A Wesleyan theology of law and gospel for narrative preaching
Jon, Song Bok (Bob)
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation critically engages Wesley’s theology of law and gospel and uses it to construct a Wesleyan plot for narrative preaching. Paul Scott Wilson describes homiletician Eugene Lowry’s narrative sermon plot as a theological movement from law as trouble to gospel as solution. In this view, law functions largely as bad news; gospel as good news. Lowry’s plot assigns a largely negative role to law in that it convicts of sins, or in the case of narrative preaching, creates tension in a plot. John Wesley, however, defines law as “privilege and glorious liberty” for those who desire and participate in sanctification, a continuing growth in love for God and neighbors. This thesis, therefore, proposes a Wesleyan plot for narrative preaching that begins with law, moves to gospel, and ends with renewed law. This dissertation attempts to integrate narrative form and theological content in sermons, even though recent homiletical theories tend to move one way or the other. In doing so, it also bridges the gap between Lowry’s narrative preaching and that of postliberal homileticians, insofar as they tend to start either with experience or the biblical world, respectively. Instead, this work recognizes a kind of redemptive narrative in the relationship of justification and sanctification and suggests this for a Wesleyan model for narrative preaching. Ultimately, a discussion of law in Wesley’s covenantal sense challenges Lowry’s central, individualistic notion of freedom as a result of experiencing the gospel only after the law. This dissertation is an exercise in practical theology. It begins by critically analyzing the context and mode of Lowry’s narrative preaching. After consulting Wesley’s theology of law and gospel as normative, it critically engages black preaching traditions in the U.S. as a way of bridging the gap between Wesley’s time and today, especially recognizing the pastoral context of contemporary listeners. In connection with an analysis of black preaching traditions that creatively tell the redemptive narrative of God, the works of Edward Wimberly and Dale Andrews are especially instructive for showing how black churches narrate their members’ responsibilities in acts of justice and reconciliation in covenantal relationship with God and people.