Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Want to be a Preacher? Major in English Lit.

In Why Johnny Can't Preach, T. David Gordon writes that he encourages college freshmen who aspire to be preachers to strongly consider majoring in English literature. Gordon is not the first to do this. He notes that James Boice, the great expositional preacher of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philly until his death in 2000, was likewise encouraged to make English lit. his course of study in college; Boice followed through with this at Harvard.

Gordon notes that many people have been surprised with the success of Boice's young successor at Tenth Presbyterian, Philip Ryken (who, now, has been appointed president of Wheaton College--great news!!!), also a faithful and effective expository preacher. But, we should not be surprised, because Ryken is the son of the well-known Wheaton English professor Leland Ryken (I cannot recommend the Literary Study Bible, edited by this father and son team, more highly).

The point, again (see previous post), in all of this is that careful attention and acquired ability in the art of reading texts can often have the effect of honing the sensibilities needed for faithful preaching of the text of ancient Scripture.

I am thankful to God that two men whose ministries I have benefitted from preach the Word faithfully--Jeff Long, my home pastor, who first taught me the value of expository preaching, and John Piper. Both of these men and many others studied English literature in college.


andreablair said...

This warms my English major heart!! :-) (Not that I'm planning to become a pastor!) But I very much agree with the advice and still believe that literature is one of the best ways to learn about the human condition and about the beauties of language. Great post!

Laura said...

Like andreablair, I enjoyed reading this, too! I've been thinking lately how all my literary analysis classes as an English major have been so helpful to my Bible reading. Blessings to you!