Compiling a bibliography on preaching is beset by more than the usual quota of difficulties. Problems lie not only in the unmanageable bulk of resources involved and the futility of attempting to be exhaustive, but also in the matter of preserving the fine difference between books for the preacher and books about preaching. The former are legion and embrace almost every facet of human literary effort. Moreover, teachers of preaching who read a wide cross section of sermonic materials know that the ideas of thinkers of all faiths—and indeed, of no faith at all—have been tributary to the Christian pulpit, ancient and modern.
Books about preaching are not always easily isolated because of the interrelatedness of the many aspects of the religious field. Some of the most creative and useful things that have been said about preaching are found in books that are primarily biblical or theological. In these days, moreover, with the development of so many new pursuits in pastoral theology, literary interpretation and criticism, mass media and communications, and philosophy of language and semantics, no one discipline can claim autonomy in either content or method.
A further problem in the field of practical theology is a direct result of these many new developments: titles become obsolete more quickly than in other areas of theological science. The whole discipline of practical theology has undergone more radical changes in the twentieth century than most of the others, and has been more affected by the emergence of new fields of study. It has made marked progress through the massive accumulation of data and the discovery of new functions that demand fresh methods of handling. For these reasons, the “breakthrough” of the present is likely to become a back number tomorrow. From a close-in perspective, we cannot sift out the books of enduring value from those that will not last beyond today.
Therefore, I shall group the better titles under the traditional subdivisions of the preaching field and insert works from other disciplines wherever the theory and understanding of the sermonic art is suggested or defined.
HISTORY OF PREACHING A quick survey of the history of preaching is given in comprehensive articles in The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (T. and T. Clark, 1908), The New Catholic Encyclopedia (McGraw-Hill, 1967), The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Funk and Wagnalls, 1911), and The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Baker, 1955). The most thorough handling is found in Edwin C. Dargan, A History of Preaching (two volumes, Armstrong, 1905; one volume, Baker, 1954), although critics are inclined to praise Dargan for factual prowess more than for any demonstration of a theology of preaching. Other titles in the survey category are: John A. Broadus, Lectures on the History of Preaching (Armstrong, 1907), a concise handling of much factual material; A. E. Garvie, The Christian Preacher (Scribner, 1921), a scholarly and fairly comprehensive treatment of the history, theology, and theory of preaching; Yngve T. Brilioth, A Brief History of Preaching (Fortress, 1965), strong on the early Church and the Reformation, weak from the eighteenth century onward and on the American pulpit; and F. R. Webber, A History of Preaching in Britain and America, Parts I, II, and III (Northwestern, 1952), a useful compilation of persons and places but loosely organized and without a consistent perspective.
For those who want to explore in depth a particular age or period of the Christian pulpit, the following authors are the most helpful: H. T. Kerr, Preaching in the Early Church (Revell, 1942); J. M. Neale, Medieval Preachers (Mozley, 1856); G. R. Owst, Preaching in Medieval England, 1350–1450 (Cambridge, 1933); J. W. Blench, Preaching in England, 1450–1600 (Barnes and Noble, 1964); W. G. Blaikie, The Preachers of Scotland, Sixth to Nineteenth Centuries (T. and T. Clark, 1888); William M. Taylor, The Scottish Pulpit from the Reformation to the Present Day (Harper, 1887); John Brown, Puritan Preaching in England (Scribner, 1900); Ray C. Petry, No Uncertain Sound (Westminster, 1948) and Preaching in the Great Tradition (Westminster, 1950); and Horton M. Davies, Varieties of English Preaching, 1900–1960 (SCM, 1963). Several volumes with a more personal focus are: C. H. E. Smith, The Art of Preaching (SPCK, 1940); G. Renoux, Les Predicateurs célèbres de l’Allemagne (Bray and Retaux, 1881); Paul Stapfer, La grande prédication chrétienne en France (Fischbacher, 1898); and Elmer C. Kiessling, The Early Sermons of Luther and Their Relation to the Pre-Reformation Sermon (Zondervan, 1935).
In view of the excellent reputation and resources of the American pulpit, it is difficult to account for the lack of a classic treatment of its history. Some studies of real quality have been done, but they are of limited focus and give undue emphasis to popular appeal. Dargan’s third volume (available in microfilm) has been used by graduate students in a few theological libraries, but as a treatment of American preaching it is quite incomplete and has not gained wide support. Edgar DeW. Jones, The Royalty of the Pulpit (Harper, 1951), is a survey and appreciation of the Lyman Beecher Lectureship and contains a whole spectrum of facts, personal vignettes, and preaching theories of the “greats” of the American (and to some extent the British) pulpit. Lewis O. Brastow, Representative Modern Preachers (Macmillan, 1904), is a helpful research tool for students of pivotal preachers in both the American and British traditions. Probably one of the most scholarly discussions of the American pulpit is Changing Emphases in American Preaching (Westminster, 1943) by Ernest T. Thompson. Two more recent volumes are not so much a history of American preaching as a study of issues (political, social, and cultural) and of the sermons in which certain points of view were registered: DeWitte Holland (ed.), Preaching in American History (Abingdon, 1969) and Sermons in American History (Abingdon, 1971). A volume largely descriptive, Black Preaching (Lippincott, 1970) by Henry H. Mitchell, has a chapter on the history of the witness of the black pulpit in America.
Probably the most ambitious attempt at an encyclopedia of preachers and representative sermons is Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching (thirteen volumes) edited by Clyde E. Fant, Jr., and William M. Pinson, Jr. (Word, 1971). From the whole story of the Christian pulpit, the editors have chosen ninety preachers, from the first century to the present, and given examples of their sermons accompanied by sermon analyses, biographical sketches, and accounts of the preachers’ impact on their times. This series is one of the most useful and skillfully critical compilations published in our generation.
THEOLOGY OF PREACHING Books specifically on the theology of preaching are either very old or from the twentieth century. St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine (Liberal Arts, 1958) is one of the earliest treatises in which a whole section deals with the preacher and preaching. Most theologians, especially the central figures of the Reformation—Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Zwingli—have written intermittent pages and/or chapters on the meaning and character of Christian preaching, but the largest number of definitive titles in this field have appeared since 1900. For depth and comprehension, few treatises surpass P. T. Forsyth’s Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind (Independent, 1907; Eerdmans, 1964, paper). Several decades later a new impetus occurred with the translation of Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man (Pilgrim, 1928). Then followed C. H. Dodd, Apostolic Preaching and Its Developments (Hodder and Stoughton, 1936); T. H. L. Parker’s study of Calvin’s preaching, The Oracles of God (Lutterworth, 1947); H. H. Farmer, The Servant of the Word (Scribner, 1942; Fortress, 1964, paper); and Donald Coggan, The Ministry of the Word (Canterbury, 1945). The next decade picked up this new emphasis upon the “Word,” and the following monographs were received approvingly: Robert E. C. Browne, The Ministry of the Word (SCM, 1958); John Knox, The Integrity of Preaching (Abingdon, 1957); James S. Stewart, A Faith to Proclaim (Hodder and Stoughton, 1953); and Gustav Wingren, The Living Word (SCM, 1960; Fortress, 1965, paper). Curiously enough, the decade of the sixties, which has seen the downgrading of the pulpit among quasi-Protestants, has recorded an unusually large number of books on the meaning of the Word through preaching by both Roman Catholic and Protestant scholars: Dietrich Ritschl, A Theology of Proclamation (John Knox, 1960); Jean-Jacques von Allmen, Preaching and Congregation (John Knox, 1962); Karl Barth, The Preaching of the Gospel, (Westminster, 1963); Heinrich Ott, Theology and Preaching (Westminster, 1965); Rudolf Bohren, Preaching and Community (John Knox, 1965); William Malcomson, The Preaching Event (Westminster, 1968); Paul Scherer, The Word God Sent (Harper & Row, 1965); Gerhard Ebeling, Theology and Proclamation (Fortress, 1966), a dialogue with Bultmann; Domenico Grasso, Proclaiming God’s Message (Notre Dame, 1965); and Otto Semmelbroth, The Preaching Word (Herder, 1965). Probably one of the ablest discussions of communication through words—and indirectly highly supportive of the role of preaching—is The Presence of the Word by Walter J. Ong (Yale, 1967).
THE OFFICE OF PREACHING More books were written on the nature and office of preaching when its integrity and identity were secure than in these times when strong apologists are especially needed. Such titles as Treatise on Preaching (Newman, 1951) by Humbert of Romans in the thirteenth century and Thoughts on Preaching (Scribner, 1864) by J. W. Alexander in the mid-nineteenth are basic. Phillips Brooks’s Lectures on Preaching (Dutton, 1902; SPCK, 1959) is still a classic in perception and comprehensiveness. Few treatises were done on this subject during the first quarter of the present century. Then the following decade gave us Jesus Came Preaching (Scribner, 1931; Baker, 1970) by George A. Buttrick; The Mystery of Preaching (Clarke, 1934) by James M. Black; and The Fine Art of Preaching (Macmillan, 1945) by Andrew W. Blackwood. The ministry of preaching was clarified considerably in Concerning the Ministry (Harper’s, 1937; John Knox, 1963) by John Oman, who was a theologian with a pastor’s concern for communicating the Gospel. Three volumes in the immediate post-war period that have had sustained approval are Heralds of God (Scribner, 1946) by James S. Stewart; Fire in Thy Mouth (Abingdon, 1954) by Donald Miller; and The Integrity of Preaching (Abingdon, 1957) by John Knox. The most recent monographs that take into account the new world of mass communication and multi-media with its challenge to the traditional conception of preaching are: Preaching Today (Epworth, 1969) by D. W. Cleverley Ford, head of the College of Preachers in London; The Renewal of Preaching (Paulist, 1968) edited by Karl Rahner; The Renewal of Preaching (Fortress, 1969) by David Randolph; and The Future Shape of Preaching (Fortress, 1971) by Thor Hall.
THEORY OF PREACHING In no area of the whole homiletical discipline has more writing been done than in the matter of preparing the sermon. Particularly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, every preacher of any recognized stature was expected to describe his sermonic method for the benefit of his clerical brothers. Few of these have become classics; many have deserved the oblivion into which they have passed. Two time-honored works on the matter of the sermon have had considerable influence: François Fénelon, Dialogues on Eloquence (original Paris edition, 1717; Princeton University, 1951), and Jean Claude, An Essay on the Composition of a Sermon (Hunt and Eaton, 1779). For decades in America the textbook for introductory course in homiletics was John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (Armstrong, 1901), which Jesse B. Weatherspoon edited later and brought up to date (Harper, 1944). Any bibliography of basic sermon theory includes: Richard R. Caemmerer, Preaching For the Church (Concordia, 1959); W. E. Sangster, The Craft of the Sermon (Westminster, 1951); H. E. Luccock, In the Minister’s Workshop (Harper, 1944); Here Is My Method (Revell, 1952) edited by Donald Macleod; Ilion T. Jones, Principles and Practice of Preaching (Abingdon, 1956); Lloyd M. Perry, A Manual For Biblical Preaching (Baker, 1965); H. Grady Davis, Design For Preaching (Fortress, 1958); M. Reu, Homiletics (Wartburg, 1924; Baker, 1967); R. C. H. Lenski, The Sermon (Lutheran Book Concern, 1927; Baker, 1968); D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Zondervan, 1971); and An Introduction in Contemporary Preaching (Baker, 1972) by J. Daniel Baumann. Few preachers have influenced the theory of preaching more in America than Harry Emerson Fosdick. His essay “What Is the Matter with Preaching?” (Harper’s Monthly, July, 1928) is still referred to, while his sermon method and theory have been collected in an excellent monograph, Harry EmersonFosdick’s Art of Preaching (Thomas, 1971) edited by Lionel Crocker.
George M. Marsden is associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has the Ph.D. (Yale University) and has written “The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience.”
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