Wednesday, October 9, 2013

At the Intersection of Actio Divina and Homo Performans: Embodiment and Evocation

Chapter 3, Alyce M. McKenzie “At the Intersection of Actio Divina and Homo Performans: Embodiment and Evocation” pp. 53-66.

McKenzie contrasts “traditional” preaching with preaching in the “new homiletic,” urging adoption of these novel methods as the means to effective preaching. The New Homiletic, which emerged about 1973, stresses poetic and metaphorical language to evoke experience. This was over against old styles of preaching which focused on explaining the biblical texts and their implications. The difficulty with the older style of preaching is that it followed an Aristotelian model which assumed demonstration of truth would be linked to change of attitude and behavior. The rhetorical methods of classical learning were separated, since the Enlightenment, from the truth claims implicit in the logical argument. Therefore, propositional preaching became less effective and increasingly irrelevant. McKenzie endorses more modern views in which the preacher’s performance evokes emotive change, enabling the congregation to embody the message based on the rhetoric rather than the propositions. Thus sermons are to be built on images and illustrations. The preacher thus emphasizes self-diclosure, transparency, and “authenticity” rather than a logical argument. This allows the congregation to embrace the message and be changed as they participate in the message.

I find this a frightening idea. It feeds an erosion of definitive truth and puts our own hearts in the seat of authority.

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