Haddon Robinson, the respected author and seminary president who set the standard for expositional preaching, died Saturday. He was 86.
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Robinson served as an interim president and professor of preaching, broke the news of his passing and posted a tribute this weekend. Robinson also taught at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and was president of Denver Seminary.
In his books, classes, and radio instruction, Robinson taught that sermons should be guided by the biblical text and focus on one idea or theme.
Robinson has been teaching students about expository preaching for decades. His classic (and recently updated) tome Biblical Preaching, which is used in more than 150 seminaries and Bible colleges, has become the go-to text for aspiring expositors.
“The number of preachers who really begin with the text and let it govern the sermon is relatively small,” laments Robinson. “Today, the danger is that some preachers will read the latest psychology book into the text. They're not driven by a great theology but, instead, by the social sciences.”
In addition to Biblical Preaching, Robinson wrote more than a dozen books on the topic and regularly taught through radio ministries Discover the Word and Our Daily Bread. He warned preachers about veering into heresy with biblical application; distracting the congregation with sermon illustrations; or ostracizing parts of the audience with tone.
Among many striking quotes about preaching, Robinson had said, “There are no great preachers, only a great Christ.”
The New York City native grew up in Harlem, became a Christian at Broadway Presbyterian Church, and preached his first sermon as a teenager volunteering with its prison ministry, according to a magazine profile by DTS, where he went on to attend seminary and eventually teach.
Robinson advocated for racial integration at the school and taught Tony Evans among the school’s first class of African American students.
“I am but a small part of the great cloud of witnesses that can testify to the eternal impact Dr. Haddon Robinson has made in keeping preachers like me from the sinful extremes of either boring people with the Word of God or exciting them with the words of men,” Evans told DTS.
Dozens of Robinson’s former students and readers shared his impact on them and their ministry.
“I’m thankful that his legacy will live on, not only through this students but through those who benefit because he taught so many how to preach,” wrote Toronto pastor and Gordon-Conwell alum Darryl Dash.
In 2000, when Robinson wrote about Psalm 49 in CT, he referred to death as a grim shepherd. “For the believer in Jesus Christ, for the righteous person, we do not go out into death and into darkness,” he concluded. “Instead, we go home to God.”