Reformed Ethos, Part 6: Preaching


Historically, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have embodied a distinctive way of being the Christian community. Dr. John H. Leith, professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, identified nine motifs or themes of this ethos.

Sixth, there is an emphasis upon preaching. "The Reformation . . . was the greatest revival of preaching in church history" (p. 82).

Preaching "was the means of grace above all others by which he [Calvin] expected God to transform Geneva" (p. 83).

"The Reformed community has always had great confidence . . . in written and spoken words and, in particular, in the power of preaching, when blessed by the Holy Spirit, to change human life and to create a godly public opinion. The demand for simplicity, directness, authenticity, and sincerity, which have been emphasized generally in the tradition, applies especially to preaching. The Calvinist sermon is not ostentatious or pretentious but plain, roughhewn, and powerful. In considerable measure the content, clearly and distinctly presented, is the rhetoric as well as the message" (p. 84).

How can we best embody this emphasis in the lives of the churches we serve today?

To read more, see John H. Leith, An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition: A Way of Being the Christian Community, revised edition (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981), Chapter 3, "The Ethos of the Reformed Tradition," pp. 70-88.

For more information, click on this link to Westminster John Knox Press:

An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition.

To learn more about Dr. Leith, click on this link to the Foundation website, including a memorial, a selected bibliography, and a link to audio recordings of thirty-seven of his sermons and lectures:

John Haddon Leith.

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV
Grace and Peace,

Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive Director
Foundation for Reformed Theology
4103 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230
(804) 678-8352