Tragedy of Compromise
Please Donít Make Me Think!
Americans have been raised on a steady diet of entertainment.
Television has affected our culture to a very large extent.
Preachers are now confronted every Sunday with members who
have spent hours that week in viewing the very latest in
entertainment. Television has made the general public very
entertainment conscious. It has definitely had an adverse
impact upon people's ability (and desire) to think and to
follow reasoned arguments. Since preaching is based upon
reasoning and the orderly marshaling of ideas, it becomes
difficult for many moderns to follow an exposition of the
Bible. One has rightly observed of television:
form of communication (and form of knowing) encourages
the aversion to abstraction, analysis, and reflection
that characterizes our culture at all levels. Thinking
is often hard work.
surfeit of instant entertainment not only provides relief
from such hard work, it offers an attractive, alternative,
"way of knowing" (as does rock 'n' roll) that
makes reasoning seem anachronistic, narrow, and unnecessary.35
interesting examination of the differences between "Pre-Boomers,"
"Baby Boomers," and "Baby Busters,"
Gary McIntosh notes that "while expository sermons
used to be thought of as the order of the day, baby boomers
and baby busters now want 'how to' sermons and 'issue-oriented'
sermons."36In light of this trend, however, the preacher must ask,
"Is genuine, acceptable preaching a declaration of
what God wants man to hear or of what man wants God to say?"
Historically, preaching has been viewed as the art of communicating
to men, in language understandable to them, the timeless
truths from the Bible about God and His works. The starting
point for preaching has been God and not man. This is not
to say that true biblical preaching is in any way impractical.
In such preaching, however, the preacher begins with an
exposition of what God says, and then makes application
to man's personal needs. The Bible was not written merely
to satisfy man's needs and to give him answers to his everyday
problems. It was written to show forth the majesty of God
and to trace God's purposes for the created universe, angels,
earth, Israel, and the church. That one does not receive
a "blessing" from some portion of Scripture when
it is expounded does not necessarily mean that the exposition
was ill-chosen or worthless. To judge preaching by its personal
impact alone is to view it from a selfish perspective. "In
fact, there is a trend in contemporary evangelicalism away
from expository, doctrinal preaching and a movement toward
an experience-centered, pragmatic, shallow, topical approach
in the pulpit . . . . Churchgoers are seen as consumers who have
to be sold something they like."37
of the chief purveyors of the "new approach" in
preaching is Leith Anderson, pastor of a megachurch in the
Twin Cities. His two books Dying for Change and A
Church for the 21st Century have made a great
impact upon the thinking of many young preachers and are
considered to be among the leading statements of the philosophy
of church growth promoted by New Evangelicals. Because of
Anderson's prominence in this field, we pause to consider
what he has said about preaching and matters that relate
directly to preaching.
old paradigm taught that if you have the right teaching,
you will experience God. The new paradigm says that
if you experience God, you will have the right teaching.
This may be disturbing for some who assume that propositional
truth must always precede and dictate religious experience.
That mindset is a product of systematic theology and
has much to contribute . . . . However, biblical theology looks
to the Bible for a pattern of experience followed by
proposition. The experience of the Exodus from Egypt
preceded the recording of the Exodus in the Bible.38
alarming statement graphically illustrates the shift of
emphasis which has taken place in the modern church. Experience
is magnified over knowledge and actually becomes the judge
of knowledge. Invalid is the argument that the exodus supports
the theory that the experience of God precedes the knowledge
of God. God clearly imparted much knowledge about Himself
to Moses and the children of Israel prior to His deliverance
of them from the land of Egypt. God appeared to Moses,
spoke to Moses, and instructed him that He would bring His
people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land (Exod. 6:1-8).
The various plagues upon the land of Egypt were revelatory
in nature (Exod. 7-11) and prepared the people for the exodus
experience. Of course the book of Exodus was written after
the events themselves took place, but this fact in no way
demonstrates the idea that revelation follows experience.
The revelation to ancient Israel at this time in their history
was through Moses, was direct and immediate, and was not
delivered by inscripturation. Explicit instructions were
given as to how the Israelites were to leave the land of
Egypt. These instructions were preceded by such phrases
as "the Lord said" (Exod. 11:1) and "the
Lord spake" (Exod. 12:1). These phrases indicate divine
revelation, such revelation preceding the actual events
of the exodus and providing the basis upon which Moses acted
as he led the Israelites from captivity.
to Anderson's paradigm, one's experience with God is the
standard by which one judges the correctness of teaching.
This is completely contrary to what the Scriptures teach
and also to the historic position of orthodox Christians.
In the matter of personal salvation, the unbeliever hears
a message (propositional truth) and then experiences salvation.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ [propositional truth],
and thou shalt be saved [the experience of regeneration]"
(Acts 16:31). The same order is given in Romans 6:17-18
where Paul rejoices that his readers had "obeyed from
the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."
Following their acceptance of this propositional truth,
they then experienced freedom from the tyranny of sin (v.18).
have already mentioned in other contexts, one of the chief
errors of New Evangelicals is their tendency to overemphasize
experience to the neglect of sound teaching. The charismatics
have led the way in developing this mindset and have influenced
evangelicalism in general. This is the reason so-called
Christian rock is popular. People want to "feel"
something rather than "learn" something. It also
explains the current fascination with so-called Christian
psychology. Again, people want to "feel good about
themselves" but are far less interested in digesting
any systematic diet of Scripture.
The Tradedy of Compromise. ByErnest Pickering. ©1994. BJU Press.
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