Dialogue on Sermons #4

The following are further edited extracts from an email dialogue that I had recently with someone who wishes to remain anonymous. It followed a talk in which I questioned the privileged status given to sermons.

Questioner:
You say: ‘Given that no teaching method of prescribed in the NT (though some are described), we are free to use whatever method we deem appropriate to the context.’ Do you, however, agree that there are details of practice that are binding upon us as New Testament churches, even though they’re never prescribed – or even described – in the NT in a church context? For example, women taking communion is never prescribed or described… yet we’d all say that it must happen.

My point here is that you are the one arguing from silence about the sermon. You’re saying the Bible never commands us to, therefore we don’t need to. However the case I’d build for it stands on different grounds than what is explicitly described or prescribed in a NT church context (which are quite narrow grounds for establishing whether we should, shouldn’t or have flexibility to do something).

Just like my case for women taking communion stands on different grounds too… applying the same standard of proof to that as you’re applying to the sermon would mean we should say that we are free to allow, or not allow, women to take communion based on the context.

My reply:
… I’m not sure the women taking communion is relevant. Women are told to take communion – not in so many words, but 1 Cor 10:16-17 says communion is a symbol of our unity. The word ‘all’ makes it explicit that ‘all’ are included.

‘All are told to participate in communion therefore women should participate in communion’ is a very different piece of reasoning from ‘sermons are not mentioned in NT church gatherings therefore sermons should be a key and central part of church gatherings today’.