Luther and the Deadly Be's: His Christ-Centered Preaching in Contrast to Redemptive-Historical Exclusivism
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Redemptive-historical preaching has incredible value to strengthen the preacher's arsenal, but its more radical proponents often resort to unyielding exclusivism, labeling non-conformist sermons as sub-Christian or worse. These exclusivistic leanings inevitably result in an unintended castigation of many faithful preachers throughout church history. Even a preacher like Martin Luther, with a near-universal reputation for Christ-centeredness, is unable to survive this redemptive-historical gauntlet unscathed. This dissertation contends that Martin Luther’s preaching fails to satisfy redemptive-historical standards for Christ-centered preaching, thereby suggesting those standards may be too narrow. The law-gospel paradigm in Luther's Christ-centered homiletic may function as a corrective to the potential overreach among redemptive-historical exclusivists. Certain criteria suggest Luther’s preaching fails to satisfy redemptive-historical standards. Bryan Chapell offers a succinct and well-tested litmus test for redemptive-historical sermons in his important work, Christ-Centered Preaching. Chapell outlines three types of non-redemptive sermons, aptly labeled "Deadly Be's:" (1) "Be Like" messages, which urge hearers to follow a Bible character's example, (2) "Be Good" sermons, which call hearers to obedience, and (3) "Be Disciplined" messages, which compel hearers towards greater diligence. Chapell's "Deadly Be's" will be used to measure Luther's redemptive-historical compliance. Chapter 1 introduces the main research problem and the thesis. Chapter 2 further introduces redemptive-historical preaching and its potential for exclusivism. Chapter 3 establishes Martin Luther as a potential corrective to the exclusivistic leanings of redemptive-historical preaching. Chapter 4 explores Luther's homiletical distinctives, with particular attention given to his law-gospel paradigm. Chapter 5 analyzes four sermons of the early Luther. Chapter 6 analyzes six sermons from Luther’s preaching in mid-career. Chapter 7 investigates six sermons from Luther’s preaching in his final years. Chapter 8 summarizes the basic principles gleaned from Luther's practices in an attempt to present a homiletical methodology for preaching Christ more effectively. Chapter 9 summarizes the main research problem and the effectiveness of Luther's preaching as a potential corrective. In many ways, his preaching both spawned and saved the Reformation. Those who desire to preach Christ more effectively should seriously reckon with his unique contribution to homiletics.