Thomas Schreiner identifies two problems that will wreck havoc on future generations in this article. First, he says that while we believe the Scripture is inspired, we betray a feeling that is not sufficient by skirting over controversial issues. Second, and most relevant here, he argues that solely horizontal preaching will lead to weakness in discernment and liberal theology.
Horizontal preaching is simply preaching on marriage, conquering fear and the like. These aren’t bad in themselves and must be preached. “But,” Schreiner says, “what is troubling is that these sort of sermons become the staple week in and week out, and the theological worldview that permeates God’s word and is the foundation for all of life is passed over in silence. Our pastors turn into moralists rather like Dear Abby who give advice on how to live a happy life week after week” (20).
Since pastors have the responsibility to preach the whole Bible (Acts 20:27), these horizontal sermons are somewhat limiting. Admittedly, they may be preached by orthodox preachers with good theology. The problem is, however, without preaching the whole story of the Bible, theology is assumed. Thus, Schreiner writes, “[The pastor] may be fully orthodox and faithful in his own theology, while neglecting to preach to his people the storyline and theology of the Bible. He has assumed theology in all his preaching. So in the next generation or in two or three generations the congregation may inadvertently and unknowingly call a more liberal pastor” (21).
The reason they may call a more liberal pastor is that they have not become theologically discerning, because they have no theological foundation derived by understanding the storyline of Scripture. In other words, the liberal pastor “too preaches that people should be good, king and loving. He too emphasizes that we should have good marriages and dynamic relationships. The people in the pew may not even discern the difference” (21).
Schreiner suggests preaching both horizontal and vertical sermons to balance this trend. For Schreiner, vertical preaching includes preaching the story line of the Bible. In short, he means that without using the discipline of Biblical theology in preaching, we run the risk of losing discernment and being influenced by a theology that believes in moral goodness but denies the sufficiency of Scripture.
Is he right?