A Friday Question – Emotive Preaching?March 16, 2007
J. Gary Ellison kicked things off when he wrote of Keller:
“Last year he spoke on the Gospel and Postmodernism at John Piper’s conference. His analysis was very good and Haddon Robinson speaks highly of him as being in touch and able to speak to contemporaries, so I wanted to hear him preach when I saw your analysis of his sermon. What I found difficult was the _apparent_ (underline apparent) lack of passion. His message was excellent, but there was a great difference in his level of ethos and that of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones whom he quotes in is lecture on postmodernism. I once heard Leo Buscaglia, a secular professor, speak with great passion and conviction that gripped me. Have I missed something here? Do we have to speak calmly to get a hearing with contemporaries?“
My response was:
“Gary, that’s why I (personally) have an ever so slight preference for listening to the likes of Piper/MacArthur than Keller. For me, the former ‘convey’ a greater sense of passion as they deliver the solid content. That said, I’m always careful about this because preaching is ‘truth through personality.’ My impression is that Keller is a laid back kind of guy and therefore its no surprise that this translates into his preaching. Moreover, sometimes when I’ve heard Keller speak I’ve detected that he is excited about what he’s talking about. Of course, Keller’s passion won’t ‘look’ the same as Piper’s!”
Finally, Tim Keller himself (most graciously!) weighed in on the debate:
“I’m a little worried about the ‘passion’ statements. I don’t take them personally at all–not at all. But they may be a bit short-sighted. We all have different temperments and Rev A can feel something just as strongly as Rev B and yet not be as intense and dramatic in his outward expression of it. But keep in mind that a lot of secular people simply can’t hear the gospel very well when the speaker gets highly emotional. There’s room for a great range of temperments in preachers because there is such a great range of temperments in the listeners.”
So I’m interested – what do you all think? Does passion need to be evident? Or is it an evident turn-off to post-modern people?