Preach in such a way that your faithful listeners deeply hope that what you are saying is true. I don’t mean a long-shot kind of hope like, “I hope I win the lottery.” Nor do I mean a wishful thinking, inauthentic, contrived, pretending kind of hope that’s trying harder to fit in and not disappoint the group than basking in the beauty. No, I’m talking about a hope that’s more like, “YES! I knew it was so, it MUST be so!” I’m talking about preaching that is true, good, and beautiful–preaching that deliberately and honestly aims directly at the affections of the listener. How?
In a recent conversation with a close friend, he spoke of the drama of the dogma. Dogma can be a scary word that is most often used in negative ways: “He’s so dogmatic!” isn’t a compliment. The word, more neutrally, or even positively, simply refers to authoritative teaching. Or better, the core teachings that are essential to whatever worldview you may be studying. My friend reminded me of an excellent essay by Dorothy L. Sayers entitled, The Dogma is the Drama. She argues that if you want to strip Christianity of its essential teachings in order to not offend folks, you will strip it of its tension, its beauty, its drama. You’ll make it boring and sentimental, and completely irrelevant. Better to put it on display as it really is so that if it is rejected (as it often is), at least folks rejected it for better reasons. And for those who don’t reject it–they will be infinitely better off!
Here’s a quote. The essay is worth reading in its entirety:
It is the dogma that is the drama — not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to lovingkindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death — but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Dogma is the Drama” in The Whimsical Christian, 27-28.