Preaching Gospel as Gospel: The Good News of the Resurrection

Eclectic Orthodoxy

Since my first encounter with Robert Jenson’s construal of justification as metalinguistic rule back in the 1980s, I have sought to proclaim the gospel in the mode of unconditional promise. I have often not been successful nor consistent—it’s harder to do than one might imagine—but this at least has been my goal. My conviction that all properly Christian preaching should conform to the metalinguistic rule did not change when I became Orthodox. How could it? Precisely at this point we are touching on something that goes to the core of the faith or at least to the core of my faith.

But the metalinguistic rule is controversial. So many passages in Scripture and the Church Fathers seem to argue against it, and so many contemporary sermons do argue against it. Surely, we say, there are conditions for salvation—faith, repentance, love, virtue, good works, prayer, self-denial immediately come to mind. Given…

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4 Responses to Preaching Gospel as Gospel: The Good News of the Resurrection

  1. Mike H says:

    I have never heard a sermon preached that way. There’s always a “but” or an “if”. It may be subtle, but it’s there.

    I may have asked this before (and I have similar questions related to some of the Torrance quotes that you’ve posted) but Jenson ultimately holds to an eschatology of eternal conscious torment, correct?

    If there are no ”conditions”, how can that be? There has to be a condition buried in there somewhere….

    Or there is an eternal disconnect between “salvation” and the experience of it as such (“River of Fire” type thing?) which somehow linguistically avoids being considered a “condition”?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I used to preach sermons like that …


      • Mike H says:

        I’m in agreement (I think) and meant to say that I’ve never heard a Gospel sermon preached without “conditions”. I’m sure I’m the poorer for it.

        Either (and mostly) overtly conditional so there is no confusion, or the conditions are known well enough as to be assumed and the message (whatever the performative mode) is naturally filtered through them. I’ve heard quite a few sermons on unconditional love that are simultaneously loaded with conditions for it to be realized as such.

        Then again, it might just be that I don’t know how to hear things any other way.


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Mike, Jenson affirms the possibility of eternal separation from God. In that sense he affirms a free-will defense of hell. But that does not stop him from believing that the preacher is called to speak the gospel in the mode of unconditional promise.


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