Thursday, November 19, 2009

Peters on Preaching: How NOT to use a Prooftext

Anyone who has had to do a research paper knows you have to prove your point. Cite your sources. Don't forget your footnotes, endnotes, add in that little number at the end of your thought, and document everything.

When I look back on my own papers, it was really easy to string together citations from various resources in an attempt to make my point. They call this "prooftexting" and it is often used in preaching as well.

This will get you an OK grade, but it doesn't make a great paper, and it doesn't make for good preaching, either. Pastor Peters tackled this topic in a recent post.  Here is an excerpt:

When I was in Seminary, one of my homiletical professors told us that every point in your sermon must be supported by a proof text. Suffice it to say that this resulted in either sermons with few points to supported or long sermons that ended up stringing Bible passage after Bible passage. Once, in another homiletics class, I was crunched for time and fudged by turning in a sermon written for this above mentioned professor. The second professor called me aside and said that while there was nothing "wrong" with the sermon, I was to promise him that I would never preach that way in the parish.

I encourage laity and clergy alike to read this post and the excellent comments by Rev. Eric Brown. For clergy, it may help shape your message in a different way. For laity, it may help open you understand to your pastor's style.  For students of any age, it may give you ideas for improving your next term paper.

By the way, if you watch EWTN's Journey Home, you may have heard from a guest or two that Luther practiced prooftexting.  This is NOT the case and Pastor Peters spends a few sentences on Luther's style in his post.

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