Monday, October 27, 2008

Limiting God?

image This morning I was troubled by a post that I read in a blog which I generally appreciate.  It is not that this particular blog was unique:  it has been a philosophy that has eaten at me for a while, but until this morning, I couldn’t put into words what it was that bugged me. Because I respect the blogger & am really only using him as a foil, I will not credit the quote:

This morning as I sat here in my study preparing for next Sunday’s sermon, it occurred to me that the choice of whether or not to preach the Bible simply comes down to this: Do I think more highly of what I have to say or of what God has already said in His Word? Put another way, whose words do I truly believe are more trustworthy, authoritative, and efficacious in the hearts of the people? Mine? Or God’s?

I believe that in many ways, the philosophy expressed here is inconsistent and distrustful of God. 

Now, I put all that I am saying below in the framework that

  1. We are attempting to have intellectual and spiritual integrity
  2. We are actually preaching a sermon and not giving a moralistic (or other) talk. What I am preaching actually legitimately derives from and references holy scripture.

But my problems with this are threefold:

  1. If this were truly my (or the writers) belief, then we should just read the Bible and sit down.  ANY words that we say about the text or in application of the text would be dangerous.  They would be adding to the text and diluting it. I would never preach at all, but simply be a scripture reader.  Not that scripture reading is bad in worship (!) but that reading and preaching are two different things.
  2. If I have studied the text(s) and have some semblance of intellectual and spiritual integrity, I need to trust that the Holy Spirit is active in the process as well. While each type of sermon structure (exegetical, expositional, topical) have their own limitations and dangers, I believe that the Holy Spirit can (and does) work through all three.   I trust that the Holy Spirit resides in me and is directing me and will guide my words as I preach (that is true even if I am preaching a strictly exegetical sermon as well!)  I believe that the Holy Spirit has given me the gift of creativity in learning how to communicate the truth of scripture. 
  3. This gets back to my previously state pet peeve that the McArthur type of exegetical preaching is just not found in scripture.  It is seldom there, if at all.  It is not that it is wrong, but the rabidity and ungraciousness of some of its proponents towards preachers who use any other style must be countered by simply directing them back to holy writ.  How did Jesus preach?  How did the apostles preach in Acts?  How did Paul preach?  There are those who point to Ezra in the Old Testament as preaching exegetically.  Perhaps, even probably.  But that kind of makes my point.  It is the exception, not the rule.

I am not trying to embark on a crusade or battle against exegetical preaching (heaven forbid!), but against the narrow and inconsistent mindset of those who declare that it is the only legitimate type of biblical preaching. 

End of diatribe.


Note on the illustration: From its petals resembling doves, the columbine has been adopted  as an emblem of the Holy Spirit.  The red columbine has been used especially for this purpose since its red spurs resemble also the tongues of flame with which the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles at Pentecost.

In paintings of the Madonna the columbine recalls that Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, of whom she is also the dwelling place or temple, according to the words of the angel: "And the Holy Spirit shall come upon thee."

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