Preaching to an effeminate age (II)...

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(Tim: this is second in a series, with the first, here) It's in vogue for preachers to cop a posture of humility, today, but it’s almost always a counterfeit humility. While claiming to be speaking for God, they deny the

very authority of God and His Word that forms the only foundation they can

stand on when they say, “Thus says the Lord.”

Jonathan Edwards, the best-known preacher of the Great Awakening in Colonial

America, points to the difference between true and false


A truly humble man is inflexible in nothing but in the cause

of his Lord and Master, which is the cause of truth and virtue. In this he is

inflexible, because God and conscience require it. But in things of lesser

moment, and which do not involve his principles as a follower of Christ, and in

things that only concern his own private interests, he is apt to yield to


There are various imitations of (humility) that fall short of

the reality. Some put on an affected humility. Others have a natural

low-spiritedness, and are wanting in manliness of character. …In others, there

is a counterfeit kind of humility, wrought by the delusions of Satan: and all

of these may be mistaken for true humility. [1]

Edwards strikes an interesting note...

when he associates false

humility with those who are “wanting in manliness of character.”

For several decades the Western world has been undergoing a dramatic

movement away from patriarchal, toward matriarchal leadership. It was many

years back, now, that Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister under Her

Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. And as I write, Representative Nancy Pelosi sits as

Speaker of the House of Representatives. Women comprise around half the

enrollment of training schools historically associated with the development of

leaders—law schools, medical schools, and seminaries.

This sea-change has had a profound impact within the Church,

not just in the most obvious way as the number of women serving as pastors and

elders grows, but also in less obvious ways. The feminization of leadership and

discourse has changed the affect, posture, and methods used by pastors.

Congregations are now comprised of souls who have become acclimated to female

leadership and want their pastors to be more feminine, to be softer in the way

they lead and preach. Knowing their market, seminaries, presbyteries, search

committees, elders, and pastors have complied.

Other forces push in this direction, too. Lesbians,

metrosexuals, and sodomites talk a lot about gender and seek to move everyone

toward the middle of what they claim is a continuum of “gender identity.”

Neutered Bible translations are released by seminary professors eager to remove

from Scripture the Hebrew and Greek terms feminists and those with feminist

sensibilities find offensive. Future pastors are trained by theology professors

who urge them not to focus on repentance or the law, but grace; homiletics professors

who urge them never to speak in a way that could be misunderstood as arrogant

or dogmatic. Rather, as Solzhenitsyn put it, they are to make sure they doubt

themselves and admit they may, in fact, be wrong.

“Thus says the

Lord God Almighty” is out; “I wonder whether” is in. “Follow me as I follow

Christ” is out; “Wounded healer” is in. “Let him be anathema” is out; “Although

I differ with my good friend and colleague on this, I respect her opinion and

accept her as a sincere Christian who happens to have a different perspective

than I do” is in.

Recently, I finished a long series of sermons on Galatians in

which I pointed out, frequently, that we cannot take the theological content of

Galatians and reject the pastoral content. The Apostle Paul’s method of arguing

is part of the God-breathedness of Galatians; it too is profitable and it too

is desperately needed in our effeminate age when strong leadership and argument

is viewed as arrogance.

To reinforce this point, I often read to our congregation excerpts from Luther's

commentary and Calvin’s sermons on Galatians. For

instance, take this short excerpt from Luther’s commentary:

Wherefore if you compare publicans and harlots with these

holy hypocrites (of the Roman Catholic Church), they are not evil. For they,

when they offend, have remorse of conscience, and do not justify their wicked

doings; but these men are so far from acknowledging their abominations,

idolatries, wicked will-worshippings and ceremonies to be sins, that they

affirm the same to be righteousness, and a most acceptable sacrifice unto God,

yea, they adore them as matters of singular holiness, and through them do

promise salvation unto others, and also sell them for money, as things

available to salvation.

Many would say the Church has no need for such intemperate

language today. They would try to keep young men preparing for the ministry

from reading Luther’s commentary and Calvin’s sermons, fearing they might take

Luther or Calvin as their model and say something similar in their sermons.

But we never find the Apostles editing their teaching and

preaching in such a way that they would cause no offense; we never find them

taming things down in the hope that the Church would survive for another


Calvin warns:

So we must be quite clear that the teaching of the

Gospel can never be handled in such a cautious and moderate way that it is not

subject to misrepresentations. For Satan, who is the father of lies, always

devotes himself to his business. [2]

In the radical relativism of the decadent Roman Empire, the

Apostles didn’t cop a posture of false humility starting their sentences with

“I believe…” or “Don’t you ever find yourself wondering whether…” or “Speaking

only for myself….”

If the Church is to be faithful guarding the good deposit and

contending for God’s Truth, we’ll never have the luxury of being above the

fray. Rather, we’ll be at the center of the battle. We’re commanded to fight

the good fight, not for a time, but until death. And we are to trust God—not our own tact

and diplomacy—to protect us. Some of us will be rescued; others will be sawn in

two. [3]

God’s prophets have never been able to escape persecution when they were

faithful to proclaim the message God entrusted to them.

Kierkegaard is exactly right about preaching today, although he's been dead a century and a half, now:

We all know what it is to play warfare in mock battle, that

it means to imitate everything just as it is in war. The troops are drawn up,

they march into the field, seriousness is evident in every eye, but also

courage and enthusiasm, the orderlies rush back and forth intrepidly, the

commander's voice is heard, the signals, the battle cry, the volley of

musketry, the thunder of cannon--everything exactly as it is in war, lacking

only one thing...the danger. So also it is with playing Christianity, that is,

imitating Christian preaching in such a way that everything, absolutely

everything is included in as deceptive a form as possible--only one thing is

lacking...the danger. [4]

When, under the guise of humility and

compassion, a pastor avoids confronting the sin of his congregation; when he minces his words; there's little doubt he’ll also avoid the suffering and death of the faithful shepherd.

Remember how the Apostle Paul paused his rebuke of the Galatians

long enough to ask them so very plaintively, “So have I become your enemy by telling

you the truth?” [5]

But what is the cost of this betrayal of our pastoral office?

Can such a man ever expect to hear those most sought after of all commendations

from the mouth of our Lord, “Well done, my good and faithful servant?”

Faithful pastors devoted to the teaching of

the Apostles will correct and rebuke in the same manner the Apostles corrected

and rebuked. And for this, they will suffer just as the Apostles suffered—this is the lot of the

good shepherd:

Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater

than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they

kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:20)

[1] Jonathan

Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits.

[2] Calvin’s

commentary on Acts 6:14

[3] Hebrews


[4] Soren

Kierkegaard, Attack Upon “Christendom” 1854-1855, tr. by Walter Lowrie (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1956) p. 258.

[5] Galatians