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Narrative Preaching and Propositional Truth

September 14, 2006

Many are saying that we need to preach more like Jesus.  Hard to argue with that.  We need to tell stories and parables like Jesus did.  It is true that storytelling can be very powerful.  I love good narrative preaching.  I can recommend the book _He Gave Us Stories_ by Richard Pratt to anyone who wants to hone their skills at preaching narrative.

But I noticed something last week when I was reading Matthew 13.  When Jesus was asked why he speaks in parables, he didn’t answer “because I’m the Master Communicator and I tell stories because they connect deeply with my hearers.”  He said something quite different. 

Matthew 13:10-13 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”

Hmm.  He speaks to them in parables because to them the secrets of the kingdom have not been given.  Now true disciples will hear the story and come up to Jesus after and say “Explain to us the parable” (verse 36).  And when they did, Jesus didn’t just tell them to feel the meaning and rebuke them for their Enlightenment views of propositional truth.  He explained it to them.

Parables place a responsibility on the hearer to come and ask for more explanation.  True disciples show themselves to be true disciples by their hunger for more than just a good story. 

So if in your ministry you aspire to nothing more than entertaining unbelievers, go ahead and just tell stories.  But if you ever hope to educate the elect, you better offer some explanation.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2006 1:50 pm

    Excellent observation!

    I was struck by the same thing only a few days ago. Some not-insignificant chunk of Jesus’ earthly ministry was about concealing the truth from those who were blind, so that seeing, they wouldn’t see, and hearing, they wouldn’t hear. But I hadn’t thought about how to apply this. Thanks!

    Extra points awarded for explaining this in terms of “narrative” and “propositional truth”!

  2. Egana permalink
    September 14, 2006 2:21 pm

    excuse me, Gorfy…

    which chunks of Jesus’ earthly ministry would you rate as insignificant, hmmm?

  3. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    September 16, 2006 10:36 am

    Great post! I like to follow a story or illustration as much as the next guy, but it needs to point back to some sort of depthy truth.

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