I’ve spent an unusual amount of time on YouTube over the last several days as I’ve been bound to the couch, recuperating from knee surgery. This is always dangerous, as I begin with material I’m genuinely interested in, but the algorithms YouTube uses to suggest associated content inevitably leads me down a path to where I eventually find myself watching videos directly opposed to my original interest.

Along these lines, I was listening to a sermon by a well-know pastor last night. I was drifting off into sleep as I began to hear things that I had to playback to make sure I was hearing correctly. I was so stunned that I decided to jot down some of the statements, verbatim.

I’m not going to identify this pastor, because I’m not sure there is any benefit to that, but I’m very curious about how others might respond to some of his statements.

This is what he said:

“Christian ministry has one clear duty, and that is to bring to people the truth of God revealed in the Scripture by explaining it’s meaning. The meaning of the Scripture is the revelation from God. I have no other responsibility in my duty to represent the Lord Jesus Christ than to explain to you the meaning of his revelation. God has revealed himself in one book. We are ministers of this one book. In a sense, we are brokers of this one book… The simple instruction of 2 Timothy 4:2 “preach the word,” sums up that duty. There is nowhere in Scripture where we are commanded to do anything else. We are to PREACH  -  THE   –   WORD… meaning: the revelation of God contained in Scripture.”

And a little later in the same sermon:

“The Holy Spirit works only through the word. The Holy spirit uses the word of God as the means of saving. The only tool the Spirit has is the Scripture. Where the Scripture is replaced by anything else, the work of the Spirit is hindered. There might be a large crowd. They might be having a great time. They might enjoy the rock and roll concert that usually precedes the insipid, inane talk. But, that’s not where the Spirit of God is.”

Lord, have mercy.

What is this!? Can anyone help me here?


  1. William Buchanan says:

    Sola scriptura, Prima scriptura, Semi Sola scriptura, Pepsi Cola scriptura . . . let’s start with loving people the way Jesus loved people or even just start loving people the best you can then work your way up to loving the way Jesus loved. That sounded a bit dismissive didn’t it? Please forgive as that’s not my direct intention . . . but you probably knew that when you saw who wrote it.

    As to your question and your request for help. What it is is it’s a (debatably pointless) debate about how many stars can dance on the head of a pin and get enough votes to advance to the next round. It’s an attempt to reduce everything down to a black and white world except that those two characteristics of light are the exception rather than the rule in God’s creation. Not to mention that one is the absorption of all color and one is the reflection of all color and both are actually quite dull on their own merit.

    Can I help you? Not bloody likely. You are far more schooled in the details of this argument and I would be swinging way above my weight class to attempt any sort of scholarly assessment. I can offer my opinion that the speaker you quoted is looking for the easy way out and cloaking it in dogmatic hyperbole to divert attention from the fact that he is scared to death to embrace doubt as a valid form of growth and that questioning “the obvious” is the highest form of respect that one can pay. He is hiding behind a book – however divinely inspired it may be – as proof that God’s revelation ceased thousands of years ago and that God has not had anything to add. This happens when you look at God through a straw with your vision limited to whatever it might reveal as the tiny end of the straw sweeps across a mighty landscape of meaning.

    Well, that or he’s right and I’m full of $&%@ . . . it wouldn’t be the first time :)

    Hope your knee gets better.

  2. russ says:

    Thanks for commenting, Bill.

    I do wonder sometimes about the underlying fears and insecurities that undergird the things people think and say (including me). I know that dogmatism and certainty are often masks for just the reverse. And, when anger and dismissiveness characterize someones response to any challenge to their certainty, that may be further indication that things are a bit less settled beneath the surface.

    Nevertheless, in this case, I’m also curious about where the ideas expressed in these comments are coming from philosophically – separate from the mental/spiritual state of the one who said them.

    For instance, can this view of the Bible, revelation, interpretation, Christian ministry, church, etc… be supported in relation to traditional, orthodox Christian belief and practice? Can it even be supported biblically?

  3. Joe Tkach says:

    I believe in absolute truth. I just don’t think my finite and sinful mind can ever absolutely know any of it. I’m looking forward to getting to heaven and realizing (if God wants me to) how wrong I was in some of my thinking and how many more ways he is able to work than I thought he was.

    From my own dogmatism I would have to agree with Mr. Buchanan; the pastor is likely afraid of doubt. I’m guessing that like me and my SoBap friends, he has a very conservative, fundamentalist view of scripture. He’s probably seen what doubt and questioning has done to others in the ministry and doesn’t want any part of it. For some reason, Christians like me (and I’m guessing this pastor) are prone to believing that our doubts and imagination or dangerous and ultimately more efficacious than God’s will.

    That was more of a ramble than a coherent attempt at “help.” Apologies.
    P.S. If you need some quality youtube content let me know.

  4. russ says:

    Thanks, Joe.

    It is interesting that both you an Bill have keyed in on the question of doubt vs. certainty in the pastor’s remarks. I think that’s there, but there are a number of things that strike me as more problematic in what he is saying.

    For instance…

    1. The position of power that it puts him in related to his construct of where the epicenter of “God’s Word” is found (note that he says that “the meaning of scripture is the revelation from God”)
    2. The limiting of the Holy Spirit’s power, not just in relation to the constraints of what the Bible says, but what he (this pastor) says about its meaning.
    3. The text is elevated above the Spirit.
    4. The essence of our faith, in this construct, is distorted into the protection, explanation, and promotion of a text.

    This message seems clear in what he is saying: The Spirit is, and can only be, present where there is a man preaching in the particular way prescribed by this pastor. The Biblio-idolatry in this pastor’s statements goes without saying, but this moves beyond that to the idolatry of preaching, and then to the idolatry of the preacher himself.

  5. William Buchanan says:

    In my limited experience with Pastors from both afar and up close, the trend is for the them to be the most loud about what they struggle with personally. Those who bang the drum (possibly an inappropriate metaphor, at least I hope so) about sexual sin are the ones who struggle with that the most . . . and so on.

    I hear there are even entire churches that have “Bible” in their name :)

    Therefore, those Pastors (or as you phrased it “a man preaching”) who crow the loudest about sola scriptura are the ones who struggle the most with divine revelation from any other source. As for where it comes from theologically? I will defer to those readers of bloguss who have devoted time and energy to that topic. Have you directly asked Phyllis? I bet she could shed some light on the history of this form of biblio-idolatry that leads to self-idolatry. I confess I’m curious to, though I don’t have family waiting on me hand and foot while on the mend like some folks do :)

  6. russ says:

    Yes… I’m very knee-dy right now.

  7. russ says:

    Crickets chirping.

    No takers from any of my friends who I thought might come to the defense of these statements.


  8. Candice Cohlmia Unger says:

    Found your post interesting. So I decided to get on the internet and look up this sermon for myself and then proceeded watch it online. From what I perceived this particular pastor was speaking at a annual conference for ministers called the Shepherd’s Conference. I don’t necessarily believe or think that he was saying this is the ONLY commandment we are given as Christians in the Bible, but he was saying that he feels that expository preaching was the commandment for Christian ministry/leaders to follow. Don’t want to debate if he is right or wrong…. just have a question for you…..did you think that he was preaching to the masses or just a specific audience of pastors at a conference?

  9. russ says:

    Thanks for commenting, Candice. Since posting this, I have found almost identical verbiage from Dr. MacArthur (since you mention the Shepherd’s Conference, the cat is out of the bag on who this is) in at least one other sermon that is clearly to his congregation. At any rate, I’m not sure how much it matters who the audience is. I think the statements can be evaluated on their own merit, regardless of intended audience.

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