Friday, June 27, 2008

A Biblical Theology of Preaching

Recently I read James White's excellent book Pulpit Crimes: The Criminal Mishandling of God's Word. In the first chapter entitled "What is at Stake?" he insightfully observes:
A tempest in a teapot. No big deal. Just a matter of opinion. Something about which "good men" have disagreed (and hence, no one actually has a clue about it. All ways of saying. "It's no big deal, and, if anyone makes it a big deal, they are being difficult and disagreeable over nothing." That is how the vast majority of humanity would view passionate discussion of the manner, purpose, content, and goal of the Christian ministry of preaching, something for obscure theologians to argue about, but surely nothing of major import.

I have become convinced that nothing less than the very gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake when we speak of the proclamation of the gospel in preaching. I am painfully aware of how often strident, strong statements such as that are misused in a sensationalistic attempt to inflame the passions of one's audience, and I surely have no intention of engaging in my own form of pulpit crime, albeit in written form. Yet I believe I have a very firm basis for my statement. In fact, I may be selling the reality a bit short, since I am not using language as strong as that found in Scripture. I refer to a passage in Paul's epistle to the Corinthians. It is a passage that I confess I heard very little about in my seminary education. Despite taking a class or two in homiletics (the science or art of preaching), I have no recollection of ever having heard a discussion of this text. I confess I do not know why this passage is not emblazoned by command of authority of the eldership upon the memory of every elder candidate. I do not know why it is not engraved upon the doorway leading to every pulpit in the church. It should be, but it is not. Maybe it is because it is said almost in passing. All I know is this: if it were to be taken seriously by every man walking into the pulpit this coming Lord's day, the church would be turned on its head. The vast majority of what masquerades as preaching would have to come to an end. Listen carefully to the words of scripture: "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void" (1 Cor. 1:17).

White then goes on to discuss the key concepts found in 1 Corinthians 1-2, a passage that I agree has crucial implications for the proper preaching of the Gospel. And I am saddened with him that this passage is not taken more seriously by every Bible college and seminary in the training of pastors. But I would like to let everyone know that there has been a school where this passage has been taken very seriously indeed. That school was Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University), where Dr. Richard Belcher drilled this text into the minds of generations of prospective pastors in his homiletics courses.

In fact, even though Dr. Belcher is now retired from teaching at Columbia, his textbook – Preaching the Gospel: A Theological Perspective and a Personal Method – may still be purchased, and I highly recommend it as essential reading to all prospective pastors and preachers. It outlines a theology of preaching that is derived directly from the Scriptures and it encapsulates the training that made Dr. Belcher an unsung hero of the recently touted "Calvinist comeback" among Baptists in particular. Here is a description of the book from the website of it's publisher, Richbarry Press:
One of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century is that the art of biblical preaching has fallen on hard times.

So wrote Dr. Belcher to introduce the reader to one of the burdens of his heart some years ago. Using I Corinthians 1-4 and II Timothy 3:1-4:4 as the basis of study, Dr. Belcher sets forth the nature of the gospel we must preach and the nature of the methods we must employ in the task. He argues that we are not free to determine the nature of the gospel nor the method of its presentation. The presentation of the gospel must be consistent with the grace and mystery nature of the gospel itself. Failure to understand that is what has led to the modern-day demise of biblical preaching.
So there has been a man who for may years faithfully taught just the kind of theology of preaching that Dr. White laments being absent in so many schools today. But with the retirement of Dr. Belcher, I can only hope and pray that others will take up the mantle and carry on the task. I am thankful that Dr. James White has sought to be such a man, and as a student of Dr. Belcher I can assure the readers of this blog that I too will continue to labor to fill this void. I call upon all of you who are able to join us!
Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blog Update

Although I try to post at least once a week, many of the blog's readers may have noticed that I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks. I haven't forgotten about the blog, but have been unable to devote any time to it recently due especially to a series of recent events in my life surrounding my wife's diagnosis with ovarian cancer.

She went to the hospital at the end of April with abdominal pain, which turned out to be diverticulitis, but when they ran the CT scan they also discovered a large ovarian cyst that had a mass in it. We praise the Lord that in His providence the diverticulitis led to an early discovery of the cancer and that the prognosis for my wife's recovery is very good. She has undergone major surgery and is currently going through at least three courses of chemotherapy. She is currently maintaining a CaringBridge website where she is keeping everyone informed of her status.

I usually do not like to post personal things on the blog, because it is my desire that this blog not be about me. However, I thought the readers may want to know why the activity here has slowed down some, and I definitely desire your prayers for my wife's recovery and for my family as we go through this trial. It is our desire that Christ be magnified in our lives and that God be glorified.

I intend to begin posting regularly again, perhaps even by the end of this week. And for those who have been following it, I will continue the series responding to the House-Church Movement.

I am thankful that this blog has been helpful to so many and pray that God will continue to use it for His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Keith

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Free Audio Download of Pilgrim's Progress

This month's free audio download from ChristianAudio.com is The Pilgrim's Progress (Unabridged), by John Bunyan.

The actual, original title — in typical and lengthy Puritan fashion — is The Pilgrim’s Progress From This World to That Which is to Come; Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream. It is a great story, a solid source of Puritan and Reformed theology, and a good practical guide to the Christian life.

Here is the brief description from the ChristianAudio.com product page:

John Bunyan was a simple maker and mender of pots and kettles who received very little education. In spite of that, he penned the most successful allegory ever written. He lost his first wife and was imprisoned for twelve years for his compelling — but unlicensed — preaching. Nevertheless, his preaching about the gravity of sin, salvation by grace, the cost of discipleship, perseverance, and the glory of eternal life lives on in the signs and symbols of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Embark on a perilous journey with Christian, the lead character, from the City of Destruction to the luminous safe haven of the Celestial City. The journey will encourage you to “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you” amidst the obstacles of life.