Augustine’s Theology of Preaching (Sanlon)

Augustine’s Theology of Preaching is an excellent book that covers a somewhat neglected aspect of Augustine’s life and thought – that is, his preaching. I’m not quite finished with the book but so far it has been very insightful and interesting. Sanlon’s writing is easy to understand and the overall structure of the book is well laid out. I appreciated the section on the historical context of Augustine’s preaching in North Africa. I’ve also gained some valuable insight on preaching from this book. I don’t have time to give a longer review here, but I’ll share a snippet of something I read yesterday that caught my eye:

…Augustine’s preference for extemporaneous preaching meant that he utilized the methods recommended by the best secular orators. His style had rhetorical purpose: ‘Augustine knew that if a man truly mastered a subject, he had only to say what was in his mind with honesty and conviction; then he would have no difficulty in remaining in the popular vein and being at all times understood.’

However, the theological concerns were even more important than the rhetorical agenda. Theologically, Augustine’s preference for extemporary preaching which flowed from prior contemplation upon Scripture generated a concern for relationality between God, preacher, and listeners. The preacher’s prayers for listeners, and requests that God would enlighten his understanding, drew all parties into a spiritual union and shared journey. Augustine’s method of preaching required far more than mere information transfer; it necessitated the opening of a preacher’s heart to God and a subsequent outpouring of the heart’s love to listeners. Van der Meer makes the connection between extemporary style and relationality when he observes that Augustine ‘spoke from the fullness of his heart’ and was ‘in living contact with his audience.’

Peter Sanlon, Augustine’s Theology of Preaching, p. 20.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

2 thoughts on “Augustine’s Theology of Preaching (Sanlon)”

  1. Love this:

    “Augustine’s method of preaching required far more than mere information transfer; it necessitated the opening of a preacher’s heart to God and a subsequent outpouring of the heart’s love to listeners.”

    Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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