Excerpt on Bible Interpretation and Preaching

We all read the Bible through our own presuppositions. Inevitably, we cannot approach any text without inputting our own cultural conditioning into our reading of it. We have a particular background. We live at a particular time in history. Our past experience, values, and priorities have all combined to build up a personal, individual framework of thought and behavior, convictions and attitudes, that makes each of us the unique people we are. But this framework can be the enemy of careful observation.
The danger is that certain words or ideas in the text will trigger ideas in the preacher’s memory bank that are then downloaded and uncritically included in a sermon. So we end up preaching our frame work rather than the biblical text, unless the Bible text is questioning our framework every time we are preparing. It is not that framework preaching is wrong if the framework is itself biblically orthodox. What is said will probably be true, but the preaching will soon become re-ductionist and predictable. The problem is that such preaching does not challenge the church, and it will not change the world. It becomes impository of the preacher’s word upon the text, which has to dance to the preacher’s tune—the agenda that he has constructed—rather than being expository of the fundamental meaning of the Bible, with all its necessary challenges and unsettling disturbance to our inherently sinful, this-worldly patterns of thought and behavior. In John Stott’s words, it is the function of biblical preaching both “to disturb the comfortable and then to comfort the disturbed.” And that process begins with the preacher in his preparation.

Wallace Benn, Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007).

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