The Preacher and Culture
The role of a theologian in addressing the challenges of contemporary culture is often called Public Theology. In what way is it appropriate for a pastor-scholar to speak to ethical concerns in the life of the public square? As Owen Strachan says, “either the pastor is a political activist, or he is effectively removed from cultural concerns…both of these models have serious problems.”
A classical text is Matthew 14.4, where we learn of John the Baptist protesting the marriage of Herod, but there are many others. Just imagine the frequency with which the apostles commented on marriage, sexuality, the treatment of those in one’s employment (and those in authority), etc. Clearly, there is a biblical role of Public Theology for the expositional preacher.
I commend Owen Strachan’s helpful article, The Wilberforce Test: Preaching and the Public Square. He is rapt by the kind of ministry impact Rev. John Venn and Rev. John Newton had on the life of young William Wilberforce. These three formed an ordained triad of gospel witnesses who spoke strongly against the slave trade in England. Strachan’s article is a helpful start to this story.
John Venn, as you may not know, was the pastor of Wilberforce in London. As I have gotten to know Venn, let me recommend his sermon, “Godliness Profitable to All Things” . This sermon is a masterstroke of theological application and I can easily imagine its impact upon Wilberforce and his fellow congregants in nineteenth century London.