When I was an M.Div. student, a homiletic theory usually referred to some mode of preaching within the guild’s (mostly white) story of homiletical development – inductive preaching, narrative preaching, propositional preaching, expository preaching, etc. Methodology was a word naively interchanged with method and referred to “how to preach” – as in “My homiletic method(ology) begins with an introductory story, followed by a problem, followed by a solution.”
Somewhere in the midst of this way of talking and thinking, I began to realize that my interests lay elsewhere – in another set of questions and issues. These issues were more epistemological in nature – i.e. they had to do with how we actually know what preaching, in all of its aspects, is and does – as distinct from other kinds of utterance.
In the transition into studying these issues, a paradigm shift occurred for me in the meaning of these words. Here’s a new set of meanings for these words, as I see it at this stage of the game:
- one’s homiletic theory refers to one’s overall proposal for establishing preaching, or some aspect of preaching, as a legitimate scholarly subject among other subjects – as in “theorizing preaching,” or “theorizing ethical preaching. Or, “I theorize ethical preaching as a testimonial practice grounded in God’s desire for the flourishing of the vulnerable human other.”
- one’s homiletic methodology refers to one’s way of establishing a method as a legitimate method – as in “my methodology argues that instead of ontologies grounded in propositions, narrativity (scriptural or anthropological), or common human experiences of the sacred, an ontology of the face or visage (cf. Levinas) contains a deconstructive ethical “supplement” that can keep homiletics from self-reflexive ethical closure as a discipline and practice.”
- one’s homiletic method refers to the way one takes an established method and uses it to study an established (or theorized) subject, and highlights what is learned along the way – as in “Levinas’ deconstruction of ontology by ethics exposes ethical preaching’s need to (continually) exit its authorities as potentially violent to others.”