28 May 2016

Walls, Pulpits and Impoverished Hermeneutics

Nehemiah built walls to keep his enemies out. So don't be too quick in condemning Donald Trump for wanting to build one.

I heard this in a sermon on a recent Sunday. This is the state of the Evangelical pulpit. Actually the congregation I was attending would probably qualify as more of the Fundamentalist variety. Evangelicals would probably be more likely to talk about the vocation of Border Guard and how special they are in God's eyes for doing that holy task.

Recently we've been attending many different churches and the one thing that is most striking.... and there are many things that are striking... but the one that keeps hitting me is that no one is actually teaching the Scripture.

In every case we keep hearing a topical sermon wherein a Scripture is utilised as a 'springboard' for whatever topic(s) they want to talk about that day.

The Nehemiah passage devolved into a long conversation on child rearing, husband-wife relations, alcohol, dressing right, politics, In God We Trust, Ronald Reagan, your prayer closet and a few more topics.

I may have agreed with the man on a few items of practical concern but in the end it wasn't an exposition of Scripture. It was merely his opinion.

There's nothing wrong with offering an opinion. I'm offer mine on a regular basis.

But teaching Scripture, actually believing the Scripture is God's Word involves expositing it and teaching through the actual God-inspired text.

These people love to talk about how much they love the Bible, follow Scripture and think Biblically. But I find they don't know it. They read devotionally. There's nothing wrong with that, but they never study and learn.

Sitting under years of that kind of preaching begins to slowly starve them.

I question the preacher's reverence for the Word. I question whether we ought to take his claims seriously.

If his exegetical and hermeneutical depth is reduced to Nehemiah built a wall, so we can build one to protect America, then I really just don't know what to say.

"Where's the Devil on Sunday morning?" he asked at one point.

"In the pew," one man answered.

"That's right," the preacher replied. "Maybe that's why it's always empty!"


"The Devil doesn't have to worry about all the people at home. He's already got them! This is the place he wants to be, to attack us and distract us from hearing God's Word. The Devil is in the Church on Sunday Morning!"

I totally agree. He wants to distract and lead astray. But I would also add that more often than not, he's in the pulpit.


  1. Sometimes I wonder if this is a part of the decline of Christianity in America, coupled by the mass influence of American pragmatism. Numbers are in decline, so let's tell people what things that are "practical". It all depends on where you live. If it's more socially conservative then family, guns, republican politics, etc etc., and if socially liberal then social justice, gay-rights, etc etc. and all of this laced with Christianized buzz-words that are still meaningful.

    What happened to the Holy Spirit? Instead, all it seems to be is the Zeitgeist. Maybe it's not as much they don't properly handle Scripture, but they lack the reverence for the One who enlightens and provides wisdom to be able to read with discernment, awe, and prayer.


    1. Pragmatism runs deep in the American psyche.

      I think you're exactly right about the Holy Spirit. I strongly believe that if you teach the text MOST of the application flows from that. The Spirit convicts. I'm not at all opposed to using application to help people understand how to implement the doctrine and yet this Moralism that dominates Evangelical and Fundamentalist pulpits is putting the cart before the horse. It's bound to degenerate into Pharisaism, and a distortion of the gospel, a quest for works righteousness etc...

      Many people tend to view doctrine as esoteric, divisive and a waste of time. James of course is the 'pragmatic' epistle in the NT and yet even it alternates between doctrine and application. And yet it's clear in the rest of the epistles it's always a case of doctrine followed by application, but the doctrine is first, the application flows from it. In the case of Romans it's rather lopsided, 11 chapters of doctrine followed by (basically) 4 chapters of application and a conclusion. Ephesians splits it, 3 and 3. I'd be happy with the Ephesian balance.

      And ultimately yes, there's a spirit of anxiety and fear... ironically rooted in.... False Doctrine. Generally speaking there's a wrong view of America, the West, money, power and much more.

      Sitting in these churches and interacting with these folks, in many cases I do indeed wonder if they are worshipping the same God. I don't doubt there are Christians present but overall the Evangelical pulpit is something of a cancer.