- Latimer trust
A book review by Daniel Kirk on Wallace Benn's new booklet 'Prophetic Preaching. The missing Jewel of The Evangelical Church?'
I wish, like my OT namesake, that I were a prophet and after recent events in the General Synod of the Church of England that I could see what the future of our denomination holds. However this new book by Wallace Benn (ex-vicar, bishop & founder of Bible by the Beach) explains that prophecy is more about forth-telling (the word of God) than the fore-telling of future events, without ruling out the latter.
Despite no ‘word’ about the future of Anglicanism in the UK (and I still think that the Yes, Prime Minister episode on choosing a bishop was not only great contemporary satire but perceptive prophetic commentary) there was lots to take on board, to muse on and to be challenged by in this small booklet on prophetic preaching.
Benn begins by looking at Wayne Grudem’s thesis on biblical prophecy, with critiques by Carson and Schreiner on it and Grudem’s redefinition of it in his latest edition of Systematic Theology. Benn doesn’t hold to a cessationist viewpoint and indeed includes a ‘picture’ that was shared in St Peter’s Harold Wood when he was vicar there that proved useful to that congregation.
But he thinks that prophecy is a ‘wide category word’ that shouldn’t mainly be limited to “spontaneous ‘impressions’ or ‘promptings’ which are fallible.” He goes on to explain that prophecy as seen in the NT is ‘expository gospel preaching with application which is Spirit-enabled and prompted’ (9) and is hugely needed in today’s church.
Benn analyses Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2 in depth and shows how it is a model for this type of preaching before explaining that ‘The power in the preaching comes from the content, it is a message from God, and also the fact that it has touched the preacher’s heart, as well as being Spirit-anointed and enabled in its delivery’ (27).
There is much practical wisdom to be gleaned from Benn’s long pastoral and preaching ministry as well as the shared insight of many pastors and academics; from Beale and Bewes to Bruce, from Garland to Griffiths and Packer to Peterson. There was one subject that I would have liked Benn to have reflected on in this booklet as a spin off from his main thesis. Given Paul’s assumption that women would prophesy (1 Cor 11.5) and Benn’s contention that inspired preaching is at the heart of prophecy, what might the place of women preachers in complementarian circles be?
Although Benn doesn’t exclusively tie prophecy to preaching he sees prophecy as in large part ‘the Word of God preached with urgency and immediacy’ (30) and so
Benn’s conclusion is that the prophetic preaching that we can see in Peter’s Pentecost sermon is a model that modern preachers should aspire too imitate.
It should include:
• A sense of calling, with a message to proclaim
• Prayerfulness, a ministry dependent on God and bathed in prayer
• Deep meditation on Holy Scriptures and the teaching of Jesus in the light of the Easter event
• Courageous exposition and proclamation of revealed truth, bearing witness to Jesus and enabled by the Holy Spirit
• A message requiring a response - which is not simply the imparting of information
• Through this kind of proclamation, new disciples of Jesus are made and the church grows. (41)
In this day and age we certainly need more of this prophetic preaching, both in my church and in churches up and down our land. If that were the case, the Church of England would have a bright future, but on that subject your guess is as good as mine!