Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The whole counsel of God? Or just the inspirational bits?

Whilst reading Mike Horton's Christless Christianity I came across the following comment:
Just as Joel Osteen has decided for himself the message he will preach, he has also tailored his own vocation. In interviews, he has said that he is not called to explain the Scriptures or expound doctrine. In this book [Become a Better You] he adds, "I'm not called to explain every minute facet of Scripture or to expound on deep theological doctrines or disputes that don't touch where real people live. My gifting is to encourage, to challenge, and to inspire." (p. 90)
To which Horton replies "Ambassadors do not get to choose what they say."

Seeing an erudite thinker like Horton take on Osteen reminded me of the comment once made about Richard Baxter going after some inferior opponents, "Wielding his club like Nimrod the mighty hunter going after a nest of wrens."

But that aside there are some valuable lessons that we can learn from this exchange.

How much of the Bible do Christians need to know? How do we decide whether a deep theological doctrine is relevant enough to be worth teaching? Would you ever preach through Ephesians? Could you? After all it is not as if Paul stops being doctrinal when he gets to the "where real people live" bits. Is there anything worth believing that hasn't been disputed at some point? Justification by faith alone anyone?

However, it would be wrong to turn from this feeling smug and self satisified. I have to ask myself not whether I am capable of being selective in what I preach, but at what points I am susceptible to this temptation. What am I tempted to leave out? To hold back on? To downplay? Why is this? Am I afraid of the reaction that I will get? Am I unclear as to what I ought to teach? Am I too controlled by the desires and aspirations, the moods and tastes, of my audience? Am I too succumbing to the temptation to please people and not God (1 Thess. 2:3-6; Gal. 1:10)?

Even if we can recognise failure at this point in others it is a sobering fact that we have never been innoculated against this same pressure and temptation. Watch you life and doctrine closely is the apostolic watchword to all preachers (1 Tim. 4:16)

If we roll back the centuries we can listen to Luther thunder against this approach:
Truth and doctrine, are to be preached always, openly, and firmly, and are never to be dissembled or concealed; for there is no offence in them; they are a staff of uprightness.--And who gave you the power, or committed to you the right, of confining the Christian doctrine to persons, places, times, and causes, when Christ wills it to be proclaimed, and to reign freely, throughout the world?

He does not say--preach it to some and not to others.

You see therefore, again, how rashly you run against the Word of God, as though you preferred far before it, your own counsel and cogitations.
Erasmus' Preface Reviewed, Section XXI, The Bondage of the Will


Christie M said...

I really want to read this book. Thank you for the review.
I was raised in the Ultra Pentecostal movement in Southern California. (Remember Kathryn Kulman?) It is amazing that through all that muck, I was drawn to Christ, the Real one, not the blab it grab it one. :) When I was in college, Calvary Chapel (chuck smith) which had been meeting under a tent for a while, now had a building and was offering mid week bible studies. I went. and went..and went! I couldn't get enough of the word of God. It was simple, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and it was real.
Then, I married. I was right back in the Word of Faith Movement, with the likes of Ken Copeland, Ken Hagan, Charles Capps etc. (All of which I believe should be tied up and dropped by Helicopter in Darfur)
After a few years, and 4 children later.... one being handicapped, and me being poor.... I was asked to LEAVE my church. I had a great singing voice and was involved in singing, but I was poor and my son was handicapped.

THAT IS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME! Becuase now, I had to really find out the truth.
Was I not acceptable because I was poor and my son wasn't perfect?
Add to that, my husband left and now I was wearing the Scarlet letter of divorce.

What I found in scripture alone. As an undereducated, wanderer in the faith who didn't know what a hermeuneutic was, had never heard of Calvinism or Armenianism, had never known a theology book, was that.... I COULD NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH.... It is HIM who calls. It is ALL Him. I was dead and now I live. A dead man cannot save himself. (or herself in my case)
I was DEAD! WAS is the operative word. But I also know something else. I was alive, long before I found out I was totally DOA. :)
It took a long process for the Lord to guide me to where I am today, which is still wandering on this journey of life and continuing to discover the marvels of the Word of God and the wonderful LIFE we have in Him.
7 children later, we adopted 3 more, 2 with special needs.... I am free to adore and serve Christ, not because I need to perform, or earn points, but because He has caused my desire to be for him.

I had to stay home from church for a few weeks with one of our children who had surgery. On Sunday, I decided to see what was happening in the area of Christianland...... I was horrified.
The SAME thing is still going on, some faces the same (copeland, gosh that guy scares me) and then Osteen the new teenager of the flock, and don't forget Benny Hinn. That guy is totally scary. I was in his first healing meeting when he was 19.)
I honestly think I would rather my kids watch a mind candy movie than to come across a false teacher on TV. One can clearly be seen as wrong. The other..... can lead you astray.

I'll stop now. Can you tell you hit a nerve? :)

Alan said...


I was struck some years ago when preaching though Bible books that there were certain passages where, no matter how hard I searched, I could find no messages from the "big name British evangelicals".

Makes you think, doesn't it...