvilla November 10, 2017 at 3:37 am

          Jim,

          Thanks.

          Certainly, there is that variability of spiritual sensitivity to A/authorial nudges, either directly mediated by text/Spirit or indirectly facilitated by a preacher.

          If I, as a physician, recommend a certain treatment, based on a specific diagnosis, if my patient is not willing to heed me (assuming I am right in my diagnosis, of course), there may not be healing.

          If I, as a preacher, recommend a certain application, based on a specific thrust (pericopal theology), if my listeners are not willing to heed me (assuming I am right in my interpretation, of course), there may not be obedience.

          I’m not sure I’d label this facet a “secondary level of obedience,” being already weary, since medical school days, of a multiplication of terms and labels.

          Abe

          Reply
          • Jim Reitman November 10, 2017 at 7:43 am

            Abe,

            Infelicitous choice of terms, indeed. BTW, I’m a retired internist myself; maybe contributes to my penchant for finding labels. I love “A/authorial nudges” in depicting how the Spirit often mediates illocutionary intent through human agents—in this sense I suppose we could say that we are all potentially “preachers.” So when there is disagreement between two theologians on the interpretation of a particular pericope, is it possible they can still mediate the same “kind” of nudge in being led by the Spirit? (Just brainstorming here; again, attempting to dig a little deeper into the nature of illumination as mediated by the Spirit.)

            Jim

            Reply
            • Abe Kuruvilla November 11, 2017 at 6:41 am

              Jim,

              I’d say there is one interpretation. But two interpreters may differ on what it is.

              (One patient and one disease, but two physicians and two diagnoses. They fight it out!)

              Depending on who is right, the “nudge” will, no doubt, be more potent and efficacious.

              But this is why we put our conclusions out in the public square. No one has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit. We grow together.

              Abe

              Reply
              • Jim Reitman November 12, 2017 at 8:07 am

                Hmmm.

                In Internal Medicine, at least, things are often not nearly so black and white as “fighting it out” over the right diagnosis. I agree with your point about “the public square” as a venue for reaching conclusions, but these conclusions include the “right kind of response” to the diagnosis.

                My thinking is moving more to the notion that “illumination” includes hearing the Spirit’s prompting regarding suitable responses to what we do understand. So the analogy would be more like, “Well, we aren’t completely sure yet about the ‘larger’ diagnosis for this pericope, but let’s ‘obey’ what we are hearing from the Spirit, and then maybe we’ll understand more as we continue to share [contextualized] life with the patient.”

                Another way of saying that might be that the “public square” (competing exegetical findings) and “private square” (contextualized application of the meaning we do have) are mutually informing.

                Jim

                Reply
                • Abe Kuruvilla November 16, 2017 at 6:03 pm

                  Jim,

                  Things keep changing in science all the time—the result of “fighting it out.”

                  I would be very untrustful of anything less than complete inspiration, including my own experience of illumination, unless there was sufficient backing from textual data and from findings from others. In other words, I’d be more trusting of corporate illumination than of personal illumination.

                  That’s not a disparagement of the Holy Spirit’s working, of course. Rather, it is a realization that though the signal (divine) is perfect, the noise I add (human) confuses everything. I know myself only too well. Corporately, however, that noise may be attenuated somewhat.

                  Abe

                  Reply
  3. steve October 9, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Dr. Kuruvilla,
    I am committed to the text of Scripture, but I struggle in a lot of areas. Communication is a process of communicating ideas through symbols (language)–(Shannon-Weaver with all the implications of such communication). The doctrine of inspiration is that the Holy Spirit superintends the process so that the thoughts of God are communicated accurately in the text although perhaps not exhaustively. As the doctrine of inspiration, which is foundational to our hermeneutic, the coordinate doctrine of illumination relies upon the Holy Spirit. The thing that strikes me in your article and Dr. Fanning’s response is the absence of the Holy Spirit in the process? It is interesting to me that several years ago, while doing some research at DTS, there were shelves of books on the doctrine of inspiration but very few on illumination–but can we rightly understand the text (even if we have the tools and the expertise) without the leading of the Holy Spirit? The only book I found that really was helpful in this area was: Seaman, M. X. Illumination and Interpretation: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Hermeneutics (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers), 2013. If you know of any others, I would appreciate your directing me.

    As I have preached and taught, I have come to the conclusions that:
    1. To preach well and to faithfully proclaim what God wants others to hear and know requires a depth of understanding beyond facts.
    2. Understanding requires tools and skills in the use of those tools, but understanding is not a mechanical process. It is a relational process.
    3. As a relational process, the better I know myself (how my uniqueness affects how I listen) and the better I know God’s heart (for, I am convinced, communication of the depth that we are seeking is a matter of the heart), the more accurately I will understand what He is saying and the more clearly and faithfully I can communicate both the thoughts of God and the heart of God.

    I realize you cannot quantify the moving of the Holy Spirit in understanding, but isn’t our faith a mysterious, mystic relationship with a living God?

    Reply
    • Abe Kuruvilla October 10, 2017 at 11:01 pm

      Steve,

      Thanks for writing.

      You are correct to point out the role of the Spirit in illumination. I would hope that all interpretation—indeed, every act of ministry and even all of life—is powered by the Holy Spirit, as we depend on him for everything.

      I agree that faith is “mysterious” and “mystic,” but it is not only “mysterious” and “mystic,” it is also to be lived out in responsibility (our side), depending on the Holy Spirit (as he acts on his). And, most of us, at least both Fanning and I, are writing about the “responsibility” facet of ministry, specifically interpretation. What is our side of the equation? How are we to read, study, interpret, and preach? Etc.

      That, of course, is not to deny the role of the Holy Spirit in these endeavors (and every other endeavor). But with regards to the working of the sovereign God, there are only a few things we can be doing to ensure that happens: walking with him in faithful obedience and love, depending on him utterly (even as we do our part), worshiping him for the opportunity to serve him, thanking him for the insights he gives us (and others, both alive and dead, through their actions and utterances). Etc. As you rightly mention, these are “unquantifiables.” And these actions/attitudes need to be part of who we are, not just for the sake of interpretation, but for every work of ministry, and for every turn in life.

      Consider writing something on this yourself—I would rush to read it!

      Blessings,
      Abe

      Reply
      • steve watson October 13, 2017 at 10:57 am

        Imagine Itzhak Perlman in a concert hall. He picks up a good quality student violin and begins to play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D. The sound fills the room. His skill and talent and love for the music are on display. People applaud that the right notes are played with the right dynamics. Then the master lays down the student violin and picks up his Stradivarius. Putting it to his chin, he draws his bow across the strings, and the same notes resound. But there is now something different: a richness of tone, a beauty not only coming from the master’s developed talent but a richness from the instrument itself resonating and responding to each note and phrase.

        The richness and the beauty of tone that arises from that rare combination of a quality instrument in the hand of a master musician is unforgettable and draws out something from within every heart. Preaching, in its highest form, should be the same way—the right notes (truth) presented through a human instrument that fully and faithfully resonates with a richness and depth of tone. Preaching is a rare combination of the Master (the Holy Spirit), producing the right notes (accurate biblical truth) through a human instrument.

        Few sermons have risen to that height. Often preaching lacks an intangible quality of beauty, richness, and depth of tone. Depth of tone is hard to quantify or even describe, let alone teach. As the quality of the violin affects the tone, so the qualities of a man’s life affect the tone of the sermon. Many elements go into producing a quality instrument in the same way that many elements go into producing a quality human instrument for God to use. Many of those qualities come through experiencing life: in weeping, in loneliness, in desert places, in hours of prayer, in humility, in knowing and in suffering. These qualities cannot be programed or plotted academically but they can be observed and understood. These qualities are the work of the Craftsman, who shapes the lives of human instruments that He calls to serve and proclaim His message to the world. As the preacher abides in Jesus in life, the Father prunes, purifies and perfects. In this process, the preacher can become aware of the elements of his life, discerning how they affect the tone of the sermon. In addition to life events, the preacher possesses a unique personality which God has created and given to aid in the ministry.

        Reply
        • Abe Kuruvilla October 13, 2017 at 7:17 pm

          Well said!

          Yet, if we are negligent in our preparation (or if Maestro Perlman had been, in his preparation), the Holy Spirit will likely not work (neither would a Stradivarius help a novice violinist).

          All that to say, the only things we can discuss extensively and minutely re: preaching (or any other ministry), in journals and classrooms and tomes innumerable, are those matters that relate to our responsibility: how better to preach (or whatever).

          The Holy Spirit works in his sovereign fashion, deigning to use us as his instruments, provided we discharge our responsibilities faithfully, and walk with him, worship him, depend on him, etc.

          Abe

          Reply
          • Steve Watson October 13, 2017 at 7:39 pm

            I have sometimes taken a sheet from Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and also shown Perlman playing the concerto and asking then, “Which is Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto?” They both are but the difference is that one is ink written on paper, the other has been written on the heart of a man–so much so that he delights in it as he shares effortlessly with the audience.

            Reply
            • Abe Kuruvilla October 14, 2017 at 12:07 am

              That analogy, though useful, has its limits. Only the score is “inspired”; the performance isn’t. So I wouldn’t get too carried away with Preacher Perlman!

              But, yes, preaching is somewhat like that–the “translation” of a score, with the idiosyncrasies of the performer being equivalent to the preacher’s style. But unlike Perlman playing P.I.T., the preacher’s production also has to be specifically tailored for a particular audience. Plus, the preacher is in touch with the Author (hopefully).

              Reply
              • Steve Watson October 14, 2017 at 6:56 am

                Amen–the question then is how to keep all the aspects in tension in a functional way. A lot of balls to juggle. Appreciate your taking time to interact. Blessings

                Reply
                • Abe Kuruvilla October 14, 2017 at 12:48 pm

                  I don’t see it as that much of a “tension.” It’s the age-old issue (antinomy?) of human responsibility and divine sovereignty working together. We really don’t have much to do with the latter, except for making sure we are open channels for him to work, if we want to be used by him for his glory. As for the former, miles to go before we sleep ….

                  Blessings on all you do!

                  Reply
                  • Jim Reitman November 10, 2017 at 8:11 am

                    Steve, you asked above about other resources on the role of illumination in interpretation. I would offer the chapter by Richard Averbeck in Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit?, edited by James Sawyer and Daniel Wallace (Biblical Studies Press, 2005).

                    Reply
  4. Richard Ostella October 4, 2017 at 11:33 am

    I am not able to document the history of seminary instruction on the subject of sermon application, but I am prepared to give an example of classroom instruction I received in 1972 (or there about; it has been a few years). In a class on exegesis/hermeneutics of the OT and NT, A Palmer Robertson taught his students (including me) to leave no stone unturned in researching a text for understanding and preaching. He included grammar, word studies, the place of the text in the history of redemption, the path to Christ, and so forth. Then he said, memorably to this effect, “after you have spent all the time that these things take, your work in the study for preaching is only half done; now spend the same amount of time on the application of the text for the people you serve.” I cannot say that I have followed through on this advice, but he (along with J Adams, E Clowney, J Frame, and R Gaffin in classes other than homiletics) caused me to think hard about application to the people of the church today. I can say that I think about application of the sermon from the start and all through the process of sermon preparation.

    So, I appreciate your emphasis on application and since I find it to be a constant challenge (requiring much prayer as in the great quote from Tyndale), I read your article with great interest. To ask more than what is the author saying by asking what he doing with what he is saying for me simply means to ask what the author is saying in context (of the pericope, paragraphs, book as a whole, and the history of redemption). But I find it helpful to talk about what he is doing with the words he is saying here in this text so that we understand what he is saying in his over all message that is ultimately the gospel of Jesus our risen Lord for the church over which He is the Head. Forgive what may be oversimplification on my part, I will read more of your writings and perhaps have more comments after I do so. Then, I trust I will appreciate your emphasis all the more. Thanks, Richard

    Reply
    • Abe Kuruvilla October 4, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Richard,

      Thanks for commenting.

      Good for you to have experienced the kind of teaching that you mentioned.

      Keep reading, and thinking!

      Abe

      Reply
  5. Ro Mody October 2, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    Hi Abe,

    Look forward to seeing you next month. I’ve read the articles, and I think you are right; what matters for preaching is the text & what the author is trying to do with the text. That’s what I am trying to do here for NT with my students. However, I have 2 questions re: application:

    1. Doesn’t the Bible come to us already applied? What I am suggesting is that, say, Romans, is no mere dry academic thesis, but theology already applied to the Roman church. Therefore, isn’t application for us merely re-applying an already applied text? Do we need to have applicational specificity in our preaching if Paul, say in Rom 5, applies the pericopal theology of ch. 5 to Rome in a broad way?

    2. I don’t quite understand what you mean by “thick description.” Isn’t there a real danger that actually our understanding might be, well, “over-thick”, we read into the text things that we merely want to see. What are the interpretative controls to prevent not eisegesis, but, to coin a new term, eisapplication?

    God Bless,

    Ro

    Reply
    • Abe Kuruvilla October 2, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      Ro,

      I look forward to getting together soon, brother!

      Thanks for your comment and questions.

      I really wasn’t touching on application at all in this dialogue, but only claiming that unless one gets to authorial doings (an intermediate entity), one cannot move on to valid application. (BTW, nice neologism: eisapplication!) But nonetheless, let me briefly address your questions:

      1) No, the Bible is fairly general (and appropriately so; see below). It tells me to love my neighbor, alright, but it doesn’t tell Abe Kuruvilla, what to do with regard to his neighbor TW, who is unkind, and obdurate, and who did X to me, etc., etc. In other words, in my view, application is specifically how a specific person responds to the thrust of the biblical text (pericopal theology) in a specific situation. If the Bible were to be that specific, there wouldn’t be enough pages or enough ink to contain it.
      2) Oh, of course. Any reading (mine, yours, the Pope’s, Calvin’s) has the potential of being an abuse of interpretation. The standard guard rails operate: Is it consistent with the evidence in the pericope? Is it consistent with the evidence in rest of Scripture, i.e., not contradicting any other text, etc. (I mentioned a few such items in my article with regard to medical diagnoses: explanatory power, coherence, consilience, simplicity, precision, and so forth.)

      Blessings to you, the missus, and the young lass.

      Abe

      Reply
      • Ro Mody October 4, 2017 at 3:41 am

        Thanks Abe,

        1. I think my 1st point, related to the Bible coming to us as an already applied text & therefore not needing specifics in preaching.

        2. I agree with your 2nd point. Here is follow-up question: In your view should a sermon focus on the main teaching/semantic point of the pericope, or on the main pragmatic intention of the author? To take your example of Mark 16:1-8, the main teaching point seems to be v. 6, Jesus is not in the tomb; he has been raised by God. Yet, as you argue, the main pragmatic intention of Mark seems to focus in the contrast between the naked youth of 14:51f & the robed man of 16:5. How far should a sermon focus on proclaiming the main idea (resurrection; don’t look for Jesus among the dead; proclaim the empty tomb without fear) or the main pragmatic ( failure of discipleship & forgiveness & renewed faithfulness.) Obviously, one can’t proclaim the pragmatics without teaching the fact of resurrection, but where ought the main emphasis of a sermon lie?

        God Bless,

        Ro

        Reply
        • Abe Kuruvilla October 4, 2017 at 1:21 pm

          Ro,

          Thanks.

          We tend to assume the text is simply giving information. It is, but informing is not the primary goal. Mark’s Roman audience likely already had Paul’s Epistle before them. Surely they knew of Jesus’ resurrection—Mark is writing to believers after all. No, Mark’s goal is not just information, it is transformation.

          If it were merely information, why would he not have had Jesus appear on the scene? Why would he call the angel a “young man”? And, really, if information was all that was intended to be given, we’d have been better off with one Gospel, or a harmony of the Gospels. But, instead, we have a selectivity of events, characters, places, descriptions. Even Mark’s idiosyncratic structure (a one-way journey from Galilee to Jerusalem) is to further his agenda of teaching us about the “Trip of Discipleship.” Each author has his own transformational agenda, and he writes in furtherance of that.

          No, Mark is clearly doing something. And that’s what we have to catch. It is the difference between a photograph (pure information) vs. a caricature/portrait (intended to highlight something[s]). Or, texts as plain glass windows we look through vs. texts as stained glass windows we look at. Authors (and speakers) always do something with what they say, especially writings (and sayings) intended to induce a response in readers (hearers). And catch those doings, we must, if we are to validly apply.

          So, there may be reason to mine the Bible for information for all kinds of appropriate purposes (theologizing, constructing a timeline of events/history, etc.). But for preaching—and that is my interest here, of course—we must catch authorial doings. Or else, no valid application. And no progress in Christlikeness.

          Abe

          Reply
          • Ro Mody October 5, 2017 at 2:48 am

            Thanks Abe,

            We will continue the discussion when we meet. I think my point though is not information vs. transformation, ( I agree that preaching ought to transform) but the relative proportions of main idea vs. main pragmatic in preaching.

            Good to discuss,

            See you soon.

            Ro

            Reply
            • Abe Kuruvilla October 5, 2017 at 8:59 am

              Ro,

              I would argue that the “main idea,” for application purposes, is not the saying, but the doing of the author. For instance, if your wife tells you, “The trash is full,” the main idea for application purposes is, “Hey, dear husband of mine, take out the trash!” Authorial doings are THE thrust of the text, though built upon what is said, of course: pragmatics built on semantics. A textual interpretive continuum that culminates in pragmatics (and in application).

              Abe

              Reply
  6. Joe Izaguirre September 12, 2017 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Abe,

    I always enjoy your writing and I have tried my best to follow your work, while I have been away at the University of Illinois. I find much comfort in your vision for preaching and have encouraged young preachers to preach “pericopal” theologies and to elaborate on the “world in front of the text.”

    One problematic nags me, however, as I work through your pragmatic frame is what Buist points out on p. 5: “I have the same impression in trying to follow how to discover ‘the world in front of the text’ according to his approach. It gives a winsome and compelling vision but not enough specifics of how to reach the goal.” Discovering the “pragmatics” of text, I can grant, is probably the “easiest” thing to do in your paradigm (although I think that Derrida’s critique of Austin and Searle in _Limited, Inc_compels a revisitation of the concept for preaching), but as Buist points out, we need still a methodological/theoretical framework for working through how the sermon might take on the pragmatic thrust of the biblical text. The construction of the sermon requires remediation (from written communication to oral communication), a sense of propriety that sustains the pragmatic thrust of the sermon for the audience right before the preacher, and an means of evaluating the reach of the “doing” of the text and the “doing” of the preacher. These, I believe, have significant bearing on establishing a pattern for preaching according to the paradigm and vision you promote.

    Fanning brings this up, perhaps, as a tangential point, but as someone that has adopted your paradigm, I hoped to read a more sustained treatment in your rejoinder. I have yet to read the initial article, so I hope to read that once it is published. Maybe your initial article talks more about it. Nevertheless, I’d appreciate engaging with you on these issues if you have time.

    Thanks for your ministry, Joe.

    Reply
    • Abe Kuruvilla September 13, 2017 at 12:07 am

      Joe,

      Thanks for the kind comments and your thoughtful remarks.

      The issue, as I noted, is that of a diagnosis in medical practice. If I tell a trainee to make a diagnosis [find the pragmatics/thrust], they would ask, “How do I know what to look for, what is important, and what is not [observations/clues in the text that point to the thrust]?” All I can say is, “Learn by apprenticeship, watching, catching.” (Which, BTW, is how practical medicine is learnt.) I doubt if there is a method to this, a form of art+science. You are welcome, though, to go through my commentaries and see if you can identify a single method that works on all texts, all the time. I am skeptical of that enterprise.

      Besides, even in the days of the Big Idea (the alternative to pragmatics), how is that discovered? Standard questions like: What is the author talking about? and What is the author saying about what he is talking about? are not very helpful. No better than my asking my trainee, “What is the diagnosis?” without giving him/her any guidance.

      All that to say, these questions of methodology aren’t new. Whenever diagnosis (of texts or patients) is involved, there is going to be an inferential process, that, by definition, is non-codifiable. An abductive process, Pierce called it.

      Keep thinkin’!

      Reply

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