- Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted: A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching by Glenn L. Monson. Eugene
“Afflicting the comfortable, comforting the afflicted” captures the essence of this slim volume, just as the subtitle signals the Lutheran background of the author. As a Lutheran pastor, Monson writes to address the chasm between theological knowledge and skilled preaching. His goal is “to bring together both these concerns: the concern that we must connect with the listener and that concern that we must be grounded theologically” (xvi). He does so by synthesizing the so-called “New Homiletics” with the law/gospel paradigm of the Lutheran tradition.
Key to understanding the New Homiletics, a term coined in 1965 by David James Randolph at Drew School of Theology, are these three homiletical moves: 1) a move from inductive to deductive preaching; 2) a move away from propositional truths to strong imagery and use of metaphor in preaching; and 3) a move which views the hearer as a partner in the sermonic event, whose task is to apply the message of the sermon to the hearer’s life.
With regard to the third move, Monson’s book is a welcomed corrective to the sermon series popular today, which is often long on application (the “should” of the Christian life) and short on the proclamation of God’s saving work through Jesus Christ. At the same time, without jettisoning Scripture’s message of sin and judgment, Monson offers a creative way to bring the law to bear on the twenty-first-century hearer so that the gospel is not reduced [End Page 449] to cheap grace. But the unique value of the book is the totality of these three moves synthesized with the law/gospel dialectic and laid out in the sermon writing process. As Craig Satterlee writes in the foreword: “The gift of this book is not so much new information as the way a faithful, experienced preacher integrates theological and homiletic insights into a road map that preachers can easily follow to a destination their hearer will appreciate” (x).
This book has a place in seminary homiletics courses and the pastor’s library to help preachers proclaim “You need Christ. Here is Christ” (x). The author wonders whether he was giving the impression to others that there is a magic bullet to law/gospel preaching. I want to reassure him that he made it very clear that preaching is more of an art than science and that this book illustrates the artistry of preaching.