REVIEWED BY CLINT ARCHER
Fred Craddock serves as the Bandy Professor of Preaching and New Testament, emeritus, at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. The book was published first in 1971, and has become a favorite among Emergent types in these later days. His 1986 book Preaching was voted book of the year by Preaching Magazine. He also served as Professor of New Testament at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
At the heart of Craddock’s thesis is his opinion that deductive, propositional, one-way sermons should be replaced with inductive conversational sermons. Preachers must not come with their own agendas nor simply deliver a message from the Bible, but the sermon “must be in conversation with the issues of its own time and the voices that address those issues,” (viii). The preacher must be one who is an equal in the conversation, not as one with the overbearing authority of a superior, thus inductive preaching is preaching “as one without authority.”
He anticipates that one may object to the loss of authority:
“Anyone who preaches deductively from an authoritative stance probably finds that shared experiences in the course of service as pastor, counselor, teacher, and friend tend to erode the image of authority. Such preachers want protecting distance, not over exposure. However, these common experiences, provided they are meaningful in nature and are reflected on with insight and judgment, are for the inductive method essential to the preaching experience,” (49).
The book is structured to make his case in two parts. Part I is an attempt to analyze the current preaching methodology and his perceived problems with it. He characterizes most preaching as deductive, based on logical sequence, and overt structure (like a three-point outline announced to the congregation and followed fastidiously).
In Part 2, Craddock proposes, instead of the problematic deductive method, a conversational, inductive, fluid delivery that elevates the listener and pulls the preacher down from his pedestal of authority, to the point where the listener may also voice comments during the “conversation” (not sermon). Rather than start with the text’s propositional truth and then apply it to the lives of the listeners, he proposes the preacher begin with the experiences of he audience and work back to a biblical truth. He also offers helpful methods to maintain some semblance of structure to the conversation, so that it does not veer off the topic too much, which he candidly admits is a danger in the inductive method:
“The most important single contributing factor to consistently effective preaching is study and careful preparation … because the method [of inductive preaching] itself can so easily degenerate into casual conversation with the congregation,” (79).
Another part worth mentioning is appendices. They are intended to be of practical help in illustrating this inductive method. The first appendix is a sketch of the process of preparation, and the second appendix is a sample sermon as an illustration of how it looks in practice.
It is commendable to want sermons to connect with their listeners. Some of the aspects of the book cause one to reflect on ways of engaging one’s listeners and helping them understand how the text relates directly to their situations. But to say that the problem is the authority of the preacher, is to misunderstand where the lies. Preaching is to be done “with all authority” but not that the authority is inherent in the preacher, but in the inspired word of God. It is God’s authority that must be brought to bear on the lives of his people. The preacher is merely the conduit, and he should never posit himself as anything else. It is true that some view the preacher as having inherent authority, and this misconception must be combated. But the solution is not to elevate the inherent authority of the listener! Both the preacher and the listener are to be “as one without authority.” The solution is to teach preachers to do expository preaching in a way that shows the authority is in the text.
One reviewer says it well,
While Craddock nobly seeks to make the sermons more understandable to the modern culture, he goes too far in looking first to the culture to determine the content of the sermon itself. He notes of a “current sag in the pulpit [which] is the loss of certainty and the increase of tentativeness on the part of the preacher” (11). With the culture shying away from any perceived authoritative figure, preachers tend to compensate so as not to offend. This reliance on the congregation’s perception of the sermon is overstated.
Craddock fails to grapple with the theological issues that may cause pause when wresting authority from the preacher and putting it into the hands of the congregation. He also overestimates the biblical literacy and theological understanding of the average congregation. He doesn’t offer parameters that would protect the “conversation” from being infiltrated by unbelievers or false teachers. No word on church membership, or church leadership qualifications is even considered. These are significant gaps. The assumption is that anyone’s input should be considered equally profitable. Very few other arenas subscribe to this philosophy, whether it be politics, news casting, or even business meetings. Authority is a given, the question needs to be with whom does it lie? Craddock overlooks dealing with this important fact that authority lies with God, and is found in the right understanding of his word. Ephesians 4:11 “God gave…pastors and teachers to the church for the equipping of the saints…” To ignore a trained exegete’s role in the sermon is being negligent with a stewardship of a gift to the church, at best.
It should also be noted that over time, Craddock softened his views, and back-pedalled some of his assertions. For example, in an interview with Al Mohler, for Preaching Magazine in 1986, Mohler asked Craddock:
“In your book As One Without Authority, you began with a chapter entitled ‘The Pulpit in the Shadows.’ Your current work suggests a much more optimistic evaluation. How do your see the current state of preaching?”
To which Craddock replied, “Well, I certainly would not choose a chapter heading like that today. The departments of preaching in the seminaries are well-staffed. Schools which for the last twenty years did not require a single course in preaching now require three, six, or even nine hours in preaching. Beyond that, the electives in preaching are well-populated in schools across the country and many schools are trying to find more teachers of preaching, so the days of the doldrums and caricatures, jokes, put-downs and condescension have subsided. The situation is much different now, over fifteen years since I wrote As One Without Authority.”
In the same interview he responded to Mohler’s question about the current state of preaching by conceding “…the appreciation for preaching has demonstrably increased and ministers are responding to that challenge.”
One particularly inexplicable foible of the book is his constant referring to the preacher exclusively in the feminine gender. This would be unusual in most literature, but it is especially distracting and jarring in the context of a book about preaching, in light of conservative theological stance that women are not to be elders. Though women can teach, it seems that the intended readership would be male preachers, most of whom would believe that only men should be pastors. Craddock does the very opposite of what he instructs his readers to do: he fails to start with the receiver of the message.
One insightful reviewer captures this criticism with evident insight:
Craddock’s propensity to direct intentionally the book toward the female minister is particularly disturbing. One could forgive this indiscretion if he provided more balance — yet he exclusively refers to the ministers that he describes with the feminine gender. Given how this book seeks to reach the broadest base of ministers and lay leaders possible, Craddock conveys an agenda which seems more reactionary to conservative evangelicalism which clearly (and biblically) holds to male spiritual leaders in favor of a more liberal mindset in addressing and acknowledging only female ministers. While many in various evangelical circles laud this book (even desiring a second edition), he loses a major marketing base by such a transparent and disappointing agenda that distracts from the message he wishes to convey.
In constantly purporting this agenda Craddock is effectively showing his theological stance on the authority, not of the preacher, but of Scripture! It is an inexcusable stylistic error in judgment, which weakens his credibility throughout the book.
I think the book is as misguided as any contemporary Emergent book is. The entire thesis seems to miss the point that there is an absolute authority, and that it lies with God, not the preacher. If a listener is elevating her preacher to a position of undue authority, that needs to be tackled in a book, but not this one. As One Without Authority missed the point of the problem and therefore offers the wrong solution which may in itself call for a remedy should anyone pay attention to book written by someone who claims not be more of an authority on the topic than his readers anyway.
 http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11566986/page-1/, accessed Nov 12, 2010.