Can Preaching Make A Difference?

November 2007

Dear Friends,

     Can preaching make a difference? Most of us would agree in principle, noting how we have been moved or challenged by individual sermons. But faithful preaching can actually shape history.

     Consider this wonderful example. Alexandre Vinet (1797-1947) was one of the architects of our modern concept of religious freedom. Although this Swiss theologian spent most of his life in a classroom or behind a writing desk, he was able to lead much of Francophone Europe to understand freedom of conscience. He wrote three powerful essays on the subject: On the Liberty of Worship (1826); On Conscience (1829); and On the Manifestation of Religious Conviction (1842). He also inspired a movement which led to the Free Church in 1845. He was deeply concerned for the rights of minorities to have religious freedom, without outside constraints.

     The source of his convictions? One of the most important was Protestant sermons from the 17th century! He wrote a 700 page study of these men, including Pierre Du Moulin, Jean Daillé, Moïse Amyraut and Pierre Du Bosc. Mostly forgotten today, in their time they were powerful voices. And they were minority voices, since these Huguenots were facing such opposition. Their sermons often denounced the abuse of power, and the pretentious claims of both kings and bishops. In a sermon on Eternal Election in Jesus Christ, Du Bosc argues that the great sovereign reign of God both legitimates and relativizes earthly powers.

     The dynamics of religion and authority are back on the table today. So many voices from the media and the lectern comment on religion and violence, church and state, etc. How about from sermons? The Seminary at Aix, particularly through the Boice Chair, is turning out excellent preachers of the Word. They are trained to comment upon all of life from a Scriptural vantage point. History may be affected. Can you help us make that happen?

Very Truly Yours,

William Edgar, President