08 August 2011

Why Theology Shouldn't Be, and Can't Be, Boring

Carl Trueman posted this blog entry on why we must fire boring teachers and preachers (taken from his recent sermon on 1 Timothy 1).

Now, I'm a Sunday School teacher.  Something like this can be threatening to someone like me.  Yet it is important that I not run away from the threat.

I fear that I often vacillate between the two extremes- being interesting without saying much, and saying a lot, dryly.  The first I'll call the Obama effect.  He is a very interesting speaker, but when you listen to the words, he doesn't say much.  (But then, most politicians don't...that's not necessarily a personal problem for the President.)  The second I'll call the Pinhead position.  Most pinheads (dry academic types) really do know their stuff, but they make everyone with whom they come in contact very uninterested in their stuff by the way they present it.

There's a third way- I'll call it the Reagan method (sorry, no clever alliteration there...suggestions welcome).  Ronald Reagan could say a great deal of meaningful things in a most concise and efficient manner, and do it in an engaging and fascinating manner.  He wasn't called, The Great Communicator for no reason. That's how I need to do what I do on Sunday mornings, and if Trueman is right, that's how our pastors should be doing what they do.

But let's not get Descartes before the horse*.  I'm not suggestion that I (or your pastor) come up with a false method of engaging the respective audience for the purpose of being interesting.  And that's not Trueman's point either.  The point is, doctrine (what the scripture is telling us about God) should be engaging and interesting by its very nature.  Here's how Trueman puts it in his blog-

"...making providence...as dull as ditch water is false teaching as sure as open theism is."

I've been trying to establish the principle for a couple months in our SS class this summer.  We've taken a short break from our expositional book study to look at some theology.  Specifically, we are looking at the attributes of God, both communicable and incommunicable, trying to get a better understanding of God's nature and character.  I keep telling my folks that this is a worthwhile endeavor, and is God-honoring.  I think most of them agree, but a few have dropped off the map the last couple weeks.  I don't know if it is due to last-moment-summer-vacation-before-school-starts, or the sometimes dryness of the topic.  You see, I'm not John Piper, and I can stumble over this material and not communicate the passion I have for it if I'm not careful.  That's unfortunate, because this can tend to make the material less engaging to the average SS student.

I continue to pray that all of us would find the character and nature of God a thing that fascinates us.  Because if it bores us, we need a serious (as it were) check-up from the neck-up.

* For those of you who didn't take a philosophy class, his name is pronounced, "Day-cart".  My mixed metaphor comes from this old joke-

One day a man wandered in to his veterinarian's office and asked about having his horse put down.  

"Why," asked the vet.  

"Well, he won't pull my milk cart any more."  

"How's that?", asked the vet.  

"He's an unusual horse," the milkman explained.  "He loves to read philosophy.  Instead of dangling a carrot from a stick to make him go, I'd just tie a book by Thales or Hume or Sartre on the stick and he'd follow wherever I lead.  But now, he wont' move."  

"Let's take a look," said the vet. Upon examining the setup, the vet said, "I think I've found the problem."

"What is it?" asked the milkman.

"You've got Descartes before the horse," explained the vet.


1 comment:

  1. Trueman's post has been on my mind ever since I read it. This is something I struggle with in my own church. It is awesome to read your post, seeing a leader in the church wrestling with this properly conveying their passion. Doctrine is VERY important to me, because it leads to proper worship. I don't understand how it insipidly drops off of the tongue of those who feel called to preach.


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