Wow my readership cannot be fooled.
In my previous post (see below) I asked you to guess who was behind a quote that called for preaching to be driven by the needs and interests of an audience rather than by what the Bible had to say in a particular passage. I was expecting and hoping for a lot of guesses along the lines of Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Ed Young Jr. and the like.
But it is, of course, Harry Emerson Fosdick, the poster-boy or spokesman for early-twentieth century liberalism and humanism. He charged that preachers “who pick out texts from the Bible and then proceed” to exposit or explain those texts “are grossly misusing the Bible.”
For Fosdick, the idea of expositing or explaining what some biblical author wrote over two thousand years ago was inane, uninteresting, and “presdestined to dullness and futility.” Why? Because he didn’t really believe it was significant himself – and probably doubted one could know with certainty anyway. As a liberal, he didn’t really believe that the Bible was infallible or authoritative.
I was struck, of course, with the fact that Fosdick’s philosophy of preaching seems to echo so much of what is said in modern evangelicalism – particularly in the mega-church movement (and in some emerging church circles). Short, topical sermons oriented towards the felt-needs of the listener are the order of the day.
Most of these people do, in fact, believe in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture – or at least pay lip service. But, as John MacArthur argues, they do not seem to believe in the sufficiency of Scripture – in its ability to speak to the true needs of man’s heart and mind and life. They use it as a band-aid to patch up a felt need when they could use it as a scalpel to dig in and address the deeper and more significant need.
(Quotations are from John MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, 1991)