To Curvet and Simper in the Pulpit

The sodomy challenge — and all related sexuality challenges — present us with a glorious opportunity. It is a glorious opportunity that the Spirit has cleverly disguised as a real hazard to our future comfort and well-being.

For the gospel is a troublemaker. Let me explain that first and then come back to the sodomy challenge.

It is quite true that the gospel is good news. It is true that the gospel is a message of salvation and redemption. It is a message of buoyancy and hope. All this is true, and the one who preaches the message should be lifted up by the glory of God’s everlasting kindness to us. It is kindness.

But it is never heard that way initially. The gospel is a troublemaker because men love their sins, and they hate the very smell of repentance. To slander and misrepresent what it must all mean is for them the work of a moment. The current crop of sodomite cheerleaders hate, loathe, and despise the very idea of real repentance — I mean, they hate it almost as much as the Westboro Baptists do.

God has configured this story in such a way that the first wave of those declaring His everlasting kindness will always meet stiff resistance. So the courage of the messenger is not part of the gospel message, but the gospel message is of such a nature that the courage of the messenger can be considered an essential part of the definition of what it means to preach that gospel.

So to curvet and simper in the pulpit is a travesty. Emo-preaching is not preaching at all. To spend a bunch of time up there worrying about how unbelievers might be “turned off” if we say this, do that, or intimate the other is to be a faithless herald. And our current system of theological education produces this kind of pretty boy preacher by the metric ton. One of the reasons we don’t preach repentance is that we might have to go first.

Then we have the fellows who are like reenactors at some Civil War battle. They have everything — the uniform, the food, the jargon, the companions, the steady advance of the troops, the smoke over the field, and the deafening sound of gunfire. They have lots of powder but no shot. It has the look of true boldness, but the whole thing is a set up.

Then there are also men who have found themselves — somehow — in the midst of a real battle, and so they have developed various ways to brandish and flourish. They are like that soldier that Bierce describes in his Devil’s Dictionary.

VALOR, n. A soldierly compound of vanity, duty and the gambler’s hope.

“Why have you halted?” roared the commander of a division at Chickamauga, who had ordered a charge; “move forward, sir, at once.”

“General,” said the commander of the delinquent brigade, “I am persuaded that any further display of valor by my troops will bring them into collision with the enemy.”

The Bible defines the gospel as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-4). But how does the Bible describe and define true gospel preaching? One of the essential elements of true preaching is boldness.

Christ set the pattern for us by speaking boldly (John 7:26). He was the one who made the good confession (1 Tim. 6:13).

The boldness of Peter and John was the most notable thing about them (Acts 4:13), especially considering their lack of appropriate accreditation. Boldness was what the early preachers sought after (Acts 4:29), and God fulfilled that particular request (Acts 4:31). The fact that Paul had preached with boldness was one of the arguments that Barnabas used to commend him to the others (Acts 9:27). Right after that, we are told that Paul preached boldly, to such an extent that plots to kill him arose (Acts 9:29). Paul and Barnabas preached boldly to the Jews (Acts 13:46). Paul and Barnabas were enabled by the Spirit to preach boldly over an extended period of time (Acts 14:3). When Apollos was first heard by Aquila and Priscilla, he was speaking boldly in the Lord (Acts 18:26). Paul spoke boldly over the course of three months at Ephesus (Acts 19:8).

Here is a rule of thumb. If it doesn’t require courage and boldness to preach, then perhaps you should consider the possibility that it is not the gospel you are preaching.

“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:19-20).

Several things must be pointed out here. The apostle was asking for prayer — after decades of preaching experience — that he would be bold as he unfolded the mystery of the gospel. He was not asking that they pray for his boldness because he had a lifelong struggle with stage fright, or because large crowds gave him butterflies. He wanted boldness because he knew that when he preached the gospel a not unheard of reaction would be a riot.

The second thing is that he says “as I ought to speak.” But one of the first things that will happen to a preacher today who starts preaching boldly is that he will be taken aside by the self-appointed protectors of the “feelings” of unnamed others, and told that he really needs to lay off. Try a little tenderness.

A preacher who declares the message of the gospel boldly is creating an opportunity to display why such boldness was needed. He will be attacked — in the newspaper, or by discernment bloggers, or on the floor of presbytery, or by a close friend and mentor who comes to him privately to say that he had been “deeply hurt” by “way” he had phrased that particular denunciation that has caused “so much” of the “recent and very unnecessary unpleasantness.”

It is not the only measurement, but we should measure by the reaction. Paul preached grace, and he was not an antinomian. But he showed that those who preach grace will be accused of antinomianism (Rom. 3:8). Paul preached the sovereignty of God, and he was not a fatalist. But he demonstrated for us that those who preach the sovereignty of God will be accused of preaching a puppet master God (Rom. 9:19).

In the same way, the Lord Jesus gave all of His preachers and heralds a sturdy walking stick, and He told us to go out into the world and whack all the beehives. This seems counter intuitive to us, and so, instead, we organize walking stick conferences. And we can see a lot of exuberant stick swinging, and some sweet ninja moves in the break-out sessions. We see seminaries collecting confessional walking sticks to put in glass cases, just in case one of them buds like Aaron’s rod did that time. We see lots of walking stick activities. But what we don’t see are any angry bees.

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Michael A. Coughlin
Guest

Well put, sir. An encouragement to my soul.

Moor
Guest
Moor

Did you ever come back to make your point about the sodomy challenge? Was the point simply that the current impulse to cater is an opportunity for real preachers to stand up?

Paulette
Guest
Paulette

A friendly FYI: I believe the term is curvet, not curvette

That whole paragraph is amazing and prescient. And very timely given a situation that just arose in my church’s youth group.

Always appreciate your words, Pastor Wilson.

Paulette
Guest
Paulette

“Paulet: Always enjoy your wit… The irony is that my name is a family name that was converted from the British spelling and pronunciation of Paulet to the French version of Paulette several centuries ago. So, either way, it would work in my case. ;)

prayersofadoration
Member

Awesome awesome. But what’s wrong with a puppet master God? The idea offends human pride of course but I would think that’s evidence for it being true. I don’t see anything in Romans 9 that discourages the idea. Am I missing something?

Michael Hutton
Guest

Thanks for the encouragement, I am preparing my sermon with trepidation this week because I know it will be hard to receive exactly because it is sorely needed. I pray for boldness. God bless you.

James Bradshaw
Member

“The gospel is a troublemaker because men love their sins, and they hate the very smell of repentance” Good thing that God loves human slavery, eh Doug? The founders of the Southern Baptist Convention who championed the institution thus never had to bother crying out to God for forgiveness for engaging in it. Kidnap a “Negro”, drag him against his will to another land and away from his family for your own profit … all this is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord. Kiss another man on the lips and you’ll find yourself drop-kicked off the cliffs of Glory… Read more »

B Josiah Alldredge
Member

Not feeding the trolls… is so hard sometimes. Great reminder to be bold in the service of Christ’s gospel, Pastor Wilson!

Luke Nieuwsma
Guest
Luke Nieuwsma

Poor James. Trying so hard to make us hate the good Reverend, regardless of the truth. Actually, you remind me of the monkeys in the movie Madagascar. “If you have any poo, fling it now!”

Robert
Guest

Uh James, you do realize that ALL 13 original states, North and South, had slavery, right? If not, I provided a link to braden your education.

Robert
Guest

or broaden

mikebull1
Member

I think the sticks and the hives are around the other way in the big picture. The world is intent on beating the church, but it’s beating a hive.

http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2013/09/08/armed-with-death/

And once things really get nasty, and the boys are separated from the girls, the fact that we finally have a common enemy will perhaps explain God’s glorious purpose in the “speciation” of the Church over the last 500 years.

http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2013/07/05/supernatural/

(Forgive the shameless links, but I think these are helpful antidotes to the world’s metanarrative.)

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

The problem with this column, though, is that both sides can equally as well make the claims. Someone who is pro-gay could say equally as well that the angry bees are the anti-gay Christians who are being told to stop abusing God’s gay and lesbian children. And while I agree that truth is more important than conformity, it’s also true that anyone who wants to hold a leadership position in Doug’s church would be expected to conform to the anti-gay party line. I imagine any elder in Doug’s church who said, “I think we’ve been wrong about gays all these… Read more »

BJ
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BJ

“One of the reasons we don’t preach repentance is thate we might have to go first.” Wow! Pretty powerful.

Katecho
Member

Sorry for the repost: Bradshaw is so swollen with bitterness toward God that he could hardly be described as an unbeliever. In order to blaspheme with such consuming devotion, he must believe in the target of his aim, even if blasphemy is the worst he can do. But the god that Bradshaw has devoted his service to is not the God we worship. Bradshaw is angry with a god who torments creation; a bully who gets “kicks” out of the suffering of others. Bradshaw is unaware, or has forgotten, that the God of Scripture became one of us, so that… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: The problem with this column, though, is that both sides can equally as well make the claims. Someone who is pro-gay could say equally as well that the angry bees are the anti-gay Christians who are being told to stop abusing God’s gay and lesbian children. The problem with Eric’s reply, though, is that anyone can equally as well disagree with Eric’s claims too. Now what? In Eric’s worldview, there is no higher authority than man’s thoughts, and no way to distinguish one thought from another in terms of what ought to be. It is all… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Katecho, one of the reasons I don’t consider you an honest opponent, and therefore try to keep my interactions with you to a minimum, is your persistent repeating that I take certain positions even after I’ve repudiated them. You’re entitled to your opinion about my belief system; you are not entitled to re-write my belief system for me. So, for benefit of those who are just arriving, my worldview includes both absolute truth and absolute reality. Truth and reality are those things that exist independent of whether anyone notices them, and independent of whether anyone wants them to be true.… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

I think what may be happening is that under your belief system, I’m not supposed to believe in truth and reality, and so the inconvenient fact that I actually do believe in truth and reality is of no importance to you. You confuse “what should be true about Eric under Katecho’s belief system” with “what is actually true about Eric in the real world.”

James Bradshaw
Member

Katecho writes: “Bradshaw is so swollen with bitterness toward God that he could hardly be described as an unbeliever.” Where do you see bitterness towards God? I simply reject the notion that a Being who insists we “love our neighbors as ourselves” simultaneously thinks it permissible to force people against their will to toil for nothing in wretched conditions for our own profit as Doug would have us believe. I reject the notion that we should be delighted and applaud the eternal torture of those closest to us (and who are, overall, decent human beings) because they have the “wrong”… Read more »

Josh Brown
Guest
Josh Brown

James, your bitterness is not toward the unbiblical idol you have created, but the one true and living God revealed in Scripture. You express that bitterness toward those who are willing to declare the whole counsel of God, and not shave off the sharp edges of God’s revelation that offend the sensibilities of the natural man.

Jane
Member

“I refuse to be lectured about morality by those who are incapable of empathy. “

Coming here, where you know the lectures will be given, and reading the lectures, is a funny form for the refusal to take. Perhaps you meant, “I reserve the right to read things I don’t agree with and then complain about what no one’s forcing me to read?”

Jon Swerens
Member

Eric:

No, you are misrepresenting us. We know you believe in absolute truth and absolute reality, because you live in a world created by the Father God who revealed himself in the Bible. You have to believe such. The problem is, we don’t understand how your belief system, whatever it is, could possibly support anything transcendental. Are you a materialist? Or do you believe some things really are “supernatural”; that is, above the material universe?

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

John, I believe in absolute truth and absolute reality because they can be demonstrated. In fact, without them it would be impossible to have a conversation since it could never be clear that any two people meant the same thing by the same word. Anyone who jumps off a cliff will soon find the absolute reality of the earth beneath him when he slams into it a few seconds later. If I decide to quit my job so I can watch daytime soaps, I will soon be confronted with the reality of foreclosure when I can’t pay my mortgage. I… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

On the specific subject of homosexuality, since that’s what prompted this conversation in the first place, you have a book with a dozen or so proof texts that tells you that it’s bad, and that’s enough for you. Since I don’t consider that book authoritative (or at least any more authoritative than any other ancient text), that’s not good enough for me. Before I go telling a gay teenager that he has to live a life of celibacy, or make himself miserable with almost-certainly futile attempts to change, I’d like to know that the crap I’m putting him through has… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

And to answer your direct question, I’m mostly a materialist. I say “mostly” because there are some questions science has not yet answered for which a non-material explanation can’t be ruled out, but I suspect that when those questions are answered, it will come down to materialism.

Frank Turk
Guest

The only qualm I have is the use of the word “configured.” Is the Gospel just some kind of widget to be rejiggered? I think it’s the wrong word for what God has done in the Gospel; it’s a word that doesn’t play well with the idea that the Gospel is a story. Has God “crafted” the Gospel? Yes, I guess so, but that’s such a paltry word for this message from divinity. How about “authored?” Meh – that seems to sound a little bookish, and while God does have quite a book, he’s not dawdling around in a sweater… Read more »

Zach Attack
Guest
Zach Attack

I am grateful for your illustrations Pastor Wilson. I can relate to the bee hive quite literary…. , but I have one question if you get stung dose that make you a martyr ?

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Jane, something is drawing James to this website. Could it be the Holy Spirit? And if he is met with courtesy, grace, and love, could this website be, for James, like the preacher in the poem:
Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools who came to scoff remained to pray.
I am sure it is irritating to encounter what must be perceived as a nonstop oppositional presence on a Christian website, but this is a missionary opportunity like any other. Forgive me, but I don’t think James should feel unwelcome here.

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

Preacher is a good gig if you can get it. And you don’t really have to like people. Get paid to sit and study for half a week at least. As long as you can put on a decent show Sunday. See on this side “preach” and “preacher” — picture a pulpit lecture to the choir. Now over on that side you have Paul and the rest exposed, engaging really interested, often hostile folks out where they are. This side = captive, quiet herds. That side = almost always smaller groups, even individuals. Today’s “preachers” are usually hiding in their… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red protests that he does too believe in absolute truths. Indeed. But unfortunately, as I pointed out, his worldview doesn’t give him access to them. This is why he has to resort to diluting human preferences with other human preferences. As yet another example, Eric says: On the specific subject of homosexuality, since that’s what prompted this conversation in the first place, you have a book with a dozen or so proof texts that tells you that it’s bad, and that’s enough for you. Since I don’t consider that book authoritative (or at least any more authoritative than… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Katecho, it’s not merely that I don’t accept your book as authoritative, it’s that the overwhelming weight of the evidence points to it not being authoritative. It’s bad science, bad history, and bad math, just for starters. If I accept its teachings on human sexuality, don’t I have to accept its flat earth cosmology as well? You make it sound like I randomly selected a belief system from the belief system factory by going eeny, meeny, miney, mo. But that’s not the way it is; I took a look at the evidence and made a decision based on the best… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

As far as my belief system not giving me access to truth, sure it does. The minor detail you’re leaving out is that you are defining truth in such a way that it requires God for its existence, so that you can then say AHA! You don’t believe in God, so you have no access to truth! But that’s a problem with your definition, and not with whether truth is equally as accessible to atheists as to theists. Here’s the question: If God did not exist, would 2+2 still equal 4? And I don’t see why not. Remember, truth and… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: It’s bad science, bad history, and bad math, just for starters. If I accept its teachings on human sexuality, don’t I have to accept its flat earth cosmology as well? We realize that it is popular to mock Christianity these days, but it won’t do here. Eric seems to have shifted into a full court dismissal mode at this point. He also dismissed me as a dishonest debater a bit ago, but what is this stuff about flat earth cosmology? Is he dealing with Scripture honestly, or is he pressing some common idiom in a dishonest… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

There are volumes and volumes on the bad history, bad science and bad math of the Bible, and I see little to be gained by attempting to summarize them here. On the other side of the ledger, I read a shelf of books on Christian apologetics, so it’s not like I haven’t been exposed to the other side. Since I specifically mentioned flat earth cosmology, take a look at the order of creation in Genesis 1. You have the earth created first, then the firmament stretched out above the earth, then the stars placed within the firmament of the earth.… Read more »

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

For more on the subject, see here:

http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/febible.htm

Matthias
Guest

When all else fails, cite absolutely everything citable in general.

Matthias
Guest

I’m also not sure immovable = immobile either. Presup alert.

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Matthias, the immovable/immobile argument that you’re making is precisely the sort of argument that you will be able to sell to true believers but no one else. If the three passages I quoted were found in the Koran rather than the Bible, you’d have no trouble seeing them for what they are — a scientifically erroneous claim that the earth doesn’t move, especially when read in conjunction with the flat earth order of creation in Genesis 1. But because you’re committed to salvaging Biblical inerrancy, you have to find a way to make those texts not say what they very… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: There are volumes and volumes on the bad history, bad science and bad math of the Bible, and I see little to be gained by attempting to summarize them here. Fortunately, Eric was not asked to summarize volumes and volumes. Rather he was asked to present his best argument from the previous spate of innuendos and insinuations. He apparently did not have enough confidence to stick to any of those. He didn’t even make the case for his flat earth jab. Not one single Scriptural reference to defend that charge. Instead it just morphed into yet… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Oh, and while Eric was laying down his smokescreen, he neglected to respond to the foundational dilemma of his materialism (namely that even the neural “beliefs” between his ears are accidents of chemical processes unconnected with any metaphysical “self” called Eric). That dilemma is still on the table, blinking at him. And it’s no trifle.

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Katecho, your materialism dilemma fits under the heading of “if true, so what?” If the reality is that beliefs are nothing more than accidental neural connections, then that’s reality, whether you find that reality sweet and cuddly or not.

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

And just to clarify, one area in which I’m not certain of materialism is the whole issue of consciousness, which includes belief systems. So I’m not saying that beliefs are nothing more than accidental neural connections; I think the jury is still out on that question. But, if that does turn out to be true, then that will be reality whether anyone finds it comforting or not.

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

On the other question, I understand the concepts of metaphor and allegory — when Jesus said, I am the door, that doesn’t mean he has hinges and a key hole — but I don’t think that helps Katecho much here. For one thing, the Genesis 1 order of creation, to which Katecho has not responded, shows that the authors of the Bible did believe in a flat earth and it crept into their writings, so later passages have to be read in that context. Second, biblicists tend to abuse allegory and metaphor by being result oriented rather than fairly asking… Read more »

Reuben K.
Guest
Reuben K.

Buzz Buzz Buzz

Matthias
Guest

Matthias, the immovable/immobile argument that you’re making is precisely the sort of argument that you will be able to sell to true believers but no one else. Ok? Are you suggesting that no distinction can be made between immobile and immoveable? What God has set in place by intent, no one else by their own intent can remove it. This isn’t “strained” by any means. Are you really prohibited from granting the Bible any sort of credibility whatsoever? This is a rather common concept. It really is hard work denying God. If the three passages I quoted were found in… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: And just to clarify, one area in which I’m not certain of materialism is the whole issue of consciousness, which includes belief systems. In the area of consciousness, Eric is not certain of his materialism. He must walk by faith. How convenient. But what is the nature of his faith? It’s worse than a completely blind faith because the consequences of materialism slam the door shut against intentionality and abstraction. If matter could move with regard for intentionality and with regard for other abstractions, then materialism is false. In other words, Eric’s faith is of the… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: Katecho, your materialism dilemma fits under the heading of “if true, so what?” If the reality is that beliefs are nothing more than accidental neural connections, then that’s reality, whether you find that reality sweet and cuddly or not. Indeed. The materialist’s dilemma is that everything they utter falls victim to, “so what?” Thus nihilism. This was Doug’s conclusion with Christopher Hitchens. At the end of the day, all of Hitchens’ indignations evaporated and echoed through the empty canyon of “so what?” Eric seems oblivious to the store he has now given away. If our beliefs… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Eric the Red wrote: For one thing, the Genesis 1 order of creation, to which Katecho has not responded, shows that the authors of the Bible did believe in a flat earth and it crept into their writings Eric has yet to present any sort of argument for a flat earth based on Genesis 1. We wait for him to present one first before we can respond. However, I’ve already stressed that Eric should not waste his time and ours with arguments that he will quickly abandon when they no longer serve him. He needs to present his best argument,… Read more »