Monday, August 21, 2006

A Busy Sunday and Not Making the Bible Relevant

Because on Sunday morning after service at ARPC is over, there are giggling babies to tickle, young parents to catch-up with, serious conversations about loving and helping the psychologically-troubled, sports in the sun, attempting to read Nigel Beynon & Andrew Sach's masterful "Dig Deeper" together and being distracted by the unique voice of a Bishan busker.
Dig Deeper
Because in the afternoon when journalists gather for tea, there is chocolate cake on an old stand, a bowl of buttery puff pastries, piles of otak and belachan/haebi sandwiches, spiked iced tea in an heirloom pitcher, sniffing mint and basil plants, laughing at Mickey Mouse platies, looking for a pair of Ghost Fish, disabusing pirate algae-eating catfish of their ferocity, gloriously messy bookshelves interspersed with bottles of malt whiskey, lemongrass oil in burners, wild gesticulating, simultaneous industry gossip and loud cackling.

Because in the evening when old university mates meet up [*waves*], there is attempting to order steamboat ingredients in Mandarin, shovelling down a good plate of Hainanese pork chop, running away from a murderously roaring fire, an actressatheart studying for the New York Bar, a piano teacher with OCD, taking surreptitious photos of a creature in a white translucent dress, catching Eleanor Wong's "Second Link" and, thereafter, tales of blood-drawing braces and insidious American margaritas.

So the question was how we could make the Bible suit Distracted Christians, Worldly Journalists and Weird Arty-farty types?

The thing is: we don't.

We don't change what the Bible says to cater to different groups of people. We don't major on what the Bible does not emphasize to be relevant to the different times of Man. Says old Charles Spurgeon on preachers and preaching:
I am bound to say...that our object certainly is not to please our clients, nor to preach to the times, nor to be in touch with modern progress, nor to gratify the cultured few. Our life-work cannot be answered by the utmost acceptance on earth; our record is on high, or it will be written in the sand. There is no need whatever that you and I should be chaplains of the modern spirit, for it is well supplied with busy advocates. Surely Ahab does not need Micaiah to prophesy smooth things to him, for there are already four hundred prophets of the groves who are flattering him with one consent. We are reminded of the protesting Scotch divine, in evil days, who was exhorted by the Synod to preach to the times. He asked, "Do you, brethren, preach to the times?" They boasted that they did. "Well, then," said he, "if there are so many of you who preach for the times, you may well allow one poor brother to preach for eternity." We leave, without regret, the gospel of the hour to the men of the hour. With such eminently cultured persons for ever hurrying on with their new doctrines, the world may be content to let our little company keep to the old-fashioned faith, which we still believe to have been once for all delivered to the saints. Those superior persons, who are so wonderfully advanced, may be annoyed that we cannot consort with them; but, nevertheless, so it is that it is not now, and never will be, any design of ours to be in harmony with the spirit of the age, or in the least to conciliate the demon of doubt which rules the present moment.

Brethren, we shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God's grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible. We shall not fall into the error of that absent-minded doctor who had to cook for himself an egg; and, therefore, depositing his watch in the saucepan, he stood steadfastly looking at the egg. The change to be wrought is not for the Divine chronometer, but for the poor egg of human thought. We make no mistake here; we shall not watch our congregation to take our cue from it, but we shall keep our eye on the infallible Word, and preach according to its instructions. Out Master sits on high, and not in the chairs of the scribes and doctors, who regulate the theories of the century. We cannot take our key-note from the wealthier people, nor from the leading officers, nor even from the former minister.

How often have we heard an excuse for heresy made out of the desire to impress "thoughtful young men"! Young men, whether thoughtful or otherwise, are best impressed by the gospel, and it is folly to dream that any preaching which leaves out the truth is suitable to men, either old or young. We shall not quit the Word to please the young men, nor even the young women. This truckling to young men is a mere pretence; young men are no more fond of false doctrine than are the middle-aged; and if they are, there is so much the more necessity to teach them better. Young men are more impressed by the old gospel than by ephemeral speculations. If any of you wish to preach a gospel that will be pleasing to the times, preach it in the power of the devil, and I have no doubt that he will willingly do his best for you. It is not to such servants of men that I desire to speak just now. I trust that, if ever any of you should err from the faith, and take up with the new theology, you will be too honest to pray for power from God with which to preach that mischievous delusion if you should do so, you will be guilty of constructive blasphemy. No, brethren, it is not our object to please men, but our design is far nobler.

To begin with, it is our great desire to bear witness to the truth. I believe — and the conviction grows upon me,—that even to know the truth, is the gift of the grace of God; and that to love the truth, is the work of the Holy Spirit. I am speaking now, not about a natural knowledge, or a natural love to Divine things, if such there be; but of an experimental know ledge of Christ, and a spiritual love to Him: these are as much the gift of God in the preacher, as the work of conversion will be the work of God in his hearers. We desire so thoroughly to know, and so heartily to love the truth, as to declare the whole counsel of God, and to speak it as we ought to speak it. This is no small labour. To proclaim the whole system of truth, and to deal out each part in due proportion, is by no means a simple matter. To bring out each doctrine according to the analogy of faith, and set each truth in its proper place, is no easy task. It is easy to make a caricature of the beautiful face of truth by omitting one doctrine and exaggerating another. We may dishonour the most lovely countenance by giving to its most striking feature an importance which puts it out of proportion with the rest; for beauty greatly consists in balance and harmony. To know the truth as it should be known, to love it as it should be loved, and then to proclaim it in the right spirit, and in its proper proportions, is no small work for such feeble creatures as we are. (from "Chapter 11: The Preacher's Power, and the Conditions of Obtaining It", "An All-Round Ministry: Addressed to Ministers and Students")


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