Friday, November 16, 2012

Backwards Preaching

I don't normally listen to Christian radio or radio preachers, but driving around in a rental car this week, I listened for a while to a particular minister -- a Baptist of some reknown -- and I had a sort of eureka experience of recognizing a theme in much of his preaching that I find quite disturbing. When I say a eureka experience, I mean that I recognized this in preaching I had heard from hi...m before, but I had never identified the trend before this week.
In his descriptions of God, he describes One who is essentially passive. Oh, God wants to bless us, he urges, but He is really waiting on us. God is waiting for us to act or do something, and when we do, God will respond by blessing us. When we fail to act, we are missing out on the opportunities that God would have given us. But, God is mostly waiting for us to react to His principles.

On the other hand, when this minister talks about Satan, as he is prone to do, the pastor describes a creature who is actively engaged in opposing God, thwarting His purposes, and defeating Christians. The devil is busy and active.

God is passive and waiting, in this view; Satan is busy. The view of Satan approaches dualism, except that the view of God is closer to deism than to historic orthodox Christianity.

This is really quite extraordinary. Rather than seeing God as active in history and redemption, working out His purposes for the good of His people and for His own glory, God is pictured as more or less hindered by our willingness, or lack thereof, to work in His behalf. On the other hand, Satan is unfettered, working to accomplish his purposes.

This is horrible preaching, both doctrinally and pastorally, as it results in calling upon people to do more and try harder in the face of superior obstacles, without an emphasis on God's divine initiative or the driving motivations of God's active grace in our behalf. In fact, all of Christian doctrine, as has been said, is grace, and all of Christian behavior is gratitude. We don't earn God's favor; we respond in gratefulness to it. And we don't battle a superior being in hopes of accomplishing God's purposes. God's purposes are certain to be accomplished, and we have the privilege to be participants, the means through which He accomplishes His will.

Let pastoral motivation driven by forces other than the grace of God be done away, cast into hell along with God's enemies. We can rest -- and be energized -- by divine sovereignty and grace.

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