Get Yourself out of the Interpretation and into the Proclamation

June 19, 2013

Preaching magazine once interviewed John MacArthur and asked him the following question:

You’ve commented that one of the things you have to work at so hard is to get your own presuppositions out of the message. How do you do that and yet allow the divinely inspired personality of the preacher to still have its place?

MacArthur responds,

I think the answer to that is you get yourself out of the interpretation; you don’t get yourself out of the proclamation. I want to be out of the interpretation and in the proclamation. There’s a clear line there for me. . . .

I think the challenge in the interpretation process is to get yourself out of it, and that is where the scholarship comes in, that is where you hard work comes in.

That’s why I read probably twelve to fifteen commentaries on every passage that I preach on. I really do want to be fair with it. That’s the challenge, and once I get into the proclamation, then that’s just me. I hope that people don’t ever think that you are up there trying to present your opinion. (emphasis mine)

Question: How does a preacher keep his presuppositions out of the message? Is that even possible or profitable? How would you have answered Preaching magazine’s question?

Kerry McGonigal

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In Adam by birth but in Christ by grace. That's my story. Husband to one and father of three. Pastor, homiletics teacher, and passionate proponent of expository preaching. If you like what you've read and want to be notified of future posts, take a second and subscribe via RSS or email (on the right sidebar). Opinions expressed here are my own.

3 responses to Get Yourself out of the Interpretation and into the Proclamation

  1. I think I understand his point, but isn’t part of our job as preachers of the Word to help our people in interpretation, as well as proclaiming the truth? We ask “what does the Bible say?” Then we ask “what does the Bible mean?” Both of those questions are hermeneutical in nature. They are also important to our preaching. Then comes the application/proclamation, “what does the Bible mean for me/us?” While we must seek to get our own presuppositions out of the picture, we cannot dodge interpretation. I don’t know that that is what he was trying to communicate, but it almost comes across that way.

    Good thought-provoking post my friend.

    • Thanks for the comment, Taigen. I can see how the idea of “getting yourself out of the interpretation” could be confusing. I think it’s more clear in the context (I cut some of the interview out) that MacArthur is primarily arguing against a highly subjective, personally prejudiced interpretation of Scripture. In other words, reading into the text what isn’t there. However, when it comes to our proclamation, the personal, “subjective,” and experiential element needs to be present. My own style, my own experience and internalization of the text. My own relationship with God. That sort of thing. Hence, get yourself (your own unhealthy or unscriptural pre-conclusions and biases) out of the interpretation process and be in the proclamation (in the sense of throwing your whole self into it). That’s how I understood it. Thanks for helping to clarify!

  2. Thanks Kerry.