Book Review: Theology is for Proclamation (Forde)

Theology Is for ProclamationTheology Is for Proclamation by Gerhard O. Forde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forde’s book is helpful in distinguishing the difference between primary discourse and secondary discourse.  Simply put, secondary discourse is dialogue or words about God and primary discourse is the direct declaration of the Word of God; words from God.

According to Forde, “All too often what happens is that the systematic theology short-circuits the process and usurps the place of proclamation.  The secondary discourse about love displaces the ‘I love you.’”  Rather than systematic theology displacing proclamation, theology serves and makes the move towards proclamation inescapable.

Forde also spends time discussing the upward fall.  Mankind’s fall into sin was not downward but upward.  It is upward due to mankind’s aspiration and rebellion of wanting to be God.  This was the temptation by the serpent in the garden.  The understanding of an upward fall as well as the binding implications of original sin creates an environment where proclamation is necessary.  One cannot simply appeal to the old nature, which is entrenched in climbing the spiritual ladder, by simple secondary discourse.  One cannot reason with the old nature through secondary discourse expecting the sinful nature to say, “Yes, I now agree with your secondary discourse reasoning.”  Rather the upward fall and the understanding of the bound will shape us towards the idea of proclamation… primary discourse.

In primary discourse proclamation the preacher proclaims the text in a way that the text does to the hearer what it did to the original hearer.  In other words, Forde states, “That is to say, proclamation cannot end merely in an allegorical explaining of the text, however clever, so as to provide the hearer with options.  Just as in Christology we were impelled to move from the language of being to the language of doing, so also the proclamation must move from explaining to doing the text.  The proclaimer should attempt to do once again in the living present what the text once did and so authorizes doing again.”  In other words when proclaiming the text in a primary discourse manner, the message of the text is to do what it did to the original hearers rather than merely explaining the text.

Finally, Forde does an excellent job of framing primary discourse within or alongside the sacraments.  The sacraments of baptism and communion are means of grace in which God delivers grace to sinful mankind.  The sacraments are external and objective.  When proclamation is divorced or distanced from the sacraments the Word will lose out as it is consumed by the spirit of Pelagius and brought inward towards the depths of the depraved self.  Forde states, “Without sacramental character, the Word degenerates into information about which the continuously existing old being is supposed to do something.”  This is the importance of unity between the Proclaimed Word and the Sacraments.  Both are external and both pour Christ into the recipients.  The proclaimed Word not only informs but it also gives!  The proclaimed Word must be in unity to the sacraments, for the proclaimed Word to lose this unity would be to reduce it to secondary discourse and then place demands upon the old Adam; demands that the old Adam can’t and won’t follow through with.

View all my reviews