I highly recommend checking these out. (I admit having a penchant for Eugene Peterson’s thinking).
In the “Immersed in Scripture” session, Peterson encourages us not to treat the Bible as a thing to be dissected. Instead, we are to treat it like a living text.
In a style that is vintage Peterson, he recounts a quick paraphrase of a scene from Melville’s White Jacket. A ship surgeon, bored with the voyage because he has little work to do, has a chance to do an appendectomy on one of the sailors. He gathers some other sailors around to assist as he operates on a table in the galley. The surgeon is excited because there is finally important work to do and he is equipped to do it. While operating, he proceeds into a long and drawn out lecture on the wonders of the human body, pointing out anatomy, etc. – he goes on and on and on. Finally, the sailors get quiet. The man has died as the surgeon operated and lectured.
Peterson likens this to what we do as preachers. We get in our pulpits, slice and dice and lecture. As we treat the text as “a thing to be dissected”, our hearers are dying. In an effort to be faithful to Scripture, we kill the Bible’s life (and the hearers).
It’s a powerful illustration.
Many might say, “But, we have to be serious about exegesis! We must be serious about the Bible! People these days just want their ears tickled.”
But, I don’t think Peterson is calling us to do poor exegesis or neglect the intricacies of a text of Scripture.
However, could it be that we do exegesis in a way that kills the pulsating, passionate, Spirit-breathed, Christ-centered, wrought-with-redemptive-tension, exciting, sharper-than-two-edged-sword, powerful, living-and-active heart of the text?
What do you think? How do we avoid doing this in our preaching? What dangers do you see in Peterson’s line of reasoning? How can Scripture come alive through us? How do we do careful exegesis vs. “treating Scripture as a thing to be dissected”? Is there a mode of preaching that does careful exegesis without this harmful slicing and dicing that misses the living, Christ exalting, redemptive center of the Bible? How can you cultivate these proper preaching instincts?