A friend of mine here at the seminary sent me this link to Justin Taylor’s blog regarding some comments made by Randy Alcorn about Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Last night, a few of us from the seminary discussed at some length the merits and demerits of having services which commemorate extra-biblical events, holidays, etc. This friend, who was involved in the conversation, was interested to know what I’d say to Alcorn’s assertion. Here’s the email I sent to my friend.
Great article…thanks for pointing it out.
Certainly pastors must be fearless in declaring both God’s Law and His Gospel. Having said that, the pulpit does not seem to be the place to expound on the evils of our day unless the matter is addressed in some fashion or other in the usual exposition of God’s Word. I realize that my previous sentence is a mouth-full, but let me try to explain.In my opinion, Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (or Earth Day, if we’re talking about a more politically liberal-minded congregation) are events which have no bearing on the celebration of the Church calendar. I realize that Scripture itself does not put forth a calendar per se, but I hope you will see what I mean as I continue to explain. The duty of a pastor is to preach Law and Gospel…repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ. If a pastor can do so while talking about the evils of abortion, then he should do exactly that, all for the glory of God.
Very often, however, the sermon becomes a time for riding one’s hobby-horse. It is, after all, a sin to pollute…it goes against the creation-care mandate set up by God to Adam in Genesis 2. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar and a fool. The willingness of some to encourage others in deliberate abuse of the earth God gifted to us is a symbol of God’s having given over people to destruction, as laid out in Romans 1:32.
Is pollution the same as killing an image-bearer of God? I don’t believe that it is. This does not, however, make pollution any less important. Instead, it makes abortion more important. Which brings me around to my initial point: the sermon time is for the exposition of the Word of God. Dr. Alcorn does not seem to understand this view of preaching and instead seems to focus on a more broad view of “being prophetic.” The prophecy that you and I as future pastors must be faithful in proclaiming is that which the Scriptures fearlessly declare: that God is angry at sin, tells us what He thinks sin is, and tells us that our sin is paid for by Christ. If it can be applied to our current situation (and it indeed can!), then we must proclaim with application those glorious, awesome truths.
But if one is simply getting behind a pulpit with no mind toward Law and Gospel and merely get up there to shake one’s fist or to mobilize one’s congregation to stuffing envelopes or picketing a clinic…then please do us all a favor and sit down. Telling people of the horrors of abortion without giving absolution in Christ and primacy to the Scriptures is an abuse of the preaching office and an affront to the pulpit.
However, having said all of that, I am curious as to how you took his comments and if you read the fuller article. I enjoyed hanging out last night a lot and hope we can get dinner together sometime soon.Your brother,Dave
Jay miklovic said:
Well said. We must be very specific about what the pulpit is for, and you nailed it.
As much as I really enjoy reading Randy Alcorn, and just, after reading this article he wrote and reading your statement, I agree with what you are saying. I don’t believe that picketing abortion mills and stuffing envelopes is going to be the solution. Sorry, I know that people will get ticked off and say that that is not true, but it is.
The GOSPEL is, alone. Christ Jesus is alone and he is the solution.
Thanks for writing, once again, brother!
Thanks for your encouragement. Some pastors do indeed shy away from controversy. Anyone who has ever met me will know that I eat controversy for breakfast. That being said, there is a time for controversy while preaching the Bible…but the preaching office is not to have the tail wagging the dog.
Luke Geraty said:
Hmm. I am not entirely sure about how to respond here. It seems like more reflection must take place for me to really weigh in on what I am thinking.
However, I think we all need to be careful not to press certain “regulative principles” to far. I don’t even know if that will make as much sense for others as it does in my mind, but here’s to trying!
My point is that even using the term “Law & Gospel” needs to be clarified these days. I also think it is pastorally wise to address these issues. I hate to play the “when you are a pastor” card, but I DO think that once you start dealing MORE with these types of issues in the life of the church, you may see the relevance of being “prophetic” along these lines.
That being said, I agree with allowing the thrust of the text to provide the instruction (i.e., expository). But I am not sure it is really all that wise to FORCE some sort of “Christian calendar” without any regard for current situations. In fact, I think pastors MUST keep an eye on this, which is often referred to as “pastoral preaching” (not sure how helpful that term is).
I guess I just see the need for some balance. Planning is good and expository preaching is good and shedding light on sin is good… So no qualms there. But I am of the opinion that the GOSPEL and Christ DO, at times, call for us to take “political stands”… And I write that as one who has a great deal of disdain for the typical “right-wing-conservative” political rhetoric that often is MUCH MORE about politics than the gospel.
So, as I sit here and think about it, it probably has a LOT to do with clarity. We need to be clear on sin, the gospel, and Christ.
Back to thinking…
It is indeed important to clarify terms…so I’m using “Law” to reference what God demands and “Gospel” to what Christ has done in history (death, burial, resurrection) with the operating assumption that what the Law demands, the Gospel provides.
I do believe, as you do, that the Law of God demands that we take certain stances. I am simply saying that the agenda of God’s Word should be that which determines what we will say from the pulpit. There is such a thing as preaching a timely word. There is also the danger of preaching timely words with no regard to the Gospel and simply as a reaction to the world around us.
I was, in fact, very pleased that my church sent a bus-load of people to Washington…and didn’t say a word about abortion in the sermon because we’re in a series in Romans. The Word itself must have first priority on what should be preached, not primarily one’s “sanctified gut feeling.” That’s not to say that God cannot and does not speak in subjective ways…but His objective declarations in Scripture must have first priority…and I think many evangelical pastors get that the wrong way ’round.