Calvin's Two-Voice Theory of Preaching

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John H. Gerstner

Abstract

Perhaps the simplest and most fundamental characterization of Calvin's homiletical theory is the two-voice theory of preaching. Calvin himself uses this expression, although in a different application, namely to the inviting and the warning voice of the preacher. "Jl fattt qtte nous ayons dottble voix ... tme voix dottce pour exhorter cettx qui se rendront dociles, et pour les guider au droit chemin: et . . . tme a11tre voix pottr crier contre les lottps et les larrons, afin de les chasser dtt trottpeat." Thus the minister must ever be wooing the sheep and shooing the wolves. However, there is another sense in which, according to Calvin's thought, the preacher speaks with a "dottble voix." God has spoken in his Word and he speaks again through his preachers. So, when the man in the pulpit is heard, God is heard, too; not one but two voices are heard. "In Calvin's Homily 42 on I Sam. he stresses the authority of prophets and pastors in the Christian Church, declaring that they are 'the very mouth of God.' And in his commentary on John 3:2 he declares that we are not to listen to any persons except those by whose mouth God speaks."

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Keywords
Calvin, Jean, 1509-1564; Preaching; Word of God
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