Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bible Message Fail

Look everyone: I have a blog! The funny thing about blogs is that you're supposed to write stuff and then publish it on said blog. Clearly I've been remiss in so doing. I'd apologize or offer some lame excuse to explain my absence, but an apology I think would be a bit over the top, and the excuse would probably be made-up, so I'll refrain from both. However, here I am again, back at it after once again being told by several people that I should "blog." Honestly, I don't think I have much to say that isn't already being said by other people who are much smarter than I, but alas I suppose the appeal to vanity worked, as evidenced by this entry. So hang on, and read carefully--this may be the only thing I have to say for another 4 or 5 months.

A few days ago a blog entry appeared which listed the answers given by nearly 30 noted Evangelical scholars and pastors when asked to relay the message of the Bible in one sentence. I was struck by this entry and the responses; the question he poses is the sort which would force us to sift through our own perceptions of what it is God brings to us in His Word. In a day where the Bible is used for any one of a number of things: life coach, financial planner, magic de-coder ring, prophecy illuminator, and basic instruction book, what do seminary professors, scholars, and mega church pastors see as the Bible's central message?

Perhaps not surprisingly, though somewhat depressingly, several scholars gave responses that made me want to plant a tree rather than rejoice in the salvation God has brought to man. I cannot help but find it distressing that seminary professors and pastors could speak of God's central message without speaking of Jesus, not to mention Jesus' salvation of sinners. Granted, several responses did point to Jesus, however this is not Leno's "Jaywalking" segment, this is not the word on the street--this is the word from the seminaries. Many bloggers, commentators, and radio hosts have pointed to the near-absent evangel in much of today's Evangelicalism, and I think we tend to assume that law-centered, improve your life, be a good person, 40-days-to-a-better-you, type of sermons and Bible studies happen in some sort of vacuum. If a professor at a seminary does not see Christ crucified for sinners as the central message of Scripture, then how can we expect him to see Jesus on every page? How can we expect him to teach seminarians anything different from what he himself confesses? Why should we be surprised when the gospel is treated as a secondary add-on when it is not seen as the central message of the Bible? If the professors don't know what the Bible's about, then how can the students (who will later be pastors) fare any better?

This question reminds me of recent sermon delivered by a noted Christian apologist at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary: he was slated to preach on "What's so great about the gospel?" but introduced his sermon by stating that he couldn't begin to cover that topic in 20 minutes, so chose instead to preach a bizarre sermon which outlined his principles for leadership. This leads us to consider the old adage that if we understand something we should be able to explain it quickly and with simplicity.