Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Truth and Truthfulness: Theological Reflections on Preaching and Performance

Chapter 1 Marguerite Shuster “The Truth and Truthfulness: Theological Reflections on Preaching and Performance” pp. 19-35.

Shuster states at the outset that the reader may well, and probably should, be uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth and with performance being related to preaching. She ties truthfulness of the preacher to the truth which is propounded from the pulpit. It is necessary that the preacher be someone the congregation can recognize as true. Conveying the truth in a manner which does not persuade the congregation of that truth and of the sincerity of the preacher may, in Shuster’s opinion, erode the truth. On pp. 24-25 she  draws a distinction between proclamation of truth and beauty in words and proclamation of truth and beauty in artistic representation. Shuster’s thesis is that the truth and beauty conveyed in words is dependent on the presentation of the speaker, while in art, possibly because the artist is more masked, the truth and beauty is not dependent on the artist and is not concrete or “properly judged by moral criteria” (p. 25). The goal of the speaker is to present truth in such a way that it is truthful and will be perceived as truth. This requires careful attention to presentation style and methods. Using a positive mode of presentation will make this truth, which (p. 33) Shuster affirms to be personal in nature, more palatable to the congregation.

Shuster’s approach to truth and beauty is fairly postmodern. She views truth as something which may well be different for different individuals. This same philosophy shows up in her references to art. While the emphasis on presentation skills and adequate physical and mental preparation to communicate a message is important, her understanding of the nature of the message is flawed. Truth is truth, otherwise it is nothing.

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