Preaching to an effeminate age (II)...

(Tim: this is second in a series, with the first, here) It's in vogue for preachers to cop a posture of humility, today, but it’s almost always a counterfeit humility. While claiming to be speaking for God, they deny the very authority of God and His Word that forms the only foundation they can stand on when they say, “Thus says the Lord.”

Jonathan Edwards, the best-known preacher of the Great Awakening in Colonial America, points to the difference between true and false humility:

A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is inflexible, because God and conscience require it. But in things of lesser moment, and which do not involve his principles as a follower of Christ, and in things that only concern his own private interests, he is apt to yield to others.

There are various imitations of (humility) that fall short of the reality. Some put on an affected humility. Others have a natural low-spiritedness, and are wanting in manliness of character. …In others, there is a counterfeit kind of humility, wrought by the delusions of Satan: and all of these may be mistaken for true humility. [1]

Edwards strikes an interesting note...

when he associates false humility with those who are “wanting in manliness of character.”

For several decades the Western world has been undergoing a dramatic movement away from patriarchal, toward matriarchal leadership. It was many years back, now, that Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister under Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. And as I write, Representative Nancy Pelosi sits as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Women comprise around half the enrollment of training schools historically associated with the development of leaders—law schools, medical schools, and seminaries.

This sea-change has had a profound impact within the Church, not just in the most obvious way as the number of women serving as pastors and elders grows, but also in less obvious ways. The feminization of leadership and discourse has changed the affect, posture, and methods used by pastors. Congregations are now comprised of souls who have become acclimated to female leadership and want their pastors to be more feminine, to be softer in the way they lead and preach. Knowing their market, seminaries, presbyteries, search committees, elders, and pastors have complied.

Other forces push in this direction, too. Lesbians, metrosexuals, and sodomites talk a lot about gender and seek to move everyone toward the middle of what they claim is a continuum of “gender identity.” Neutered Bible translations are released by seminary professors eager to remove from Scripture the Hebrew and Greek terms feminists and those with feminist sensibilities find offensive. Future pastors are trained by theology professors who urge them not to focus on repentance or the law, but grace; homiletics professors who urge them never to speak in a way that could be misunderstood as arrogant or dogmatic. Rather, as Solzhenitsyn put it, they are to make sure they doubt themselves and admit they may, in fact, be wrong.

“Thus says the Lord God Almighty” is out; “I wonder whether” is in. “Follow me as I follow Christ” is out; “Wounded healer” is in. “Let him be anathema” is out; “Although I differ with my good friend and colleague on this, I respect her opinion and accept her as a sincere Christian who happens to have a different perspective than I do” is in.

Recently, I finished a long series of sermons on Galatians in which I pointed out, frequently, that we cannot take the theological content of Galatians and reject the pastoral content. The Apostle Paul’s method of arguing is part of the God-breathedness of Galatians; it too is profitable and it too is desperately needed in our effeminate age when strong leadership and argument is viewed as arrogance.

To reinforce this point, I often read to our congregation excerpts from Luther's commentary and Calvin’s sermons on Galatians. For instance, take this short excerpt from Luther’s commentary:

Wherefore if you compare publicans and harlots with these holy hypocrites (of the Roman Catholic Church), they are not evil. For they, when they offend, have remorse of conscience, and do not justify their wicked doings; but these men are so far from acknowledging their abominations, idolatries, wicked will-worshippings and ceremonies to be sins, that they affirm the same to be righteousness, and a most acceptable sacrifice unto God, yea, they adore them as matters of singular holiness, and through them do promise salvation unto others, and also sell them for money, as things available to salvation.

Many would say the Church has no need for such intemperate language today. They would try to keep young men preparing for the ministry from reading Luther’s commentary and Calvin’s sermons, fearing they might take Luther or Calvin as their model and say something similar in their sermons.

But we never find the Apostles editing their teaching and preaching in such a way that they would cause no offense; we never find them taming things down in the hope that the Church would survive for another generation.

Calvin warns:

So we must be quite clear that the teaching of the Gospel can never be handled in such a cautious and moderate way that it is not subject to misrepresentations. For Satan, who is the father of lies, always devotes himself to his business. [2]

In the radical relativism of the decadent Roman Empire, the Apostles didn’t cop a posture of false humility starting their sentences with “I believe…” or “Don’t you ever find yourself wondering whether…” or “Speaking only for myself….”

If the Church is to be faithful guarding the good deposit and contending for God’s Truth, we’ll never have the luxury of being above the fray. Rather, we’ll be at the center of the battle. We’re commanded to fight the good fight, not for a time, but until death. And we are to trust God—not our own tact and diplomacy—to protect us. Some of us will be rescued; others will be sawn in two. [3] God’s prophets have never been able to escape persecution when they were faithful to proclaim the message God entrusted to them.

Kierkegaard is exactly right about preaching today, although he's been dead a century and a half, now:

We all know what it is to play warfare in mock battle, that it means to imitate everything just as it is in war. The troops are drawn up, they march into the field, seriousness is evident in every eye, but also courage and enthusiasm, the orderlies rush back and forth intrepidly, the commander's voice is heard, the signals, the battle cry, the volley of musketry, the thunder of cannon--everything exactly as it is in war, lacking only one thing...the danger. So also it is with playing Christianity, that is, imitating Christian preaching in such a way that everything, absolutely everything is included in as deceptive a form as possible--only one thing is lacking...the danger. [4]

When, under the guise of humility and compassion, a pastor avoids confronting the sin of his congregation; when he minces his words; there's little doubt he’ll also avoid the suffering and death of the faithful shepherd. Remember how the Apostle Paul paused his rebuke of the Galatians long enough to ask them so very plaintively, “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” [5]

But what is the cost of this betrayal of our pastoral office? Can such a man ever expect to hear those most sought after of all commendations from the mouth of our Lord, “Well done, my good and faithful servant?”

Faithful pastors devoted to the teaching of the Apostles will correct and rebuke in the same manner the Apostles corrected and rebuked. And for this, they will suffer just as the Apostles suffered—this is the lot of the good shepherd:

Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)


[1] Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits.

[2] Calvin’s commentary on Acts 6:14

[3] Hebrews 11:37

[4] Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon “Christendom” 1854-1855, tr. by Walter Lowrie (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1956) p. 258.

[5] Galatians 4:16

Comments

I just realized that Rush Limbaugh and Martin Luther have similar styles. They both mix logic and actual facts (Scripture quotes, audio clips, etc.) with over-the-top invective and, at the same time, good humor.

That's why Luther is more fun to read than Calvin.

So in this comparison does that make Calvin William F. Buckley, Jr.?

"In the radical relativism of the decadent Roman Empire, the Apostles didn’t cop a posture of false humility starting their sentences with 'I believe…'"

Save for that pesky thing called the creed, you know,the one that starts with "I believe..."

Amen. Thank you for these posts. They are a great motivation to me.

About 40 minuets ago, I was riding on a train coming back from a home-group I had just taught, wondering why so often, people lead into their answers with such phrases as "Well, for me personally..." or, "I don't know but..."

If it is affirmed as truth of God in the Bible, don't mock it by adding disclaimers and offense-cushions.

Thank you for reminding me that I too need to be on my guard against this.

"About 40 minuets ago, I was riding on a train coming back from a home-group I had just taught, wondering why so often, people lead into their answers with such phrases as "Well, for me personally..." or, "I don't know but..."

If it is affirmed as truth of God in the Bible, don't mock it by adding disclaimers and offense-cushions."

Ouch.

Tim, you need to be more epistemologically humble. The truth is so arrogant, after all. Newbigin was a prophet!

And grow a soul patch to make yourself relevant.

Get with the program.

Charles, the apostles didn't actually write the creed.

And, Stephen, they meant "I believe" as an affirmation of universal truth, not as a weasel word.

Margaret Thatcher was one of the meanest, toughest, and belligerant Politicians of the latter part of the 20th Century. She was certainly more 'manly' that John Major who followed her.

Interestingly she appointed George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury becasue she wanted an evangelical who whuld talk to the nation about sin and right and wrong. What she got was a wimp.

Stephen,

True, but the authors did write during what Tim seems to think was a decadent and relativistic age. And they chose "I believe."

Fred,

True, but "I believe..." is still different from "I know for a fact, you relativist..."

Tim's post seems to be friendly to what some might call a quest for absolute certainty, which is different from resting in an infallible assurance.

Charles,

You are asking from the framers of the creed a response to a cultural weirdness they never could have anticipated.

For them, "Credo" could and did get people killed.

The strongest thing a Christian can say, in teh right sense, is "I believe...." as long as the predicate is bedrock truth, and not subjective opinion, which is, after all, the problem.

Charles,

Do you believe that it is possible to be absolutely certain about anything?

Charles,

"...the authors did write during what Tim seems to think was a decadent and relativistic age. And they chose 'I believe.'"

Ken has hit the nail on the head here. The use of "Credo" in the Apostles' Creed has almost no resemblance to the use of "I believe" that Tim is addressing in this post. In this use, and in the context of our age, "I believe" is a qualifying statement designed to avoid a confrontation; in the context of the Roman Empire, "Credo" was a statement sure to bring confrontation.

"'I believe...' is still different from "I know for a fact, you relativist..."

> Yes, but "Credo" was never about empirical demonstrations of fact. The man who uttered "Credo" was making a public demonstration of his faith, whereas the man who prefaces everything with a qualifying "I believe" is assuring his audience that his is, after all, only a private faith. The man who dared say the Apostles' "Credo" was aligning himself with the faith of a condemned religion; today's man by his mealy-mouthed "I believe" is distancing himself from such a radical religion, and its embarrassingly-bold followers.

Today's "I believe..." is designed to avoid death; yesterday's "Credo" might well have caused it.

Sincerely,

Josh

Charles,

To make explicit what is implicit in others' comments above, the "I believe ..." in the Creed does NOT equate to "My opinion (and it's only MY personal, private opinion) is that ..."

The Creedal sense of "I believe ..." is far closer (paraphrastically) to "I embrace this truth, namely that ..."

>>Tim's post seems to be friendly to what some might call a quest for absolute certainty, which is different from resting in an infallible assurance.

Seems I was not tracking your intent, Charles. When I first read your comment, it seemed to me you were jesting--not sick in the head and trying to contaminate others with your pomo disease. So let the clerk record Tim has at least once given men the benefit of the doubt and been wrong.

If anyone's still wondering, I don't hesitate to confess my faith with the Apostles Creed, starting with that glorious statement warmly calculated to be a thumb in the eye of all polytheists and other relativists: "I believe in God...."

This discussion reminds me of another philological oddity I scrupulously observe, this one learned from another hero of mine, the late Allan Bloom. He said anyone who spoke of his "values" was, by his use of that word, signaling his approval of our culture's relativism. So, I refuse to use the word to refer to anything Scriptural, except maybe the purchasing power of the denarius. Try that, brothers, and see how difficult it is to live and communicate in this world without using that horrid word. For instance, every time you want to refer to your "values," try substituting "God's Law." It may well leave you speechless.

Speaking of the quest for certainty as opposed to resting in infallible assurance, which one covers Jesus' statement, "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18)?

Just for myself, personally--and of course, I may be entirely wrong--I'm thinking certainty rather than assurance. But what do I know, anyhow?

Love,

your a FRAUD read john 12 jeremiah 5 john 5 ezekiel 12 ezekiel 13 isiah 65 jeremiah 2 jeremiah 6 ezekliel 6 1 cor 3 mathew 16 jeremiah 10 jeremiah 11 habakuk 2 jeremiah 14 jeremiah 16 jeremiah 19 1 cor 2 mathew 10 among countless others galations 4 ezekiel 9 duetonomy 28 mathew 4 mathew 7.

also read first cor 3 and first cor 6.

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