Saturday, 6 December 2008

Avoiding the idolatrous abomination

One of the most significant sessions that had a bearing on future ministry was when Marcus described boring Bible studies and talks as 'idolatrous abominations' (you can hear the story re-told from his perspective here).

It was at that moment that I realised for the first time that a sound Bible study or talk that did not lead to worship is not treating Scripture in the way intended when it was given to us. The Bible was given so that we might joyfully submit our lives to Jesus in everything. Bible ministry that stops at understanding makes an idol of reason and knowledge.

That session, several years ago, profoundly changed my ministry. I say all this because I was reminded of it in listening to Tim Keller's recent sessions on Bible 'application' (not a term he likes, and I dislike too) and 'preaching to the heart' given at Oak Hill College (thanks Dave). Tim Keller uses a different vocabulary and slightly different approach to that which Marcus took, but the heartbeat was the same. The first session, particularly, is a 'must listen' for any who expound Scripture.

They're available here:

MP3: Tim Keller at Oak Hill College (1) November 2008
MP3: Tim Keller at Oak Hill College (2) November 2008


Marcus Honeysett said...

Glad that comment blessed you, Pete. It's followed me around for years since! The lesson - choose your words with care, you may have to live with them!

The classic error we have to avoid is confusing seeking God through His word, with finding him and knowing him. When we do that we too easily assume the task of knowing the Word well and grasping meaning epistemologically IS knowing God. It isn't.

It leads to the terrible danger that Edwards saw so clearly, of assuming there is no discernable difference between the work of the Spirit and the operation of my mental faculties for understanding. Which will lead to sermons that are merely exegesis and the idea that the GOAL of preaching is to understand the word.

Understanding the word is a vital step on the journey, but it's never the goal.

Keep on provoking people to godly dissatisfaction with boring Bible studies, as you were obviously provoked those years ago.



peterdray said...

Thanks, Marcus - both for that original session and for your comments now.

I have found it so helpful to reflect on the way in which the Spirit uses the written word to bring us to the Living Word, Jesus. And there is no way that we can see Jesus as he really is and be satisfied with mental assent alone.

I remember you speaking of worshipping over the text and leading others to worshipping over the text, which is surely a better approach.